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,



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. 

I have two systems...a portable and home system.

  1. Chord Mojo2/Poly
  2. Moon HA 430 with internal DAC and a Node 2i as the streamer

I started listening to the headphone jack on my preamp...with Sennheiser HD800s

I initially bough a portable system to enjoy music on extended trips.  Then I started to enjoy different listening experiences.  I even picked up Focal Elegia closed back headphones.

My advice is define your desires, budget and then enjoy the journey.

I have the Naim HE. Very nice sounding and best solid state combo that I have tried that gets some good organic tubey sound.

Matrix Audio element units are nice but a little more analytical sounding. I have the Element I2. Pretty good for the size and price.

My #1 headphone setup right now is Lumin U1 Mini into Pontus II into Cayin HA-6A tube amp.

Astell&Kern DAPs are also a nice option if your headphones are not super difficult to drive. The sound quality from them is really amazing for the size.

For headphones there is a pretty good deal on some nice sounding IEMs at Hifiman for the RE2000 "open box" at $299. The ones I just received "open box" were brand new. The gold version sells for $2k.

My current sets of full size headphones are Meze Elite, Liric, Audeze LCD-XC, Hifiman HE1000SE, Sennheiser 800S and then a few cheaper sets. Of the bunch it would be a toss up between Meze Elite and HE1000SE for my overall best pick. 

By the way welcome to a forum where most people have an open mind unlike the other place you visited.


@calieng hi, looking for some 🎧, I like bass, from your list I would have expected you liked the LCD-xc the best or the 800S, do you eq the LCD?


Realized I never made a recommendation. Duh. I’d highly suggest going with a separate amp and DAC as it gives you better quality and more flexibility going forward and they don’t take up much space — at least not the ones I’m recommending. If you’re open to tubes I’d highly recommend the Quicksilver Headphone Amp, which I view as quite a bargain at around $1200…

If you’re looking to spend less, the Singxer discrete, fully-balanced Class A amp produces that smooth Class A sound at only $599 — I own it BTW…

For a DAC, the Musician Pegasus is great (I also own it) and is also a bargain at $1044 IMHO, but if you can spend around $600 more the Gustard R26 will likely give a good performance boost — both are R2R DACs BTW…

Also, if you get a DAC with an i2S connection (as the ones I recommended both do) I also highly recommend getting a DDC to be able to take advantage of this connection as it made a huge difference over using an SPDIF connection and it also re-clocks the data. The Musician Pisces or Denafrips Iris (which I own) would be great choices. Sorry for being so late, but hope this helps and best of luck.