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,



@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.

Thanks to all for the valuable insight!! Much appreciated. I’ll keep listening and figure something out.

It’s only a matter of time before ASR "reviews" more high-end gear...perhaps even some of the gear mentioned in this discussion.

My point is that measurements only matter regarding what we can hear. If we can’t hear already low THD levels, what’s the point of making them even lower?

I believe the application of advanced technology, or at least stable/reliable tech is far more important than a bunch of audio measurements. The gear I auditioned had much worse specs vs the headphone dongles/headphone amps I bought before...and yet they performed in a much superior way.

On that note, ASR does not perform measurements with an oscilloscope or do null tests for the output of DACs/Amplifiers. If they did, with the same test track, the differences would be indisputible. I once asked Amir why not, and he said that his standard measurements are more than sufficient.

He was banned on more than a handful of audio forums. For example, on WhatsBestForum - with over 15k posts. If you read some of these, it gives you the impression that the guy has no chill...he always needs to be right or win an argument. I also found forums where others did independent measurements of some Chi-Fi gear and speakers he measured...found issues with 2nd and 3rd harmonics...and even distortion!

Unfortunately, this was only recently. If I had known, I never would have trusted those measurements on ASR.


@frank1988 : I recommend letting go from grudges with ASR, and move on. Focus on what you like / prefer, and forget the rest. It will be much healthier for your mental wellbeing, your choice of equipment, and your enjoyment of music. Friendly advice

My point is that measurements only matter regarding what we can hear. If we can’t hear already low THD levels, what’s the point of making them even lower?

Also some good points in other places of your last post.

The claim is that a tone captures everything one needs to know. But it is not clear to me that transcient response is also at -120dB.