If You had to Choose Just One

I’m probably the only one that will say this, but mine would be Yamaha yh-5000–the dark horse HP in audiophilia. It’s absolutely fantastic, although it takes work to get there. It’s a technical marvel in my mind.


Thats a really difficult question. I think I’d have to go with the AB1266TC for my headphone, but its not the most comfortable. But then I think…what about listening to music on a plane…or somewhere not at home. I still think I’d have to choose no music in some situations, to have the music I enjoy most at home, so would still stick with the 1266TC.

DAC and amp are a more difficult question. If I’m deciding to go for a home based system with the 1266, then I don’t need to consider space, batteries, all in ones etc…so then its a question of budget. If I based it solely on stuff I’ve heard and know I’d probably go with my current set up, but if budget was imaginary and unlimited and I could try stuff out, I might end up on different gear.


I’m with @Nuance , I’d choose my AirPod Pro 2’s too, for the same reasons.

But then I’d also cheat, and stash a separate home setup, consisting of ZMF Caldera Open, Arctic Euphoria headphone cable, LTA Ultralinear+ amp, Mojo Audio Mystique X SE and assorted interconnect and power cables from Snake River.


Seem my thread here on StereoNet:

BTW - It’s Raal 1995 Immanis!

And to match - Aurender N200>Cen.Grand DSDAC Deluxe>Flux Lab Acoustics Dual Mentor stack.

Jeez, what is this… Mission Impossible? One solution for every possibility? Dang.
Laugh all you want, BUT there are enough situations that practically BEG for noise canceling capability that I’ve got to say (drum roll): my Denon AH-GC25NC (white). I don’t feel (though I probably do look) like a geek wearing them in public. They are, in my mind, the audio equivalent of the classic Volkswagen Beetle: simple, adequate, affordable (got mine for $99 when they were discontinued), and easy on the eyes (laugh all you want, but Ferdinand Porsche did design the Beetle, and legions of its fans think it’s “cute”). My Denons are almost as easy to drive as a crystal radio, and (given what I paid for them), if they got lost or stolen in transit, I wouldn’t have a major cow.

But this thread isn’t about one to rule them all. It’s about if you could only choose one, in a long term relationship.

My wife has AirPods Pro 2, and I fully understand why some here would choose that. Complete convenience and very customizable sound. Pretty good sound too.

My choice gives up wireless and ANC for better sound more dynamics but still emphasizes portability- something I could live with. Others can barely hear them so not as good as AirPods for others, but still considerate.

Neither choice comes close toTOTL rule them all pretentons. I also get those who want an ultimate stack and would forego convenience. Forsaking all others. If you were a lovebird and not a bonobo – like the song asks “Who do you love?”


And I love Immanis! Sweet Love :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Well I ordered a pair of the Empyrean II Sunset Boulevard. I have read the reviews and heard them myself. If these are as good as I think they are then they could very well replace my Focal Clear as my one and only choice.

Respect to anyone who chooses AirPods Pro 2 though. They are “good enough” and work in so many different situations. However I just don’t travel enough that I would choose any IEM over an over ear open back. So if I really could choose only one, the AirPods Pro 2 have to come in second. And I guess I’d just have to go for walks, go to the grocery store, and travel by air in silence. :cry:


That’s what pushed me over the edge to the APP2. No walks, runs, yard work, travel, listening sessions on summer nights in the back yard or listening at work with over-ear open backs.

On a different note, those Empy II’s are going to be sick! That headphone could be the one over-ear to rule them all (to my ears). I look forward to your full impressions.

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For me the Empyrean II is the one I choose. For sound and comfort reasons.

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For me there are times when I must have superb isolation. Like last night (7-4-2024) with all the explosives detonating in my area.

So an IEM. Nothing does isolation better than an Etymotic. So I’ll choose the ERX has my “just one” transducer.

Since it’s an IEM, a DAP or dongle DAC/amp is required. I’ll opt for my Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 as my source. So now I can take my entire local library with me anywhere I go, and stream over WiFi, too, if I want to.


I like the sound of Ety also, and audio bonobo that I am, I use it when I want isolation. But have not found an ear tip that won’t bother me after an hour of deep insertion.

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Not even the Westone tips?

When I look at actual time used, there is no competition for the AirPods Pro. Beyond serving as a great choice for noisy travel, noisy city streets, noisy offices, working with noisy tools, avoiding noisy appliances, not bothering others with my sound, and working out, there is elegance in moving around the house and between Apple devices. In my case that means phone, watch, tablet, notebook, and my Mac Mini video streamer. So, I can hear whatever I’m listening to and hand off between devices.

This is not about quality or dedicated listening time. That’d go to my most expensive setup, but it sees only 1/10th my total usage.


Every time after I used the Ety’s:




Yeah this is an interesting and fun discussion. The choice between convenience and accessibility or sticking with desktop equipment to achieve a more world class music experience.
In this case and it isn’t easy, but I gotta stick with my bigger and more substantially sized equipment for the best sound.

At this point in my audio journey I’d choose…

Headphone: Final Audio D-8000(original tuning.) for me right now there is not a better headphone on the planet. The tuning on this headphone agrees with me so much that I simply can’t live without it. That being said I have to use desktop equipment to get the most out of it.

Amp: Woo Audio WA22. With the right tubes this amp is a transformative experience and I feel the synergy between this amp and the D-8000 is absolutely incredible. The aesthetics of the WA22 are terrific to me as well. Love the tube glow at night. :blush:

DAC: Chord Qutest. This has been my reference DAC for 6 years now. I truly love it and using the RMS setting of 3 volts out into the WA22 is excellent and more than I could ever ask for. Vivid and punchy DAC that my D-8000 loves so much.

So that would be it. Be interesting down the road what will dethrone these 3 pieces of equipment for me.
All I know it is gonna take a while, especially the D-8000. That is gonna be a hard headphone to beat in my world. :grimacing:


I don’t have enough choices to make this answer worth much, but…

I’d also keep a desktop setup. I don’t travel much, years to retirement can probably be counted on one hand, don’t like headphones at the gym. For me, they’re counter-productive for house- or yard-work, as the sooner I can hear my wife telling me I’ve done it all wrong, the sooner I can start over. :grin:

So, I’d keep my Verum One 'phones and the Flux FA-10 Ltd amp run directly from the analog output (AK4493 DAC) of the Wiim Pro Plus, or via my ancient Theta DS Pro Prime 1-bit DAC. Headphone cable is Hart modular setup, though the modular part of that would be a pointless feature in this use case. Other cables (RCA) are Blue Jeans LC-1 (analog) and Blue Jeans Coax Canare L-4.5CHD (S/PDIF). Pity to say goodbye to Valhalla, but the Flux opens up a lot more possibilities for headphone upgrades down the line.

I’d plan on upgrading the source as follows:

  1. The streamer would still have an AKM DAC, so GoldNote DS-10 (4493), or Flux Atlas (4497), or Cary DMS 700 (4499), or maybe something I don’t know about yet. New streamers seem to come out every week or two. :man_shrugging:
  2. Remaining funds would go to another outboard DAC of a different topology, probably R-2R or some sort of hybrid approach (depends partially on which AKM DAC is in the streamer, as they are different topologies internally).

Convenience isn’t a factor for me, I don’t really use anything portable, I do occasionally listen while working. So it’s very much just my TOTL set up.

My favorite headphone is the MySphere 3.1, but if I could only have one I’d default to the Susvara, it’s just more comfortable, and less intrusive if I am working.

Amp would be the Egoista 845 with Elrogs, this is still the best amp (for me) that I’ve heard.
DAC, I’ll keep my Lampizator Pacific (Upgraded to Engine 11) with 242’s.
I drive that from an Optical Rendu, and there is probably room for improvement there.

I already dropped from, large collections of Amps and DAC’s with switch’s to select “flavor” to two systems, and amalgamating everything into one setup (in each location) was one of my better decisions. I still own 7 TOTL headphones, but realistically I frequently only use 3 or 4 of them. Dropping to one headphone wouldn’t really be much of a compromise.


Brain harpoons

I did own a pair of ER2er. I could tolerate them for perhaps 10 minutes before my ear canals were screaming ‘Out! NOW!’

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