Amp to headphone cost ratio

hi, at risk of highlighting that i know almost nothing about hi-fi stuff, is there a benchmark cost ratio i should consider when playing headphones; I am running some focal elegias and grado 325e through a ifi zen dac/macbook set up. Is this about the right sort of balance?

I would think your source could be improved if you wished for more. The Naim Atom HP edition maybe worth looking at.

1 Like

No, if you are happy with the sound and they are comfortable, they are the right headphones…simple.
Dont get bogged down in what something should cost for it to be right.


I also think, with the headphones you own, you could upgrade the source to get the best out of them. It is better to get the best performance out of that you do own rather than upgrade the headphones.

Agreed, the Atom HE is a mighty piece of kit for headphone listening.

You could take your headphones to a Naim dealer and try them out on the Atom HE.

However your will lose the portability of your current setup. Also the Atom HE is really good and will end up begging for better headphones eventually so keep that in mind. The upgrade bug will start biting.

To keep portability and bring your source closer to your headphones you could look at the Chord Mojo 2 perhaps.

thanks - good to hear; i am tempted by the atomHE/ClearMG package that sevenoaks have going. Might need to wait a few months to be able to afford that one, i do use the headphone output on the atom original and cant work out if its any better than the zen dac/laptop .

I recently purchased a beyerdynamic A20 headphone amp to power a set of Beyer T5 V3 headphones.
The T5’s were not as good as I had expected from my Nait 5si and I had thought perhaps the headphones were the problem. The A20 changed that idea completely.

If you are looking at changing things I would suggest trying out different things to see which makes the change you like the most.
You could try your headphones in the dealers on the atom (and other sources) to see if that shows what your current cans can do.

I can tell you that the Atom HE / Clear MG package is a mighty combination because I use exactly that.

I also have a Star, which will have an equal or better headphone output than the standard Atom (I really don’t know but for the sake of the argument it will at least be equal). So I can tell you the Atom HE blows it out of the water. There is no comparison between listening to headphones on my Star vs on the Atom HE.

As you already own open backed headphones you will already knows the pros and cons of open backed design as with the Clear MG.

When I need to avoid sound leakage I use a set of Focal Celestee. This should already be better than the Elegia but the Clear MG simply blows the Celestee out of the water in terms of clarity and soundstage.

I own a Chord Mojo 2 as well, which, I would assume would be better than the Zen Dac considering reviews and cost. The Atom HE is also leagues ahead of the Mojo 2.

I am trying to explain it in a way to enable you to get an idea of what a package the Atom HE / ClearMG is.

But demo it first if you are considering it. It is still a solid investment of cash so be sure you like the sound combination it offers first.


Cheers - i am going to test out the Atom HE with Clear MG for sure. I think its a case of make do with what i have got until the point where i can afford the HE/Clears.

1 Like

If you want to go that way, that is what I would have done as well. Plus your current headphones will sound the best they ever had with the Atom HE as well. No use throwing money at patching things if you want to go the Atom HE path, that only means getting there slower.

Couldn’t agree more. The Atom HE is a terrific headphone amp and should give you years of satisfaction no matter what level you go to in terms of headphones.

I’ve found the balanced connection to be better than the SE 6.35 so if you go for the Atom HE with the Clears, if you get the option, go for either a 4.4mm balanced or 4 pin XLR connector with the headphones.


I have found exactly the same. Even had extension XLR cables made at CustomCans to make the rear XLR connection more accessible. So this is the only way I listen now.

The Clears come in two editions, the normal one (golden brass kind of colour) and the Professional (black with burgundy padding). The only difference between them is what you get in the box. The normal clear MG comes with both a standard unbalanced cable and a 4 pin XLR balanced cable. The Professional comes with an extra set of ear cushions and a standard unbalanced cable.

I got the standard one to get at the XLR cable. But if offered at sevenoaks having a custom cable made at CustomCans or other for the XLR connection while profiting from having an extra set of ear cushions may also be attractive.


I was thinking about an extension cable as well as I may end up with a unit that is covered and won’t have easy access to the back. It might seem like a bit of extra hassle the XLR being at the back but I do like the clean facia you get as a result so I still think Naim got this right.

Did you find the extension reduced the sound quality at all?

1 Like

With the CustomCans Male - Female XLR there is nothing I can detect. I also had a full XLR cable made for my Celestee and almost want to say it is better than the standard cable but YMMV.

The cable is also super soft and bendy so I can put it neatly next to the HE when not using and it is so much easier to change headphones. Plus there is no wear on the sockets of the HE of constantly plugging things in and out!


I have been looking for someone with experience with both the Chord Mojo and the Atom HE. I currently have a Mojo-Poly combination and Elegia headphones, and have had my eye on the Atom HE for sometime now. Specifically, I’ve been wondering how big of a performance jump there is between the Mojo and Atom HE, so I read your comments about the Mojo2 vs. Atom HE (using Focal headphones) with great interest.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by “The Atom HE is leagues ahead of the Mojo 2.”?

I have never listened to the Atom and the closest Naim dealer is 3 hours away and I’m not even sure they have the HE version. I’m probably interested in the Atom for the user experience alone (and to get away from a battery-powered unit). Thank you in advance.

Couple of posts on the big HE thread recently indicates the HE is pretty great, in comparison to some really well regarded Chord gear:

There’s a big difference between a Mojo and Hugo 2 and I’ve found the difference between the Hugo 2 and Atom HE to be substantial in terms of bass performance and musicality.

Even if we were to set sound quality to one side, the Atom HE is just a lot better in terms of user experience. It’s features and ability to take anything you throw at it. Because it’s a one box system and that the WiFi antennas is very good, if you want to move it from one room to another it’s easily done.

It is however a lot more expensive than the Mojo but I’d imagine the Atom HE would easily be end game solution for most when it comes to headphone system.

Edit. Just to say the Hugo 2 has great detail and air but just doesn’t come close to the Atom HE soundstage depth, layering and bass. It has a lovely weight, fullness to it. It will vary of course from headphone to headphone. I’m using it with the Meze Elite.


Thanks gthack. I’m new to the forum and limited my search query to the mojo. I’m truly impressed that someone’s experience with the Atom HE is comparable to a DAVE considering the massive price difference between them. Because my Mojo’s battery is on its last leg, I’m sort of at a fork in the road: upgrade to Mojo2 and keep the poly, or dip my toe into my first piece of Naim kit.

The Atom HE’s streamer has more functionality than the poly. I just don’t want to give up anything on sound quality considering the price premium of the Atom over the Mojo2.

1 Like

Thanks A-Fin. This is good to hear. I’ve enjoyed the Mojo for the past 5+ years, but my experience with the poly streamer has just been clunky at best. It does Roon which is what I primarily use it for, but sometimes I want to stream a playlist from spotify which I can’t do on poly.

And, yes, I would view this as an endgame source for head-fi. (No Bartok or Lina for me - I have kids to put through college LOL).

1 Like

Weren’t they like that from new? :wink:

My Mojo gets 4 hrs tops. A MK1 Hugo is miles better battery wise, and a decent improvement SQ wise, I mostly use my Hugo in my main system, but through headphones it’s fabulous too! I use my phone to stream through both when I’m listening via headphones, and it’s nice to be able to sit anywhere doing so.

The Atom HE looks lovely though, and I’m sure it sounds great too.

1 Like

One of the things I love about the Atom HE is how easy it’s to stream to it.

When I’m working I use Roon but if I need to join a webinar or watch a Youtube video etc, one click on my Mac and its shared to the Atom HE. The Atom HE pauses the Roon feed and plays the new feed without any need to press anything on the amp. Once done, pressing play on the Roon app and it’s back playing again. Naim have done really well in terms of usability.