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Bought HE-500, should I upgrade my amp (E17) ?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

So I searched the forums but found no clear answer.

I just bought the Hifiman HE-500 and I am using them on my E17. The sound seems fine for me as I have no experience with great headphones, but I wonder if the E17 is giving them enough power. If not, I'd like some recommendations on a good amp and DAC setup. I read about O2+ODAC combo (apparently not great), Lyr + Bifrost (too expensive for me), or Hifiman EF5 (again too expensive).


I'm searching for both an amp and DAC (using USB) for around $400-$500 total that would give my headphones a good increase in sound quality. Thanks!

post #2 of 8

i was going to come in here and reel off the Lyr + Bifrost combo because I recently acquired that very set up and it sounds fantastic. The HE-500's are driven strongly across the entire frequency range. Maybe a speaker amp and you could run the HE-500's off a speaker tap? The key is getting them enough power even though relatively speaking they are somewhat sensitive headphones.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

I don't have a speaker amp that I could use with them unfortunately.

I just read about the Modi/Magni from Schiit, maybe that would be good for the HE-500, but how much of an upgrade would I get compared to the E17? Also thought about using Lyr as an amp and my E17 as a DAC, is that a bad thing to do?

post #4 of 8
Your best bet is probably to buy an integrated or receiver from the 1970s or early 1980s, which will have a headphone socket driven off the speaker outputs (via a resistor network). Marantz, Sansui, Sony and Pioneer all had suitable products at the time. Do make sure that the PSU capacitors are still OK before firing her up, though.....
post #5 of 8

You could use the E17 as a DAC or you could sell the E17 and get a Schiit Modi or ODAC + amp.  Another amp that I personally liked was my friends Project Sunrise II amp, which sounded great with my HE-500s. Don't get me wrong, it's not quite as good as the Lyr but it still sounds pretty fantastic with the HE-500s IMHO. 

post #6 of 8
post #7 of 8

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 will give you all the juice you need for your HE-500. Powerful amp and decent dac, all for only $260. this amp delivers way more watts output than what HE-500 requires, which needs no more that 1 watt per channel. very powerful for such a price. Audio-GD really did a good job with this one. I use Xonar Essence ST as  my primary dac. 

Edited by nassq8 - 1/12/13 at 1:41am
post #8 of 8

I'm fairly sure the E17 can drive the HE-500. It has a rated sensitivity of 89 dBm, so assuming you want a peak SPL of 110 dB, the amount of current you want is ~126 mW. For the E17 to be able to drive these, it needs to be able to deliver this much current at 38 ohms (the impedance of the headphone). I haven't been able to find measurements of this amp, and I wouldn't go by the specs, but if it can't deliver this much, I'd be very surprised considering its price.


There are better amps out there, but whether they'd make a significant difference for you is another matter. If you're an audiophile, you'll probably want a better amp if you can afford it. Otherwise, you'll be rather underwhelmed I think. In any case, the O2+ODAC combo isn't bad at all. It's actually very highly regarded on these forums. A DAC/amp closer to your budget would be the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11, but that doesn't mean it's better. If you need the extra features it provides, it's a great buy, but if you just need a USB DAC and an amp, I recommend the O2+ODAC combo.

Edited by spaark - 1/12/13 at 5:14am
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