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HD800s DAC & SS Amp suggestions?

Deleted

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Jul 18, 2022
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My budget is ~$2000 USD

I can spend all of it on a DAC or a solid state Amp, or some DAC/SS Amp combo (can’t have tubes).

I don’t mind buying all new or reusing some of what I have.

I like the HD800s but am looking for a wider soundstage

Have
  • Schiit Modius/Lokius/Magnius
  • Drop THX 789 amp
Considered
  • Bifrost 2 (or Gungnir)/Jotunheim 2
  • RME ADI-2/SINGXER SA-1
  • Denafrips Ares II/Drop THX 789
__

I’ve been reading up a lot for the past few weeks on different DAC/amp combos for the HD 800s but it seems that I can’t quite find much info at my $2000 price point with these headphones. Most of what info/threads I can find is at half or less of that. Maybe I’m missing something? I’m new and fully admit I don’t know what I am talking about when it comes to hardware. I listen with my ears and go from there so I’m not bothered by measurements, just if it works. I can’t understand why some hardware goes from balanced input to single ended internally and then back to balanced output, but I digress. So, a bit of background and info on what I currently have should I be able to reuse it.

I started with a o2+ODAC and HD650 before the power cord started acting up if it was moved even a bit. Good excuse to upgrade so I went to the Schiit Modius and Magnius stack last year and set everything up balanced. Found it to be ok but not great. Was also suggested to try Drop’s HD8XX and use the credit to get the THX 789 amp. Well, the final tuning came out and I backed out of the drop but the amp cost more to ship back than it was worth so I have it here collecting dust. Bought the HD800s direct when it went on sale for about the same price as the HD8XX was. It’s great for most music I listen to (also balanced) but has a bit of harshness for some music. Added a Lokius to the stack for very slight tone adjustment when needed and on bypass when it’s not. I still feel like the music isn’t quite sounding how it should. It’s not as wide as I would like and the sound isn’t very natural. It’s good, but just not quite there.

I’ve been reading about how pairing the Drop THX 789 with the Denafrips Ares II DAC will provide a more natural, tube like sound, but through an amp that is analytical for a more rounded experience. I dunno, I’ve also read that the HDV820 is good from one source and that it’s hot garbage from another. Topping A90D/D90SE is another controversial one, but that seems to be close to the THX 789 anyway. RME’s ADI-2 DAC FS and SINGXER SA-1 was a front runner, but it seems the ADI-2 may not be the best match over the Ares II for the HD800s despite the (I think it’s 7 band now) PEQ. Tube amps keep being suggested for these headphones, but I am not allowed to have tubes at all. So, solid state it is. The Ares II is suppose to give a more tube like sound, but the amp is from Drop… The Bifrost 2 DAC and Jotunheim 2 amp seem to be a good upgrade, but I can’t help but to feel that it’s a small upgrade from the Modius/Lokius/Magnius stack I am currently using.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks
 

jhaider

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If you’re willing to pay way under amp budget but too much for a damn cable, Quedlix 5k + 2.5mm balanced cable. Otherwise RME. I’ve used both with my HD800 (including using Quedlix as front end for a Monoprice THX 887) and do prefer (and currently use) RME due to the loudness compensation. Even though the super long HD800 cable 1/4” jack really looks stupid plugged into the shallow ADI 2. Both are better than all the other alternatives known to me.

The others you list are comparative trash for these headphones - no PEQ a user can deploy to fix the off tonal balance.
 
Last edited:

mcgo

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Nov 29, 2018
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Get the RME. You can always add an amp to it later. I use the RME -> XLR -> Violectric V280 balanced with my HD800. No EQ. Fantastic!

I reterminated an original TRS HD800 cable with Neutrik XLR4 since it was the most economical method. Used Silver Solder. Could have trimmed the length down a tad but decided not to. I have the excess rolled up with premium thick black Velcro so its not an issue.

Been listening to a lot of reel to reel rips lately. I really enjoy DSD in general and the RME (AKM version) does a great job!
 
OP
D

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Jul 18, 2022
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Get the RME. You can always add an amp to it later. I use the RME -> XLR -> Violectric V280 balanced with my HD800. No EQ. Fantastic!

I reterminated an original TRS HD800 cable with Neutrik XLR4 since it was the most economical method. Used Silver Solder. Could have trimmed the length down a tad but decided not to. I have the excess rolled up with premium thick black Velcro so its not an issue.

Been listening to a lot of reel to reel rips lately. I really enjoy DSD in general and the RME (AKM version) does a great job!
Found an RME and Ares II to test out. I’ve been told I may end up getting both, different DACs for different tracks, as they may end up sounding quite different and better suited for different tasks. The V280 seems like a nice match to the HD800s. I guess the amp is the real key to getting the most of these headphones, or so I’ve been told. Borrowing a GS-X mini to try the HD800s on with these DACs, and against the THX 789 and I suppose Magnius. I have a feeling my budget may be shot…

On a side note, I can’t believe the difference in sound quality the Magnius has between (volume matched) high and low gain settings. What an improvement switching it to high gain had even though I had so much headroom left in low gain.
 
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