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Trying to find the best DAC+Amp combo for the HD800s, under $900. Was originally leaning towards Schiit products, but they don't seem to review well.

What is the best sub-$900 Schiit DAC and Amp Combo, SPECIFICALLY for the Sennheiser HD800s?

  • Modius & Lyr+

  • Modius & Jotunheim 2

  • Jotunheim 2 with its ES-9028 DAC Card

  • Jotunheim 2 with its Multibit DAC Card

  • Modius & Valhalla 2

  • Modi & Magni

  • A Topping Stack (Please state Model in comments)

  • JDS Labs Atom Stack

  • Some other brand (Please state products in comments)


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paudio

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When things don't matter and there's no objective winner and it's all up to whim and taste, I struggle to feel confident in any decision. No matter what I choose, it feels like a mistake, because it's unfounded.
You're definitely over dramatizing it. Lots of people here listen to their stuff and do not continuously purchase stuff as a hobby. Performance != Price and diminishing returns is very significant.

You need something that gives you adequate listening volume and a noise floor you can't hear. I even use my Aeon 2 Noire ($899 USD) almost exclusively on a $10 Apple USB-C Dongle DAC. It gets more than loud enough for me with EQ. Grab an Apple dongle DAC and a well reviewed headphone amp if it doesn't get loud enough. If you think you want a better DAC then buy the matching DAC for the stack after you've heard the Apple one.

I bet you won't be able to tell a difference between any of the options that have decent reviews on here. It's hard to compete with Qudelix 5K because it has really good EQ, bluetooth and more.
 

Peewee12

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You're definitely over dramatizing it. Lots of people here listen to their stuff and do not continuously purchase stuff as a hobby. Performance != Price and diminishing returns is very significant.

You need something that gives you adequate listening volume and a noise floor you can't hear. I even use my Aeon 2 Noire ($899 USD) almost exclusively on a $10 Apple USB-C Dongle DAC. It gets more than loud enough for me with EQ. Grab an Apple dongle DAC and a well reviewed headphone amp if it doesn't get loud enough. If you think you want a better DAC then buy the matching DAC for the stack after you've heard the Apple one.

I bet you won't be able to tell a difference between any of the options that have decent reviews on here. It's hard to compete with Qudelix 5K because it has really good EQ, bluetooth and more.
It sounds like hyperbole, but the Apple USB-C dongle sounds SO GOOD. It has transformed my car stereo. It’s a BMW and the built in DAC was always fine to me but the USB dongle is literally night and day. It has so much punch and dynamic range. I can crank up the volume to uncomfortable levels and it’s fine with no distortion. I’ve never experienced a car stereo sounding that loud and good at the same time. It’s ridiculous, really. I only use the dongle and an Aux cord now. I don’t even bother with using my car’s audio system features. Only the amps and speakers now.
 

solderdude

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Gods... I'm exhausted. How do you all do this for so many years? I've been diving into this stuff for just a few weeks and I'm already burning out.


I have no idea what to do.

Let me make it easy.

Modius DAC + Lokius + Asgard is great for HD800S

Of course the Lokius can be left out when you EQ digitally.
 
OP
Quinton595

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Out of curiosity, why the Asgard and not the Midgard?
Or the jotunheim? Pretty much everyone seems to agree the jotunheim is all around better than the asgard, especially when paired with lean headphones like the HD800s which can benefit from a but more bass.
 

majingotan

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Or the jotunheim? Pretty much everyone seems to agree the jotunheim is all around better than the asgard, especially when paired with lean headphones like the HD800s which can benefit from a but more bass.

:facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:

Both Jotunheim and Asgard are objectively worse than Midgard
 
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Quinton595

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:facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:

Both Jotunheim and Asgard are objectively worse than Midgard
From a measurement perspective, yes, undoubtedly. I'm just curious why they'd recommend an asgard over a jotunheim, because even ignoring measurements, everyone seems to agree the jot sounds better than the asgard.
 

solderdude

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Out of curiosity, why the Asgard and not the Midgard?
The Asgard has the option to add an internal DAC in which case you don't need the Modius unless you want the tone control in there and don't want to do that digitally.

Tone control (or digital EQ) is far more sound quality determining than the technical differences between amps/DACs themselves.

But yes... Modius + (Lokius) + Midgard would be an equally good and is an even cheaper option.
 
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Quinton595

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The Asgard has the option to add an internal DAC in which case you don't need the Modius unless you want the tone control in there and don't want to do that digitally.

Tone control (or digital EQ) is far more sound quality determining than the technical differences between amps/DACs themselves.

But yes... Modius + (Lokius) + Midgard would be an equally good and is an even cheaper option.

Subjective listening and measurements both seem to support the community consensus, that schiits internal DAC cards are less than the sum of their parts, and their standalone dacs are much better. For this reason, I don't mind buying a Modius too (ES9028 or AKM?)

I THINK I would go with the jotunheim over the Midgard, though, as the higher power output might be beneficial when running the relatively big EQ curve I have, where I need about 15db of negative preamp headroom. The balanced nature of the amp might also help given that this is a pc audio setup, though I'm less convinced about that one.

Also, big knob more better.

The thing is, I don't know how the schiit stacks in general compare to the offerings by topping, SMSL, and others. A lot of other brands are objectively cleaner and more transparent, but the quality and lifespan is.... Questionable to say the least.
 

oleg87

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The Midgard and Jotunheim use the same volume pot. The knob itself is easy to replace.

Remember that the difference in headroom between 1.2W and 0.75W is 2dB. This isn't very significant.
 

solderdude

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The balanced nature of the amp might also help given that this is a pc audio setup
That would be the main reason to use balanced out from an USB DAC.

Schiit and the Chinese offerings are about equal in build quality and possibly lifespan too.
A nice RK27 volume control + good ergonomics + DC output protection + connectivity is a positive thing.

15dB subbass boost is quite a lot. It would mean that you would need an amp with high gain setting in any case as the sensitivity of the HD800S is not that high and you want a LOT of bass boost.

I am not that fussed about reviews describing sonic differences between capable DACs nor headphone amps.
While some Chinese amps measure better both Schiit and the Chinese amps are performing well above any audible thresholds.
 
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Quinton595

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The Midgard and Jotunheim use the same volume pot. The knob itself is easy to replace.

Remember that the difference in headroom between 1.2W and 0.75W is 2dB. This isn't very significant.

A very valid point, thank you.

The bigger issue is the Midgard does NOT have a switch for its preamp outputs. Per schiit's product page, the midgard's preamp outputs are always on.

That would be the main reason to use balanced out from an USB DAC.

Schiit and the Chinese offerings are about equal in build quality and possibly lifespan too.
A nice RK27 volume control + good ergonomics + DC output protection + connectivity is a positive thing.

15dB subbass boost is quite a lot. It would mean that you would need an amp with high gain setting in any case as the sensitivity of the HD800S is not that high and you want a LOT of bass boost.

I am not that fussed about reviews describing sonic differences between capable DACs nor headphone amps.
While some Chinese amps measure better both Schiit and the Chinese amps are performing well above any audible thresholds.

You feel they're roughly equivalent in terms of build quality eh? Because there are many threads across many different sites talking about failures in various Topping product lines. With Schiit, it seems they're more like one-offs, and were repaired (sometimes at cost, sometimes for free).

Do you really think I can SAFELY expect to get 10, 15+ years out of Schiit, Topping, SMSL, Singxer, and the other brands?

Which do you think is the BEST built of the brands discussed in this thread?
 

majingotan

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Do you really think I can SAFELY expect to get 10, 15+ years out of Schiit, Topping, SMSL, Singxer, and the other brands?

My Schiit Saga OG that I still use everyday from 7 years ago survived a full blown coffee spill a back in 2018. Only the CBS Hytron 5692 tube got toasted but the preamp itself survived. Been running the RCA 5692 red base since 2018 and tube and amp itself still going strong. My Bifrost 2 OG DAC from August 2019 still works perfectly being run almost completely ON 24/7 in its lifetime. Newest Schiit that I have is the Midgard and Yggdrasil MiB. Honorable mention are my Yamaha HS7 and HS8S subs still going strong since 2015. These reliability figures are nothing home to write about since most competent equipment from the past last multiple decades of normal use
 

solderdude

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A very valid point, thank you.

The bigger issue is the Midgard does NOT have a switch for its preamp outputs. Per schiit's product page, the midgard's preamp outputs are always on.



You feel they're roughly equivalent in terms of build quality eh? Because there are many threads across many different sites talking about failures in various Topping product lines. With Schiit, it seems they're more like one-offs, and were repaired (sometimes at cost, sometimes for free).

Do you really think I can SAFELY expect to get 10, 15+ years out of Schiit, Topping, SMSL, Singxer, and the other brands?

Which do you think is the BEST built of the brands discussed in this thread?
The original L30 had an issue. This was solved and owners could get a free replacement.
The new models with the 'potted' circuits indeed had some issues.

When you mean SBAF with different sites (and by extension Head-fi) then you should realize they are biased fan boys that hate everything that is found to be measuring well by ASR.

Build quality is very similar. VFM is very similar too.

There is some Schiit and some chinese gear that might get you 10 to 15+ years out of it.
Gear with SMPS wallwarts and class-D power amps probably will not reach that.

No guarantees... every brand and model might have a Monday morning product which ends up in someone's hands.

Gear that lasts long problem free should have at least an RK271 volume control and not get hot.
How long switches last and (for 15+ years) which caps are used determines the lifespan.
I have seen gear of over 30 year old that did not need service and gear that started to give problems after a few years already.
 

Robin L

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The original L30 had an issue. This was solved and owners could get a free replacement.
The new models with the 'potted' circuits indeed had some issues.

When you mean SBAF with different sites (and by extension Head-fi) then you should realize they are biased fan boys that hate everything that is found to be measuring well by ASR.

Build quality is very similar. VFM is very similar too.

There is some Schiit and some chinese gear that might get you 10 to 15+ years out of it.
Gear with SMPS wallwarts and class-D power amps probably will not reach that.

No guarantees... every brand and model might have a Monday morning product which ends up in someone's hands.

Gear that lasts long problem free should have at least an RK271 volume control and not get hot.
How long switches last and (for 15+ years) which caps are used determines the lifespan.
I have seen gear of over 30 year old that did not need service and gear that started to give problems after a few years already.
I had an original L30. It didn't have a problem (and likely wouldn't as I live in a part of the country that consistently has high humidity) but they replaced it anyway. Have been using it for close to four years without any problems.
 
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