Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion

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adydula

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Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« on: 29 May 2019, 08:55 pm »
Optimal Headphone Matching Discussion

This thread is aimed at sharing your experiences with using different headphones with different types of headphone gear.
It could be any headphone or IEM that you have used with any type of gear that you think really works well and sounds great.

Many people just getting into this part of the audio pastime often wonder if some headphone and dac and or amp pairing is better sounding than
another.

If you think a particular headphone works better with certain gear, lets hear that.

I will start it off with a recent experience I had with my Sennheiser HD 600's and Beyerdynamics T1 Rev 2's.

I have a bunch of headphone amps here and four dacs as well as a dozen set of headphones. My personal preference over time has changed and I have
pretty much settled in to using a particular headphone with a certain amp. I also prefer different gain settings on certain amps that seem to me
just make the listening experience "better" to me.

I am sure many of you know what the HD600 and most of the Sennheiser HD 6xx line sounds like...These 600's have been around for a long time.
The Beyer TOTL T1's morphed into the 2nd revision in the past year or so. I find the T1's I have to be nice, great tonality but a bit laid back from time to time.
When I use the 600's its like "wow" these are really bright, crisp, clear and very articulate, while the Beyers sound like I am standing in
a padded acoustic, its all there but its a "quiet" environment compared to the 600s'.

When I use them on different amps these characteristics seem to be exacerbated.

I prefer the 600's to be used with my Bottlehead Crack with Speedball (constant current mod) over the T1's with it. The Crack seems to tone down the
600s so its almost a perfect sonic presentation IMO. With the T1's and its more laid back presentation I am not as pleased listening. I bought the
T1's before the 600's and when I got the 600's it was wow how can a much lower priced headphone seem better to me than one more than double in price?

To me a well designed tube amp like the Bottlehead crack and a pair of Senn 600's is a marriage made in heaven.

Now when I switch to my Bottlehead Mainline, BH's TOTL headphone amp its just the opposite! The T1's to shine on this amp, while the 600's fall
into second place. Amazing, if I haven't had both amps I would never have guessed this outcome.

In my listening I have settled in on a Schitt Bifrost multibit dac and that's a constant for the moment.

So what are your pairing experiences?

What combinations do you really like, sound great, or sound not so great?

Alex

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #1 on: 3 Jun 2019, 11:09 pm »
There hasnt been much discussion here?

I guess its not as popular as the requester thought?

That said....I brought out my Burson Fun 2 watt Class A amp with the Burson Audion "V6 Vivid" discrete op amps.

I am listening to Donald Fagan right now, with the T1's (2nd Rev)..and the matching is "superb"...

This amp makes the T1's shine, micro details, clarity, depth of sound etc...tonality...one of the best with the T1's in solid state I
have heard.

Instrument placement is very very nice, and if there is something in the recording hiding this combination will bring it to the
forefront!

Alex
« Last Edit: 4 Jun 2019, 12:57 am by adydula »

brooklyn

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #2 on: 4 Jun 2019, 01:51 am »
Hi Alex,

I haven’t been on this site for a while but I noticed you’ve ramped things up recently on the Headphone Mania Circle.. I think this is a great topic you started to give readers a clearer picture as to how some headfiers perceive there systems.. I primarily only listen to music and videos through headphones on my computer the past few years. So far I’m really enjoying it and have no regrets selling off my audio system..

I use two different headphone/amp systems these days. The first is an older Graham Slee Solo headphone amp that I purchased from an A/C member a while back with a Hifiman HE-400i headphones for everyday use. That system sounds clear and accurate to my ears from top to bottom.

The other system I reserve for listening to music exclusively. The amp is a Darkvoice 336se with stock tubes and the Beyerdynamic T1.2 headphones. That system for me is the bomb… it sounds organic and lifelike and I can hear deeper into the music. The T1.2’s don’t sound quite as good with the Graham Slee, they don’t have that organic detailed sound that I get with the Darkvoice. Perhaps a bit sterile by comparison.

My source is a 2012 Mac Mini with a Schiit Bifrost Multibit Dac that I was using up until recently with great results. I’m planing on making a couple of new purchases in the near future to hear if there is anything that will peak my interest in this great hobby..
 
I hope Milford3 is doing well and is on the mend..

Jerry   

FireGuy

Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #3 on: 4 Jun 2019, 12:05 pm »
I hope Milford3 is doing well and is on the mend.

Thank you Jerry.  We're all hoping the future will be positive.

I'm getting great results from a Schiit Valhalla and Nuforce UDAC2 with my go-to HiFiMAN HE-400. 

 Recently had Senn HD 800.  Prob the most neutral cans I've heard.  Mids are glorious but for me overall sound is clinical.  I don't consider that a negative but I feel I need to match the music type to the Senns.  The HiFiMAN on the other hand... more robust, go deeper and fuller.  Lastly, Beyer T1 are closer to the HiFiMAN than the Senns but comfort suffers a little.  Comfort champ hands down the HD 800 & Beyer DT880.


Letitroll98

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #4 on: 4 Jun 2019, 12:57 pm »
With my new digs and my speaker based systems in temporary storage I've cut way down to my Hifiman HE400i, Sabaj DA2, streaming Tidal through my Samsung phone.  Remarkably satisfying for such a minimalist set up.

Delta77

Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #5 on: 4 Jun 2019, 01:14 pm »
Not a lot of experience with Headphones..
My set up is not dedicated. It’s a living room setup, mostly for 2 channel , and television ..
ZMF (auteur) are my only headphones..
Still looking to make some improvements, but here is my setup..
All I do is plug in the Headphones to the preamp and turn off the main amp..
Every source can be used with the headphones (streamer, TV, Turntable, Cd/DVD)..
Denon Dp59L (TT)
Decware ZP3 (phono)
Apple TV4 (streamer)
OPPO 205 (Dac/Cdp/Dvd) Volume control
Decware CSP3 (preamp/headphone amp)
Decware ZMA (main amp)
Tekton DI SE (speakers)
Tekton Cinema (sub)
Cullencable Silver/Copper (Cable loom)






I heard an “Amps and Sound” (forgot model) amp on my ZMF ‘s at a show ,that really sounded impressive .


adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #6 on: 4 Jun 2019, 02:21 pm »
brooklyn...

Thanks for the nice comments....I am glad some of the changes are positive....I probably will "stickie: some of these threads.
I wanted to see how they were accepted etc..

I wish Milford3 all the best as well.....

We all have gone thru tough paths in life and we are not here in this earth forever so lets enjoy the music while
we can...and a good cup of "joe"!

 :D

Alex

A_shah

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #7 on: 10 Jun 2019, 05:44 am »
Not a lot of experience with Headphones..
My set up is not dedicated. It’s a living room setup, mostly for 2 channel , and television ..
ZMF (auteur) are my only headphones..
Still looking to make some improvements, but here is my setup..
All I do is plug in the Headphones to the preamp and turn off the main amp..
Every source can be used with the headphones (streamer, TV, Turntable, Cd/DVD)..
Denon Dp59L (TT)
Decware ZP3 (phono)
Apple TV4 (streamer)
OPPO 205 (Dac/Cdp/Dvd) Volume control
Decware CSP3 (preamp/headphone amp)
Decware ZMA (main amp)
Tekton DI SE (speakers)
Tekton Cinema (sub)
Cullencable Silver/Copper (Cable loom)






I heard an “Amps and Sound” (forgot model) amp on my ZMF ‘s at a show ,that really sounded impressive .


Burt
Forget Apple Tv get a Bluesound 2i for a 30 day trial period through Amazon - You will love it a dedicated streamer is by far the best option for your kind of set up - yes I know you are looking at the Innuos  Zen Mk 111 , but if your are not ripping CD 's and just as a streamer you will not go wrong with the Bluesound ! cheers  :thumb:
Asghar

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #8 on: 10 Jun 2019, 11:34 am »
It came to me today after building the new T2 SS amp of Mark Johnsons....I am, so enamored over its stellar performance...

Its so clean and clear...live performances are brilliant using it.

So its a Class A amp, runs hot, but in its case and design with the load resistors off the board, all "8" of them...the case is barely warm..

That said, my T1's are the headphones that match with this amp so nicely of all my others, they are ok, really good, but the laid
 back presentation of the T1's second gen..to me come alive with this amp more so than any others I have.

So I was thinking...maybe this is an optimal match for these cans with a Class A amp?

The only other completley Class A amp I have now is the Birson FUN, a 2 watt Class A amp..and I will test back ad forth and see how this "hypothesis" goes?

Good Morning!

Alex
« Last Edit: 17 Jun 2019, 03:06 pm by adydula »

audiobomber

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #9 on: 10 Jun 2019, 04:52 pm »
IME, headphones clearly sound better/worse with different amps and it's not necessarily obvious which will be optimal.

I own a Schiit Asgard 2 and Hafler HA15, and had a friend's Bottlehead Crack home on loan for a couple of weeks.
My headphones are Grado GH4 and Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro (Analytical pads). I had the Massdrop 6XX (same as Sennheiser HD 650) while I had the Crack.

Clear synergies were evident:
GH4/HA15 (best)
DT 1990/Asgard
6XX/Crack (still great but least preferred)

One would think the rich sounding but very slightly veiled DT 1990 would mate best with the lean but very transparent Hafler amp, and the open sounding Grado would be best with the warmer sounding Asgard. The 6XX is a warm-sounding headphone, yet pairs best with the warmest sounding amp (Crack). It seems that in all of above cases, pairing strengths was a much better solution than trying to offset a headphone's weakest area with an amp's strength.

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #10 on: 10 Jun 2019, 08:28 pm »
I think the amp and what its designed to do, ie designed for high impedances or low impedances , has something to do with how well things work or sound downstream.
As well as how it operates, ie Class A or AB etc..

But this doesnt take away from our observations as to what sounds good to us...

Its an amazing area to discuss for sure.

Alex

Dmason

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #11 on: 10 Jun 2019, 11:06 pm »
Mojo + LCD.

audiobomber

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #12 on: 11 Jun 2019, 04:37 pm »
I think the amp and what its designed to do, ie designed for high impedances or low impedances , has something to do with how well things work or sound downstream.
As well as how it operates, ie Class A or AB etc..
The gear I compared had wide-ranging specs. The Asgard 2 is Class A single-ended mosfet, the HA15 is Class AB solid state, the Crack is OTL vacuum tube. Output impedance of the Asgard approaches zero, the Crack is 120 ohms. The HA15 output impedance is not specified but load spec is 8-400 ohms which accommodates all the headphones used (Grado @ 32, DT 1990 @ 250 and 6XX @ 300 ohms).

The only impedance mismatch was Crack with Grado. I didn't listen much to that combo, but tried it to see how it would do. The sound was OK, just a bit looser due to the low damping factor. Definitely not a combo I would recommend.

Hafler says the HA15 is "Solid state with quasi class-A". Not sure what that means exactly. The power amps in my main system are Class AB mosfet, but "heavily biased into Class A" according to the Museatex technical manager. In theory, Class A operation should be the best, but some of the best amps in the world are AB designs, and lately even Class D.

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #13 on: 11 Jun 2019, 11:42 pm »
Bottlehead designed the Crack with high impedance headphones in mind....I did try some 32 ohm cans on it and it was less than stellar....but with the 250 and higher cans I use its really very good. Their Mainline, which I have built is much, much better with low impedance headphones....and works very well with high impedance headphones.

I had a set of Grado 325i's for a year or so, but sold them, looking for somthing to me that was abit smoother overall and more comforatble.

I never really could get over the fit for long periods of time....

Alex

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #14 on: 17 Jun 2019, 03:12 pm »
I have had a chance to do a comparison listening session with Mark Johnsons T2 Class A amp with the Birson FUN amp which I also like very much.

They are both nice amps, but there are some differences.

The soundstage on the T2 is just absolutely one of the best I have ever heard, and its even better than the one with the FUN...hard to believe.

This IMO is the aspect that sets the T2 apart from many other amps I have, Bottlehead, Schitt, O2, DIY stuff etc...

The low end stuff on the FUN seems a little "tighter" and snappy.....but its close.

I could be happy with either one, only if I never heard the other!!  :D

Both amps are not that expensive, but the T2 is a DIY project and this might not be your cup of tea.

But the T2 is a really easy project to do...its the easiest I have done and I have done a ton of them.

All the best
Alex

dflee

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #15 on: 17 Jun 2019, 03:51 pm »
What are the upstream equipment? Is this all from computer and needing a dac or is this coming
from the main rig? I have an older Accuphase pre that has a headphone jack. How would I go about
connecting a headphone amp in this scenario? I have to turn the pre up to 12 o'clock to get decent volume
and wonder if I'm pushing the pre. The sound is decent but wonder what a headphone amp would do.
Living on a limited budget makes personal comparisons difficult and I am just getting into it but find Optimal
matching to include the dac and is it separate or part of the amp as in my case the IFI IDSD-LE which I run the
HIFI Man HE400S hooked up to my laptop for most listening. My stereo is a whole bunch of factors and what I'm
listening to (ie: music, audio book or telly). For fathers day I got myself a Moon Audio Blue Dragon for the 400S
and gotta say it made a big difference for the better. A lot more detail.

Don

adydula

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Re: Optimal Headphone Matching - Discussion
« Reply #16 on: 17 Jun 2019, 04:09 pm »
Hi Don,

My situation is seperate from my 2 channle stereo listening setup.
In that situtation I use a VanAlstine preamp to a VanAlstine Ultravalve tube amp...
I use a laptop pc with Jriver for Foobar2000 to send to a USB dac (Schitt BIFROST multi-bit) to the preamp....and onto the tube amp and speakers.

But in my headphone listening, I do this in a seperate room.
All my music sis ripped flacs that go to a usb dac, same Bifrost...then its cabled to the amp...
Simple.

I have listened to headphones using the headphone jack in the VanAlstine preamp..and its pretty good. I did ask Frank once what
his circuitry is used here and I believe its a simple op amp and a tap...this IMO really works well. But its too inconvienent
to use , cable length etc.

That said I find using a good pc to a dac to the amp is the way to go.
There are several hookup methods from a pc to the dac, USB, digital either optical or spdif ....I use USB because the HP AIO only has usb out, no digital.

But Schitt has really worked on the USB design and I have the lastest of their magic USB implementation and its great.
I doi site here with a Oppo BD83SE playere one day and tried the two optical outputs to the Schitt Dac and after a few hours
there was not enough of discernable difference so I just use the USB with a good cable. (From Schitt).

Hope this helps.
Alex
 :D
« Last Edit: 17 Jun 2019, 10:29 pm by adydula »