A friendly equipment auditioning offer for Delhites (or anyone willing to visit)


Active Member
Oct 19, 2008
Orange County, California
Hi folks,

I just felt like sharing some listening love with my fellow audio nuts :)

I brought a small headphone based setup with me that I would be willing to share a few listening sessions with.

If you're interested in having a listen, message me and we can work something out.

The sonic chain is simple and very nice sounding:

  • 1 Terabyte drive filled with Lossless audiophile discs and music (almost all of the The Absolute Sound Discs, Marantz demo discs, Focal/JM Labs discs, Chesky Discs, Tons of Japanese XRCDs, Burmester Discs etc).

  • Macbook Pro using iTunes

  • Sennheiser HD-600 Headphones
    Shure E500/E530 In Ear Monitors

There you have it :)

I don't really want anything in return for some fun listening sessions but if you have some nice Audio CDs with nice music that you feel like sharing, bring them along. If I enjoy it, I'll rip a copy if thats ok with you.

Take care folks!

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Hey Gaurav. Pardon the offtopic. I'm curious about your opinion on the Ray Samuels. I'm looking for a new head amp for my HD650 and also a replacement cable. So far I've zeroed in on the Dark Voice 337SE. However I'm open to other options. The equinox is quite highly rated too. How much change did you experience over the stock cable? (TBH the stock cable looks quite cheap so I'm expecting something dramatic).
Hey there,

The change after recabling with the HD-600 AND the HD-650 is nothing short of spectacular. To my ears, the Equinox was the best cable which I use as a reference. I also have a Cardas but that doesn't get much use. Other than that, I went through Revelation Audio Labs, Zu Mobius (both versions), Clou Jaspis and Moon Audio Black Dragon and Silver Dragon.

The Equinox keeps the sound signature of the headphones intact while giving a much larger sonic tapestry. It enhances all the qualities while not taking anything away from the Senns. Bass is clearer and deeper, highs go up further and vocals lock in very nicely. It's a nice copper based cable and should almost be standard on both the Senn headphones if it were up to me :)

Now about headphone amps...

The largest upgrade you can do to the Sennheisers is to go balanced. They are one headphone that change dramatically for the better if fed a completely balanced signal from source out to the amp to the headphones.

By going balanced, the control over each driver is increased dramatically allowing for a significantly better listening experience.

The chinese based Darkvoice is a nice amp. However, one thing you will see that the sky is the limit with Sennheisers. Buying the headphones is the easy part, but giving them a solid back end is of utmost importance. They scale up like no other headphones (I can say that having owned the Sennheiser HE90, Sony R10, Sony Qualia's and Stax Omega IIs).

Ray Samuels Audio is absolute fantastic and I moved up his amp chain slowly and steadily realizing gains with every upgrade. I currently own the B52 and it truly ends there for me.

His service and quality standards are unmatched (as opposed to another popular headphone manufacturer based out of Colorado). If you can, go for a RSA Apache. I absolutely loved it and it does double duties as a world class preamplifier. Dual mono external power supply and fully balanced input to output. If you need help acquiring one, let me know and I can help out when I get back to the US in a couple of months.

Other than that, let me know your budget in US dollars and I can come up with some more suggestions.

Good luck!

My budget is around a thousand for the amp. What in your opinion do you think is the best thing to get around that?

As of now, the headphones just sound too dark to me. I upgraded from an HD580 and that one seemed a lot more neutral than the HD650 in the stock state.
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Here are a few suggestions in order of my preference:

1) Ray Samuels Audio Raptor Emmeline II The Raptor - Ray Samuels Audio
Buy this and don't ever look back at driving the Senns optimally :) Completely LOVE this amp.

2) Rudistor NX-33 balanced RudiStor Sound Systems Hi End, HI-End Headphone Amplifiers

3) Singlepower MPX3 Slam Singlepower Audio

4) Heed Canamp - - - H E E D A U D I O - - -

Hope this helps :)

The Raptor is truly outstanding and would most likely end your headphone amp lust :) Sound is remarkable and truly makes the Senns shine.

An improper Sennheiser setup will wrongfully make the headphones sound dark. I promise, they are ANYTHING but dark once properly amped. The open up completely and breathe freely once they have their 300 Ohm impedance properly taken care of.
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hy shaizada, as soon as I read your thread I also wanted to ask about Ray Samuels, I see RoC has already asked it :)
I have a slightly different question:
How is you RSA Predator? Is it in anycase comparable to other desktop amps around that price. Also, how does the DAC in it sound. I would be driving the Denon D2000/D5000 with them.
Will go the Senn route later.

Also, a different question: How would you compare the headphone setup of yours to that of your audio system. I tried a couple of audio systems at my home and gave up. Currently, decided on a full fledged headphone setup and going that route. So, would be interested to know your thoughts on comparison.
Hey Gopi,

For a portable system, the predator is excellent. It actually has 3 gain positions for sensitive IEMs or Medium (for your Denon impedance or such) and High gain for harder to drive headphones.

The beauty of the Predator lies in being a source + an amp. It was designed to sound like a Meridian 508 / G08 Cd player. In a blind test at one of the headphone meets back home, 7 out of ten people actually chose the Predator over the Meridian G08 in a blind test. Quite amazing for a $500 source/amp.

It was designed with the HD-600 as reference cans (being the most neutral sounding headphone used by most mastering engineers to develop neutral mixes on). A good amplifier should allow for the lowest possible noise floor with the least amount of distortion. The predator does very well here.

Now if you have a home based setup, I would actually look into a more capable dedicated headphone amp with a separate source and quality power/interconnects. Again, as far as price is concerned, sky is the limit :)

I can try and give good recommendations, but you'll have to give me some budgetary constraints and hopefully some listening preferences. There is no one headphone that does everything well, but if you have a solid source / amplifier, one should be able to optimize their setup with different headphones as needed.

EDIT: My headphone setup is part and parcel of my main audio setup. The B52 is a preamp AND a kick butt fully balanced headphone amp. You can check it out here:
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Its unfortunate that you haven't had any luck with audio systems.

Ok here is a system that is truly worth trying out. Honestly, sell whatever you have and try this. I'm 90% sure that this rig will out perform most setups till the $20k range (again, from experience :) )

The Denon D5000 is nice but can be further improved by some MarkL mods :) Google it if you are set on using the Denons. I would highly suggest a Jena Labs recable if you can swing it. Check out ALO audio for that.

Now for the nice mini system that you can easily live with for a while:

Optical output from a computer - > Some quality Glass Toslink (Nordost Whitelight, Van De Hul Optocoupler or Wireworld) --> Lavry DA10 Dac (powered cable by Stefan Arts Audio) --> Stefan Arts RCA Interconnects --> Ray Samuels Raptor --> Jena Recabled Denon D5000.

You will literally be done for a loooooong time. For me, I need all this to be about the music. Most of us get lost in audio equipment and forget why this whole journey started in the first place :)

Good luck buddy!

As typing saw your updates. I am considering the markl mod D5000. I will go for that once I listen to D2000. Unfortuantely, I have to buy all without listening. So, taking them in steps. I will be glad to get some suggestions.

Here is what I have in my mind:
I need a portable setup and another one at home.
For portable, since I need a DAC + amp, I was thinking of either Pico or Predator only. I don't think anything else are comparable to these. Are there?
Did you compare Pico with Predator - which one is better as a DAC/amp to you. Particularly for Denon or Senns

At home, my computer and a DVD player (atleast for sometime) will act as my source and I need a DAC that takes optical (from Airport Express) and a coax from my DVD player and if possible a USB as well. I need a headphone amp that will allow me to play 2 headphones at a time as I need to share my music sometimes (this has been my real pain point in choosing anything). Headphones will be currently Denon D2000/D5000. In future I will be getting a Sennheiser HD650/600.

I listen to a wide variety of music from filmi to rock. Not into western or indian classical or neither any symphonic music. I prefer something that brings out vocal well, cleans up a little of the new age harsh recordings I have and the preferance has been mid, low and then high. Music should be natural, involving and fun and need not be analytical with every detail out there.

Now, comes the tough part, the money. I am planning to build these up atleast in a couple of phases. So, apart from headphones I am thinking of about a lakh for DAC + amp + portable dac/amp

Considered Lavry, but dropped because of the 2 headphone listening constraints.

I prefer one box solutions, though its not a hard constraint.
Options considered as one box solutions were:
1. Benchmark DAC1 - Looks like it will sound cold and analytical for my taste
2. Lehmann Black Cube Linear - Only USB as an input.
3. Meier Audio Opera/Symphony - Symphony seems too costly.
4. Grace m902 - DAC seems to be very ordinary.
5. Headroom Desktop DAC/Amp

Other individual DAC's :
1. Cambridge Audio DacMagic
2. PS Audio Digital Link III
3. Stello DA100 Signature
4. MHDT Paradisea +
5. Monarchy NM24
6. Lite DAC 60

Headphone amp's:
1. Musical Fidelity X Can v8
2. Shanling PH300
Couldn't find any other nice amp's with 2 headphone outs. Problem is that with 2 Denon's the impedance goes down to 12.5 ohms and this seems too low for most amp's. Saw Rudistor, but found it to be quite costly.

Will prefer if I can get a tube linestage or pre amp in the chain somewhere.

Your recommended setup would have the following problems for me:
1. raptor doesn't have 2 headphone outs
2. lavry doesn't take usb in
3. Cost will be more than a lakh already for DAC and amp.

Thanks again for your time
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Having heard both the Pico and Predator you already know which one I chose :)

The Pico is an awesome sounding Dac (especially because it keeps the signal pure with a USB direct to I2S conversion, unheard of at the price point) but I feel it really lacks in its headphone amp section.

The Predator's DAC isn't at advanced as the Pico Dac, but it is a much more musical sounding combo. The pico I felt was a bit too clinical sounding for my tastes. For my listening tastes, the Predator was the way to go and I never regretted having it even once. I think you will be happy with Predator when considered as a DAC/Amp package.

Now, about having a home setup...

For having the convenience of sharing, personally, I would not sacrifice any quality in the listening aspect. Increasing hardware costs and meeting price points is already a pain point for most quality headphone amp manufacturers. Having the convenience of 2 headphones being used at the same time with the same quality is reserved for higher end offerings with less budgetary constraints. Do you really care about running two headphones at the same time?

Price, listening quality and convenience. Pick two :)

If you must have a second headphone listening capability, I would suggest that you find a amp that has a tape loop out or line out.

Taking two line outs from the source actually degrades the source quality (i.e. RCA out and Balanced Out). Hence you will have to take a line out from the headphone amp.

Let me know your thoughts.
hy thanks for the idea. 2 is a must. But, I think what you have mentioned might be feasible. All i need is a line out and in anycase I will have a portable DAC/Amp. So, I can connect the Predator/Pico to the line out and get the second out. I wanted a single box and I now I think its Dac + amp + amp :)
Anyway, worth a shot.
So, what are the good desktop headphone amps you would suggest for less than $1000.
ges i'm a few months too l8 to catch ur offer.

r u still in delhi? if not, whenever u r back in, will catch, if ur game.

nice opp. for a noob like me to learn a ton.
Hi Ashok,

I'll probably be back around september or so. I wasn't planning on bringing the HD-600/650 but, if you want a listen, let me know and I'll plan accordingly. Maybe by then, I'll be able to get the new Sennheiser HD-800 ;)

well, frankly I'm not into headphones. i prefer the regular 2 ch.

however, would like to learn more about the finer nuances of hi-fi.

also, your collection seems delectable.
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