Home Amps/DACS Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650 [Video]

Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650 [Video]

by Stuart Charles Black
The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD650

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Updates

  • 6/11/19: Got rid of Schiit Magni/Modi, added iFi iDSD Black Label for a step up from D1 as far as versatility is concerned. Added DragonFly Red Shootout Video. Added Table of Contents.
  • 6/12/19: Added the discussion video and some subscriber suggestions on YouTube.
  • 9/22/19: Article/Link cleanup.
  • 11/28/19: Added more amp recommendations from YouTube.
  • 12/7/19: Added Topping NX4, CEntrance DACport HD, and iFi’s Zen DAC/Amp. It’s good you like!
  • 1/6/20: Article cleanup. Added some impressions of the Bravo Audio Ocean and an image.

4,511-word post, approx. 10 min read.


Here are some of my top recommendations for both:

Preview
Best Budget
FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)
Best Portable
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Best Overall
Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Title
FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Color
Black
Red
Black
USB Input?
Driver Required?
Yes
Yes
Driverless with MAC OS X and Linux, Driver Required for Windows OS
Inputs
1x Coaxial, Line
USB
1x Micro USB, 1x 3.5mm Jack (Coaxial), 1x Optical Toslink, 1x Micro USB Charging Port Input
Outputs
3.5mm Headphone Jack
3.5mm Headphone Jack
2x 3.5mm Headphone Jacks
Files Supported
Up to 24-bit/96kHz
24-bit/96kHz
Up to 32-bit/768kHz
Output Impedance
1.04 Ohms
Not Specified
75m Ohms
Prime
-
-
Price
$57.99
$229.95
$379.00
Best Budget
Preview
FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)
Title
FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)
Color
Black
USB Input?
Driver Required?
Yes
Inputs
1x Coaxial, Line
Outputs
3.5mm Headphone Jack
Files Supported
Up to 24-bit/96kHz
Output Impedance
1.04 Ohms
Prime
-
Price
$57.99
Best Portable
Preview
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Title
AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Color
Red
USB Input?
Driver Required?
Yes
Inputs
USB
Outputs
3.5mm Headphone Jack
Files Supported
24-bit/96kHz
Output Impedance
Not Specified
Prime
Price
$229.95
Best Overall
Preview
Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Title
Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Color
Black
USB Input?
Driver Required?
Driverless with MAC OS X and Linux, Driver Required for Windows OS
Inputs
1x Micro USB, 1x 3.5mm Jack (Coaxial), 1x Optical Toslink, 1x Micro USB Charging Port Input
Outputs
2x 3.5mm Headphone Jacks
Files Supported
Up to 32-bit/768kHz
Output Impedance
75m Ohms
Prime
-
Price
$379.00

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into the best headphone amp for the Sennheiser HD600 and 650, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!


Table of Contents

Click to navigate the article!

Introduction & Videos
Portable Combos
Regular Combos
Solid State
Tube Amps
Obscure Options
You Need A DAC, Mate!
Hooking It Up to PC & Console
Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!


Introduction


It may seem like a daunting task in trying to decide on an amp for both the HD 600 and 650.

In reality, it’s not.

Why?

Because I’m here to steer you in the right direction, out of the audiophile fog, and into the glorious practical light. 🙂

Before I tell you all about it though, just input your credit card and personal information into my trusty database.

Haha just kidding.

The good thing about both of these is that they aren’t really that picky; most pairings will sound very good!

The dilemma arises when looking for the best amp that matches the 600 and 650 in synergy and dynamics.

Thankfully, it’s not really a dilemma. There are some great options out there that are very much agreed upon by folks as being the cream of the crop. I did quite a bit of research regarding the best, tested out many pairings, and I have some news for you. Sit tight!

The Headphones

If you were browsing good amps for the HD 600 and HD 650, and came across this article but haven’t yet purchased something, I would highly recommend these without reservation. They are both fantastic all-purpose pieces that work well for all genres, in all situations, and for the widest variety of people in general. I would say both are headphones that 99% of people will enjoy regardless of whether they’re an audiophile, budding enthusiast, or just the average listener looking for fantastic sound and an incredible price to performance ratio. There’s really nothing they don’t do well, which is why it’s such an easy recommendation.

They also sit right on the line where if you spend any more money, you’re probably receiving a smaller and smaller increase in quality due to the law of diminishing returns. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but I would say the 650 along with the venerable HD600 are the quintessential open-back studio headphones for certain. Their history speaks for itself really…

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL SENNHEISER HD 600 vs. 650 COMPARISON!


Video Comparison

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel! Any support is much appreciated. 🙂

Best Amps Discussion

Read on for some great amp pairings with these two!

The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650

Let’s take a gander!

Portable Combo Amp/DACs


Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650

The DragonFly Red is a great portable option.

Check Price on Amazon!

This small Tic-tac-sized wonder will power both headphones just fine, and in fact, the pairing sounds sublime. You may not ever want to upgrade down the road, as a fella even said it powered his HD800’s phenomenally well too! What I love most about this little buddy is how portable it truly is. If you’re on the go a lot like me, you’ll find it incredibly easy to throw into a laptop bag or even your pocket! Once you reach your destination, whip it out and stick it in the USB slot! It’s really that simple. If you desire to pair it with your phone, that’s rad too. You’ll simply need this adapter which is very cheap and gets glowing reviews. What more could we possibly ask for?!

My Video Comparison/Shootout

Here I did an in-depth A/B comparison of the Black & Red version, as well as a Shootout between the FiiO E10K, DragonFly Red, and HA-2! Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated!

 

 


CEntrance DACport HD.

CEntrance DACport HD

Pocked sized wonder.

My friend In To It Reviews lent me this little Amp/DAC combo for demo and I’ve been really enjoying it so far!

It’s super clean and snappy sounding and provides a good amount of power into some more demanding headphones. Just keep that gain switch on. For all other headphones, it works incredibly well on low gain.

A similar option as the DragonFly Red, only this time we’ve got a volume dial in what is perhaps the most convenient spot, ever.

I put it next to my laptop on the left-hand side, and can easily adjust the volume to taste. In listening to Mac Ayres’ “Change Ya Mind” the CEntrance is pulling out all sorts of background details that I wasn’t aware of before. A real treat!

Official Review Coming Soon!

 


Oppo HA-2.

Another great option with the 600 and 650. Just be aware that Oppo has since stopped making products. That said, I still recommend this Amp if you can get it at a good price because it sounds absolutely fantastic and provides an all-in-one solution for your desktop or on the go! To be honest it’s one of the best Amp/DACs that I’ve personally heard. It’s the most durable and heavy-duty out of all the portable Amp/DACs I’ve tried, and everything feels solid to the touch. I love how the volume knob feels, and it has a bass boost and gain switch in case you’re feeling frisky. To put it another way, after you purchase this beast you’ll likely be set for life!

My Video Review

Please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂

 

 

Topping NX4.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II

Seems appropriate.

Topping NX4 vs. FiiO Q1 MK II

The NX4 is part of this complete audiophile breakfast.

My good buddy Luke Wagoner lent me the Topping NX4 for demo in exchange for the venerable DragonFly Red, and I’ve been having a blast with it (you’ll be able to tell from the above pictures). XD

With an output impedance of less than 0.4, the NX4 is going to sound consistently great across all different types of headphones and impedance ranges. This amp reminds me a lot of what you get with some of JDS Labs’ best offerings: unabashed detail, clarity, and neutrality. It’s snappy and crispy like Honey Bunches of Oats on a Saturday morning. “You gotta have a breakfast!”

 

 

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Regular combos…


Regular Combo Amp/DACs


iFi Zen DAC/Amp

iFi Zen Amp/DAC Review

I absolutely love this offering from iFi. It’s packed with plenty of features and options, sounds great, has lots of power for most headphones, and its build quality will make your jaw drop.

It’s iFi’s Zen Amp/DAC, and it’s phenomenal. You can hook it up to separate studio monitors/speakers via its RCA outputs or 4.4mm balanced out, it’s got a power match (gain switch) and bass boost, you can use balanced headphones via its 4.4mm input on the front, and it supports a plethora of different formats including PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD64/128/256, and Tidal MQA, supporting Master quality files with a simple firmware update.

All of this for around $130? Just shut up and take my money.

 

 

Audioengine D1.

Mugshot.

This puppy is extremely versatile with RCA/Analog outs, Optical out, and USB inputs. It makes an amazing Gaming rig as well! I was astonished at how much of an upgrade it was vs. plugging the headphones right into the Dualshock 4. The Best Headphones for Gaming! This just may be the most versatile little box under $200 or otherwise. You can power your studio monitors with it, you can use it as a headphone amp, or you can use it as a gaming rig on your console or your PC! What are studio monitors? It even brewed me a cup of coffee the other day!

What I also love about it is that it’s immediately recognized by your PC and there are zero issues. It doesn’t need or run of off of drivers. It’s truly plug-and-play. Finally, this would make a fine portable option as well, so theoretically it could be lumped in with the Dragonfly and HA-2. That’s how it should be homie!

 

 


Step Up from D1

For Versatility

iFi iDSD Black Label.

iFi micro iDSD Black Label

Gosh, is there anything more versatile than this puppy?

I mean, it will even give you a complimentary morning hand job if you ask nicely. Add to that, it’s more powerful than explosive diarrhea.

We’ve got something really special on our hands here.

Some of my subscribers didn’t like it because it’s too bulky and “industrial” looking.

Your face is too bulky and industrial-looking.

To me, this thing is worth its asking price and then some. It’s everything you could ever want in an amp all wrapped up into one. The only thing missing is a Christmas bow.

Seriously.

My Video Review

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated!

 

 


FiiO K3 or E10K.

The Best Portable Headphone Amps & DACs

Two peas in a pod.

The E10K is very highly regarded and has been around for a number of years.

It’s the one Amp/DAC that you can’t go wrong with, similar to something like an HD650 on the headphone side of things.

In addition to being highly versatile, it’s also extremely portable.

In fact, I carry this thing around in my laptop bag without a second thought; it’s lightweight, durable, and extremely compact. I never have to worry about having enough room.

Heck, I could even put it in my pocket if I needed to. It fits in the palm of your hand!

Keep in mind it does run off of bus power and does NOT have an internal battery. Technically you can use it with your phone, but you’ll need some sort of adapter and it tends to draw power from your phone’s battery fairly quickly.

That said, I love this thing on the go because I can quickly and easily get set up with my laptop pretty much anywhere. It comes with adhesive rubber feet as well, so I never have to worry about it moving around when it’s on my desk.

The K3

The K3 is similar but it’s more elegant this time around. Instead of the industrial-looking shape of the E10K, we have a beautifully rounded off modern-looking Amp/DAC that looks a lot more attractive on all fronts.

The K3 is still highly portable, but weighs a tad more and seems more durable in your hand.

Like the E10K, it’s got a bass boost and gain switch, but this time both are on the front. The K3 also supports Optical output, balanced input as well as DSD, and lights up different colors according to the source file.

The Best Portable Headphone Amps & DACs

Changes afoot.

If you’d like a complete rundown of these 2, check out my FiiO K3 vs. E10K comparison. The differences, while interesting, are beyond the scope of this article 🙂

For now, just know that both of these will sound fantastic with your headphones, but the K3 gets my vote. It’s a tremendous value and a true upgrade from the E10K in some ways.

 

 


Chord Mojo.

As seen with the main squeeze.

This is by far the best Amp/DAC combo I’ve heard, and an end-game solution for the majority of folks out there. Even the snobbiest of audiophiles would be hard-pressed to look for better sound after hearing this thing. It really is that good and does sound better than something in the budget category or even a step above that. With most amps, you can’t hear that big of a difference in all honesty. The Mojo is definitely an exception. It sounds just as good as a Hugo 2 for a fraction of the price as well! Related: Chord Mojo vs. Hugo2!

 

 

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Solid State…


Solid-State Amps


JDS Labs 02 or Atom.

The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650

The Atom paired with a K3.

The tried and true solid-state amp from NwAvGuy, providing a clean, neutral, and transparent sound for the 600 and 650. Recommended the world over. I absolutely adore this amp paired with a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 with these RCA to 3.5mm cables. Those are fairly expensive though. Use these if you want to save some money, but the combo? It’s simply sublime.

You could also opt for the updated Atom here (pictured above). The Atom is also a preamp, so you could pair it with studio monitors via its RCA Analog outputs + it has RCA inputs as well. A very versatile unit!

Video Comparison

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂

 

 

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More on the DAC Magic a bit later!


Tube Amps


Budget


Bravo Audio Ocean.

Bravo Audio Ocean

Ocean + DF Red + HE4XX = Bliss.

A perfect entry-level tube hybrid amp to get your feet wet if you’re new to tubes. Does a great job of providing plenty of warmth and detail, while also separating sounds and providing a good 3D landscape. What is Soundstage?

I found the Ocean to really open up a genre like Jazz. Jazz music is notoriously hard to reproduce realistically and accurately. Listening to it through headphones sometimes becomes an exercise in futility, as it just doesn’t sound right sometimes.

I gassed up a Master in Tidal of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and was delighted to find that the Ocean renders it much better than I’ve heard it in the past. Bass notes are especially noteworthy here, becoming clear and textured without any mud or bloat. Jazz bass also has a tendency to sound kind of wooly and unclear. With the Ocean, I found myself actually wanting to listen to more Jazz instead of desiring to switch to another genre (which happens sometimes with other setups).

The Ocean includes a set of RCA Inputs, Outputs, and a Line Out. This makes it super easy to hook up to any DAC, and you can output the sound to some speakers or monitors if you wish. I paired one up to an E10K, DragonFly Red, and K3.

On the front, there’s an ON/OFF switch, a 1/4″ jack for your headphones as well as a 3.5mm if you don’t have any adapters lying around. The volume pot is very rugged, but the unit does run pretty hot. Something to keep in mind.

Overall, a fantastic entry-level solution for the HD600 or 650!

 


A Step Up


The Bottlehead Crack + Speedball.

This is probably the #1 option for both the Sennheiser HD600 and 650. The only caveat here is that this kit is a DIY project. You’ll need a soldering iron and some basic know-how. Fortunately, the instructions are all there and by all accounts (that I’ve read), it’s a lot of fun and not all that difficult. The Bottlehead Crack provides the perfect synergy with the 650 because it’s squeaky clean but also warm at the same time; something my Magni is simply not capable of. Also, the 650 has a good Soundstage on its own, but the Crack adds more depth to the image giving it even more room to breathe. What is Soundstage? I didn’t think that was possible as the 650 on its own is incredibly open and spacious.

In their comprehensive How-To guide on Building the Bottlehead Crack Headphone Amplifier, Headphonesty says:

“In very many cases, the performance of a Crack is very favorably compared to amplifiers costing much more. It is almost universally hailed as the affordable end game option when paired with the timeless Sennheiser HD600 or HD650’s.”Headphonesty

 


Darkvoice 336.

This is the second most sought-after tube amp to pair with both, and it doesn’t disappoint. You will want to immediately upgrade the tubes, however, as the majority of folks weren’t digging the stock homies that come with the amp. A lot of folks are wetting themselves over this combo too. It seems to add color and warm up the sound of the 650, while also bringing the mid-range forward a bit. This renders songs in a way that’s very resolving but also musical, with a Soundstage to die for.

 


Little Dot MKIII.

This little beast pairs extremely well with a Topping D3 DAC, and has RCA outputs on the back for some added flexibility. You can use it as a preamp to power some studio monitors or you can hook it up to your Turntable for some fresh Vinyl snacks! Like the Darkvoice, this Little Dot also benefits from some tube rolling but the stock tubes sound fine too if you don’t want to upgrade right away. This amp is not to be taken lightly, as it’s one of the best overall pairings with the HD600 and 650. It has a rock-solid build and lots of power as well. If you’re coming from a cheaper solid-state amp, get ready to have your mind blown!

 


Musical Fidelity X-Can V3.

Got a lot of mention as an amazing tube amp pairing with the 650. Should be on your radar for sure.


From my research and experience, all of the above options should be considered first, as they have the most recommendations and have worked well for most people.

However, in digging down the rabbit hole I was astonished to find out just how many amps pair well with these headphones.

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Here are some more options, but just keep in mind that the above should be on your radar before anything else.


Obscure Options

(and not so obscure)


Here I’m just going to list out some other potential options that got a mention. Items in bold are really worth looking into further.

  • Sansui 881. This is a receiver and pairs very well with the 650. Hard to obtain.
  • Micro Minium Amp.
  • Asus Xonar Essence STX. Internal Sound Card. What is a Soundcard?
  • Sennheiser’s HDVA.
  • Little Dot IV. Got a lot of mention with the 650 but amazon reviews are kind of bad so I left it out of the main options.
  • Schiit Lyr.
  • Woo Audio WA3.
  • Burson Soloist.
  • Marantz SA-KI Pearl Lite.
  • Little Labs Monotor.
  • RNHP.
  • JDS Labs cMoy.
  • Emotiva BasX A-100.
  • Project Ember.
  • Schiit Jotunheim.
  • FiiO E12.
  • Matrix M-Stage.
  • Apogee Groove (Mac).
  • Grace Design M900.
  • Fidelity Audio HPA 100.

The following options were recommended in the comments from the discussion video.

  • Alex Cavalli’s Liquid Spark. Recommended by Trey.
  • THX AAA 789. Recommended by Universe Man Music and IntoIt Reviews for the HD 650.
  • JDS Atom. Recommended by João Victor Daijó.
  • Felix Audio “Echo.” Recommended by Peter Grinde.
  • LOXJIE P20. Recommended by IntoIt Reviews for the HD 650 specifically.
  • Geshelli Labs Archel Pro. Recommended by IntoIt Reviews for the HD 600 specifically.
  • Centrance DACportable. Recommended by IntoIt Reviews.
  • Xduoo XD-05. Recommended by Antoine P.
  • Centrance HiFi M8. Recommended by Brandon Burr.
  • Noir Class A by DIY Audio. Recommended by Brandon Burr.
  • Whammy Class A by DIY Audio. Recommended by Brandon Burr.
  • Amp Camp Amp by DIY Audio. Recommended by Brandon Burr.
  • The Beta 22 Amp. Recommended by Brandon Burr.
  • SMSL SP200. Recommended by Zeis Siez.

As you can see, there are a lot of potential pairings, but we’ll stick with the ones above for now.

If you come across this article and think one of these should absolutely be included in the main list, let me know! If you have a suggestion that’s not included here, also let me know!!


You need a DAC, mate!


Don’t forget that you’ll also need a DAC, or digital to analog converter if what you decide on is not an Amp/DAC combo. A DAC is simply how your computer makes sense out of the digital information, as it converts the 1’s and 0’s into the sound (analog) that you hear. An amp just amplifies that low voltage signal. Without a DAC, an Amp is essentially useless. Related: What is a USB DAC?

I wouldn’t recommend using your PC’s internal DAC, as most of the time it sounds like poop and will only end up amplifying a bad signal. That said, if you have a newer laptop or PC, you may be fine and not even really need an Amp/DAC at all. Just something to keep in mind

So in short, here are some DAC’s to consider:

Standalone

  • Schiit’s Modi. Barebones DAC if you will only be needing it to provide a simple and clean digital to analog conversion. Learn more about how your PC processes sound: Bit depth vs. Sample Rate.

 

  • Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100. Similar to the D1, it’s also got Optical, S/PDIF, USB, and RCA. Perfect for any set up including Gaming.

 

MrSpeakers Aeon Review

Anyone for a Shootout?

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Hook it up, homie…


How to hook up an Objective 2

For your PC


  • First, use the supplied power brick with the 02 and plug it into an outlet, with the other end going into the Amp via the 14-20 VAC hole.
  • Second, just use some RCA to RCA cables. Plug 2 into the white and red of your DAC, and run the other ends into the white and red of your amp.
  • If you choose to go with an Objective 2 from JDS Labs, you’ll need the RCA to 3.5mm as we discussed earlier.
  • Just plug the 3.5mm end into the front of the 02, and the Red and White into the back of the DAC of your choosing. That could be a Modi, DAC Magic 100, or something else entirely but those are the two I would recommend first. To be honest, anything more than a DAC Magic 100 will not yield a monumental increase in quality. Learn more: The Law of Diminishing Returns
  • After that, run an appropriate USB cable going from the DAC into your PC.
  • Lastly, power on the amp and go to your PC’s control panel. From there click on “Sound”. Then find the DAC that you’re using, right-click it, and “Set as Default Device.” You’re now ready for some tunes!

Check out these cool Infographics I came up with to help you out! Please share!


For Your Console

Amp/DAC Combo

D1 Graphic Coming Soon!

Note: The PS4 Slim does not have Optical input.


Amp/DAC Combo

(Audioengine D1 as an example)

  • The PS4/Xbox receives an optical cable in the rear.
  • The other end of the optical cable plugs into the back of the D1.
  • Use a USB cable from the back of the D1 into the front of the PS4 or Xbox One. I’m not familiar with the SexBox because I don’t have one, but there are USB inputs on it so don’t fret!
  • Plug your headphones in.
  • Go to Settings > Sound & Screen on your PS4.
  • Go to Audio Output Settings.
  • Click Primary Output Port
  • Change it to “Digital Out”
  • The Input format should be Linear PCM.
  • Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices.
  • The Output Device should be the name of your DAC, i.e Audioengine D1.

Note: With the DAC Magic 100 I had no issues. With the D1 I ended up having to change the output device from “Audioengine D1” to “TV/Amplifier.” Your mileage may vary. Switching it to TV/Amplifier allowed the sound to come through the headphones. I’m not sure why it was being difficult, or why the sound wouldn’t come through even though the settings were right. If you have any insight into this, let me know!


Amp with Standalone DAC

JDS Labs Objective 2 example


  1. Use the supplied power brick that came with the amp.
  2. Run RCA to 3.5mm from the back of the DAC into the front of the 02. If you’re using the Modi 2 Uber with a Magni 3, use these RCA to RCA cables. Two ends plug into the back of the Uber and the other ends run into the back of the Magni.
  3. Run a USB cable from the back of the DAC into the front of the PS4.
  4. Run an Optical/Toslink cable from the back of your PS4 to the back of your DAC.
  5. Power on Objective 2, plug the headphones in, and go to your PS4’s Settings > Sound & Screen > Audio Output Settings. Click “Primary Output Port.” Change it to Digital Out. The Input format should be Linear PCM. Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices. The Output Device should be whatever the name of your DAC is!
  6. Now adjust the volume to taste. You’re ready to start Gaming! Objective 2 is fully customizable. On the JDS Labs website, you can specify Headphone Jack, Input Type, Front or Rear Mounted Power Jack, Gain, and Battery settings. Rad!

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Final Word…


Final Word


For Tube Amps


If I had to choose one, I would go with the Bottlehead Crack.

It has the most endorsements and combines detail with warmth which makes both the 600 and 650 sound absolutely sublime.

 

The second option would be a Darkvoice 336, with upgraded tubes of course.

 


Desktop Solution


I would definitely go for the Atom as a nice upgrade from Objective 2. It’s a versatile option for a wide array of headphones, with a clean signal and lots of options.

 


Budget Option


The K3 is a nice upgrade from the E10k.

The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650

Out with the old, in with the new.

 

 


For Versatility


The Audioengine D1 is amazing!

Mugshot.

 

 


For Portability

The DragonFly Red for sure.

The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650

Lego men discuss the wonders of a great DAC.

 

 


Best Overall

Gotta be the Mojo.

They came together to form a family unit. 🙂

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information out of this article on the best headphone amp for the Sennheiser HD 600 and 650.

Which of these would you be inclined to go with? Do you have any suggestions? Be sure to let me know!!

If you have any other questions or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or contact me!

I very much look forward to speaking with you…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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21 comments

Gene September 27, 2018 - 1:02 pm

Thank you for taking time to write in this review. It really helped me to decide on buying an amplifier for my newly bought HD650. I saved up money for a very long time and finally i had been able to buy a little used HD650 off the eBay and get it shipped to where i live. It sounds wonderful straight out of the headphone jack of my HP 14-b031TU sleekbook notebook but i know it doesn’t do justice to the venerable HD650. I stumble upon your review while searching the internet and quickly tick few amplifiers which i could afford in coming month or two. I would love to go with Bravo Audio Ocean because you say it has tubey sound and it fits my budget at the moment. I don’t know how wrong i can go with it, but hey! i got your recommendation for the little thing. I am still on the fence of FiiO E10K and Ocean because i also like the idea of the solid state with a DAC. No one recommends me OCEAN so far but you did on your review.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 27, 2018 - 2:38 pm

Hey Gene!

Thank you so much for the nice comment. 🙂

I guess my question would be: Do you prefer a warmer and more colored sound (The Ocean), or would you rather have a clean and transparent signal? Would you rather hear more micro detail and air within the song? Right now I’m listening with the HD600 through an Objective 2 and the sound is completely sterile. It’s honest and raw, but I really like it. With the 650 you do get a bit of a warmer sound by default, but the Objective 2 is a wonderful pairing with that headphone as well. A friend of mine Craig Boyles has been lending me headphones and the 650 was one of them. I actually kind of prefer it over my 600’s to be honest!

Anyways, let me know what you would prefer. I also have an E10K laying on my desk at the moment and I love it as a budget option to get your feet wet. It’s a great unit and is of a high quality even though it’s less than $100. I’ll have a video review of it coming soon, but in the meantime check out my written review of it here: FiiO E10K USB DAC Review!

I think it’s a great investment but if you would rather save a bit more money, the Objective 2 is likely to be a mainstay in your home for years to come should you go that route.

Also check out my JDS Labs Objective 2 Headphone Amp Review. You may just decide on that after reading, especially given the fact that you liked the idea of a solid state amp with a separate DAC. I would say solid state is more dependable and longer lasting than tubes. Tube amps have a tendency of just failing after awhile, but as far as pure synergy and warmth with the HD650, the Bottlehead Crack is probably the best overall pairing.

I wrote an article on Tube Amp vs. Solid State, so you can also check that out for some good information though it probably does need an update.

Also is the issue of portability. Would you rather take it on the go? Something like an E10K is surely better for that purpose, as well as the Dragonfly mentioned.

Let me know your thoughts and I look forward to hearing from you again!

Warm regards,
-Stu

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Jorge September 28, 2018 - 12:14 am

To Gene:

I own both the Ocean and the E10K and I can assure you, none of them pair very well with the HD650´s (yes, I own those too). The little Fiio e10k, my first DAC and Amp, even though it can run the Senns, it lacks of power enough to make these cans shine, even in Hi Gain, it will struggle a lot to present well mastered albums properly. A keeper for me, but not using it with my 650´s. The Bravo Ocean in the other hand has waaaay more power and the default chinese tube concedes it a distinctive sound, but that power is based only in gain (this amp has a ridiculous amount of gain, like 30 something dB´s ) and that makes it feel fake, artificial… Read some reviews about this Bravo in particular and notice there are many people claiming this has a very punchy sound signature, like it is hitting you right in the face, I can assure this is correct and for that reason I only use it as a preamp for my Monitors and listen to classic rock (that´s where this little bastard shines). I am using the Micca Origen Plus right now and I can tell this is better than the Fiio and the Bravo, but I am still not really satisfied because, like the Fiio, for music with high Dynamic Range, I am forced to switch to Hi Gain and then things can go really bad.

To Stuart:

Hi Stuart, I wanted to thank you for your informative article and tell you this was something I´ve been looking for since I got my 650´s like 7 months ago. I wanted to ask you about the power the O2 can bring to the Senns (considering their 300 ohms of impedance) and if according to your experience this is enough to lift them properly. I am aware of the fabulous low output impedance on the O2 (something like 0,5) and I´ve been digging a lot in the NwAvGuy blog, but the aspect of the output power is what had been keeping reluctant to get this amp. Also, I already has three DACs (the Fiio e10k, the micca origen, the ifi nano iDSD), is it okay if I pair any of those to the O2 or the outputs on the ODAC are specially designed for the O2? I really, really, really don´t want to get another DAC

Thank you for you attention and please excuse my english in case of any mistake

Jorge

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Stuart Charles Black September 28, 2018 - 4:42 pm

Jorge,

I will have to disagree a bit about the E10K. I get what you’re saying, but for me it powers an HD650 just fine especially considering the 650 has a higher sensitivity than the 600’s and thus won’t need as much current. Yes, power wise it just makes the cut. 200mW output power at 32 Ohms is nothing to sneeze at especially considering it’s a $75 unit. I guess that’s why I was really impressed with it. I mean, if you’re trying to blow your ears out I guess it doesn’t have enough power. Lol. I find that for people who don’t want to spend a lot on an amp, the E10K is a great entry level solution to get your feet wet. Now is it the best pairing? Of course not by a long shot, but I just wanted to clear that up. Should someone who spends that much money on an HD600/650 also be prepared to buy a better amp? Absolutely. But… we don’t live in an ideal world and so corners will be cut and people sometimes just won’t invest. As for the E10K? It has plenty of power with the gain switch on. I only have to turn the dial to about 5-6 to get a more than loud enough volume. It’s def not a long term solution for either of those headphones but it still sounds fantastic in my opinion.

As for your other inquiry:
Thanks so much for the nice comment! The Objective 2 has a lot of power. At 33 Ohms it outputs 613mW, 355mW at 150 Ohms, and 88 at 600. More than enough power for 99% of headphones, and for the 650 it’s a perfect solid state desktop pairing. I’m finding myself hearing a lot more detail, air, and a nice sense of space. The sound is crystal clear and very raw and honest. So definitely good source files help a lot. However, I’m finding that even most Spotify music sounds excellent so no worries really. You’ll notice some recordings just don’t sound that great which is fine. That’s the trade off one has to make when deciding whether or not to get this amp but for me it’s an easy purchase.

You should definitely check out my JDS Labs Objective 2 Review as there’s a ton of great info there as well and I think it will help cement your decision.

As for a DAC, yeah I would probably use the ODAC or OLDAC (with optical capability) for this one, but I have tested it with a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 and the results were stunning. Also paired it with a Modi DAC and it sounds great too. I may try to get an ODAC from JDS Labs and see what the differences between the 3 are (Probably not too many). Good DACs are a dime a dozen really, but some may argue that. It will be interesting to see if there are any perceivable differences, but I would imagine it’s pretty hard to discern and could end up just being placebo.

I did an experiment with the E10K and used it as a DAC using an RCA to mini cable with my Schiit Magni 2 and it sounded great. I would imagine it has a similar effect on the Objective 2 as they’re both marketed as being clean desktop budget solutions though you’re getting much more than you pay for with the Objective 2. It’s almost like they’re giving it away haha.

No experience with the Origen though I would love to try one. If you ever want to send me stuff for demo just go here to my contact page. Just use the form “all other inquiries & questions” 🙂

I would imagine both of those would be fine as DACs considering they are better at least in theory.

Hope that helps! Lots of good stuff here from you and great questions so thanks for starting this dialogue.

Talk soon,

-Stu

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Renton October 4, 2018 - 1:21 pm

Heyyy, I have Sennheiser headphones, I feel like I’m part of the club here! I can say that Sennheisers are the best headphones I have used, ever! Very comfortable, brilliant crystal clean sound, excellent design. What more could I ask for?

Before reading this article, the only amp I knew personally was for guitars! It is interesting that such interesting equipment exists out there. I suppose if this isn’t your passion or linked to your career then you wouldn’t really know about it, but I am glad that I found out!

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Stuart Charles Black October 4, 2018 - 2:54 pm

Which Sennheiser’s do you have?

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Stein October 5, 2018 - 1:26 pm

Hey Stuart! A very broad and complementary article as you have written

I was searching around, and I saw your article. Could you explain how an amplifier works? I haven’t really used any kind of amplifier yet. Is it to boost the quality for a special type of headphone or some another sound device? I will be happy if you tell me more about it or send me some links 🙂

Øystein

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Stuart Charles Black October 5, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Hey Stein!

Thanks so much for the encouraging word.. 

All an amp does is basically take the signal from the DAC (Digital to Analog conversion) and amplify it to a listenable level. That’s why it’s important to have a good DAC capable of the highest quality conversion.

If you weren’t aware of what a DAC does, it’s just your PC making sense out of the digital signal in the form of 1’s and 0’s, and then converting that into the analog sound that you hear (music).

In a microphone recording, a DAC would take the analog signal (your voice) and convert it to digital (1’s and 0’s) for editing purposes or what have you.

So basically these two exchanges are always happening within the computer which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Hope that helps! If you need further clarification let me know 🙂 Are you in the market for an amp?

-Stu

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Gene October 10, 2018 - 5:33 pm

Dear Stuart….!

Thank you for your reply. I accidentally came across it since I came back to your page. I never thought you’d reply. 🙂 I still haven’t bought an amplifier for my HD650. You might ask me the question “Why….?”

Well sir! Because it is the hardest thing in the world to decide. You speak to ten different people you get ten different answers, and you speak to hundred people they will give you two thousand different answers. So financially disabled people like myself get lost in choosing which to buy. :))

After many many reads on Headfi, Audiokarma and many other websites, I finally thought of getting the Objective 2 from Mayflower or JDS labs. You also recommend it highly. I thought of getting it because I think it is the best choice for my budget and it gives ample power to drive HD650 according to many reviews.

Yes sir…! I love lush mellow tube sound even though it is for audiophiles who can afford higher more expensive gear. I already have cheapo tube pre-amps assembled by myself after getting parts from eBay. They sounds wonderful when paired with solid states.

Reason why I decided to go to Objective 2 even though I love tube sound because i can always use my preamp with it to color the sounds to my liking if necessary. Otherwise I could go with it’s pure transparent solid state sound.

What do you think about my idea….? I still haven’t bought it and I highly value your suggestion.

Regards
Gene

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Stuart Charles Black October 11, 2018 - 4:34 pm

Hey Gene,

I think the Objective 2 is the best choice in the entry level desktop category because it’s clean, neutral, with no coloration and has lots of power that will work for any headphone. It outputs 613mW into 32 Ohms. Yes it will power the 650’s easily. I would say go for it if you really want that clean sound. Here’s my review: JDS Labs Objective 2 Headphone Amp Review.
Let me know your thoughts!

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Gene October 10, 2018 - 5:36 pm

Dear Jorge

Thank you for replying my post. I am glad you did enlighten me with your wisdom about amplifiers you have used so far. I haven’t bought one for my HD650 yet but I have been reading a lot and everything you said is true. Both of my previous choices were wrong. Right now I am looking at Objective 2. I think that will probably be a good choice because of my budget etc.

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Gene October 10, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Dear Stuart..!

I also would like to ask how Dragonfly is compared to O2. Will it be able to bring out the best of HD650 without lacking power?
Will it work with android phones as well?

Thanks

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Stuart Charles Black October 11, 2018 - 4:37 pm

Gene,

Yes it will power the 650 very easily as well. Perhaps a bit warmer than an Objective 2, still very good detail. It will work with Android phones with an adapter that can be found here. Here is my official review: Audioquest Dragonfly Red Review.

Hope that helps!

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Gene October 11, 2018 - 5:03 pm

Dear Stu…!

Alright i have one last suggestion after reading through so many articles.

“Schiit MAGNI 3” it’s 99$ on their site and looks like a killer amp. Any idea about it….?

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Stuart Charles Black October 11, 2018 - 5:09 pm

Gene,

I would just go with the Objective 2. I have the Magni 2 but haven’t tried the 3. The amps are very similar. Clean sound, neutral, etc. It really doesn’t matter which you go with. They will both end up sounding almost identical. The 3 provides more power than Magni 2 but it’s kind of overkill. I think the Objective 2 is slightly cleaner than a Magni 2.

Let me know what you decide..

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Gene October 21, 2018 - 10:27 am

After i went through everything you said and the review you have provided for Objective 2, i am leaning towards it more than magni. There are several reasons for this.

#1. It sounds absolutely colorless, You get what artist had recorded. If you want to color it with a tube pre amp you can do it as well.

#2. Could be battery operated if necessary as well. That means i can just keep it on my bed and enjoy the sound of HD650 without any worries.

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Stuart Charles Black October 22, 2018 - 12:21 pm

Yeah I like the Objective 2 a lot. Keep me posted!

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Gene October 25, 2018 - 5:20 pm

Hi Stu!

This is to let you know that i found a great deal on ebay for 59.75 with free shipping for FX AUDIO DAC-X6. I heard lot of good things about it (as well as bad) but for this price i don’t think it can’t be beaten. It has ample amount of power to power the HD650 according to specifications and lot of people use it on reddit headphones section. So i already ordered one. I think it fits my budget perfectly. I will let you know how it is once i received it.

Thanks a lot for all your help!

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Stuart Charles Black October 25, 2018 - 6:58 pm

Haha no problem Gene! Sorry it didn’t work out with the Objective 2. Maybe down the road! Keep me posted.

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John Corney January 14, 2019 - 9:21 pm

Hi Stuart,

You have done some fantastic reviews on products. I am wanting to get into more hi res audio, and by using my desktop pc and my phone I am currently considering the Sennheiser HD 650. I have not as of yet heard these but have read so many glowing reviews. What I am then looking at is a very good portable DAC that i can use with both the pc and the phone. I am torn between the Chord Mojo and the Oppo HA2. But then I would like to add to this set up tube amp if that is at all possible, to give me a more Analouge sound.

My previous true HIFI system was based around Vinyl using the Linn Sondek then eventually the Roksan xerses, partnered with Sugden integrated amp and power amp used as mono blocks and the Ruark Talisman 2 speakers. This set up gave me a very smooth warm sound. I would greatly like to hear your suggestion on if my idea is possible and which dac and tube amp combination may work if any.

Kind Regards,
John Corney

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Stuart Charles Black January 15, 2019 - 7:05 pm

Hey John! Thanks so much man 🙂

As for your situation, it seems like you’ve got a bit of a bigger budget. The only caveat with the Mojo is that it’s a bit finicky at first, but once you get it set up it’s probably the best sound I’ve heard out of an Amp/DAC and I’ve tried quite a few (19 or so at the time of this comment).

I still own the HA2 and absolutely love it but the Mojo does outclass it in terms of sound. The HA2 was my previous favorite amp/dac actually.

Comparing the 2, the HA2 does have a gain switch and bass boost while the Mojo doesn’t but that’s pretty much a wash considering how amazing the Mojo’s sound is. Plus it’s a LOT more powerful than the HA2, which only pumps around 30mW into 300 Ohm. The HD600 requires around 20 and the HD650 a bit less considering it’s slightly higher Sensitivity.

The HA2 is a bit more portable but I have no issues carrying around the Mojo. The Mojo has 2 3.5mm headphone jacks so you can compare headphones or listen to movies/music with a friend. The Mojo also has Optical for Gaming which really sold me, plus it’s got coax as well.

The HA2 is extremely versatile as well. It’s got line out, A port for Apple, B for Android, and obviously can be connected to your PC using a standard micro USB cable. Here’s My Oppo HA2 Review and Video. Let me know if you have any questions. It should cover everything as I go into more depth.

The Mojo has two micro USB slots (1 for charging), Optical and Coax as mentioned.

The only thing I kind of don’t like about the Mojo is that it requires a charge and can be a bit confusing when you first fire it up. Once you understand it’s protocol it becomes super simple. Check out my Chord Mojo Review and let me know what you think!

As far as tube amps, the Bottlehead Crack and Darkvoice are my top recommendations but the Crack is a DIY project. Still probably the best overall sound paired with the 600/650 as far as tubes go.

My overall recommendation would be the Mojo. Just keep my article bookmarked because it goes step by step how to set it up with minimal headache.

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