Headphone amp = system upgrade also

Hi all

Following all the recent talk regarding headphones, I don’t have any nor a headphone amp.
Being a bare NDX2 user with a 282/250DR I always thought I would at some point add a power supply to the NDX2 but now think that having a nice headphone setup would be very beneficial and enable even more system use.

Is it just the Chord DACs that have good headphone amplifiers built in that would also be an upgrade for the main system.
Obviously something like a TT2 or Dave would mean using the NDX2 as a streamer only and having an upgraded DAC.
This would obviously render ever getting a power supply for the NDX2.

Cheers all.

:+1:t2:

The other option is to run a dedicated analogue headphone amp from the RCA outputs on your NDX2, there are quite a few good options around for that. Then if adding a PS to the NDX2, both the main system and the headphone system will benefit.

Thanks Mike.
Surely a TT2 or Dave would be an upgrade for the main system and involve less boxes and maybe even cheaper.
Certainly if thinking about the 555 DR ps.

I guess there are two factors, which DAC presentation you prefer and how a TT2 or Dave compares as a headphone amp against a dedicated analogue headphone amp, both of which are comparisons I haven’t done.

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Ideally you need to be able to hear what the TT2 / Dave can do in terms of speaker and headphone playback. If you like it, then it would be a comparison between the NDX2 + Chord DAC vs NDX2 + 555 DR ps.

I’m sure there are a few here that use the NDX2 as a streamer into a chord DAC that will chip in their experiences!

Yes, @Simon-in-Suffolk is experienced in this regard and @ChrisSU.

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Hi. I am interested in the idea of running a headphone amp. I do have a very basic one using the 202 output, & content with it as it’s one of those things that are rarely used (just me & Mae, the dog, at home). But if using the output from my NDX (1) will improve this, I might use it more. So to my question: is this way of doing it detrimental to the sound when the NDX is in ‘normal’ use, due to both outputs being connected, & is it a case of switching one off, the other on & vice-versa? Any help here would be gratefully received.

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I’m running a NDX2, so not sure if it’s the same for the NDX - but basically I have the NDX2 connected via DIN to my SN2 and my headphone amp connected to the NDX2 via RCA. I then switch between outputs through the Naim app, only using one or other (not running both together, though you can). I use system automation with the SN2, but variable volume control with the headphone amp (though the NDX doesn’t have variable volume control - so you’d need to decide how you run with volume control on the headphone amp).

I have t found any detrimental effect to sound quality, though I’ve read that if you both outputs enables at the same time, it could be an issue.

If you have a spare cable, it’s worth playing around with.

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Exactly. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Chord DACs for speakers and headphones but they should be able to give you a lot better feedback based on them being in a pre/power Naim systems and also with the NDX2.

Many thanks for your prompt reply, I will give it a try. I can’t seem to see, via the app, how to switch between outputs (Is it an NDX2 thing?), but I can do so using the remote/NDX screen.

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Hi, indeed as @popeye suggests, I run an NDX2 into various Chord DACs either into a 552 or driving high performance headphones.
My 552 drives a 250 system driving ATC SCM speakers. My headphones of choice is the Meze Empyrean with silver plated copper Meze cable and leather ear pads, but I also use a Sennheiser HD650 with stock cable.

My view is that with my speaker setup, the most musical DAC is the Chord Hugo original with a third party double regulated powersupply, although the transparency and bass definition is less capable than the newer Hugo2, TT2 or DAVE… but into the 552 I just don’t find these as musical, although the Hugo2 comes close and has other strengths, so on balance is better.

When it comes to headphones, although the Hugo original drives the Empyreans quite well, there is a significant drive musical clarity and detail with the Hugo2.

If I am honest I didn’t find the difference between the Hugo2 and TT2 huge driving hybrid magnetic planar headphones significant, and I think overall preferred the Hugo2… it simply seemed more natural. I also used the mscaler on the TT2… and I didn’t really appreciate what it did to the sound.

The big step forward with headphones is with the DAVE… this simply is phenomenal… especially with the Empyreans … the detail, texture and layers are fantastic… and really adds to the listening experience and enjoyment… the recording more or often that not is noticeably the bottleneck … and this becomes more noticeable, not least when you compare old and new recordings of well known classical works for example. But throw just about any recording at it, no matter how poor and it sounds enjoyable or at least interesting. Truly wonderful.
The DAVE responds well to EQ, and I sometimes slightly adjust the replay EQ from the mastered EQ to suit my preference… I find the more transparent and revealing equipment is, especially with headphones, the more this can often be of musical benefit.

BTW I find DAVE into my speaker setup via my 552 good, but not stellar… I suspect I am noticing the difference between my high end headphones and my mid range speakers. The Hugo Original or Hugo 2 is a better match.

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You need to enable the inputs in the app… under settings

Forgive me; I can see input settings, other settings & there doesn’t seem to be one for output :grimacing:

Select this in settings

You can choose between analogue or digital audio output.

If you are going to use the NDX2 as just a transport into a DAC / headphone amp, then you could sell it and use a ND5XS2 as the front end. Otherwise keep the NDX2, get a PSU, and buy a dedicated headphone amp such as the violectric.
The NDX2 with a PSU makes a stunning streaming combo. And as others have noted you can then drive a dedicated headphone amp via the RCA outputs on the NDX2.

Yes but many feel the NDX2 is a far superior transport.
Yes, this is why I said getting an upgrade to the main system by also adding headphone possibilities also.

You could, but I would not recommend it. The NDX2 is a top class display with a transport and media display and good control options. The ND5XS2 does not have this.
The NDX2 DAC is good, but use high end phones and it clearly becomes the bottleneck. With lesser phones it is fine, but then you can use more modest headphone amps.

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I have a feeling a home demo will be the only way to decide… just a case of finding a dealer who can help with that.

For me, the difference between the Qutest/ Hugo 2 and the TT2 was quite pronounced. Both soundstage and weight and authority in the lows was greatly improved. The Qutest was already superb in terms of detail but I do feel the TT2 also improved on this. Certainly a warmer presentation.

We all have different expectations… I know I was initially put off the Empyrean headphones based on a quite a few reviews saying it was overly warm. For me, it certainly wasn’t. It has taught me not to discount anything until I’ve heard it for myself now.

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When new before run in the Empyreans are too warm in my opinion , they do open up over a couple hundred hours… I was warned of this from the dealer I bought my Mezes from, and they were spot on. They really need to use in my opinion the Meze silver plated copper leads to get that attractive upper end nuance and feel of ambience and realism … and finally one needs a good seal, and positioning with the leather cups (glasses wearers take note)… do this and the excessive warmness vanishes, and is replaced with an authority sound with great sub bass that you feel on your skull.
If you want to thin the lower mids, upper bass you can click -1dB in the 120 to 200 Hz region in your headphone amp/DAC chain… for some modern pop music mastered warm for thin sounding replay equipment this can be pleasing.

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From your comments here and others elsewhere I knew I was going to upgrade the cable. In the end I also opted for the Meze Silver… it’s probably had 80hrs on it now. Tried that -1db tweak and that was affective for a lot of tracks.

I think it would be interesting to see what a pure silver cable would bring to the Empy but in no rush. I probably favour the Alcantara 75% to 25% leather.

I did try the TT2 without the MScaler this evening… but no, I much prefer it with. Lost too much depth in soundstage, air and smoothness. Strings, drums and vocals etc seemed just seemed to loose a lot of realism. It reminded me of how much the SN2 lost when removing the HiCap DR… but worse. It went straight back on and bliss returned :joy: