May 13, 201873 views

beginner audio setup

i'm looking for some recommendations for a starting audiphile like me.
i don't have a large budget but i'd like headphones with dac and amp.
i'm really new in all this stuff so please help me out :)
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For Dacs, I've compared the ODAC revB with the OL DAC and the SDAC. Forget about the revB, if the additional power supply is a concern then go with the SDAC (or if you like smoother, warmer sound). For good space & imaging, natural tonality and impact (albeit with slightly thinner/sibilant vocals) I'd go for the OL DAC. I'm currently using an O2 amp, ordered a Schiit Magni 3 which has yet to arrive :) Sometimes I listen through my JBL LSR30X speakers. Do note that the source feeds to an Ifi iusb3.0 nano filter before going into the dacs though; otherwise the audio would just sound thin, 2-dimensional and scratchy
The Schiit products are a popular place to start and are easy to sell when you want to upgrade. You'll be able to quickly get a feel for what many of the other audio-heads are referring to in their reviews. The Fiio products are also a popular starting point and if you go with the Fiio E17K Alpen 2 portable dac/amp I would definitely add the Fiio K5 desktop amp for another $90. The E17K alone will sound very good on some headphones and fall short on others... adding the K5 amp as a dock for the E17K and you have a very re-sellable setup for about $160. xDuoo offers a small but not-as-portable TA-01 which was recently offered here on MD for about $119. The TA-01 contains dual dac-chips (CS-4398) in addition to a single-tube amp in a combined unit. It works great with any headphones sold on MD. It's a reliable unit that does not overheat and has easy re-sell. Personally, I enjoy the sound from the "Chord" products made in the U.K. I've been using their dac/amp combos for a while and recently paired them with other amps including the Cavalli Tube Hybrid, also sold on MD. As for headphones, the Sennheiser HD 650 (or 6XX here on MD) can be bought slightly used for around $160. You'll easily spend that much on any other brand of headphones but get much less for your dollar. As a personal preference, I would not purchase any pair of headphones that has bluetooth or wifi. Those headphones include a built-in dac which will not do your wallet or ears any favors. That's my quick 2-cents minus the subjective audio jargon.
For Dac/Amp, got to Schiit.com and pick up a Magni 3 and a Modi 2.
Then for headphones, start testing out whatever looks interesting that you can afford. When you read reviews, pay attention to what the reviewer is comparing the new gear to, and check those out. Common comparison points include Grado SR80e, Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, Audio Technica AD700, Sennheiser HD 598, etc etc. so buying those sort of comparison points bit by bit can be a good way to figure out what your preferences are, and lead you to whatever you end up seeking.
Set aside money monthly so that you develop a pool you can draw from, and enjoy yourself.