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Looking for help with deciding on an amp, plus some DAC confusion.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Alright, so I made the successful jump to caring about how great things can sound about two years ago, starting with the Creative Aurvana Live and buying several other mid-fi sets like the V-Moda M80s and things of that nature. Now I'm making another big jump - I will be getting the Hifiman HE-400 and I am now starting to look for amps.

 

Problem is, I don't understand them. At all. On top of that, I don't want to test and jump around like I do with headphones. I actually don't like the idea of spending a ton of money on amps, but it's necessary. I want to get an amp that works best for me and I just want it to work. I don't want to get an amp for $100 and then in a week have upgradeitis. I want to get a nice amp that will power my Hifiman HE-400 and eventually, the LCD-3, which will be my bigger headphone purchase, but not for at least half a year.

 

Most of my listening will be out of my laptop. So I guess I need a DAC too, but I don't understand those at all. I can buy a portable amp and DAC for $100 but when it gets into the high end, they're just amps without DACs? How necessary are they?

 

I have to say, I'm pretty intrigued by the Schiit Lyr. It looks really sexy. I've decided I want a tube amp, no matter what. There has to be tubes. Sure, that's because of the aesthetics, but again, I don't care if that's lame of me. Someday I'll probably get addicted to amps and want to buy more and more but right now, I just want something that will work with the HE-400, hopefully the LCD-3, and be under $500. That's my cap and I refuse to go over it for an amp right now. I'd actually vastly prefer it if there was a tube amp worth getting closer to the $200-$300 mark, but I'm ignorant about this stuff.

 

I mainly listen to folk and bluegrass, with a ton of hip-hop and alternative music as well. I like the punchiness of the V-Modas a lot and really detest harsh-ness. When music sounds harsh, it ruins everything. Is that enough info? I know I ranted a lot, but this is something I have to save up for, and would like to get it right on the first try.

 

EDIT: Also note that I will be buying more than the LCD-3 and the HE-400. I will have tons of headphones by the time it's all said and done. And on top of that, I REALLY like the look of the Valhalla. I'm just looking for some guidance. 

 

ONE MORE EDIT: If tube amps REALLY aren't good for those headphones - as in larfely ineffective - then fine. How about the Asgard? Or something else in that price range ..


Edited by ninjames - 6/7/12 at 3:55pm
post #2 of 14
Thread Starter 
So after doing some reading, it looks like the Valhalla is a terrible option for these. But I've also find that the Lyr is supposedly great with them. I think I'll get that.

But I'm still left without a DAC. is it worth getting an amp without one? Is there a benefit immediately with the Lyr, and can I then save up and get a DAC a month or two later? On top of that, are there decent DACs without being hundreds of dollars?
post #3 of 14

Well you can pair the lyr with the bifrost. They match looks too.

post #4 of 14

I will repost this that I wrote yesterday, as you might find it useful. gL!!

 

 

Okay, I've had five days now on the Asgard and htr msii so I thought that I'd post some impressions. This will be a brief review of how this amp/dac work with the he400 and d5k for comparison. 

 

There is only one fitting title for this mini review, so let me get this out of the way now: "Hot Schitt!!" The Asgard gets about as hot as a Belgium waffle iron. Crazy hot. I suppose that Schitt is not having build issues with this heat as the whole case, made of aluminum, acted as a heat sink. I think it would be fair to say that the amp would a degree or two to the room temperature. 

 

Now that I've got that out of the way...on to the sound. I had used the fiio17 with both sets of headphones for about a month before I got the new amp setup. So that is my point of reference and the amp that I'll be comparing to. The Asgard/msii is definitely better but only marginally and that varies depending on which hp I'm listening with. More on that later.

 

The Asgard is leaning more towards neutral compared to the e17 and other amps that I've owned. In general it tightens the bass and rolls off the highs just a touch. For me this setup has become almost a perfect match for the d5k. It tames the bass slightly while at the same time giving it good texture and nice impact. I was blown away the first time that I listened to the Asgard with the d5k. IMO that denon can be a touch bright. With the highs rolled off ever so slightly and the bass hitting hard with improved impact....it was heaven. Also the new sound signature was a bit less fatiguing. I have not heard a better combination of amp/dac for the d5k than Asgard/msii. For the price point and the sound quality, I feel this setup is the sweet spot for the denon line. I don't call myself a loud listener of music. For those that have the fiio e17, I usually listen between 20-30 on low gain with the d5k and the same with he400 except +12 on the gain. There is A LOT more volume/power on the Schitt. But what I really like about cranking up the Asgard is that it doesn't just get instantly loud. The volume just seems to get fuller and more presence with no loss of quality. 

 

Now for the he400, the pairing of Asgard/msii is very good but not quite as good as it was for the d5k. Because the he400 has that wonderfully dark signature, I really don't feel the need to roll off the treble like I do with the d5k. Also, the bass with the he400's doesn't need to be tightened. It's one of the things that I really enjoy about them. Now granted these changes are very small and compared mostly to the e17. The Asgard is better sounding than the e17 with the HFM, but the level of improvement here is smaller than with the d5k.

 

Bottom line impressions:

 

Fiio e17:

 

d5k=7 of 10

he400=8 of 10

 

Asgard/msii

 

d5k=9 of 10

he400=9 of 10


Edited by MattTCG - 6/8/12 at 5:24am
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
I did see that post and it was very helpful. However, I think it prices that the Asgard is not exactly future proof, and I'm still wondering about a DAC.

Thank you though!
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HolyCheese View Post

Well you can pair the lyr with the bifrost. They match looks too.

Is there anything else? I just can't spend another $350 on a DAC. How big of a difference is it?

 

My questions are this ...

 

1. Will the Schiit Lyr be good for the Hifiman HE-400 and potentially the LCD-2 and LCD-3?

2. Will it be an improvement to get and just plug into my laptop? How does it connect to that? How dramatic? I'm not TOTALLY adverse to spending $350 on a DAC, but it won't be for a couple months if I spend that much. Is it even worth getting the Lyr until that point?

3. Are there any cheaper DACs that are still good with the Lyr and those headphones? I just don't want to spend that much.

4. What does it mean talking about blowing up your headphones? I know it doesn't mean literally, but is there danger of damaging the HE-400 or the LCD-2, etc using them?

5. What about my other headphones? Would the Creative Aurvana Live! or V-Moda M80 benefit from the Lyr at all? What about earbuds? I have the TripleFi 10 and the Brainwavs M4 and soon the B2 - or would those be in danger of being damaged?

 

Sorry guys, this is just a lot of money and I don't understand the electrical aspect (watts and output and the like) .. or most of this. I basically want to get something that works right now as opposed to upgrading in the future, etc.

post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjames View Post

Is there anything else? I just can't spend another $350 on a DAC. How big of a difference is it?

 

My questions are this ...

 

1. Will the Schiit Lyr be good for the Hifiman HE-400 and potentially the LCD-2 and LCD-3?

2. Will it be an improvement to get and just plug into my laptop? How does it connect to that? How dramatic? I'm not TOTALLY adverse to spending $350 on a DAC, but it won't be for a couple months if I spend that much. Is it even worth getting the Lyr until that point?

3. Are there any cheaper DACs that are still good with the Lyr and those headphones? I just don't want to spend that much.

4. What does it mean talking about blowing up your headphones? I know it doesn't mean literally, but is there danger of damaging the HE-400 or the LCD-2, etc using them?

5. What about my other headphones? Would the Creative Aurvana Live! or V-Moda M80 benefit from the Lyr at all? What about earbuds? I have the TripleFi 10 and the Brainwavs M4 and soon the B2 - or would those be in danger of being damaged?

 

Sorry guys, this is just a lot of money and I don't understand the electrical aspect (watts and output and the like) .. or most of this. I basically want to get something that works right now as opposed to upgrading in the future, etc.

 

1. You betcha...

2. Depends on the sound card/audio that comes with your laptop...short answer is yes.

3. Sure...music streamer ii or magic dac and others

4. It's very difficult to damage a hp driver although not impossible.

5. Most hp's would benefit from the lyr.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Cool stuff. I'd just like some more opinions now on some other, cheaper DAC options that would be good with the Lyr and those headphones. In the $100-$150 range hopefully. I don't know if that's possible. And of course, more opinions on whether or not it's worth using the Lyr without a DAC for now and just using my laptop, which is a higher end Sony Vaio but I'm not sure how much that means. 

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Polite bump because I'm obsessive ..

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

"Hot Schitt!!" The Asgard gets about as hot as a Belgium waffle iron. Crazy hot. I suppose that Schitt is not having build issues with this heat as the whole case, made of aluminum, acted as a heat sink. I think it would be fair to say that the amp would a degree or two to the room temperature. 

 

 

Just to repeat what has been said countless times ever since the Asgard came out - as long as you keep reasonable airflow/ room temp (ie, no tropical region in May temp without at least a fan blowing on the Asgard) the heat management will not be a problem. People in SEA have gotten away driving through noon traffic with those old Rockford Fosgate amplifiers - referred to jokingly as "BBQ Grill" because you can cook on the heatsink - in the trunk of their cars and I still see them working. Generally the fuses are more a problem than the amp dying from heat. I'd bet anything our floods have killed more of these amps than our dry season has.

post #11 of 14

It seems we have the same interest in headphones.

 

For me I have found out this:

-I currently own a FiiO E10 (dac)

-that dac is capable of powering the HE-400's on high gain. So the HE-400 will be my next purchase.

-After that I can buy the lyr and feed it with the line out of the E10 (because the lyr is a great match with lcd 2 and works with the HE-400 too)

-Maybe I buy the lcd-2 now or the bifrost depends on how much I like the HE-400's

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

That's pretty cool. I think for now I'll go with the music streamer II or whatever for a few months and work my way to the Bifrost! Now my issue is I have to wait a chunk of time in between buying the HE-400 and the Lyr (between paychecks). I want to get the Lyr just because I REALLY want it but I don't have headphones that are suited for it right now! Augh!

 

Anyway, so can people confirm that other headphones would BENEFIT from the Lyr, and that most would benefit even without a DAC for the time being? Thanks!

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjames View Post

That's pretty cool. I think for now I'll go with the music streamer II or whatever for a few months and work my way to the Bifrost! Now my issue is I have to wait a chunk of time in between buying the HE-400 and the Lyr (between paychecks). I want to get the Lyr just because I REALLY want it but I don't have headphones that are suited for it right now! Augh!

 

Anyway, so can people confirm that other headphones would BENEFIT from the Lyr, and that most would benefit even without a DAC for the time being? Thanks!

 

I doubt there's much of a reason to go from the MSII to the Bifrost I mean, the difference you will see will probably not be all the significant.  At that point its probably better to save for an even better source than the bifrost.  As far as buying the Lyr and HE-400 goes, I would not really buy a Lyr without a DAC.  I really dont think it is going to be worth it.  I'd just run the HE-400 out of a very small amp/dac like a fiio e10 up until that point.  The source is going to be where the details are coming from, so if you are amplifying a bad source (your laptop) its going to sound pretty trashy.  

 

I'm not super into the Lyr, but I dont feel that its a horrible value or anything.  I just dont get the sense that tube enthusiats are really all that much into it so if you're set on tubes you might want to go a different route?  Schiit is really popular on these forums but IMO it's a standard value with a LOT of other competing options.  Try not to get caught up in the hype.  I think the bifrost is a slightly above average value from a DAC perspective.  I never got the impression that the Lyr paired particularly well with the LCD phones, and the HE-400 does not need near that much power as far as I know(I'm a HE-500 owner).

 

Anyway if you are set on the Lyr then just go for it but I would recommend upgrading your source first since it is the first part of your chain.  If you are interested in other tube amplifiers, I or other members of head-fi can recommend you some.  The Lyr is probably enough to keep most satisfied but I tend to steer away from it because you can tell uninformed people really go crazy over it.  When you look at the users with experience with lots of gear(not me), almost none of them would go with the hyped stuff on the forums here because there is a lot more to it than you can realize.  

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

I've actually decided to go with the Little Dot MKIII and the streamer since posting this threat. I'll be getting the Little Dot MKIII first, along with the streamer, and getting the headphones themselves next paycheck.

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