Connecting headphones to the Directstream dac

EXACTLY how would I connect my Audeze lcd-x to the ds? My amp is connected using single-ended outputs. Manual says don’t use both balanced and rca outputs at the same time. If I unplug the amp, I still don’t understand what cable I’d use to connect the headphones. I find it weird that the dac has no headphone connector. Or do I need to buy a completely separate headphone amp, like the musical fidelity, the doesn’t include a dac?

Sorry for my ack of knowledge, but this is very frustrating, since I do a lot of headphone listening.

Vic in sf

You need a headphone amp. I use a tube preamp that drives headphones very well, the Decware CSP2+ (no longer made, now there is the CSP3).

That’s a nice pic, and I appreciate the reply, but how would you actually connect a headphone amp to the directwave? I could buy a headphone amp and connect it directly to my computer, but that seems redundant.

There is a usb type A output on the bridge II. Could I use that to connect to a headphone amp and get the advantages of the Perfectwave’s filtering, etc?

That USB connector is only for emergency firmware recovery. It’s not an output.

Some configurations that will definitely work:

Get a headphone amp, connect it’s analog inputs to the DS’s analog outputs (either balanced or unbalanced), connect the headphones to the headphone amp, connect the amp to the other DS analog outputs OR, if the headphone amp has an analog output, you probably will be fine connecting your amp to the headphone amp’s analog outputs. Things will work and you won’t hurt anything by using both of the DS’s analog outputs at the same time: The warning about using both of the DS’s analog outputs at the same time is that you might (or might not) get some noise in the outputs from unbalancing the balanced output a little and you might (or might not) get a slightly raised or lowered top end if the cables are too long. For most systems these effects are not noticeable nor significant.


Get a preamp which has a headphone output, connect the DS’s analog outputs to one of the preamps analog inputs, connect both the headphones and the amp to the preamp.

Custom adapters/interconnects can be built to hook either the balanced or unbalanced output of the DS to the headphones or the cable that came with the headphones. Whether this would give the volume/clarity that you want in the headphones isn’t clear so you may end up using one of the above solutions anyway. Not the recommended path for someone who doesn’t already know how to wire the DS’s outputs to headphones.


Thanks. Very clear.

I use the Audeze Deckard into my DS, bypassing the Deckard’s internal Dac only using its amp, works well for me.

All,of the above sounds good to me. The Yale firmware is great on headphones too I use it all,the time. Tubes Amps can add some warmth of need be. Also almost any speaker amp can be used with an adaptor right off the speaker output terminals. Many use them. The ds dac has a volume control to use so no need to use or have one on the amp . Just some more options. The LCD line is not noise sensitive as some headphones are as well. Enjoy them.

1234 said Tubes Amps can add some warmth . . .
Or not, depending on the tube amp. cool

I tried the approach recommended by Ted above and found that I had to physically disconnect the balanced analog outputs to my amp in order to get the unbalanced outputs to my headphone amp to work - even if the speaker amp was off.
Is this what others have found?

Holy Thread Revival!

I am surprised you need to disconnect the balanced outputs to get any unbalanced signal. Interesting. To what amp and headphone amp are you connecting the DS?

It makes no difference whether the amp is on or off as the load is the same as far as the DS DAC is concerned.

I have balanced output to my headphone amp AND RCA to integrated amp
at the same time from my DSj. No issue at all.

Hi Elk, thanks for the response. I have a Plinius SA102 amp and a Bottlehead Crack headphone amp. I only hear a very faint signal to the headphones when the XLR cables are connected to the amp.

Silo, I would try that but my headphone amp only has RCA inputs.

My guess is that the way the Plinius incorporates balanced inputs is non-standard but I do not know how. It is a great amp in any event.

My hope is Ted sees this and can tell us.

We mention in the manual not to connect both of the outputs at the same time. It’s possible for two different amps to put a really odd load on the DAC and cause an impedance mismatch. This VERY rarely comes up, and when people ask if it’s OK to do, we say try it. You won’t hurt anything by plugging gear into both outputs. It’s very common to plug the balanced outputs to an amp, and then single ended to a subwoofer. Still going into two different amps, but an impedance mismatch is very uncommon.

So I guess the Pinius SA102 must be the exception that proves the rule?

I think that’s what we’re looking at. I looked at the input impedance of both amps, and nothing strikes me as being weird. I am curious if when you unplug the left output to the Plinius, does the left start working on the headphone amp? Also, do you get no signal at all, or is the signal just very low?