I currently have the beyerdynamic dt880's, a fiio e17 and a APPJ PA0901A tube amp. What should I upgrade next to get better sound? My budget is around 1k.
Depends on what you want to achieve and what you don't like or want to improve on your DT880.
If you like your DT880, but want a better headphone, I suggest Hifiman HE-500.
Then pair it with a dedicated desktop amp and dac stack.
Or you could use it with your current tube amp. Many report that the HE-500 performs at its best through a speaker amp. You will need to buy or make a custom cable cable to use it with this speaker amp though.
Thanks for the reply.
I guess I just want to explore the world of music and see what I can hear :). I have heard a few desktop amp/dac and my fiio 17 honestly sounds better. What would you recommend looking into for a desktop / dac stack?
I was actually looking into the he-500's / t1's / sennheiser hd800 / lcd 2's any opinions on those
As for the custom cable, I already built one to connect the dt880's to the tube amp. It's pretty simple, only like 6 resistors I soldered to a board and a a headphone jack.
Beyer T1 - only auditioned it once. I thought it was quite clinical. Technically marvellous, but music sounded a bit on the robotic side, a little lifeless? I dunno, probably pairs badly with my PA2V2 which I had with me at the time. I suspect you'd get a more lively sound out of them through your tube amp though.
HD800 - auditioned a few times with various sources. Very amp picky, but you can't beat these for soundstage/stereo presentation. Also the timbre is almost hyper-realistic. I find the treble is bit peaky.
HE-500 - I own these, and they're simply the best value for money on the planet right now. They do a bit of everything that all the top-end headphones do. The only thing they can't do is the kind of treble that gives you an infinite sense of air and breathing space you can from even simple electrostatics. But everything else is almost impossible to fault.
I've never auditioned anything by Audeze. They're impossible to find in Germany.
Honestly, I can't really answer you about electrostatics in depth, because the only one I've ever owned/heard is a Stax SR-3 clone from the early 70's.
That might make my previous comments sound less trustworthy, but believe me - the treble on these old electrostatics BEAT the HE-500's.
There is just so much speed and air. No congestion in the sound at all. Perfect instrument separation.
My only problem with it is the lack of some force in the bass, and early roll-off.
Electrostatics are not known for hard-hitting bass, that's for sure.
The T1, and HD800 do outclass these vintage stats in the treble though, but you certainly have to pay quite a bit more for either of those over the HE-500, which isn't that far behind.
No idea about a dac/amp stack combo. I've always settled with really simple stuff. Someone here on headfi has even written abuse at me for being satisfied with my HE-500 through an O2 stack.
But I just wanted something cheap and versatile that would run almost any headphone I own, as I'm on a fairly tight budget.
I've been recommended on a few occasions to look into a Project Ember for my HE-500, as that's supposed to be an excellent match for most planar headphones on a very tight budget.
When it comes to DACs though, you can pay 10-20x the money for a DAC and still only squeeze out 1 or 2% 'better' sound. And it might not even be better.. just different.
Some people swear by expensive DACS. Others just say, "go with what you can afford".
Headphones make the biggest difference in sound (can be a whole world of difference)
Amp is the second biggest difference (usually no more than 5-10% total difference)
Dac is the least (maybe 1%?)
Then lastly cables (placebo is a difference, right?)