Sep 23, 2017

Suitable Amp/DAC for AKG 7XX

Hello! I am new to the audiophile community, and just ordered my first pair of decent headphones, the Massdrop x AKG 7XX. I will be using these along with my MacBook Pro Retina Late 2014 (w/ Toslink) and Spotify Premium HD Streaming. I have heard that these headphones can be difficult to drive not because of their 62 ohm impedance, but from their 105 db/V (~93 db/mW) sensitivity, 200mW max power input, and high current needs. I am currently looking at the Schiit Audio Vali 2 Tube/SS Hybrid Amp (possibly along with the Magni 2 Uber DAC) and the Little Dot I+ 6JI X2. I have heard these two amps are good options in general, but I am not sure how they pair with the 7XX. I would love any suggestions, as again I am very new to this scene and do not know a whole lot about what exactly to look for. Thanks!

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Hi Again,

Here is another way to go, it should meet your price point @ $115, and it will move you far ahead of where you might be heading now. Plain simple; PC makers are not going to put devices into products that have no direct benefit to sales, period, the std. DAC's & op-amps suck. Plugging your new cans into a plain, no nice sound card or decent sound hardware built-in on a high end MOB, with some level of EMI/RFI shielding, in a PC, will simply disappoint, you will think all these audio folks are BS.

Korg isn't seen much in this audiophile market, because they are focused on designing and selling to musicians. They simply don't have the right marketing hooks into this crazy wooden-box-of-dirt is an earth ground market. They have made a uniquely paired product, software & hardware that can take you right front row,, now, at a steal. They even partnered with Phonon to make a custom set of cans matched to the 100m DAC/amp. You benefit here because of the market acceptance wall they did not make it over and the hardware is selling for a pittance of what it is truly worth. MD are you listening?? Hopefully they will re-double their efforts and bring lots of swag... to try again to take on the wall... they have insight that can benefit this market.
If you can use a PC, you can use their software - after a bit,, or not, it will work with what you feed it, albeit at low rez. With the custom app you can up-sample your heart away, play bit-perfect, or you can even degrade, "down-sample" to play on antiques, you know period music, the 80's...

All we are doing here is trying to reproduce the art that musicians make, as best we can, as they hear it.
I have been searching for this capability, worked on the systems making the first CD's. Still have CD's at home coated in floor wax to protect the Al we had just sputtered onto the data side. I now have a Korg 100 that I feed into a modified tube amp into HD700's, but had mis-loaded the app so it was not the "unlocked" full version, limited to 48 kHz and 44.1 kHz quality. Didn't want to play with re-loading it, so I listened to it for a few days,, it was ok. I got a DSD 2.8 file of Steely Dan aja, not a rip of a disk, the real thing (disks have issues), so I re-loaded the app, "unlocked" it,, and listened to aja in "native" DSD 2.8...... not DoP,,, yes, an epiphany ... we can get there...

Get this Korg, get some DSD or 24/192 files of "your" music, listen, and write back...

The cheapest version is the portable 100m above; the next up is the 100 that has RCA and balanced XLR outs, the next 10R $ can take your vinyl to DSD to preserve it, and the vinyl. Oh, get decent silver, plated is fine, USB cable too, $ well spent, if not now, next, there is no end game ;) I plan on getting the 100m to take on the road with the Phonon (want closed for noisy hotels) matched cans...
Welcome to the club! You've already got the most important qualification - the desire to spend money on toys!!

I'm in no position to tell anybody not to spend on stuff they don't need, but before you go and spend a bunch of money on amps, I'd suggest listening to your new headphones with your laptop for a while. If they get to satisfactory volume, and you don't have audible noise, then you are in a want situation rather than a need situation. I can speak from experience that the leap from junk headphones to good ones is a much, much bigger quality leap than adding an amp to a chain that is producing sufficient volume and no noise. You are likely fine, I don't like Apple, but they typically don't make junk. And if you're not sure, start with something like a Fiio portable on the cheap before you clean out your pockets.

I always read this post from nwavguy (who designed the O2 amp) and it keeps me spending my money on headphones instead.

The nice thing if you are in a "want" situation is that it lets you take your time and focus on experimenting with sound, which would personally make me lean more to the realm of tube amps & rolling, since they tend to color sound more.

Most importantly, enjoy those new cans!
Right now on MD I would pick the CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp, all rolled into one these hybrids sound nice, had an AUNE T1 that I gifted, sounded very nice with HD598se's. Otherwise you could pick the AUNE T1SE that was here on MD that also has DSD, and likely coming back to MD, from Amazon now:

Separates are of course the nice solution, where you can change-out just one component.

Upgrade the tube in either so you can at least roll once, to something like this, bought a CBS Hytron NOS 12BZ7 from this fellow, fine tube:

Or start bidding:

Also get a decent USB cable, I just upgraded to an iFi Gemini and it's better, you are streaming data, bad data=bad music, there is no checksum here, no ACK/NACK dialog going on - no time for that... Asynchronous operation is the best we have for now with decent clocks, I just saw that there are units with almost true "atomic" clocks now; pragmatic solution = decent cable & decent DAC...,
Thanks for the detailed reply! I think personally the several amps you mentioned are slightly over my price range. I am mainly looking for an opinion on the range of amps similar to the LD I+ and Vali 2!
There you still have no DAC... better off at that price point with the Massdrop O2 + SDAC DAC/Amp @ $150. With Schitt you have to go with the Jotunheim at $289 DAC/amp, then you are back to comparing with the MD CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp @ $320...... or back to the AUNE T1SE hybrid ss/tube DAC/amp @ $169... 2 available at this price point, just checked, link above in first response...
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