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DAC + Amp for HD650 (budget 800$ for each)

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by greg24, Oct 29, 2012.
  1. Greg24
    Hi Guys,
    First post on this forum I'm reading for a few months now...
    I've read a lot of interesting posts, but I'm a bit confused now with the choices I have to make.
    I listen to folk, blues, jazz, a bit of rock and classical. I will own a Sennheiser HD650 and have at the moment a RME Fireface 400 external soundcard on a PC as source.
    I would like to choose a good amp and a good DAC for around 800$ each, that can work pretty well with the HD650.
    First I don't know if I must go with tube amp or not... As the sound of the HD650 is already "dark", I don't know if it's really a good idea to go with tubes. I would like to brighten up a little the phones, while keeping warm basses.
    Here is a list of the amps I've found by reading several posts on several forums:
    - Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear
    - Lehmann Audio Linear
    And for tubes amps:
    - Little Dot MKIV SE
    - Woo audio WA6 or WA3
    I've also listed some DACs:
    - Atoll DAC100
    - Rega DAC
    And some 2-in-1:
    - Grace Design m903
    - Woo audio WA7
    - Atoll ST100
    I will only be able to try the Atoll ST100 with the HD650 next weekend. I'm not able to try the other ones.
    So, if you consider my needs (brighten up the headphone and keep warm basses) and the kind of music I listen to, which combination do you feel a good one for the value?
    Thanks in advance,
    PS: I've already searched on the forum and found a lot of intersting things, but as some gears are quite recent, and my needs and budget are specific, I thought it was good to create a new thread
    PS2: sorry for my English :)
  2. fishbone
    Going for the Burson HA-160D is a safe bet, I own them both and it's an incredible match to my ears. It brings the HD650 to a whole new level compared to any soundcards you can find.
    Some say that the HD650 has a "veil", but I don't feel it with the Burson. To me the HD650+HA-160D deliver clear highs (a bit crispy when it's not burned in), soft and sweet mids with good and tight bass. I will add airy and clarity to the list of what I feel when I listen to the combo.
    I was not able to listen to the m903 but from what I read you can't go wrong with it.
    But as you're just using your PC as a source, the Burson fits better to me, no extra connections (you don't need the balanced inputs, do you ?) and you save some cash compared to the m903.
    I can guess that you're from France, right ? :)
  3. Greg24
    Thanks fishbone for your post.
    Indeed I don't need the balanced inputs so the Burson should be sufficient.
    It's really hard to choose one when we can't listen to them.
    I forgot in my list the Bottlehead Crack and Schiit Lyr amps. Did you already try them?
    Yes you're right I'm from France :) Did you guess it cause of my English or due to the Atoll gears in the list? :wink:
  4. fishbone
    Yes indeed it's hard, when I chose my gear I was wondering "Burson or Schiit combo ??!!". But the All-in-One solution from Burson sounded as the best solution for me.
    I would love to try the Schiit Lyr/Asgard + Bifrost by the way !
    And yes because of the Atoll gears. And I'm French too :p
  5. Greg24
    Yes the Schiit combo can be great as well!
    After reading some other posts I reduced my list with:
    - Burson HA-160D
    - Schiit Bifrost + Schiit Lyr
    - Schiit Bifrost + Bottlehead Crack
    A decoupled setup could allow me to upgrade the DAC or amp if needed, and playing with tubes can be great :)
    Still searching for info!
  6. Kiwikat
    I am really enjoying my new Lyr + Bifrost combo with my 650's.  The sound signature is very different from what I was used to with the FiiO E7/E9.  For me the biggest differences are the fullness of the sound, the more forward mids, and the elimination of sibilance.  It is like Schiit threw in a brand new pair of headphones with the amp and dac.  The old veiled HD650's are nowhere to be found.
    The more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. [​IMG]
    Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.
  7. ceausuc

    The RME you have is this one?
    It looks like a very good pro piece of equipment, not sure if any of your 'update' variants will actually be a step UP.
    I've had the Burson 160D and frankly the DAC section is not that good. It has a nice lush sound but at the expense of masking (too much) details.
    I don't know how much better the Bifrost really is. I'm afraid both DACs are in the same league with the 100Eur ODAC. I really have to try the little thing one day :)
    However if I had 2000$ I wouldn't spend that much for HD650. It is a nice headphone but it won't let you hear what a 2K system delivers.
    I went from HD650 to HD800 and the difference is pretty BIG (for me).
    If I were you I would keep the RME (for now) and update headphones. Maybe you can try a pair of HD800 from a friend or at some shop. It is a fantastic headphone ( that will move classical at the top of your listening preferences:) )
  8. Greg24
    Hi ceausuc,
    Yes my RME is the one you linked.
    That's a great soundcard and I use it to record voice + guitar. And it does the job very well.
    The headphone output is great for analytical listening and for post production.
    But to listen to music it is too flat and "dry". Not so pleasant to enjoy the music.
    I will try to find a pair of HD800, but I'm afraid that if I like it, it will be far more expensive to find a good DAC and amp to match with it!
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    While you can get an amp that can't color the sound too much, drives the headphones well enough (so you don't lose bass impact) and then a DAC that has enough extension into the treble while sounding warm-ish, a shortcut is to remove the foam over the headphone driver (apart from getting a new headphone altogether).
    That said read up on the Corda Jazz and the SuperPro707 DAC. From my listening to a few (and owning one) Cordas tend to be low noise, transparent amps, and my old SuperPro707 before had a lot of treble detail and bass response when using the USB input*, or a 19v PSU from a powerful laptop if you're using the SPDIF digital inputs. I personally didn't like it though since the bass seemed in front of the midrange sometimes while cymbal crashes can be ear piercing without the foam on the HD600 and SR225.
    *USB output from a computer (NOT tablets and phones) sends 5v through to power the digital receiver and DAC chips, leaving the 12v PSU to be dedicated for the analog opamps. Voltage seems higher than the 2v standard at this point - I only get up to the second line on the volume knob of the Little Dot MkII with this. BTW you might want to look into the LD MkIII instead of the Corda.
  10. ceausuc
    Does the RME has line-out? I suppose it does. You could use it as source with a nice tube amp : Crack / Project Sunrise / Woo / ???. That should give your HD650 a more pleasant sound.
    The Burson 160D is pretty musical and probably still a good buy (for HD650) at used prices: ~800usd but it's one box.
    It also depends on what kind of 'listener' you are, some people want to hear all the details on the recording while others don't mind loosing some of them for a 'pleasant' sound.
    As for the HD800... I think it deserves a try. There is also the LCD2 for a different sound:)
  11. fishbone
    If you just want headphones for listening to music (not for critical and analytical listening) go for the HD650 + Dac/Amp for now. Don't loose yourself on the road of "what are the best headphones for me", the HD650 are clearly a must have to my ears (and for many others) as they are pleasant, warm and one of the best all-rounder (if not the best) for that price.
    The HD800 are more for analytical listening and can be fatiguing as you hear every little details.
    For the Dac/Amp choice, you can't go wrong with the Schiit combo or Burson, tubes usually sound warmer than solid-state amps by the way.
  12. PleasantSounds
    You know - with this budget you could propel yourself to a completely different league. Spending $1600 to power $400 headphones sounds to me like an overkill. With this budget I'd buy the LCD-2 and NFB-11.32 and live happily ever after.
  13. fishbone
    Well no need to spend $1600 for a system. Saving money is a good call.
    I would go for a ~$1200 system (even if it's overkill) + the HD650, then in few months upgrade for a better headphones.
  14. fabio-fi
    The 160D is without a doubt a nice 1 box solution. Add the soloist to your list, this amp is powerful enough to drive power hungry orthodynamic headphones (in case you upgrade from headphones in the future) and buy a separate dac if going with separates. 

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