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

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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.
thumb_upROBERT MASON
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ge1987
2
Nov 14, 2018
I would say He-4xx or HD6xx or HD58x jubilee with topping dx3 pro
s2030081
54
Oct 4, 2018
Start with the best speaker/headphone/IEM you can affort is always a rule of thumb. Getting a better speaker/headphone/IEM always result in the largest improvement you will get in a system. Of cause there is always a deminishing return but it is out of your budget.
Being an audiophile, there are too many way to spend your mony: cables, DACs, AMPs, ear pad, even a fuse or a volume control pot can cost hundreds of thousands. However, if you don't have a speaker/headphone/IEM that can show you audiable imporvments, you are just wasting mony.
Sennheiser 6XX is the best value headphone you can get in the market for new. Think about how much HD650 is selling and how much HD6xx is... On the other hand, HD58X is still a good choice. It provided a greater value than it price. To me, given that the HD650 is the same as HD6xx, the HD6XX should sound better in general but may be less bassy than HD58X.
If you don't want Sennheiser, try Fostex T50RP MK3 or even TP60RP. The T50RP family is famous for its modding potential.
SOULSIK
1495
Oct 3, 2018
Sennheiser headphone + Schiit stack. Start there like all of us
and then.... hell begins in few weeks. 2 months in... no money few more months in.... scraping bottom of your wallet for dimes
ProfessorPat
376
Oct 4, 2018
Oh I know. I just wanted an excuse to complain about all of these $1000+ headphones that didn't exist back then... and mention Grado, since I do miss those things every once in a while.
JoeKnott
38
Nov 11, 2018
Don't start out with Tubes. I wish I didn't start out with the Vali 2. Tubes are a pain in the butt and not a place to start.
How much cash you got?
;)
Michael.R
3
Sep 22, 2020
If you are still giving advice, I have the same question. I want to get a budget audiophile setup for about $400 ( or just get a Drop Panda and forget the whole thing) I know I will want to use them for video conferencing down the line but that would be above and beyond the $400 ( modmic or desk mic). I bring it up because it might influence the dac or amp suggestion. My most listened too music is Christian but I like classic rock, 80's, 90's, jazz, classical, and musicals. Any suggestions?
So. Source; For a nice, does most everything, look into the Aune line of DAC/Amps. The X1 Pro comes in at 299 on Amazon. You will find one in your price range and they are a pretty solid build and performance quality, with plenty of inputs for your needs. You could go with one of the O2 dac/amps offered around here, but inputs are limited. If you want something that has inputs for your computer USB, a CD player, and a turntable, many of the amps available here tend to be more source dedicated, like only one or two source inputs, so something like the Aune is a good starting point. I use one for a turntable pre-amp that I can run into one of my various tube amps or into an Elac amplifier. The Aune series offers several configs, some of which have 4 or 5 inputs available. They won't break your bank and you can build off them. Cans; I really like what the Sennheisers can do for your music and use prefs that you have listed there. That 6XX that is oft recommended is a very very nice all-rounder and has a nice presentation with jazz and acoustic musics, even when paired with solid state amplification. They will serve you well and have a nice price point. We are a bit over your budget, I think, but this is a decent jumping in point that can carry you into your next upgrades rather handily and you can use the Aune for other things or as a stand-alone headphone amp. Let me know when you want to venture into tube amps..... whole 'nother kettle of fish. :)
(Edited)
MXRC
242
Apr 24, 2018
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.
Michael.R
3
Sep 22, 2020
Do you think you would still suggest the same 2 years later?
MXRC
242
Sep 30, 2020
I think more so now since you can find them brand new for as low as $150. I am looking forward for the gen3 of those headphones, but Covid-19 has delayed its release. The new X3s will be around $400 though, so I think the X2s are still the most viable entry level headphone for upcoming enthusiasts.
REVMAD
107
Apr 23, 2018
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..
JoeKnott
38
Sep 29, 2018
Ok cool then I skipped right over that and got the Vali 2 lol. I guess I am good for now.
halalkhana218
2
Sep 29, 2018
That refers to a bundle of two Schiit products, which are normally stacked on top of each other. In most cases, people mean the Schiit Modi and Magni, one stacked on top of the other. http://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1 http://www.schiit.com/products/magni-1 EDIT: Saw you already had an answer, my bad.
VRacer111
479
Apr 22, 2018
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...
TronII
4
Apr 21, 2018
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
Bluergbswitch
13
Apr 22, 2018
Alright, I will look at those. Thanks for the response!
TronII
4
Apr 22, 2018
You're welcome
phoenixsong
1203
Apr 21, 2018
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.
Bluergbswitch
13
Apr 22, 2018
Huh, I never thought about it like that. That is quite interesting. Thanks for the response!
Heefty
1368
Apr 20, 2018
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.
Bluergbswitch
13
Apr 22, 2018
My $250 is for the headphones. Thanks for the response!
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