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Amp/DAC for Sennheiser HD 650

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I am planning on purchasing the HD 650, soon (first audiophile purchase). I have been around different stores listening to different phones and overall I like the sound signature of HD 650 and its adaptability to different devices (the thing sounds good straight out of my phone :/ surprised me much for cans with this kind of impedance). 


Now I also need to buy a DAC (my on-board sound is pretty much trash, so no skipping this purchase). And also obviously an Amp. Since this is my first audiophile purchase, I am hesitant to spend more than $200 on additional headphone equipment, however, given the caliber of the cans, I am hesitant to spend too little (lol?). But also, I do not wish to spend say $100 to later on (like in less than a year) upgrade to something worth about $300, because it would have just made sense to initially invest in something worth $400 or maybe even a bit more. Just as an example.


So at the moment I am deliberating a series of tiers of items and trying to decide which to go for. As a little background, I put great importance on aesthetics. As a result, I would prefer an all in one solution with a DAC/Amp combo, rather than two individual items (I hate having large portion of my desk taken over by a multitude of equipment). I am also aware of how everyone claims tubes breathe new life into phones like the HD650, so I am considering it (although many are unfortunately not so good looking, are amps only, and cost a LOT). So here is a break down of the three tiers I am considering:


1) Low tier (~$200): [preferred price for something that gets the job done]

-What I first throw into this category is the FiiO E17. It seems like one of those nifty little devices that will its job for its price and after a set period of time (maybe a year) it will "force" me to upgrade (mostly by breaking in one way or another). Was originally planning on getting the E09K, but decided it would make more sense to supplement it with a tube amp perhaps (if the built in amp is not enough).

-Second option that I started pondering recently is the Aune T1. I like the fact that it has tubes and DAC. Tube rolling is always an option. I understand it might serve well as an amp, but as a DAC, I'm having concerns about it.

-[I have some form of bias against Schiit audio. One is that they do not look all that, and two is that most people describe them generally as either amazing for the HD650's or as average. Don't know if I like this discrepancy. P.S. not disclaiming the awesomeness of Schiit, just stating that I am disregarding them from my search].


2) Mid Tier (~$500): [ideal max expenditure for something amazing]

-The best item that appeals to me in this range, is the new Fostex HP-A4. It's almost perfect (tiny, all in one, looks beautiful; not necessarily a con, but no tubes). However, due to it being so fresh, there are not enough reviews about it so I can't commit to it yet. I need more info, especially on how it pairs with the HD 650's.

-Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic Plus is another option with an amp. Although from what I understand it will shy in comparison to other real deal dedicated/combo amps.

-There is also the "majestic companion" Bottlehead Crack (with Speedball Upgrade), but it lacks a DAC, takes up too much space, looks meh, and I would need to buy used since I cant actually put one together (I can, just don't have time at the moment). So if I do get this now, I will deprive myself of a potential future project (that is assuming I can find one pre-built). But just for discussion's sake, what would be a not so pricey DAC to complement the BHC?


3) High Tier (~$1000) [would probably not buy this, but must state]

-Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies looks amazing and seems to fulfill my need for aesthetics and function. But holy crap! $1K for supplementing $500 phones? I don't know if there is sense in it. I understand that with this I would be paying a premium on the looks (as reviews seem to indicate that it costs a bit more than the sound quality it gives out).


​So all in all, any advice is appreciated. Please let me know your thoughts and reasoning. Once again, sorry for yet another lengthy post.



post #2 of 6

I am somewhat new HD650 owner.  I have the ALO Pan Am dac/amp and its pretty incredible with the phones.  But I can't leave well enough alone so just got a uber bit frost dac and use the Pan Am with Mullard tubes for the amp.   Super sweet sound. Be careful, this hobby can get all your spare money ;-) .

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi. Thank you for the response. How is the DAC function of Pan Am (prior to your Schiit purchase) with the 650's or other headphones? Also, did you ever try any other DAC/amps before the Pan Amp? Were there any lasting impressions (of why and how it excelled over previous gear)? Overall, how does a stock Pan Am sound in your opinion as a DAC and Amp.

post #4 of 6

The dac function of the pan am sounded very nice.  IMHO the Pan AM is a awesome dac/amp combo if you are looking for the tube sound which I prefer.  I also had a Audioengine d3.  It was a good sound but didn't stack up to what I have now.  My problem is I get upgrade-itis lol. I know there is always, always something better but I can't believe it gets much better that what I am hearing now with my set-up. If you did decide to go with the Pan Am you may want to upgrade the stock tubes.  There is a article on headphonia that reports on different tubes for the pan am.  Good luck.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Bump. (Late thanks for yet another reply)


I am still as confused as ever. For the time being, I am just considering getting the Fiio E17 and not busting my brains too much. When I get more free time on my hands then I would upgrade to something more expensive, like the Pan Am (or Crack if I can buy cheap pre built or have more time to self build). I was very hopeful of the new Fostex HP-A4, but it seems to be lacking in power to drive something like HD650. I know it's still early for reviews, but I am getting impatient and I think I want to buy these headphones asap (all this indecision and waiting is too much). If anyone can weigh in any more opinions, please do so, as it will still take me some time to buy and receive the hp's (although hopefully not too long :P).

post #6 of 6

I like the idea of the E17, because even when you decide it needs to be replaced it's not useless.  Band it to your phone and have a nice portable setup.


I was in the situation and I bought the JDS Labs O2+ODAC.

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