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DAC and Amp suggestions for flagship headphones?

Azeendeen

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Greetings,

I have recently purchased a Sony MDR-Z1R, the flagship Sony headphones. Now I am thinking, if my headphones are top tier and I can't upgrade any further, I can only upgrade my DAC/amps/source. My source will remain as Spotify premium (not Tidal, sorry I know). Leaving me with upgrading my DAC and AMP.

My current amp is the Topping L30 and my DAC is the Creative SoundblasterX G6. Where can I go from here? Just for reference, other headphones I have are the Audeze LCD2, Hifiman Edition X V2, Sennheiser HD600, and ZMF Aeolus. I do have another amp, a tube amp, the Bravo Audio V2, which I use for my Sennheisers, ZMFs and Audezes.

Thanks
 

Vini darko

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Hi I'm assuming you are using a computer as a source? Maybe try playing around with crossfeed , EQ and loudness software. The dac and amp are very good already ,within the limits Amir noted for the dac in his review.
 

asrUser

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Flagship headphones deserve better source. At least I would upgrade to balanced. You could try a Schiit Modius + Jotunheim 2. On the other hand Spotify is the tightest bottleneck.
 

LTig

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Flagship headphones deserve better source.
Nope, science tells otherwise. For example I do own a RME ADI2 PRO fs but it doesn't sound better to me than my old Edirol UA25 despite its much higher SINAD.
At least I would upgrade to balanced.
Balanced does not lead to better SQ, just to higher output voltage. It makes sense only when the current amp starts to clip at volumes which do not destroy your hearing sense.
 

Cars-N-Cans

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Keep in mind that the ”upgrades” will be for the street cred of having a SOTA system. If the DAC has very low distortion and noise and the amp has a clean response with no sensitivity to impedance, then the upgrades will do nothing for SQ as you cannot hear what imperfections are there now, so just making it better does nothing. Not that it’s wrong to upgrade, but note that you are doing it because that is the system you want.

Also, unless the tube amp is a good design with multiple stages, feedback, and good output transformers, don’t use it. Tubes have terrible linearity, and unless you like the sound of it puking distortion all over your music and having its frequency response pulled around by the headphones impedance, get a good solid-state one. Also note that generally distortion below about 45-50 dB becomes largely inaudible, so even a crap amplifier can still sound amazing. The amp is trash and the headphones or speakers that DO impact fidelity are what is making the difference.
 

fieldcar

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Take the klippel listening test. You probably won't get better than -40dB (1.00%thd). Use your score to find out how much it doesn't matter.


Though, if I were you, I would just get a different well measuring low cost DAC like the d10s just to avoid using the 3.5mm line out.

If you really want to upgrade everything, going balanced also offers better interference rejection. I had odd noises coming from my monitor and dp cables when they were near my stack's rca cables.

What everyone else said is worth a shot before you spend any money. Peace eq and hesuvi are worth checking out.
 
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Azeendeen

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Thank you, everyone, from the looks of it, upgrading my gear would have minimum impact on my listening experience. There is only so far you can spend before experiencing diminishing returns after all.

Only my music platform can make the biggest change. I'll take a look into Tidal's HiFi services.
 

asrUser

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If you use Tidal it will demand a good MQA DAC to make full use of Tidal quality. You could also try Qobuz instead.
 
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Azeendeen

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If you use Tidal it will demand a good MQA DAC to make full use of Tidal quality. You could also try Qobuz instead.
Well, I kinda just got Tidal Hifi plus :oops:. Only because I can 50% off since I am a student, so I'm paying about 4.99 pounds.

So far, listening to some tracks on master quality, I can tell they sound a bit clearer but also have better separation. I can tell differentiate between each noise. They sound less cluttered than Spotify (not saying Spotify is trash).

I will keep playing with Tidal Hifi plus until my trial ends, so far even though there is a 'SLIGHT' audio improvement, I still wanna listen to it. I heard they pay artists better compared to Spotify and I am always in support of my favorite artists. Also, people online keep saying the music recommendation algorithm is better than Spotify, and I'm interested in finding out if it is true, my music library has remained unchanged for a while and Spotify's recommendation ain't helping.

If I were to get an MQA DAC what would you recommend? If I can already hear a slight improvement in sound quality I am interested to see if I can hear more with a proper MQA DAC to use Tidal's full quality.
 

solderdude

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Z1R = 112dB/V and in the bass 117dB/V.
This means to reach impressively loud levels (120dB peak) you will only need 2V in 60ohm = 70mW.

Adding EQ or some 'coloration' and/or 'brain altering' devices like a very nice looking expensive tube amp may bring more to the table than switching streaming services or believing that MQA, balanced operation or more power (that will never be used with this headphone) can ever bring.
 

asrUser

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If I were to get an MQA DAC what would you recommend? If I can already hear a slight improvement in sound quality I am interested to see if I can hear more with a proper MQA DAC to use Tidal's full quality.
I think the Gustard X16 got a full MQA decoder. You have to listen for yourself if it improves your listening experience. If interested just buy somewhere with good return policy so you could return it just in case.

It even got a recommendation from amirm: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/gustard-x16-balanced-mqa-dac-review.17419/
And this DAC/Amp also got MQA: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...baj-a20d-2022-review-dac-headphone-amp.35882/
 
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FINFET

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Upgrading your current setting will not bring any audible improvements. But if you feel like a fancy heavy metal box with very thick audio cables to "match" your flagship headphone there's nothing wrong about it, go for it as long as you consider the spending wisely.

I'd recommend RME ADI-2 Pro or the pure DAC version. You get every following thing to the upper limit: build quality, sound quality, input/output stage specs, functionality. It will surely match any flagship headphones. You could wait for the new release of ADI-2/4 Pro SE.
 

solderdude

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I do have another amp, a tube amp, the Bravo Audio V2

If you cannot hear the poor performance of this particular amp then 'upgrading' amps will do nothing for you.
Below a link to modifications for this amp (not written by me).

Very similar to the Miridiy amp b.t.w.
 

Cars-N-Cans

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Thank you, everyone, from the looks of it, upgrading my gear would have minimum impact on my listening experience.
The only meaningful upgrade would be to use EQ. Getting the EQ just right for you can take a while, but it's well worth the effort.
I second charleski, the response of ZR1 does appear to have decent room for improvement. From what is available there seems to be a fair amount of variation in the response above 2k. To address this would require PEQ (a worthwhile investment if you don't have it yet). Getting the headphone on target would have a large (and positive) impact on its tonal quality. Far more than any other upgrade, and something just about every headphone needs, anyway. Caveat is that it can be time consuming to develop the EQ, and you need to understand how the parameters work. Still, that would be my next step if I had a set of these. From below, a quick look at some measurements show the response to have both excesses of energy around 3k and potentially 10k, and some potential suckouts in the middle, but you would have to overlay the target curve for the particular fixture in use to see how far off it is. Still, measurements in some form exist, which is a huge plus since you have a place to start in developing the EQ rather than having to do it by ear. This is doubly-so if you don't have a lot of experience with what neutral tonality sounds like.

MDR-Z1R-1024x501.jpg
 

solderdude

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The deviation from a target is easier to see with the target in the plot. ;)

MDR-Z1R-1024x459.jpg


or from Oratory:

Ora MDR-Z1R.png


This headphone sounds very good b.t.w. .... it better be for $ 2.5k
A bit too 'warm/fat' for me though.
 
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