About the Purchase Advice category

Ask your questions here if you are looking for purchase advice. There are tons of knowledgable headphone enthusiasts here that would be happy to help you out :slight_smile: !

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Hi Everyone!

Sorry to ask this question here, but I am a bit puzzled or stuck.

I am actively switching from my Theta Casablanca III to the RME ADI-2. My big issue is that i also have a turntable, no analog bypass in the RME. I wonder if you an recommend and Analog to Digital converter to put between the phone preamp and the RME.

I was considering the PS Audio Nu Wave (it has both phono preamp and ADC) but is is out of stock now. Probably won’t produce it anymore.

What would you consider? I found a RDL HRADC1 but never read anything about it.

Thanks to all!

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Looking for something with more clarity in over-ear closed backs. Something not too hard to drive (Dragonfly Black is my daily carry) but comfy for long periods and something close to a flat signature.

I’m sure you all have favorites. What do you suggest for something under $500?

P.S. I might add a Schiit Fulla to my collection for a good office rig.

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Adding $50 and tracking down a used set of Focal Elegia.

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If you have smaller ears, the Audeze Sine is a great choice for a generally flat signature that’s also portable. You can also replace the ear pads with Senn HD212 or Creative Aurvana Live generic pads for a few bucks and make them more comfortable, while also improving stage width.

Oppo PM3 is another good choice.

Both of these will more than likely have to be found used.


Fellow audio enthusiasts, I need your help!

I’m currently on the fence between the following headphones a:
Closed - HD 820 vs Focal Stellia (I’ve read reviews with very controversial and mixed feelings about the 820s and very good things about the Stellia but I’m afraid they end up being redundant because I own the Utopia)
Open - HD 800S vs ADX5000 (the goal here is to experience expansive soundstage without compromising the low end too much - not sure which of the two can provide that).

DAC: I’m also looking for a good DAC between $2k to $5k. I’ve been eyeing the Mytek Brooklyn, Denafrips Venus and the PS Audio Direct Stream!

Your insight will be very much appreciated.

Thanks in advance

The Stellia are the safer bet.

While I remain a big fan of the HD820 for my own listening, either there’s something going on with the way they seal for a higher proportion of people than normal - or there’s a lot of griping stemming from other causes (maybe people wanting a 100% identical sounding closed version of the HD800 and being upset that they didn’t get that).

I have no issues with the HD820 sealing at all, but for those that do the signature becomes wonky and odd. They’re a non-starter if you wear glasses, and probably iffy if you have thicker/longer hair.

The Stellia are not fussy in that regard at all.

As to how they pair with the Utopia … if you like what the Utopia does, then the Stellia are a more “fun” tuning (particularly in the bass region) with similar (if not quite as good in places) technicalities. I can see a lot of people trying both and going with the Stellia simply because they like more bass and don’t want to deal with EQ. That the Stellia also provide isolation … they’re a better candidate for a “I can only have one headphone” situation.

I can’t comment on the ADX5000.

Headphones that should do what you want are the HD800S and the Abyss AB-1266 Phi CC (not heard the TC yet). The ADX5000 may, but generally to get really good stage you need to be looking at angled drivers that sit off the ear and fire back towards it from an enclosure big enough to involve interactions with the pinnae.

The HD800S are a pretty neutral tuning, so the standard bass levels are “correct” (it’s more prominent than, say, the HD800), but if you want elevated bass at all then you’ll be needing to EQ them.

Other possibilities are the MySphere 3.x and the RAAL SR1a … which I can’t comment on beyond the theory at this point as I don’t have either on hand yet (pending).

DACs to consider in the ~$2-5K range should include the Chord Qutest, Matrix X-Sabre Pro (w/ MQA if that’s your thing - there’s a cheaper version if not), Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2, iFi Pro iDSD, both versions of the PS Audio DirectStream and the Hugo 2 TT. And if you want/like NOS, then the Holo Audio Spring DAC and Metrum Pavane should also be on the list (which can both be made more flexible by pairing them with HQPlayer).

Some others will probably come to mind later … but the above I’ve all heard properly.

I’ve not heard the DENAFRIPS Venus, but I did review the Ares and the Pontus, and while they were interesting devices I didn’t think either one was particularly good for the money. The biggest problem with the DENAFRIPS stuff is that they’re an “all sales final” deal with no return policy and no way to audition the units ahead of committing to a purchase (unless you can find someone that owns one).

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First of all, thank you very much for the help @Torq - you’re a 5-star contributor to this industry/hobby!

I’ve looked at the options you shared for DACs, which is my priority now, and I’ve nailed them down to 3 potential candidates due to either size (desk real estate is limited), price (north of $5k), outputs (RCA only is not ideal for me) or input/sampling rate capabilities (I listen to A LOT of DSD128 & DSD256 and I’ve some DSD512 and DSD1024 files in my music library so the ability to play those files at max rate is ideal).

Chord Qutest - RCA outputs only is a deal breaker
Schit Yggdrasil A2 - Too big and limited input capability
Metrum Pavane - Size, limited sampling rate and don’t really dig the looks
PS Audio Direct Stream - even though it was on my radar, the price and input capability turned me off.
Hugo 2 TT - Price, price, price!
Denafrips - I used to own a Terminator DAC (which I liked a lot) that I sold due to limited desk real estate but I was not aware that their sales were final so that’s a deal breaker for me.

Below is the list of the potential candidates in order of preference for aesthetics, input capability/upsampling and features:
Matrix X-Sabre Pro (MQA is a good bonus) - really like the looks and the features but I’m not sure about the ultimate performance of this unit. I’m not sure if you’ve a review out there but I’ll definitely look up for more information.
iFi Pro iDSD - like the footprint and the overall aesthetics and features. My concern is that the all the bells and whistles may have sacrificed the most important thing called performance. I will look up for impressions and reviews online.
Holo Audio Spring - dig the looks and the footprint and read your review. Great in NOS mode and garbage in everything else (not sure I want that, after spending $2k+).

As for headphones, it’s a no brainer at all:

Focal Stellia is going to be the one, my end game closed-back (for now).

They’re a non-starter if you wear glasses, and probably iffy if you have thicker/longer hair.

I don’t have to worry about having long hair because I don’t know how it feels like to have hair anymore but I’ll surely be needing some glasses in the near future so the HD 820 have been ruled out!

Other possibilities are the MySphere 3.x and the RAAL SR1a … which I can’t comment on beyond the theory at this point as I don’t have either on hand yet (pending).

I’ll wait for your reviews on the two additional options before I take the plunge on a pair of open-back headphones with great sound stage. Abyss Phi 1266 CC looks super duper weird to me so I’m not sure if that’s going to make the list.


I’ve not written a review of this yet (I think it was covered fairly well on SBAF recently though). It’s as good an ESS 9038 Pro based converter as I’ve heard though. Lots of nice, relevant, engineering touches (the internal casework is a Linn-class example of shielding and solidity). I didn’t expect to be as impressed with it as I was.

Probably the next best sounding ESS 90X8 DAC I’ve heard would be the Merging NADAC, via it’s AES67 (Ravenna) input, but that’s more than 4x the price, and I liked the Matrix better.

Given iFi’s general MO of putting tons of, often duplicate/redundant, features on things I wouldn’t be too concerned about whether they got the most of their chosen DAC configuration. It just that it might not be the best value for the level of performance on offer (if you’re not using the headphone amp and streaming capabilities).

It’s also the best reproduction of DSD I’ve heard in that price region (at the time, it was the best I’d heard period). And with the latest version I believe it will do DSD1024, as well as being probably the best available pairing for HQPlayer for advanced DSD upsampling (with the most powerful filter and noise shaping options).

The built in oversampling wasn’t great … but if done externally it was competitive with the other options in it’s realm.

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I have some Focal Elex Headphones with Utopia Pads coming soon. This is my entry into the headphone world! I’d like to find a good DAC + Amp combo that pairs well. No preference on whether or not they are separate units. My ballpark budget is $600. Any recommendations on a combo that would pair well with the Focal? Thanks!

challenge accepted

Welcome @TheSeeker.