- 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:
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
You Need A DAC, Mate!
Hooking It Up to PC & Console
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.
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!
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!
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Best Amps Discussion
Read on for some great amp pairings with these two!
Portable Combo Amp/DACs
Audioquest Dragonfly Red.
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.
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!
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
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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!”
Regular Combo Amp/DACs
iFi Zen DAC/Amp
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.
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
iFi 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.
My Video Review
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FiiO K3 or E10K.
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 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.
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.
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!
JDS Labs 02 or Atom.
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!
Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂
Bravo Audio Ocean.
- Check Price on Amazon!
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.
- Check Price!
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:
- Check Price on Amazon!
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.
- Check Price on Amazon!
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.
(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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
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
D1 Graphic Coming Soon!
Note: The PS4 Slim does not have Optical input.
(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
- Use the supplied power brick that came with the amp.
- 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.
- Run a USB cable from the back of the DAC into the front of the PS4.
- Run an Optical/Toslink cable from the back of your PS4 to the back of your DAC.
- 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!
- 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!
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.
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.
The K3 is a nice upgrade from the E10k.
The Audioengine D1 is amazing!
The DragonFly Red for sure.
Gotta be the Mojo.
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,