£500 for desk headphone/amp/Dac setup. Help a noob

Samsun

Active Member
Hi guys,

Looking for some advice on a purchase I'm considering at some point in the next couple of months. I'm after a headphone setup to primarily use at my desk when working from home. The source will be Spotify (will try Spotify hifi when it's available) and ideally I'd like to be able to use either my laptop or my phone (USB C, no headphone jack). No need for portability but I'd like to be able to move it around the house easily.

My other audio kit includes b&w px7, CA Melomania 1, CA Minx Xi with Tannoy DC6. I'm hoping for my £500 budget I can get a significant bump in SQ to all those.

I listen to lots of genres, particularly electronic, blues, hip hop, vocal focused stuff (like Amy Winehouse), starting to get into classical. I'm by no means an audiophile, I don't need absolute accuracy and like a warm, 'fun' sound with a decent amount of bass (I love Dali speakers FYI). I'm also quite sensitive to treble (I love my px7s, but female vocal can sound a bit harsh for me with them).

I know nothing about headphone amps and reading up on them is hurting my head a bit. But from a few days casual research I've come up with Sennheiser HD650 & ifi zen Dac v2 as a starting point. Any further suggestions welcome, ideally things I can audition (I'm in London). No rush to purchase so planning on looking out for deals over Xmas.

Thanks in advance!
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
I would also demo the Hifiman sundara at this price point, with the asterisk to only buy from an approved retailer and not second hand due to HFM's QC reputation

In contrast I would have no hesitation with buying the HD600 / HD650 second hand and fitting on new ear pads and headband padding. Mention this as if you see either model discounted, new stock, they may sell out quickly

Listening to the Sennheiser HD600 / HD650 and Sundara provides a good baseline and reference point to understand most online reviews. In particular nearly every reviewer ought to know how the Senn's sound
 

Samsun

Active Member
I would also demo the Hifiman sundara at this price point, with the asterisk to only buy from an approved retailer and not second hand due to HFM's QC reputation

In contrast I would have no hesitation with buying the HD600 / HD650 second hand and fitting on new ear pads and headband padding. Mention this as if you see either model discounted, new stock, they may sell out quickly

Listening to the Sennheiser HD600 / HD650 and Sundara provides a good baseline and reference point to understand most online reviews. In particular nearly every reviewer ought to know how the Senn's sound
Thanks for the reco, they sounds like contenders!

Will the Zen Dac v2 alone be sufficient for both these? I came across the Zen Can which as I understand it is just an amp whereas the Dac is both amp/Dac (but a less powerful amp vs the Can). Have I understood that correctly?

Or any other maps I should be looking at? I'd prefer just 1 box if possible.

Thanks!
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
Thanks for the reco, they sounds like contenders!

Will the Zen Dac v2 alone be sufficient for both these? I came across the Zen Can which as I understand it is just an amp whereas the Dac is both amp/Dac (but a less powerful amp vs the Can). Have I understood that correctly?

Or any other maps I should be looking at? I'd prefer just 1 box if possible.

Thanks!

you should check new Topping DX3 Pro+ also.
 

jcr71

Active Member
Will the Zen Dac v2 alone be sufficient for both these? I came across the Zen Can which as I understand it is just an amp whereas the Dac is both amp/Dac (but a less powerful amp vs the Can). Have I understood that correctly?
i run the zen dac with fidelio x2 headphones. i dont go much past the half way point on the volume control.
 

Samsun

Active Member
you should check new Topping DX3 Pro+ also.
Thanks, gets good reviews and seems to have plenty of power (something that I've seen mixed opinions on for the Zen Dac).

I can only see an option to get it from China either via amazon or aliexpress. Any UK distributors I'm missing?
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
Thanks, gets good reviews and seems to have plenty of power (something that I've seen mixed opinions on for the Zen Dac).

I can only see an option to get it from China either via amazon or aliexpress. Any UK distributors I'm missing?

ahhh yes, seems to be hard to find.

there's one on ebay for $199 from China, I'd order that one if not in a rush.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Have a look at JDS Labs for their Atom+ amp and Atom+ DAC. I bought both from a UK supplier (Hi Fi Headphones) and also got in touch with JDS Labs themselves in the US prior to purchase. Superb customer service from the latter and both items are a giveaway for the money being asked. Not a downside for me as I'd prefer that the money was spent on internals but they are in plastic cases and not metal. Still very nicely finished in my opinion. If measurements are your thing check out the reviews on ASR - they get full marks over there. All in all a perfect compliment to my Shure SRH1540 headphones.
 

Samsun

Active Member
ahhh yes, seems to be hard to find.

there's one on ebay for $199 from China, I'd order that one if not in a rush.

On Aliexpress I can get one for $199 which works out at around £148 (plus I think they'll add 20% VAT at checkout). Had a seller confirm it's in stock and would be despatched Monday. Would pay by CC for the protection. Very tempted.

Or my cheaper option which wouldn't involve faffing around getting it from China could be Zen DAC v1 (I believe almost identical to v2 bar full MQA support which I don't need) on sale for £109 (a £50 saving on the v2 which could get me a balanced cable which ups the power output as I understand it). But then it's getting close to the cost of the topping which has more inputs, bluetooth, and more power - but no UK warranty. Hmm.... decisions, decisions

Have a look at JDS Labs for their Atom+ amp and Atom+ DAC.

Thanks for the reco, but that's really pushing my budget and I'd prefer 1 box
 

Steven

Senior Moderator

For some reason this seller is selling the new Fiio K9 Pro below RRP.

18 units sold with 1 unit available
 

Samsun

Active Member
If it's a Topping DX3 Pro + you're after try JustDacs in Manchester. They have them in stock right now:


I've bought off them recently and found them to be pretty decent. Products didn't work for me but they were great in terms of facilitating the return and refund.
Great spot, thanks.

I'm going to try and listen to the Sundaras and Zen Dac at Richer sounds tomorrow. I hear the Sundaras are a bit bass light for some so the Zen bass boost might help, or can always eq. I'm a bit of it concerned with the lack of inputs though, an optical would allow me to use it with my tv/xbox which might be fun. And BT could be handy occasionally, all of which the topping has. Just can't audition it!

I'd like to try the HD650 too but RS don't seem to sell them. They have the 660s, would they give me an idea of what to expect from the 650? Looks like used 650/6xx goes for around £200 which is well within budget and would get new pads as suggested by Steven.

Thanks for the help everyone
 

Samsun

Active Member

For some reason this seller is selling the new Fiio K9 Pro below RRP.

18 units sold with 1 unit available
Looks like a great unit at a serious discount! A bit beyond me I think but a bargain for someone
 

ostewart

Well-known Member
On Aliexpress I can get one for $199 which works out at around £148 (plus I think they'll add 20% VAT at checkout). Had a seller confirm it's in stock and would be despatched Monday. Would pay by CC for the protection. Very tempted.

Or my cheaper option which wouldn't involve faffing around getting it from China could be Zen DAC v1 (I believe almost identical to v2 bar full MQA support which I don't need) on sale for £109 (a £50 saving on the v2 which could get me a balanced cable which ups the power output as I understand it). But then it's getting close to the cost of the topping which has more inputs, bluetooth, and more power - but no UK warranty. Hmm.... decisions, decisions



Thanks for the reco, but that's really pushing my budget and I'd prefer 1 box

JDS Labs do the Element II which is essentially the same but all-in-one ;)
 

ostewart

Well-known Member

Samsun

Active Member
In stock here Topping DX3Pro - All in One Headphone Amplifier and Dac -

I got an A30pro from them next delivery with no issues.
Thanks! I've gone for it. Might have bought from justdacs but despite asking twice they wouldn't confirm the warranty policy (despite answering some other questions) which didn't fill me with confidence. Electromod provides 2 years which is a bonus.

I was going back and forth between the iFi Zen Dac, the fiio k5 Pro and the DX3+. I almost bought the Zen earlier (20% off ebay Peter tyson today) but was worried about power and by the time I've bought a balanced cable it would be close to the price of the DX3 (why are these cables so expensive?!)

I also now have a pair of Sundaras (open box from RS, £235). Will try them and audition some sen hd 650 too and decide what to go with.

Thanks for the help chaps, looking forward to a weekend of testing my new kit :thumbsup:
 

wizball1974

Active Member
If you get to audition some Senn HD650 and decide they are right for you, drop.com are doing their HD6xx for $179 at present - even after shipping and taxes that will probably work out as a good price.
 

Samsun

Active Member
If you get to audition some Senn HD650 and decide they are right for you, drop.com are doing their HD6xx for $179 at present - even after shipping and taxes that will probably work out as a good price.
Thanks, according to an import fees calculator I found it would work out at around £190 which is a bit of a bargain.

I might still try and audition some but I'm very happy with the Sundara/Topping setup so far. At first I was a little underwhelmed, mainly due to lack of bass and impact (these are my first open backs). Detail was amazing but the music wasn't grabbing me like I hoped. However then I applied an EQ profile from Audio Science Review and they're like different headphones! Bass is deep, textured and well controlled, and doesn't interfere with the rest of the range. And on top I have the clarity and detail I was getting before. Only spent a couple of hours listening with EQ but never heard sound like it so very happy!
 

ChertseyB

Active Member
I just received my Drop Black Friday purchase of HD6XX. Was $179 with further $10 coupon as a new customer which almost covered the $15 postage. Don't know if they have regular offers at this price, but it is worth looking out for. £144 delivered (@ PayPal's rather poor exchange rates) but no import charges levied. Only downside was that it has taken 2 weeks to arrive! All-in-all a bargain at that price.
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
@ChertseyB, congrats. Was it Royal Mail or a courier though. If a courier, then FedEx etc typically pay duties and vat on your behalf then bill you after the event plus their fee. Where Royal Mail want costs paying up front to release the parcel
 

ChertseyB

Active Member
@Steven - it was DHL - so I should possibly expect an invoice from them. I thought all carriers might want any payments due before releasing a shipment, but I guess that's not how its done in the commercial world. Thanks for the tip.
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
@ChertseyB, I have not used Mass for five years but Mass should declare the correct value. Plus UK customs know what headphones are. Just watch out for the formal invoice in the post if one arrives, do not send money to a random SMS as you cannot be certain it is DHL
 

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