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I'll apologize for my ignorance in advance, but I am looking for advice in deciding to join this drop... I'm brand new to the high-end audio game, I have a pair of the LCD-XC [I know, but I needed closed cans]. I am wildly, deeply, and passionately in love with them [yes, they came with a wood cleaning kit] [no, the double meaning is not lost on me]. However, I am only listening to them through my mac-book and a Fiio E17. I want to truly hear this headphones in all of their glory... will this setup allow me to listen to high quality digital and vinyl sources while enhancing the sound from the XC's?
I truly appreciate any advice that the community can provide.
The DAC section of the m920 is excellent. The amp is very good, but built-in as a convenience, so not at the same level as the DAC. I have not heard the LCD-XC's through the m920's amp, so I can't give any direct experience, but I know that Grace has often had Audeze and Sennheiser headphones at their demo booths (I think LCD-3's, but I'm not positive). I can't imagine they would use headphones that didn't pair well as demo units, but remember, you could always get a separate amp later. I mainly use my m920 as a standalone DAC, but I do occasionally use the built-in amp. That said, the built-in amp will not be the best available for the LCD-XC's, but it should still be good.
As far as digital and analog sources go, the m920 does have two analog pass-throughs, so it will work fine, but you would need an external phono preamp for using a turntable.
I had the M920 its fantastic DAC but average AMP. The sound was little bright and there was lack of bass for my ears. To most people hearing difference between AMP's is more likely then hearing difference between DAC's. I would love to hear Audioman612 opinion on this statement. At least that is my experience with numerous AMP and DAC I tried. If I was you I would focus on a good AMP first then focus on a good DAC. Unless you have cash to throw around. I would recommend Woo Audio Fireflies WA7. For $999 excellent AMP and good DAC. The sound is powerful , clean , rich and will blow you away. I did little reading on pairing please see the link below. Folks that have that combo love it.
If your rich like AudioMan612 get M920 and Fireflies. But if you had to pick one thing I would go with WA7 tube amp. Amazing amp for sure.
Another option would be Woo Audio WA6 for $699 and for about $500 go with Schiit Bifrost UBER. Great amp and great dac for less then M920.
Thank you both for your input and opinions. I will consider what you have said in making this choice. Much appreciated!
It's terrible to assume an amp is not as good as it could be just because it is not a standalone unit.
Technically speaking, an amp and DAC combo will be objectively and measurable superior to separate units of the same DAC/amp because of their connections being much shorter and less interrupted by components to put it in the most basic form.
This 'amp/headphone synergy' myth is also rather silly to me. If a headphone sounds bad from a transparent source that is not colouring the signal going into the headphones, well then the headphone sounds bad.
I'm not assuming anything. I own an m920 and am speaking from experience. But as I said earlier, many if not most pieces of combo audio gear tend to have one part be the primary purpose of that device, with the other part built-in for convenience that usually isn't bad, but it is not at the same level of the primary component. This is true in the case of the m920. The amp section is good, but the DAC is excellent.
Synergy isn't a myth as much as it's one of the more opinionated part of audio equipment (this includes speakers). Everyone has their own taste in what they want. I think most audiophiles want a response that is relatively flat, but most of them like a bit of color in one way or another. So yes, maybe if a headphone or speaker doesn't sound great perfectly flat, it may not be an amazing piece of gear, but it is still possible that with some other amp, it sounds good to someone. Also, there are more technical parts of synergy such as impedance matching. Also, in older days, tube amps often did not do well controlling low frequencies, so they may not get along well with large woofers. This is why you used to see bi-amp setups where the crossover was before the power amps, and then the lows would go to solid state amps and then woofers, while the mids and highs would go to tube amps and then into the mid-woofers and tweeters.