Headphone DAC/amp comparison is challenging

I have recently been comparing two headphone setups: a Geek Pulse XFi+LPS DAC/headphone amp combo connected to a MicroRendu, and a Bryston BHA-1 driven by analog output of a Meridian 818. Both connected to the Roon Core over IP. Same Audeze LCD-3 cans.

Both are excellent. But when I first moved from the Pulse to the Bryston I was stunned by the improvement, until I realized I had the Bryston playing louder. I have since experimented with volume levels and proven the old wisdom that louder sounds better.

Makes it very difficult to compare headphone gear. I have no way of measuring and level-setting headphone volume.

I don’t have to compare them, they are both good and I can enjoy the music. But this experience illustrates a challenge, and makes me very suspicious of comparative reviews…