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Advise for Closed back Headphones and Dac/Amp combo setup.

  1. Jakeg104

    This is my second post here, been active on AudioCircle, etc in the past as i was going down the 2 Channel proverbial rabbit hole, lol!

    I'm now slowly getting together a Headphone setup.


    Total Budget for Headphones, DAC/Amp to be about $2,000, although I also always love to find deals. Massdrop, etc..

    I listen to most genres, but definitely lean more toward 80's, 90's mainstream, pop, a bit of alternative, House, Chill, hip hop, Bob Marley, UB40, Led Zepplin, Chili Peppers. I love bass. Clean, defined bass, that is. I love being immersed in the dynamics of the music. Listening to Elton John's 'I'm still standing' with the right gear moves me to emotion. That's the essence i'm trying to capture and i know its out there to be had!!

    1. Primarily looking for a setup that is musical, emotional, vs. one that is clinical/analytical. Through my 2 channel journey, I kept realizing that I'd rather just get immersed in the music, the emotions, tap my feet, vs. analyzing the music for every single nuance. Don't get me wrong, i love the details (One of my favorite setups for 2 channel were Mcintosh Vintage (c28/MC2505) paired with B&W Bookshelves that i set up on my office desk. Should have kept it, instead of succumbing to ADD...)
    2. I will need closed back headphones. I'll be listening in private, at home and don't want my wife nagging me about the music, lol, although if I'm going to lose some essence of the music, then can go open back.
    3. I'd like the gear to be relatively transportable/generally portable, ie; be able to take the setup with me and go sit in the back yard, or the bedroom, etc.
    4. The source will be either my iPhoneX or MS Surface, both with Amazon HD music subscription.
    5. Open to both Solid State or Tube, although tubed might be a bit more challenging to move around?
    6. I know that synergy is really important with audio gear, so want direction as to what components play well together.
    7. For headphones, open to conventional drivers or Planar, although i've never heard planar headphones so have no reference point. Do they do well with bass?

    I've started to dip my toes into the journey and picked up the Massdrop Sennheiser 6xx headphones with a ifi Nano Black Label.
    The Sennheisers sound AMAZEBALLS. Very 'true' and very revealing, which is just incredible, but seem to lack bass running with either the Nano or the surface paired with an Audioquest Dragonfly Red. Might be the Nano not having enough oomph to drive them? Plus being open backed, i get too much external noise, including noise from my wife, lol..

    What would be the choices for Closed Back Headphones?
    1. Focal Eleglia
    2. Audeze LCD-2
    3. Mr. Speakers Ether C (Drop has a set going for $900)
    4. Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow
    5. Audio Technica ATH-W5000
    6. Mezze 99 Classics
    Any more?

    For an Amp/DAC, what would be good one that brings synergy to the setup? A combo setup might be good, or one that i can stack easily and move/port.
    1. Ifi Micro Black Label. Nano sounded great, just not enough juice maybe?
    2. Schiit Lyr- I notice that most american made devices are voiced more toward rock, so can get a bit on the bright side...
    3. Topping DX7S
    4. Bottlehead Crack- I can work with a soldering iron, but this will need a separate DAC. Portability will suffer..
    5. Chord Mojo
    If Open Back is the direction i need to go, then here are the considerations-
    1. Focal Elear
    2. Sennheiser HD800/820
    3. Focal Clear
    4. AKG K712

    Thoughts? Thanks in advance!!
  2. serman005
    Okay, so, are you really considering going open? You mentioned that they needed to be closed because of the wife factor. Also, we need to clarify just what you mean by portable. Some of those options you list, many of us would not really describe as portable. Do you want to be able to take it on the plane with you?
  3. kukkurovaca
    Given your preference for good bass and a musical over analytical sound, might also add the Modhouse Argon to the mix. the Micro Black Label would be a sensible dac/amp to go with it or most other planars, since it has lots of power -- but I haven't heard used that one myself. I use my Argons with either a Ray Samuels SR-71 (older but nice adequately powerful portable solid state amp that runs on 2x9v batteries) or Phatlab Phantasy (somwhat obscure transformer-coupled transportable class-A tube amp) and either a DAP or a Radsone ES100.

    The Argons have very good bass, and have overall a very nice engaging sounds on the somewhat warmer/darker side. The other headphones you listed probably all have better technical performance, but the Argons are extremely fun, isolate decently well, and have a surprisingly good soundstage. Downside to the argons is the wait time to get a pair and power requirements.
  4. Jakeg104
    My apologies, should be more clear..

    Headphones-What I meant is that if Open is what it takes to get the emotional, airy experience, then I do want to consider them. It just seems like open back headphones seem to be mentioned a lot more than closed back online...

    Portability- So, won't take it on the plane, but more to move it around the house and take to the office with me and listen to there as well.

    Hope that helps?

    ...and down the rabbit hole i go! Love it!

    Argons- Very intriguing. Reading up on it, damn they are highly regarded.. Interesting to also read about the mods done to the T50RP. Seems like there is also a Dakoni Blue? The Argons might be one i will need to order, the 9 week wait might be a tough one to deal with!

    Ray Samuels- They (he?) have the Predator that sounds pretty interesting as well. His gear seems to use pretty high quality components. Might reach out to him to chat..

    Wonder how it would compare to the ifi Micro.. Trying to find articles that compare them head to head.

    Good stuff folks! let me know of other options! Thanks in Advance!
  5. PopZeus
    If you want to connect to a phone, most likely the easiest way to do that is with a portable DAC/amp combo like the FiiO Q5s, even if you end up buying a separate amp to power any hungry headphones. A few of them have dedicated line level outs for this use. Then it's just a matter or the right pairing of amp and can.
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Your taste in headphones might be called, more musical, then detailed?
  7. Jakeg104
    @PurpleAngel, that would be a good way to describe it. Do I get the thrill of hearing something new in a song that i know well? Yes, for sure, but i'd rather be immersed in the emotions of the song over 'watching' for every detail. Hope that makes sense?
  8. bcaulf17
    Out of stock currently but you could look into the Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go as well. Very inviting and immersive headphones, and quite transportable. Of the options you listed, the Elegia, Audio Technica and Meze are probably the most portable. The other two are probably your best options in terms of pure sound quality, but I couldn’t imagine taking them out of my home.
  9. Jakeg104
    Sounds good on the Beyerdynamics, thanks! I'm leaning toward either the Argon or the Elegia for now..
  10. bcaulf17
    Oh yeah the Argon is supposed to be really great too. Just keep in mind the wait time and they need a lot of power to sing.
  11. Jakeg104
    @kukkurovaca, Sorry for being off the thread for a few days. So i have an opportunity to buy a Ray Samuels Predator here locally. Wondering if this would be a good option? its probably got a relatively old DAC, but from what i'm hearing about Ray's amps, thoughts on whether this would make sense? Thanks!
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    As long as it's a decent DAC (and it is) the only thing I'd really worry about is compatibility with your source or file resolution/format.
  13. Jakeg104
    Ah.. Good point.
    So the sources will either be my Surface Tablet or Iphone X (soon to be Iphone 11). Good point on connectivity. From the Surface, i'm assuming its a standard USB cable to the Predator. From the Iphone, probably a lightning to USB cable?
    Files are primarily Amazon Prime HD streaming on either the iphone or the Surface..

    Thoughts? Thanks!
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Surface will use standard USB to USB-B, iPhone might need the Lightning to female USB-A as I don't think there's a Lightning to USB-B mini.

    Apart from hardware there's the software question but I don't remember that being an issue on RSAs since he tends to choose USB receiver chips that will not be fussy with software. Just be aware there's nothing that is 101% guaranteed to work with everything.
  15. Jakeg104
    Ok Great, thanks for the info, i appreciate it!

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