Helping a beginner choose an amp and dac setup
Feb 18, 2021 at 3:46 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

FullPanda

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Hello all

Brand new member of the community looking to buy A first amp and DAC setup that I'll be able to throw most headphones at in the future without needing to replace the system in order to properly enjoy them. I'm willing to spend around 400$-600$, although I'd rather keep it on the middle-lower end if possible. Unfortunately I do not have any serious sort of audio store in my country, so I have no reference point for various tonal descriptions. although I can say with certainty that I'm not interested in totally neutral sound, detail is important to me but so is the listening experience.

I currently own a pair of starfield IEM's, and have a pair of HD6XXs on their way to me.

I was originally going for a balanced schiit modius+magnius stack when the jotunheim 2 was suggested to me. My dilemma is that while people seem to agree that it is a preferable amplifier to the magnius, I haven't heard anyone directly comparing the magnius+modius stack to the jotunheim 2+the AK4990 balanced DAC module as a unit and would like to hear thoughts on the differences between them and what to expect.

Also, It's been suggested to me to consider tube amps, but having no reference it's hard to say what will work for me, so I'd also like to hear some advice on how to choose blindly between an SS and tube setup as a beginner.

Thanks in advance
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 12:02 PM Post #2 of 23

gimmeheadroom

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For the HD 6XX, a used Valhalla 2 would be killer. It would work great for a lot of high impedance dynamics but will not be a top choice for many other headphones.

I think the Jot is a few notches up the schiitter from the stack you mentioned so build quality and performance would be expected to be better. I don't like schiit much but it's hard to know what to suggest without knowing what brands are available over there.
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 1:21 PM Post #4 of 23

gimmeheadroom

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HD 600s are hard to drive well. They can get plenty loud with not enough power but they will not sound good out of an amp that can't deliver enough voltage.

Don't try to save money on an amp for a pair of these. They scale like mad.
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 5:09 PM Post #5 of 23

Monsterzero

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Brand new member of the community looking to buy A first amp and DAC setup that I'll be able to throw most headphones at in the future without needing to replace the system in order to properly enjoy them. I'm willing to spend around 400$-600$, although I'd rather keep it on the middle-lower end if possible.
Unfortunately it isnt possible to build a system at your budget that can drive "most headphones". In fact I have well over 5 digits invested in my setup, and theyre are a ton of headphones my system cannot do well.

Generally speaking, planars are best with high powered solid state amps, or tube hybrid amps. Low ohm dynamic headphones can be driven by phones, DAPs, and entry level solid state amps. High ohm dynamic headphones sound best out of a tube OTL amp. Electrostats require energizers, and not all energizers work with all e-stats. finally theyre are the amp slaying headphones like Susvara, HE6, Abyss 1266, etc.. that most amps on the market cannot even come close to driving well.

Due to the virus and limited brick and mortar stores that carry good headphones, its hard for you to get out and try various headphones, but its the easiest way into this hobby.

It also helps to know the sound signature you prefer, the gear that sounds best with the genres you listen to and go from there...building a system to match your needs and headphone(s).

Seeing as how you have an HD6xx on the way, many members pair those up with an OTL amp, but without knowing whether you will like them or not its hard to tell you what upstream gear to buy. As I mentioned above OTL amps do best with high ohm headphones, like HD600/6xx/800, Beyer DT770/880/990/T1, vintage headphones and ZMF headphones. Thats about it.

View this hobby as a learning journey rather than trying to nail the perfect set-up your first time around.
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 5:47 PM Post #6 of 23

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I have not completely made up my mind yet, however I have thought of an interesting idea for a setup (stretching the proposed budget) which is a magnius+modulus stack, with an additional vali. This way I get the balanced setup I originally set out for, and I don't have to feel like I'm totally missing out on tube sound.
Good news is I may be able to try out a few different types of amps in a few weeks if I'm patient enough...
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 6:03 PM Post #7 of 23

Monsterzero

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I have not completely made up my mind yet, however I have thought of an interesting idea for a setup (stretching the proposed budget) which is a magnius+modulus stack, with an additional vali. This way I get the balanced setup I originally set out for, and I don't have to feel like I'm totally missing out on tube sound.
Good news is I may be able to try out a few different types of amps in a few weeks if I'm patient enough...
im going to suggest you pump the brakes a bit. Happiness in this hobby cant be achieved by simply upping the budget.

Lets start with the basics. What type of music do you listen to most often?

EDIT: youre not going to get the "tube sound" from Schiit gear. Tube sound will come from an OTL. If you want to play around with tubes without going full blown down the tube rabbit hole ($$$$$$) get yourself an inexpensive tube buffer. It wont give you the OTL sound but it will allow you to play with tubes and perhaps see what theyre about...and be prepared to drain your savings if you really get into tubes.
 
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Feb 22, 2021 at 2:29 PM Post #8 of 23

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im going to suggest you pump the brakes a bit. Happiness in this hobby cant be achieved by simply upping the budget.

Lets start with the basics. What type of music do you listen to most often?

EDIT: youre not going to get the "tube sound" from Schiit gear. Tube sound will come from an OTL. If you want to play around with tubes without going full blown down the tube rabbit hole ($$$$$$) get yourself an inexpensive tube buffer. It wont give you the OTL sound but it will allow you to play with tubes and perhaps see what theyre about...and be prepared to drain your savings if you really get into tubes.
I hear that. I've been realizing I need to take a small step back and think my purchase through lest I Drain my entire bank account on a single purchase.
I listen to radiohead, classical music, classic rock, and prog (such as jethro tull).
 
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Feb 22, 2021 at 2:58 PM Post #9 of 23

go_vtec

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I totally agree with @Monsterzero. For the types of music you want to listen, HD6xx is the best bang for the bucks for most folks. However, you will need to learn if you like the HD6xx's sonic signature. I too recommend to stay with the solid stage amp that with some power to drive Senn HD6xx easily. Once you are used to the sound quality and sonic characters on HD6xx with budget efficient solid state amp, you can start considering amp and/or dac/amp upgrade route.

Most of OTLs will do wonders for HD6xx, but you don't want to start the tube route without really knowing something about what you like and what you want to upgrade to (in terms of sonic signatures and technologies). Most of affordable OTL amps don't do so well with low impedance cans and also prone to noise and expensive to experiment with different tubes (tube-rolling). Transformer coupled amps do much better with all types of impedance cans, but they are not tubie enough for die hard OTL fans.

If you are on a budget and/or limited experience on headphones and systems, you shouldn't commit to more costly and/or confusing options until you know for sure that is the way you want to go. jotunheim 2+the AK4990 balanced DAC module will be a great combo for all in one unit over modius+magnius combo, but it will be by a small margin from HD6xx perspective that you may not even notice. Folks often go with multibit DAC on jotunheim since it will be more noticeable upgrade over AK4990 vs Magnius, but you may not even perceive or care for such small differences in sonic signatures over the difference in prices.

If you upgrade your headphones to HD800S or uber expensive planar, then you may be able to perceive the differences more but you will blow your budget by double or triple of your original plan. Honestly most bang of the bucks upgrade will be your headphones, then an amp (if your headphone is not easy to drive). Go slow and there will be a minimum differences between the systems you are considering with HD6xx. Pick the one that fits your budget and make decision on big purchases after you learn to appreciate your system and know its faults that you want to improve.
 
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Feb 23, 2021 at 1:47 AM Post #10 of 23

Telin

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I totally agree with @Monsterzero. For the types of music you want to listen, HD6xx is the best bang for the bucks for most folks. However, you will need to learn if you like the HD6xx's sonic signature. I too recommend to stay with the solid stage amp that with some power to drive Senn HD6xx easily. Once you are used to the sound quality and sonic characters on HD6xx with budget efficient solid state amp, you can start considering amp and/or dac/amp upgrade route. Most of OTLs will do wonders for HD6xx, but you don't want to start the tube route without really knowing something about what you like and what you want to upgrade to (in terms of sonic signatures and technologies). Most of affordable OTL amps don't do so well with low impedance cans and also prone to noise and expensive to experiment with different tubes (tube-rolling). Transformer coupled amps do much better with all types of impedance cans, but they are not tubie enough for die hard OTL fans. If you are on a budget and/or limited experience on headphones and systems, you shouldn't commit to more costly and/or confusing options until you know for sure that is the way you want to go. jotunheim 2+the AK4990 balanced DAC module will be a great combo for all in one unit over modius+magnius combo, but it will be by a small margin from HD6xx perspective that you may not even notice. Folks often go with multibit DAC on jotunheim since it will be more noticeable upgrade over AK4990 vs Magnius, but you may not even perceive or care for such small differences in sonic signatures over the difference in prices. If you upgrade your headphones to HD800S or uber expensive planar, then you may be able to perceive the differences more but you will blow your budget by double or triple of your original plan. Honestly most bang of the bucks upgrade will be your headphones, then an amp (if your headphone is not easy to drive). Go slow and there will be a minimum differences between the systems you are considering with HD6xx. Pick the one that fits your budget and make decision on big purchases after you learn to appreciate your system and know its faults that you want to improve.
I agree.
Take it slow and learn what you like and don't like yourself. Not a smart idea to empty the bank and try to buy your end game setup the very first time you're actually investing in audio gear.

@go_vtec some <enters> would go a long way readability wise 😉
 
Feb 23, 2021 at 11:09 AM Post #11 of 23

FullPanda

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I agree.
Take it slow and learn what you like and don't like yourself. Not a smart idea to empty the bank and try to buy your end game setup the very first time you're actually investing in audio gear.

@go_vtec some <enters> would go a long way readability wise 😉
Thank you all for the solid advice. Makes more sense then my initial decision to plunge myself headfirst and blindfolded down the rabbit hole. The 6XX's also seem like a good place to get started on reference for cans considering the price. I think I'll start with that, maybe a magni and modi, if not the jotunheim, and build up from there.
I was initially concerned that a magni and modi would sit on the side collecting dust once I upgraded, but better that than a >500$ setup...
 
Feb 23, 2021 at 11:41 AM Post #12 of 23

silent-circuit

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Thank you all for the solid advice. Makes more sense then my initial decision to plunge myself headfirst and blindfolded down the rabbit hole. The 6XX's also seem like a good place to get started on reference for cans considering the price. I think I'll start with that, maybe a magni and modi, if not the jotunheim, and build up from there.
I was initially concerned that a magni and modi would sit on the side collecting dust once I upgraded, but better that than a >500$ setup...
Honestly, you can probably sell them for 1/2-3/4 what you paid when and if you move on.
 
Feb 23, 2021 at 12:31 PM Post #13 of 23

go_vtec

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Feb 23, 2021 at 7:43 PM Post #14 of 23

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Hi. This is just the type of thread I’ve been looking for. I own an HD 650 and have a 660s coming eventually (which I know is easier to drive). What would I be losing if I went with the latest Lyr over separate DAC and Amp? Anything?

Also: Would the purchase of a Mjolnir be a better initial investment? I want something now that will allow me to scale up to (for example) planars.

I’m not super analytical or knowledgeable about audio. I’m LOST when I here all these comparisons between various Amps and DACs. I own an iFi Hip Dac and I know it won’t scale and I know it’s not really even powerful enough for the 650.

I enjoy all genres except for most rap and all death metal. I’ll eventually scale up to something like an 800s (classical/jazz) and something boomier like planar for more bass heavy music.

I appreciate your help.
 
Feb 23, 2021 at 7:53 PM Post #15 of 23

Monsterzero

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something boomier like planar for more bass heavy music.
If planar bass is "boomy" then youre listening to the wrong planar.

Planar bass is tight and clean ans on certain models, can deep dive down to the Abyss of sub bass.... (pun intended)

What most planars cannot do is give you the mid bass slam that a good dynamic driver headphone can.
 

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