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Matching +-$200 USB DAC/AMP for Sennheiser HD 650

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I am looking to get a present for my father: Sennheiser HD 650 and DAC/AMP (and headphone stand).

 

After a LOT of reading I am left quite confused. With so many headphones and DAC/AMP combination options it is difficult to find a review that matches my requirements.

 

- The music source will be a PC with FLAC / mp3s.
- The music will mostly be vocal jazz, and classical
(he loves Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, violin concertos etc...).

- My price range for the DAC/AMP is around the $200 mark.
 

Within the price range I'm looking at, these USB DAC/AMP kept coming up:
- Audioengine D1 - $169

- Hifiman EF2A - $169
- Audinst HUD-mx1 - $179

- iBasso D4 Mamba $199

- Schiit Magni AMP + Modi DAC - $200
- Maverick TubeMagic D1 Plus - $209
- Yulong U100 - $225
- Audio-Gd NFB-15.32 - $235
- Audinst HUD-mx2 - $248
- Maverick TubeMagic D2 DAC - $249

But there are many others :(
 

So I have these questions:

 

(1) Can anyone recommend a good match for the HD 650 based on personal experience?

    or

(2) For my price range of DAC/AMP, am I better off getting the HD 598 instead? (will it sound BETTER with these DACs?)

    or

(3) Am I getting a MASSIVE improvement by spending $300-$400 on a DAC? (and which one)

Thank you!!


Edited by zordex - 5/14/13 at 8:07pm
post #2 of 14
Thread Starter 

After a few more hours of reading, I think the list is shrunk down to:
- Schiit Magni AMP + Modi DAC - $200
- Audio-Gd NFB-15.32 - $235
- Audinst HUD-mx2 - $248

 

But I have not seen any reviews or discussions that compare any of the above directly against each other (on the HD 650).

Any suggestions?

post #3 of 14

Among that list the only one I've listened to with the HD650 and (later version) HD600 is the D4 Mamba, and the Maverick D1 only on the HD600. The D4 Mamba is great for both but for my own tastes the deep bass is a little flabby and there's a bit of excess warmth that affects the upper bass and lower midrange. That sounds like what the HD6x0 response curve looks like, but do take note that I observed this well into a meet, and the pads were a little squished.* The Maverick D1 I had more time with the D1 and the sound was a bit on the thin side and lacked the punch and dynamics I usually look for.** AFAIK, its tube is for the preamp, not the headphone amp. My friend who was with me at the time preferred the Little Dot MkII - warmer midrange but more grunt in the upper bass (he liked both about it).

 

For my personal preferences I got the Meier Cantate.2 eventually, and the added warmth of worn pads didn't seem too bad at first, but of course over time I noticed it more, but that's because of course my preference bias is for what I started out listening to each night. If I had around $200 though I'd probably gamble with the NFB15.32, which i haven't listened to but seems great on paper, but if I'd strictly go with what I already listened to, I'd take the Maverick D1 mostly for the flexibility for adding a speaker set-up to it through the preamp output. For your Dad, however, there are two factors you have to consider - at his age has his hearing response above 16khz reduced enough that he might perceive some DACs (and non-transparent amps) too warm, or does he subjectively prefer that anyway?

 

BTW, would you really need a headphone stand for it? I just use the padded box from Sennheiser. Sure it doesn't look as good as the K701 stand, but it covers the headphone.

 

 

 

 

*and of course if they simulate a human head for measuring the response, they usually use a mannequin head, not a ballistics gel cast to simulate human flesh, which may or may not make a difference in the response we hear and what the mic hears

**An artificially warm-sounding DAC with a reasonably good amp (ie, the damping factor will reduce distortion on excursion, where a weaker amp fed a bass-tweaked signal will distort)

post #4 of 14

I'm going to have to be an advocate for the Magni/Modi combo. I own them with my HD600's and it brings the headphones to life and makes them absolutely sing! The Magni is a BEAST for it's size. Jason @ Schiit stated that they released the Asgard 2 because the Magni was so close to the performance of the Asgard (1), which retails for $249.

 

I listen to them every day and look forward to it, every day.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback so far!

Has anyone compared the Audio-Gd NFB-15.x or 12.x to the Magni + Modi or MX2 on the HD 650?
 

On paper the Audio-GD 15.32 seems seriously superior. But I would love to hear a real world review / comparison.

post #6 of 14

Can't say I've heard the Audio-Gd NFB-15.x or 12.x.

 

On paper is seems superior, but your ears should be the judge.

 

I've found that asking for someones opinion is almost useless because everyone's ears are different and everyone has vastly different musical tastes. I've heard plenty of cheap amps that I prefer over the expensive brand. And it goes the other way too, obviously.
 

post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skolar311 View Post

 

On paper is seems superior, but your ears should be the judge.

 

The main problem really is that some can't physically make their ears the judge. Nothing wrong with relying on feedback, as long as people are aware of the limitations.

post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

The main problem really is that some can't physically make their ears the judge. Nothing wrong with relying on feedback, as long as people are aware of the limitations.

 

Yeah you're right. I guess I phrased it wrong. I should have said that before you purchase anything you should try your hardest to do a side by side comparison of your own and let your ears be the judge. And I realize a lot of the time this is impossible.

post #9 of 14

I'm going to throw in another vote for the Schiit Magni/Modi stack. The performance you get for the amount you pay is ridiculously good.

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tman5293 View Post

I'm going to throw in another vote for the Schiit Magni/Modi stack. The performance you get for the amount you pay is ridiculously good.


That was also something I was going to mention. The specs of the other amps mentioned might look better than the Magni/Modi, but the Schiit Stack is such a good deal that I find it hard to pass up. And I also think Schiit makes some of the best looking (and sounding) amps around.

 

Not sure if Zordex is from the U.S. or not, but being that Schiit makes 100% American made products, that could be another selling point for some. Their direct customer service is undeniably excellent as well, I sent 3 e-mails and all of them had responses within 5 minutes. That's faster than my wife calls back!

post #11 of 14

One last thing that jumped out at my when comparing the NFB-15.32 to the Magni is the output impedance. The NFB-15.32 has a 2 Ohm output impedance while that Magni's is less than 0.1 Ohm output impedance.

 

And the NFB-15.32 does 300mw @ 300 Ohms while the Magni does 260mw @ 300 Ohms. Not a huge difference in power.

 

So even on paper, there are a few things that the Magni/Modi would do better.


Edited by Skolar311 - 5/23/13 at 12:53pm
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

I ended up getting the Audio-Gd NFB-15.32. I am in Canada so after shipping the cost was similar to the Magni+Modi.

At some point in the future I may get the Magni+Modi, ask my dad to do a comparison, and sell the system that he likes the least.
In the mean time I hope my dad will enjoy the 15.32,

 

Thanks for the feedback.

Cheers :)
 

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by zordex View Post
 

I ended up getting the Audio-Gd NFB-15.32. I am in Canada so after shipping the cost was similar to the Magni+Modi.

At some point in the future I may get the Magni+Modi, ask my dad to do a comparison, and sell the system that he likes the least.
In the mean time I hope my dad will enjoy the 15.32,

How does your dad like the 15.32 so far?

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

How does your dad like the 15.32 so far?


He likes it for sure, but had no point of comparison.
I compared it to the HUD-MX1, and the 15.32 seemed to have a fuller sound. But it was not a long comparison.
I need to loan him the MX1 to do a comparison, he has a better ear than I do :)
 

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