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
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