Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer

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AllanS

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Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« on: 13 Jun 2023, 02:36 am »
Do you look for the same things in headphone system DACs and/or streamers as you do speaker systems?  Or are headphone and speaker systems different enough that they need different DACs and streamers to sound their best?

Letitroll98

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Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #1 on: 15 Jun 2023, 02:09 pm »
I thought this would garner a lot more interest.  My answer would be ideally yes, headphones have very different sonic signatures in almost every way to loudspeakers and most of us are running separate amps anyway, often with built in DACs, so yeah.  Another difference, you're generally picking an amp for a speaker, sometimes two.  Most headphones guys have a stable of headphones.  Then there's two thoughts on that, one neutral amp that sounds good across the stable, or a bevy of amps to match every headphone.  All of that can be applied to DACs and Streamers, why not.  The answer is as varied as there are members here, but those are the equipment patterns I see.  For me it's all for function, one portable DAC/amp that streams off my phones, one DAC for TV, one DAC for CD and streaming in the stereo room.  Each is for it's application.

AllanS

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Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #2 on: 16 Jun 2023, 04:45 am »
 I thought it might generate some interest also.  But that’s okay.  Your answer satisfied my curiosity and is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.
 This recent video by Steve Guttenberg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eCbJfLSYGg and my frustration in coming to the conclusion that my room may never play well got me thinking about headphones in more than a passing way.
 I have moderately treated but asymmetric space that is messing with the sound stage and my head.  So it got me thinking that maybe my speaker system should just sound good and critical listening should be left to a more predictable environment.
From your description it sounds like the flexibility cans offer is a double edged sword.
Thanks again

Pez

Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #3 on: 16 Jun 2023, 05:26 am »
I’ll add my two cents. I don’t think there should be any fundamental difference in the DAC/front end or amplification. Obviousoy headphone amps are designed for the use of smaller loads but that’s besides the point.

My headphone setup is using gear that most people wouldn’t associate with a headphone only setup. Auralic Aires G2.1, Holo May KTE DAC, PS Audio regenerator and Holo Bliss headphone amp. All feeding Meze Elite headphones and/or Meze Liric closed backs(and obviously running Hapa Audio cabling.). Most of this gear would be at home in a top tier two channel setup including the Bliss amp/preamp. That said, a headphone setup of this caliber far outstrips any two channel setup in regards to clarity, detail, texture, balance and realism. Not jumping into any particular camp on this, just stating what I think in regards to how one should approach the equipment selection of a headphone vs two channel and I firmly believe BOTH strive for the same sonic goal that the user deems appropriate. Likely their taste overlaps 100% is what I’d think.

AllanS

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Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #4 on: 16 Jun 2023, 10:57 am »
This is helpful.  Thank you.  The reality for me would be the head amp would have to also feed a power amp.  I’m not going to have a collection of DACs.  The difference would be biasing choices on how the headphones sound rather than the speakers.

Freo-1

Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #5 on: 16 Jun 2023, 12:00 pm »
I’ll add my two cents. I don’t think there should be any fundamental difference in the DAC/front end or amplification. Obviousoy headphone amps are designed for the use of smaller loads but that’s besides the point.

My headphone setup is using gear that most people wouldn’t associate with a headphone only setup. Auralic Aires G2.1, Holo May KTE DAC, PS Audio regenerator and Holo Bliss headphone amp. All feeding Meze Elite headphones and/or Meze Liric closed backs(and obviously running Hapa Audio cabling.). Most of this gear would be at home in a top tier two channel setup including the Bliss amp/preamp. That said, a headphone setup of this caliber far outstrips any two channel setup in regards to clarity, detail, texture, balance and realism. Not jumping into any particular camp on this, just stating what I think in regards to how one should approach the equipment selection of a headphone vs two channel and I firmly believe BOTH strive for the same sonic goal that the user deems appropriate. Likely their taste overlaps 100% is what I’d think.


I'll also add the Chord M-Scaler, Chord Hugo TT2 to the mix.  The Chord M-Scaler can be used with any DAC, and provides significant improvement with all aspects of playback.  This applies to both loudspeakers and headphone listening.  The M-Scaler works best with the Chord Hugo TT2 or Chord DAVE.


The TT2 is an outstanding DAC, especially with the M-Scaler in the loop.  It also has a top shelf headphone amp, and the XLR output actually sports 18 watts per channel.  It can act as a Headphone amp, a straight DAC, or a DAC/Preamp-Amp.


The Chord gear uses very complex filtering/processing that is designed to better reconstruct the analog signal from the digital data stream.  IMHO, this approach is the most advanced regarding digital playback. 


The Chord gear can happily be used with both both headphone and loudspeaker setups.       

Pez

Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #6 on: 16 Jun 2023, 09:28 pm »
This is helpful.  Thank you.  The reality for me would be the head amp would have to also feed a power amp.  I’m not going to have a collection of DACs.  The difference would be biasing choices on how the headphones sound rather than the speakers.

I would look into an amp like the Holo Bliss if that’s the case. It’s an exemplary preamp and the best SS headphone amp I have ever heard.

Freo-1

Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #7 on: 16 Jun 2023, 11:33 pm »
This is helpful.  Thank you.  The reality for me would be the head amp would have to also feed a power amp.  I’m not going to have a collection of DACs.  The difference would be biasing choices on how the headphones sound rather than the speakers.


The Chord Hugo TT2 would also fit the bill.  IMHO, It's the best sounding DAC in its price range.  It has a headphone amp, and I also use it as a preamp to drive a pair of tube monoblocks. 

Armaegis

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Re: Anything different About Headphone DAC/Streamer
« Reply #8 on: 9 Jul 2023, 10:00 pm »
I have rotated through a lot of headphone gear over the years but as amp choices go I've been happy with the SPL Phonitor 2 (I had the X briefly, but it wasn't enough of a step up to justify the extra cost to me) and as a bonus it also serves as an excellent preamp for speakers.

I don't search for any particular sonic characteristics in headphones vs speakers. If I'm juggling components to get particular sounds, it's going to be more for the individual pieces of gear and matching, not the categories.