Headphone suggestions needed

I'm building my first high-end headphone system and need some headphone and dac suggestions based on my current setup.

I went about this backwards....I bought the amp first (a good deal fell into my lap).  I bought a Cary HH-1, a tube hybrid that uses 6922 input tubes.   What headphones would pair well with this amp?  What DAC would you recommend?  I would like to have a few options to put on a short list to either demo or research in further detail.  My budget for now would be up to around $1000 for the dac/headphones, new or used gear.  Right now I'm listening to sennheiser momentum 2 wired overear, and for the most part...I like them.  I also have a bottlehead foreplay tube preamp that can be used.  I just don't want flabby bass or shrill highs, something with accurate bass, great mids, and airy highs that aren't fatiguing.  Grado? Sennheiser? Audeze?  I will be using my laptop/tablet as a source with tidal and roon.



Thanks for the follow up.  How would you compare the Senns and the Audeze?  Inquiring minds wanna know.  Heh heh. 

Thanks for the above suggestions, I will keep a look out for these options if I move on from my current headphones.  Right now I'm using sennheiser hd700 and audeze lcd-xc....both are winners

@youngerd This is not yet released widely (next month) but the $2K RAAL CA-1a will likely be incredible on your gear. I am using it on a $500 Schitt Jotunheim R and it is rather good. On my $7K RAAL VM-1a (tube headphone amp for ONLY the RAAL SR1a and CA-1a) we are approaching the best of the best in headphones and maybe even 2-channel.  In 6 months or so, you may be able to get a used one for $1000. It is not a pretty headphone. 

There is an $500 interface box that allows any headphone amp to play the CA-1a or SR1a. I never tried it. So, your tube amp should sound good. I use a Benchmark DAC3B ($1700) and a Topping D90LE DAC ($719) and they are amazing with either of my amps. 

I have a 'better' DAC, Musetec 005, but I have not given it much of a spin yet on the headphones since the cheaper DACs are really working for me.

I am listening to the CA-1a and VM-1a in PENTODE mode and I think it will be a long night of hard rock.


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I use a Synthesis 41DC+ integrated tube amp (ECL82/6BM8 in a Single Ended 2W class A), source is USB from a PC usually running Tidal using CD Lossless quality. My headphones are the Audeze LCD-2. I am very happy with this arrangement. It's clear and huge, and has a ton of bass for the clarity. I also run low capacitance litz cables and an IsoTek Evo 3 power conditioner. 

I do like, in general, how magnetic planers have sounded with my tube amp more than any dynamic but I can't speak to many headphones in the $1000 price range.

It seems the LCD-2 (70 ohm, >100mW Min, >250mW recommended ) would match the impedance/power output of your amp (30-600 Ohms; 200mW/300 ohms, 300mW/30 ohms), which should give you at least the 250mW into 70 ohms that the LCD-2 recommends. I think you should give them a try. It's so far my favorite headphone and they are very comfortable. But amps are all different, your mileage may vary. But it should be a contender. It really blew away my Senn 6XX in every way and you see how much praise those get.

I have loved how HiFiman and Grado pair with the Synthesis as well, at a variety of levels. The Arya should work if you can find it in your price range, and for Grado the RS1x. If you don't see recommended power rating, look for over 90 db sensitivity.

The Synthesis uses a Asahi Kasei AK4495S DAC chip, not that that tells you much. Sorry I can't be more help for the DAC.

My suggestions would be:

-Meze 99 Classics

-HiFi Man 400i

-Grado RS1e

-Audioquest Nighthawk or Nightowl (If you can find them, discontinued)

Can’t beat the Akg closed back but open sounding k550’s excellent headphones, although you would have to settle for mk2 version. Shure makes two nice options in the closed back 1540’s and open back 1840’s. Also, now discontinued Audioquest nighthawk and nightowls. AQ got out of the headphone business, but these two were highly regarded headphones. As for an Amp to drive them, I like the Graham Slee Novo or the solo. I’ve had those aforementioned AKG k550’s for years now, they are my go to headphone, comfortable and non fatiguing sound, with plenty of detail and sound like an open back, but no sound leakage whatsoever. I own the Graham slee novo headphone Amp and it drives just about anything. Not sure why people always mention a dac to go with headphones, as the dac I use, the Border Patrol dac, is used within the system for cd playback, connected to a Cyrus cdt. Unless you are just doing a desktop dedicated headphone only set up, then I guess you would need a dac, idk. When I need to listen to headphones, I use the Novo, as I can play all sources through it, as it is a daisy chain style Amp. It is unique In this respect. I can listen to my cd’s, turntable, cassettes, fm tuner, and streamed music through my Novo, all I have to do is change the source selector on my integrated amp.

You should try Cooler Microsoft Surface Headset. Have best call quality even on outdoors.

An HD 600 / 650 would be a great choice. I've owned the HD 800 and it doesn't sound as natural through the midrange and treble as the 600 / 650. The only weakness is that bass frequencies < ~50 Hz aren't as well represented. This is a trait shared by all open backed headphones, though.


For a closed back headphone, I recommend the AKG K371. Very similar in midrange and treble to the HD 650, but with more complete bass response.


I was looking for the CPU Suggestions and exploring different sites on the internet like tech radar, PC gamer and Techi Beast


Good strategy… the Cardas would soften the presentation a bit. Good thinking. 

With your budget, I'd give the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX a look.  I have about a dozen headphones including a few costing 10 times as much or more and they are the ones I reach for the most.  They aren't "audiophile" headphones, in the sense that there are others that have more detail or punchier bass, or are better in other ways, but they are really easy to listen to, just a tad on the "warm" side, and super comfortable and relatively easy to drive.  They are basically a rebranded HD 650 which retail for around $500-$600 if memory serves me correctly. 

That leaves you with enough money for a decent DAC.  A Schiit Bifrost and the HD 6XX should leave you with some money in your pocket and provide lots of enjoyment.

@ghdprentice Since you mentioned the HD800’s I’ll jump in and tell you about how I run mine.

I got a custom wired Cardas clear to a pair of XLR females so I can plug them directly into my Atma-sphere pre amp since Ralph stated it can drive headphones well. I’ve never had a dedicated headphone amp to compare, but I’m pretty happy with the results. I have done the felt/foam ring mod, and have removed the dust covers, all to good effect.




Sennheiser tend to be a bit more trebly and less full bass unless you can provide enormous power to them. I swap my Focal Utopia and Sennheiser HD800s all the time. I used to listen to my Focal much more than my Sennheiser until I got my big Woo 300B amp (~$7K)… finally the Sennheiser have perfect tonal balance and airy er… but the Focal still have better bass.

I would look for a Focal headphone in you price range and look to Schiit for a DAC. Focal are really efficient and well balanced and Schiit is great budget gear. I have several pieces of both. You can see my primary headphone system under my user ID.