DAC/Amp/Cans $500 budget
Jan 8, 2013 at 10:00 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

theHof

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Hey everyone, couldn't really decide where this should really go.  Decided computer audio as the setup is going to be strictly for my desktop use and just for music, I don't care about game or movie performance at all.  I put a $500 budget, might be willing to stretch to $600 if someone sells me on something. For a reference of what I listen to think Pink Floyd and Tchaikovsky.  I'd also be open to maybe having the headphones take a smaller slice of the budget to devote a larger sum to either a really nice dac or amp.  One configuration I've been thinking:
 
Grado SR80s (i have a pair but they have been commandeered by my gf) w/ L Cush pads
Asus DSX or Schiit Modi
Schiit Valhalla
 
Also, If I went the cheaper headphone route I would possibly be able to get a couple pairs, it'd be nice to have a second pair to shine where the other doesn't.  Was thinking maybe Sr80s and T50RPs?  I'd like any thoughts. 
 
This whole message could also be read as if you had to start all over again and had $600 max, what would you do?
 
Jan 9, 2013 at 2:54 AM Post #2 of 12

cssarrow

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Quote:
Hey everyone, couldn't really decide where this should really go.  Decided computer audio as the setup is going to be strictly for my desktop use and just for music, I don't care about game or movie performance at all.  I put a $500 budget, might be willing to stretch to $600 if someone sells me on something. For a reference of what I listen to think Pink Floyd and Tchaikovsky.  I'd also be open to maybe having the headphones take a smaller slice of the budget to devote a larger sum to either a really nice dac or amp.  One configuration I've been thinking:
 
Grado SR80s (i have a pair but they have been commandeered by my gf) w/ L Cush pads
Asus DSX or Schiit Modi
Schiit Valhalla
 
Also, If I went the cheaper headphone route I would possibly be able to get a couple pairs, it'd be nice to have a second pair to shine where the other doesn't.  Was thinking maybe Sr80s and T50RPs?  I'd like any thoughts. 
 
This whole message could also be read as if you had to start all over again and had $600 max, what would you do?

You can get either 1 pair of headphones with a great setup, or multiple headphones with a good setup.
 
Even though the magni/modi combo is cheap, it's very good. However, you'll notice that it begins to drifts away when using products in the $300 range.
 
Schiit Bifrost is too costly for the "usb edition". If i had $600 max and had to do it all over, i'd grab a HiFiMan HE-400 with Schiit Magni/Modi.
 
Tim
 
Jan 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM Post #3 of 12

theHof

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Quote:
You can get either 1 pair of headphones with a great setup, or multiple headphones with a good setup.
 
Even though the magni/modi combo is cheap, it's very good. However, you'll notice that it begins to drifts away when using products in the $300 range.
 
Schiit Bifrost is too costly for the "usb edition". If i had $600 max and had to do it all over, i'd grab a HiFiMan HE-400 with Schiit Magni/Modi.
 
Tim

This sounds like a good possibility, just for the record, if i did go bifrost, it'd be non-usb.  I'm looking into the he-400s more now.
 
Still would like to read more responses.
 
Jan 9, 2013 at 12:50 PM Post #4 of 12

cssarrow

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Quote:
This sounds like a good possibility, just for the record, if i did go bifrost, it'd be non-usb.  I'm looking into the he-400s more now.
 
Still would like to read more responses.

Mhm, if it's non-usb that would put it around
+ $349 Base price
+ $34.03 Tax
+ around $10 estimate shipping expenses
 
Still around $393.03. which leaves you $206.97, but without a headphone amp.
If you needed a headphone Amp at the point, grab a cheap one with some Audio-Technica ATH-AD900.
If you didn't need a head amp at that point, look into a like new Beyerdynamic dt 880.
 
All up to you. Going the Modi/Magni/HE-400 way has more perks in my opinion.
 
1. Nice priced planar driver headphone.
2. A D/A Converter and Headphone Amp made for each other. (Same aesthetic, 1.2W of driving power).
 
If you ended up not liking the HE-400 in the future, and want something more focused on treble/vocals, or just a more expensive upgrade overall, sell the HE-400 (still at good value), and grab a HE-500 while your Schiit Magni has more than plenty driving power for it. (HE-500 uses around 1W to shine, HE-400, to me, sounds good from 250W-1W+)
 
Tim
 
Jan 9, 2013 at 2:49 PM Post #7 of 12

cssarrow

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What's the sound stage, seperation and bass like with the he-400/modi/magni combo?

Sound Separation is very good, if you haven't tried planar magnetic headphones before, i strongly recommend it. It's a love it or hate it situation. (more towards the love)
 
Only problem you'll ever experience from them is their weight. However after a week or two, it's no longer an issue.
 
Out of all the headphones i've tried (in my signature), the HE-500 has the best separation, HE-400 being 2nd, and Q701 being 3rd but more distant sounding.
 
Sound stage is not too wide, but it has more depth which is a nice attribute to it's bass (it's a heavy hitter). It's bass and treble is more surprising than the HE-500.
HE-500 has a larger sound stage, better separation, transparency, neutrality, and overall presentation. (Lower extensions)
 
HE-400, with a better headphone cable than the stock (at least $50), it will come very close to the HE-500,
For $300 less, IMO, it's only 5% less of a package than the HE-500, it also has a more "fun" sound than the HE-500's "organized" sound signature.
 
They sound great on my Schiit Modi/Magni Combo, lots of gain and power, sounds better than the NuForce Icon HDP i had because it's more neutral on the Magni which is what i prefer more. The neutrality mixes well with the fun headphones (400). It's a little more grainy, little less detailed, little bit smaller sound stage than my ASUS Essence One Muses Edition, but then again, that cost $1000, with over $50 in capacitor upgrades.
 
So for a $220+ Combo, it's really good.
 
That's unless you want want an O2DAC and O2 Amp Combo instead, which is also nice.
 
Tim
 
 
Quote:
O2 dac+amp (~$300 assembled, under $200 DIY)
Senn HD 650 (~400 MSRP, ~$300 sale price)
 
probably one of the best combos out there.

YES! Definitely. Like my previous comment, O2 is very good, especially if you make one yourself. However, not many can do that.
 
As for the HD-650, it isn't for everyone, it wasn't for me, however after putting it on for 5 seconds (hate period), anything later is delightful to listen.
Just doesn't have the planar sound and enough separation as the HiFi-Mans.
 
Detail it has, but may sound too "Full" for some people.
 
Tim
 
Jan 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM Post #9 of 12

cssarrow

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What in specific, do you like about the HE-400 over the HD600/650?

Mostly everything.
 
Transparency (HD-650 Lacks where it sounds syrupy, while planar headphones are more "fast' which is more realistic.)
 
Detail (HD-650's detail is really hard to notice as it's covered over by its smooth sound signature most of the time)
 
Treble (The sky's the limit on the HE-400, HE-500 is more controlled in the treble and bass, HD-650 rolls off the treble, a lot of it..)
 
Sound Separation (Like i said, the HD-650 sounds "Full", meaning sound from all over the place, i prefer a flat sound stage like the AKG's or HiFi-Man, HD-650 sounds more like a rounded ball/tube amp sound, and it's sounds is more "mixed" together)
 
Sound Stage (Just like the sound separation, the stage is flatter on the HiFi-Mans (Good thing). You can really feel sound coming at you from where they are intended).
 
Speed (You don't need to wait for a speaker driver to push in order to hear sound, planar magnetic is instantaneous which adds more realism)
 
Weight (Sennheiser HD-650 clearly wins on this one, however for people like me, i'll sacrifice a little comfort for better sound quality)
 
Signature: HE-500/HD-600 sounds neutral, HE-400 sounds fun/neutral, HD-650 is neutral/smooth
 
I don't know what else i can say besides me owning both of these. Ultimately, it's up to the buyer. I can only persuade so far.
 
Review from a Head-Fi Member: http://www.head-fi.org/t/634201/battle-of-the-flagships-57-headphones-compared-update-hifiman-he-400-added-12-24-12#user_HE400
 
It is one of the top 5 headphones that David Mahler picked. i would of done the same.
 
Tim
 
Jan 12, 2013 at 1:05 AM Post #11 of 12

Grevlin

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I have some AT ATH-M50's and a Total BitHead Dac/Amp rocketing their way in the UPs truck as we speak.
 
 
Like $300 bucks and I have absolutely no idea how its going to sound.
 
 
Newb...sorry.
atsmile.gif

 
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 9:47 PM Post #12 of 12

Pojosamaneo

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Grevlin:
 
It'll sound great. I recently upgraded from a Creative USB Sound Blaster DAC/Amp (< $100, closer to $80 when I bought it) to an ODAC + O2 ($300), which is supposed to be unquestionably superior. It's really not that much better. I use an ATH-M50 and HD 650.
 
I find that as long as the DAC is dead quiet and your headphones get loud enough (which the M50s most certainly will), you're good. I'm completely done upgrading my audio now, and I'm confident that it can't get much better than this. You'd be shocked how good you can make your audio sound if you are smart about it!
 

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