Originally Posted by gandhisfist
Nice, I'd like to hear about what you explored and what you thought before settling on your current setup.
Here's a very short write up
Headphones in purchase order:
Grado 80i - this is where I started, and got upgrade-itis pretty quickly after hearing what good recordings could sound like.
Grado 225i - significant upgrade, better in all regards compared to the 80i, I was very happy with these for a while.
Grado 325e - good sale on buysonic, figured I'd give them a try. They took some getting used to, but once I did I really really liked them. Very detailed, not fatiguing, surprisingly great bass. I've never heard the Beatles sound so good. Eventually sold for the HD650s.
Beyerdynamic DT880 (600 ohm) - hated these. I really wanted to like them, they are good looking and built extremely well, but the sound was dull, uninteresting, and felt very cramped. Sold quickly.
Senn HD650 - my current pair. Fantastic. Wouldn't mind a little more detail. Fun to listen to, reasonably realistic (a bit on the lush side), extremely comfortable. Surprisingly easy to drive.
Amps/dacs in purchase order:
Little Dot I+ - my first amp. I was impressed with the sound out of the box, but didn't have anything to compare against. After trying a decent number of other amps, I've found that I really enjoy this one. It's fun to listen to, great tubes are cheap and easy to find, and it's pretty small. I'm especially impressed by the soundstage I can get from it. It puts out plenty of power. I've never had to turn the volume past about 10 o'clock to listen comfortably.
Headphones used: All above
Schiit Modi - Affordable, small, USB powered, great build quality and it sounds significantly better than my laptop's dac. Definitely a keeper.
Amps used: All
Schiit Magni - I wanted to try the Magni/Modi stack. Compared to the LD I+, I was not very impressed. Lots of power, but the sound seemed thin. Classical music lacked body and it just wasn't something I enjoyed listening to very much. Sold it pretty quickly after comparing it to the Vali and LD I+.
Headphones used: 80i, 225i,325e, DT880
Schiit Vali - Awesome amp for the money. Great sound, just a little tubey warmth, plenty of power. Even though there was a little background hiss using it with Grados, it wasn't noticeable except for very quiet music. Compared to the LD, the soundstage was just ok and it didn't feel quite as detailed.
Headphones used: 80i, 225i,325e, DT880, HD650
Schiit Bifrost Uber:
Really big upgrade over the Modi. Worth 5 times as much? Maybe not, but I'm keeping it and am very happy about this decision.
Amps used: All except Magni
Schiit Lyr 2 - big upgrade, I got lucky in the classifieds and got a great price including a pair of '74 gray shield tubes. It sounded a lot more "real" than anything else I had heard before, but wasn't quite as euphonic as the LD I+. At this point I had decided to keep the HD650s, which the Lyr drove reasonably well, but they sounded a bit dull and not as good as I thought they could. The gray shields were a big upgrade over the stock tubes, which made the Lyr much more enjoyable.
Headphones used: DT880, HD650.
Schiit Valhalla 2 - sounds better with the 650s than the Lyr did. Big, rich, full, detailed, much better imaging. Definitely a keeper. Drives grados shockingly well. I also just like the look of this a lot too.
Headphones: Grado 225i, HD650
Little Dot MKIV SE - sounds maybe a bit better than the Valhalla with 650s. Noticeably better bass and treble extension, slightly better soundstage. But this thing is huge compared the the Valhalla, is not built as well, and changing the gain/tube jumpers is a pain. Decided to sell since the V2 was not much worse sounding, actually fits on my desk, and is built better. Sold.
Headphones: Grado 225i, HD650
Current setup is in my sig.
Edited by nojwe - 2/6/15 at 10:23am