Headphone only system, front end required

I am looking for advice to build a headphone only system, based around the Stax SR-L700 and the SRM-006ts energiser, and I find myself looking for a digital source from which to feed them. Your  suggestions would be appreciated.

I suppose the obvious thing for me to do would be to feed them from my ‘main system’, (my only system), which is based on a one box solution, a Naim Superuniti, but due to the significant break out from the Stax headphones the sound would be a nuisance to others using the living room.

The alternative would be to install the Stax in the spare room as a headphone only system, although I would be loathed to relocate the Superuniti. So I am looking for an alternative digital source, I have an open mind as to whether this should be CD or streamer based, but ultimately I have a preference for a streamer, with access to; my current network storage device, Tidal & Spotify, and if possible be Roon compatible (although I am not using Roon at the moment).

I am considering the following:

  • Used Audio note CD player or CD transport and DAC, (if such a device becomes available)
  • Used Naim Unitiqute2 (power amp switched off).
  • Used Naim Nac N 172 streaming pre amp
  • SOtM sMS 200 into DAC. (less keen on the increasing box count with this solution)

I have a wired LAN and WiFi connection available in the room.

I also have a Chord Mojo which I could use as a DAC in the system.

Do you have any ideas for a neat front end to a head phone system? Budget up to £2k, but less would be nice!

Original Post

If you go for a Hugo instead of Mojo, you won't need a headphone amp. (I'm assuming an amp is still needed, not knowing the stax system?) A computer could feed it (If you have a Mac, Audirvana would give best sound quality. I don't know what on PC comes closest) but make sure you use something to remove RF if you use an electrical output.

If you have cds you may check a Creek cd player with dac capabilities for enjoying both worlds, they are very good, canot not compare with audionote

r a naim streamer 

Or a used naim cd player cd2x for good value

Or ditch the staxs go for a Hugo/Elear-hifiman2-audeze lcd3-hd800s

My favorite being Elear

 

ROOG posted:

I am looking for advice to build a headphone only system, based around the Stax SR-L700 and the SRM-006ts energiser, and I find myself looking for a digital source from which to feed them. Your  suggestions would be appreciated.

I suppose the obvious thing for me to do would be to feed them from my ‘main system’, (my only system), which is based on a one box solution, a Naim Superuniti, but due to the significant break out from the Stax headphones the sound would be a nuisance to others using the living room.

The alternative would be to install the Stax in the spare room as a headphone only system, although I would be loathed to relocate the Superuniti. So I am looking for an alternative digital source, I have an open mind as to whether this should be CD or streamer based, but ultimately I have a preference for a streamer, with access to; my current network storage device, Tidal & Spotify, and if possible be Roon compatible (although I am not using Roon at the moment).

I am considering the following:

  • Used Audio note CD player or CD transport and DAC, (if such a device becomes available)
  • Used Naim Unitiqute2 (power amp switched off).
  • Used Naim Nac N 172 streaming pre amp
  • SOtM sMS 200 into DAC. (less keen on the increasing box count with this solution)

I have a wired LAN and WiFi connection available in the room.

I also have a Chord Mojo which I could use as a DAC in the system.

Do you have any ideas for a neat front end to a head phone system? Budget up to £2k, but less would be nice!

A Raspberry Pi connected to your Chord Mojo would be a very simple and flexible solution. With the upmpdcli renderer, it would give you access to Tidal and Spotify and, of course, to the music served on your LAN by UPnP servers. You could also run MinimServer (or any other UPnP server) on the Pi itself and host it together with an attached drive in aPiDrive enclosure. This would give you a complete server + streamer solution in a small box which you could easily move to another room. If you want to connect to a SPDIF DAC, you could stack on the Pi a HIFIBerry Digi+ Pro with BNC connector.

Moderated Post:  Links removed - Please do not post unauthorised commercial links in here.

Thank you for all of your replies.

Richard, my lack of knowledge of the naim range is exposed! It didn't occur to me that a dedicated naim streamer would be an option! I shall be scouring the second hand adds for one.

IBS, as I understand, the stax energiser accepts a line level input, so most separates should be able to feed it. If i don't decide on a new source in the short term,  then I am likely to adopt your idea feeding the stax from the mojo connected to a laptop,  but in the longer term a PC isn't my favourite audio interface.

EMER, yes I still buy loads of CDs and a Naim CD player is a good call, I guess I just have a 'scratch to itch' when it comes to Audio Note kit and a recent demo of one of their CD rigs sounded rather good to my old ears. :0)

Generally If the right CD player comes along I may well go that route, but I am fairly sold on streaming, with Roon and MQA really complementing this approach well.

 

NBPF, Thanks for your thoughts, a Hifi application for the Raspberry pi has been on the cards since I started my diy active open baffle speaker project, but that's a topic of another post.

i suppose I am a little intimidated at the prospect of getting the R pi working as a reliable platform, my software skills often leave me feeling very frustrated usually until 2am when I generally give up! 

One question if I may, what sort of interface would you use with a R pi based solution? 

ROOG posted:

NBPF, Thanks for your thoughts, a Hifi application for the Raspberry pi has been on the cards since I started my diy active open baffle speaker project, but that's a topic of another post.

i suppose I am a little intimidated at the prospect of getting the R pi working as a reliable platform, my software skills often leave me feeling very frustrated usually until 2am when I generally give up! 

One question if I may, what sort of interface would you use with a R pi based solution? 

What do you mean exactly by interface? If you mean operating system, I only use minimal Raspbian installations: no X window system, no web interface, remote login via ssh, file transfer via ssh and rsync. If you mean control point, I mainly use Linn's Kazoo as a control point. I have two Raspberry Pi and a microserver in my LAN.  The latter is a fanless FitPC3 running a minimal Debian installation. The FitPC3 is my dedicated music server. It runs MinimServer and upmpdcli and is connected to a Naim DAC via USB->SPDIF bridge. One of the two RPIs is wired to the router and connected to a 5TB drive. It acts as a generic music + video + file server for the household and as an entry point to my LAN from the outside. The other Pi is a mobile system. It runs MinimServer and upmpdcli just like the dedicated music server. It is configured as an access point. It has 500GB of local storage on mSATA. I use it mainly as a headphone listening system with a Meridian Explorer DAC (a Mojo would perhaps be a better option) when I am on holiday, in my office or on the go. 

Hi NBPF, and thank you for your detailed reply. I must confess I can only admit to a superficial understanding of the systems you describe.

 The interface I was thinking of is the means by which the user interacts with the R pi streamer, I.e the equivalent of the naim iOS app that I use with my SU. Is there a particular app that you might use with the R pi based streamer?

 

ROOG posted:

Hi NBPF, and thank you for your detailed reply. I must confess I can only admit to a superficial understanding of the systems you describe.

 The interface I was thinking of is the means by which the user interacts with the R pi streamer, I.e the equivalent of the naim iOS app that I use with my SU. Is there a particular app that you might use with the R pi based streamer?

 

You can control upmpdcli with any UPnP or OpenHome control point. I use LInn's Kazoo (Android and iOS) but Lumin (iOS and Android), BubbleUPnP (only Android) and Audionet (Android, iOS) work fine. You cannot use the Naim app to control upmpdcli: the Naim app works only with Naim streamers. Best, nbpf

nbpf posted:
ROOG posted:

Hi NBPF, and thank you for your detailed reply. I must confess I can only admit to a superficial understanding of the systems you describe.

 The interface I was thinking of is the means by which the user interacts with the R pi streamer, I.e the equivalent of the naim iOS app that I use with my SU. Is there a particular app that you might use with the R pi based streamer?

 

You can control upmpdcli with any UPnP or OpenHome control point. I use LInn's Kazoo (Android and iOS) but Lumin (iOS and Android), BubbleUPnP (only Android) and Audionet (Android, iOS) work fine. You cannot use the Naim app to control upmpdcli: the Naim app works only with Naim streamers. Best, nbpf

Ah, thanks for clarifying this nbpf, I suspected the naim app would be dedicated, but i referred to it as an example of an interface I get along with, and thank you for the list of control apps, the Linn one looks good, ill have a look at the others too. 

A very easy route into Raspberry Pi is by using dietpi. This is virtually fool proof and no Linux knowledge is necessary. 

There is an excellent step by step guide on the Roon forum in the Raspberry Pi section, you can't miss it. 

You should be able to connect the Pi directly to your mojo. ( or you can add a hifiberry didi+ ( called a HAT) which simply clicks into the Pi board to hive coax or optical connection)

There are several music players included but my recommendation would be to try Roon with the 1900 remaining in your budget. 

You'll soon find yourself with a second Pi (with a HAT) feeding  your SuperUniti. 

Take this opportunity to see the best streaming system available. Naim's dedicated  streamers are quickly becoming legacy items. 

I have 3 Pi 

one into Hugo via USB in my main system (552/300)

one into superuniti via coax

one into uniqute via optical 

all 3 zones can even be synced to play together. 

.sjb

 

Sloop John B posted:

A very easy route into Raspberry Pi is by using dietpi. This is virtually fool proof and no Linux knowledge is necessary. 

There is an excellent step by step guide on the Roon forum in the Raspberry Pi section, you can't miss it. 

You should be able to connect the Pi directly to your mojo. ( or you can add a hifiberry didi+ ( called a HAT) which simply clicks into the Pi board to hive coax or optical connection)

There are several music players included but my recommendation would be to try Roon with the 1900 remaining in your budget. 

You'll soon find yourself with a second Pi (with a HAT) feeding  your SuperUniti. 

Take this opportunity to see the best streaming system available. Naim's dedicated  streamers are quickly becoming legacy items. 

I have 3 Pi 

one into Hugo via USB in my main system (552/300)

one into superuniti via coax

one into uniqute via optical 

all 3 zones can even be synced to play together. 

.sjb

SJB, many thanks for your assistance, I will follow up with a visit to the Roon forum.

So, the HiFiberry HAT adds alternative interface options? This would be good for digital links to other devices including as you say the Naim kit.

You paint a very complementary picture of the R pi's in your set up, circumventing Naims' own streaming front ends, are they really that good or is this primarily to allow you to access Roon through your three Naim items?   

I love a DIY challenge, especially if it performs well.

It's for the Roon interface that I bypass the UPnP in Naim streamers, the sound I find comparable, but you have the added bonus of being able to upsampled with 2 different types of filters and convert to DSD which can improve the sound of earlier DACs. It also lets you volume level which is handy for playlists. 

 

The main issue though is you need a computer to run the Roon server. This can be one you have around already but most people will go for a dedicated one. The beauty of this is all the processing goes on away from the audio devices and is sent by from the Roon server to the Roon endpoint on the Pi. It also future proofs you as Roon adds new functionality. (Although you can also run the Roon application direct from a PC/ Mac to your mojo if you want to test whether Roon is for you on their 14 day trial. Once your current music is on the same network Roon will see it and analyse it and add the rich metadata which really is the "killer app" part of Roon. And Roon doesn't change any of the metadata but creates a database of information around your files so that if you stop using Roon all your music files are as you left them.

.sjb

 

 

Thanks SJB, this is an interesting option, even without Roon, at this price point.

I have seen Roon running on a colleague's system and it does work very well, I would be keen to have Roon functionality.

You are quite right I would have to buy a PC or Mac to run host it, I'm not sure whether my Synnogy NAS has enough puff to run Roon. Another thing I must check.  

Ok might not be a hugely popular choice on this forum but I always keep an open mind about such things, and I think the SQ is top flight... IPad Air feeding a Little Dot mk III valve headphone amp driving a pair of Sennheisers and listening to it now... listening to FLAC streams from Tidal.. beatifully textured and times beautifully. Fully musical, yet detailed enough to hear recording and production methods and techniques.. makes live concerts really come alive

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