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Results of my A/B Comparison of Sennheiser HD598 vs HD600 using Shiit Modi DAC and Vali AMP

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by pianist718, Apr 7, 2014.
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  1. Pianist718
    I'll start of by saying that I was biased towards HD598 as that's my set and even though indifferent to HD600 (owned by a friend of my), I did read a lot that it was a classic for many years. 
    Initially, 4-5 months ago when I compared HD598 to HD600 without using DAC or AMP, using WinAmp from my PC using FLAC files, I leaned towards HD598. It sounded more alive to me. It had more presence I guess and they got me on the whole "better clarity" in HD598 idea. I felt like HD600 was a bit dull compared to HD598.
    When I first connected HD598 to Shiit Modi/Vali, I liked the extra volume on some tracks that I wanted to be louder. I liked the even more forward sound and I guess much better clarity of instruments. It felt as if I now could distinguish better between each instrument. and then I connected the HD600 ......
    To be honest, I think I expected much more out of amping HD600. When comparing HD600 running out of regular PC sound card versus Shiit Modi/Vali, I was a little disappointed. Maybe I had much bigger expectations of what that dac and amp will do. OR maybe Shiit Modi/Vali is not strong enough to really make HD600 shine?
    So ..... Shiit Modi/Vali in my opinion had bigger sound change influence on HD598.
    Now we move on to something interesting ....
    My friend suggested connecting both headphones to my home stereo system .... Source was SACD player (Sony 222ES) and we connected the Shiit Vali amp to it. Played a SACD "Pink Floyd - Money" in 2ch Stereo and then a few other sound heavy songs (regular CD quality). Results .,... HD600 killed HD598. I mean killed it. Better left and right sound separation, better depth, better bass, less plastic sound. I wanted to keep using HD600 and retire HD598. So is it my PC? is the problem with a DAC (Shiit Modi) ? Is it really the fact that CD quality is much higher than my FLAC files?
    Back to regular PC listening/testing with Shiit Modi/Vali
    After connecting back to my PC, I started paying extra attention to things that shined on the CD player and started noticing more of what I didn't like about HD598. All of that forward mids were not so cool anymore to my ear. Now I could understand that that HD598 sound is a bit "fake". It overemphasizes on the mids and thus causes sound to be artificial to my ears. Especially with the Modi/Vali, that extra clarity was simply increase in brightness of sound caused by either Modi or Vali ... don't know.
    Not so great recordings with harsh mids or highs on HD598 became unpleasant to my ear while HD600 managed them well.
    So ..... I am sticking with HD600 for sure.
    Now the question is .... what DAC and what AMP are good enough for HD600 to be effected by in a good way. Like I said, Modi/Vali did not change sound quality by tooo much ... just added extra volume to HD600. However on CD player HD600 sounded much much better.
     So I am assuming that Vali AMP is good enough and problem is with the $109 Modi DAC? Any thoughts>?
    thank you all. 
    P.S. I am also quite happy my friend gave away his HD600 to me ... till one day he needs it back :)
  2. jaywillin
    nice write up, this is the way we learn, just getting in there, trying things, and having an open mind to what you are hearing.
    the modi is a good little dac, especially given the price, i suspect the bigger difference in sound quality from it, and your sacd may be
    the files, discs themselves , but thats just a hunch.
    that being said, with the hd600 and the vali, if i had them(and i have had the vali before) i'd say the first thing i'd upgrade would be the modi.
    i absolutely think the vali is one of the best bargains in the game right now, and the hd600 is a classic, thats withstood the test of time
    the modi is one of the best if not the best in its price class, but if move up a bit in price class, a more refined sound can be had i think !
    good luck in your journey
  3. Tuco1965
    Very nice comparison.  So it would seem that the Vali is strong in your chain, given that it was used with both SACD and Modi.  The difference being that your preference is the SACD source.  So at the other end is your pc feeding the Modi and then Vali.  I wouldn't write the Modi off right away without looking at all aspects of the signal chain.  Maybe something isn't optimized in the pc setup along with the files themselves.
    Try a different player such as Foobar2000 using WASAPI output to the Modi.  See what kind of results you get.
    I have had very good results with my Modi from either pc or iPad Air, but I have yet to do a side by side with my Bifrost.
  4. cel4145
    I agree about checking the signal chain. For instance, could be the way that you have your receiver configured vs. Windows is having an effect. Be sure to have your receiver in direct mode, and be sure to optimize your computer sound setup.

    I also agree about the Modi being a good DAC. Even if the DAC in your receiver is better, the difference should not be monumental.

    Are you listening to the same CD/songs on both? Flac vs. CD should not matter (unless the flac was poorly ripped).

    Differences in volume could also account for some of this. Even though you might be leaving the Vali on the same volume setting when you switch it back and forth, your receiver and computer may not be outputting the music at the same exact volume level, and even a minute increase in volume would make the receiver sound better.
  5. Pianist718
    it's weird .... using Vali with the Sony CD player was great. So now my dilemma ... is it the DAC or the whole fact that music is being played on my PC with a bad sound card. But if I use Modi DAC, does my sound card really play a factor?
    anyway ... that A/B test I did of CD player vs Computer was not too accurate as time elapsed between the 2 I heard AND I listened to different sound track. I'll try to listen to Pink Floyd - Money again today from PC.
    I am just thinking ... should I bother trying HD600 with better set up? Testing it with something like  
    Shiit Bifrost?  and Shiit Lyr ??? Should I experiment with Burson Audio DA-160 DAC? I heard HD600 sounds great with Woo Audio WA6-SE but I really don't want to start spending $1,000+.
    My biggest concern is that, HD600 sound great but I expected a bigger return after upgrading from 
    FLAC - PC Sound Card - HD600
    FLAC - Modi - Vali - HD600
    I don't hear a crazy difference in sound. Amping for louder volume is great, but that's all.
  6. NA Blur
    Chances are the gear you have is just fine, but your player could be processing the audio in an inefficient manor.
    Try Foobar 2000 as suggested above and perhaps install WASAPI for it.  You should also read up, if the literature exists, about how to optimize your PC listening experience.
    It is also a good idea to listen to a headphone for more than 2 weeks to give your brain filter a chance to adequately adapt to the new sound signature.  This is perhaps the biggest factor on determining if a headphone or piece of gear is an upgrade in the long run.
    Lastly, if I understand your setup correctly, the soundcard is not processing the sound once the Schiit stack is connected.  You run USB to DAC, DAC to amp, and then amp to headphones.  Keep in mind some soundcards perform as good or better than other external DAC/amp combos as it is all about the design, implementation, and the quality of the build and components.
    For now optimize your gear and give yourself 2 weeks to figure out the best setup and allow your brain to become familiar with the HD600 sound.
  7. Dubstep Girl
    every component counts in a setup.
  8. cel4145

    Or for a media player that is a little easier to use out of the box, MusicBee. WASAPI is already a configuration option.
  9. Tuco1965
    Yeah I should have mentioned MusicBee too.  It's a very decent player.  Easier to setup and use than Foobar.
  10. Pianist718
    what's wrong with WinAmp? :)
  11. cel4145
    Nothing's wrong with WinAmp that I know of. MusicBee is just easier to use out of the box than Foobar 2000.
  12. Pianist718
    Using Foobar ... listening to my HD600 using Shiit Vali, unplugged Modi DAC ... sounds great. How can it be that sound I get without Modi is at least even if not better? My sound card sucks. :)
    I actually have Vali AMP plugged into front of PC headphones input .... should I also try plugging into sound card in the back or is it the same thing>? :)
    Anyway ... no need for Modi. Actually thinking of possibly trying Shiit Asgard 2 as many say it works awesome with HD600 Or should I not even bother? I just don't like to keep something I have not compared to competitors.
  13. cel4145
    You should contact Schiit. Maybe there is something wrong with your Modi. DId you setup Windows sound configuration for the Modi?
  14. Pianist718
    how do I do that?
    are you saying that Modi should sound so much better than PC sound card that something is wrong here?
  15. Pianist718
    to be completely honest ... just plugged Modi back and listening to another song. Everything sounds great. :) I am confused.
    anwayway ... human ear can not remember one sound for too long. It's tough to compare unless it's a big difference or your ear is awesome and is trained to distinguish all the things you're looking for.
    sorry for gong back and forward on you guys here.
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