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Amp + DAC for Fostex TH900

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 


First time poster, but I've been following Head-Fi for years. Good to meet y'all.


Firstly, I apologize if this turns out to be the wrong forum/sub-forum to post this query. I figured the related headphone was suitably "high-end" even if the Amp + DAC recommendations I'm about to ask for may not be. Mods, feel free to move this thread/post if you deem it necessary.


Now, to my question....


I recently bought a Fostex TH900. Great set of cans, and I'm sure many here will agree with me. Problem is, my current setup of a MBP + Audioquest Dragonfly is nowhere near good enough to do these mighty cans any justice, so I've decided to shop for a suitable Amp and DAC combo to match. I did try searching for ongoing threads on the matter, but they seem to be at a standstill, while the long "TH900 Impressions" thread has amp recommendations from all over the place and is a bit over my head.


Space and power outlets are at a premium at my work desk, and I've decided that, whatever I buy, I'll only dedicate one additional power outlet to it. This means it'll be either;

1. A wall-powered Amp with built-in DAC combo.

2. A wall powered standalone Amp + USB-powered DAC.


Personally, I'm not a huge fan of 2-in-1 Amp/DAC boxes, as I believe you could possibly waste a perfectly good amp once new DAC chipsets come along and the box doesn't allow you to swap out DAC cards/chipsets, so I'm leaning towards option 2.


I'll talk about my preferred sound "style" first. I'll admit I'm a bit of a bass-head. Not exactly the initial "slam" (though that's important as well), but more the sub-bass and reverb. I like a sense of weight and intimacy in my music, and am willing to sacrifice a bit of the overall soundstage size for that, if necessary. What can I say, I was raised in cramped nightclubs and warehouse parties. I also don't really like peaky/sharp treble all that much. The TH900's treble is fine in most cases and is in no way fatiguing to my ears (unlike say, the Senn HD800 which just pierces my cranium, amp choice notwithstanding) though I suppose I would prefer having the highs subdued for certain types of music. Ideally, I would like the amp to add to the already strong bass of the TH900 while boosting the midrange a tiny bit and subduing the treble. If I were to explain my tastes via a standard EQ graph, it would be descending from left to right at a moderate angle, left being bass and right being treble, obviously. That's one reason I think I might enjoy a tubey sound, as tube amps (in my experience) have sweet but not overpowering midrange with the right tubes and often tone down and/or smother the highs in the process. Tubes usually need extra attention and tend to get hot, and I already live in a hot-n-humid Southeast Asian climate, so I'd say something solid-state trying to mimic a tube sound would be up my alley, though I'm pretty much open to any sort of suggestion as long as it's tailored to the TH900 and my preferred sound and doesn't emit a lot of heat.


Now I don't have as much disposable income as most of the summit users here (and even if I did, it'd go towards more tryes for track days on my motorcycle, to be frank), so I plan on spending about USD1500 max on the combo. Please don't recommend the latest Eddie-Stratus-Luxman-Bakoon-HPA8-GSX model, as it'll definitely be out of my budget.


I see a lot of recommendations for the Burson Soloist or Violectric V200 on the amp side of things. While I haven't yet had the opportunity to demo either of these, I do like the idea of having a replaceable DAC chipset option in the V200. If I were to get the Soloist, I'd have to rely on my Dragonfly or get a better USB-powered DAC, which would be fine as long as it's within my budget. Opinions on Violectric-vs-Burson seem to be evenly divided, but I have no idea which of these is closer to the sound I'm looking for.


Ideally, whatever setup I get should do all I've asked for above while preserving the unique (imho) organic sound that comes from the TH900's biocellulose drivers. Am I asking for too much with my measly budget? Any other amps and DACs I should be considering?


Thanks in advance.

Edited by kurochin - 10/11/13 at 6:14am
post #2 of 5

If you can get a second-hand Eximus DP1 that would be worth a listen.  I find that it pairs really well with the TH900. The bonus is that the DAC will scale higher if you buy a better amp later, but until then the integrated amp is very nice.  It has a very musical sound and delivers nice detail without sounding harsh.  When it comes to bass the DP1 does the business.

post #3 of 5

Take a look at the brand new NAD USB/DAC with high performance head phone amp on board. I just got mine and love it. Sometimes I have paired with my Bellari HA54 Tube if the genera calls for it. HOwever, the NAD is on par with many new DACs being able to output HiRez from your computer or mobile device.

post #4 of 5
Get mytek 192, i love it!
post #5 of 5
The Fostex HP-A8 sounds like a good pairing for the TH900, and also within your budget for a combined dac/amp.
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