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HT Claro Halo or DAC/AMP (Matrix M-Stage USB, DacMagic, etc.) combo? (Budget ~$300-350) CONTENT...

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

To the moderators: I understand there is a "Computer Audio" section, but since this could eventually lead to a discussion of regular DAC/AMPs, I put this here in the "Headphone Amp". If this is a problem, and requires you to delete or move this thread, I apologize for the inconvenience.

 

 

I'm currently in search of a "Good, neutral headphone", and I've narrowed down my choices to either the Sennheiser HD-600, or the Sennheiser HD-650. I'm leaning towards the HD-650 at the moment; I understand the HD-600 is supposedly more neutral, but the HD-650's supposedly darker, and more relaximg/pleasing sound, seems a little more attractive to me.

 

So, I purchased the HT Claro Halo before I heard about, or read about anything such as DAC/AMPs. And such is my luck, that I can't cancel the HT Claro Halo before it ships out. Instead, I will have to wait for it to arrive, and then send it back to Amazon.com, if I decide to return it.

 

In the meantime, I'd like to know if it would be worth it to send the HT Claro Halo back, and go for a DAC/AMP combo instead? Given my budget of $300-350, will DAC/AMPs in this price range offer tangible improvement over the HT Claro Halo?

 

If so, there are a few DAC/AMPs I've read about/am considering:

 

1. Matrix M-Stage USB

2. Matrix Cube

3. Audinst M1

4. Yulong U100

5. Audioengine D1

6. O2 + ODAC

7. DACMagic

 

As with my headphone search, the main thing I would like to look for, is neutrality. Which would be the most neutral and offer the best synergy with the HD-650?

 

And yes, I understand the contradiction in looking for a neutral DAC/AMP after I've (pretty much) decided on the HD-650, a less-than-neutral phone. But I'm thinking, that's all the more reason for me to pick a neutral DAC/AMP. Because it seems to me (again, going by intuition, so I may be wrong), having a less neutral headphone, combined with a less neutral DAC/AMP would result in an overly colored sound. So a neutral DAC/AMP would be better fit for the HD-650.

 

Which brings me to questions about the Matrix DAC/AMPs... Just going purely by personal, subjective impressions, based on what I've read, the Matrix M-Stage USB does seem like the best overall product. And in all honesty, this is actually the product I want most. But I'm hesitant because again, I've read that it has a warm sound. How well would it play with the HD-650?

 

Also, the SnR of the DAC in the Matrix M-Stage USB is only 96db (as opposed to the HT Claro Halo's SnR of 120db). How would it compare with the HT Claro Halo? Wouldn't the low SnR of the M-Stage DAC negate any of benefits of its AMP portion? And therefore make it not as good as the HT Claro Halo, overall?

 

In contrast, I've read that the Audinst M1, O2 + ODAC, and the DACMagic are considered neutral. How do these compare against each other, the rest of the DAC/AMPs in the list, and the HT Claro Halo? What are your general impressions/reviews?

 

And finally, impressions on any of the rest of the DAC/AMPs in the list are welcome, as well as any DAC/AMP suggestions outside the list, as long as they are within the $300-$350 range. Thank you very much.


Edited by fuzzybaffy - 11/23/12 at 1:04pm
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

Uh... I have no idea if this is allowed or not, but I'm writing this post to let everyone know that I've re-written the content of the original post! Previously I deleted all the content, thinking I no longer needed to ask the question, but I changed my mind... redface.gif

 

And I'm afraid people will gloss over the thread, thinking they no longer needed to read it after the content was first deleted. It's all back!

post #3 of 6

First of all, this is a lot of thinking and guessing around without actually having heard the headphones yet.

 

As for neutral headphones, different people hear differently, even considering just the anatomic level of how sound interacts with head and ear shape, ear canal, etc. There isn't even agreement in the scientific community over what a flat response for headphones is, even calibrated for the "average" person. That said, differences between headphones are often significantly greater than these person-to-person (actually, ear-to-ear) variations, not to mention any different preferences or reference points people have when listening, the kind of music and masters they are playing back.

 

Audio equipment advertised specs are often a joke. The actual response and performance measurements can tell you something, but the data they often provide can be flat-out inaccurate or incomparable due to differences in what is actually being measured. Do you measure SNR with full-scale output? At 1V? At what volume setting? etc. For that matter, HT is advertising that they are using a headphone driver chip that can boast 120 dB SNR in TI's laboratory, on the spec sheet. Not that it will provide 120 dB in their own circuit, or that the noise of other components feeding that part won't degrade the SNR. However, it doesn't matter. SNR is generally a useless metric to care about for audio, except in specific scenarios, fringe cases. With higher-impedance headphones that aren't incredibly efficient, you're not going to be able to hear the noise floor except with an unusually-noisy amp maybe and no music playing and a quiet listening environment.

 

I would vote to just use the HT Omega Claro. It's not worth shipping back. Actually, price/performance of most consumer sound cards is better than most audiophile gear (read: low volume of product sold, expensive enclosures => high cost / unit). The headphone amp circuit might look somewhat similar to Asus Xonar Essence ST / STX and FiiO E9 and some others, because they all seem to use the TI TPA6120 (standard implementation calling for 10 ohms resistor for ~10 ohms output impedance and so on), but of course there is a lot more to audio than just single chips. Around 10 ohms output impedance is no problem for running high-impedance headphones like Senn HD 650 or HD 600.

 

That said, HT drivers can be quite hit or miss according to users, and support is almost nonexistent, so feel free to send it back if it's not working out from a usability standpoint.


Edited by mikeaj - 11/23/12 at 2:41pm
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

First of all, this is a lot of thinking and guessing around without actually having heard the headphones yet.

 

As for neutral headphones, different people hear differently, even considering just the anatomic level of how sound interacts with head and ear shape, ear canal, etc. There isn't even agreement in the scientific community over what a flat response for headphones is, even calibrated for the "average" person. That said, differences between headphones are often significantly greater than these person-to-person (actually, ear-to-ear) variations, not to mention any different preferences or reference points people have when listening, the kind of music and masters they are playing back.

 

Audio equipment advertised specs are often a joke. The actual response and performance measurements can tell you something, but the data they often provide can be flat-out inaccurate or incomparable due to differences in what is actually being measured. Do you measure SNR with full-scale output? At 1V? At what volume setting? etc. For that matter, HT is advertising that they are using a headphone driver chip that can boast 120 dB SNR in TI's laboratory, on the spec sheet. Not that it will provide 120 dB in their own circuit, or that the noise of other components feeding that part won't degrade the SNR. However, it doesn't matter. SNR is generally a useless metric to care about for audio, except in specific scenarios, fringe cases. With higher-impedance headphones that aren't incredibly efficient, you're not going to be able to hear the noise floor except with an unusually-noisy amp maybe and no music playing and a quiet listening environment.

 

I would vote to just use the HT Omega Claro. It's not worth shipping back. Actually, price/performance of most consumer sound cards is better than most audiophile gear (read: low volume of product sold, expensive enclosures => high cost / unit). The headphone amp circuit might look somewhat similar to Asus Xonar Essence ST / STX and FiiO E9 and some others, because they all seem to use the TI TPA6120 (standard implementation calling for 10 ohms resistor for ~10 ohms output impedance and so on), but of course there is a lot more to audio than just single chips. Around 10 ohms output impedance is no problem for running high-impedance headphones like Senn HD 650 or HD 600.

 

That said, HT drivers can be quite hit or miss according to users, and support is almost nonexistent, so feel free to send it back if it's not working out from a usability standpoint.

 

I have no idea if you'll read this, given it's been so long ago tongue.gif (but then again, the thread will be bumped back up, so who knows), but, yes... upon further retrospect, I've decided to keep the HT Claro.

 

It is just wayyyyy too much hassle - sending it back, waiting for refund, then saving up a little more to pay for the more expensive DAC/AMP, for some unknown level of improvement. 

 

I can just use the HT Claro for now, and then upgrade later; I'm just going to take the time to save up enough to purchase something that I know will be a noticeable/significant improvement over the HT Claro. 

 

Thanks for the advice. 

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzybaffy View Post

 

I have no idea if you'll read this, given it's been so long ago tongue.gif (but then again, the thread will be bumped back up, so who knows), but, yes... upon further retrospect, I've decided to keep the HT Claro.

 

It is just wayyyyy too much hassle - sending it back, waiting for refund, then saving up a little more to pay for the more expensive DAC/AMP, for some unknown level of improvement. 

 

I can just use the HT Claro for now, and then upgrade later; I'm just going to take the time to save up enough to purchase something that I know will be a noticeable/significant improvement over the HT Claro. 

 

Thanks for the advice. 

The HT Claro Halo & HD650 combo should keep you content for a while.

Down the line you try swapping the op-amps

What price did you pay for the HT Claro?

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

I think $199, at amazon.com. bigsmile_face.gif

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