Originally Posted by RebelRising
Makes sense, I'll try to aim for the most neutral DAC I can find. I noticed in your signature that you've a Grace M903 paired with your HD800. This was another combo I was considering, would you mind sharing how that's worked out for you so far?
Although I use the m903 mostly as a DAC, I think it makes a great transportable DAC when you're on the road. It's a really compact all-in-one solution. Having said that, here's what I think of the m903/HD800 combo's sound:
(1) Detailed, But Unforgiving: It's very revealing of the recording's quality, but unforgiving for poor quality recordings. When the HD800s are plugged into the BA, I get transparency from both great and poor quality recordings.
(2) Solid Micro Details, Mediocre Macro Details: Again, I can hear the subtleties in a recording, but I don't get the feeling of being there. It's more technical than smooth (or leaning toward cold rather than warm), but not by much. It doesn't punch or engage as much as I'd like, and so I find I have to put in some effort into listening. With great recordings, however, this isn't nearly as much an issue.
(3) Soundstage: The soundstage is very good with above average width and depth. However, the soundstage seems to have a defined boundary. With the BA, the soundstage seems to gradually vanish in the distance, creating a more natural decay.
(4) Type of Music: This is a terrible combo if you usually listen to bass-intensive music or subpar recordings. It works best with jazz and classical, especially high-res recordings. With other music, I tend to lower the volume to avoid stridencies.
I'm convinced the HD800s are meant for tube amps. With the right choice of tubes, you can retain the HD800's technical merits while adding naturalness to its sound signature. The m903 drives them pretty well, but the HD800s have so much more potential that it's tough to recommend the combo. The BA has truly spoiled my ears.
Having criticized the m903, I must stress that it's hard to find a better headphone section on a DAC. Headphone outputs on DACs are usually afterthoughts. The m903 is an excellent compact all-in-one solution. While it does drive the HD800s fairly well, I wouldn't recommend the HD800s as my top pick for it.