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,



i've compared the chord mojo to the smsl su-9/sh-9 combo and i like the smsl better--much better UI + digital tuning options + more dynamics and slam, while the mojo sounded a little more transparent/truer to source. both are hard to beat without spending alot more.

@johnau I started with the chord mojo because the portability.  I have travelled significantly for work and sometimes am away from home weeks at a time.  I personally tend not to watch TV or listen to music on the road because (a) music selection/quality wasn't engaging (b) not a big TV person.

I'm sure there's lots of other great options and the Chord Mojo2 with poly really is an amazing value for a portable and comprehensive high quality listening - especially if you have Tidal or Roon (with the ARC app).

Enjoy the process!

50 years experience with HP.The best DAC/amp setup I have heard is the Audeze lcd4 driven directly from speaker taps on AIRTIGHT ATM 300 b amp with a chord Dave front end.I will be purchasing the RAAL sra1-b soon to compliment the Audeze lcd4.



I am also going to suggest the Naim Unitti Atom HE.  I have one in my bedroom for late night listneing using my closed back headphones so I do not disturb my wife while she is sleeping.  The Naim unit replaced a custom tube headphoine amp which I use elsewhere along with a Sonnett Morpheus DAC and Hermes streamer.  I love the all in one Atom as opposed to the three boxes which it replaced and the sound is fantastic.