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Ifi Zen Dac with Sennheiser HD 25-1, should I upgrade headphones ?

lmlmlm

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
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I've had the Sennheiser HD 25 for a few years now, and I enjoy the headphones. I've got a few DJ friends and they all use these, although, I'm not a DJ myself :)

Now, there's so much information circulating about more "hi-fi" headphones, that I feel I might be missing out on better quality.

I've just got an Ifi Zen Dac in an attempt to further add to the sound quality, but not sure I'm feeling a major improvement in the headphones.

So now I'm thinking maybe I should also try an upgrade the headphones.

Would a more expensive pair, like the Sennheiser 660 for instance, be a super major improvement over the HD 25 ?

Would the Ifi Zen Dac be relevant for a pair of Sennheiser 660 ?

There are countless top 5, top 10, top 17, top this and that headphones on Youtube and everybody seems to be praising something else, so really not sure what to try, but I would not mind spending on an upgrade.

thanks
 

Friesiansam

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2015
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I've had the Sennheiser HD 25 for a few years now, and I enjoy the headphones. I've got a few DJ friends and they all use these, although, I'm not a DJ myself :)

Now, there's so much information circulating about more "hi-fi" headphones, that I feel I might be missing out on better quality.

I've just got an Ifi Zen Dac in an attempt to further add to the sound quality, but not sure I'm feeling a major improvement in the headphones.

So now I'm thinking maybe I should also try an upgrade the headphones.

Would a more expensive pair, like the Sennheiser 660 for instance, be a super major improvement over the HD 25 ?

Would the Ifi Zen Dac be relevant for a pair of Sennheiser 660 ?

There are countless top 5, top 10, top 17, top this and that headphones on Youtube and everybody seems to be praising something else, so really not sure what to try, but I would not mind spending on an upgrade.

thanks
I'm sure the Zen would have more to give, what's your budget?
 

lmlmlm

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
12
3
25
I'm sure the Zen would have more to give, what's your budget?
3-400$, maybe 500$ if its a major improvement ... honestly, I could even spend more, but have not tried many headphones. Is a 1,000$ pair supposed to be 10-times better than a 100$ pair ? :)

The source is a laptop, nothing special, music via Spotify and Soundcloud, mostly.

I can even (still) return the Ifi Zen Dac, if some other DAC & headphones combo comes up.
 
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Friesiansam

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2015
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The Zen has an asynchronous USB input so, it controls the flow of data from your laptop, that it is "nothing special" won't impact sound quality. I'm sure the Sennheiser 660 would be a lot better but, I don't know Sennheiser's products. I have a pair of Shure SRH1540s that would be at the top end of your price range, they are rather good and very comfortable, added to which they would be able to work well with a better DAC/headphone amp if you upgraded later. Others here may be able to help more than me.

PS, if you can find a pair, AKG K550 perform well and are good value but, may be hard to find as they are out of production.
 
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Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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.....There are countless top 5, top 10, top 17, top this and that headphones on Youtube and everybody seems to be praising something else
....and that's the point.
Headphone sound, like speakers, is such a personal thing.

Closed-backs are necessary for your DJ mates, but maybe you would benefit from some open backs (Sennheiser's speciality).
One way or another you need to listen before you settle on your choice.

I could praise the HD560S that I've recently bought, but they may not suit you at all.
(One thing I will say though, regardless of price, no headphone could sound 10 times better).
 
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lmlmlm

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Jan 9, 2021
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I do have a few showrooms in my area, and planning to visit soon and try some products.

The HD560S came across a few times while researching. Also, just discovered a japanese DAC called Fostex HP-A3. Would this combo be a significant improvement from my current setup (HD 25 and Ifi Zen DAC) ?

thanks
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
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I do have a few showrooms in my area, and planning to visit soon and try some products.

The HD560S came across a few times while researching. Also, just discovered a japanese DAC called Fostex HP-A3. Would this combo be a significant improvement from my current setup (HD 25 and Ifi Zen DAC) ?

thanks
If you can have something at home for a few days, maybe a week, you might find it more beneficial for decision making.
How do you find the sound of your 25s in general?
Is there any aspect of their sound that you like or dislike?
 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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I just bought the HD660S after owning both an HD600 and a HD650 for several years. I think I'm going to sell the 600 and 650 now. The 660S is the good parts of the other two combined in one. That being said it's still got the rolled off bass although it's better.

Other contenders in the price range would be the AKG K712 Pro and the Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro. What kind of music do you listen to?
 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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Also, just discovered a japanese DAC called Fostex HP-A3. Would this combo be a significant improvement from my current setup (HD 25 and Ifi Zen DAC) ?
The HP A3 is very unlikely to be 'better' than the Zen DAC. I've not heard either product but the HP A3 is an older product and has a very weak headphone amp by the standards of what you can get today.
 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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A lot of minimal techno, electronic, but also some of that 80-90's classic hip hop, recent trap, sometimes more random atmospheric or jazzy playlists.

Yeah avoid the Sennheiser 6 series. The rolled off bass makes them my last choice for any electronica. The K712 Pro or the DT1990 Pro are both solid choices. If you're in the US the Massdrop x Focal Elex is an upgrade choice. Also the Massdrop x Beyerdynamic DT177X Go is worth considering.

Because you needed more headphones ;)
Must be good if they give you the best of 600 / 650.
Glad you're happy.
Actually doing some consolidating. Selling my HD598, HD600, HD650 and Fidelio X2. Might finally buy a Focal Clear. :)
 
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lmlmlm

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Jan 9, 2021
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DT 1990 Pro's look good and were mentioned in a few "top whatevers" on Youtube, so I guess they must be one of the good ones. I'll try to test them out in a shop soon, but won't mind spending on this.

I see a local shop bundles these with the Chord Mojo DAC.

Is this Chord Mojo supposed to be superior to the Ifi Zen DAC (which I can still return) ?

 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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Try here if you want to check what, in my opinion, is a very good review site with comparisons in the reviews. Here's their recommended buy list with model reviews on the side of the page.

 

Friesiansam

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Feb 3, 2015
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Is this Chord Mojo supposed to be superior to the Ifi Zen DAC (which I can still return) ?
I have, in the last couple of days, just got a Mojo to use with IEMs. I've just tried it with my Focal Elegias plugged in and, it really doesn't give away an awful lot compared to my main headphone amp, Pathos Converto MK2, just loses a little refinement and detail and, texture in the high treble. In my subjective opinion, the Mojo is well worth the money but, as always, everyone's hearing is different and you may not agree, don't buy one because I like it.
 
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lmlmlm

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Jan 9, 2021
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Managed to get to a shop today and tried the DT 1990's, however the tryout was not very relevant as they were playing their own music and somehow wired over the counter, so I couldn't get into a listening "mood" and play my own music. One thing struck me hard the headphones felt like 2 buckets on my head, they are sooo super huge compared to the HD 25's, but I guess that's something you learn to deal with.

Also tried the Hifiman Sundara in another shop nearby, which to my surpise had the same (Ifi Zen) DAC as mine in their listening room. And yes, I got to sit in an actual listening environment compared to the first place, and play my own music, on the same DAC i'm using. I was really blown away this time by the experience and the Sundara's in general. I didn't buy anything yet and got back decided to do more research, then found out Hifiman is a chinese brand, which makes it a little less appealing after reading this.

I'm now thinking of sticking to Beyer's of some sort, but in a somewhat smaller package, not because of the price, but mainly because of the sheer amount of material in the 1990's. So, this could be a compromise in quality, but how about the:
  • DT 880 Pro or 990 Pro, which are also open backs, smaller, cheaper, and seem to have great reviews on the german Thomann website
 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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The Sundara is a very good headphone that hits above its price. Older HiFiMan products had headband failure issues but I believe they've solved that now. They don't have a high driver failure rate despite planars in general having a higher fail rate than dynamics. I'd buy it without a second thought.

The entry level Beyerdynamic line ( 770, 880 and 990 ) at least to my ears, has very bright treble. The 1990s can also be bright but they're positively tame compared to a 990.
 

lmlmlm

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
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This guy in the second shop that sold the Sundara, he was that kind of an old school guy who probably saw it all. Told me they stopped selling Beyer stuff ~10 years ago, when he thought they stopped innovating and got left behind by other brands. Not sure what he meant, and probably subjective, as Beyer's stuff seems to still be very popular with youtubers, but he spoke like he really had experience from, well at least 10 years of running that shop. They had KEF's and other high-end, hugely expensive stuff in the shop, so probably knows what he's talking about. So it will be down to either the:
  • DT 1990
  • Sundara
  • struggling to rule out Sennheisers, as suggested and seen on Youtube, they are cool, but not very bass-oriented in the 500-600 series
Good thing I'm not in a rush :)
 
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lmlmlm

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
12
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Ok decided to go with it and bought the Sundara's. I like the look and sound, though I still also like my original HD 25's, mostly because of those being a lot more compact and closed-back. Happy to keep both for different purposes and move on. thanks
 
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Romulus

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Nov 21, 2014
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I am listening via Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80ohms to Beethoven's 3rd Symphony 2nd movement via laptop from youtube, the sound seems absolutely fabulous. I too am interested in the Ifi Zen Dac but I cannot really imagine the sound improving in any way... But then I have limited experience of music via headphones so the Dac may bring new surprises....?
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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I too am interested in the Ifi Zen Dac but I cannot really imagine the sound improving in any way...
I've been looking into that Zen Dac too.
Have to take reviews with a pinch of salt though. For instance, several reviews I saw, completely overlooked the option of the GTO filter firmware update.
SQ differences between DACs themselves can be subtle enough, DAC filters often give non-existent differences - but this one could be different. It's said to change the sound for the better (away from the more 'laid back' characteristic of the Burr Brown DAC) - though you, necessarily, lose the LED colour changing indication of incoming sample rate.
(It stays yellow for all file types after the update).

It depends on the quality of your laptop (I've never found the output of my hyper-cheap Lenovo to be as bad as laptops are cracked up (down) to be, on my 120 ohm headphones).
At 80 ohms your headphones don't need too much power. But as with speakers, more power can mean better listening at lower levels.

Easy to get carried away with the 'only £129' positive reviews, but you're right to want some tangible benefit (after all £129 is not nothing is it?).
I reckon you might well hear a difference, if not as much as that between different models of headphone.....but whether you think the difference is worth the money....?
 

anort3

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I reckon you might well hear a difference, if not as much as that between different models of headphone
Very, very much this. To my ears amps matter more than DACs and even amps are only a few percent of sound. Maybe it's different for speakers as I haven't done much A-B comparison of speaker amps like some of you guys have. But I have done it on some every good headphones and headphones are where you hear micro-details and dynamics that can get lost with speakers. Certainly some amps can be lean or bright and some can be warm and rich ( class A, tubes etc ). But to really get a big difference you'd want to upgrade the headphone first.

Even then some headphones ( and I'm sure speakers as well ) respond more to different sources than others. The HD800/800S for instance are notoriously picky about amplification. Where as something in the same general price range like the Focal Clear is not.

The ZenDac is a very good entry level amp/DAC. Is the DT770 resolving enough to be able to tell a difference? Maybe. :) That's the best I can do since I haven't tried it. The 770 isn't at all a bad headphone and it's one of the only closed back choices in the price range worth recommending but it's entry level mid-fi. It certainly wouldn't be my recommendation for classical music. It has a V shaped tuning that's more 'fun'. Great for rock, pop and electronica. Gray's HD560s would be more in line with something I'd want for classical. But it's open back so you lose that isolation if that's needed.
 
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