What are you upgrading?

Pretty simple, just want to hear what you guys are happy with and what you want to upgrade and why.

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Happy with:

  • Standard quality audio sources. Many recordings were never great from the start…just can’t hear better than CD/Red Book or modern high quality compressed files (i.e., blind testing).

  • Amps: I’m happy with one decent solid state and one decent tube amp.


  • DACs: some are too bright, detailed, or exaggerate certain characteristics. I’m upgrading / building a set to pair with different sources and headphones.

  • Headphones: the most important item for quality, each serves different needs, and my mobile products routinely wear out (or get broken). I maintain a moderate quality mobile fleet, and a higher quality home/stationary fleet.

headphones. Going from the DT-880’s to the DT-1990’s. I’ve experimented with some other phones but the style and presentation of the BeyerDynamics keep calling me back. The 880’s are nice but I’m looking for the next step up.

For context, I run an HD800S with Campfire Andromedas on a JDS Element. Understandably, I’m happy with the headphones and IEMs.

The Element is transparent and neutral, and the low OI makes it feel warm with the Andros, which I quite like. So I’ve been considering grabbing something that’s warmer and punchier for the HD800S. A Bottlehead Crack with a Speedball, perhaps? The DIY nature is appealing, and with some effort, the looks are too:


If anyone has any thoughts on the HD800(S) pairing with the Crack+Speedball, let me know!

I’m also considering delving into the world of home theater. These aren’t headphones, but I’m drooling over the KEF LS50 Wireless / (review) speakers.


My goal is to have a personal end game for every category that is useful to me:

Open back: HD6xx (next on my wish list)

Closed back: Meze 99 Classic (on my wish list)

Mixing & Mastering: M50X (I own)

Wireless: Beoplay H9i (I own)

Wireless IEM: AirPods (I own)

Aviation Headsets: Bose A20 (I own)

Ill have everything by the end of the year and after that then im essentially on cruise control with this hobby.

Then I will get into DAC and Amplifier terriotry.


I’m hoping before the end of 2018 to pick up a DAC that I can call end game. I’m just waffling hard on spring dac/benchmark 3/mytek brooklyn. Hopefully I get the chance to play with them in person at some point.

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I am upgrading some of my DAPs. Been using a variety but sold many and stayed with just Fiio for a bit. Have the X5iii, X3iii and X3ii. Just sold the X3iii and now getting the new Shanling M0 and Cayin N5ii. I love the sound of the X5 band X3s but need a smaller footprint to carry around. M0 fits that nicely. N5ii is to expand on what the X5 can deliver. I have them in transit to me and should get in the next couple days. It’s great to try out new equipment and hear the different signatures.

Maybe something to consider actually lower than the prices of the ones you are looking at. New Matrix X-Sabre Pro . It has the ES . 9038 Pro D/A chip . Supposed to be even better than the ES9028 which as I recall is in the Brooklyn and the Benchmark.
I can tell you the Original Matrix X-Sabre I owned and wished I had never gotten rid of.
Now the more I read about it the closer I am getting to owning it. (Oh No! Not Again!) :scream:
Oh yes the new Matrix is only $1699 . Compared to the models you mentioned this is a lot less $$$$
Here’s a link if your interested: http://matrix-digi.com/en/index.html . "Happy Listening whatever you decide. Let us know and maybe some kind of review.

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I have a bottlehead crack with speed ball on order hopefully get it in the next couple weeks. I also have the HD800 I’ll try and do a review of the two one I complete the build. I also love my JDS labs The Element, I actually pair it with the El DAC. I’m looking into customizing the poo out of the Crack when I get it.

I bought the Benchmark DAC3 last year. It is a wonderful unit. Sounds fantastic. Clean, clear just neutral in the best sense. I listen to a lot of classical and this unit offers the best string tone I’ve heard. It also functions as a beautifully sounding pre amp for my amp and speakers as well as my keyboards. Has an all metal remote and a myriad of connections both in and out. Plus it’s small. If you register it you get a 5 yr warranty. Forgot to mention it does a great job separating instruments in complex passages.

Interestingly the ES9028PRO and ES9038PRO were launched at the same time and there are very few differences between them. The 38 has slightly higher dynamic range and slightly less THD, but the numbers on both units are probably way outside the realm of human appreciability.

Well, I’m upgrading everything.

I’ve got a pretty basic setup with a SoundBlaster ZxR sound card, Beyerdynamic DT770 250 ohms that I use for gaming and movies, and a Bravo Audio V2 that I use some times when I listen to music.

Recently I was A/B-testing some gaming headsets with my ZxR/DT770, and realized that my setup sounded much better. I knew my setup was far from exceptional, so I thought “If my setup is this much better than normal gaming headsets, I wonder how much better it can get if I put some actual money into this”. And here I am - still in the research phase, but getting closer to upgrading.

Initially was planning to get a good mid-fi setup and use it to buy and try a bunch of headphones, so I could figure out exactly what I like in a headphone before I buy something more expensive. What I had in mind was either the Audio-GD NFB 11.28 or R2R 11 or the Topping DX7s. Maybe a Little Dot tube amp to upgrade the Bravo V2.

But then I started thinking that I might as well go all in and buy something really good to begin with - and I’m going to CanJam in London in July, so I will get the opportunity to try some really great gear there. I don’t know. Either way I don’t think I’ll go all in before I’ve been to CanJam. But that ADI-2 looks so great And the Beyer DT1990. And the Audeze LCD-2. And MrSpeakers Aeon Flow.

Oh, but I’ve got the Sennheiser HD650 in the mail - can’t wait to try that one out for real.

I follow the mid-fi trial approach with supporting gear (amps, DACs, cables, etc). Headphones are the majority of the equation–in terms of comfort, sound profile, weight, portability, etc. Also, you’ll find your own auditory limits as you take out the weakest links and use blind testing.

Today’s “mid-fi” is better than the best “high-fi” of a few decades ago. IMO, mid-fi is a marketing term that’s as much about cost as absolute performance. Mid-fi is better than many people’s physical limits. I personally put 75% to 80% of my budget into headphones.

I also have a Bravo V2, and it’ll sound fine until you hear something cleaner. There’s a huge jump in clarity with the Massdrop CTH amp ($250), or a $100 solid-state amp/DAC such as the Fiio Alpen 2 or AudioQuest Dragonfly (and its many cheaper clones).

You must try before you will know. Some love a warm, neutral, or bright profile. And each product will either feel good to you or it won’t. There are obvious differences between sub $500 headphones (HD650s) and $500-$1,000 headphones once you try them. But is it worth it TO YOU?

Note that the Sennheiser 600 family (HD600, HD650, HD6xx) is extremely amp sensitive. They sound mediocre with a weak source, but really shine with a good tube amp (e.g., Massdrop CTH).

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Thanks for the advice.

Yeah, I do plan on spending most of my budget on headphones, I just want to be sure I have something that can drive them first.

And I’m really looking forward to trying different headphones. It seems like the most wonderful rabbit hole ever.

I have a pair of the meze 99s with original pads (the actually good sounding ones) that I’m trying to sell if you are interested @Michaelc136

Hey, Sadly im not ready to purchase yet but I will bookmark this and contact you when I am!

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My strategy is to buy products with different functions – and that you are still likely to use in the future. For example, I’ve purchased low-cost mobile amp/DACs knowing that I’ll get a better home unit. And they can be used for travel or left in a office for convenience.

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I am hoping to upgrade to a better Amp. I would like one with lots of power and which will complement my HD605’s and HD800’s.

There are so many about and it’s a difficult choice though I am leaning towards a bottlhead crack.

I use the JDS Labs Element and it works really well, plenty of room to blow your eardrums out with both the HD650 and HD800. I also have a Bottlehead Crack w/speedball on order and the Massdrop CTH on the way. I’m pretty happy with my current line up of headphones, so now I want to start “rolling” amps/DACs lol

Thanks for your reply. I too am happy headphone wise. I also am looking to get my Dac/amps sorted. The element does look like a great option too. I would be really interested on your thoughts regarding the Massdrop CTH and the Bottlehead Crack, once you’ve had a good listen to both of them. Those are two I would like to have a go with myself.