Looking to get my first DAC/Amp/Mid-Range Headphones, need advice
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FreezerburnV

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Hello, Head-Fi forum! As the title of the thread says, I want to find my first actually good audio equipment for my home setup. This came about from reading about the Schiit company on this forum recently, which got me started looking at what they have available along with why you would need an amp for a pair of headphones. That paired with my current quest to replicate a certain audio experience I had recently. Up to this point in my life, while there have been periods where I've tried to get some decent audio equipment, I haven't been willing to invest the money necessary to get something of good quality that needs an amp to truly make it sing.

The stuff I've gotten in the past (or am currently using now) is a follows:
  • A long time ago, I got a pair of Triton surround sound headphones. Ones that have multiple speakers in them instead of using simulated surround sound. I don't remember what video card I paired it with at the time.
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
  • Bose Quiet Comfort 35
  • Etymotic MK5 Isolator, which I believe I remember really liking but in-ear is never all that comfortable for me for any length of time. (also I need to replace the part that goes into the ear so it doesn't get stuck in my ear) Only in-ears that I've ever had which actually stayed in or had any comfort at all, at least
  • Astro A50 Wireless headset, which I got largely to be able to use with my PS4 so I can play games without bothering my wife
  • V-Moda Crossfade Wireless, both I and II (II being what I'm using right now)
  • At some point I had a V-Moda VERZA DAC/Amp, but the mini-usb output of it doesn't work super well so I haven't been using it in a while (so I guess "first" DAC/Amp isn't quite accurate)
Up to this point, the thing I've been optimizing for is noise isolation from external sources for the most part, which is probably obvious to everybody who reads that list, hah. Currently though, my V-Modas, and if I get the part replaced, the Etymotic's can serve as the headphones which are used to block noise when mowing the lawn or on a plane ride. Now I want to get something open backed that will truly sound great.

I mentioned earlier that I have a quest for something I want to recreate: the Overwatch League Grand Finals. When I was there, the way that the game audio was played really felt like it made certain elements feel amazing to hear. I don't know if anyone here would have been, but I'm hopeful there is someone who knows what I'm talking about from personal experience that can help. In particular, I really want to recreate a couple things: the way it sounded when Widowmaker's gun would make the "click" noises as it zoomed in/out (which is the main thing I want), the deep boom of that same gun firing at full charge, and how some of the ultimate abilities were resonating. So I'm basically trying to optimize for the sounds from Overwatch, with a desire for certain ones to sound particularly good, and the rest to sound clear and distinguishable. (so I can more easily detect sound cues in the middle of a fight)

You can hear an example of Widowmaker sound effects here: And then various other things in a big battle here: (notably: Hanzo's dragon ultimate)

Other than that, a representative sample of music that I like so I can try to get something which will make it sound great:
  • Smashmouth's All Star
  • Sabaton, 'nuff said
  • Johnathon Young's work, including his collabs with Caleb Hyles (particularly: theme song from One Punch Man & Mob Psycho 100, Heaven's Eyes, Gospel of Dismay, Double Trouble, Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride, The Bells of Notre Dame)
  • Crypt of the Necrodancer OST
  • The Protomen
  • Zircon
  • Lindsey Stirling
  • Metroid Metal
  • Danimal Cannon (chiptunes metal, so good)
(anyone sense a theme of video games/anime here? :p Also Disney)

I've currently been looking at getting the following equipment, but it's based off of nothing more than doing a little searching on here and seeing people say it's good, so I have no idea if I'm pairing it with what I'm looking for well or if it'll get me close to my main goal:
  • Sennheiser HD 650 OR 660 S
  • Schiit Vali 2 Headphone Amp
  • Schiit Modi 2 Uber DAC
If you've managed to read through all my wordiness: I truly appreciate you taking the time to do so, and I am extremely grateful to anyone who can provide their insight and experience to help this mostly-clueless audio newbie out.

EDIT: Also, since it's Labor Day weekend, please let me know if you know of any sales that might be going on for any recommendations. If you don't know of any, no worries! Just figured I'd throw that in here since I remembered that right after posting.
 
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prymortal

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I'd avoid the Vali tube amp for gaming sounds, if its just music then put some research into it & which tubes sound good with your tube of music. If not go more soild like the Magni3 (B-stock).
Dac wise probably don't need the Uber but it sets you up with more options so..... go Uber.
The jotunheim Dac/Amp might also be an option not sure which models have usb though.
I can say the Sennheiser GSX1000 would be a ok choice for alot of that music in stereo mode (24bit) because i was listening to 4 of those earlier on this one while waiitng on the Modi to turn up....... If gaming is involved 2.0 is good but it also has the 7.1 but keep in mind the 7.1 doesn't work well with large soundstage headphones in a lot of games, Its also more "true" sounding than the virtual software 7.1 is (personally i can't stand it, to used to stereo), the 650/660s should work with it ok. If you do go this way I'd recommend a Magni3 & a RCA to 3.5mm aux adaptor due to the extra "meat" it can put into songs that the Sennheiser can't do on its own.
 
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FreezerburnV

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I'd avoid the Vali tube amp for gaming sounds, if its just music then put some research into it & which tubes sound good with your tube of music. If not go more soild like the Magni3 (B-stock).
Dac wise probably don't need the Uber but it sets you up with more options so..... go Uber.
The jotunheim Dac/Amp might also be an option not sure which models have usb though.
I can say the Sennheiser GSX1000 would be a ok choice for alot of that music in stereo mode (24bit) because i was listening to 4 of those earlier on this one while waiitng on the Modi to turn up....... If gaming is involved 2.0 is good but it also has the 7.1 but keep in mind the 7.1 doesn't work well with large soundstage headphones in a lot of games, Its also more "true" sounding than the virtual software 7.1 is (personally i can't stand it, to used to stereo), the 650/660s should work with it ok. If you do go this way I'd recommend a Magni3 & a RCA to 3.5mm aux adaptor due to the extra "meat" it can put into songs that the Sennheiser can't do on its own.
So I guess to sum all of that up, you recommend:
  • Modi 2 Uber
  • Magni 3
  • Sennheiser 650/660s (probably 650, as a lot of people say it gets better with better equipment and it's a bit cheaper)
  • And an adapter like this one? https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-3-5mm-2-Male-Adapter-Cable/dp/B01D5H8JW0 I'm guessing it's to go from the output of the Magni into the headphones? I'm not entirely sure where they would go in the chain. I'm also guessing there's a cord out there that's better quality that you know of.
I'm not personally that interested in an amp that attempts to emulate 7.1 directly from the stereo input. I'd rather high quality stereo, and only use a type of surround emulation if something is directly feeding position information to the algorithm instead of having to guess from the audio directly. (Overwatch has this with a Dolby Atmos option, and it seems to do its job quite well from my experience thus far)

Also I think the Jotunheim Multibit and Balanced DACs both take USB input if those modules are selected. Would it be worthwhile to get a Jotunheim versus the combination of Modi + Magni if I made sure to get a USB input?

EDIT: I'm an idiot that just realized a DAC using USB can totally intake 7.1 audio and virtualize that like Dolby Atmos does in Overwatch with Stereo output. So the Sennheiser amp could totally work. My bad, sorry about that. Not sure why I didn't think of that when writing earlier >.<
 
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prymortal

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So I guess to sum all of that up, you recommend:
  • Modi 2 Uber
  • Magni 3
  • Sennheiser 650/660s (probably 650, as a lot of people say it gets better with better equipment and it's a bit cheaper)
  • And an adapter like this one? https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-3-5mm-2-Male-Adapter-Cable/dp/B01D5H8JW0 I'm guessing it's to go from the output of the Magni into the headphones? I'm not entirely sure where they would go in the chain. I'm also guessing there's a cord out there that's better quality that you know of.
I'm not personally that interested in an amp that attempts to emulate 7.1 directly from the stereo input. I'd rather high quality stereo, and only use a type of surround emulation if something is directly feeding position information to the algorithm instead of having to guess from the audio directly. (Overwatch has this with a Dolby Atmos option, and it seems to do its job quite well from my experience thus far)

Also I think the Jotunheim Multibit and Balanced DACs both take USB input if those modules are selected. Would it be worthwhile to get a Jotunheim versus the combination of Modi + Magni if I made sure to get a USB input?

EDIT: I'm an idiot that just realized a DAC using USB can totally intake 7.1 audio and virtualize that like Dolby Atmos does in Overwatch with Stereo output. So the Sennheiser amp could totally work. My bad, sorry about that. Not sure why I didn't think of that when writing earlier >.<
The RCA to 3.5 is only needed If you get the Sennheiser GSX1000 Dac/Amp & Magni3 Amp (OR you can use to connect it to speakers)..... Yes that linked one is correct.
The schiit stack (modi/Mangi) needs all the cables except power cord for the Magni3. (RCA & USB 2.0 Cable Type A Male to Type B Male or "other" input)
As for the jotunheim i dont have enough experiance with it to comment further than on paper its a Balanced headphone option (which you can get XLR cables for the 650/660s) No idea how balanced works with gaming audio though.
Thats all you should need, you could spend more amp wise for a slightly better "fuller" sound from music & slight increase in soundstage But its not needed or going to help the gaming audio side. Pretty much the same deal Dac wise.

OH 1 last thing, the 7.1 on the GSX1000 you actually don't use any virtual settings. you use "actual" 7.1 audio setting in windows sound then it "mux/mix" that into a virtual signal in the Dac/Amp........ Hang on cheak this link: https://assets.sennheiser.com/globa...1000_UserGuide_A03_1017_SP19_version1_INT.pdf Audio set up part, Page 9, it'll clear it up hopefully. If not try:
 
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FreezerburnV

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The RCA to 3.5 is only needed If you get the Sennheiser GSX1000 Dac/Amp & Magni3 Amp (OR you can use to connect it to speakers)..... Yes that linked one is correct.
The schiit stack (modi/Mangi) needs all the cables except power cord for the Magni3. (RCA & USB 2.0 Cable Type A Male to Type B Male or "other" input)
As for the jotunheim i dont have enough experiance with it to comment further than on paper its a Balanced headphone option (which you can get XLR cables for the 650/660s) No idea how balanced works with gaming audio though.
Thats all you should need, you could spend more amp wise for a slightly better "fuller" sound from music & slight increase in soundstage But its not needed or going to help the gaming audio side. Pretty much the same deal Dac wise.

OH 1 last thing, the 7.1 on the GSX1000 you actually don't use any virtual settings. you use "actual" 7.1 audio setting in windows sound then it "mux/mix" that into a virtual signal in the Dac/Amp........ Hang on cheak this link: https://assets.sennheiser.com/globa...1000_UserGuide_A03_1017_SP19_version1_INT.pdf Audio set up part, Page 9, it'll clear it up hopefully. If not try:
Ok, yeah, the GSX1000 does sound pretty appealing for me with the feature set it has. I edited into my earlier reply that I was misremembering the fact that USB can move 7.1 audio over it into the DAC, so it can do effectively the same thing that Overwatch does with Dolby Atmos built into the game. Though it sounds like the GSX1000 does a better job. Sounds like I'm going to want to get the HD650, GSX1000, Magni 3, and 3.5mm to RCA cable for between the GSX1000 and Magni 3.

Thank you very much for helping me, and recommending that DAC! Also it sounds like you're currently waiting on a Modi to show up, is there something about the GSX1000 that you're dissatisfied with currently that you want to have a Modi, or are you going to be using them both for different things, or something else?
 
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prymortal

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Ok, yeah, the GSX1000 does sound pretty appealing for me with the feature set it has. I edited into my earlier reply that I was misremembering the fact that USB can move 7.1 audio over it into the DAC, so it can do effectively the same thing that Overwatch does with Dolby Atmos built into the game. Though it sounds like the GSX1000 does a better job. Sounds like I'm going to want to get the HD650, GSX1000, Magni 3, and 3.5mm to RCA cable for between the GSX1000 and Magni 3.

Thank you very much for helping me, and recommending that DAC! Also it sounds like you're currently waiting on a Modi to show up, is there something about the GSX1000 that you're dissatisfied with currently that you want to have a Modi, or are you going to be using them both for different things, or something else?
I got it more for review purpose since i have the Magni3. But since I also prefer Stereo to 7.1 so there is a chance i'll end up swapping them out since i don't use the 7.1 feature The GSX1000 costs more than the schiit stack If you don't plan on using the 7.1 much it might be worth going for the modi U over it. If you can wait & i'll update this when it arrives which should be in a few weeks. Then i'm saving for a Balanced Dac/Amp to test with gaming next.

The big reason why i don't like 7.1 over stereo is my main gaming headphones have very large soundstage & imaging compared to most so it doesnt quite work.
 
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