Systems & Synergies


i’m curious about dac-amp-headphone combinations that exhibit particularly good synergies.

i’ve enjoyed the adi-2 pro -> phonitor x -> utopia system, for instance… are there such synergies you’ve noticed that are distinctive?


I’m a fan of the dual burr-browns in the idsd micro BL with the Cayin IHA-6. The amp is a bit bright, and the burr-browns have this smoothness that ensures the brightness of the amp never gets harsh or glaring. I tried it with an ESS DAC and didn’t like it much. But I think the AKM 4490s they have in their matching DAC would also be a good choice.


MrSpeakers Alpha Prime straight out of Chord Mojo. That little DAC/amp just brings the Primes to life in a way that much bigger/more expensive/more powerful rigs don’t. Pure synergy.



Airist R-2R and Bottlehead Crack is particularly good with almost every headphone I have… looking forward to December so I can have my own Airist R-2R


thank you - i haven’t heard any of these components yet, except the Mojo a year or two ago. it’s incredibly helpful for a neophyte (as i still consider myself to be) to be guided toward synergistic chains.


@Torq did a review of the Airist R-2R, and I did an impression:


To make this thread more interesting, and useful, it’d be great if in addition to noting the components in a system you’ve found to exhibit excellent synergy that you describe why or how you believe they’re a great pairing. Your own pictures of such setups are also highly encouraged!


This is one of my favorite little setups, delivering solid technical performance and a lot of musical enjoyment at a price that not so log ago would have been hard to imagine:

The Modi 3 (full review here) provides a solid, detailed, and neutral source as a starting point, and is easy to integrate into any system - be it fed straight from a USB port or via a CD transport (etc.). The Vali 2 (full review coming shortly) delivers a detailed, but smooth and rich performance that helps tame the slight treble grain evident in the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD6XX while maintaining, and even highlighting, an excellent mid-range performance.

When I bought my first pair of HD650, back when they first launched, they alone cost more than this whole stack ($99 + $149 + $199 vs. $499).


Here’s another fun little combination from the same general end of the spectrum … but a little bit cheaper still ($79 + $99 + $149 … just $327 here).

The high-degree of clarity, and slight treble sweetness, from the SDAC combined with the meatier presentation, increased low-end heft and greater body from the Liquid Spark, pair very nicely with the largely neutral (though maybe a little lean) HD58X - helping to bring up their bass to a more satisfying level and rounding off the very slight grain in their treble.


I still want to get this combo…have you used it with the Massdrop HE4xx? Curious how the synergy with those would be.


I have … but I haven’t gotten to taking any pictures of that setup yet.

It’s a nice combination there too, though I would probably either use the Modi 3 in place of the SDAC, or the Magni 3 in place of the Liquid Spark with the HE4xx, as they already play lower than the HD58X and don’t need the extra heft. And the Modi 3 also will help open up the mids a bit on the HE4xx.

Mostly a signature/preference call though … and hard to go wrong with any combination of those units.


Thank you, I’m looking into options for friends and family that I’ve given 4xx to as gifts…lol especially budget options like the suggestions you mentioned.