need help choosing future high end gear
Feb 24, 2014 at 6:33 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 29

kreserb

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First off: longtime lurker, first time poster, im glad to finally have an excuse to join :D
 
I am in need of some serious guiding from some knowledgeable people.
 
Right now i have a Beyerdynamic dt770 pro headphone, with a really bad no-name DAC. but later this year, i will be getting abit of money to spend on whatever i feel like, and i have a real itch to get my hands on some real good gear:
 
1) I want to get a really good pair of headphones, and i was thinking about either the Hifiman HE6, Audeze LCD-2 or Sennheiser HD800, I primarily listen to rock from the 70s and 80s, think Queen, the Eagles, Dire Strats etc. but i also like to listen to alot of other genres, like Heavy metal, rap and Electronica, the only genres i don't really like are dubstep, death metal and horrorcore.
I would like some suggestion for the best allrounder headphones i can get with a budget of 800€ - 1200€  
 
2) I am primarily asking for help regarding a DAC and an amplifier to drive said headphones. would it be a good idea to get something like the Cambridge Azur 851D to serve as a DAC/amp and would it be powerfull enough? or would it be better to buy a separate DAC and amp, like maybe a Nuforce DDA-100 and a Nuforce HAP-100. my budget here would also be 800€-1200€
 
If i chose the first option, would i see any benefits in adding a great amplifier a few years later down the line or would it not really help me? 
 
3) I also would like for my setup to be able to drive a pair of studio monitors and maybe a small sub, for when headphones just won't cut it, which option would be best at this?
 
I have been looking specifically at the Cambridge Azur 851D as it looks to me as the best way to go, I would then be able to add an amplifier down the line and just use the 851 as a DAC and preamp, but are there any amps that are great at both driving a pair of headphones and a 2.1 setup? With most focus on the headphones.
If Cambridge Audio has a good option I would like to hear about it, as I will be able to audition those before i buy them.
 
I live in Denmark, so i would really like to be able to order things either from here or from germany.
 
 
I am sorry if my post and questions were confusing, but I am tired and english is not my first language 
 
thanks in advance for all the help :D
 
Feb 24, 2014 at 6:50 PM Post #2 of 29

FatmanSize48

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Given your music preferences, either the Beyerdynamic T1 or the Audez'e LCD-2 would easily suit your needs. The two are both great for rock, but offer deeply contrasting sound signatures and, possibly, comfort levels. You would be fine running the LCD-2 from the 851D, but the T1 would need something a little meatier to help it along. For your needs, you really do need an "integrated" solution like the 851D, which is fine for the price, although I think that the latest NAD integrated might offer you more features and better performance at a lower price point.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 3:06 AM Post #3 of 29

kreserb

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Which NAD DAC are you thinking of? I am not really sure which one is the newest, it does not really say on their website :) 
So would something like the 851D be able to drive those high-end headphones alone? would it be sufficient for the HD800? I have heard that it is very picky about amps, is the LCD-2 like that also?
 
Thanks for answering so quickly :D
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 3:24 AM Post #4 of 29

TwoEars

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You can find really good deals on mint second hand HD800s these days. Around 700-800 Euro on ebay.de and here on head-fi.
 
I would highly, highly recommend that. It plays well with all genres. It's also better built and much more comfortable/lighter than LCD-2.
 
If you go the LCD route I think LCD-X is the only one I personally would consider instead of HD800. But it's brand new and twice as expensive as what you can get the HD800 for. Not worth it IMHO.
 
The Violectric V200 is superb for HD800 and easily available from ebay or thomann.de. Not that many second hand deals around since people tend to keep them....
 
If you're on a budget the Matrix M-stage or Schiit Vali are great beginner amps for the HD800. Cheap but sound at least 5x their price.
 
DAC? Hmm.... Not sure what is good and relatively cheap these days. The Bifrost uber seems popular. But I'm not 100% up to date on DACs so I'd rather not say too much in that price range.
 
Cheers!
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 3:56 AM Post #5 of 29

FatmanSize48

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Which NAD DAC are you thinking of? I am not really sure which one is the newest, it does not really say on their website :) 
So would something like the 851D be able to drive those high-end headphones alone? would it be sufficient for the HD800? I have heard that it is very picky about amps, is the LCD-2 like that also?

Thanks for answering so quickly :D

The LCD-2 will sound fine through almost everything; the HD800...not so much. The NAD 3020 D, or it's older brother, the 7050 D, ought to do quite nicely in driving either headphone, so don't worry too much about that.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 4:04 AM Post #6 of 29

davidsh

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I don't think the 851D will be optimal for any of the mentioned headphones for 2 reasons, first being that it seems to focus on being a pre-amp and DAC along with the fact they recommend max 300 ohms headphones. Not that I know, it's just speculations.
 
Welcome to head-fi and sorry about your wallet by the way. I am myself from Denmark, and you should consider heading over to hoved-fi.dk, as we are very helpful and active despite the small size of the forum.
 
Personally, I'd pick either hd800 or HE6, mostly because they are extraordinary, but some other headphone might synergize better with your tastes/music.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 5:17 AM Post #7 of 29

Claritas

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Of the headphones you mentioned for rock (and their variants), I found LCD2 too dark, and HD800 too bright, and T1 too boring. HE6 is a good choice, but it's *very* hard to amp well.

So I would recommend HE500 instead, perhaps with a Lyr or with the Emotiva mini-X set up. (See the thread about that. Very interesting.) The Fostex TH series are also good if you're looking for something more jumped up. As to a DAC, if you're getting it separate from the amp, ODAC will get the job done.

Tentative conclusion: HE500 with ODAC and Lyr. I should think that would be well under budget. If this set up interests you, run it by the HE500 thread (and report back).
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 5:28 AM Post #8 of 29

davidsh

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The Lyr has pre-outs too.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 8:57 AM Post #9 of 29

kreserb

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so would the NAD 7050D be able to drive the hd800 with no problems? Will i need anything else besides the 7050D? to get great sound?
 
and would the 7050D be able to drive a pair of studio monitors with a small sub?
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 9:06 AM Post #10 of 29

davidsh

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  so would the NAD 7050D be able to drive the hd800 with no problems? Will i need anything else besides the 7050D? to get great sound?
 
and would the 7050D be able to drive a pair of studio monitors with a small sub?

Probably not. I see no specs on the headphone amp. You could probably run the HE6 from the speaker outputs and get enough power, though.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 9:36 AM Post #12 of 29

davidsh

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  so what would you recommend for running a HD800 and a 2.1 setup? Is there anything on the market that can do that effectively?

Not that I know of. Well, a 70's receiver could (not sure about the sub, though), but then you'd need a DAC or cd player too.
 
Else, a power amp, headphone amp with pre-outs and a DAC/cp player.
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 10:18 AM Post #13 of 29

ProtegeManiac

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1) I want to get a really good pair of headphones, and i was thinking about either the Hifiman HE6, Audeze LCD-2 or Sennheiser HD800, I primarily listen to rock from the 70s and 80s, think Queen, the Eagles, Dire Strats etc. but i also like to listen to alot of other genres, like Heavy metal, rap and Electronica, the only genres i don't really like are dubstep, death metal and horrorcore.
I would like some suggestion for the best allrounder headphones i can get with a budget of 800€ - 1200€ 

 
I'd bet on the LCD-2, or the T1. As long as you have cash for the amp (and also a DAC) for them they should be driven well enough.
 
Or you could save a wad of cash and just go for the HD600. It'll probably be friendlier for a wider range of music compared to the HD800. I personally prefer the HD800, but the flatter tonality might not be great for a lot of other people, and for those music types you listed, the gain in soundstage isn't a lot considering there might not be a lot of soundstage in the recording to begin with. The HD600 despite a smaller soundstage still sorts out instruments very well, so if you throw classical music or symphonic metal at it, the sound won't be splattered at you like how some artists do abstract paintings. The added bass boost on the HD600 is also great for the kick drum on classic rock. Oh, and another thing to consider: earpads for the HD800 are I think around $100; HD600 earpads go for $60 a pair.
 
 
2) I am primarily asking for help regarding a DAC and an amplifier to drive said headphones. would it be a good idea to get something like the Cambridge Azur 851D to serve as a DAC/amp and would it be powerful enough? or would it be better to buy a separate DAC and amp, like maybe a Nuforce DDA-100 and a Nuforce HAP-100. my budget here would also be 800€-1200€
 
If i chose the first option, would i see any benefits in adding a great amplifier a few years later down the line or would it not really help me? 

 
I haven't listened to the 851d, BUT I personally don't think that just putting a DAC and amp in the same box is by itself a cause for concern about either's capabilities as long as it has a beefy power supply. My Meier Cantate.2 was designed as an amp, and its USB input that people might dismiss as an "afterthought" or "last resort" (until you buy one, or while yours is broken) 16-bit USB DAC that uses the PCM2702 DAC - used only as receiver in other cheap USB DACs - handily beat the 651C and 340C(or something, the cheapest one whatever the model number is). The Cambridge CDPs both put the bass drum in front of the vocals. As a DAC though I would doubt if the 851D would be this bad, considering it might be using the 851C CDP's DAC circuit, and that one had all the glorious, "live" sound I like in my systems (too expensive for me though). The Cantate also doesn't run out of steam on the T1 and LCD-2, as long as it's in a relatively quiet room, but it's out of production and the amp+DAC separate units Meier sells now are around $1500. You might want to read up on those too.
 
 
  3) I also would like for my setup to be able to drive a pair of studio monitors and maybe a small sub, for when headphones just won't cut it, which option would be best at this?
 
I have been looking specifically at the Cambridge Azur 851D as it looks to me as the best way to go, I would then be able to add an amplifier down the line and just use the 851 as a DAC and preamp, but are there any amps that are great at both driving a pair of headphones and a 2.1 setup? With most focus on the headphones.
If Cambridge Audio has a good option I would like to hear about it, as I will be able to audition those before i buy them.

 
A few concerns. First, you'd want to have the preamp control on the DAC, more so on professional studio monitors (with an amp on each side, instead of the Master-Slave consumer active speakers like Swans and Aktimates) since each side will have its own gain knob, and the Cambridge website doesn't list if the volume knob works on either XLR or RCA outputs, so you'd want to shoot them an email or check in any thread about it first. Second, this DAC and the others you listed don't have a dedicated sub output, and if you're using the XLR outputs, you can't use a y-cable to go into the (mono) single ended input on the subwoofer. If for example both outputs can work simultaneously, and better if the preamp works on both at the same time, then you can use one to output a signal to the sub. Otherwise, everytime you move the volume knob on the DAC-preamp, you have to reach over to the sub and balance out that bass, then sit on your seat to hear if it's balanced from over there, then go back to the sub and do it again...in other words, I find 2.1 very tedious. You can however just go get monitors with 8" speakers, but as much as these can make movie and game SFX loud enough to rattle windows when the Morgul Orcs start tossing boulders at Minas Tirith (or when you're doing the same on Total War: Rome II, this time with Italians, Greeks, Persians, and barbarians flattening cities), it's not going to help Lil Jon blow your windows out like that EMMA SPL-winning, 150db+ Volvo with two 15" subwoofers that just drove past your house, in case that's the sort of rap you listen to (basically a bunch of "yeahs!!!" and synthesized crawling bass).
 
 
I live in Denmark, so i would really like to be able to order things either from here or from germany.

 
You might want to look into the Meier DACcord and Classic(amp). They're having a sale right now and they also have the LCD-2, T1, and HD800 on stock.
 
http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 10:45 AM Post #14 of 29

kreserb

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If I got the Violectric V200 to drive the HD800 would I be able to get by with a less expensive DAC for a while? Until I could afford  the V800.
And could the V200 drive two studio monitors? I see that it has a pair of unbalanced in/out in the back.
 
Or would I have to buy a relatively inexpensive stereo amplifier to drive the 2.1?  
 
I am sorry if these are stupid questions. But this is all very confusing for me
 
Feb 25, 2014 at 11:39 AM Post #15 of 29

davidsh

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I suppose your monitors and sub are active, right (they have RCA inputs)?
Then you need an amp or DAC with pre-out. Don't know how to handle that sub, though.
 

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