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Need help choosing a DAC/Amp Combo Box + Headphones

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I really want to skip all the mediocre stuff and only have to shell out once for a DAC + Headphone Amp + Headphones.
 
This will be for mixing music. The twist is that this is only for a "travel" rig that I will be using with a laptop. So, I need to have easy connectivity to a MBP Retina and a combo DAC/AMP would be way better for me than carrying an extra piece of gear.
 
The budget is whatever it needs to be and I need to get this done fast. I don't even really have time to try anything out - I'll have to go by recommendation.
 
I've been looking at Lavry DA11, Mytek DSD, Benchmark DAC1.
 
For the headphones I've been focused on HD800 and Audeze LCD-2 or 3.
 
I've never used any of that gear so I'm open for suggestions.
 
Any opinions?
post #2 of 12

Get an Invicta.

Add a TH900/800/ w/e (not orthos). Best if you list your music preferences..

post #3 of 12

Add Grace m903 and Lynx Hilo to that list of amp/dacs......

 

HD800 for headphones...
 

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

Thanks for getting back to me.

 

I am really in a true rush - only a couple weeks to make this decision, so I've got the following gear on rush delivery (should be here tomorrow):

 

- Grace m903

- Audeze LCD-2 Rev2

- TH900

- Beyerdynamic T5P

 

I'm going to try out all of the headphones on the grace, and then make my choice. I will probably then keep those headphones and then try to match them to an amp. The grace may be the best, but I don't know yet.

 

I am trying 2 closed pairs, because closed would be preferable just for logistic purposes. But I want to hear the actual sound difference between the closed and a great open pair like the LCD-2. If the difference in quality is great, then I will go with open.

 

Any more suggestions, opinions, etc. are welcome!

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I forgot to mention that I listen to everything and I need to be able to hear all styles accurately for mixing. My personal favorite is electronic music, but not necessarily the all-bass electronic subgenres like dubstep. I'd rather have my bass accurate than in my face.

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by delano22 View Post

I forgot to mention that I listen to everything and I need to be able to hear all styles accurately for mixing. My personal favorite is electronic music, but not necessarily the all-bass electronic subgenres like dubstep. I'd rather have my bass accurate than in my face.


Good choices. For accuracy, I would highly recommend the HD800 but its not all that "fun" on the Grace. Let us know how these sound once you get them, I would imagine the TH900 will be pretty amazing through the m903.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

I read a couple of not-glowing reviews about the hd800 with the m903 and a couple very glowing about the Audeze, and with this short time frame I'm super finicky about reviews because I won't be able to try everything I want to try.

 

I just found out the Fostex are going to come in a few days later because they're in Japan, but I'll definitely let you guys know what I think as everything comes in. I'm not sure how useful I will be though. I don't have much experience with headphones, although I do have a whole lot of experience with high-end monitors and critical listening


Edited by delano22 - 8/13/13 at 12:17pm
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

So the Grace m903 arrived. I've been testing it with AKG k550 and k702 until the LCD-2 and T5P arrive.

 

First impressions.......drumroll.......meh. triportsad.gif

 

The Grace was easy to set up, just plug and play on a MBP. But the sound? No real discernible difference between the headphone amp, the amp in my Apogee Duet, or even the amp in my built-in laptop sound card. Not to say there weren't very slight differences, but I couldn't pick out which was the grace in a blind test. No way. Now, granted, I don't have as much experience with headphones as a lot of guy on here, but I do have years of experience with high-end nearfields so I'm not totally clueless.

 

I suspect this result may have something to do with how easy it is to power the AKGs. This may be more praise for the AKG then a statement against the Grace. Those headphones sound great even from the laptop output and certainly from the Apogee Duet 2.

 

So, if you own AKG headphones and you want to waste your money, get the Grace. Otherwise, get a moderate to low-end amp (if for no other reason than your own self-satisfaction) and call it a day.

 

Later today I will receive the Audeze LCD-2 and the and T5P. I am hoping that my results differ with these more power hungry headphones or I'm afraid this whole website is a marketing sham! wink_face.gif I will update here once they come in.

post #9 of 12

Bass accurate means you'll need LCD-2s or LCD-3s IMO. They need something with a high-current headphone amp built in, which means somewhat lacklustre performance from any of the regular brand-name DAC/amps. The Invicta has been the only exception I've encountered.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

Bass accurate means you'll need LCD-2s or LCD-3s IMO. They need something with a high-current headphone amp built in, which means somewhat lacklustre performance from any of the regular brand-name DAC/amps. The Invicta has been the only exception I've encountered.

 

Cool thanks.

 

I got the LCD-2s and the T5Ps yesterday. I was on the fence about whether or not I was going to get a great closed pair or an open pair, as I don't want to make a lot of noise.

 

I'm definitely sending the T5Ps back. The LCD-2s don't even really make that much noise at normal listening volumes. They can get really loud, but I wouldn't listen at the volume anyway. At a moderate setting you can't even hear them at all with your ear on the wall in the next room. So I'm for sure going with open. I've now ordered the LCD-3 and the HD800 to compare and choose one.

 

For the Grace...it's a really neat little box. It's very small but packs a punch. It's main selling point, IMO is the feature set. The T5Ps with the m903 didn't make that much of a difference. The T5Ps were driven even by my laptop stock amp just fine. They sounded just a smidgen better with the grace, but nothing to write home about. Again, like I said for the AKGs - I don't think that's a complaint for the Grace, I think it's just a testiment to how easy the T5P and AKGs are to drive. The LCD-2s on the other hand required about 90% of power from the grace (the others were about 70%), so I imagine they wouldn't do well with a lot of amps. They did seem to do okay on the Apogee Duet, but maybe missing in the highs a bit...maybe not, though...my hearing was off by this pointed. I was listening for hours yesterday!beyersmile.png

post #11 of 12

You may have already done this but try engaging the volume trim and set +9.5, that will give you more headroom. Also, the crossfeed is a subtle, but nice feature.....this may have more effect with some headphones over others. The grace is like a swiss army knife. I Wish more dac's were made with the ability to seamlessly switch between headphones and monitors. I listen to my KH120's a lot.


Edited by third_eye - 8/15/13 at 11:50am
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

I haven't yet tried the volume trim. I haven't even unpacked the remote! I just wanted to get the listening done right away so I can choose the headphones quickly.

 

Yea, the monitor out is probably the most important feature for me. It will be the only box I need for an at-home mixing and listening station.

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