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Ideal DAC/AMP combo for Sennheiser HD8 DJ ?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hello!

I've been visiting this forum for almost a year, and based on recommendations I've read during this time my collection consists of:
Sennheiser 598, 558, 380 Pro, and tomorrow I should be receiving HD8 DJ.

I currently only have the Fiio E6 amp and I'm now looking for a decent DAC/AMP combo.
My main options (but not limited to) are:
Schiit Modi + Magni stack, and JDS Labs O2 + ODAC.

Since I'll probably be using HD8 DJ the most I was wondering if someone could recommend a good DAC/AMP combo for these cans. Any suggestions will be appreciated!!
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 
No one?
post #3 of 6

I just bought the Sennheiser HD8 DJ headphones, which will be here tomorrow. I bought a Schiit Modi DAC and a Schiit Vali amp to go with them, so I'll let you know how they all turn out. My current setup is a bare set of Sennheiser HD 439s, and I figured that it was time for an upgrade, and I figured it was about time to get into amps and DACs. I've used one DAC before, but it wasn't meant for Hi-Fi; I only got it so I could use the only audio output on my TV, TOSLINK, to feed my Turtle Beach X12 gaming headset, and I can attest to the quality difference it makes (even with the cheap headphones and cheap DAC). I'm also sick of using the super noisy 3.5mm outputs on my PC and MacBook (USB power always bleeds over). I figured that with the HD8 DJs at 95ohms, I wouldn't need a super powerful or expensive amp, but I highly value quality and craftsmanship, and I've heard good things about the Schiit that Schiit makes, so I decided to try them out. They look like their products all have excellent build-quality and their design taste is perfect, which were both big selling points. The FiiO amps and DAC's specs and reviews looked pretty decent, but their build-quality seemed lacking, so that's why I didn't go with them. Again, I'll let you know what I think after everything shows up tomorrow (the DAC might not be here until Monday, though).


Edited by andrewLarsson - 4/5/14 at 12:11am
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
I'm looking forward to hear your impressions of the HD8 DJ + Modi + Vali combo!
What do you think of the HD8 DJ by itself so far?

I got it on Wednesday and I hated it for the first 30 or so minutes I used it. But then it started growing on me. I think it's definitely an acquired taste. At least in my case, because I had never been bass-inclined.

So far the HD8 are hit or miss with most bass-heavy songs I've listened to. With some songs the bass is so powerful yet instrument separation is very refined that it's a real pleasure listening to them. With other songs, however, the mids sound muffled and while the bass seems to be dull and boring.
post #5 of 6

My HD8 DJs showed up on Saturday along with the Vali amp. Without the amp, they were good, but not worth $400. The bass was pretty good, but it wouldn't ever go loud enough, because of their high impedance. They were comparable to my HD 439's, but with more defined bass. When I hooked it up to the amp, though, it performed significantly better, and the $400 price tag started looking a lot more reasonable. The bass was very prominent and clean. Songs with kicking bass really kicked.

 

I brought them in to work, and everyone was impressed. My setup outperformed everyone's gear by a long shot (obviously, especially since most people had Skull Candy). I had people from all over the office coming over to my desk to try them out. Most people weren't comfortable with turning the volume up to rumbling bass levels, though, but they all loved them. Seriously, though, if you turn them up loud enough on certain songs, it rumbles. My whole head rumbles (yet it's still clean without any distortion)! It's insane. A bunch of people brought over their headphones and tried them out on the Vali. All of them sounded much better with the amp, even the low impedance ones (and they were all over-ear headphones).

 

I'm big into bass, but I like it clean, and I never want my bass to distract from the highs, which the amp helped facilitate (without the amp, the highs were quite lacking). While I was at work today, my Modi DAC was delivered to my house. I just got home, and I got it all set up. My first thoughts were that I love the way the Modi and Vali stack and look - very professional. As for the sound, the Modi helped bring out the highs a little more, and everything just sounds better. It's not a huge difference, but it's definitely noticeable. I tried the Modi + Vali combo on a lot of my headphones I have lying around, and I can say that together, they make anything sound significantly better, but I'd say that they especially made a difference with the HD8 DJs.

 

Overall, I'm quite impressed and pleased with the HD8 DJ + Modi + Vali setup. I would say that the DAC isn't strictly necessary unless your source is noisy, but that the amp is a must-have. I wish I could try the HD8 DJs on a Magni amp, though, because I'm sure solid-state would produce quite different results than the tubes in the Vali. One interesting thing to note about Vali and other tube amps is that they're sensitive. If you tap on the top of the case, or if you bump your desk too hard, you'll notice that the amp produces a tone that lasts for a few seconds (so don't plan on using the Vali in your car or anything, but if you listen to your headphones at a desk all day, you'll be fine). Also, there's a very faint hiss when using the amp. It doesn't affect the music at all (because it doesn't change with the music volume or even with the volume knob). It's a constant level, and I can barely hear it anyways (and only when no music is playing).

 

Based on my limited experience, I'd recommend the setup I have, but again, I haven't tried out the Magni amp. I can tell you that the Vali does go much much much louder than you could ever want with the HD8 DJs. Running through the DAC, for my normal listening volume, I have it at only about 30° above the lowest setting. At around 90°, it's about as loud as I can handle without feeling myself go deaf (mind you everything still sounds just as clear at this level), and the nob goes all the way up to 270°.

 

So take what you will from this information. I can only tell you that the setup I have is great and works awesome. Perhaps there's a better combo out there, but I'd say that you can't go wrong with what I'm using, and it's all a relatively fair price.

 

Let me know if there's anything else that you'd like to know. Oh, and if you end up going with the Magni, let me know how it sounds.


Edited by andrewLarsson - 4/7/14 at 9:25pm
post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrPiro View Post

So far the HD8 are hit or miss with most bass-heavy songs I've listened to. With some songs the bass is so powerful yet instrument separation is very refined that it's a real pleasure listening to them. With other songs, however, the mids sound muffled and while the bass seems to be dull and boring.

If open cans are OK, you might try the HE-400s. Very resolving sound with bass emphasis and good bass extension. Some mids are recessed a little (as with any headphone with bass emphasis), but they are very detailed. See this review and compare it's rating to other headphones in the review list.

As far as amps, the Schiit Modi/Magni and ODAC/O2 are generally considered comparable in SQ. One advantage of the ODAC/O2 is that it does have a gain switch. The Vali is a hybrid tube/solid state amp which adds a little tube flavor. Whether or not you would like it better than the Magni or O2 is more a matter of personal listening preference.
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