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Need suggestions for first desktop setup.

Tiomeas

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Jan 1, 2022
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Hey all, i've been lurking around for a bit so i'm finally posting something.

I've recently got a pair of HE400se, and so i now need a desktop amp to drive them properly. I've been driving them with my fiio x3ii for now, and while it works reasonably well, it definitely isn't an ideal setup, and from what i've read the headphones seem to scale quite well with a better amplification.
That is why i started looking for either a entry leve dac/amp combo or a stack. At first i was considering the zen dac v2 (not gonna lie, that 4.4 balanced connection was the main reason), then i found out about ASR, started looking at the various reviews, and then decided to go for a DX3 pro+, then i saw the aune X1s GT, as it measured quite well and was recommended by Amir, and had the added balanced outputs, but it'd cost 80-100€ more, so it's still a toss between it and the topping. Then i recently found out about the entry level stack from SMSL (su-6 + sh-6) and things got even more confusing :facepalm:.

To add to that, i'm now thinking of planning ahead for the next purchase, monitors. So i now have to decide if i want to go the active or passive way, to in turn decide i'f i'll need a speaker amp or not.

Now, for the questions i have:
1) Balanced vs SE: I'm still not too sure wether or not going balanced would be a better idea right now. If i take the DX3 pro+ as a reference, getting a comparable balanced combo or stack to drive both the headphones and the monitors would be significantly more expensive. What would be the actual advantages other than avoiding eventual ground loop issues?

2) Passive vs Active monitors: which way would grant me the best bang for my buck? I guess ideallygoing the active way might be the smart choice on a tighter budget, as the integrate amps should be ideally (or at least almost ideally) matched to the monitor's characteristics. Thet's the idea i have, anyway, is that true or going passive would actually be the smarter choice here? Tho from what i'm seeing most of the recomended passive monitors in my budget (300-350€) seem difficult to find or more expensive than they should be around here, so going active might end up being the only possible choice. In that case i'd be looking mostly at the adam t5v or in alternative the krk rp5 g4. I'd be using them as near field monitors on my desk, at 20/30cm from the wall (i know, not ideal, but i don't have much room to work with), spaced around 1m from each other (again, space is at a premium here) with a PC monitor between them. Not sure if it'd be better to go with a front ported design (RP5 G4) or rear ported (t5v).


I hope this first post wasn't too rambly, and i want to thank you all in advance for any kind help i might receive :D.
 

TurtlePaul

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Don't read too much into the idea of amps sounding better. The variations between headphones is orders of magnitude more than the discrepancies between amps. The HE400se are very good headphones. They track +/- 2 dB from ideal and have distortion of less than 0.5% unless you really turn them up too loud. By comparison, the X3 II has 0.1 dB of frequency response error (and only right at 20 kHz) and 0.008% distortion. Upgrade if you want to, but finding someone who can distinguish desktop headphone amps and DACs in a blind test is very difficult.

FIIO Measurements

"Matching an amp to the monitors characteristics" is also audiophool B/S. This is AudioScienceReview.

I would maybe spend the whole budget on Kali LP-6 speakers for your desktop. Don't get used because you want to make sure to get the 2nd-wave version which has lower idle hiss.

ASR Review of LP-6 by Amir
 
OP
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Tiomeas

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Don't read too much into the idea of amps sounding better. The variations between headphones is orders of magnitude more than the discrepancies between amps. The HE400se are very good headphones. They track +/- 2 dB from ideal and have distortion of less than 0.5% unless you really turn them up too loud. By comparison, the X3 II has 0.1 dB of frequency response error (and only right at 20 kHz) and 0.008% distortion. Upgrade if you want to, but finding someone who can distinguish desktop headphone amps and DACs in a blind test is very difficult.

FIIO Measurements

"Matching an amp to the monitors characteristics" is also audiophool B/S. This is AudioScienceReview.

I would maybe spend the whole budget on Kali LP-6 speakers for your desktop. Don't get used because you want to make sure to get the 2nd-wave version which has lower idle hiss.

ASR Review of LP-6 by Amir
Oh, for the headphones, the main reason for wanting a desktop dac/amp is purely a practical one. With something like the dx3 pro+ i'd have a single unit with which to feed and control both the headphones and the speakers, with tons of headroom for the headphones on top of that, also futureproofing a bit in case i aet more powerhungry cans down the line. As for the bit about the headphones scaling with amplification, i meant itin the way that maybe a more powerful desktop amp might be able to drive them a bit better than the fiio (tho i admit my knowledge about amp current/voltage output and how it may or may not relate to a specific headphone's sound is quite laking, all i do know is that some headphones are mostly current driven and others are voltage driven), i do understand that other than some evntual coloration in the amp's sound signature, there shouldn't be any audible difference if power doesn't end up being an issue.

As for the speakers, something like the Kali would be a bit too big for my desk, i would end up being decentered compared to the speakers, as my desk has a small cabinet on one side, limiting how much i can move. 5" speakers about 18cm wide like the t5v are pretty much as big as i can go, otherwise i'd end up being too limted as far as in what size PC monitor i could use. And i really don't want to go smaller than 27", both for working and gaming reasons. I suppose i should have made this known in the OP too :V
 
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