I love my new Grado SR225E's! But now I want a DAC or AMP to compliment it!
Sep 27, 2015 at 5:55 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4


New Head-Fier
Feb 22, 2009
Long story short, I finally got back into the HiFi (or, rather, budgetFi) game.

(For those who care, here's my little Hi-Fi story. You can totally skip this paragraph.) Once upon a time ten years ago, I replaced my very first computer component all by myself: the sound card. 14-year-old self had recently gotten into a game called Battlefield 2, and I wanted to be able to better hear my opponents' locations. Little did I know that this sound card - the glorious $120 Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic sound card from a Best Buy trip with my dad - would not only help me to locate the players around me, but that my virgin ears would succumb to the tranquil experience of what can only be known as immersion. The glorious ability to hear the crunch of grass and 'feel' the wind while camping out in a bush near enemy base, being able to feel the 'recoil' (honestly it was just bass, but we all have much more forgiving imaginations when we're young,) immediately made me realize how important good sound was. Soon after I began to get into music! At the time I was only in classic rock, but someone told be about Bonobo in 2008, which led me to Thievery Corporation, Amon Tobin, Tycho, Deru, etc.. and I loved it! Now the list of electronic musicians grows yearly and you can never stop exploring, but I digress. By 2009, it donned on me: I could enjoy this music better if I had better sounding headphones. I purchased the AudioTechnica AD700's. Cheap, sure, bass anemic, yes, but oh wow, that sound stage, and hold on... that ambience... I was in love. I was.. addicted. I bought a Xonar Essence St.. I swapped out OPAMPs like an addict. I sold it and bought a Musiland Monitor O2.. And then I stopped. For a plethora of reasons, I stopped, one being that one side of my AD700's had gone out and I didn't know how to fix it, and I never bought a new pair of headphones. 

Here I am today, having finally decided to pick up a worthy pair of phones. Picking up good headphones was an inevitable event, I was just waiting until I could truly afford them. I did have a three day affair with a pair of Beyerdynamic DT770's about a year ago, which I loved, but alas I could not afford them at the time and had to take them back. Meanwhile, my musical interests have evolved quite a bit since high school. I listen to a lot of grunge, post hardcore, and folk - musicians like José Gonzaléz, Shakey Graves, and Title Fight - but I still love electronic too. Add on top some contemporary classical composures such as Arvo Pärt, and you have quite a broad range of genres. This was all considered when I finally picked up my Grado SR225E's, and I definitely took some time to listen to them at a local HiFi store. I compared them to the SR325E's and the PS1000E's (holy crap) and I was really on the fence between the SR325E's (which, looking back, I kind of wish I purchased) and these cans. Well, turns out either way I made a good decision, because I'm in love with the Grado sound. I love not only the way they make my acoustic and rock music sound, but I LOVE how it makes my electronic and even ambient and minimalist music sound! The only way I can put it is this: the music sounds alive. These are very textured phones and because everything sounds so 'present'.. it makes a lot of electronic music feel like a living, breathing entity.

So, here's where I need advice: I want to bring even more out of my SR225E's. I asked the advice of associates at the audio store I bought these from on whether I should buy the SR325E's or the SR225E's plus a Dragonfly DAC for the same price, and they told me the SR225E's with the DAC would edge out over the SR325E's. Now I've since decided if I'm going to get a DAC, I'd rather get the AudioEngine D1 based off of reviews I've read. But to throw more into the mix, I heard that the Little Dot 1+ tube amp make the SR225E's sound that much better. Furthermore, my friend might be selling his Maverick Tube Magic D1 DAC/AMP for $200ish.. 

Which combination would sound best?:

Grado SR225E + AudioEngine D1 DAC
Grado SR225E + Maverick Tube Magic D1 AMP/DAC
Grado SR225E + Little Dot 1+ Tube AMP

Also, why would the Little Dot 1+ make my Grados sound better? I'm not having any trouble driving these from my 2013 MacBook Pro Retina..

Last, is there any better sounding DAC under $200 for the Grados? I'd really like to bring a little more bass in (if possible), increase detail, and increase spatial separation between instruments.

Thanks for bearing with my lengthy post. All the best!
Sep 27, 2015 at 9:17 AM Post #2 of 4
Differences between DACs are extremely subtle IMHO - if you don't have issues from your current source (e.g. buzz, hum, hizz, etc - unfortunately not uncommon problems for PCs), it's not likely to make a big difference. Amplification can do more, but again differences tend to be subtle. If you want big, dramatic changes (like loads more bass, different soundstaging, etc), you'll need to look at another pair of cans. I'm not really familiar with what the Apple can or cannot do here though - perhaps its headphone output is no good, so something like Dragonfly or a desktop amp would do something for you. My advice? Borrow your friend's Maverick D1 if possible, and try the SR-225 run from that for an afternoon.
Sep 27, 2015 at 1:19 PM Post #3 of 4
I think I'll do that, and I think I'll try out the AudioQuest Dragonfly on my MacBook at the local store. They let you demo it and even take it home, so I might as well compare.
Sep 27, 2015 at 10:46 PM Post #4 of 4
I think I'll do that, and I think I'll try out the AudioQuest Dragonfly on my MacBook at the local store. They let you demo it and even take it home, so I might as well compare.

Demo is the best/most definitive way to answer your question - give it a listen yourself, and see what you think. If you end up disagreeing with me, that's also fine too - it really only matters how it sounds/behaves to you, not to anyone else. :)

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