Apr 20, 2018534 views

New Audiophile. What is the best beginner setup (headphones, dac, amp)?

Hey guys, as I said in the title, I am new to the audiophile world and could use some of your help. I love listening to music and I want the best sound quality possible. Basically, what I'm asking you guys is what is a good beginner setup for me? I have been doing some digging and names like Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, Sennheiser 58x Jubilee, Sennheiser 6XX, and Audiotechnica ATH-50MX have been coming up. I just want to know what the best give or take $250 HIFI headphones are and what dac/amp I should combine with them. Thanks in advance.
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How much cash you got?

;)

TiffanyPoodleslide
no, seriously... I think this is a decent question, and I will get back on here with my 13 cents in a few.
I actually do want to offer a considered and well-thought set of remarks.
Do you have a specific budget?
(for the complete set up)
AND
what kind of listening do you tend to do?
There are two answers to your question. A: Straight forward, subjective answer / B: Complicated objective answer


A: Start with Philips Fidelio X2/27. If you’re just getting into headphone audiophilia, this is the easiest thing in my mind to recommend. It will give you a good baseline reference on what to listen for since it exaggerates everything in a very pleasing way. Soundstage width, 360 location, stereo separation, bass response/extension/speed, high clarity/air/sparkle, mid presence, and overall frequency response is present, accounted for, and emphasized. It’s a nice transition into audiophile headphones, that’s easier for new-comers to appreciate than super flat response, hi-fidelity headphones. You wont’ even need an amp.

B. Once you have a baseline comparison of lower consumer headphone performance to the entry level, audiophile headphones, you can start to determine what aspects of the sound profile are important to you. This will inform your purchase decision rest of the way down the rabbit hole when looking for new headphones and eventually, amps to pair them with. To be honest, asking for recommendations is never satisfying even when you get plenty of responses. The enjoyment comes from exploration of options and trying different headphones out with your favourite music.

But we’re here to hopefully keep you from investing money on something you’ll regret. So yeah... please refer to answer A.
Massdrop has excellent option for someone just getting there feet wet. Headphone hd6xx modeled after sennheiser hd650 $199,
There are numerous dac and amp combos to choose from also, no matter what you throw at the hd6xx they scale very well. My first dac amp was a portable fiio e17 that but now they have the q1 for around $100 . Then you can do research and save for a better dac amp combo, you'll hear about the schitt stack, the aune x1 and x7s combo. The O2 objective. Take your time don't rush like did the results is good for experience and bad for your wallet. I own in terms of dac amps, teac 101, fiio e17, xduoo x05, aune x1 and x7s, schitt stack, and saving for jothiem.
Watch reviews on YouTube head-fi, inerfidelity, z reviews, dms3, to name a few.
There are also so.e pretty sharp guys here on massdrop that can help. Hd6xx to start for sure..
REVMAD
Okay, thanks so much for the response!
What is the best sound? Neutral, ruler flat, laid back, extremely dynamic, V-shaped, W-shaped, bass heavy, treble heavy? What kind of sound are you looking for in a headphone? Personally, for ~$250 a used TH-X00 would be my choice... extremely well extending and impacting bass that is also very good at detail and finesse, rich organic mids, energetic yet not overdone highs, and very good dynamics - a TH-X00 is unmatched for that price point. The HD6XX is another great option, but definitely different - more laid back, rolled off at both ends, and flatter sounding.

Though if you really do want the best sound quality possible for a little more there is a top level option you can go with - a used STAX Lambda electrostatic setup. Will ultimately save you years of piddling around with Mid-Fi and lots of money. Puts you right into actual HiFi level for ~$600 total. Used SR-L300 can be had for $300 or even less. Used SRM-252S driver unit can be found around $200. Then with the remaining ~$100 get the best DAC you can. Kind of like getting a used Porsche 911 as your first car...
A potential new player in this budget range is the Audeze Mobius. It's a closed planar magnetic headphone (headset, actually) that's going to be Bluetooth/wired with a built in DAC/Amp as well as various surround sound features that may or may not interest you.

There is almost no information online that doesn't read like marketing spiel, but Audeze is traditionally known for making higher-end products. The Mobius is intended to have a similar sound to the LCD-X, which costs over $1000. It's in the pre-release/prototype stage on Indiegogo for $270 (MSRP will supposedly be $399), shipping July 2018. Given the price discrepancy and the addition of many significant features, nobody really knows how close they'll actually sound to the much more expensive headphone. That makes them a huge question mark, but a very interesting and unexpected development from them.

My first foray into higher-end headphones came with the Audio Technica M50s, and they were a revelation, but outclassed by the other headphones you listed. If your total budget including DAC/Amp is $250, It'll be hard to recommend the 6XX or DT 990 Pro since they need decent amplification to really shine. I would consider stretching the budget here for a decent amplifier such as a Magni 3, because currently you won't find much better headphones than the 6XX until you pay significantly more.
rng91
Okay, I will take a look at them. Thanks for replying!
rng91
But when I said 250 budget I meant that that was the budget for just the headphones. For the day/amp I would probably say 130 give or take.
I'd get an ifi iDSD Nano Black Label as a starter DAC/Amp. If you need a more powerful amp later, you can feed the line out to another amp (I'd recommend a Schiit Magni 3, but that's just me). For the headphones on your list I'd recommend the Sennheiser HD6xx
TronII
Alright, I will look at those. Thanks for the response!
Bluergbswitch
You're welcome
Don't only focus on the headphones though. A hifi setup is something like a river, and music the water sample observed at the end. Headphones are something like the microscope used- with different magnification power, clarity, tints and filters etc. I suggest a good filtering system like the Ifi iusb3.0 nano to filter out the noise from the signal, before converting the clean signal with a Grace x Massdrop SDAC and finally amplifying the converted signal with a Schiit Magni 3 or O2 amp. For headphones the HD6XX as mentioned are pretty good, other alternatives could be the AKG K7XX or Hifiman HE4XX, depending on your preferences. I heard the HE400i's on discount on Hifiman's website too, you might want to check it out.
phoenixsong
Huh, I never thought about it like that. That is quite interesting. Thanks for the response!
Is your total budget $250 or is that just for headphones?

For the price you can't beat the HD 6XX. It is a solid all around performer and an end game headphone for many audiophiles, be they big budget ones or not (I've seen HD 650s hanging up near and plugged into $5000 amps more than once). Contrary to many claims, it does take a powerful amp to drive. I consider the power levels around 240-250mWrms@300Ω entry level for them. You can get amps that will do that for around another $100. Add a stand-alone DAC down the road sometime and you'll be pretty well set up.
Heefty
My $250 is for the headphones. Thanks for the response!
Well if your full budget is $250 then i would most definitely go with the Sennheisers 6xx, the best bang for your buck. If you have a separate budget for your amp then i would go with the Jotunheim amp. They are a bit pricey but overall fit well with the headphones and you wont have to upgrade the amp any time soon.
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