New Headphone System - need advice

Friends, I need some advice and don’t know where else to turn. Based on where I live and who I know, I often feel like I’m on a hifi island.

I’m building a new headphone system in my office (at work, not at home) and I’m having a hard time deciding what to do. My goal is to have very good headphone audio thru my existing pair of HD600’s. I’d like to keep the door open so that whatever I purchase now, could be used later as a starting place for either powered monitors or a power amp and bookshelf speakers. I may never do that, but I’d like to keep the door open to it.

I exclusively stream thru Tidal at this point. Here’s a couple options that I’ve considered:

  1. Bluesound Node 2i (as a source, using analog out for now) into a headphone amplifier. For any number of reasons, I prefer this to USB out from my computer. I’ve consider both single ended options (Valhalla 2) and balanced options (Mjolnir 2). Valhalla is cheaper and I’ve read it pairs well with 600’s, but lacks any additional input options for later down the road. The Mjolnir 2 would give me multiple inputs and balanced output. Is it worth messing with balanced output when your source is only single ended in? (Later I could add a balanced DAC, though.)

  2. I’ve considered going ahead and purchasing a Ragnarok 2, even if I only use it as headphone AMP for now. Again, I’ve read that the headphone out is one of the best they make, even if one never uses its speakers out. In the long run, I’ll save money going this route; but, arguably, separates might be better.

  3. I’ve considered a Sprout. Is that a worthwhile buy as a “primarily” headphone amp?

  4. I’ve also consider the Emotiva A-100 amp. It would accomplish a number of my goals, but I’d forfeit balanced options.

Any advice is appreciated. Especially, if you have first hand experience with any of the Schiit products I mentioned. I sent Schiit an email asking for advice, and the reply was a very nice, but very short “this is what I would do.” While it was sort of helpful, a longer explanation would have been educational for me.

Before anyone questions it, I am a proud PS Audio owner. I have Stellar stack at home. Wanting something different for my office, with a stronger headphone focus.

I am keeping an eye on DROP, waiting for Topping DX7 Pro to be available at a discount.
it sports the latest ESS DAC chip, and many inputs and outputs. Hook it to your desktop computer and you are ready to go.
Later on, you can add powered monitors or separate power amp and speakers.

For a pure headphone amp, the Schiit Jotunheim is hard to beat at the $399 price point, and it has balanced inputs and a balanced headphone output that would drive the HD600’s to insane levels. My Jot is sans DAC, but one can add a multi-bit DAC for an extra $200.

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Have a Mjolnir 2/ Gungnir stack for my cans fed by an Aurender N-100h. Love it

I would recommend a Decware Taboo Mk III or Mk IV as they are EXCELLENT headphone amps that will certainly make your HD600 sing, but they also can power efficient speakers with their hefty high current 4 watts per channel. There is an excellent example for sale at the moment in the classifieds of the Decware forums, which would both save some money and save a long lag time.

I use Bryston BHA-1, can find a used one with reasonable price and
they have 20 year warranty. Has balanced input, dead silent, class A.
Can use it as a pre-amp later for a future system.

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Look into the McIntosh MHA-150. Well reviewed, versatile and has great headphone optimization features. (And 50 wpc as an integrated amp; and built in DAC; and office friendly form factor…).