Got Something For My Ears

Another rabbit hole I have brought myself into.

It started with a simple search for a new gaming headset. It started out being harmless. The typical searches came and I was about to settle for a Steelseries Arctis 5 or 7 but saw other models bearing familiar terms like Hi-fi and DTS. Now I am on to something. A few safari tabs later, I am into some reviews, Reddit threads, and youtube videos about headphones. Now, the original intent of finding a new gaming headset ended with me looking for a good headphone for music use. I am also have started doing internet searches about DACs and amps. Oh, this has been all too familiar and I know where this is heading 🙂

I have joined local (PH) audiophile Facebook groups and subscribed to known Youtube channels (like DMS, edSuwan, Joshua Valour, Passion for Music, SoundNews, and The Headphone Show). The intent is to learn but in the process, I grew envious of what gears are being showcased. But of course, I know my limitation so I kept those dreams to myself and settled with looking for something justifiable by my own standards. Getting headphones alone is not enough, of course. The most basic (without falling too much down the rabbit hole) things needed to consider for a good audio experience from what I have researched are the following: A good music source/file, DAP, DAC, amplifier, and headphone. I am not planning to purchase the expensive cables as the gain there would not really justify the price, I would also am not considering moving to FLAC files as the price and effort to store them is too much for me to consider it enjoyable. So I stayed with using my laptop (MacBook Pro 16) as my DAP so that streaming would be simple. For the music source, I am already subscribed to Apple Music though that only defaults to 44.1khz so I have moved to Tidal Master which also offers 88.2khz and 96khz. I also decided on investing in some good DAC-AMP setup. Some quick searches and I ended up purchasing the Topping stack:

The Topping Stack:

Nothing much to say here as these are my first DAC-Amp combination so I really have nothing to compare it to. However, I understand that using a dedicated DAC is a big jump in improvement from the on-board DAC from my Macbook.

Here are some links for the Topping Stack:
DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) – Topping D50s [link]:
– Efficient Decoding Capability:USB of D50s supports highest DSD512 and PCM 32bit/768kHz.COAX and OPT of D50s supports the highest PCM 24bit/192kHz and DOP DSD64.
– Powerful Chip Combination: Customized Thesycon driver + XMOS XU208 + 2 x ES9038Q2M + 3 x OPA1612 for DAC.
– Bluetooth 5.0 Hi-Res Audio Wireless HD: The D50s is equipped with a CSR8675 Bluetooth chip and supports audio encoding such as LDAC/AAC/SBC/aptX/aptX-LL/aptX-HD.
– Multiple Output Methods: Topping D50s is a high-performance desktop DAC with USB, coaxial, optical input, and Line Out output.
– The OPA1612 and LME49720 op-amps form the L50s of the D50s, ensuring the lossless transmission of signals. (The LME49720 op-amp is equipped with an outlet.)

Headphone Amplifier – Topping A50 [link]:
– ULTRA-HIGH PERFORMANCE NFCA BALANCED MODELES: A50s uses the same NFCA (Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier)module from flagship A90. Voltage Current hybrid feedback architecture along with UHF(Ultra High Gain Feedback)technology provides excellent DC and AC performance.
– HIGH OUTPUT CURRENT DRIVE CAPABILITY: It allows the amp driving low impedance headphones with ease. Ultra-low noise of 0.3uV is miles ahead of the competition, giving an absurdly high dynamic range of 144dB and no audio noise and darkest background for the most sensitives IEMs.
– WIDE RANGE OF ADAPTATION TO HEADPHONES: A50s has a high voltage swing of 42vp-p, power of 3500mW per channel when both channels are driven, and output impedance of less than 0.1ohm. It easily drives power-hungry headphones with a wide range of different impedance.
– TOPPING A50s EXCELLENT PREAMP: The NFCA modules of A50s are not only able to drive the headphones but also apply to be a preamplifier with the same ultra-high performance. When it is in preamp mode, output impedance is as low as 20ohm, which is widely suitable for various devices.
– HPA / PRE AUTOMATIC SWITCHING: When the A50s is not connected to any headphones, it automatically works in the preamplifier mode, and the amplified signal is output from the RCA on the back panel. When the headphone is connected to 6.35mm or 4.4mm output, A50s automatically switches to the headphone amp mode, and the signal is only output to the 6.35mm and 4.4mm jack.

Power Supply – Topping P50 [link]:
– Match to D50/D50s/DX3 Pro/A50
– The sealed toroidal transformer has small magnetic leakage and low noise, which is very suitable for HIF use, And the transformer is designed to suppress EMC and noise.
– The 15V modules provide more than 10000uF capacitors in total and the 5V modules provide a total of more than 8000uF capacitors in total, giving the output enough energy reserves.
– Instrument Level-ultra Low Noise Linear Regulator
– 115V for AC100V-120V 50/60HZ,230V for AC220V-240V

Everything was purchased from SoundWave (Cebu, PH), which is the official distributor in the Philippines for Topping.

And now going back to the headphones, my early frontrunners were the following:
1. Hifiman Sundara (350-500 USD, 18-22k PHP)
2. Sennheiser HD660s (435USD, 22k PHP)
3. Beyerdynamic DT 1990 pro (500-550 USD, 35k PHP)

I do not want to settle with what’s within my budget locally since I know that the good products are made in the US or Europe (as per reviews I have seen) and local prices are really stiff. Both the Sundara and the HD660s are almost priced the same locally as it is in Amazon so it is a good thing. Beyerdynamic is rather expensive locally even from the official distributor. Sundara has gotten good reviews but it is really more because of how good it is based on the price, the build quality for me is questionable since I know for myself that I am a clutz so that alone made me decide not to pursue it. The HD660s also seems to be a decent headphone but my reservation is that it is often compared to the way cheaper HD600 which begs the question if the HD660s is indeed worth it. Now, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 pro had good and bad reviews, to be honest. Some said it is too bright to the point it is a pain. Some say it is really nothing and it is one of the best for that price range. So really, it is a toss among the three. I searched and checked prices in the UK/US to compare and boy that was a good decision. Knowing Beyerdynamic is a German brand, I checked Amazon UK and it is being sold there for £365, much cheaper than the Beyerdynamic site itself (lol). So I purchased one and had it sent over via ShippingCart.

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Headphones:

Tesla studio reference headphones for mixing and mastering (open)
– Circumaural headphones for high-end studio use
– 250-Ohm, 45-mm dynamic Tesla neodymium driver
– Single-sided, detachable cable with mini-XLR connector
– Soft, replaceable ear pads and headband for long, drawn-out studio sessions

​​​​​​​Power and precision are critical requirements when it comes to sound reproduction. The efficiency of our latest Tesla driver technology is characterized emphatically by high resolution and high output power. Brilliant highs, a richly detailed midrange, and precise bass combine to ensure a sublime sound quality that is second to none.

Together with the open-back design, the high-resolution Tesla drivers of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 headphones ensure a wide, dynamic, and extremely natural stereo image. Titanium-coated acoustic fabric and carefully selected precision-woven textiles round off the balanced sound quality of these dynamic studio headphones.

The open, circumaural design offers a natural and extremely spatial sound. The DT 1990 PRO Tesla headphones’ optimized spatial sound reproduction makes them a reliable reference for mixing and mastering applications.

The perfected design of the DT 1990 PRO combines innovation with decades of expertise in headphone technology.
High-tech textiles and ear pads make the headphones exceptionally comfortable.
They are so comfortable you will almost forget you are wearing them.

The DT 1990 PRO is handcrafted in Germany. From the smart headband through to the aluminum end pieces, the new professional headphones are real head-turners due to their exceptionally meticulous craftsmanship with a real focus on quality and durability.

1x EDT 1990 A earpads for a neutral sound
1x Straight cable, 3 m
1x Hard case
1x EDT 1990 B earpads for a sound with a slight bass boost
1 x Coiled cable, 5 m (stretched out)

SOUND COUPLING TO THE EAR: Circumaural (around the ear)
CABLE & PLUG: 3-pin XLR plug & 6.35 mm (1/4″) stereo jack plug