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manunkind
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Headphones and amp advice needed

Hello everyone,

I finally decided to get a proper set of headphones and, after much reading, settling with Focal Clear. Most likely, that is.

My questions are:
- can I simply enjoy the headphones with my current speaker amp (Cambridge Audio Topaz), or do I need to purchase a dedicated headphones amp?
- are there headphones that someone can recommend over Focal Clear at that price point (~$1,000)? It's about as much as I'm willing to spend right now.

I have an Asus DAC (actually part of an audio card), and I listen to vinyl on a Rega Planar 1 with Nagaoka MP150.

Thank you!

manunkind
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I'd like to add that I won't

I'd like to add that I won't be able to fork out another 1000 for a dedicated amplifier. If the combination of my current Topaz and Focal Clear is ludicrous, I'd have to find a matching pair of headphones and a dedicated amp for not more than 1500.
Currently looking at Shiit JOTUNHEIM with ES9028 DAC module for $500.

mtymous1
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What is the model # of...

...your Cambridge Audio Topaz? You can look at its specs for headphone output and it will tell you the recommended range of headphone impedance.

According to Crutchfield, the Focal Clear Mg is rated at 55 ohms, so as long as that's within the range of the amp, you're good.

manunkind
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the Output Impedance is

the Output Impedance is listed as 8 Ohms, and Shiit Jotunheim I'm looking at lits Output Impedance as being less than 0.1 ohms. What does it mean for 55 ohm Focal clear?

mtymous1
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Try again

That's most likely the impedance for speakers - NOT headphone output.

Which model Topaz do you have?

Some homework for you:
https://soundslack.com/headphone-impedance-explained

manunkind
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Cambridge Audio Topaz SR10-

Cambridge Audio Topaz SR10- you're right, I'm sorry, looked at the wrong place. Headphones with an impedance of between 32 and 600 ohms are recommended.

I'm looking at this Headphone amp- do you think it would be a great improvement over my Topaz?

https://www.schiit.com/products/jotunheim-3

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Subjectivity and Objectivity

Since I have not personally auditioned the SR10, Jotunheim, nor Clear MG, I won't make any recommendations for/against any one of those. (No doubt, other members will be more than happy to share their opinions -- and then some.)

Your proposed pairing of the Focal Clear Mg and an amp like the Jotunheim could be interesting via a balanced connection -- however, even if you had provided all headphone output specs of the SR10, I would still say that only you would be able to define "great improvement" by actually listening and comparing.

On the objective side of the coin, a quick search reveals that the Jotunheim is found on Audio Science Review.

manunkind
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Thank you very much!

Thank you very much!

I reckon I'll get Focal Clear, plug it into my SR10, and if I feel I'm not getting the fabled sound of magic I will start hunting for the dedicated amp.

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The right path
manunkind wrote:

Thank you very much!

I reckon I'll get Focal Clear, plug it into my SR10, and if I feel I'm not getting the fabled sound of magic I will start hunting for the dedicated amp.

Sounds good - you can always add equipment.

Would encourage you to inquire about return policies before selecting your vendor.

My personal fave is Crutchfield, and they do carry the Focals you want. They're pretty good about answering any questions you may have about the products they sell.

Post back when you get your goods!

manunkind
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Audio Science Review

Thank you for your advice!
Do you trust ASR to be the "objective side of the coin"? I do not know much about Amir and his methods, but I heard he's given stellar reviews to certain brands (like Topping) that are rumoured to purchase good reviews. But then again, these are only rumours I pick up on hi-fi forums.

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Grain of salt

RE: Topping
My observation is that they submit a number of its products for review by ASR since the number of sites that posts reviews seems to be limited.

For sanity's sake, it's best to approach internet reviews simply as documented opinions -- nothing more. (And that they are to be taken with a grain of salt.)

As you may have noticed, ASR posts measurements of the products it reviews -- much unlike the former editor of the now defunct Audiostream who used to describe anything/everything he liked as "warm" since he "didn't have the resources to do measurements." (How TF does something sound "warm" anyway?!?!) Such measurements compiled by others should be utilized as baseline and comparative data -- not as a single source of truth.

ASR posts its financial support methods on its site -- however, if someone has gained better insight by auditing their review process and/or bank accounts, sure would help if s/he would chime in and enlighten us all. And if there is such a thing as an Authoritative Data Source on measurements and objective reviews, then s/he should share that, too.

manunkind
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Thank you

Good perspective. It is indeed very difficult to find an objective review of any Hi-Fi equipment, and nearly every search ends in frustration. Thank you for your help.

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Reviews cont'd & Asus Xonar Essence

John Atkinson does an excellent job with his reviews and measurements on here. One such example - which may be of interest to you - is the not one, but *TWO* reviews he did on the Asus Xonar Essence ST/STX. (This is the second of two: https://www.stereophile.com/content/asus-xonar-essence-ststx-soundcards-follow-september-2010)

Had it not been for his insight, I might not had even known about the card, let alone end up buying two of them a few years ago.

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Xonar!

ASUS Xonar Essence STX is what I use in my current setup as an audio card and DAC. I bought it to have a temporary setup wjile I learn more about DACs, but ended up being very satisfied with how it handles my FLAC files. I feed it to my Topaz via RCA. I mean, I have a budget, but competent amp, decent (albeit equally budget) Warfendale speakers- I feel like if I do update, I have to update all the components at once, so that some don't bottleneck the others.

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Alright, I'll bite...

Given JA's review states "Headphone output level & impedance: optimized for headphones with impedances of 32–600 ohms", why not use the Xonar (at least for now)??

I realize it may not be first choice, but at least give it a try and see how it compares to the Topaz.

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Well, Xonar in in my PC, and

Well, Xonar in in my PC, and is connected to my amp. The thought of having to go and fiddle with cables each time I want to listen to the headphones... Besides, I'm doing a great deal of listening on the vinyl.
At the same time, I'm having second thoughts about Focal (the price, and the negative ASR review to boot!) And I'm looking at Dan Clark Aeon 2 and Audeze LCD 2 classic, each at half of Focal's cost. Do you have any experience with either of these?

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No experience with...

...either the Clarks or Audeze.

These are what I have:
https://www.stereophile.com/content/terrific-hifiman-he400s-planar-magnetic-headphones

(Also have a pair of Grado, which are of course, also open-back.)

InnerFidelity is no longer, but you might be able to search and find some of their reviews elsewhere online. Would also search on "InnerFidelity Wall of Fame".

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Sundara

I bought a pair of HiFiman Sundara- same series as he400. I loved the sound- but the pair I had a loose pin that held one of the cups to the headband. Seriously, broken right out of the box? How can that go through QC? I was clear that no one has tried them on. I was so mad, I couldn't really enjoy the sound- which, by all accounts, is marvelous. I was also a bit disappointed that the headphones are made in China.

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