DAC Headphone amp experiences

Its time to replace an old Creek OBH11 headphone amp and entry DAC with a combo product. Obviously there are many great products out there, but I have narrowed my choices to two: (1) Questyle CMA 600i or (2) Brooklyn Mytek.

I dont need the extra features of the Brooklyn, but obviously they could be useful at some point down the road.

I’m pretty skeptical of MQA, but again I suppose this is a modest plus from a forward-compatibility perspective.

Has anyone A//B demo’d these two pieces or had enough experience with both to offer advice? Looking for views on the sound when used as a DAC/headphone only.

Impossible question to answer without knowing what phones you intend to use. Also the Brooklyn is a lot of things plus a headphone amp. Why not go for a product which is a headphone amp first but can do other things? Look at a product called the Violectric HPA V220. If you really want MQA there are other ways to get that such as the line output of the Explorer2.

I recommend the Meridian Prime, I use it as Pre Amp, Dac and Headphone Amplifier. Sounds amazing (with and without MQA)
My headphone is Audioquest’s NightHawk: Very comfy and nice,rich analogue sound

Thanks. To borrow a phrase from Schiit - I’m looking for something to play the music I have now. MQA is just a “nice to have”.

On headphones, I’m currently using Sennheiser Momentums (over ear) but likely to upgrade to Focal Elear. Both phones are generally reviewed as being easy to drive.

Its nearly impossible to actually demo products any more with the evisceration of hifi retailing.

I own the Brooklyn and am very happy with it. I use it as both a Preamp and as a Headphone amp (Audeze XLCs). It works beautifully in both domains. It also supports just about every format out there. I’m very happy with it, but am waiting for my PS Junior to arrive tomorrow for my other listening room. Why you ask? Well as much as I do really love the Brooklyn I am the type of person who worries about all eggs in one basket, so didn’t want the second DAC being the same as the first. Plus it will be lots of fun comparing the two.

Sounds like a fun exercise. Thanks for the info.

I have a Geek Pulse Xfi which is a combined DAC/headphone amp. Pretty good (but I wouldn’t recommend it today because of worries about LHLabs). But this not is not about the Pulse.

I also have the option to drive a Bryston all-analog headphone amp from my main DAC (a Meridian 818). And I much prefer it, have stopped using the Pulse.

I don’t know if this is due to the 818 being a superior DAC, or the Bryston being a superior headphone amp. (I can drive the Bryston from the Pulse, and my first tests point to the 818.)

But my point is, ignore my specific devices, this experience illustrates the value of separates.

(I can’t believe I wrote that, I usually argue that at a certain level all devices are good and I value simplicity…)

I know this is not a proper DAC / Amp, but has anybody used Bluesound speakers (such as Pulse, Pulse Mini or Pulse Flex) with high quality headphones? How is the quality of their DACs?

I believe they have Burr Brown DACs built in, and a headphones jack.

+1 Meridian Prime - Pre-amp / DAC and headphone Amp. I use mine with Audeze LCD-XC and Grado RS-1e. This setup replaced my Meridian Direct DAC (Director) and Grado RA-1 headphone amp.

Jotunheim here driving Audeze LCD3 and Sennheiser HD800. Have yet to decide which cans I’ll keep.

Do you like your Jot? Why not their “separates”? Or Deckard?

I’d buy another Joty in a heartbeat. My cans are for desktop and bedroom listening. Main HiFi has a yggdrasil and active speakers.

Thanks! I have read mixed reviews on Jot. Many Schiit aficionados claim putting DAC and Amp in one chassis is not a good idea.

What do you use as a RoonReady player with your Jot and cans?

There’s nothing stopping them buying a Joty without a DAC installed. That was my original intention, but in hindsight I’m pleased I got the DAC because it’s very convenient having it all in a single unit and the DAC is a hell of a lot better than I’d anticipated it would be. Furthermore, the Joty is very quiet, so you’re not listening through a noise floor.

All said, cans are a compromise anyhow - if you’ve ever lived with good HiFi you’ll know what I mean, so for me diminishing returns sets in pretty quickly.

I use an Odroid C2 as my Roon Bridge, feeding the Joty DAC via USB. The Odroid C2 works so well I use one wherever I want a Roon Ready endpoint. To satisfy my own curiosity I’m having a really good linear power supply built. Its regulation under load was measured to be 0.019V drift over 55V output = 0.0345%. Output regulation between no-load and full load was 0.063V, so 0.114%. It’ll be interesting to see whether powering the Odroid using this LPSU will yield any audible improvement over a stock wall wart. I also have some plans re testing powering the USB port separately rather than via the Odroid. Again, I’d love to hear whether there’s any appreciable, audible difference.

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Please audition the Focal before buying as it sounds really different from the Sennheiser, as in warm and easy vs. more analytical, precise.

Thanks, Gabriel. The Momentums can be fun sometimes, but they are actually a bit too warm and a little thumpy for my taste. My main home system is Focal-based (1037be L/R), so based on what I have read, I am speculating that I will enjoy them.

AS I alluded to, though, sadly the state of audio retailing is a mess. I’d be happy to audition and buy local, but really there essentially no one doing high end DAC/Headphone/HEadAmp demos on Chicago’s north side. I have zero Saturday space for a long excursion to the suburbs, and actually its too scary out there in the 'burbs. We have one purist shop open 3 days a week, which gave me the advice "it all sucks, you should just get a questyle portable and Grado SR500’s). Another shop demoing Grado and a couple of other phones I already know I don’t like. Magnolia (uh, yeah).

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The same problem here: there’s no chance in demoing them together anymore. Just buying online and hoping it can be resent if it sounds awful.

Have had the Elears for about 3 weeks now and I think they are fully broken in. Really enjoying them - very glad I made the investment. Now turning my attention to DAC or AMP/DAC. My old Creek OBH-11 with upgraded ps is frankly surprising me to the upside with the new phones. The stand-in placeholder DAC has been revelaed, however.