Please give me some advice for what amp or dac or even a dac/amp combo I should get for my dt990 pros 250 ohm headphones. Max price 100 euros
When I first heard Sennheiser's HE-1 (which, like many, I call the "new Orpheus") it redefined for me what was possible from a headphone, in terms of fidelity, in terms of musicality. The term "paradigm shift" is so over-used that I loathe to draw on it, but that's what the HE-1 was for me. Perhaps a tad less dramatically -- but still very significantly -- the Chord Electronics DAVE has had a similar impact on me where digital audio is concerned, allowing me deeper into recordings than any digital component I'd used before it (or since, as of this writing).
DACs (digital-to-analog converters) have, over the last several years, gotten better and better. I think a large part of that is you guys -- the Head-Fi community -- and your increasing demand for DAC / headphone amplifier all-in-ones (as opposed to two separate components). We’re plugging extremely resolving (and often very sensitive) headphones into our systems, effectively putting system performance smack dab on top of (or even inside) our ears, laying bare system shortcomings and noise. The evolution of the DAC/amp form factor has gone from the desire for convenience/economy as the key driver, to the demand for no compromise (versus separates)--and even seeking performance advantages that can come with the deep integration of the two components.
The Chord Electronics DAVE is Chord Electronics' flagship DAC, and it does include an integrated headphone output. It can also serve as a digital preamp, with a slew of digital inputs, including 4 x 75Ω SPDIF BNC coax inputs that support 44.1 kHz to 384 kHz; AES XLR, supporting 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz; 2 x TOSLINK fiber optic inputs supporting 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz; and one USB input supporting 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz, as well as DSD. It outputs to a stereo pair of unbalanced RCA jacks, a stereo pair of balanced XLR jacks, and one 1/4" TRS headphone jack.
Like Chord's other DACs, the Chord DAVE does not use any off-the-shelf DAC chips, and instead is built around a Spartan 6 field programmable gate array (FPGA) with what Chord claims has "1000x the processing power of the traditional mass-produced chip DAC." That FPGA is loaded with over one million lines of bespoke code. DAVE also has a 164,000-tap digital filter. Filtering is 256 FS, a rate at which Chord claims no other DAC has ever FIR-filtered at. It employs parallel processing using 166 DSP cores, and further filtering to 2048 FS. The purpose of all of this -- the thing that Chord relentlessly drives home in their talks and posts about the DAVE -- is to more accurately retrieve the original continuous analog un-sampled signal than any other DAC.
The Chord DAVE's designer and engineer, Rob Watts from Chord Electronics, has not been bashful about sharing almost every technical detail behind the DAC with us on the forums (well, everything but his source code, of course). So confident and proud is he of the DAVE that -- because we both use the Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer -- he's even shared some of his Audio Precision project files with me so that I could see for myself what he's done by measuring the DAVE we have at Head-Fi HQ on our analyzer.
Independently (using my own APx project file), I still marvel at one of the first measurements I made of the DAVE, my jaw hitting the floor when I saw the report output for the DAVE's harmonic distortion:
As you can see above, at full-scale (0 dBFS) from its balanced outputs outputting 6.18 volts, harmonic distortion from the DAVE is measured in nanovolts out to the 10th harmonic! The DAVE is the only DAC I've measured so far that has achieved that. Paul Miller from HiFi News also said DAVE's distortion is the lowest he'd measured from any DAC, stating (of its infinitesimally low levels of distortion) "This is an astonishing technical achievement by Chord." I agree. The DAVE's intermodulation distortion is also the lowest I've yet measured. (If you search Rob Watts' post history, you can see other impressive DAVE measurements, including FFT's showing no noise floor modulation and other APx555 test outputs.)
So, yes, the DAVE's measured performance is perhaps currently without peer, and that's an easy story to tell. An even better story to tell would be that it measures well and sounds great, because ultimately that's what matters most -- especially at the price the Chord DAVE demands. Thankfully, how DAVE sounds to me closes the loop on this story very tidily, as it is the best sounding digital source component I have ever heard.
I've now used the Chord Electronics DAVE with every premium headphone I could think to throw at it that it's ideally suited to drive -- and that'd be just about any non-electrostatic headphone that's not an Abyss AB-1266, HiFiMAN HE6 or SUSVARA (these listed headphones being ones the DAVE can drive, just not at their best, though). When I had a chance to hear the HiFiMAN Shangri-La system for the first time in Tokyo, I carried the DAVE to Tokyo in my backpack just for that purpose. After hearing their flagship headphone system fronted by DAVE, HiFiMAN borrowed it to source the Shangri-La for that season's Fujiya Avic Tokyo Headphone Festival.
All competent modern DACs can serve up excellent detail in a traditional sense, and the DAVE will truly give you a glimpse into the tiniest nuances of your recordings -- sorry to be trite, but, yes, I'm talking about things you haven't heard before in some recordings you've heard a zillion times prior. But what the DAVE does better than any other DAC I've yet heard is another kind of resolution -- another kind of detail that I didn't know was also contained in such amounts on many recordings, and I'm talking about imaging information. I've never heard a DAC that gives such a thorough grasp of where instruments and voices are in the recording -- a sort of sonic holography. These are cues and subtleties that aren't added by the DAVE, but extracted by the DAVE from the source material. It's uncanny at times, but, when evident, always in a way that I thrill to.
We currently have a Sennheiser HE-1 at Head-Fi HQ, and to have Chord's masterpiece DAC fronting Sennheiser's masterpiece headphone system is to be constantly amazed. I've never seen Joe tear up over music being played over hi-fi. We're both Beatles fans, so I asked him to come into my office and listen to something. He put the HE-1 on, and I cued up a remaster of "Golden Slumbers" (from Abbey Road) via the Chord DAVE, and he turned to me in awe -- his eyes big with shock, tears welling up. Why? Because he felt like George Martin, one room away from Paul singing, the boys playing. I called him into the room only after my eyes had dried. Somewhere on this old recording is something that this system -- like no other system we've heard -- can retrieve. Again, it's a different kind of detail, apart from what we normally call detail. Something temporal, perhaps. Whatever it is, it's the closest I've ever been to Paul McCartney singing me a lullaby. When he growls "Golden slumbers fill your eyes," it jars me every time though this system. Goosebumps always. Tears sometimes.
One other thing I want to mention is something the DAVE has that I'm a big fan of that I know a lot of you probably don't think to use, and that's a well-implemented crossfeed circuit. The Sennheiser HE-1 also has crossfeed, and it's good. The Chord DAVE has crossfeed, and to my ears it's definitely the superior circuit, the tonal balance being completely left alone, only the imaging being fixed when needed and called for -- like so many Beatles stereo recordings, where left is only on the left, and right is only on the right. Like Chord's Hugo products, DAVE has three levels of crossfeed (and, of course, you can turn it off). I love that I can pass it through the headphone outputs and the DAVE's rear outputs. I don't use it all the time, but when it's needed, it's needed, and for exaggerated panning (again, almost all Beatles stereo), I need it.
Do I need to listen through the Sennheiser HE-1 to benefit from this holography the DAVE projects? No. That combo is so far unparalleled to my ears, but even driving other wonderful headphones directly, DAVE does that...thing. That imaging thing. Today I was using it with the new final D8000 planar magnetic headphones (directly driven by DAVE, and soon to be in this Guide), and that sense of image object realism was still there, still thrilling. Audeze LCD-4. Focal Utopia. Sennheiser HD660S. These are all headphones I've recently plugged into DAVE, and, still, with them (and others) the DAVE does it's thing.
This is why the Chord Electronics DAVE is the reference DAC here at Head-Fi HQ. If you haven't yet auditioned the Chord DAVE, you absolutely should if you can find the opportunity to do so.
Schiit Audio Jotunheim
Where Schiit Audio is concerned, I would guess that most Modi DACs are probably sold with Magni amps, and I'd guess that most Bifrost DACs are sold paired with one of the similarly sized Schiit amps, too. As well as those paired-up Schiit separates sell, though, there are still many enthusiasts who opt for single-chassis DAC/amp combos, which, until recently, Schiit did not offer. In the world of personal audio over the last several years, enthusiasts have gravitated rather heavily (in both the portable and desktop worlds) to integrated DAC/amp combos.
This was a trend Schiit resisted. As far as I can recall, Schiit had made clear that they felt the idea of permanently marrying a DAC with an amp was a recipe for eventual obsolescence. They've also said that cramming a noisy DAC section into the same chassis (and sharing power supplies) with an amp could be something less than ideal. I knew if Schiit ever decided to do that--to integrate amp and DAC into a single chassis--it'd be unique, and on their terms. So while I was surprised when Schiit Audio's Jason Stoddard told me about the Jotunheim, I wasn't shocked, especially when he told me the specifics of their approach to the category.
Since the biggest gripes Schiit had with the concept of an all-in-one were eventual obsolescence--and the possible disadvantages that can come with cramming two separate components together into one chassis--they decided that doing something akin to an all-in-one would mean addressing these two concerns. To address obsolescence, the Jotunheim is actually--in its base form--a headphone amplifier and preamp with a single expansion slot to which can be optionally added a USB DAC module or a moving magnet phono input module. So if you add the phono module, you have a phono/amp combo. If you add the DAC module, you have a DAC/amp combo.
Now, since I'm almost certain far more Head-Fi'ers will be opting for the DAC module over the phono module, then, for all intents and purposes, the Jotunheim is Schiit's first desktop DAC/amp combo, however reluctantly they want to own up to their entrance into that category.
The Jotunheim's optional USB DAC module is a hardware-balanced DAC, using two AKM AK4490 DAC chips. According to Jason Stoddard, this module is Schiit's first DAC with passive filtering, which eliminates the typical active output stage (and a whole lot of circuitry). Long story short, to address their other concerns with DAC/amp integration, they designed a solid DAC in modular form.
However, perhaps most impressive to me is the Jotunheim's amp section, which is one of the most versatile high-powered headphone amps we've yet used. It's a new topology developed by Schiit called Schiit Pivot Point--a differential current-feedback design, with the ability to use one side of the topology as a single-ended output, to eliminate the need for summers. It is fully discrete, with no opamps (except the DC servo) and no integrated chip outputs--and it's completely DC-coupled from input to output.
Pivot Point makes for a remarkably flexible gain stage. While it can output up to 5000 milliwatts RMS per channel into 32 ohms from its balanced outputs--not to mention up to 900 milliwatts RMS per channel into 300 ohms from its balanced outputs--it's still also quiet and delicate enough to silently drive my most sensitive in-ear monitors. There's not a non-electrostatic headphone I have (and I have a lot of headphones) that the Jotunheim can't comfortably drive.
That the Jotunheim amp alone is priced at only $399 is remarkable. If you add the DAC module or phono module when ordering the Jotunheim, the price is still a very modest (and still remarkable) $499. That kind of performance for the price is market-disrupting, and will almost certainly upend even some of Schiit's own lines of products.
For more information, we shot an episode of Head-Fi TV about the Schiit Jotunheim, which you can see below:
|I am very impressed with Schiit Audio’s Jotunheim. This black beast of a amp sounds great and can drive any IEM or headphone one should have, This solid stage amp is versatile and has plenty of inputs and outputs. I think the Jotunheim is a great sounding mid level amp, especially for the money. ”|