Several years ago, I picked up a pair of HD-650s and a Headroom Micro amp. Sounded pretty good. I never got too deep into can listening though, mostly used the setup outside on the deck whilst sipping a cocktail and the like.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a friend won a pair of Shure 535s at some function or another. He handed them right over to me, even after I told him they aren't exactly Walmart cheapies, no less. Anyway, it kind of rekindled my interest in headphone listening, so I decided to take a small step towards a setup for my home-office/geek room. I did a bit of research and pulled the trigger on a Schiit Lyr and a Pure i20. The results were very pleasing, "ear-opening," so to speak.
I may be stretching the metaphor here a bit, but imagine you rented a nice secluded cottage on the beach in Hawaii. Your flight gets in late and you reach the cottage after dark. Please, bear with me. You wake up in the morning and the shades are drawn but you can tell it's a beautiful day outside. This is my headphones direct from a portable source. You open the shades and it is indeed beautiful and you can admire the scenery but you don't get a sweeping view, you can't smell the salt air or feel the warmth or really hear the full symphony of the ocean crashing the shore. That's iPod > Dock w/ line out > MicroAmp > cans. So you go outside and are surrounded by the entire sensory experience. The sweeping vista, the myriad tones and textures of sound, the warm sand under your feet, the whole thing. That's iPod > i20 > Lyr > cans.
Now, I know there are better "everything" as far as every link in my new chain, so let's not go down that path. I'm going to enjoy this setup for awhile, but I do see a need for a small, dedicated DAC with multiple inputs so I can leverage my computer, with the higher-quality audio files, and also the old, used Bel Canto CD transport I picked up at an estate sale and never had a real use for.
Anyway, I'm not one for tedious descriptions of the hints of cinnamon and elderberry wafting as if on a gentle breeze from my audio gear. The sound of every track was in every way better. Rather than "I can hear bass," I can hear the instrument, the whole instrument, like "yup, The Ox is using Frankenstein on that track where he used a FenderBird on the last track." Rather than the drums or horn sections becoming a one-dimensional muddle during loud sections of the material, I can hear both the instrument and the subtleties of the individual pieces, like the actual rasp of the snare rather than just the snap of the drum itself. You all know what I'm talking about, so I'll leave it at that.