Help needed: Best combination for headphone listening only


New member
Aug 10, 2019

I want to create my own audio sanctuary in a second bedroom and get the right equipment for headphone listening exclusively. The three pieces of equipment will be:

- CD player

- Headphone amp

- Headphones

Budget is araound 1,000 pounds. My initial idea is to get Pioneer PD-D6-J as CD player (£300), Graham Slee Solo (Intro) as headphone amp (£334) and Sennheiser HD-650 (£190). What do you think? I have no experience in HI FI at all though I am a musician myself and want to start appreciating this new world.

Another option will be to get the new Arcam Solo Mini, and the HD-650 (similar price). Do you think this system will be considerably inferior to the one above?

Many thanks,



I like the idea of the Pioneer PD-D6-J, although I would advise you to check out the bargain prices you can get the Arcam CD73T for now, new... (£250 if you look hard)...and the idea of the Slee headphone amp is also fine, but I would advise you to check out the headphones made by Grado sound far better than the Sennheisers and have a much more chic appeal if you ask me!

As for the Arcam mini, it's great if you want speakers on the system too...but otherwise, it seems a bit pointless.


Regarding the headphones. For the price of theSennheiser HD-650 I would invest in a pair of Alessandro Music Series Two, I don't believe there is a better sounding headphone out there at the price they are. I have a pair of Sennheiser HD-650, they just can't compare or match the sound of the Alessandro's, believe me it will be an investment you will treasure for years to come.


Nothing against the WHF forum, but for this specific question you'd better be checking out Open up a thread in the forum, I'm sure you'll get alot of usefull comments.


I'm do virtually all my listening through headphones these days and have a dedicated set-up.

£1000 will get you quite a lot if you choose carefully.

Let's start with the headphones:

The HD650 is an excellent choice; contrary to what is written above,
Grado cans do not sound significantly better, if at all.

  • Comfortable to wear (for most people), so very little listening fatigue
  • Smooth and laid back (too much so for some)
  • Good synergy with large number of amps
  • Good soundstage
  • Good base
  • Can sound veiled with stock cable (new version is better though)
Grados: (more general as no model named, but applies to the RS-1 down through the models, except GS1000, which has a slightly non typical sound for a Grado)

  • Great impact grabs attention
  • Very musical
  • Some find them uncomfortable (sit on ears not around like Senns), listening fatigue
  • Limited soundstage
  • Strong top end (some find too much treble - can sound harsh)
  • Expensive
  • Amazing synergy with some amps/sources, poor synergy will others
Conclusion: I personally would recommend the HD650s recabled to suit your musical tastes (check out Moon Audio). This option provides a reference quality headphone that works well with most systems - as ever demoing is essential. As with all of
these things, it is a matter of personal preference. I have both Grado
RS-1s and Senn HD650s (recabled with Moon Audio Blue Dragon), but only
ever really listened to the Senns these days

Next for the amplifier:

Due to their simplicity, a large number of the better headphone amps are made by small outfits. As you are new to them I recommend something like the Darkvoice 336 (made in China, sold on eBay). It is a fantastic tube amp and has good synergy with the HD650s. It is well made and only costs around £180 shipped. The tubes can also be changed to customize the sound to your tastes. Other options would be a Little Dot.

Finally the CD player:

Going with the options above (650s and DV 336) you should have over £500 left to spend on a CDP of your choice. There are too many options to list at that price, so get researching/demoing.

Echoing an earlier post I also recommend checking out Head Fi; the forums there have everything you need.

Watch out for fanboys however (e.g. HD650 fanatics).

Spend plenty of time reading and you should be able to get a fairly balanced view.

top tip
- go for one of the cheaper imported amps. They are better than
most other amps double their price, allowing you to spend more on the


FYI - my set-up is as follows (source to headphone):

FLAC files on QNAP NAS>Squeezeboz duet>Sugden Masterclass CDP (can play CDs from this too, obviously)>Darkvoice 336SE (with good tubes - RCA and Sylvania)>HD650 (recabled with Blue Dragon from Moon Audio).

I also own RS-1s.

In my opinion the rig sounds fantastic with no weak links (bear in mind the CDP RRP is circa £3000, the amp, less than £200)



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