Newbie HiFi Headphone & Amp pairing suggestions


Hi Gang,

I know headphones and headphone amp pairings are very subjective and vary person to person. Being new to the HiFi world of headphones, I've narrowed down (I think) a new headphone purchase to:

• Audeze LCD-X
• HiFiman Arya
• Sennheiser HD800S

I've not had open ear headphones before but have a relatively quiet office in the house (when the kids aren't around) and am excited to explore the HiFi headphone world. 

So, I'm curious if any of you have had any experience with the above and would make any recos either way and if so, what amp you reco pairing with it. I have a buddy who has the Viiolectric V281 and swears by it but it seems impossible to find (and quite pricey).

Lastly, is there any hope of getting a great DAC and headphone amp in the same unit or would you reco separates for longevity's sake?

Cheers
fourminutesong
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!
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 love to find an all in one amp/DAC solution to drive them to sit on my desk as well.
Thanks, soix as well. Appreciate the insights on the Arya's! I'll check out that review of the amp as well. 
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 love to find an all in one amp/DAC solution to drive them to sit on my desk as well.
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.
@fourminutesong

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.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081CWQXGD/?tag=headphonesty0420-20#customerReviews
Wow, I have found a lot of conflicting feedback on the Audeze LCD-X. Anyone here have any experience about them? Debating if I should reconsider the LCD-2 Classic or LCD-2 instead.
If you’re looking for a warmer, fuller sound the RME DAC isn’t your best option IMO. 
Appreciate that, soix,. Doesn’t look like the RME plays MQA files either. I’ve also been looking at the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge but looks like there’s a new one coming out in June that is a Roon core as well. 

Too many options.
What do you all hear about the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 as far as headphone amp and DAC go?
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.
Thanks, @arafiq and @umn 

The one drawback I've heard about the Audeze is the weight. Did you find that an issue? I've heard good things about the LCD classic.

What do you guys use for desktop DAC?
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.
Went with ordering the LCD-2Classic. Excited to get them.

What do you think of the Mytek Brooklyn Dac or Brooklyn Bridge? I need the headphone amp and a DAC so thought they may be good together. 
I use the RME ADI-2 DAC. Aside from its DAC, it can be used as a preamp. It has a headphone amplifier. A giant killer, it comes with a remote, various filters, switchable crossfeed, loudness, and EQ. 
@umn how does it sound to you? do you miss not being able to play MQA? that one is on my list too. not sure how the DAC compares to the Mytek....
@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!
Sorry that I am only getting back to you now. The Brooklyn Bridge is certainly a great unit; I hope that you enjoy it. ( To be clear, I use my RME as a dac and preamp. My amp is a tube WA-6. )
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I heard the Sennheiser 800S with an Ayre Codex (upgraded top Cardas cables) ....sounded wonderful.  The Ayre has a great DAC and amp for the phones