Your suggestions: Headphone + DAC/Amp combo?

I was recently banned from Audio Science Review.

The reason you ask? - Because I simply shared my experiences after visiting an audio shop. In my post, I compared what I heard at the audio shop vs brands I had previously owned or auditioned: Sabaj, Topping, and various branded dongles
I was drawn to ASR because of the supposedly “objective” reviews of audio gear with measurements.

But after the experience at the audio shop with high-end brands, my outlook completely changed. The main thing that I noticed was each of these headphone amplifiers/DACs have an unpleasant sound signature of their own. Either midrange forward, treble forward, recessed in the bass, or all the above. There was also a sterility to the sound where most music sounded dry and uninvolving. Sure, we could blame bad recordings/songs, but the same CD-Rs/.wav files were played at the audio shop…

At the shop I auditioned systems from dCS, Esoteric, Luxman, and Accuphase. Live recordings had a certain kind of "presence.” And it made me believe I was there in person. The music was all around me. Everything just sounded "real" it’s hard to explain. Even regular CD-Rs had a kind of liquidity to them…like flowing water. There was detail, clarity, and midrange tonality that my previous systems just couldn’t resolve.

I brought my AKG K872 (reference) headphones with me and tried a bunch of others at the shop from Grado, Audeze, and Focal. I have a working memory and notes of what each track was like with the K872s.

In every case I would imagine the headphones would be served better by high-end audio systems. I don’t currently own any other systems (sold the Chi-Fi)…reason I got the K872 (saved up for it) was because it helps me discern between different headphone amps and DACs. (ultra-transparent and morphs the sound with each new rig)

My question for you experts is…what does your headphone system look like/comprised of? I’m looking to achieve audio nirvana with headphones – perhaps a little less costly than the high-end brands, but with some of the same sonic characteristics.


Please help point me in the right direction. I’m a junior audio enthusiast.


Kind regards,


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I use an MSB 'Analog DAC' going into an Eddie Current Studio B tube headphone amp, and plug my Susvara's into that. Sounds not-half-bad! 

@soix - Indeed, and if it wasn't for used and demo gear, it would be more than I could handle! But the Eddie Current amp is the only thing I've got that's new..... I do have a Donald North Audio Stratus on its way at some point soon, I think. I like these boutique tube headphone amps! 

Your ban is not surprising. Sharing your listening experiences in there, with no measurements to back it up, or no blind tests, is frowned upon.

To answer your query, if you are specifically looking for a good headphone amp / DAC combo, I would recommend Naim Uniti Atom HE (headphone edition). MSRP is $3,700 (I think it used to be $3,200 not a long time ago). That’s what I have. I like it that it also has a Roon Ready streamer built in. And own Naim app that you can stream Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, with no need for Roon.


In my watch list for endgame headphone rig is the Esoteric N-05XD. Also a great headphone amp / DAC combo, with built-in streamer. MSRP is $11,000 (not sure).


Finally, take a look at T+A HA 200, retails for about $9,000. It does not have a streamer built in.