Thanks for the input! When I originally posted the topic I meant that $3000 USD per headphone would be the maximum I’m willing to spend, not necessarily the desired amount. I definitely agree that allocating some of this budget towards an amplifier or potentially more, less-expensive headphones is tactically a good decision. I’m really just trying to figure out what I like lol. I currently only own an HD 6xx (as its the only headphone I kept). Late 2019 I purchased an Audeze LCD-X and hated its congested midrange; even though it sounded great with EQ, I still ended up selling it as I wanted something that felt more complete for the money. I have also extensively tried a friend’s Ananda and Focal Clear, which were both very enjoyable, but I still wanted something more. That’s really how I arrived here.
I’ll give you a slight variation on all the good advice you already received.
I’d suggest only upgrading your amp, listen to your 6XX on your Bifrost 2 and new amp, realize how much better that 6XX sounds with better amplification, and then come back and figure out what your next headphone should be.
Hopefully the 6XX sounds like a new headphone, in which case maybe you only want one more to complement it. And even if you want to replace the 6XX, you’ll have a better idea of what your DAC and amp will sound like as a baseline, and the forum members will also be able to give you more informed advice.
I also have the Bifrost 2 and I personally like the 6XX on a Schiit Jot 2 or the Burson Soloist 3XP but there are plenty of other very good amps out there. Both the amps I mentioned have plenty of power and will drive a whole bunch of TOTL headphones too, e.g. the ZMF Verite sounds very good on both.
Edit: And then re-listen to your friend’s Clear and Ananda on your new setup. You might find that your feeling of wanting more was actually on the amplification side, and you may end up buying one or both of those, which will save you a lot of money.
+1 to this! The 6XX scaled to the max is definitely a worthwhile experience. And as @PaisleyUnderground mentioned, you can use that upgraded dac/amp to power more high-end headphones in the future. If you jump to the headphones first without “proper equipment” you most likely won’t enjoy them as much. I was using my Verite Closed that came in recently and tried it with the built-in amp on the RME dac and…it didn’t sound very good.
I really like this idea honestly, and am glad to hear it from several others. What did you end up getting to properly accommodate the VC’s??
I have the Focal Clear Professionals (the original version) and can relate to what you say about wanting ‘something more’. I also think wanting two contrasting high-end headphones makes perfect sense - @resolve did a good video about this a while back.
Having been underwhelmed by the Clears, I have since acquired the Oppo PM-1 (a dark planar) and Sennheiser HD 800 S (a neutral-bright dynamic). They couldn’t be more different, but I find them equally satisfying and convincing, and highly complementary.
The ‘something more’ the Sennheisers offer is their incredible clarity, and sense of scale and space; the Oppos offer a weightier, more satisfying tonality, and greater separation.
Oppo’s audio division is no more, so if I were buying today, I’d probably go with the Dan Clark Ether 2, which I’ve heard several times. They’re incredibly light and comfortable, and have the same understated, beguiling character as the PM-1.
I’d personally leave any amp upgrade decisions until your impressions of your new headphones have settled and you have a clear idea what characteristics you want to curb/enhance.
A few ideas, the first four of which are fairly sensible and the last, a bit wackier.
I’m not sure the distinction between planar and dynamic is necessarily the most important one to consider. It can be for those who know their preferences very well.
Instead, I’d recommend thinking more about the kinds of listening experience you’d like to have. You mention an analytical and a warm headphone, or two natural ones. If you’re not entirely sure about your preferences, how about getting an analytical, neutral-bright one, and an easier, more forgiving warm or dark one?
If you’re not entirely sure what your preferences are, buy used and don’t spend too much money before you know exactly what you want.
Think in terms of overall setups and how well the source, amp, and headphone work together. Six grand dumped on a setup that doesn’t synergize well would be a lot of money squandered. Get the right amp to go with your BF2 and each (or both) of your headphones.
Now the wackier part, if you’ve got $6K burning a hole in your pocket (I’m great at spending other people’s money): just go hog wild and get the Raal Requisite SR1a and the Jot R. That’ll set you back $4,000 on headphones.com. Or go used: that setup goes for under $3K used.
You could then get a great amp for your HD 6XX - maybe a DNA one? - and you’d have a mellower, warmer, more forgiving second headphone.
Well if his pocket is burning he done be crispy given the wait times. I do like your suggestions.
Lots of good options presented.
Generally speaking cans come first then amp then dac but at some point how everything plays together is more important. Some people spend $$$ to max out an HD650. Scaling is a real thing.
That might simply be a dac and/or amp upgrade. A lot of people get overly focused on the headphone. You know how many used utopia for sale posts I read and see the background pics of entry level dac/amp combos driving them? Too many. I’m all for jumping in waist deep, I did it, but all the components need to be sorted.
I would put my opinion behind one good can, better amp and hooking it up to the BF2 (very good for the money) and then see what you like and don’t like. The trick will be finding an amp with the versatility to push whatever you hook up to it, or multiple amps…
You may be right regarding the distinction between planar and dynamic. Being open to many sounds and not prone to strong convictions, I think that having both is just a nice variety. I would say your statement below perfectly encompasses what I’m looking for:
how about getting an analytical, neutral-bright one, and an easier, more forgiving warm or dark one?
I listen to all genres of music, and frankly to even mention appreciating progressive metal and modal jazz simultaneously requires the right tools for the job. I really do love everything and hope to maximize my enjoyment by changing my hardware depending on the genre!
Solid articulation. I think that given all of the feedback I’ve received today I will look to purchase something like an Arya and find a versatile amp pairing. We will see how things pan out subsequently!
This is why I like this forum so much. Absolutely freakin’ brilliant response, @Tchoupitoulas
This hits the nail on the head. When @ctcotti started this thread, I wasn’t sure why. Was this an exercise? But I failed to think out of the box and address the parameters of the question.
This, @ctcotti, is the essence of the deeper question. It’s the prime directive in my everyday work as a Financial Advisor. In order to give any advice, I have to understand what’s really important to the client. Many times, the client isn’t sure themselves. It’s imperative to examine this or the entire rest of the exercise is flawed. After you understand what is important, what you want, then you can bring process to help you achieve your goal.
The above is true, and often not understood by someone taking the first steps on the journey. @PaisleyUnderground was also right, making a point about the 6xx and amplification. My usual stack is the Bifrost2 and Lyr 3. The 6xx is a headphone known to benefit from a good DAC and strong amplification. Further, it’s notorious for “scaling” — the ability to be qualitatively better with a better chain. Not all headphones do this. Finally, the HD-6xx was a great choice as your baseline headphone. It is well known and many reviewers use it as a comparison or yardstick in their reviews of other headphones.
I don’t have much advice for what to get in the over $1k category because I haven’t (yet) chosen to play in that sandbox. Too many other things to do. I will give a plug for listening to some electrostatics. I picked up a nice tube-hybrid modded STAX amp for about $1200, and am extremely pleased with @nectarsoundnet 's botique eStat headphone, the Nectar Hive. It is a great all around sound, and just gets better each time I listen. Plus the price is only 600-700 depending on if you play with pads. I still owe people here a deeper review of them, as I’d only posted initial and short time later impressions.
As I’m still a solid-state guy, I have the VCs paired with a Burson Soloist head-amp. Sounds great with all the headphones I have (especially the 6XX)! If you’re interested, you can go to the Burson Soloist thread for more info and feedback.
Hey @ctcotti how are you? What kind of music do you enjoy listening to most, what kind of things do you value more such as dynamics, staging, tonality, build quality, lows, mids, treble? Is one of a kind build important to you? Is mass produced ok? Are you a musician or have any experience with 2 channel audio?
I am curious to learn about you a little more and your overall preferences a bit as 6k is a lot to spend without knowing more than what you originally posted. Cheers
Hey Marcello! Thanks for reaching out. I am a musician who has been into Head-Fi for about 2 years now. I have not invested much money into the hobby yet, I just have been lurking and appreciating others’ impressions for what they are. I have been fortunate enough to spend time with a couple friends’ setups and in my experience, I find a headphone’s ability to delineate images in mix very captivating. Image separation is really key to my enjoyment of most genres IMO. Subsequent to that, I am pretty much an open book. I really do love most genres of music and I often dream about the idea of having “the right headphone for the album.” My goal with this investment is to find 2-3 headphones that emphatically capture the mood evoked from the genre of music. I just want to be able to geek out about the pluck of an upright bass, but also bang my head to metal from time to time. It’s a balance one must find to truly appreciate music in its totality as an artform.
I spent several months with a friend’s Ananda and enjoyed its tonality and separation qualities, but I was still looking to get more out of the experience. I am planning on getting my hands on an Arya to begin with, as it seems as if it aligns with the first half of genres I listen to very well. I am also keen to purchase a new headphone amp within the next month given the more demanding headphone tier I am entering. As for my original posting, 6000 was my maximum budget, not necessarily the amount I desired to spend. I am more looking for others’ 2 headphone setup recommendations, what they would spend 6000 dollars on if they only could own 2.
DNA Starlett is a great pairing with the HD6XX. Incredible midrange, no glare or
Veil at all.
I’ve read good reviews on the Kennerton stuff …and they have a new planar closed-back coming soon, RöGNIR.
Hi @ctcotti thanks for the great response! I think it’s good to take the journey slow as you are, my preferences in headfi changed as I grew into the journey over the last two years significantly.
What types of instruments do you play as a musician? The reason I ask is usually musicians that play certain instruments are very particular about the sound of those instruments and the tonality of the headphones for those?
I haven’t heard the Arya yet, it’s on my list, but did own the Ananda for awhile and I agree it has great tonality, imaging, and a lovely open sounding stage. The Arya should turn up those qualities a bit with a larger stage, more sub bass and a touch more treble lift (which could be good or bad depending on your preferences).
If more natural or possibly more enjoyable tonality become more important in your journey I recommend listening to the RAD-0 for a planar or a ZMF Verite Open for a dynamic driver headphone.
I think starting with the Arya as a reference isn’t necessarily a bad thing and you can compare to other headphones you audition to see what you like and don’t like.
To be honest of all the headphones I have heard the Verite Open to my ears plays the best with all genres of music (for dynamic driver headphones) where as some other headphones I felt were better at specializing in some genres. If you have a friend that has a pair I would recommend giving them a listen too. The Rad-0 also does this for a Planar magnetic headphone but does have a smaller sound stage. The Rad-0 is pretty awesome with metal too. The Empyrean provided some of the same qualities of the Rad-0 with a bit less natural sounding tonality to my ears, but a bigger stage, more sub bass which is good for lots of music but can on some tracks cause a bit of bleed into the midrange depending on the production. The He1000se is easily the best headphone I have heard for classical and orchestral music so far. So you see, I am not sure there is truly a single headphone that can accomplish every genre perfectly but that’s kinda the fun of owning multiple pairs like you said and trying different ones out and finding the right AMP/DAC to pair with them!
We are all here to help, and we all may have different preferences. The most important thing you can do is try to get the most head time you can with different gear so you can really narrow down your likes and dislikes. Stoked to have you here with us!
cries in comparably poor reading this thread
I just recently got a ZMF VO, and they look and sound superb and under $3K. I prefer them to my Utopias, HE-1000 V2, Empyrean, or LSA HP-1, and I like them as much as my Abyss Diana V2, which are a good bit more expensive; though their sound is different, I just really love both. Amp has a lot to do with it too - I use a Quicksilver Audio tube headphone amp…
If no-one else is gonna say it, I will:
You’re doing it wrong.
Take the 6k. Open a bank account with chase or whoever is offering bonus cash. Get a linked debit card, set up PayPal on it.
Start watching the used forums here, on head-fi and on Reddit.
Buy things that have a lot of reviews. Listen, read the reviews and figure out what you like, who else is similar, and then look at what they recommend.
Sell all that stuff you just bought. Buy different stuff, better stuff, stuff you’ve heard reviewers you trust rave about.
Sell most of that stuff. Keep the pieces you loved.
TLDR: waste some money on shipping and resale loss to zero in on what you like.
Be happier, have less doubts and what if’s, and be entertained while seeking out the stuff you love.
(Or, 1 pair Koss porta pros, 1 large check made out to mfadio. )
I appreciate the hospitality! I am stoked to be here! Answering your question regarding instruments, I mostly play the guitar, but also enjoy the piano, bass, and modular synthesizers. Particularly, the RAD-0’s have piqued my interest immensely. I really admire Alex’s vision for the company and craftsmanship. I can’t remember who said it but someone else here on the forum put it well by describing them as what the LCD-X’s were trying to be: an extremely palatable frequency response with a technically capable beast of a driver. As I mentioned earlier, I owned a pair of LCD-X’s and sold them out of despise for the feeling of owning an unrefined set of cans. When EQ’d, they sounded epic of course, yet still unrefined and unfinished. I am really keen to try some RAD-0’s, as they seem to be the much more complete and robust package. As for the Vertie, they are something I haven’t considered as much yet because I really wanted to acquire a good planar first; they do look better than any other headphones on the market though. Thanks again for all of the help!