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HifiMan HE-400 vs DAC

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by joetjie2000, Oct 10, 2012.
  1. joetjie2000
    Hello everyone! 
    Hope someone can give me some sound advice... [​IMG]
    I currently listen to AT M50s powered by an ALO "The National" AMP from a Macbook Air via the headphone jack using Fiio cables.
    I have some money that i want to spend on upgrading the system... but I'm stuck in the middle...
    Should I purchuse new headphones (He-400s) or rather spend the money on a DAC (Thinking Schiitt Bifrost)?
    The files i listen to are mostly standard iTunes purchases and Apple Lossless that I ripped from CD's.
    Thank You!
  2. TwinQY
    The greatest improvements will always be gained through upgrading the headphones, not the source. Even an amp upgrade would be more significant.
    That being said, the HE-400s are very nice, driven relatively easily for a can of this variety. 
  3. joetjie2000
    Thank you TwinQY!
    Any other headphone you would consider for $400?
    I see you have the HE-400s your self!
  4. Zoom25
    The Schiit Bifrost will definitely make the M50s sound better as well be a great dac for future. Although the M50s aren't that revealing enough to show the true capabilities of Bifrost. I have the HE-500, and I pretty much only use FLAC and if I have to go MP3, it's 320 kbps almost always. MP3 sounds okay on HE-500 through E10, but with higher quality dac's I can tell the difference.
    HE-400 are more efficient then HE-500, but still not sure about how they will pair with the ALO amp. Perhaps someone will chime in. Couple of cheap and great options for amp and dac: Fiio E10, JDS Labs O2, Audio GD NFB 12
  5. TwinQY
    HD600/650s are a solid choice, but might need more power. Any room in the budget for a desktop amp/dac? Any preferences for sound signatures? Closed or Open important at all?
  6. TwinQY
    Yeah, pretty much any of these would drive the HE-400s fine. I can't find any specs for the ALO amp, so hard to say what they output.
  7. joetjie2000
    The budget is around $400... no preference regarding open/closed...
    I listen to a large variety of genre's (mostly in the rock-stable)... 
    Since the AT-M50s are closed I was thinking maybe open isn't a bad idea for some variety!
    I'm also not sure if the ALO will drive the HD600s. 
    My set-up doesn't have an external DAC at all - so I was thinking maybe add a DAC (Bifrost/ODAC) for now and upgrade the rest (Headphones, Amp, Cables) as I go along.
    I'm reading mixed reviews of the JDS-Labs Objective DAC... but it seems like a great value DAC that might be all I need for now... any comments on that idea?
    Thanks for your time and help - I really appreciate it. 
  8. joetjie2000
    some information on the ALO National:
    The technical details dont make much sense to me at this stage.
    Thank you!
  9. Zoom25
    I don't have the ODAC, although heard good things about it. I only have the O2 amp and for the price its quite excellent, so if that is reflective at all of the ODAC then you should be fine. I have two headphones that are awesome all rounder: HE-500 (HE-400 should also be good) and Denon AH-D2000.
    Since your budget is $400, HE-400 is $400 (unless you get it used - great value here at head-fi forums) and you're left with nothing for DAC and I don't know how it will pair with HE-400.
    If you get a D2000 used, you can get ODAC and the ALO should be able to power the D2000. D2000 are very efficient headphones. Both HE-400 and D2000 have awesome bass and are great all rounders. The HE-400 is faster however.
    With your budget, the D2000 + DAC would work out better. Although when both D2000 and HE-500 are amped properly with good source, the HE-400 will be better than D2000, my HE-500 is in another league to my D2000. Although that's not to say that D2000 are bad, in fact, they are (or used to be, since the price bump) one of the best at their price range. I still enjoy my D2000 very much - very comfortable.
  10. jerg Contributor
    It all depends on whether or not you will spend more down the line. If you know you will, then yes, get the HE400s for $400 and basically have the headphone search over, instead of getting a temporary headphone that will be replaced by a better headphone later. DACs affect the sound the least in the chain of dac-amp-headphone, so I'd say go for something cheap but relatively decent, rather than going all out already like on Bifrost.
  11. joetjie2000
    Thanks, jerg.
    I will be spending down the line. Would you say the Objective DAC (JDS Labs) would suffice? I'm using an Macbook if that affects anything.
  12. kozmo
    I've recently been playing around with the ODac and I don't think anything could touch it at this price point.
    If you can find it in your budget the O2 is fantastic and will drive the HE400's with ease. If you can do any simple soldering at all you might want to consider buying the O2 as a bare kit for $35, it can be used as a bare assembled board and you could buy or build a case for it down the road.
    Good luck!
  13. chewy4
    Definitely get the headphones first...
    I'm using a Xonar Essence STX as a DAC right now, which is a fraction of the price of a Bifrost, and I honestly wouldn't want it to be any more revealing. Recording quality wouldn't be able to keep up.  I suspect Bifrost has some coloration in it though.
    You also don't need a dedicated amp to run the HE-400's. I mean I would reccommend one but they still sound phenominal without one, so I wouldn't worry about them not sounding good until you get an amp that matches. I use an Asgard myself and it pairs extremely well.
  14. jerg Contributor
    It'll be more than enough for HE400s. Spend any more and it's just nuances and preferences in colouration. As for amps though, HE400s are very forgiving (unlike other orthos or in fact many dynamics) yet scale very well too, so you'd be happy now and in the future when you invest in a bigger upstream system.
  15. TwinQY
    O2 + ODAC would be a good combo for these in the future. Definitely enough power. JDSLab's pre-assembled will cost $280, DIY would be ~$100-200? (Rough estimates)

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