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,



@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.

@overthemoon  could you describe the differences in sound quality between the Chord mojo and Moon HA 430?  I like the idea of the convenience and portability of the mojo, but I’m not sure if I’ll be happy with the sound of the mojo or if I’ll end up wishing I got the moon.     Sorry to hijack this thread. 

@johnau The difference is night and day...and so is the cost.

  • The Chord is wonderful for escaping with music where ever you are.  I can enjoy music where ever I am.  It's a step up from a headphone jack on a quality preamp.
  • The Moon envelopes you in music - it's extremely dynamic while being detailed and finessed. It's a forever piece of equipment for me.  It's what I envision as a reference level listening experience.

@overthemoon  thank you for taking the time to quickly respond, and for confirming my suspicions.  doesn't make my life any easier or cheaper, but I think I know which way I need to go.