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HD 650 questions (head size, amp/dac and more)

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

First off, let me say that I'm still essentially new to the audiophile world, though I find it very interesting, and I love music and high quality electronics, so I'm looking to upgrade my audio stuff. I has questions:

My priority of music genres are: indie (Bright Eyes), electronic/indie (The Postal Service), rock (Tool), classic rock (Pink Floyd), softer metal (Slipknot), electronica (Daft Punk), and rap (Eminem). I think that means my taste in music is kind of all over the place, so would that mean I'd want a balanced phone/SS amp, or would the HD650 do all genres justice, but especially the indie (acoustic) stuff? If it was driven by a tube amp, would that be too much warmth for the genres that don't need warmth?

I have a fairly small and narrow head. My ATH-AD700's were a little big, as are my Grado sr225i's. But they aren't really too big so to speak, I just don't know if they fit me properly, because in games, I can't really tell where things are too well, and I know the soundstage is more than adequate. Would HD650's fit a narrow/smallish head?

What is a good price ratio to follow as a general rule, or is there not really one? For example, I'm considering the HD650 ($350), Schiit Valhalla ($350), Schiit Bifrost ($350), which is of course a 1:1:1 ratio. I think the only thing I may be overspending on would be the DAC, since the HD650 apparently needs a decent amp to drive it properly. I'm mainly considering the Bifrost because it matches the Valhalla, and it's the same company, so I'd assume it would have optimal synergy?

For the DAC, is USB inferior to SPDIF coaxial? I have an Asus Xonar DX soundcard, does that mean I have an SPDIF thing? Do I just plug the DAC into the SPDIF on my Xonar DX, then my amp into my DAC, then my headphones into my amp? Does that mean my soundcard's quality is essentially irrelevant, because all the work that matters would now be on my DAC/amp, or would my Xonar DX's SPDIF port likely be superior to my onboard port?

I care mostly about music, but I do play games as well. For games, would my soundcard then be taken out of the equation completely in games, just like it would be for my music?

I realize that I should first visit a quality audio shop to try out headphones, but I don't know of any around where I live, so I may just try the HD650s. I also realize there are many, many forum posts about the HD650s, especially regarding what amp/dac goes well with it, but I didn't find answers to my other questions too well. I apologize for the length of this thread, and how much of a newbie I am. I appreciate any response!


post #2 of 5



So you have SR225's. And you want to get a new headphone. You listen to everything, so you want neutral. The HD600 might be better suited to what you want. And on that note, the HD598 may be what you really want too.


Your source gear is up to you. Personally I wouldn't buy $700 worth of gear to power a $300 headphone (tier group). I would to power a bunch of different headphones. But ultimately I'd rather get the best headphone for the money, rather than getting a bunch of source stuff. End of the day, a simple $100 FiiO E9 will drive all those headphones. Now your DAC on the other hand I would get something other than a sound card. But do you really need a $350 DAC? I would say go to someone's house and try to listen off someone's gear or something before buying.


USB/SPDIFF/Optical all have their things. Ultimately a good quality one shouldn't matter. Your onboard sound and the Xonar soundcard acting as passthrough to a DAC won't make much, if any, difference since they're just being digital pass throughs and not doing the processing (the DAC does it, the BiFrost is your case). Yes, it will be SPIFF/USB -> DAC -> AMP -> Headphone. The soundcard becomes useless at this point. Which is why you don't need it for listening. For gaming, you lose the ability to use the sound card because it's not processing anything, the DAC is, so if you want to game, I would hook into the soundcard or look into a different gaming setup all together.


Do you want a laid back sound, or do you want bright forward sound? Again, yo uhave the SR225 and the AD700's. Are you looking for something forward and bright like the Grado? Or do you want something like the AD700 but with more bass? What made you think you want the HD650?


I would love to recommend the BiFrost & Valhalla, they're excellent, but they're also a huge cost. Again, with basically a $1100 budget that you've described, I'd rather get the most headphone I could with that rather than only a 3rd of it going ot headphone. That's just me. I look at it like buy the best headphone you can afford. Then get a quality DAC. Then get whatever AMP is needed to power your headphone(s). In that order and cost importance. That's just my opinion.


Very best,

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Why couldn't you have just agreed with my original plan? Now I'm even more lost! I'll have to do more research on what I want, and perhaps find an audio shop to try stuff out in. Anyway, thanks for clearing things up for me.

I really just haven't tried enough headphones to know what I like. When I think about it, I think the warmth and stuff of the HD650's would be appealing to me. I think it would make me get even more into my acoustic, deeper, music, which is the kind of music that's most important to me. I was hoping that it wouldn't be overly colored though. I wanted to be able to also listen to faster, higher stuff too. Are the 650's really that colored? Would they still out perform my SR225i's for certain genres? Also, do you think it would fit my slightly narrow/small head? That could be a dealbreaker anyway. :P

Well, I read that your sound can be bottlenecked if you spend a ton of money on headphones, but are lacking in the amp/dac/whatever department. I figured I'd hang on to my SR225i's and use them every now and then with my HD650's. Then, when I want to upgrade again in the distant future, I'd already have a quality amp/dac, so I could sell both headphones, then buy a headphone in the 700-1200 range. If I did that, would my amp/dac be bottlenecking my headphones?

By the way, would the Valhalla pair well with SR225i's, or would that be horrible? Would the Schiit Asgard be a better choice? On Schiit's site, they say it's very good with Grados, but can also do HD650's. However, it says it's best for low impedance like the Grados. Would that mean the HD650's would suffer, or does it just mean it's a bit of a bonus to drive the Grados with them?

One last thing, you say I should just plug into my soundcard for gaming -- Why? For Dolby surround sound stuff? I don't really like using that, it makes things sound weird. Also, I mostly play old games like counter-strike, where I don't think you can even use Dolby. Wouldn't the dac/amp be a lot better in that case?

I guess I'm back at square one.

Edited by sigmo66 - 8/12/11 at 4:19am
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Buuuump. I'm still considering the HD650. Would I get better quality with a $900 headset, and spend a couple hundred on amp/dac, or would I get better with HD650/Valhalla/Bifrost?

post #5 of 5

I currently have HD650 with FiiO E7/E9 combo, which I plug in directly to my MacBook and use E7's DAC function.

Since I don't own any other brands except Sennheiser (at the moment), I can't really compare it to A700 or any other headphone brands.

I honestly don't have golden ears can't hear the Senn veil that everyone talk about, and I honestly do want to try the Bifrost with HD650.


Too bad Bifrost is currently on backorder... plus, i'm broke at the moment XD

So for the time being, I'm sticking with my HD650 (which to my ignorance, is the best sounding cans I have ever heard).


I've heard that iBasso Toucan or NuForce Icon HDP is also a good combo with HD650, so check them out as well.

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