I should mention that this is all really for my home office desk setup. So can't fit mega huge gear on this desk. Appreciate any recos!
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I recently entered the HeadFi world myself. My goal was to replicate as much as possible the sound characteristics I love about my big rig, which include; clean and detailed yet natural treble, excellent imaging and soundstage, disappear as a sound source, and overall neutrality with good tone and balanced bass. After reading many reviews I ended up with Hifiman HE400S headphones driven by an Audioquest Dragonfly Red, and I was surprised how much I got of what I was looking for. I’m finding the headphone experience to be very fun and rewarding in its own way.
If this at all sounds like what you’re looking for I’d strongly consider the Aryas. They do require some power, but I think something like the Singxer SDA-2 DAC/Amp would pair really well with them and costs under $700. Just saw the guy at audiophile-heaven review site just reviewed the SDA-2 and the Aryas were one of the ‘phones he used during the review so might be worth reading. Haven’t heard the others you listed so can’t really help there, but hope this at least gives you something to go on and best of luck in your search.
I don't think you would go wrong with any of the headphones you're considering. I have not heard the exact models you are considering, but have LCD-XC (closed back version of LCD-X), Hifiman HE-560, and Sennheiser HD800 (not HD800s). Audeze and Hifiman have a fairly similar sound signature, with Audeze being just a little warmer and maybe a little better in the bass department. The HD800 is a very "clinical" headphone, not really bright, but they can be too detailed for some. From what I've read, that was tamed down a bit in the HD800s.
So the first thing you have to consider is what kind of sound signature you like.
Then you need to think about things like comfort and amplification. Some of the Hifiman headphones can be pretty hard to drive, the HE-560s are. The HD800 is lighter and more comfortable to me than any of my Audeze or Hifiman headphones.
If you want to put together a really nice rig, take a look at Sony - MDR-Z1R headphones and the TAZH1ES amp.
Thanks! I tend to like a warmer, fuller sound but I'm still new to figuring out what all of the different sound signatures mean. But sounds like I may be drawn to the Audeze and HiFiman more with that in mind.I'd cross the Senns off the list then. Audeze might be your cup of tea. The Sony headphones I mentioned have a sound signature that is similar to Audeze, but a little more neutral. They will do bass better than most headphones, especially open backed ones. The Sony headphone amp has a great DAC in it.
I recently got a pair of RAAL-requisite SR1a’s and a Schiit Jotunheim R amp for them, with a multibit DAC card installed. These are not actually headphones, more like "earspeakers". They are exceptional and game changing audio reproduction devices. Makes a great desktop system fed by a computer.
They cost more new than your choices above, but I have seen used pairs with the Schiit amp trade in the $2500 range over the last month.
Lots of reviews that you can look at to get perspectives into them.
What do you guys hear about the RME ADI DAC 2 FS for the combo headphone amp and DAC? I think Darko has this on his setup as well.
That with the Audeze LCD-X may be the ticket.
Last year, I listened to the following headphones quite extensively:
Audeze LCD-X and LCD-2 Classic (both owned by a buddy of mine)
Hifiman Arya (I owned one until last month)
Focal Clear (still own it)
Sennheiser HD6XX (still own it)
If you ask me, all of them are amazing headphones, each with its own pros and cons. If you like warm, lush sound, with an emphasis on lower frequencies, then Audeze is your ticket. Personally, I preferred the LCD-2 Classic over the LCD-X. I don’t know how to explain it, but it just comes across as more honest and less pretentious.
Hifiman Arya is the one that won me over at first. The soundstage, resolution and speed were just amazing. However, in the long run the lack of dynamics, especially punchy and hefty bass, made me sell it, albeit very reluctantly. But to be honest, I could have happily lived with it forever.
Focal Clear was an odd one. At first, it didn’t impress because nothing stood out. But it’s one of those things that grows on you gradually. After I applied some EQ and paired it with a tube headphone amp, the Clear won me over. It is very balanced with just the right proportions when it comes to the lower frequency profile. In this regard, it sits squarely between the Arya (not enough bass) and Audeze (more emphasis on bass).
And finally, my all time favorite - Sennheiser HD6XX. I paid $200 for it, and this is one headphone that I will never sell. It is the perfect companion when you want to kick back and relax, or when you are trying to get some work done.
I have a headphone setup in my home office.
My headphone amp is a Woo Audio WA-6 which has a relatively narrow footprint.
I have 2 Drop headphones which complement each other nicely: Sennheiser HD6xx and Hifiman HE5xx. The HD6xx is dynamic and oh so smooth. The HE5xx is electrostatic with phenomenal sound stage. Each cost $220.
My Gear (for the last six years):
LCD-X / HD 700
Mjolnir (first Gen) / Valhalla 2
Gungnir Delta-Sigma with Gumby in the chain (a year or two) as well.
Water / Yukon - RCA / XLR (more recent)
LCD-X is Lush (good tone, separation of resonance) and fast.
HD 700 nice as in much better than HD 6xx series good Resolution and
my preference for GoTo and extended listening (dynamic drivers!).
LCD-x ... heavy ... shorter times but very engaging.
Don’t hesitate to try HD 800 / 800s - very detailed.
Having plenty of power is a stand out quality for me (Schiit delivers).
The Valhalla 2 sings with Water ICs, with Mjolnir and Yukon is a bit less detail (it seems) but a better DAC should prove to be better (all around).
Headphone gear shares my desktop (smallish) with Monitor / Keyboards / Router / Streamers ... a bit crowded but functional.
Look into HiFi Man latest models as well.
A component set up my prove best all around.
@fourminutesong -- Yes, Audeze are very heavy. If you plan to listen for more than an hour or so, I can tell you that you'd notice the weight. But IMO, you get used to it.
My current setup is a Node 2i >> Audio Mirror Tubadour II DAC >> Quicksilver headphone amp (tube-based) >> Focal Clear or Sennheiser HD6XX.
If you can find a used pair of Audeze LCD Classic, I say go for it. Even if you don't like it, they are easy to sell in the used market.
A very good headphone amp for $400 or $500 is the Topping A90. I compared it directly to my $3K Benchmark HPA4 and it is pretty close. Neither of those 2 are warm. However a warm DAC like the Audio Mirror Tubadour may be nice with them and give the warmth the OP is looking for. Given me a few days to test that last part out.
@fourminutesong -- given that the Audeze tilts towards warm and lush, and Mytek prioritizes a very pristine, detailed sound signature, the resulting synergy will be very balanced.
Having said that, personally, I'm not a fan of ESS/Sabre chip design. But this might be a good choice with Audeze. If I had to choose, I would go for the RME ADI-2 DAC, possibly the best value for the money with tons of features. I would never let MQA decide my choices by the way.
Thanks, @arafiq. The RME was definitely on my list. I went for the Brooklyn Bridge for now due to the extra functionality that will come in handy. I have 60 days to try it with music direct. I hear they are coming out with a newer version in July that is also a Roon Core which is interesting.
What you mention here about ESS chips is interesting. Are there chipsets you are aware of that give a warmer tonality?
I think you will be very happy with the Brooklyn Bridge and Audeze combo as they compliment each other very nicely. I only recommended RME ADI-2 because I felt it was a better value, but not necessarily better sound quality. The Brooklyn Bridge comes with a very good streamer that can work with wifi, which is a big plus.
If you're after warmer tonality, look for R2R based architectures. Or R2R + tubes + Non-oversampling if you want to go all the way. Some other chipsets that I have liked in the past are AKM (e.g. AKM 4497), or high-end Burr-Brown ones like the PCM1792.
You have already bought your DAC but I was going to suggest another marvelous DAC, streamer and headphone amp combo -- Teac NT-505. Walmart had them on sale for around $1200 I think.
But please note that at the end of the day, it's all about implementation and synergy with the rest of your gear. Brooklyn Bridge is made by a world class company and loved by many. I doubt that you will be disappointed, especially when using with Audeze. Enjoy the music!
I owed the LCD-X, HD800S, Focal Elex, Grado PS500e, Th900 all at the same time more or less, and a few others I have lost track of. The only ones I still own are the Focal Elex and the Grado PS500e.
Has have owned burson, head-amp, headroom amps, Bemchmark HDC3 (current model) and a mojo, demoed most of the woo audio line.
HD-800S: My least favorite was the HD800S. It lacks bass and sounds harsh. Very boring too. I needed to turn it up loud to hear the bass then the upper mids would shred my ears. Think older B&W speakers. Largest soundstage I have heard in a headphone.
Lcd-X. Amazing bass. Deep hard hitting and textured. I own two JL 12” subs and the bass is better on the audeze. BUT the mids are all screwed up and sound unnatural. Dips and peaks all over the place in the mids. Highs above 10k jump off a cliff. These lack the dynamic punch that Grado have a ton off.
Focal Elex: I would buy these over the ones you are looking at. Very enjoyable and “cheap” at $700. Well balanced with no real issues. Sound stage is about 60% of the HD800S’ width and about 150% of the LCD-X width. They are not hyper detailed like the HD800S but are on pair with my Thiel 2.4 speakers for detail and more detailed than the Grados.
I would take the Focal Elex over the HD800S and LCX every time. If you put a lot of value on bass give audeze a try. The focal is the most well rounded headphone I have owned. Not spectacular at anything but good at everything.
Grado PS500e: everyone needs a pair of grados. These are the best ones Grado makes. I have owned most of them and tried all most all of them. The PS500e is the best. Throw flat pads on them and they are warm and thump pretty good (not sub bass thumb). Use the stock bowls and they are open and lean like grados... they are the “horns” of the headphone world.
For amps, Honestly they pretty much sound the same.... really. Stay away from hard to drive headphones and you will not have to chase amps. I pretty much just use a mojo chord/iphone out of easy of use (don’t have to boot my computer and main system) and don’t feel like I am missing much of my main system (when I had a main headphone system anyway).