AMP/Dac around $200 for HD6XX/HD650 for use at home/outside
Nov 15, 2016 at 3:23 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11

swbf

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So I'd say I'm an above average music listener but not yet an audiophile. My sources are almost all 320kbps with the exception of a few and I listen with foobar2000 whenever I can, but so far all my listening has been unamped. I use the Sony MDR-XB950BT as my portable drivers and the Sennheiser G4ME Zero(Yes I know now that I shouldn't buy headsets) at home. 

What DAC/Amp would you guys recommend? Is it a good idea to have a portable DAC/Amp to use on the go, as well as on my desktop? I'd rather have a single better DAC/Amp than two lower quality ones. It would be best if there was anything that could match the O2+ODAC combo and was also portable. I use my iPad on the go which I keep in my backpack and I've heard the O2+ODAC can be battery powered, so I guess theoretically I could lug it around with me. Modding it to be battery powered could work but I'd prefer a rechargeable solution over having to swap out the batteries.
https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/3zu2jy/just_finished_my_batterypowered_o2odac/

I'll be getting the Sennheiser x Massdrop HD6XX the next time it's available so I'm just amping up to prepare. I'm considering doing a closed back mod by installing wooden enclosures on the earcups so I can use it outside, as well as third party earpads and possibly the coinhole mod.

Tl;Dr
Is it okay using a portable DAC/Amp on the go and on desktop? Need DAC/Amp recommendations to power HD6XX aka HD650.
Good idea to apply closed back mod to HD6XX and battery mod to O2+ODAC?
Music source 320kpbs MP3 played with foobar2000 output through Focusrite Scarlett2i2 on desktop.
Music source 320kpbs MP3 played with iPad music app and auxiliary port because lightning port is damaged. I realize the DAC won't work so would it be better to buy a DAP to pair with DAC/Amp or maybe even a DAP/DAC/Amp combo?
 
Nov 16, 2016 at 1:59 AM Post #3 of 11

PurpleAngel

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My two cents.
As the Massdrop HD6XX is an open 300-Ohm headphone, just use it at home.
 
Bravo Ocean tube (hybrid) headphone amplifier, around $80.
Asus Xonar DX sound card (for the DAC function), used $50-$60.
 
Nov 16, 2016 at 2:34 AM Post #4 of 11

ProtegeManiac

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Quote:
Originally Posted by swbf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
I'll be getting the Sennheiser x Massdrop HD6XX the next time it's available so I'm just amping up to prepare. I'm considering doing a closed back mod by installing wooden enclosures on the earcups so I can use it outside, as well as third party earpads and possibly the coinhole mod.
 
Is it okay using a portable DAC/Amp on the go and on desktop? Need DAC/Amp recommendations to power HD6XX aka HD650.
Good idea to apply closed back mod to HD6XX and battery mod to O2+ODAC?

 
The open back headphones would be pretty much useless outside. Modding it wouldn't be a good idea either - there are acoustic considerations when you do that and they'll more often make them impractical. The closed cups need to be larger over what is naturally used free-air, so as to get more air in there, but you need some more space to accommodate some dampening material to slow the soundwaves and absorb them rather than have them bouncing around against the back of the driver that enhances distortion. You will basically have much larger, much heavier cups, and the isolation improvement isn't exactly going to be enough to block ambient noise.
 
At minimum, you'll be walking around with gigantic cans that need to run at high volume just to get over the ambient noise, but then even with the sensitivity of the HD6XX/650 your amp still needs to produce power at 300ohms, which means you'll need a lot of voltage from the amp's output. Not that portable amps can't produce enough, but at that point you're probably just going to drain the battery and on cheaper amps you might already be within audible distortion levels. If it was some other headphone with comparable sensitivity but lower impedance all you'll need is a portable amp with a Charge On/Off switch, that way if you're using it while plugged into a computer you can disable charging rather than continuously draining and charging the battery. As for the O2 and ODAC, the O2-ODAC one box combo can't just do that - the ODAC module takes up the space for the battery. At minimum you'll need to make a battery pack to run both off the grid.
 
So to recap: a lot of work will go into making gigantic cans out of open cans that will still not isolate well enough (vs IEMs) and will require a lot of voltage from the amplifier which means you'd be listening to some distortion if not also some noise (an IEM won't need that much power, not to mention is isolates better to begin with so you need even less). For the cost of materials and man hours you might as well get a good desktop DAC-HPamp to drive the HD650/6XX and then an IEM for use on the go. Kind of like what I do:
 
What I use on the go and at work...

...which all fit in this, plus other stuff:

 
And then when I get home I dock my phone and listen to this.

 
You can get something like the Fender FXA-2 for $200 to use on the go - they bought Aurisonics and these are close enough to the sound of the HD650. That's still $100 less than the ASG-1 when I got them four years ago. The Pangea HP101 above is only $100 from Amazon - solid little amp whose DAC works without a fuss on my Note3 and S5. It's my back up amp while I'm looking for someone who can fix my Meier Cantate.2.
 
As for third party earpads though don't bother while your pads are new. Replacements are either cheap ones from eBay or you gut the earpads from the plastic frame and then mount Brainwavz HM5 pads on it, so you can lock them into the headphone cups.
 
Nov 16, 2016 at 3:39 AM Post #6 of 11

swbf

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  My two cents.
As the Massdrop HD6XX is an open 300-Ohm headphone, just use it at home.
 
Bravo Ocean tube (hybrid) headphone amplifier, around $80.
Asus Xonar DX sound card (for the DAC function), used $50-$60.

As per everyone's recommendations, I'll just keep the HD6XX for home use I guess. Do you know if the Sony MDR-XB950BT would benefit much from a DAC/Amp?
http://www.sony.com/electronics/headband-headphones/mdr-xb950bt/specifications
 
Nov 16, 2016 at 3:48 AM Post #8 of 11

swbf

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The open back headphones would be pretty much useless outside. Modding it wouldn't be a good idea either - there are acoustic considerations when you do that and they'll more often make them impractical. The closed cups need to be larger over what is naturally used free-air, so as to get more air in there, but you need some more space to accommodate some dampening material to slow the soundwaves and absorb them rather than have them bouncing around against the back of the driver that enhances distortion. You will basically have much larger, much heavier cups, and the isolation improvement isn't exactly going to be enough to block ambient noise.
 
At minimum, you'll be walking around with gigantic cans that need to run at high volume just to get over the ambient noise, but then even with the sensitivity of the HD6XX/650 your amp still needs to produce power at 300ohms, which means you'll need a lot of voltage from the amp's output. Not that portable amps can't produce enough, but at that point you're probably just going to drain the battery and on cheaper amps you might already be within audible distortion levels. If it was some other headphone with comparable sensitivity but lower impedance all you'll need is a portable amp with a Charge On/Off switch, that way if you're using it while plugged into a computer you can disable charging rather than continuously draining and charging the battery. As for the O2 and ODAC, the O2-ODAC one box combo can't just do that - the ODAC module takes up the space for the battery. At minimum you'll need to make a battery pack to run both off the grid.
 
So to recap: a lot of work will go into making gigantic cans out of open cans that will still not isolate well enough (vs IEMs) and will require a lot of voltage from the amplifier which means you'd be listening to some distortion if not also some noise (an IEM won't need that much power, not to mention is isolates better to begin with so you need even less). For the cost of materials and man hours you might as well get a good desktop DAC-HPamp to drive the HD650/6XX and then an IEM for use on the go. Kind of like what I do:
 
What I use on the go and at work...

...which all fit in this, plus other stuff:

 
And then when I get home I dock my phone and listen to this.

 
You can get something like the Fender FXA-2 for $200 to use on the go - they bought Aurisonics and these are close enough to the sound of the HD650. That's still $100 less than the ASG-1 when I got them four years ago. The Pangea HP101 above is only $100 from Amazon - solid little amp whose DAC works without a fuss on my Note3 and S5. It's my back up amp while I'm looking for someone who can fix my Meier Cantate.2.
 
As for third party earpads though don't bother while your pads are new. Replacements are either cheap ones from eBay or you gut the earpads from the plastic frame and then mount Brainwavz HM5 pads on it, so you can lock them into the headphone cups.

 
Thanks for all the advice. I've decided to keep the HD6XX strictly for at home use as per your recommendation. Do you think the Sony MDR-XB950BT would benefit from a portable DAC/Amp? I usually listen wirelessly but I'd rather use it wired with an amp for better quality. I also checked out the IEM and DAC/Amp that you suggested on Amazon, but they both seemed to have terrible reviews (3/5 stars). I'll probably go by nhasian's suggestion a used high-end portable solution. The Brainwavz HM5 were what I was look at as well. I guess you're right now point of swapping out the brand new ones.
 
Nov 16, 2016 at 12:37 PM Post #10 of 11

ProtegeManiac

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Originally Posted by swbf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Do you think the Sony MDR-XB950BT would benefit from a portable DAC/Amp? I usually listen wirelessly but I'd rather use it wired with an amp for better quality.

 
Even if the wired mode completely bypasses the DAC and HPamp circuits built into the headphone and sends the amplifier output signal directly into the drivers, chances are BT headphones have been equipped with high efficiency drivers to begin with, and wired mode is mostly just an "oh crap I forgot to charge/this flight is longer than the battery life" scenario rather than for improved driving capability. 
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by swbf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I also checked out the IEM and DAC/Amp that you suggested on Amazon, but they both seemed to have terrible reviews (3/5 stars).

 
Well that depends - did you just look at the overall score or did you read the reviews? Most of the higher ratings aren't a 5 because it comes from people who have much better amps and would be willing to pay the diminishing returns for more power and even less distortion and noise. One of the 3-star reviews include problems with Win7, which I mentioned as was  problem with my laptop, but what new laptop will you buy nowadays comes with Win7? On top of that I've confirmed it works much better with at least two Samsung smartphones anyway, although if used as such they need to be on Airplane Mode as the chassis isn't good for rejecting electronic noise. A one-star review has a guy who obviously is some kind of noob (he has been waiting to try a tube amp) who received a damaged unit (which for all we know might have been due to mishandling by the courier than bad manufacturing) and didn't bother to exchange it (he actually sounds like he might actually think that that is how it normally works, rather than that he got one that's DOA).
 
Nov 17, 2016 at 6:51 AM Post #11 of 11

swbf

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Even if the wired mode completely bypasses the DAC and HPamp circuits built into the headphone and sends the amplifier output signal directly into the drivers, chances are BT headphones have been equipped with high efficiency drivers to begin with, and wired mode is mostly just an "oh crap I forgot to charge/this flight is longer than the battery life" scenario rather than for improved driving capability. 
 
 
 
Well that depends - did you just look at the overall score or did you read the reviews? Most of the higher ratings aren't a 5 because it comes from people who have much better amps and would be willing to pay the diminishing returns for more power and even less distortion and noise. One of the 3-star reviews include problems with Win7, which I mentioned as was  problem with my laptop, but what new laptop will you buy nowadays comes with Win7? On top of that I've confirmed it works much better with at least two Samsung smartphones anyway, although if used as such they need to be on Airplane Mode as the chassis isn't good for rejecting electronic noise. A one-star review has a guy who obviously is some kind of noob (he has been waiting to try a tube amp) who received a damaged unit (which for all we know might have been due to mishandling by the courier than bad manufacturing) and didn't bother to exchange it (he actually sounds like he might actually think that that is how it normally works, rather than that he got one that's DOA).

I guess I'll just stick to working on my home setup for now until I get better portable headphones in the future then. By the time I get new portable headphones I'll probably be able to get a much better portable DAC/Amp.
 
I didn't really read into the reviews much but I guess some of them could be wrong. I prefer using headphones over IEMs as well so I doubt I'll be picking up any expensive IEMs. I think I might try picking up this cheaper amp for now though and upgrade the tubes, as well as a Modi 2 and see how they pair, and then aim for a Vali 2 or Asgard 2 eventually. 
https://www.amazon.com/Nobsound-NS-08E-Integrated-Amplifier-Headphone/dp/B014FASL1A/ref=sr_1_2?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1479356286&sr=1-2&keywords=B01I19SBAW
http://www.head-fi.org/t/794796/nobsound-ns-08e-also-know-as-nobsound-6j9-hybrid-tube-amp
 

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