• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Some Help with First DAC/amp/HP Please

KeithPhantom

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
May 8, 2020
Messages
558
Likes
529
@RAledr It is good that you have started to consider the headphone hobby. I have read some of your posts and have a few things to tell you. I will try to keep it straight to the point:
  • Don't worry about SINAD that much for DACs, I have both the D30 Pro and the Qudelix 5K with SINAD ratios of ~120 and 80 dB, and I haven't heard the difference even when trying hard and blinded. For a DAC, buy something with a good (not the best score) performance and forget about it.
  • For amplifiers, choose your wanted headphones first and then look at their amplification needs. Leave some headroom for it so you can switch headphones and not have to buy a whole new amplifier.
  • It will be a great plus that what you use when you are on the run is the same that you use desktop if possible, reduces equipment and clutter. If all measures well, it will sound the same. If an amplifier, check the power needs of your transducers.
After you have chosen these components, forget they exist, they are utilitarian, electrical devices used for reproducing music that measure well do not have any sound characteristics. You won't hear them if they measure fine. Now, move to the actual gear that you can hear, the headphones:
  • Try and don't be shy to choose anything you like. Find what you value.
  • I would not buy the most expensive endgame headphone at your stage, I would try it and see if I like it. Buy from retailers that will accept prompt and frequent returns if you cannot try physically.
  • Most of what you are going to hear is the frequency response of a headphone and it determines a lot if you are going to like them or not. Distortion and other measurements are not as audible (or even audible in some cases/measurement levels) as a graph or a number can express. I would advise you to learn the frequency response of a headphone you like stock, it makes finding a similar headphone easier (that is how I buy mine).
  • Comfort is as important as sound. I loved the ER4SR after EQ, but those deep-insertion IEMs were more than I could handle comfort-wise. I sold them just because I hated to wear them and really tried to adapt to them.
  • Even with the same EQ target, headphones can still sound different.
If you need anything, you can shoot me a message. Enjoy the journey and the music.
 

Jimbob54

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
6,954
Likes
8,148
I don't agree with the guy at the hifi shop. You should spend more on the headphones. Diminishing returns from the dac/amp are reached quickly.

How do you intend to use the headphones? What audio source(s) do you want to use?

Spend more on the right headphones for sure. But not $$$ on any headphone carrying the price tag.
 

ziddy76

Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2021
Messages
51
Likes
45
FYI the Aeon X Closed are on sale at Drop for $399. Probably the easiest way to listen to a Dan Clark headphone.
 

ASRaddict

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2021
Messages
34
Likes
11
Do keep an eye out for output impedance of your amp that you choose to buy. Some IEMs (if you go that route) have high sensitivity and impedance hovering around 10 ohm in the bass region which may be audible
 

ziddy76

Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2021
Messages
51
Likes
45
Yeah... and you don't need an amp to power IEM... so /shrug
 
OP
R

RAledr

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2021
Messages
5
Likes
2
Unfortunately unless I get custom tips, which I think is pretty pricy, I probably won't be using IEMs. I have small ear canals that make most IEMs uncomfortable even with the smallest tips. On the plus side, my sister is a couple years away from becoming an audiologist, so I could probably get them modeled at a discount.

So if I've got my numbers right, I think the NX4DSD can drive the ether CX, haven't checked the others though. Another possible headphone is the AKG 371, which is one of the ones Sean Olive uses I believe. It's by far the cheapest, and I believe the NX4 can also drive it. I could be totally misunderstanding how to verify something can power a headphone though.
 

Bimbleton

Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2020
Messages
25
Likes
11
My friend don’t worry about powering a headphone. There’s only a handful of headphones (ie Susvara) that need heavy amplification. At moderate listening levels, usually a solid 1-10 milliwatts will be fine.

The headphone makes the biggest difference in audio quality/happiness, and you’ll never be able to figure out what you like without trying. So I strongly recommend try a few headphones so you know what you like.

I decided to start with some universally lauded headphones, and tried a bunch of them: Sundara 2020, Focal Clear/MG, LCD-X ‘21, Arya, Meze Empyrean. Ultimately found my preferred sound signature in Audeze, with some tweaking.

DAC/amp can improve an already-great headphone, but no amount of amplification can make an undesirable headphone desirable.
 

Tks

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
Messages
2,855
Likes
4,504
Anything above 110dB SINAD is going to be end game realistically speaking. But as others mentioned, try looking at some decent headphones. If you really want to cut to the chase, just get a pair of HD6XX. They're basically the headphone most music is mastered with (if the person uses headphones at all), they're inexpensive, and their weight + comfort can't be beat for the price. And they sound good even without EQ.

As far as "something to last me", that's a big fat question mark, as I think "built to last" products are effectively gone. And not necessarily the fault of device makers (since the parts they must use are all off the shelf parts the must assemble into something on a PCB). For anything resembling "built to last" look to either companies with pedigree that don't constantly release products. But this is wayyy out of your budget, and also it doesn't make sense if you can re-buy something and still come out with less money spent. With this said, all you should be really looking at is features, and aesthetics. Everything else is basically top tier from a performance perspective, especially with devices you've listed.
 

ASRaddict

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2021
Messages
34
Likes
11
Unfortunately unless I get custom tips, which I think is pretty pricy, I probably won't be using IEMs. I have small ear canals that make most IEMs uncomfortable even with the smallest tips. On the plus side, my sister is a couple years away from becoming an audiologist, so I could probably get them modeled at a discount.

So if I've got my numbers right, I think the NX4DSD can drive the ether CX, haven't checked the others though. Another possible headphone is the AKG 371, which is one of the ones Sean Olive uses I believe. It's by far the cheapest, and I believe the NX4 can also drive it. I could be totally misunderstanding how to verify something can power a headphone though.

I use this (http://www.digizoid.com/headphones-power.html) calculator to get the millivolt required for a 80 db SPL with headphones. Qudelix-5K provides an accurate mV (RMS) reading for the Volume that I use to set my mind at ease. A few milliWatts would be enough under most normal listening levels. Ofcourse if you end up with a high impedance low sensitivity headphone like Susuvara, you may need a few hundred milliwatt
 
Top Bottom