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My endgame plan

Tricky

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Hello everyone,

I finally chose which headphones are going to be my endgames and want some insights into the electronics or possible mistakes I'm making.

I'm planning to own both the Hifiman HE1000 v2 (already ordered with the latest sales at 1300€ brand new) and the Meze Empyrean. Why those two? Because they're quite opposite in terms of signature, the Hifiman is airy, and detailed to the max with an amazing soundstage while the Meze is warm, with less detail so less fatiguing and easier on the source.

With those two headphones, I was planning for the amp, and as usual when I try to look for an amp I was a bit lost between the variety of beliefs that everyone has, so I rode as many articles I could from https://nwavguy.blogspot.com (took me some time) about electronics. And what I learned is :

- Neutrality and transparency are what you should aim for an amp
- "Colored" amp is snake oil since it means that it has distortion and even if that distortion pairs well with one specific headphone, it may sound bad with others and you can achieve the same result with EQ.
- What matters in amp/headphones matching is power and impedance
- A Dac should be neutral (like the amp, EQ can be used for the coloring to suit your taste)
- You don't need to spend a ton to get something good, but spending more can increase reliability, materials quality, and aesthetics.
- The difference that some can hear between two perfectly neutral electronics or between things like cables are mostly bias.

Still, even after reading I still had some questions :

- I heard that tube Amp can improve soundstage, true or bias?
- What is the strength of a tube amp?
- Tube amp and planar don't match for power/impedance reasons, is there anything else?
- What do I win between a topping A90D and the Violectric HPA V550 pro? Both are recommended and seems to be perfect but are quite different in terms of price

And following all this, what is the perfect desktop dac/amp (intagrated or stack) for that headphones combo? I already have the Topping EX5 and after asking, it seems it should be enough for the HE1000 but is it good enough but can be upgraded or is it clearly sufficient with no need for any upgrade, and is it a good choice for the Meze as well?

I know it's quite a long one, but I don't want to make a mistake at that kind of price. Thanks in advance for those that took the time to read this and/or answer!
 

ThatGuyYouKnow

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Consider saving a lot of money and getting a Topping E70/L70 combo. Top-class performance/transparency, good reliability, good features and good engineering without all the excess crap seen on some of the more expensive DACs/amps.
 

muslhead

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I would insure you have dsp somewhere in your chain. The HE1Kse are known for their brightness. Maybe thats your thing. if not and it bothers you as much as it did me, its either dsp or find a retailer with a liberal return policy
 
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Tricky

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I would insure you have dsp somewhere in your chain. The HE1Kse are known for their brightness. Maybe thats your thing. if not and it bothers you as much as it did me, its either dsp or find a retailer with a liberal return policy
Since the source is my phone or computer, is it really useful to get an external one? I'm not very familiar with dsp so I can be totally wrong but isn't it a post processing module that can have presets to change the sound? If it is wouldn't be able to do so in the eq?

I'm honestly asking since I'm no expert at all.
 

Robbo99999

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Hello everyone,

I finally chose which headphones are going to be my endgames and want some insights into the electronics or possible mistakes I'm making.

I'm planning to own both the Hifiman HE1000 v2 (already ordered with the latest sales at 1300€ brand new) and the Meze Empyrean. Why those two? Because they're quite opposite in terms of signature, the Hifiman is airy, and detailed to the max with an amazing soundstage while the Meze is warm, with less detail so less fatiguing and easier on the source.

With those two headphones, I was planning for the amp, and as usual when I try to look for an amp I was a bit lost between the variety of beliefs that everyone has, so I rode as many articles I could from https://nwavguy.blogspot.com (took me some time) about electronics. And what I learned is :

- Neutrality and transparency are what you should aim for an amp
- "Colored" amp is snake oil since it means that it has distortion and even if that distortion pairs well with one specific headphone, it may sound bad with others and you can achieve the same result with EQ.
- What matters in amp/headphones matching is power and impedance
- A Dac should be neutral (like the amp, EQ can be used for the coloring to suit your taste)
- You don't need to spend a ton to get something good, but spending more can increase reliability, materials quality, and aesthetics.
- The difference that some can hear between two perfectly neutral electronics or between things like cables are mostly bias.

Still, even after reading I still had some questions :

- I heard that tube Amp can improve soundstage, true or bias?
- What is the strength of a tube amp?
- Tube amp and planar don't match for power/impedance reasons, is there anything else?
- What do I win between a topping A90D and the Violectric HPA V550 pro? Both are recommended and seems to be perfect but are quite different in terms of price

And following all this, what is the perfect desktop dac/amp (intagrated or stack) for that headphones combo? I already have the Topping EX5 and after asking, it seems it should be enough for the HE1000 but is it good enough but can be upgraded or is it clearly sufficient with no need for any upgrade, and is it a good choice for the Meze as well?

I know it's quite a long one, but I don't want to make a mistake at that kind of price. Thanks in advance for those that took the time to read this and/or answer!
Just keep the Topping EX5 which will be perfectly fine for both headphones, one of the best DAC/amps you could hope to own. Tube amps shouldn't really add anything positive to your experience, only negative.
 

pablolie

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I love my JDS Labs Element 3 so much that I have 2 of them now, and may acquire a third to keep at my GF's place. Has plenty of umph for any headphone, measures well, and provides plenty of things to play with (EQ, Harmonics settings and more), if you're so inclined. I used to have more expensive headphones, but now I am totally happy with the Beyerdynamic DT1990pro and the Shure SRH1540 (and SE535 if I feel like in-ear).

The super cool thing is they keep adding fun functionality via FW upgrades. There's a good thread here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...iii-review-dac-amp.30485/page-17#post-1625751
 

muslhead

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Since the source is my phone or computer, is it really useful to get an external one? I'm not very familiar with dsp so I can be totally wrong but isn't it a post processing module that can have presets to change the sound? If it is wouldn't be able to do so in the eq?

I'm honestly asking since I'm no expert at all.
IMO it is critical.
Without the dsp those cans were unlistenable to me. The processing can be done in software or on your hardware. you will need to check to see what you will be using has the capability. It will likely be found in the phone or pc app you will be using to play your music.
I found spending that much money without a way to "tune" them to my preferences was a bad decision.
As mentioned you might get lucky and everything will be perfect and sound magical because the preference "tuning" wont be necessary
 

pablolie

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IMO it is critical.
Without the dsp those cans were unlistenable to me. The processing can be done in software or on your hardware. you will need to check to see what you will be using has the capability. It will likely be found in the phone or pc app you will be using to play your music.
I found spending that much money without a way to "tune" them to my preferences was a bad decision.
As mentioned you might get lucky and everything will be perfect and sound magical because the preference "tuning" wont be necessary

Unless the EQ is skillfully implemented in the digital domain, in my humble opinion it is undesirable because as a rule it negatively, significantly impacts other performance aspects. Sure you'll get a more linear response... at the cost of performance degradation in other important ways.

Pick the headphone that you love and works well for you, in your system. Personal preferences are never universal rules. Personally I don't like to tune equipment, I prefer for it to do what it is supposed to do out of the box - for me. Only exception is some simple room correction for me.

Especially when it comes to headphones, personal preference is everything. If I have to correct a headphone's frequency by 6dB to match my preference - fudge it, there are many choices out there that will suit my personal likes better... :)
 

ThatGuyYouKnow

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Unless the EQ is skillfully implemented in the digital domain, in my humble opinion it is undesirable because as a rule it negatively, significantly impacts other performance aspects. Sure you'll get a more linear response... at the cost of performance degradation in other important ways.

Pick the headphone that you love and works well for you, in your system. Personal preferences are never universal rules. Personally I don't like to tune equipment, I prefer for it to do what it is supposed to do out of the box - for me. Only exception is some simple room correction for me.

Especially when it comes to headphones, personal preference is everything. If I have to correct a headphone's frequency by 6dB to match my preference - fudge it, there are many choices out there that will suit my personal likes better... :)
Agreed. One should always go for the headphones that best suit them out of the box and perhaps do a little DSP tuning to achieve their personal idea of perfection. I would never, and I mean never, try to achieve an ideal sound with a high distortion tube amp; that is a rabbit hole best unventured.

And definitely do not solely rely on other people's opinions of headphones as many variables are at play. For instance, some people think the Beyerdynamic T5 3rd Gen is dog poo while I think it is liquid platinum.
 
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Tricky

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Just keep the Topping EX5 which will be perfectly fine for both headphones, one of the best DAC/amps you could hope to own. Tube amps shouldn't really add anything positive to your experience, only negative.
So you think that I wouldn't hear any improvement going for, let say for the argument, the topping A70 over the topping EX5? As for tube amp it does seem to be a bad idea.
 

Robbo99999

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So you think that I wouldn't hear any improvement going for, let say for the argument, the topping A70 over the topping EX5? As for tube amp it does seem to be a bad idea.
Yeah, I don't think you'll hear any improvement from Topping EX5 to Topping A70, so if I was you I'd just stay with your Topping EX5 and then see if you can get the headphone loud enough with the Topping EX5 (I think you will be able to). And then if you want to tune the sound then you'd apply an EQ of your choice to the Hifiman HE1000 v2. And when you EQ it, then it will make it sound quieter either through having to use a Negative Preamp or because the parametric filters are mostly negative dB filters (but either way both are the same thing) - so yeah that will mean you'll need to turn the volume up on the EX5 when you EQ vs when you listen to it with no EQ......but I'm thinking the EX5 would still be powerful enough with EQ on your HE1000v2......so just try the EX5 first before you bother buying any more powerful amps. That would be my approach.
 

charleski

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Unless the EQ is skillfully implemented in the digital domain, in my humble opinion it is undesirable because as a rule it negatively, significantly impacts other performance aspects.
I doubt anyone here is still using analog multi-band graphic equalisers... Any EQ should be led by measurement and you can't fix non-minimum-phase errors like reflection cancellations. But while the wrong EQ can screw up the frequency response in the same way that the right one can fix it, I'm not sure what these "other performance aspects" are.
 
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Tricky

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Yeah, I don't think you'll hear any improvement from Topping EX5 to Topping A70, so if I was you I'd just stay with your Topping EX5 and then see if you can get the headphone loud enough with the Topping EX5 (I think you will be able to). And then if you want to tune the sound then you'd apply an EQ of your choice to the Hifiman HE1000 v2. And when you EQ it, then it will make it sound quieter either through having to use a Negative Preamp or because the parametric filters are mostly negative dB filters (but either way both are the same thing) - so yeah that will mean you'll need to turn the volume up on the EX5 when you EQ vs when you listen to it with no EQ......but I'm thinking the EX5 would still be powerful enough with EQ on your HE1000v2......so just try the EX5 first before you bother buying any more powerful amps. That would be my approach.
Seems to be the reasonable option, thanks a lot for your advices :)
Anything else I should be paying attention? I see that there's a debate about dsp and eq on the comments and I'll admit that I'm just using autoEQ from Oratory atm.
 

Robbo99999

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I doubt anyone here is still using analog multi-band graphic equalisers... Any EQ should be led by measurement and you can't fix non-minimum-phase errors like reflection cancellations. But while the wrong EQ can screw up the frequency response in the same way that the right one can fix it, I'm not sure what these "other performance aspects" are.
Yep, there's nothing wrong with parametric EQ used on headphones - in fact it's only right! One area that go wrong is when you're boosting areas of the frequency response where there might be high measured distortion already in the stock headphone - thereby boosting that region with EQ will only worsen the distortion - which is often why it's good to have a headphones that is low distortion in the bass as that's often an area that needs sometimes a lot of EQ boost (especially open backs).
 

Robbo99999

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Seems to be the reasonable option, thanks a lot for your advices :)
Anything else I should be paying attention? I see that there's a debate about dsp and eq on the comments and I'll admit that I'm just using autoEQ from Oratory atm.
Oratory is the best place to start, use his published EQ's:
Notice that at the bottom of his pdf files he includes a section where there are some user customisation filters, controlling things like bass/shoutiness/airiness - so the idea being that users add or subtract a dB or 3 or less or more in those various areas to tailor the EQ to your own experience, I'll include a pic (see circled red, and note this is from HD560s headphone, just an example):
customisation filters (HD560s).jpg

EDIT: always make sure you apply the Negative Preamp too, which he lists as well in his pdf's, as this will make sure you don't get digital clipping. If you increase some of those user customisation filters I mentioned then you'll likely need to increase the Negative Preamp by the same amount (make it more negative) if you're adding to the bass and possibly also when on the other filters (but you can't tell unless you look at the Total EQ Curve, which is a bit more complicated to explain) - might be safer just to increase the Negative Preamp if you increase any of his user customisation filters - just to be sure, until you can read & understand the Total EQ Curve.
 
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Tricky

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Yeah, I don't think you'll hear any improvement from Topping EX5 to Topping A70, so if I was you I'd just stay with your Topping EX5 and then see if you can get the headphone loud enough with the Topping EX5 (I think you will be able to). And then if you want to tune the sound then you'd apply an EQ of your choice to the Hifiman HE1000 v2. And when you EQ it, then it will make it sound quieter either through having to use a Negative Preamp or because the parametric filters are mostly negative dB filters (but either way both are the same thing) - so yeah that will mean you'll need to turn the volume up on the EX5 when you EQ vs when you listen to it with no EQ......but I'm thinking the EX5 would still be powerful enough with EQ on your HE1000v2......so just try the EX5 first before you bother buying any more powerful amps. That would be my approach.
So, got my HE1000 v2 today, and they sound fantastic. For the amp, it works but I have to push it between 85 and 95% in high gain to get a good sound (depending on the track). What do you think? I don't mind pushing the amp to that level but I don't know if it's good enough.

PS: The cables are horrible, honestly I heard about it online but didn't expect that :s It's just cables anyway.
 
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