AudioTools's system(s)

My Daily Driver

This is the system on my desk that I listen with while doing other things - usually work.

Apple MacBook Pro → Apple Music → EQuick EQ → Apple USB dongle → Schiit Lyr+ (SS mode) → Focal Clear

IMHO the Lyr+ is overkill and it may move back to my Focused Listening system if I ever get the tube I’ve been waiting for. I don’t use tubes on this system because I am too lazy to wait for them to warm up and I’m too cheap to run them all day when I only listen to music about 10% of the time I am at my desk.

Focused Listening

This is the system I use to relax and only listen to music. I mostly listen to progressive metal, especially Tool, so my goal is to maximize that listening experience. A sense of impact and spacious soundstage are more important to me than detail retrieval.

I use DSP, especially EQ, extensively so everything is fed from a MacBook Pro running either Apple Music → EqMac or Qobuz → Roon. From there it’s some combination of the following (in order of preference):

Schiit Bifrost 2/64 → Schiit Folkvangr → Senheiser HD800S
→ Schiit Mjolnir 3 → Audeze LCD-5
→ Hifiman HE6se V2
Schiit Modi 3+ → Cayin HA1-A MK2 → Koss x Drop ESP/95X
→ Schiit Midgard ?

I have a Monoprice Monolith THX AAA 887 amplifier that I keep around mainly as a baseline to compare to other amplifiers. I also have a Sennheiser x Drop HD6XX that I have for the same reason. Lastly I have a Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire that I bought to try a closed back. I should probably sell all of these.

Yes, I have a lot of Schiit. I wouldn’t call myself a fanboy, but their products hit the right combination of uniqueness, design, performance, and price for me. I made the mistake of listening to the Folkvangr at the Schiitr and just had to have one. I got the Mjolnir 3 because it lets me experiment with push/pull and feedback. I’ve settled to push/pull on, feedback off. The Midgard has Halo and Schiit sent me one just for measuring its effect. I do see some measurable benefit at high SPL with both the Focal Clear and the Grado SR125x headphones.

I got into tube amps a couple of years ago. The Folkvangr is an excellent match to the Sennheiser HD800S. I haven’t found one that I particularly like with the Audeze LCD-5 yet, so I usually run them off of the Mjolnir 3.

I’ve done some tube rolling, but I’m not sure how far down that rabbit hole I am prepared to go. The Cayin HA1A MK2 has Apos Ray 12AU7 input tubes. The Schiit Folkvangr has Genalex Gold Lion E88CC/6922 input tubes. Both seem like upgrades to me but it’s honestly very difficult to A/B tubes.


A few months ago I adopted a puppy who is quite content to sit outdoors all day. I decided that I needed yet another headphone system that I could use while sitting in the back yard. I started with:
iPhone → Apple Music → Qudelix 5k → Grado SR125x w/Yaxi pads
but recently decided to try an IEM:
iPhone → Apple Music → Truthear x Crinacle ZERO: RED

Future Plans

Since I really like the Sennheiser HD800S off of the Schiit Folkvangr I’m looking for a high impedance dynamic driver headphone that has better bass and/or punch. I’m thinking it’s time I added a ZMF headphone, probably the Atrium. The plan is to audition ZMF headphones at CanJam SoCal again, if I can wait that long. :grimacing:

Since the Audeze LCD-5 is just ok off of the Schiit Folkvangr and Cayin HA-1A MK2, I’m also looking at transformer coupled tube amplifiers. I tried the Ampsandsound Mogwai SE at last year’s CanJam with my LCD-5 and really like what I heard. But my time was limited, I couldn’t listen to my own music, and the price is, frankly, eye-watering to me.

Lastly I tried the Modhouse Tungsten at a local meet and was very impressed. I also like that I can pick my own colorway. However I’m not sure the Schiit Mjolnir 3 has the power to drive them properly. The plan is to try this combination at my next local meet.


I also use Apple Music as source on my iMac, but I use Soundsource for EQing. Does EQMac have any advantages in comparison to soundsource?


I use EqMac in my Focused Listening system because

  • It lets me paste in presets that are in the standard format you usually see or export from sites like Listener’s
  • It lets me visually edit the EQ on-the-fly whereas SoundSource would require an EQ plugin to do so
  • It shows up as a Zone (output) in Roon, which is handy if I am A/Bing EQ since switching Roon’s EQ presets causes a pause in the music.

I use SoundSource for my Daily Driver system because it lets me control Apple Music separately. I only want Apple Music sent to my Lyr+. Everything else goes to Airpods. I also only want Apple Music EQ’d for the Focal Clear and using an EQ plugin like EQuick, I can do that (the built-in Headphone EQ is system wide). I also like its Boost function for Zoom calls.

Sound quality should be identical as minimum phase EQ filters are straightforward and don’t require much CPU. I haven’t done an A/B between them though.


Thanks a lot for this useful information.
P.S.: Tool is also my favourite band.


Very nice systems. I envy the space. And the Folkvanger. And some of the headphones…
Curious, how much listening does the Koss eStat get?

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Admittedly not a lot. In my opinion there’s not a lot of body to the sound. Using the Cayin as a tube preamp helps in that regard, but there’s still not much punch in the bass.

Still, every once in a while I put them on and with the right music I’m just astonished. It is very tempting to try another estat next but that means also investing in an energizer.

If money was no object and I wasn’t a gadget collector (IE - if I was just in it for the music) I’d get a Warwick Bravura and be done.


Maybe I’m missing your username reference, but I can say that Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is one of my favorite albums. :sunglasses:


Wow, very well observed. The lamb lies down on broadway was my first contact with Progrock.


There is also a youtuber whose handle is raelnyc who makes videos re: progrock, especially Genesis and Yes.


I’m very new to audiophilia, so my question may be “green.” Since you’re using Apple Music, which doesn’t have an exclusive mode, and MacOS doesn’t have bitrate switching, how do you manage it? Do you just set the Audio Midi settings to the highest bitrate needed and forget it? I would like to use Apple Music, but I find myself leaning toward Tidal for its exclusive mode.

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I use lossless switcher.


Good question, but I don’t have a good answer. On my Daily Driver I don’t really care and just set both Apple Music quality and my DAC to 48 khz. On my Focused Listening system it is the main reason I use Qobuz + Roon. LosslessSwitcher works, but doesn’t switch until the song is playing so it causes a brief cut-out of the music. At least it does on my Bifrost 2/64. That would be acceptable if I mostly listened to albums, but I don’t.

I’d really like to stop paying for Qobuz and Roon. I already have Apple Music effectively for free and I find Roon’s UI frustrating for how I use it. I could use an iPad as my source but then I lose the DSP capabilities. Right now I’m just hoping Apple addresses this issue with an update to their desktop


I think that @Torq also made a little iOS widget that I use to flip Apple Music Bitrates. If he didn’t write it, he pointed it out, but I do think it was his.

I wrote one for macOS*.

I use it myself.

The one linked above works (as I recall) by watching the player log … so it is reactive (does its thing after the song changes) and could lag (I don’t know if it still does) in switching the output settings (which would result in a “glitch” during the first second or two of playback).

My implementation doesn’t have that issue, and I was going to put in on the macOS App Store, but it uses an approach that won’t certify there (private API usage).

I’ve not had the time, nor inclination to fix that. Nor to put out a notarized non-App Store build/download. And publishing the source is just an invitation for masses of messages from muggles.

*iOS doesn’t need it - it should output at the native rate, via an external DAC, without needing add-ons or widgets.


We’ve got a Cayin in the back room that I stare at pretty frequently because I remember really loving the tubey goodness out of it. But then I go to pick it up and remember that I don’t want to be lugging that thing around :joy:

Very nice setup!

Yep still does. Very annoying.

That’s probably the same one that I saw in a Resolve review :heart_eyes:. It’s why I got one eventually. I really am a sucker for equipment that has a unique design. I get so tired of black boxes!

I have to say that with my HE6se V2 or LCD-5 that the sub-bass through the Cayin HA-1A MK2 sounds a bit flatulent. I’d expect that with the power of that amp, it wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe some of the other 3 tubes need an upgrade?

Updated OP with Future Plans section.


I preorderd the DMS Project Omega yesterday. I could list all of the things I like about this project and the headphone here, but all I’d really be doing is quoting the marketing material point-by-point. I’ve also heard a pre-production model at CanJam SoCal 2023. And I’m into this hobby as much to explore as I am to assemble a Tier One system. So I feel there is little risk for me to jump in before the reviews are published.

Will it be the best sounding headphone, full stop, for $1k? Not likely. But it’s also unlikely I will regret the purchase when I know some of that price is supporting a bootstrapped project that will eventually go open source.


Thanks for sharing


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