Would require some help and recommendations upgrading my headphones, headphone amp and DAC.
Jul 15, 2021 at 3:35 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 39

Disfigured

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Hello!

I have started to do some research to update my current headphones and a DAC, and received a recommendation to get a proper headphone amplifier at the same time to get more juice out of the headphones. I would need some recommendations on pairings and understanding what could serve me the best considering my taste in music and what I am looking for in terms of sound. Apologies about the long message.

Lets’ start with some background first. I currently have old Sennheiser HD595s and TEAC UD-301 as a DAC. For the past few days, I have been going to few HIFI shops to try to out some new headphones without knowing too much what exactly I want or I would be looking for in terms of sound. Today I think I found out clearer direction when I tested 3 pairs of headphones; Hifiman Devas, Hifiman H400se. and ZMF Eikons. I was interested to first find out how especially the Devas sound and the guy at the store also let me test the ZMFs to hear out the difference between different price categories. The other day I also tested Beyerdynamic DT-1990 Pros in a different store so those are the headphones I have been able to test out so far.

What I learned from these tests was that ZMFs gave me much clearer picture of what I want from the sound. I spent about 30 minutes with the Hifimans and after the guy gave me the ZMFs, I found myself sitting on the chair for one hour straight and thinking “God damn, now I get it” with no desire to change. Also note that I used Feliks Audio Elise as tube amp there so that also probably had good impact on the ZMFs, but now for the sound!

What I’m looking for in the sound?
  • Clarity and brightness. Not too much though as for example with the ZMFs I found out that when listening to jazz, some saxophone heavy parts started to give me exhaustion and I had to lower the volume a bit and take a break.
  • Bass. I love bass, but not too much. Really enjoy when I can hear multitude of lower frequencies and clearly hear the bass lines throughout the songs without it getting muddy and unrecognizable. I think the ZMFs really gave great amount of bass and enough detail.
  • Roughness and naturality (probably goes with clarity and brightness as well). With the ZMFs, I felt that there was certain roughness and naturality with metal. Hearing that true distortion like I was playing myself without it getting smoothened out. Sometimes I could also hear pick sliding on the string, giving me that warm feeling like standing next to the amp.
  • Kick and aggressiveness. ZMFs really succeeded on this one. With all the others, I felt that there was something missing and they weren’t able to deliver the punch and kick what I wanted to hear. Especially with metal, I want to feel that energy.
  • Decent soundstage. Not much to compare to really. I like when I can clearly tell at which direction instruments are at. Spaciousness is something I don’t have much experience with and recognizing distance.

What I listen to and what the headphones are for?

I have wide taste. I have long metal background but over the years have gathered interest in lot of other genres such as Jazz, Synthwave, Classical, pop, rock, electronic, ambient, blues, but it is quite important that the headphones are capable of handling variety of metal. Meshuggah, Opeth, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Metallica, Dimmu Borgir, Cult of Luna, Ozzy etc.

You’ll probably then ask, why not just buy the ZMFs? Well, I think they are a bit too expensive and I’m not really sure I would want to spend that amount off money on headphones. Also, the ZMFs have wooden details on the earcups that I do not appreciate that much considering they probably add up to 200-300 euros more to the price.

I did some research on headphones and the ones that I have been most interested in are Audeze LCD-Xs and Audeze LCD-2s. Based on reviews, they would probably be very close to what I am looking for and at least Xs have gained praise from metal heads as well, but of course not sure because I have not actually tested them and not sure if there is a place where I actually can. Thoughts on this?

In terms of a DAC, what I have been mostly looking at is RME ADI-2 FS. Has gained lot of praise, has remote control that I’m looking for and EQ as well. My intention is to connect current monitors to it, TV and console as well. Any thoughts?

I do not really have experience when it comes to headphone amps. The Feliks Audio Elise has been said to be extremely good tube amp, but price feels too much for me, considering that I’m already looking into over 1000 euro headphones and a DAC. If its not a tube amp, then Topping A90 was recommended, but I have no idea how well it would go with the Audeze LCDs. Have not been able to gather info about that so especially interested to hear about that if somebody has that combo?

I’m not really looking to buy the best there is, but I am definitely open to spend good deal of money into something that makes me feel good and what would last for a long while. If I can save some money here and there while still getting something good, it's fine. Suggestions in terms of headphones, DACs, amps and combos?

Thank you!
 
Jul 15, 2021 at 7:00 PM Post #2 of 39

WorksUnit

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Welcome... great first post.

If that ZMF and Elise combo made you feel that way then there you go...
You have the options of pad and tube swaps to dial it in further.
 
Jul 16, 2021 at 3:54 AM Post #3 of 39

Disfigured

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Welcome... great first post.

If that ZMF and Elise combo made you feel that way then there you go...
You have the options of pad and tube swaps to dial it in further.

Oh man, I know. Usually if something just feels right, it might be good to just go for it. The price of the ZMFs I could probably stretch for, but already makes me bite my nails a bit. Going for that 1300 euros Elise though does not feel right. It might be good to try to do a comparison between Topping A90 and Elise to see if I can even hear the difference and if it would be significant enough to purchase the Elise. Tube swapping is something that is completely new and I do not know how much it would cost to purchase other tubes and where exactly. That part also feels quite scary and lot of additional work.
 
Jul 16, 2021 at 5:25 PM Post #4 of 39

WorksUnit

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. It might be good to try to do a comparison between Topping A90 and Elise to see if I can even hear the difference and if it would be significant enough to purchase the Elise.

A90 does have some great reviews (A less "sterile" SP200 has some appeal to me)...a few though mention noise on the RCA inputs.
A couple more thoughts.... the ADI-2 looks like it has the connectivity you want, and that also those Audeze headphones are heavy. Something that has the potential to annoy/distract over time. YMMV on the latter.

Hopefully some members more familiar with the kit you tried will reply:)
 
Jul 19, 2021 at 10:42 AM Post #5 of 39

Disfigured

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A90 does have some great reviews (A less "sterile" SP200 has some appeal to me)...a few though mention noise on the RCA inputs.
A couple more thoughts.... the ADI-2 looks like it has the connectivity you want, and that also those Audeze headphones are heavy. Something that has the potential to annoy/distract over time. YMMV on the latter.

Hopefully some members more familiar with the kit you tried will reply:)
I might actually purchase A90 and the Elise and return one that I like the least, but will have to see. Slightly concerned that A90 might push too much clarity and naturality while tube could give the needed warmth. Don't know really so will have to test if possible.

The ZMFs were about 80 grams lighter than what the LCDs are and did not seem to bother me at least, but that 80 grams could make a difference and start to annoy over time as you said. Will go to a store tomorrow where I can test both LCD-2 and X! Do not know what amp they have there but very likely it's going to be different. This does provide additional headache when making conclusions.
 
Jul 19, 2021 at 6:11 PM Post #7 of 39

buke9

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There is the ZMF Atticus if the Eikons wore you down a bit as they are not quite as neutral as the Eikons. I prefer the Eikons from my Amps and Sound Kenzie when I heard both from it as I thought it was just a bit too warm for the Atticus but another amp that might do is the Monoprice Cavalli Liquid Platinum as I do like it a lot with my Verites as it does have that bit of Cavalli warmth to it. Not that the Elise is bad on the contrary it is a excellent amp but the Platinum is about $1K cheaper and the power to run just about anything though not as good as my Audio GD Master 9 with my AB-1266’s so I’m guessing not so great with a pair of HE-6’s but is lovely with my Abyss Diana V2’s.
 
Jul 19, 2021 at 6:18 PM Post #9 of 39

kadinh

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IMO:

Without EQ:
ZMF
-
-
-
-
LCD-2
LCD-X

With EQ:
ZMF
-
-
-
LCD-X
LCD-2

RME-ADI-2 is one most recommended, very highly rated, and has EQ built in...best one out there IMO

I would test out the A90 and see how you like it. I have Topping L30/E30 and D50s/A50s stacks and have had 0 issues with them. The A90 has had a lot of positive reviews as well.
 
Jul 21, 2021 at 2:45 PM Post #10 of 39

Disfigured

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There is the ZMF Atticus if the Eikons wore you down a bit as they are not quite as neutral as the Eikons. I prefer the Eikons from my Amps and Sound Kenzie when I heard both from it as I thought it was just a bit too warm for the Atticus but another amp that might do is the Monoprice Cavalli Liquid Platinum as I do like it a lot with my Verites as it does have that bit of Cavalli warmth to it. Not that the Elise is bad on the contrary it is a excellent amp but the Platinum is about $1K cheaper and the power to run just about anything though not as good as my Audio GD Master 9 with my AB-1266’s so I’m guessing not so great with a pair of HE-6’s but is lovely with my Abyss Diana V2’s.

Have been looking at Verite as well, but would have to try them at some place if possible to see if the difference is enough to justify also the price increase. Will check some reviews from Youtube!
 
Jul 21, 2021 at 2:52 PM Post #12 of 39

HiFiHawaii808

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Hello!

I have started to do some research to update my current headphones and a DAC, and received a recommendation to get a proper headphone amplifier at the same time to get more juice out of the headphones. I would need some recommendations on pairings and understanding what could serve me the best considering my taste in music and what I am looking for in terms of sound. Apologies about the long message.

Lets’ start with some background first. I currently have old Sennheiser HD595s and TEAC UD-301 as a DAC. For the past few days, I have been going to few HIFI shops to try to out some new headphones without knowing too much what exactly I want or I would be looking for in terms of sound. Today I think I found out clearer direction when I tested 3 pairs of headphones; Hifiman Devas, Hifiman H400se. and ZMF Eikons. I was interested to first find out how especially the Devas sound and the guy at the store also let me test the ZMFs to hear out the difference between different price categories. The other day I also tested Beyerdynamic DT-1990 Pros in a different store so those are the headphones I have been able to test out so far.

What I learned from these tests was that ZMFs gave me much clearer picture of what I want from the sound. I spent about 30 minutes with the Hifimans and after the guy gave me the ZMFs, I found myself sitting on the chair for one hour straight and thinking “God damn, now I get it” with no desire to change. Also note that I used Feliks Audio Elise as tube amp there so that also probably had good impact on the ZMFs, but now for the sound!

What I’m looking for in the sound?
  • Clarity and brightness. Not too much though as for example with the ZMFs I found out that when listening to jazz, some saxophone heavy parts started to give me exhaustion and I had to lower the volume a bit and take a break.
  • Bass. I love bass, but not too much. Really enjoy when I can hear multitude of lower frequencies and clearly hear the bass lines throughout the songs without it getting muddy and unrecognizable. I think the ZMFs really gave great amount of bass and enough detail.
  • Roughness and naturality (probably goes with clarity and brightness as well). With the ZMFs, I felt that there was certain roughness and naturality with metal. Hearing that true distortion like I was playing myself without it getting smoothened out. Sometimes I could also hear pick sliding on the string, giving me that warm feeling like standing next to the amp.
  • Kick and aggressiveness. ZMFs really succeeded on this one. With all the others, I felt that there was something missing and they weren’t able to deliver the punch and kick what I wanted to hear. Especially with metal, I want to feel that energy.
  • Decent soundstage. Not much to compare to really. I like when I can clearly tell at which direction instruments are at. Spaciousness is something I don’t have much experience with and recognizing distance.

What I listen to and what the headphones are for?

I have wide taste. I have long metal background but over the years have gathered interest in lot of other genres such as Jazz, Synthwave, Classical, pop, rock, electronic, ambient, blues, but it is quite important that the headphones are capable of handling variety of metal. Meshuggah, Opeth, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Metallica, Dimmu Borgir, Cult of Luna, Ozzy etc.

You’ll probably then ask, why not just buy the ZMFs? Well, I think they are a bit too expensive and I’m not really sure I would want to spend that amount off money on headphones. Also, the ZMFs have wooden details on the earcups that I do not appreciate that much considering they probably add up to 200-300 euros more to the price.

I did some research on headphones and the ones that I have been most interested in are Audeze LCD-Xs and Audeze LCD-2s. Based on reviews, they would probably be very close to what I am looking for and at least Xs have gained praise from metal heads as well, but of course not sure because I have not actually tested them and not sure if there is a place where I actually can. Thoughts on this?

In terms of a DAC, what I have been mostly looking at is RME ADI-2 FS. Has gained lot of praise, has remote control that I’m looking for and EQ as well. My intention is to connect current monitors to it, TV and console as well. Any thoughts?

I do not really have experience when it comes to headphone amps. The Feliks Audio Elise has been said to be extremely good tube amp, but price feels too much for me, considering that I’m already looking into over 1000 euro headphones and a DAC. If its not a tube amp, then Topping A90 was recommended, but I have no idea how well it would go with the Audeze LCDs. Have not been able to gather info about that so especially interested to hear about that if somebody has that combo?

I’m not really looking to buy the best there is, but I am definitely open to spend good deal of money into something that makes me feel good and what would last for a long while. If I can save some money here and there while still getting something good, it's fine. Suggestions in terms of headphones, DACs, amps and combos?

Thank you!
The answer is obvious. Buy what you heard. You love it and it's a great combo. If it's too much money, save for it or buy a resale. ZMF headphones really do a good job of holding their value.
 
Jul 21, 2021 at 2:54 PM Post #13 of 39

Disfigured

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IMO:

Without EQ:
ZMF
-
-
-
-
LCD-2
LCD-X

With EQ:
ZMF
-
-
-
LCD-X
LCD-2

RME-ADI-2 is one most recommended, very highly rated, and has EQ built in...best one out there IMO

I would test out the A90 and see how you like it. I have Topping L30/E30 and D50s/A50s stacks and have had 0 issues with them. The A90 has had a lot of positive reviews as well.

I tried out the LCD-2 (Closed) and LCD-X yesterday. I found the bass level to be a bit tighter on the X and also the overall clarity, but not by a large margin. There was more kick in the X that I enjoyed and listening to some jazz didn't wear me down as easily as ZMF Eikon did. ZMF does have more kick than the X, pretty decent amount and the naturality is also on another level with the ZMF I found. The bass level on the X might be a bit higher than with the ZMF, but it's not a big loss and can be fixed with EQ. I'm leaning towards the ZMF, but would probably need another round of testing as I have also updated my test music list to test the LCDs.

At this point, I don't think there is really any reason for not to go for the RME-ADI-2.

Yeah, definitely will test the A90 with the ZMF and LCD if possible in the same store.
 
Jul 21, 2021 at 2:57 PM Post #14 of 39

Disfigured

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The answer is obvious. Buy what you heard. You love it and it's a great combo. If it's too much money, save for it or buy a resale. ZMF headphones really do a good job of holding their value.

Yeah, leaning towards the ZMF as they have given a great showcase that the LCDs could not exactly match. Will test the A90 vs Elise to be sure, but if I choose Elise, than it's just saving for the whole kit.
 
Jul 21, 2021 at 4:18 PM Post #15 of 39
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Synthwave has been in my library of music only for few years, but has provided lot of joy.

Being a child of the Eighties, it triggers my nostalgia in wonderful ways! I actually just received this a couple of days ago:

SunsetNoRegrets.jpg


I was lagging on picking up the record, but since their older stuff has been going out of print lately, I decided to get it before it was too late. Ambient Inks (they press/fulfill vinyl for The Midnight) was also kind enough to give me .wav downloads for it, so bonus.

Also, though I hate to complicate your decision, ZMF's Auteur is fantastic for Synthwave. :relaxed:
 

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