The 95% Solutions

You are probably familiar with the 80-20 rule. 20% of X represents 80% of your you name it.
20% of internetters represent 80% of flames
20% of clients represent 80% of profits. And so on

Slightly less known is the 95-5 rule.
You can get 95% of what you want with relative ease. The last 5% is what costs - or is difficult.

The other day, I was listening and reflecting that I had a very nice 95% setup, and it made me satisfied with the price/performance.

Digital source - iPhone streaming Tidal or Radio Paradise, anything 44.1/16 uncompressed.
iFi xDSD in line out mode
Schiit Lyr 3
Massdrop HD-6xx headphones,

I’m sure there are other fine 95% solutions out there,


Android Phone or Tablet with Tidal Masters mqa unfold > OTG cable >ifi xDSD > now to the headphones…
later: line out > THX 789 (ships end of sept with SMSL SU-8 as companion)
Beyerdynamic DT 1990s, HD660s(will be sold for Ananda or T1Gen2)/58x Jubilee
DT 770s, DT 177x Go (ships end of September), Focal Elegia shipped on 15.08. - should arrive end of this month

For a few more percent, will add a tube solution in 2020 and maybe the Airist R2R DAC if available

for the last 2% would like a Chord DAC
or RME ADI 2 for the funny dancing EQ
and the SPL Phonitor for the VU-Meter waving at me
Everything in audio should have VU-Meter with glowing/pulsing backlights
OK- also for the cross over Features of both - must be a brilliant experiance and fun to play around
not to forget a dark brown Verité with balanced cables in a transport Box with handcuffs :love_you_gesture::grinning:
the moment you open the box a fog-machine gives all it has and a golden light starts pulsing


I’ve got a few permutations of these, but if I had to pick one as a standard all-arounder setup that just works, it would be Linux with PulseEffects as the source (playing FLAC CD rips as well as Google Play Music) feeding a Topping D10 via USB to a JDS Labs Atom to the Massdrop Sennheiser HD58X. I’ve got other more expensive headphones, but with and without EQ the HD58X does little wrong and is definitely the least colored/most speaker like of all my options. The DT 1990 does clarity a bit better, the LCD2C does soundstage a bit better, the ZS10 is of course much more portable, but if I’m just at the computer listening to music or watching video, the HD58X is usually my choice.


My modest little setup is simple. The 64 Audio U18t hooked upto my Pioneer XDP-300R. This setup gives me everything I want. Resolution, detail and clarity. I mostly stream through Spotify or listen to FLAC’s I’ve ripped previously.

I also connect my iems through the iFi 2.5mm thingy (brain freeze, can’t remember its name) to reduce hiss and get a blacker background. Though I aren’t sold on it yet. It seems to take something away from the sound.

Anyhow I would really like to upgrade my Dap in the future and give my U18t’s so.ething more substantial to run on though I do really like the Dap I have. A Cayin Dap would look nice in my fat little hands. But I must wait till the money tree I planted last week matures. Thos would give me a few extra percent. Though I must admit I am partial to the Sabre dac chipsets for their analytical qualities.


I’ve been doing similar calculations with my own equipment.

My 90% to 95% solution at the lowest cost:

  • Sennheiser HD 600/650/6XX (under $250)
  • Any recent desktop DAC with a fixed volume line out ($50-$100)
  • Any uncompressed 44.1/16 source
  • Balanced Sennheiser compatible 2.5 mm TRRS cable from Ebay ($25)
  • 2.5mm TRRS to XLR-4 adapter ($20)
  • Loxjie P20 ($100) – must be used in balanced mode for best performance
  • Two matched GE 5670 triple mica tubes (from Ebay $27; eliminates wooliness and clears up the high end versus the factory tubes)
  • Two socket savers for the stubby little GE tubes ($8)

My other stuff will get me to (personal opinion) 96% or 97% of the performance possible with the Focal Utopia, but at 3x the 90%+ baseline cost. By this I mean one really, really hits the point of diminishing returns somewhere around $1K to $1.5K for the combination of headphones, DAC, and amp. I’m using the THX AAA 789 amp and Elex or HE-560s in my better setup.

However–per @Torq and @TylersEclectic–nothing compares to the RAAL-requiste. One might enter the realm beyond 100% for $5K to $10K. This is akin to warp 11 in Star Trek “Captain, It’s not possible. The Enterprise is gonna blow!”


My current 95%+ is Cayin N6ii paired with me Focal Elegia(daily work setup)/Aeolus/Verite (recently been using the Vokyl Erupt, really surprised at the quality to price ratio of this set, looking forward to what others think of it at the upcoming meetup)

96-98% RME-ADI-2/Phonitor XE/BHC+SB/Ha-1aMKii or swap out the ADI-2DAC for the Airist R-2R DAC

100%+ Either Airist or RME DAC -> Vidar -> (Ha-1amkii as pre-amp currently) RAAL SR1A

All being fed a diet of either local Flac/Spotify premium/(most likely)Qobuz studio streaming


Nice to see all of the 95% solutions. In particular IEM ones, because I don’t go there.

The point of knowing about the 95% solution, is that it’s the last safety net in the rabbit hole. It’s good to be able to point them out to those on a budget and newer enthusiasts that are still learning what to listen for.

I liked the thought about the Massdrop Senn HD-58x. I’ve enjoyed my HD-580s for many years, and they can be directly driven by the iFi xDSD (and most likely by the Nano Black as well). One would think that the HD-650s are fine there, and I did too, but a year of listening to @Torq’s “just my opinions”, and the unfortunate demise of my go-to Headroom Standard solid state amp gave me the opportunity to pair it with the Schiit Lyr 3 (mid price tube hybrid amp).

And that led me to understand what @Torq was talking about. The HD-650 really doesn’t show its full capabilities until it has more power behind it than Sennheiser likes to admit. The HD-580 (and I presume the HD-600) do come out to play with a little less electron flow.

So you still get a darn good 95% solution at about $500 less with the HD-580 and DAC/AMP package. And that’s sort of the point of 95% solutions. You need to find a price/performance that is in itself pleasing.


Nah, the HD-600 really likes power too. Its requirements match the 650 and 6XX. IMO, the key to low cost performance with dynamic drivers is a balanced source. Dynamic drivers pick up and magnify any sort of defect.


Balanced source is not cheap. But there are ranges of more efficient dynamic drivers. At the entry level Grado SR-80e, for example.

Anyone have a 95% portable/transportable/on-the-go solution?


See above. Meaningful and extremely obvious improvements cost less than $200 with the Loxjie P20 and a cheap cable. The difference is clear before the tube swap.


A&K SR15/Cayin N6ii -> Andromeda/Elegia

Or phone -> Razer THX Dongle DAC -> iFi iEmatch-> Andromeda

95% solution for both lol…you could easily swap the Andromeda for a number of other IEMs, but they are my current go to for IEM use.


I get to 89%-90% with Bluetooth → FiiO Q5 balanced output → HD-600.
I get to 94.9778% with Bluetooth → FiiO Q5 balanced output → Focal Elex.

But that’s just an estimate!


I’d need to understand/specify what I’m using as my reference point for what constitutes 100% in order to properly (or at least appropriately) answer the question.

If I take @pennstac’s original posit of this being “95% of what I want” , then the 100% reference has to be defined as “the best I can achieve with what I currently own” - since I want the best (most enjoyable) reproduction I can get.

This would, of course, be VERY different to defining “95%” as “something I would be quite happy listening to, but that isn’t hitting a literal 95% of the performance/pleasure of my best rig”.

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I took it as 95% of contentment lol…which depending on the day could change minimally to drastically. If going by “what I want” well…magic :unicorn: and whiskey would have to get involved lol…maybe some rum…and electricity


It’s not easy to define super-accurately. Sometimes I want a touch more bass slam, other times I want more portability or comfort, or speed. Or something. Sometimes I WANT the ultimate most bestest reproduction possible.

Most of the time, it’s that boundary between what I want in sound and what I want to afford. I want a Phonitor, it looks really cool and sounds great. I am happy with the Lyr 3.

At this point in my life, I’m very lucky that I don’t want stuff in that rarefied audio range that starts at $20k and goes to Infinity.

  1. AIWA XP-200 CD Player from 1995
  2. iFi xCan headphone amp
  3. Massdrop HD6XX with a balanced 2.5mm cable


Welcome. I had an AIWA tape recorder from the early 90s. Not bad equipment at all.

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Welcome @InvisibleInk.

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Welcome to the forum! That looks like an amazing zen listening setup… No distractions, just music.

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Well, “contentment” would be what I have with my primary headphone rig right now. At least in the context that I am content that there’s nothing I’m aware of* that I could upgrade to that would be an audible improvement or that would be more enjoyable.

So “95%” of that would involve removing the Blu-Mk2 (M-Scaler) from the front of the chain and either stepping down one notch on the power-amp driving the SR1a, or switching out the NOS WE300B tubes in my tube amp for Takatsuki’s.

I can, and do, enjoy music, at length, with much less of course.

*I’ve auditioned much more expensive gear, especially in regard to DACs - things like the full dCS stack or a loaded MSB Select, and not found anything I like better or that I could say was an audible improvement. Very minorly different, in places, yes, but not “better”.