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Headphone Upgrade - Tidal Hifi


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Hi all

Been some time since i posted on the WAM. Last few posts having been selling my kit.

Since then, due to working from home more recently, i have been listening a lot more on headphones.

My current set up is a bit of a mixed bag and quite old.

I take a USB feed from my computer playing Tidal Hifi or Master that gets fed to a DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core (set to DSP by pass). This feeds a ~15-20 yr old Graham Slee Solo Headphone amp that in turn feeds some equally old Grado 80 headphones.

The headphones, due to the foam starting to degrade, now start to hurt after an extended listening period so need to get those replaced and this made me think whether an upgrade was a better idea if my listening trend continues.

I have done some research and as with all HiFi there are loads of brands and loads of price points e.g. Focal, Audeze, HfiMan etc etc.

What i however wasn't sure about is whether in anyone's experience there was a limiting factor on Tidal that means there's a max level it's worth paying for phones?  Didn't think so but wanted to check

I am never going to be someone who buys raw hires files or anything. I have some FLAC from my old CD collection but i'm happy with the streaming for now and don't want to buy something that is ultimately being constrained by the source. 

I was going to try some of the more expensive phones £2500-3000 to compare to cheaper types

Thanks in advance.

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Tidal is not going to be a limiting factor in this assuming that your system can handle the hires all the way through. Not sure about your DSP but I assume it's 24/192 capable.  

Are you using the DSP as a DAC? That might be the limiting factor in this setup, it's not really useful for headphone use I thought it was to deal with room effects. It might be able to tune the sound to your taste though, but then it's just an over-specced graphic equaliser.  Mind you if I was using grados I'd be dialing down the treble quite a bit :D

I'd be looking at a better DAC and upgrading your headphones. Which ones depends on what kind of sound you like, if you like the Grados maybe consider some Sennheiser HD800 you can get them for just north of £500 if you look around. I'm not familiar with the Focal range.

You should then choose a dac that complements the sound of the phones and an amp that can drive your headphones. Planars usually need a lot more power than most dynamics.

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Thanks for the response. i didn't think it would be an issue but wanted to check.

Yes DSPeaker is primarily used for Room Correction (and i think it does a pretty good job at that). But it also includes a DAC (and an ADC for Analogue sources). You can bypass all the room correction and just use the DAC if you want. That's what i am doing

Not a big DAC aficionado but i think it does a pretty decent job. I don't use it as a headphone amp. I leave that to the Graham Slee.

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The DSPeaker isn''t a great DAC, a bit uninspiring imo.

Well worth getting something better if you are considering multiple £k for headphones.
You don't have to spend that much to get a much better DAC.  Something like the Topping D70 should see off the DSPeaker without breaking a sweat imo.

You mention planar magnetic headphones, well worth a listen and many folks like them, but I find them irritatingly smooth; I've heard quite a few and owned some.  I haven't liked any!

Your old Grados, like all from that make, are quite bright and forward sounding - if you want to stay with that sort of sound, then try some upmarket Grados.  I used to have PS1000 (getting on for £2k rrp) and they were quite exceptional, but brighter than the average cans!

You just have to try some.  Come along to the Wam's Kegworth show in March - it looks like there will be quite a few headphones on dem.

Edited by JANDL100
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Thanks. I think the DAC could well be replaced as well as the headphone amp in due course.

Have no affinity to Grado. Bought these a long time ago and they are the only over ear headphones i have ever owned. Typically use IEMs outside my listening room at home

https://www.audiosanctuary.co.uk/

These guys are not far from me and seem to have a good selection of phones to choose from. There is also Spiritland round the corner from me at work.

Edited by reg
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Have had and still have a fair bit headphone gear. 

It's possible to have a really pretty decent set up for well under a grand. Consider something like a Chord Mojo dac/amp paired with a  Oppo Pm 3 or the Sennheiser hd800 this would set a pretty high bar performance wise for comparison against gear costing significantly more.  Plus your not tied to your laptop use the tidal app on your phone into the mojo and your completely mobile. I use mine in this exact way iand t's very nice not having to be tied to the room my main set up is in. Being able sit in the garden or just laying on the bed enjoying some tunes and relaxing etc has a lot going for it.

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has anyone heard this DAC?

https://www.iglooaudio.co.uk/mytek-brooklyn-plus.html

Probably opening a can or worms here but this has MQA decoding and as i am going to be using Tidal for 100% of listening may be a good benefit?

Reading on line there is a bid debate about whether MQA is good, bad or pure evil but given my source i should surely make the best of what i have

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3 hours ago, reg said:

has anyone heard this DAC?

https://www.iglooaudio.co.uk/mytek-brooklyn-plus.html

Probably opening a can or worms here but this has MQA decoding and as i am going to be using Tidal for 100% of listening may be a good benefit?

Reading on line there is a bid debate about whether MQA is good, bad or pure evil but given my source i should surely make the best of what i have

I’m using the Brooklyn Bridge. Just the Brooklyn+ with a streamer.

MQA does have a slight difference with non-MQA when listening via headphone but not with all tracks. Track does play a role in it.

Would I miss MQA? Nope.

The Mytek has a crisp lush sound. Not as super fine as the Qutest but the Qutest does not sound lush.

Mytek got headphone output. Sounds good too.

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Regarding headphones, I wouldn't have thought you'd need to spend £k's There are some excellent choices for well under 4 figures.

The first thing I had to unravel with headphones were all of the different styles - in-ear, on-ear, over-ear, closed/open back...

And, do you want the flexibility of wireless?

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16 minutes ago, v1nn1e said:

Regarding headphones, I wouldn't have thought you'd need to spend £k's There are some excellent choices for well under 4 figures.

The first thing I had to unravel with headphones were all of the different styles - in-ear, on-ear, over-ear, closed/open back...

And, do you want the flexibility of wireless?

Hi Vinnie

I have Etymotic IEMs and Sony wireless already so what i am really looking for here is good quality sounding Closed/Open back Over ear phones for use in a small study/office where i won't be disturbing anyone.

I agree that prices start to get silly and you can definitely get something that sounds good for less.

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25 minutes ago, tIANcI said:

I’m using the Brooklyn Bridge. Just the Brooklyn+ with a streamer.

MQA does have a slight difference with non-MQA when listening via headphone but not with all tracks. Track does play a role in it.

Would I miss MQA? Nope.

The Mytek has a crisp lush sound. Not as super fine as the Qutest but the Qutest does not sound lush.

Mytek got headphone output. Sounds good too.

Thanks for the feedback. Reviews on line look good too.

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