1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Amp and Dac recommendation for my headphone collection

2 3
  1. smodtactical
    You can see my current setup in my signature. I am thinking of upgrading to push more performance out of my headphones. I am pretty sure I am end game as far as headphones go but want to try to get more out of them. I am thinking of a tube amplifier would be a good choice for the 800S + Auteur and Atticus but I am open to SS recommendations.

    Also for Dac I am thinking yggydrasil v2 but I am open to anything you recommend.

    I'd like to spend less than $5000 on the combination (and if you can get me to even a lower budget thats even better, I appreciate something with good value). I should say I did try to the moon NEO430 HAD directly against my burson with the 800S and would say the neo was probably 5-6% better and I didn't want to spend 4k + for it since it gave me a very subtle benefit... perhaps I shouldn't upgrade at all?

    Thanks for advice.
    AthenaZephyrian likes this.
  2. Rhamnetin
    I'd definitely upgrade. You can get a lot more out of your high end headphones after all.

    Granted, I'd do something that you might not even consider; I have experience with every headphone in your signature except for the Auteur and Atticus (but I am a big ZMF fan), and I'd sell every piece of equipment there and get a Stax system. That's what I ended up doing after all. I can elaborate further, but since that's not what this thread is about I'll move on.

    With that budget, I'd get a Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar amp which is a no-compromise "wire with gain" type of amp, utilizing one of the best amp circuits ever designed (Kevin Gilmore's Dynalo, fully discrete and super linear and transparent) in a balanced configuration (combining two stereo Dynalo amp boards) and combining this with one of the best linear PSU designs ever designed for a headphone amp, the Golden Reference Low Voltage, which measures at under 1 microvolt of noise which is so much better than most of the competition.This PSU is mated with an oversized top notch power transformer and the assembly/build quality of this amp is something to behold.

    Likewise the output power of this amp, as high as it is, is pure class A, again unlike most of the competition which has so little class A output power.


    This amp also converts single ended input into balanced, so you will need to reterminate all of your headphones with a 4-pin XLR cable.

    The only other amp I'd consider actually costs a LOT less than this but should be a stellar matchup for all of those, the Bottlehead Mainline, which can be found fully assembled on ebay and also here on head-fi often, if you don't want to build it yourself. This is under your budget, but it is definitely one of the best headphone tube amps you can get until you get to the extreme price ranges of Apex HiFi Audio amps.

    Now for DAC, if you're set on an R2R DAC, I'd try to get a Denafrips Venus instead of the Yggdrasil or Holo Audio Spring DAC level 3. I am actually selling my Denafrips Venus right now for $2,300 if you're interested (link), and I doubt any R2R DAC under $4k can hope to compete with it. It utilizes four R2R networks per channel, each comprised of 0.005% precision matched resistors and each channel is controlled by an FPGA for decoding - I seriously doubt anything other than TotalDAC and MSB Technology beats this. Resistor matching in an R2R DAC is the biggest issue with R2R DACs, since ideally we'd have much better than even 0.005%, but again I think that is far better than everything except for insanely expensive laboratory grade TotalDAC and MSB Technology DACs.

    And four per channel minimizes errors (this type of parallelization is probably the best method, hence why the most expensive R2R DACs have even more) and, combined with its isolated dual mono PSU design with two massive power transformers (Yggdrasil and Spring DAC can't match this neither), makes for a fully balanced DAC. The output stage seems designed around maximum transparency as well, and this DAC has all sorts of input options. It also supports non-oversampling and oversampling mode, so you can use whichever you prefer. The end result is a very smooth sounding DAC, typical for R2R, but without sacrificing detail making it unlike a lot of other R2R DACs.

    Source also hardly matters with the Denafrips Venus since it doubles as a top notch digital interface. It converts all other inputs into I2S internally using some of the best chips for this purpose. I can hear no difference with direct USB from my PC, versus I2S from a Singxer SU-1, since the Venus basically does the same thing the SU-1 does.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
    smodtactical likes this.
  3. smodtactical
    Thanks for the advice. The bottlehead mainline looks really good. How would the pure bipolar amp compare to the Master9 if you ever heard it? Or if anyone has.

    Could I used a tube amplifier with techno/edm? I listen to also celtic and jazz and medieval music which would suit it better I am sure.

    Its sad you are selling the denafrips so fast.
  4. Rhamnetin
    Not sure anyone has done a meaningful comparison between those two amps. All that can be said is, the Pure BiPolar definitely wins with a single ended DAC, since with Master 9 you'd only be using half the amp. Otherwise you would have to email Audio-GD and Mjolnir Audio to see if they can provide measurements and go from there.

    I actually don't erect solid walls between tube amps vs solid state. The way I see it is, unless I specifically don't want to deal with tubes (for tube rolling, big money sink), a great amp is a great amp, and a great amp is good for everything. And a great amp can be tube, solid state, or hybrid (though most hybrid designs are flawed and don't run the tubes within specification so I'm more weary of them).

    I'm selling the Denafrips Venus since I never really intended it to be my final DAC, I just wanted to try one of the best R2R DACs so that I could have the experience. I've been sold on the Chord Hugo TT 2 for a while now.
    smodtactical likes this.
  5. richard51
    5,000 dollars why?

    I suggest a Sansui AU 7700, around 500 $ used , and a Starting point system NOS dac used for 100 bucks, and you will touch heaven for peanuts and you will smile ….But here people want to pay,if not the audio system cannot be good ...By the way the Sansui is one of the top audiophile amplifier of his era and is so flexible with many possibilities that no other contemporary amplifier at any price can brag about now...The sound is detailed and tubey...The 3-d imaging perfect... I cannot say enough praise for the french battery dac….Pay 5000 if you want but perhaps think before buying...:L3000:

    I say all that because nobody here will dare to say that to you.... The most important thing about an audio system is not the price, not even his potential audio quality, it is his mechanical,and electromagnetical isolation, and the cleanliness of the electrical grid of your house, all the rest is marketing good or bad about good or bad products almost too pricey all the time... I apologize for my grain of salt
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
    smodtactical and Baten like this.
  6. Rhamnetin
    It is good to consider lower priced options, like the Bottlehead Mainline I recommended which comes in under his budget. But let's not pretend you can get industry leading performance out of $100-500 equipment. Take R2R DACs for example; their biggest limitation is matching the resistors precisely. To get them to perform ideally, resistors have to be matched to extreme tolerances which costs a lot, and/or additional resistor ladder arrays can be employed to compensate for errors, which will increase cost exponentially. But the sound quality difference is immense and obvious.

    But I agree with the notion of not just looking at price, since indeed tons of even the most popular Hi-Fi products are overpriced and poorly designed/built.
    smodtactical and richard51 like this.
  7. richard51
    Your post make perfect sense to me...I am ok with not pretending that my audio system compete with 10,000 dollars system for example... But I pretend that the difference is not so much what most people think.... The key for many systems to reach their potential is cleanliness of the audio grid of the house, that I know, and room treatment....I say that because here people speaks only about competing products and not about the means to reach audio heaven with necessary isolation methods for example... My best to you...

    For the french dac it must be listen to … For the price absolute steal.... But in my system all the grid is clean, isolated and filtered, and the listening results because of that are more astounding than they would be without that with the same dac and amp...
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  8. smodtactical
    Guys thanks so much for the input. I am willing to try lower end gear but my worry is it will not sound much better than my Burson and then I will just be wasting my money.

    A couple of amps have come on the radar for me.

    The Pathos Aurium

    Modded Little Dot VI

    Custom OTL amp

    Wells Audio headtrip at a great price

    @Rhamnetin do you think the headtrip might outclass the pure bipolar amp?

    BTW listening to the Atticus. Hands down my favorite headphone... it is so musical, engaging... it just smothers you incredibly powerful sound and bass.
  9. Rhamnetin
    Headtrip isn't looking so good:

  10. smodtactical
    Damn that wiring looks messy!
  11. smodtactical
    With respect to dacs it seems the only dac that can compete with the yggy 2 is the r2r7 and maybe the Holo level 3. Both the later more pricey. So I guess yggy is the only clear option for totl dac ?
  12. Rhamnetin
    What makes you say that? There are tons of DAC options. DACs are a very subjective thing, and flavor of the week as far as DAC hype trains go. You named three R2R DACs but just above that price range there is also the Denafrips Venus (around $2,800), which I suspect crushes all of those (four R2R networks per channel with better matched resistors, dual mono PSU with two huge transformers that looks like an infinitely better PSU than the Yggdrasil, supports NOS and OS and has better digital processing than any of those). There's also Metrum Acoustics, and plenty of others.

    Schiit is just really well known so more people buy them, thus more people comment on them. Ultimately nothing they make is top of the line. If you want to talk truly top of the line R2R DACs, you are talking insane amounts of money haha (TotalDAC d1-twelve, MSB Technology Select DAC).

    But like I said, very subjective. To me, only the more recent, higher end Chord DACs sound "right" (Hugo 2, presumably Hugo TT 2 and DAVE, and maybe Qutest) and I'm pretty sure any R2R DAC will sound completely off to me. On the other side of the spectrum you will find those who live and die by R2R DACs, and others who more specifically swear by NOS R2R DACs. Opinions are all over the place.
  13. smodtactical
    I thought about denafrips I just couldn't see any head to head comparisons vs yggy.
  14. smodtactical

    Here is a comparison basically saying the Terminator is superior but of course it's much more expensive and they were comparing yggy mark 1.

    I suppose the venus vs yggy 2 would be a much closer fight. Also do denafrips sound good using their USB input since that's what I'll be doing.
  15. Rhamnetin
    The Denafrips Venus sounds identical to me using USB directly from my PC vs I2S from a Singxer SU-1, since it basically does what the Singxer SU-1 ($400 device) does - converts all digital inputs to I2S (except for I2S of course) using excellent hardware. The Venus also looks to be about 95% of the Terminator.

    But man I wish we could demo DACs before buying them. For all we know you might dislike R2R DAC sound like I do. Or favor them. Who knows.
    smodtactical likes this.
2 3

Share This Page