Recommended Gear

For sure. Thanks for posting.

Hopefully some of our ‘senior’ members chime in with their recommendations.

2 Likes

Great recommendations!

I like how you balance out specific qualities of the components you grouped. Your priority of synergy is evidenced by that.

There’s a few products that you listed that have been on my own “wish list” for some time now! The cool part is you have them paired with components I’m not familiar with, but I look forward to learning about.

Thanks again.

1 Like

Entry Level…

  • Sennheiser 6XX ($220) - Not for me but is a solid all start until you jump to the Mid / High tier (and the Amp choice helps)
  • E-MU Teak ($350) - Closed Headphone to pair with the 6XX, great low end. Less in areas the 6XX is strong, strong in areas the 6XX is weaker.
  • iFi Drop DAC/CAN ($250) - Burr Brown DAC with an amp that can be tuned to give the 6XX a little more oomph when desired.
  • Use the remaining $180 to maybe get some 4.4mm cables to use the balanced output on the iFi.
3 Likes

Nice. That’s actually a stack I’d buy. Burr Brown is butter…

3 Likes

If you need to scrape off some more dollars, as a similar Tier 4 starter system (which I still enjoy very much), you can also opt for:

HD6XX > JDS Labs Atom > Topping D10 (or D30). Total price $400

5 Likes

I guess one could suggest those instead, but I’d rather suggest gear that sounds good.

2 Likes

Ok, I just reread the above, and I didn’t mean it to sound that way. What I am trying to say is that those items didn’t hit me as being particularly great matches or synergies with anything really. I found them to be serviceable, average sounding, and affordable. Exactly what they were meant to be. But not uniquely synergistic which was the goal of my original recommendation.

3 Likes

LOL, the D10 + Atom is my main set up at home (using the DT1990 pro though). I will be adding a Modi and Magni Heresy soon, so I will get to compare.

I guess everyone has their own tastes which is what is great about audio, as long as you like it, there is no wrong.

3 Likes

Software:

your Android onboard Audio is crap. At least it is not ideal compared to a audio spezialised DAP, for example. You will need to bypass the internal Android audio system, if you want to use a external DAC or DAC/Amp.
USB Audio Player Pro for Android devices - is around 7(add another 5 to unlock mqa) bucks and very usefull/ for me without alternatives, if I want to use a Android device as source for my own FLACs, Streaming Tidal(full mqa unfold with ext. DAC), Qobuz(dark mode) or online radio like radioparadise.
since years, there are updates on a weekly basis and include new services, new hardware or bugfixes

Tier 4

Koss KSC 75s or Porta Pro - both with Yaxi pads - both stay under 50 bucks and are a good start
The 75s are a bit wider and airy while the Porta Pro is still wide and a touch warm
The 75s drivers are different vs the PP and provide a higher resolution

for a sub 100 Bluetooth dongle I can recommend the Earstudio ES 100 and the Fiio BTR3
while the ES100 is more power, provides even balanced hf out and has physical buttons for all controls and a fantastic app, which got many updates(firmware and functions) the BTR3 pairs better with brighter sounding headphones and IEMs.

The Sennheiser Massdrop collaboration brought us the 58x, which is easy to drive and does not change much with the source - so it´s a sub 200 solution for these without a DAP, DAC/Amp
it does not scale as much as the legendary HD650 or 600

Tier 3

my office combination is simple: ifi xDSD > ifi OTG cable > custom balanced cable > Focal Elegia - out of phone or tablet with USB Audio Player Pro Android App(Tidal mqa unfold and Qobuz dark mode, …)

it´s sub 1k, if you are lucky, like me and the synergy is perfect for my preferences

you get a nice Burr Brown implementation, with enough power for most modern easy to drive over Ear headphones
the sound option xBASS+, which is analog and no dsp, is very subtle and helps the Elegia with some songs. It brings the Elegia maybe a touch closer to the Dan Clark Audio AOC2 in the low end.
I did audition the DCA and did use the xDSD with/without the xBASS+ on both headphones.

the Elegia is hard to beat for long time comfort and sound + quite open for a closed back
the xDSD brings also the best Bluetooth implementation I know(tried the Fiio Q5) and the optical/coax digital in as added DAC inputs to the USB in

the synergy between Sennheiser HD650/6xx and the ifi xDSD is not there - what I had to learn over the last days
one could add the ifi xCAN for way more power and the new xBASS+ 2 option.
So you could choose to add Bass, push the mids presence or both.

the synergy between Beyerdynamic DT 1990s (analytical pads) and the ifi xDSD is phenomenal, for my preferences with some music. I know it´s not really respected among most audiophiles, though I love it from time to time on shorter listening sessions

the last but not least, is the Tin Hifi T4 IEM with balanced cable out of the ifi xDSD is very good synergy wise and again the xBASS+ helps the T4 with some songs - here you have a top synergy under 500 bucks

Tier 2

RME ADI 2 DAC fs (4493) > THX AAA 789 > balanced cable > HD 650/6xx - synergy is good enough
this combination won so mutch more in many ways over the ifi xDSD.
I am not used to the 6xx yet. It´s neutral warm represantion was to thick out of the xDSD.
I am going to edit this part after some more time with the 6xx

RME ADI 2 DAC fs (4493) > THX AAA 789 > custom balanced cable > custom balanced adapter > Focal Elegia
the Synergy is great and I miss absolutely nothing - this is used on the sofa, on most evenings for a few hours, while cuddling with wife and the dog - prefer not to use a open back in a seperate listening room.

I have linked some official threads and reviews in the text
The best review I re-read was this one: iFi Audio xDSD by David @pennstac

6 Likes

Holding my thoughts here for a bit …

Mostly because I tend to think of “entry level”, at a component level, as being <$200, maybe even <$100 lately.

Even among self-described audio enthusiasts, $1,000 isn’t that common for a system, let alone a single component. And $2,000 isn’t even remotely “high end” in the grand scheme of things.

Which is not to say I disagree with what’s been posted so far.

4 Likes

It’s definitely difficult to pin down price brackets since everyone’s cost ranges vary. I just used the Community Preview Program as a guide, but I feel I should have added a lower tier.

I’m glad members have gone ahead and posted recommendations in that bracket, as it can be a popular one.

2 Likes

Joshua Valour posted a headphone price survey recently (“Community” tab). Relatively few of his viewers own headphones over $500. Only 10% paid over $1,000 – with 6.9K responses.

9 Likes

Price brackets are also obscured when interpreting “value”. Is a $3k amp a good value, is a $500 headphone a good value?

Examples:

I got Vanatoo T0s for my desk, lower tier based on price but upper tier based on value.

Got a micro iDSD BL, fairly expensive for a portable amp but massive value for what they allow me to do.

I have what I hope to be for me an endgame tube amp coming. Price was 2k, big $$$; however, the next step up in amps that this company makes is 3k, for probably at best modest gains and most assuredly not a 50% better amp based on a 50% price increase. So even in this instance the $2000 amp is still a value - at least that is what I am telling my bank account!!!

2 Likes

I’ll put down the Drop Sennheiser HD58X as a solid entry level recommendation, especially if you’re willing to remove the front foam. It deftly walks the line between an audiophile and a consumer-friendly sound signature, isn’t too picky about sources, is relatively cheap to buy, and has typically good Sennheiser build quality. Since it’s lightweight and has fairly spacious oval earpads, most people should find it comfortable (after adjusting the clamp).

4 Likes

Koss PortaPro
TL;DR: Everyone should have a pair.

Price Tier: 4 (sub 100) :stuck_out_tongue:

They are not the best built headphones ever, and for the price, you would not expect them to be. If they get lost or break, the biggest hit you have to take is a sentimental one.

However, they are comfortable! As someone who is useless as a human without his pair of glasses, a remarkable feat. Engineers and designers at various headphone manufacturers tend to not take frames into considerations when designing headphones.

Sound is just stunning.
In an era where everyone listens to music on cheap earbuds, Koss demonstrates in a spectecular fashion cheap does not rule out good. Not a bassheads-delight, but a well executed low end. Not treble murder, tapered down to be smooth.

Probably the only downside is the lack of isolation.

8 Likes

I love mine! One of the most underrated headphones, well not on this forum!

4 Likes

Well you’ll hear no arguments from me…

3 Likes

PF: Interesting comments. I believe you’ll discover that accuracy/neutrality (in a transducer/‘can’) is a must for music appreciation/interpretation.

Indeed, although the oft heard “as artist intended” is rather ambiguous, tonal accuracy is essential/first step in enjoying the distinctions in every recorded song/album. The capability of gear to honestly (accurately) replicate the sound/music as originally recorded can be ascertained when/if our equipment changes tonality/brightness (or ‘dullness’) from recording-to-recording. If we experience such distinctions in recording quality, the chances of enjoying the record/album/song is amplified considerably.

For example, if I’m listening to an early Stone’s album, I want to hear the era’s technology (or lack thereof) as it does represent authenticity. Many Rolling Stones songs are anything but “warm, or fluid” and that’s what I wish to hear. Accuracy is authenticity. Although we don’t know anything about the original recording -what it sounded like at the mixing booth- we can surmise that if our gear represents it for what it is, I.e. ‘bright’, dull, compressed, ‘bassy’, etc., chances are we are closer to how the music was recorded, as opposed to equipment that replays everything with a ‘warm, fluid/musical’ presentation as surely this suggest a highly ‘colored’ (coloration) sound.

pj

2 Likes

I believe that after 20+ years in audio and the headphone hobby and appreciating music for that entire time, that if i haven’t discovered this holy truth of yours by now, that I probably never will.

The issue I take with your arguments is a fundamental one. All audio equipment provides an interpretation of the music, starting with the equipment the engineer used to mix and master the album, all the way to the gear consumers use. None of it is perfect, and none of it is accurate at reproducing sound “honestly (accurately)”. Further, unless we were there when an album was recorded, and know for sure what the original sound was, that saying you know what the artist intended is a complete farce.

So, if everything is an interpretation, I prefer the kind that sound the most enjoyable to me and my ears. That may mean it doesn’t measure well, or that it might have some distortion to it, or is even completely colored.

So, I don’t fault you for having opinions and preferences. We all do, and they are all different. But your entire post seems rather unaccepting of my preferences or opinions, and also seem to insinuate that they are wrong. It also seems rather condescending.

When we were talking about creating this thread, I mentioned that it should be restricted to recommendations only - discussion should be kept out of it. You post, and my reply are exactly why. Perhaps a moderator could move both to the trash can where they belong, or at least to the off-topic thread.

14 Likes

Lol. Waaay to serious. Chill.

pj

1 Like