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Headphone amp upgrade for HD 650 and Xonar Essence STX

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 



I'm opting to get a decent amp for HD 650s. I'm currently using Essence STX sound card which is surprisingly good as an amp but I'm looking for an upgrade. Budget is $700ish and current prospects are Burson Audio HA-160, Musical Fidelity M1 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra-Linear. This would be my first dedicated amp and the Essence STX would serve as a DAC. Main favouritisms include ambient, electro and rock but I consume a lot of other genres. Any suggestions?



post #2 of 5
I enjoy the Burson a lot with the HD650. It's a great combo. I haven't heard the other amps you mention, however.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanx for the reply. I'll just have to do the "hard work" and demo the amps when possible in local stores smily_headphones1.gif Amps I mentioned will most likely all be nothing but great, only thing I'm worried about is how will the sound card perform in this setup. Just have to dig for similar experiences in forums.

post #4 of 5

I preferred the Burson over the musical fidelity, it have speed and dynamics..bass extension is pretty good. Your soundcard will do fine as a Dac, but if you're still not satisfied you can get the HRT streamer. 

post #5 of 5

Just to offer a different opinion...


Relatively high-impedance, medium-high sensitivity headphones like HD 600 / 650 are some of the easiest to drive well, from a technical point of view.  The evidence out there seems to indicate that most TPA6120-based headphone amplifiers like the one in the Essence ST / STX, FiiO E9, and many others—as well as the STX in particular—do fine for those headphones.  By "fine" I mean that they can drive them to extremely loud volumes without contributing any meaningful distortion, with a pretty flat frequency response, and so on.  "Fine" is probably an understatement.


In particular for HD 650s, note that these are in wide circulation among many audio professionals, and most aren't using these with any type of exotic headphone amplifier.


In terms of upgrade options this implies that you can go for something with even better specs (but wouldn't any improvement be masked by any crud generated by the headphones themselves, maybe the crud in the recording, maybe past the point of what your ears can pick up anyway?), or something with worse specs in various ways so as to maybe impose a certain "character" on the sound.  In many fields, particularly if you start ignoring price tags, people might call these options as sidegrades rather than proper upgrades.  I'll leave the interpretation up to you.


I would suggest looking for other headphones or music, possibly software playback configurations, rather than amp or DAC hardware, if you're looking for a difference or improvement in sound quality and have any eye out for cost. (Maybe not necessarily so much if you like to look at gear for the sake of having new gear.)

Edited by mikeaj - 6/12/12 at 4:33pm
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