Headphone advice

After the recent build of my new speakers I have probably been playing a little too much music and have pushed the boundaries of acceptance (by my wife) a little too far. I think I need to give the speakers a rest for a while but would still like an option to listen in the evenings. Listening to music helps me relax and i need an option that doesn’t mean everyone in the house has to hear it too.

I have been considering selling my Atom and purchasing an Atom HE and headphones, then partnering the HE with a Nap 200/250 in the future. For the time being ill use my hypex power amp to drive my speakers.

I was informed by a dealer that the Atom/nap combo would most likely be really close in performance to the nd5xs2/xs3 combo (my previous upgrade plan) and this level of performance/cost is just fine by me.

Question is… has anyone else introduced headphones for a similar reason and did it work as intended?

I am looking at the focal lineup of headphones at the level of the Clear mg… any thoughts or experience?

Any other options I should consider at this price?

I would also like to be able to drive them with a smartphone occasionally. I know it won’t give the best performance but I want to have the option. What kind of sensitivity would I need. I know bugger all about headphones.

Many thanks in advance.

The AtomHE with the Focal Clears would be a great choice. I have the HE with Focal Utopias and I’m certain you would be very happy with the two. I expect the HE was tested with Focal HP’s.
I’m looking to obtain a NAP 250 DR to go with the HE. I just need to obtain the proper cable for it. You would need to have a cable made for it. Chord Company have good ties to Naim and build superb cables. They can build you what you need.
Talk to your Naim dealer about it.

As an alternative to Focal it may be worth trying out HifiMan’s headphones as well. They sound really good.

Cheers for the reply. Thats why i was thinking the focal line of HP’s. I remember @Naim.Marketing saying that Naim amps are tuned with focal gear. I would assume that they ensured the Atom HE would sound good with focal HP’s. What would be really good to know is if the Atom + Nap 250 would be on a par with, or outperform, a Nova for both headphones and hifi or just headphones.

I’ve had a Nova and I believe the AtomHE has a better headphone amp. I had a Violectric V281 and replaced it with the AtomHE. The V281 has to be among the better HP amps available. The streamer/DAC sections are probably about equal but the NAP 250 DR should certainly be superior.
Ease of use should be the same. The AtomHE is a joy to use.
The HE is more compatible with other brands (DIN vs XLR) but has more limited compatibility with Naim.

A couple of things. Firstly remember that open back headphones do ‘leak’ sound even at normal listening levels, although some more than others. If you are in a room with your other half and they prefer silence or are maybe watching TV this might be an issue for them, and it may be that a closed-back design is needed for domestic bliss.

Secondly, there is huge choice at the price level you indicate. Sennheiser 800s, Grado GS3000e and some of the Audeze models are obvious options for example. I have been really enjoying headphones in the last few years and on that journey I can assure you the differences not just in quality but in overall sound signature and musical ‘style’ are really wide between brands and models. Far greater than between loudspeakers I would say. On top of that comfort also varies greatly, partly but not only as a function of weight.

Essentially you really need to demo headphones.


PS having just demoed some expensive closed back headphones they can be a very different sonic presentation too!

Thanks for the reply. You raise some interesting points. Particularly with the open back issue. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to try any as I live so far away from a dealer. It does worry me that I could possibly get something that is not to my taste. I don’t like bright or over accentuated highs. With my diy speakers this isn’t an issue as I can adjust treble level but not with headphone’s.

In my experience Sennheiser 800s were a bit bright and ‘technical’. Grado much less so (but very ‘leaky’). I have not heard the Focal Clear. I think Sennheiser especially need good amp/source so maybe not ideal with the phone either. That said many on here love them I know!


I have been put off the focal’s due to a few online reviews saying they have peaky treble… I need relaxing and mellow with no fatigue. But not muddy and slow. If that makes sense.

Dealers might give you a trial period? That is how I did it recently.

I don’t want to put you off, good headphones can be a brilliant way to enjoy your system afresh.


I have the HE with CLEAR MG, I will report in the subject of the HE but I can already say that the whole works very well… compared to 272 it is another world!

1 Like

Excellent Thankyou!

Kinda. I sought out a used Chord Mojo, and closed back headphones, for listening in the family room when the main stereo wouldn’t be appropriate. My stereo is in an adjoining, but semi open plan room, and too far away to run headphones from.

After research, and no demo, I decided on Shure SRH 1540s. Found a sh pair for a pretty decent price, together with the Mojo and my phone it’s pretty impressive.

What I found, at least in my setup, is that headphone listening is very different to sitting in front of your speakers. The resolution and separation is substantially better via headphones, to the point I wondered what my main stereo is for X) But for me I prefer the soundstage laid out in front of me more than the between the ears stage with headphones. That might sound like a fairly obvious/naive/simplistic view! Also, the recent addition of a Hugo DAC to my stereo brought a fairly impressive improvement in the areas I thought headphones particularly excelled (via my Nait XS3), so I suspect my sources were holding things back previously.

Lastly, it’s a bit isolating sat there with headphones on in the family room! So I stopped really quickly, just using them now whilst working, or when everyone has gone to sleep and having the main stereo on loud would be too much of a disturbance. I can listen quietly with it on, but if I need to have music I loud I’ll use my headphone setup. But loud headphone listening isn’t as satisfying as being “assaulted” by your speakers. Particularly your monsters I suspect :slight_smile:

[edit: smartphone drives my Shure’s just fine, just not as well as the Mojo in terms of quality]

Not sure if any of that helps!

Just out of interest, do you have a separate Hypex? I thought the ones in your speakers just drove the LF drivers?

Thanks for the reply. Your findings are what I suspected may happen. I have never really done the headphone listening thing before and with the ones that I do have I tend to take them off if someone comes in the room in case they try to talk to me. I didn’t think of that side of it. It might just be a big waste of money. Especially if I sell my Atom and lose money in order to do it. I’m now leaning toward using the money for a used nap 200 to put on the Atom and possibly improve really low volume listening when everyone has g gone to bed. My wife usually goes to bed pretty early.

In response to your next question, I have 2 hypex ucd 180 power amps in the cupboard. 120 into 8 ohms (I think) and outperformed quite a bit by the Atom’s 40!

1 Like

Yes, I moved to headphones as my primary listening option and it has worked out very well. I also introduced streaming at the same time and I’ve never listened to so much and such a variety of music.

I’ve recently re-introduced speakers back into the mix with a Supernait 2 and PMC OB1i’s. I love both ways of listenig, they give a different presentation. I find headphones more analytical and speakers more immersive.

1 Like

New atom he user here. Purchased it banking on fine preamp and upgrade possibilities.
Never been a headphone user myself. Coming from musos.
Bought hifiman sundaras to leverage the new acquisition since ae1 actives were delayed (should get them tomorrow)
I can only compare against musos. Bass is more extended, detail is all over the place, music is still there and fully enjoyable.
However I prefer speakers rather than headphones as overall experience (wife and neighboors not necessarily concurring here).
I present the atom to my friends as the “musical satisfyer”.
But I got to this conclusion without breaking the bank. And give myself in the lone and guilty pleasure from time to time to great err

Just my 2 cents.

Unbelievable speakers those you built in such a short time. Envy, the bad kind of it, is what I felt. Respect. Alas, I have to call a guy when the bulb needs to be changed.

Forgot to mention I started to notice white noise on some tracks but with the help of some kind forum members we narrowed it down to the tracks themselves.

1 Like

Hi @johnt Just a quick question using one of my old threads if that’s ok. I remember an old thread where I had asked about an upgrade path for a uniti Atom and I recall that you went from Atom to Atom + Nap 200 to Atom + 200 + 202? Then to ndx 2. I am on the very same path. I now have an atom with a nap 200 and am loving the benefits it has brought. How did you find it when you added the nac 202 into the mix? How did you set the volume controls? Did the system loose any harmony or was it all benefits? I’d appreciate the advice. Not many have done this.

Rather than running the signal through two preamps, you could add the streamer next, then it’s a straight swap of the Atom for the preamp as the last stage.

A few years ago I used this upgrade path to go from Superuniti to NDX/282/200DR. My dealer suggested that this was the logical way to do it, and it allowed me to stagger the cost by adding one box at a time.

1 Like

I have thought about that and using NDX2 into the Atom. Despite potentially being kicked off the forum for defacing the NDX2 in such a way, it’s the most expensive step. I’m just finishing up a degree and will be gaining employment next year. Tight funds mean that step will have to wait a little longer. The preamp can be saved for a bit sooner.

Also, @johnt said adding the 202 made a really nice difference too I think.