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$500 budget for headphones and amp

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi - relative newbie here although lurking for long time.

 

I am thinking about acquiring a desktop computer system that is relatively inexpensive (have $500 in my account for this).  I currently have an old pair of Grado 60's that I plug directly into my laptop - my Grado's are about 15 years old and at the end of their days.  I have a good small dac and all the cables I need to set this up - just need headphones and an amp to plug the dac into.  So looking for newbie advice - I am good with buying used - what would you buy.  Oh yes listen to all kinds of music although have aging years and seem to be sadly moving away from the likes of Porcupine.  Finally I do typically like tube gear (have a set amp, and a doge tube preamp, plus a lampizator dac in my hifi setup) but know this might not work for my budget.

 

Appreciate any experienced advice with this modest system.

post #2 of 16

What kind of sound signature are you looking for? Do you want slightly emphasized bass and treble, a relatively flat response or something else?

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

lets go with flat - but havent thought about this much.

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ladavid View Post
 

lets go with flat - but havent thought about this much.

I see, so you want warm, dark, and lush. Good choice. 

 

You can find Sennheiser HD600s used in good condition for ~250. You can maybe find a good deal on a schiit lyr for your amp. Pair the two together and call it a day. 

 

Do you need a dac as well?

post #5 of 16

Also consider, if you're looking for a reasonably flat response (with a slightly dark tonality), the MrSpeakers Mad Dog. $300 brand new and probably less than $250 used. I second the recommendation for Schiit gear, though I have not heard the Lyr. I own the Asgard 2 and have been using it for a while. Some people in the Mad Dog thread have been recommending this one a lot, and I cannot agree more. The Asgard 2 is a fantastic amplifier. I'm sure that if these two pieces of gear are too much on your wallet, others will be sure to chime in and may be able to point you in a different direction.

post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by C.C.S. View Post
 

Also consider, if you're looking for a reasonably flat response (with a slightly dark tonality), the MrSpeakers Mad Dog. $300 brand new and probably less than $250 used. I second the recommendation for Schiit gear, though I have not heard the Lyr. I own the Asgard 2 and have been using it for a while. Some people in the Mad Dog thread have been recommending this one a lot, and I cannot agree more. The Asgard 2 is a fantastic amplifier. I'm sure that if these two pieces of gear are too much on your wallet, others will be sure to chime in and may be able to point you in a different direction.

 

Those things are the biggest wastes of money on the planet. You can EASILY do the mods yourself or find a friend to do them for you. 

 

 

The asgard 2 is not a good amplifier. It is nice and cheap, but compared to a used burson, the schiit stuff is schiit. 

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post
 

 

Those things are the biggest wastes of money on the planet. You can EASILY do the mods yourself or find a friend to do them for you. 

 

 

The asgard 2 is not a good amplifier. It is nice and cheap, but compared to a used burson, the schiit stuff is schiit. 

 

Coming from somebody who just a few posts ago was commenting about another Schiit amp?

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by C.C.S. View Post
 

 

Coming from somebody who just a few posts ago was commenting about another Schiit amp?

 

Let me rephrase then. The lyr is a hybrid amp, and is almost completely different than a silly asgard 2. I thought that would have been obvious. 

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

I like the idea of the hd600's and the lyr and I will be ready to call it a day....but it sounds like this might cost me a bit more than $500 I have in my account, or I am going to get real lucky with a cheap cheap used lyr. 

 

Below this level sounds like something I might not be as happy with knowing that I am the only one that can determine this standard.  Is it better to spend more money on the headphones or more money on the amp?

 

And one of the options is that it is not possible to get a decent amp and headphones for $500.

 

for the question on dac -  yes I already have a dac I am happy with so it is not part of the equation unless there is a dac/amp combo I should consider.

post #10 of 16

I'd say that depends on the headphone/amp combination.

 

I can't comment much on dynamic/ortho amps, except the one recommendation I've been given for a decent headphone amp on that side of things is the Headamp Gilmore Lite...which is out of production and cost $500 when it was still being made. Needless to say, that's not an option.

 

If you feel like giving vintage Stax a chance, you're probably still going to spend more on the amp if you want a direct-drive amp. An SRM-T1 is $400-500 alone, with the SRM-1/Mk2 Pro not being that much cheaper. Vintage Lambdas tend to be $220-350 on top of that.

 

But if you were to get a cheap transformer box and pair it with a speaker amp, then you could get a setup going for under $500 easy, and frankly, I didn't hear that much difference between an SRD-7/SB + receiver and an SRM-T1. The latter was just more convenient in terms of not taking up so much desk space.

 

My experiences suggest that changing your headphones has far more effect on the final sound quality...but I cannot rule out certain headphones needing the right amp to sound as they should, either. Not if those reports of headphones like the HD800 needing proper amplification to sound right and sounding terrible otherwise are any indication.

 

About the DAC/amp possibility, I'd personally prefer keeping them separate. That way, if you have to replace one, you don't have to replace the other along with it.

 

As for what constitutes a "decent" headphone and amp? Depends on your standards and desired tastes. I think the Sony MDR-MA900, at $150 (give or take a bit), is a decent option for the price, and a vintage Stax SR-Lambda downright exceptional. Others might call that same Lambda mediocre at best and to get decent sound, you have to have an SR-007, HD800, LCD-2 or whatever, including prerequisite amplification, that costs thousands of dollars in total.

 

One final note: spending more will NOT equate to enjoying the product more, especially as you figure out what you're really looking for out of new audio equipment. People may make inferences as to what kind of signature you like, but only you can decide...and your findings might just surprise you.


Edited by NamelessPFG - 10/25/13 at 12:41am
post #11 of 16

If the Lyr is too expensive, why not try the new Schiit amp, the Schiit Vali. It's a tube hybrid if I recall correctly. Supposed to sound sweet. 

 

It should drive the HD600 nicely?

 

Also if you don't like HD600, other good choices would be Beyer DT880, AKG K612 etc. All worth an audition.

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by C.C.S. View Post
 

Also consider, if you're looking for a reasonably flat response (with a slightly dark tonality), the MrSpeakers Mad Dog. $300 brand new and probably less than $250 used.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post
 

 

Those things are the biggest wastes of money on the planet. You can EASILY do the mods yourself or find a friend to do them for you. 

 

 

The asgard 2 is not a good amplifier. It is nice and cheap, but compared to a used burson, the schiit stuff is schiit. 

 

lol... try posting that in the Mad Dog thread and see what they have to say :popcorn:

 

I also wonder what you think of the Alpha Dogs that cost twice as much as the Mad Dogs?

post #13 of 16
Purrin once said Lyr is prob the weakest link among other schiit amps (reason I chose Asgard2). Also Lyr will limit your future headphone choice due to noise floor.

Grab Magni (100 bucks) and Sennheiser HD600 used or Beyer DT880. Those two will take care of many genre. You do not need more expensive amp unless headphones of 1K USD or more is used.

Or wait for Vali, which will be a good 115usd tube amp.
post #14 of 16

I don't know if you've ever considered 'stats, but $550 can buy you a brand new SRS-2170 system if you know where to look and don't mind importing them from Japan. ;)

 

You can get stuff even cheaper used as well, of course. 

post #15 of 16

That may not be a bad idea, either. I'm not sure that stats are the way to go for your second pair of headphones, though. You may wanna try one more dynamic or a planar magnetic headphone, since electrostatic headphones are quite dissimilar to anything else that's been suggested in here. Try before you buy, if possible.

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