How can I incorporate headphone listening into my set up? Budget is £800.

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
In the dog house with the wife as my listening levels have gradually crept up to levels which are beginning to get under her skin. If it's beginning to niggle her I fear it'll only be a matter of time before I've baited our very lovely neighbours into knocking on the door, which I really want to avoid.

My current set up is Exposure 2010S2 CD player => BTE passive pre-amp => Quad Elite QSP power amp => PMC Twenty 21 speakers + BK Sub.

I also have a Yamaha WXC-50 being used as a streamer only into this system.

No real clue as to whether I can incorporate headphone listening into this set up.

Could I (for example) connect a headphone amp into the optical output of the CD player? This is the only connection that's free as the analogue output is feeding into the passive pre-amp for my normal listening. It's only CD's I'd want to listen to via headphones so not concerned about connection to the streamer.

Also, any suggestions as to what bits of hardware I should be looking at for my budget?

As usual 'cheers' in advance for any pointers.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I can't see from online images if the pre-amp has a record out line. If so that's your connection for a headphone amp. If not you will need to go down the digital route from the CDP which means either a headphone amp DAC combination, which can be expensive, or a standalone DAC and standalone headphone amp.

Another option for an analogue connection would be to use a switcher for analogue to the pre-amp and to the headphone amp. You can easily do what you want it's just in what way you would prefer to go.

Does your budget include headphones or do you already have them?
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
I can't see from online images if the pre-amp has a record out line. If so that's your connection for a headphone amp. If not you will need to go down the digital route from the CDP which means either a headphone amp DAC combination, which can be expensive, or a standalone DAC and standalone headphone amp.

Another option for an analogue connection would be to use a switcher for analogue to the pre-amp and to the headphone amp. You can easily do what you want it's just in what way you would prefer to go.

Does your budget include headphones or do you already have them?
@gibbsy Thanks for replying. The pre-amp doesn't have a record out line so I think your assumption is correct in that I'll have to go down the digital route from the CDP.

The budget is for the headphone amp/dac and the headphones as I currently own neither.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The headphones and the amp are going to eat up most of your budget. A standalone DAC not so much. Just like speakers the headphones are going to be the most important and just like speakers the easier they are to drive the less powerful amp is needed.

Allow around £200 for an amp, something like an iFi or Shiit. With the DAC again iFi comes to the fore and having the DAC and headphone amp from the same company would ensure integration and compatibility. That would leave the majority of your budget for good headphones.

With headphones they basically fall into two groups, closed and open backed. Open are the best if you can listen on your own and closed if you listen in a mixed room. Comfort is essential, pointless paying £5-600 for a pair if you can only bear to have them on your head for half an hour or so.

I have no affiliation with iFi but it would be a good starting point for you for amp and DAC. Up the budget for an amp and I would direct you to Lehmann Audio which I use.

@iFi audio
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
The headphones and the amp are going to eat up most of your budget. A standalone DAC not so much. Just like speakers the headphones are going to be the most important and just like speakers the easier they are to drive the less powerful amp is needed.

Allow around £200 for an amp, something like an iFi or Shiit. With the DAC again iFi comes to the fore and having the DAC and headphone amp from the same company would ensure integration and compatibility. That would leave the majority of your budget for good headphones.

With headphones they basically fall into two groups, closed and open backed. Open are the best if you can listen on your own and closed if you listen in a mixed room. Comfort is essential, pointless paying £5-600 for a pair if you can only bear to have them on your head for half an hour or so.

I have no affiliation with iFi but it would be a good starting point for you for amp and DAC. Up the budget for an amp and I would direct you to Lehmann Audio which I use.

@iFi audio
Thank very much for this @gibbsy.

Currently looking at the Schiit Modi 3+ DAC and Magni 3+ amp combo as well as the D30 DAC and L30 amp combo from Topping, which seem to have been well received. Both of these also have an optical input built in so I wouldn't have to buy a converter as I think I'd have to do if I went the iFi route.

Not sure about the longevity of these types of offerings from Schitt and Topping - are they cheap because they're throwaway quality, or are they just genuinely good value?

I'll also have to buy a headphone extension lead due to my seating arrangement so that's something else which will eat into the budget, unfortunately.

As it's a shared space I'll be listening in the headphones will probably have to be closed, as much as I really want open. Had a look yesterday - just too many choices out there. I ended up with no decision made and a monster migraine thrown in just for good measure. I'll try again today.

Cheers again!
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Schitt and Topping - are they cheap because they're throwaway quality, or are they just genuinely good value?

Hi. I use a schiit magni heresy (fed from my amps record out), an iFi Zen phono and also a topping d30. No issues with build quality from any of them. All well built and do a great job for the money. Buy with confidence.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I had to buy an extension lead because my closed back headphones had just a 1.35m lead. Main thing with them is that have a very robust connection and they can, and do, take a real hammering. Prices have gone up since I bought mine and I suppose it's all down to availability with your location.


As for closed back headphones then I have a Shure SRH1540. Most comfortable headphones I ever tried, even more so than my venerated Oppo PM1s. Quite detailed and has a fair bass response for closed backs. Mids and highs are very good and they do have a good soundstage.

Amazon product
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Very nice indeed but leaves pretty much zero in the pot for the headphones, sadly.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Right then. At this present time it looks very likely that I'll be taking the lead given by @gibbsy and @acgingersnaps and stumping up for the below combo:

Shure SRH 1540
Topping E30 DAC
Topping L30 head amp
QED 3m headphone extension cable

Headphone wise the Focal Elegia is also in the running due to its heavily discounted price as is the Meze 99 Classics which appeal due to WAF (she likes the look of the wooden cans on these...urgh).

Amp and DAC wise I see that Topping have just released the DX3 Pro+ combo which would be less expensive than the E30/L30 set up. Not sure what the differences would be so that's something I'll try and get my head around before deciding what I finally do.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The Meze is certainly worth considering as they have had some very good reviews, I've not listened to them and the models above them are seriously expensive and having rave reviews so a good manufacturer. Focals, again good cans, similar in build and construction to my Oppos so comfort should be good. The Elegia is more expensive than the Shures so you've got a good spread of prices in your list.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Not heard the L30, but this suggests that it's a more than sensible option (apologies if you've already seen it):

 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
Right then. At this present time it looks very likely that I'll be taking the lead given by @gibbsy and @acgingersnaps and stumping up for the below combo:

Shure SRH 1540
Topping E30 DAC
Topping L30 head amp
QED 3m headphone extension cable

Headphone wise the Focal Elegia is also in the running due to its heavily discounted price as is the Meze 99 Classics which appeal due to WAF (she likes the look of the wooden cans on these...urgh).

Amp and DAC wise I see that Topping have just released the DX3 Pro+ combo which would be less expensive than the E30/L30 set up. Not sure what the differences would be so that's something I'll try and get my head around before deciding what I finally do.

I've also considered Elegia based on heavy discount, but gave up very fast after reading reviews on net.

E30+L30 will probably give you a bit more headroom than new DX3 Pro+, but is also more expensive and it lacks bluetooth if you fancy that.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Are the reviews comparing closed to open though?
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
I was just curious if these reviews were people comparing open backed focals to closed back. In hindsight it was a pretty daft question!
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
I've also considered Elegia based on heavy discount, but gave up very fast after reading reviews on net.

E30+L30 will probably give you a bit more headroom than new DX3 Pro+, but is also more expensive and it lacks bluetooth if you fancy that.
I think I'm gonna agree with you on the Elegia. Price makes them very tempting but too many reports of them being bass-lite (not that I need it to be thumping) and consequently needing EQ to sound decent.

I don't need Bluetooth so that alone will probably steer me towards the E30/L30 stack - thanks for pointing this out.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Quick update - so I've gone for the Shure SRH1540 and the Topping L/E30 combo.

Didn't go with the QED headphone extension cable as I use pro cables (Van Damme) for my speakers which work perfectly fine and so I figured it made sense to try the same for the headphones (different make though - Cordial). German manufactured, decently reviewed and a 1/4 of the price of the QED in the shop's sale - be rude not to have a punt at that, I reckon.

I'll probably have it all set up on Tuesday next week. Buying blind like this is always a risk but hopefully it'll work just fine and do the trick.

As an aside, I've gone from zero to hero re my knowledge of headphone amplification in the space of about a week. This is down to you lot sparing the time to chip in with advice. My dear friends...I salute you all!
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Research is half the fun. Once I've bought something I tend to lose interest fairly quickly.
 

Gray3

Active Member
Not sure about the longevity of these types of offerings from Schitt and Topping - are they cheap because they're throwaway quality, or are they just genuinely good value?
I went with a Topping A50S (Fed with an O-DAC, balanced out into Sennheiser 560S).
Sounds great and build quality is great....but longevity remains to be seen.
I don't fancy repairing it much - but that's true with much of today's stuff.

The 560S headphones by the way; don't be put off by the 'low' price.
I've tried different brands and models, sometimes double / treble the price. My old HD590 just beat them (and most other headphones) for comfort, but for sound.....excellent value.
 

Mr Edwards

Well-known Member
Didn't go with the QED headphone extension cable as I use pro cables (Van Damme) for my speakers which work perfectly fine and so I figured it made sense to try the same for the headphones (different make though - Cordial). German manufactured, decently reviewed and a 1/4 of the price of the QED in the shop's sale - be rude not to have a punt at that, I reckon.

Hi, have you a link for the headphone extension cable please.
 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Hi, have you a link for the headphone extension cable please.
Here you go bud:


Even cheaper here:

 

OstrichAndCobraWine

Active Member
Another quick update on this, guys and gals.

Stuff arrived on Tuesday and I set it up. After the first few seconds of playback the music starting skipping and stuttering. Thought it might be the CD so swapped it for another (and then another) but still the same dropouts in sound. Tried the CD player on my laptop and the results were identical.

Spoke to the vendor's technical department and ran a few tests. No improvement. Frustratingly, they were stumped. In the end we agreed that I'd send it back for a refund.

After returning I looked into this a bit more and was quite frankly shocked (and kinda appalled) to discover that Topping actually knew that the optical input on the DAC couldn't handle CD players after they swapped the chip from AKM to Cirrus Logic during the current production run.

In my opinion they're not being particularly upfront about this info either - I discovered it buried in the small print of another seller's sales blurb. What's particularly annoying is that they kept the same model number for the DAC even after changing the chip - surely this was now a different beast?

Anyhow, after getting over the initial disappointment and doing a bit more research I contacted JDS Labs in the US about their Atom Plus stack to check whether I'd have the same issue playing CD via the optical input with their kit. John Seaber himself came back within a nanosecond confirming there'd be no problem and also a link to a firmware update specifically to facilitate improved CD playback. Impressive customer service, I thought. So I ordered, it arrived, I set it up and all is (currently!) golden.

@gibbsy - the headphone recommendation was spot on - super comfy fit and an authoritative, widescreen sound. The Cordial headphone extension cable is solidly constructed and confirms my opinion that, pound for pound, pro cable is always the way to go. The Atom Plus amp and DAC are also discrete little wonders - faithful musical playback which requires no additional gain and for the volume dial to be no higher than 11 o'clock to get my ears ringing. JDS Labs for customer experience and product quality to my mind deserves to be shown much more love - Topping/Schiit fanboys...you need to pay proper attention!
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Another quick update on this, guys and gals.

Stuff arrived on Tuesday and I set it up. After the first few seconds of playback the music starting skipping and stuttering. Thought it might be the CD so swapped it for another (and then another) but still the same dropouts in sound. Tried the CD player on my laptop and the results were identical.

Spoke to the vendor's technical department and ran a few tests. No improvement. Frustratingly, they were stumped. In the end we agreed that I'd send it back for a refund.

After returning I looked into this a bit more and was quite frankly shocked (and kinda appalled) to discover that Topping actually knew that the optical input on the DAC couldn't handle CD players after they swapped the chip from AKM to Cirrus Logic during the current production run.

In my opinion they're not being particularly upfront about this info either - I discovered it buried in the small print of another seller's sales blurb. What's particularly annoying is that they kept the same model number for the DAC even after changing the chip - surely this was now a different beast?

Anyhow, after getting over the initial disappointment and doing a bit more research I contacted JDS Labs in the US about their Atom Plus stack to check whether I'd have the same issue playing CD via the optical input with their kit. John Seaber himself came back within a nanosecond confirming there'd be no problem and also a link to a firmware update specifically to facilitate improved CD playback. Impressive customer service, I thought. So I ordered, it arrived, I set it up and all is (currently!) golden.

@gibbsy - the headphone recommendation was spot on - super comfy fit and an authoritative, widescreen sound. The Cordial headphone extension cable is solidly constructed and confirms my opinion that, pound for pound, pro cable is always the way to go. The Atom Plus amp and DAC are also discrete little wonders - faithful musical playback which requires no additional gain and for the volume dial to be no higher than 11 o'clock to get my ears ringing. JDS Labs for customer experience and product quality to my mind deserves to be shown much more love - Topping/Schiit fanboys...you need to pay proper attention!
Hi. Glad that you're sorted. It's an odd thong not to support! Not something I could have warned you about though. No CD's or player in my house.
 

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