I have liked headphones for most of my life but always had cheap models. I finally got my taste of good earphones a few months ago with an entry level Grado and B&W P5. I have now decided to invest in an amplifier and a DAC . currently using NuForce portable USB amp.
Problem is - I am completely confused. Everytime I think I found a good match for my needs another gorgeous something with shiny tubes comes out of the internet and makes me reconsider. My budget is between 1000 and 1400 for amp and dac (not necessarily an all in one unit). I may be in the US in May so this will be a good chance to shop but this is not mandatory.
Here are my questions, Given my budget (over all approximately 2000 USD but I want some left over for HE-500s or similar) what would you recommend:
1. Get an amp plus DAC of decent quality (the WA7 from Woo Audio comes to mind here as well as several models from Audio GD)
2. Get a separate DAC and amp from the same vendor (Audio GD or Schiit or any other such combo)
3. Get dac and amp from different vendors
4. Lower equipment budget and get higher quality phones
I can already sense the begining of a serious love affair with my bank account so any tips will be welcome.
As for my preferences:
I do not want the sound to be overly lush, I am not a bass head and will honestly rarely miss the last octave in the bass region. Crystal clear highs and mids will be more important with the kind of music I will be listening to (see below). I listen to a lot of female vocalists and accoustic so any sibilance will be a major turn off. Since I prefer intimate recordings sound stage issues are likely to be more minor (i.e. I will not push the amp with heavy orchestral works on a regular basis at least).
I am also not looking for an analytical sound as I am not a music critic. Some personality is welcome.
A lot of streaming internet (spotify, grooveshark), loseless flac and aac, very few MP3s of high bit rate. I understand that building a library will be a pleasurable and costly journey so I am preparing my wallet.
A lot of female vocalists (Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, etc.), solo piano works (Chopin, Beethoven, etc.), jazz and modern jazz (Avishai Cohen, Miles Davis, Brubeck, etc.), Country (Jhonny Cash, Fleet Foxes). I love finding out new music so I always listen to something new and see if I like it.
Please helo me before I buy everything.