Cypher Labs Theorem 720 DAC

Mikes Impressions

The Evolution: Cypher Labs Theorem

So it seems that the next step in portable DACs is to have a built in amplifier to make a simpler stack. Following the footsteps of the earlier devices, Cypher Labs released their own version of the one box DAC+Amp in the Theorem. I tested the Theorem using multiple headphones the day it arrives on the store. As I wrote on the portable player article, I’m mostly an AK100 and Altmann Tera user these days. However, I do want to know how well Cypher Labs executed the Theorem so I had to take a listen for myself.

Lieven who’s been playing with the Theorem way before I had my chance, shared that the DAC part is more resolving than the Solo and the amp part is very neutral. Doesn’t really sound like a big amount of improvement, other than the fact that I now have a slimmer stack compared to the old Solo + ALO RX MK3 stack. Listening to the actual Theorem unit, however, and I immediately nod my head in approval and also in enjoyment of the music. The laid back signature of the previous CLAS Solo -R and dB has been retained but with a cleaner signal and lower noise floor. Darker background and less grain levels. Ignoring the huge size of the stack, I’d definitely take this over the AK100. It’s not really more resolving than the AK100, but music sounds more proper with a good bottom end weight and a nice analog sound that’s more in line with big desktop DACs, something that I think the AK still don’t get right even with the AK120. Oh yes, I’d still take the Theorem over the AK120, ignoring the size.

In the midst of all the current portable DAC including the Vamp, Fostex, Centrance, ADL, I really have a personal connection with the Cypher Labs sound. The first generation Solo, though good, was a bit flat and lacking air. The next generation Solo -R and dB improved ambiance and mid range a big deal, though added some grain to the sound and was not as black sounding as the first generation. The DAC in the Theorem however is an improvement over both generations, though not leaps ahead, managed to keep the deep analog sound reproduction of the second generation with the black background of the first generation, and some. The fact that I don’t have to add an amplifier on top of the CLAS box, is another big plus for me as I like things simple.

The amplifier section is very neutral and doesn’t add any coloration. From what I’ve noticed, a lot of portable DAC+Amp boxes tend to have neutral sounding amps and in that sense the Theorem amp is no different. However it does have more driving power than the built in amp of other offerings (i.e Fostex, ADL X1, Vmoda Vamp, Venture Craft) though maybe a little under the Centrance’s level (though I don’t have the Centrance here to do a direct A-B). So the good thing about the amp is that it allows me to hear the Cypher Labs DAC’s straight unaltered sound YET with plenty of impact not only for the average 300Ω Sennheisers but also Audez’e’s LCD-3.

Now, would the stack be better with a separate amp? I do belong to the camp who feels that external amps with their coloration, though often lower the resolution due to the longer signal path, does add pleasing coloration to the ears. So, yes, I’d probably be happier with the sound out of an RSA Intruder or an ALO Continental. And ignoring the coloration, the sound is indeed bigger and smoother out of the top end portable amps. Compared to the $300 bracket portable amps, however, I would stick with the Theorem amp. Not saying that the $300 amps are worse, but within the plus (different sound signature, perhaps more pleasing color) and minuses (less resolution and maybe also less powerful). Of course if you prefer, you can add in an external amp to the Theorem unit, since the line out quality of the Theorem is excellent and among the best line out quality I’ve heard. But I do think that it would defeats the purpose of having a built in amp inside the Theorem. I don’t know, maybe it would be good to have an opamp selection available for the Theorem (David: future versions?)

Other features with the Theorem that I consider as a bonus is the fact that it works with Android (Yeah! I use a Samsung S4 GE), works as a USB DAC, comes ready with a balanced out, and three levels of gain for a noise free sound even with sensitive IEMs (no sound at MAX volume up to medium gain). With some IEMs, including the Sennheiser IE800, I didn’t get any hiss even at MAX volume up to medium gain. However with my custom 1964Ears V6S, I did get a small amount of hiss even at low volume. You know I can just do more comparisons with other portable DACs, but it really boils down to sound signature preferences, and personally for me, I’m a big fan of the Cypher Labs DAC sound so I thought I’d just stop here.

 

 

 

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

147 Comments

  • Reply October 8, 2013

    Steven

    Always like the tag-team reviews, hope you can bring it back for HiFi-M8

    I think taking the external amping question further, if you are going to external amp more often than not then there are far wiser ways to spend money! This should only be a primary consideration if you want the all-in-one solution

    My imo. Portable audio pricing increasingly trending upwards has hurt my brain :p

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      Mike

      I don’t know if I’m going to do a formal review of the M8? To be honest I didn’t quite like the sound when I heard it and I’ve expressed that on my first impression article. It had the technicalities but I didn’t think that the musicality aspect works, at least for me.

      http://headfonia.com/centrance-m8-lx-brief-impression/

      TRUE on the external amp, though nonetheless I do think that some people would still ask questions, if only out of curiosity, so it would be good to talk about that aspect briefly. Still this is the one box portable DAC/Amp that I’d go for right now. It’s so good in my opinion that the ADL X1 (I sell those too) is almost getting no love.

      Agree on the pricing as well. That seems to be the trend of the headphone industry these days though. A bubble in the headphone industry is building up?

      • Reply October 9, 2013

        Steven

        Would actually be saving up for the Theorem if there was balanced line-output also, making it the COMPLETE solution :p

        Will see what audio world looks like after RMAF / Canjam 2013!!

        • Reply October 9, 2013

          Mike

          Yes I wonder why no balanced line out. That should be an easy addition.

          • Reply October 15, 2013

            Patrick

            Hi,
            I just bought a Theorem 720 in an attempt to put an end to my search for THE portable player. I am wondering if I should go with android or Ipod as a source for it. I’d love to listen to high resolution files and that means I should go with android but I don’t know which player to choose.
            Any suggestion?
            Thanks a lot!

            • Reply October 15, 2013

              Mike

              The Ipod is more reliable.
              Have tried it with a few different Androids, it seem they all need an additional software to work.

              • Reply October 26, 2013

                thibault

                Hi,
                Does the Theorem 720 work with all ipod classic gen ?

                • Reply October 26, 2013

                  L.

                  It works with the Classic 160GB (2009)

                  • Reply October 28, 2013

                    Patrick

                    Hi guys,

                    I’m looking for headphones to pair with my theorem. I have 500$ to spend. Any suggestions? I listen to jazz, fusion and classic rock.
                    Thanks in advance!

                    • October 28, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      I ordered the new closed Shure 1540 without any info at all, and I expect it to be good – Shure made a point that the 1540 will actually have bass, where the 1840 was weak.

                      I also use the B&O H6 (new green color) and the B&W P7 – both excellent sounds.

                    • October 28, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      I ordered the new closed Shure 1540 without any info at all, and I expect it to be good – Shure made a point that the 1540 will actually have bass, where the 1840 was weak.

                      I also use the B&O H6 (new green color) and the B&W P7 – both excellent sounds.

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      L.

      Thanks Steven, we didn’t really plan a double review this time but it just happened.
      I listened to the M8 before and while is has a fuller body and leaner bass, I couldn’t say the sound quality of the M8 could reach the Theorem’s quality, neither DAC or Amp

  • Reply October 8, 2013

    George Lai

    Great review guys. One great feature it has retained from the CLAS is the immense battery life, which is a huge plus over the M8. I can live with the hiss on IEMs since I don’t use IEMs though as stated by the first poster, Steven, the price is too high, especially since I don’t intend to use the Android part. An interesting addition to the market nonetheless.

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      Mike

      I edited my part on the impression with sensitive IEMs.

      • Reply October 8, 2013

        L.

        Interesting to see you also found an iem that hisses. It’s such a shame really, the Theorem could have been perfect but now it loses some points

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      L.

      thanks George. I always found the CLAS battery life to be to short. I agree that if you just need the idevice part, it’s rather expensive. But for someone like me I love the possibility to switch from iDevice to pc to … 🙂

      • Reply October 8, 2013

        George Lai

        CLAS battery life short? Do you mean the original one? I thought it was on par with my CLAS-R.

        • Reply October 8, 2013

          L.

          Well it’s not short, but it always died on me on the train during the week. This Theorem can last me a full week. How awesome is that!

          • Reply October 8, 2013

            George Lai

            It’s a sign, Lieven, that it’s time to replace your Solo v1. At least that’s the theory, or theorem!

            • Reply October 8, 2013

              L.

              I’ve got both now, but I think I’ll be keeping the SOLO for a second portable rig.

              Hi, my name is Lieven, and I’m an audio gear addict…

              😉

              • Reply October 8, 2013

                George Lai

                Audioholics Anonymous.

                • Reply October 8, 2013

                  L.

                  If only I had the time to start that, I’d make lot’s of money from all the subscription fees 😀 Get them hooked here and treat them in AA later 😉

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      L.

      And thanks George! In enjoyed writing it too, it’s always easier if you love the unit.

  • Reply October 8, 2013

    Anthony

    Hi Mike

    I have been looking for a dac+amp upgrade to replace my HP-P1. How will you compare the two in terms of sound quality? Will the Theorem be a step up ?

    Thanks Mike

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      Mike

      Overall yes. Sound signature is a bit different, the Fostex more mid oriented with softer bass and treble. The Theorem more lively more dynamic.
      Amp is more powerful on the Theorem.

      Technicalities also better on the Theorem.

      • Reply October 9, 2013

        Anthony

        Thanks Mike. The extra power and dynamic sound signature is exactly what I want in the new dac+amp. Will check out the Theorem tonight. Thanks for the review once again. You are the best

        • Reply October 11, 2013

          Mike

          You’re welcome and thanks!

  • Reply October 8, 2013

    Johan De Spiegeleer

    Mike,
    Possible hiss with sennheiser ie800?
    Thanks

    • Reply October 8, 2013

      L.

      Headfonics reported NO hiss with the IE800. Lovely iem too!

      • Reply October 10, 2013

        headfonics

        Oh I actually only reported no hiss with UM Merlins but hiss with Audiofly IEM’s – Merlins are rated 108db and Audiofly 118db. Sadly never tested an IE800 on the 720.

        • Reply October 10, 2013

          L.

          Really? Where did I read that then, hmm. Thanks for dropping by!

          • Reply October 10, 2013

            headfonics

            I think we should collect db ratings and types of drivers to get a better idea of what hisses and what does not – my initial theory of a DB ceiling could be blown out of the water easily if someone said a 108db or less hisses.

    • Reply October 9, 2013

      Mike

      No hiss with the IE800. Small hiss with my 1964 V6S

  • Reply October 9, 2013

    Audi Ar

    ‘hmm more lively more dynamic’

    maybe from this description , it would be great for rock music mike ?

    • Reply October 9, 2013

      Mike

      It’s awesome for Rock.

      • Reply October 9, 2013

        Audi Ar

        thx for the answer mike 😀

        • Reply October 11, 2013

          Mike

          You’re welcome. 🙂

  • Reply October 9, 2013

    Ahmad Parapat

    Honestly, sometimes i don’t want to read this web. because make me curious and want to do more and more experiment with some audio device and software. and since your suggestion always work for me, its really make me more interested and enjoyed this hobby even my wife screaming if see the device price, 😀
    Good Jobs Mike and Lieven, nice review..

    • Reply October 9, 2013

      L.

      Thank you Ahmad!

    • Reply December 6, 2013

      John Clare

      Yes, thanks a lot Mike and Lieven. Now I have another bill to hide from my wife. Grrrr…

      • Reply December 6, 2013

        Mike

        Haha you’re welcome John

        • Reply December 10, 2013

          John Clare

          Just got it today. Going from original solo + national + Beyer DT770 AE to this with the same cans is a nice upgrade. The charging of my ipod and included cables are great.

          • Reply December 10, 2013

            Mike

            Good to hear that John. 🙂

          • Reply January 14, 2014

            Ahmad Parapat

            how its pairing with Beyer DT770 AE ? i am very curious. cause i want to sell my matrix mini portable and change its to theorem since its working with idevice.

      • Reply December 6, 2013

        George Lai

        I scan my bills.

  • Reply October 10, 2013

    George Lai

    Just to pick up on Lieven’s point, I think the charger, which Cypher Labs has confirmed is identical to that which came with the Solo-R, is already commensurately small. Witness the ginormous brick of a power adapter that comes with the Centrance M8. The fact that it has the US 2-pin power plug keeps it small as you’ll probably want to bring along a multi-plug adapter anyway when you travel – to charge your other USB devices, iDevices, etc. So, small charger huge battery life versus big charger short battery life? I know which I’d take.

    • Reply October 10, 2013

      L.

      If only it came with a EU plug 😉

  • Reply October 15, 2013

    L.

    The more I listen to the Theorem, the more I love it. The amp part really grows on you, it’s wonderful

    • Reply October 15, 2013

      George Lai

      Time to re-do the household budget, Lieven. Again.

  • Reply October 25, 2013

    Johan De Spiegeleer

    Lieven,Mike
    Which option gives best s.q. with sennheiser ie 800 andhd 650 and if connecting to analog classé amp(hifi installation)
    1/ i pod classic +theorem
    2/astell&kern 120+ ie800 or hd650
    3/i pod classic+soloR/alo national

    4/i pod classic+continental
    Much hear difference between 16bit/44 ( i pod) and 24bit/96 (a&k120) ?
    For upgrading buy the theorem for existing i pod or buy a&k 120?
    Thanks

    • Reply October 25, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Johan,
      The difference is not so much on the bit rate 16/44 to 24/193 but more on the quality of the encoding..you’ll be surprised how much of a difference digital to analog conversion makes.

      Since you’ll be driving the sennheisers directly, I suggest going with the theorem.

  • Reply October 28, 2013

    Eli Segal

    Hi,

    Today I’m using iPod Classic with SR-71A amp and I really enjoy this setup, would the Theorem be a big step up for me?
    Or should I go with a high end player?

    Thanks,
    Eli

    • Reply October 28, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Eli, yes its a big step up. The Theorem IS a high end player

      • Reply October 30, 2013

        L.

        That might seem easy said, but the SQ really is high end and the device is much better then a lot of desktop devices. Hence the high price.

  • Reply October 30, 2013

    Patrick

    Hi Mike,
    What is the best choice of headphones to pair with the Theorem? HD-650, HE-500 or LCD-2?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply October 30, 2013

      Mike

      The LCD2 and HD650 are good. I haven’t tried the HE500

      • Reply November 5, 2013

        Patrick

        Hi Mike,
        Do you think a good dac can equal the quality of a good turntable?
        It’s a hot debate and i’d love to know your opinion about it.
        Thanks a lot!

        • Reply November 5, 2013

          Mike

          Never equal.

          The question with turntable is:
          1. Finding the music you listen to on Vinyl.
          2. Not being able to take it outside the home.
          3. Heavy maintenance required, keeping everything clean and dust free, etc.
          Now dollar to dollar sound quality, I think the digital source is naturally more resolving and more detailed. A $1K turntable (+phono stage) really is nowhere as detailed as say a $1K DAC. You need some $20K turntable to really get the micro details. However with turntable you do hear that analog sound, even with a $300 turntable which a $3K digital source still doesn’t reproduce well.

          A $20K turntable set up however blows any digital set up I’ve heard even the dCS set up.

          • Reply November 5, 2013

            Patrick

            Can you hear a difference between a 16/44 vinyl rip and the same rip at 24/192?

            • Reply November 6, 2013

              Mike

              I’ve never done a vinyl rip, but I think with Vinyl it’s not so much about depth and sample rates. The problem has always been more on the noise, click and pops.

        • Reply November 6, 2013

          Mike

          Never equal.

          The question with turntable is:
          1. Finding the music you listen to on Vinyl.
          2. Not being able to take it outside the home.
          3. Heavy maintenance required, keeping everything clean and dust free, etc.
          Now dollar to dollar sound quality, I think the digital source is naturally more resolving and more detailed. A $1K turntable (+phono stage) really is nowhere as detailed as say a $1K DAC. You need some $20K turntable to really get the micro details. However with turntable you do hear that analog sound, even with a $300 turntable which a $3K digital source still doesn’t reproduce well.
          A $20K turntable set up however blows any digital set up I’ve heard even the dCS set up.

    • Reply October 30, 2013

      L.

      LCD-2 does really good with the Theorem. HE-500 is ok, but nothing extraordinary. I haven’t tried the HD650 yet but I should. The HE-400 is also very nice with the Theorem

      • Reply October 30, 2013

        George Lai

        Dang. I’ve got those headphones that pair well but no Theorem.

      • Reply October 30, 2013

        Patrick

        The HE-400 and the LCD-2 are at the same level with the Theorem?
        Wow!

        • Reply October 30, 2013

          L.

          No one said that Patrick.

          • Reply October 31, 2013

            Patrick

            So I should go with the LCD-2 then 🙂

            • Reply October 31, 2013

              Mike

              Or the LCD-X which is where the new hype is going.

              And it really is good. I definitely prefer the X over the 2. EXCEPT my first gen LCD-2 which I think is badass. 😉
              Likewise the X sounds better than the 3 on some set ups. Amazing.

              Review coming up

              • Reply October 31, 2013

                John123John

                aw yeah!

              • Reply October 31, 2013

                L.

                I doubt I’ll prefer it over my awesome LCD2.1

                • Reply October 31, 2013

                  George Lai

                  Especially not after giving them new ear pads and headband.

                  • Reply October 31, 2013

                    L.

                    I had a good teacher! 😉

  • Reply November 3, 2013

    Eli Segal

    How would AK100/X3+SR-71A combo compares with iPod+Theorem?
    I really like the sound of the SR71A and I’m worried about the hissing

    • Reply November 6, 2013

      Mike

      It should be comparable but well the sound is different. I think I’d go for the Theorem rather than the AK100+71A. The Fiio X3 is not as resolving as the AK100 or Theorem DAC.

  • Reply November 7, 2013

    Johan De Spiegeleer

    Mike, the i pod classic(7 gen) can take max 24/48 resolution .Can the theorem handle the 24bit/48 music from i pod classic and play’s in that resolution?

    Thanks

    • Reply November 7, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Johan,
      Sorry I really haven’t tried the classic on 24/48. Are you sure it does 24/48 (the classic)? I’ve always thought it’s 16/48.

      • Reply November 7, 2013

        Johan De Spiegeleer

        Yes Mike, i tried it and it’s possible When playing I pod you hear the difference with same music in 16/48 I think it take’s and play’s 24/48

      • Reply November 8, 2013

        Johan De Spiegeleer

        I forgot to mention in form alac

  • Reply November 11, 2013

    Eli Segal

    Did you guys noticed any imbalance issues in low levels?

    • Reply November 11, 2013

      L.

      Yes, when paired with a head or earphone that only needs a small turn on the dial unfortunately

      • Reply February 1, 2014

        Johanes a.f

        Hy L. How about sensitive iems pluged to balanced output? Is it still hissing?

        • Reply February 1, 2014

          L.

          I wish I could test that for you but I don’t have balance iems

        • Reply February 2, 2014

          dalethorn

          Is the gain set to Low?

  • Reply February 9, 2014

    Sergio Capoeira Acanne

    Hi!!! Thanks for the review. And what do you recommend headphones for Theorems, full and closed. In the price range – without restrictions and to $ 1000?

    • Reply February 9, 2014

      L.

      LCD-2 does really good on the Theorem, really nice combo. I have a feeling it does great with the Alpha Dog too. Those are my 2 top pics for closed and open, both orthos

      • Reply February 9, 2014

        Sergio Capoeira Acanne

        Thanks for the reply, I have already booked headphones Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI.
        Do you think there will be no problems?

        • Reply February 10, 2014

          L.

          I wasn’t too blown away with them, never tried them on the Theorem though

  • Reply March 1, 2014

    L.

    I was listening to the Theorem yesterday in balanced mode with the Inear StageDIver 2 and it was really good. The sound between balanced and non balanced isn’t that different imo, but I only listened for 10 minutes or so

  • Reply March 2, 2014

    Minh Hoang Nguyen

    Hi Lieven and Mike ! My Theorem has just arrived. I’m so happy by how the sound it is! I think it need to burn some days for sounding better. Now i use Senn HD580 and ATH-AD900 with it. My question is that does it can drive Beyer T1 and how the sound if Theorem pair with T1 because i’m intend to buy T1 next month! Thanks and best regards !

    • Reply March 2, 2014

      L.

      I’m afraid I don’t have a T1 one but it does very nice with the T90. It’s a great unit, I’m sure it will handle the T1 just fine.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Zeppie

    Hi! Just want to know your thoughts. Which is better, a stand alone theorem or solo -dB + Duet combo pairing it with an ipod classic 7th gen. Hope to here from you guys..

    • Reply March 31, 2014

      L.

      Hi Zeppie, both are good but it depends what headphone you will be using with it. For IEMs go Duet.

      • Reply March 31, 2014

        Zeppie

        Hi L! Thanks for thr feedback. Hmm ill be just using a pair of VModa m100 and a pair of iem for now. But then im planning to get an LCD-XS soon and ill be using either of the setup and im thinking which setup will be giving my headphones more quality music.

        • Reply March 31, 2014

          L.

          They’re both very good. You certainly can’t go wrong with the SOLO + DUET in that case, but it is the more expensive option + it is a double/tripple stack.

          • Reply March 31, 2014

            Zeppie

            3 stack rig is not a problem and about the budget maybe i can stretch it out as long i can be happy with both headphones that i will be using for the long run.. If i were to ask you L, do you have any suggestion to be paired with a SOLO? I’ve read your review on the Duet and just wanted to ask, did you pair it with the Solo original or with a -dB? Because we know we cant go balance using a Solo original + duet. Please correct me if im wrong..

            • Reply March 31, 2014

              L.

              I used a SOLO, so no balanced. I don’t find the Duet to sound that different in balanced mode anyway. You can get a SOLO second hand cheap these days too.

              • Reply March 31, 2014

                Zeppie

                Ow really? For real? There is no difference? But what is the advantage and disadvantage of both CLAS? Im already thinking getting a Solo original but i thought if i do full balance it give more good SQ..

                • Reply March 31, 2014

                  L.

                  I didn’t say there was no difference but not a lot. balanced helps prevent channel imbalance. If you can afford a -dB, then I would go for that one, that leaves you the option on SE or balanced. Combined with the Duet you can’t go wrong for IEMs or Full sized headphones

                  • Reply March 31, 2014

                    George Lai

                    I’m not even sure my left and right ears are channel-balanced!

                    • March 31, 2014

                      L.

                      Mine aren’t, that’s for sure

                  • Reply March 31, 2014

                    Zeppie

                    Ahh.. Ok i got it.. Maybe i can give it a try both first to hear.. Thank you so much Lieven! So much help! I guess even i get whatever of the 2,it will be still good! Thank you so much!

                    • March 31, 2014

                      Zeppie

                      One thing, is it still advisable if i get the -db if I will not be using its balance out? Coz like my headphone vmoda m100, ill be just using the SE..

                    • March 31, 2014

                      L.

                      The big advantage of the -dB is that it can be used as a PC dac as well

                    • March 31, 2014

                      Zeppie

                      Ahhh.. Ok now thats a big advantage that can be useful.. Thank you so much L!

                    • March 31, 2014

                      L.

                      Let us know what you finally got?

                    • March 31, 2014

                      Zeppie

                      Sure ill let you guys know!

    • Reply March 31, 2014

      Sergio Capoeira Acanne

      Hi , I have a pair of headphones and Theorem : Pandora Hope VI and Sennheiser HD -700 . David from Cypherlabs I wrote that Duet + Solo and the Theorem is very similar in quality , I read somewhere that some options are a little better at the Еheorems and some in Solo+Duet

      I can only say , very good product Theorem, the main thing now find good headphones.

      My Pandora are 8 ohms and there is a small noise.

      Headphones HD-700 hav e 150Om, and there is no noise (well, there is almost no ))) . David told me headphones with low resistance can have a small X + Solo noise.

      The advantage is that having separate X and separately Solo you can combine it with other products , such as I want to buy headpower from STAX SRM -002 , and I could use it with Solo ( and it is lighter and smaller than the Theorem ) .

      Disadvantage that it will be necessary to carry chargers for X and Solo, and together they are heavier more than Theorem.

      • Reply March 31, 2014

        L.

        Thanks Sergio

      • Reply March 31, 2014

        Zeppie

        Wow! Thanks for the very detailed feedback! I was really thinking what to get.. Thanks for this.

        • Reply March 31, 2014

          Sergio Capoeira Acanne

          We must help each other, to our money we got, what we really need))))

          • Reply March 31, 2014

            Zeppie

            Yes sergio thats also my worries.. I wanted to spend wisely that will cover all my needs.. :))

  • Reply May 28, 2014

    Tibor

    Hi! How would you compare it to Alo Audio International+ ? I am looking for a portable setup, I tried Fiio X5, but didn´t like the sound compared to my Meridian Explorer. I assume that both International+ and Theorem 720 are on another level than Explorer (and Fiio of course), right? Thank you for your answer 🙂

  • Reply June 24, 2014

    Nathalie

    Hello H-men !

    I’d like to buy a portable setup to listen baroque music in my bed.

    It must be able to driver full size headphones : I own HD650, HD700 and will probably buy high impedance headphones in the future.

    I thought the Theorem would be a nice solution for my needs, after reading your article and your comments.

    Now, I have to choose a DAP to orchestrate things. It must be able to run a Qobuz app (so Android or iDevice) as I have a subscription to this Hi-Res music service.

    We have a Sony NWZ-ZX1 at home (but saddly, it’s not mine). I do like it (it’s unable to drive my phones alone, of course, except the low impedance ones, like Fidelio L2, Custome One Pro …).

    My question : as the Theorem includes its own DAC, does it matter if I buy an expensive DAP like the NWZ-ZX1, or will the inferior Sony F887 be enough ? Will it change the sound out of the theorem if it’s only used as an interface ?

    And if I may : do the Sony have an edge over iDevice ? (output quality, Hi-Res files capacities, or in matter of synergy with the Theorem)

    Thank you very much for your help ! I keep on discovering a new world through Headphonia, and I do appreciate the time you spend helping new hears like mine to find acoustic happiness.

    It’s always a great pleasure to read you !

    P.S : If you have other suggestions for my bed setup, please feel free to let me know.

    • Reply June 25, 2014

      dalethorn

      I don’t generally look for the highest fidelity for bed listening, since the tonality laying down isn’t the same for me as when sitting up. I have several large and small headphones, and they all sound a little bit different when laying down. I do want good quality sound, but for bed use I could get by with any device that runs the app, and then just add the Theorem or comparable DAC.

      • Reply June 27, 2014

        Nathalie

        Thank you for your answer.

        After listening to the ZX1 a few nights, I think I’m pretty happy with the way it sounds. So, This is what I’m considering now :

        -ZX1 + Alo The International

        -F886+Cypher Labs Theorem 720

        -Ipod Touch+ Cypher Labs Theorem 720

        Or, as I will probably buy Oppo HA-1 very soon, just choose the cheapest alternative and try iBasso DX90, see how it drives my headphones.

        As a beginner, it’s hard to choose with very few points of comparison, but the steps before buying are interesting.

        • Reply June 27, 2014

          dalethorn

          Those are a lot of very different choices. I had the little ALO Island for a while and I think it’s a very good amp, so the International should be even better. But in any case, I recommend to keep things simple as possible – complex systems with multi-components work well only on the desktop. iPod Touch with 720 sounds ideal, or just a good DAP from AK or HiFiMan. I think you will see if you have the chance to test 2 or 3 different *systems* that they each have their own unique sound. It’s unavoidable, and so I have learned to just enjoy each as much as I can.

          • Reply August 2, 2014

            Nat PML

            You were right, I’m trapped : I bought the Oppo HA-1 for my desktop, with ESS 9018. I love it : I hate harshness, so I was worried a Sabre DAC would not suit me, but Oppo’s version is very musical, and soft.

            So I bought DX90 for bedtime. I think it’s very good, very detailed and clear, a great value for the price, I like the very simple UI too, but this time, it’s just too harsh for me, I’m very sensitive to trebles.

            It made me understand the importance of the DAC chip implementation.

            It also made me feel like “tasting” many sounds, as every system is different, like you said.

            I now want to find something really satisfying.

            Bought 2 portable amps (Fostex HP-V1-made me want to get a desktop tube amp), and ALO the National, and I couldn’t believe my ears : the differences brought by an amp !

            So … I think I’m trapped. Curiosity is here, probably for long, I now want to try some good implementations of the best DAC chips to know which sound is for me, and get a few good amps. I blame Heafonia 😉

            More seriously, I actually thank Heafonia, and friendly users like you, because it’s a marvelous trip.

            So I’m back to the Theorem ! I’m thing about replacing the DX90 by Hifiman HM-802 (seems great for voices, and should please me more, as I’m looking for something darker, and analog) but I will probably buy an ipod soon, because I need the online streaming services.

            I wonder if someone has been able to compare the 720’s sound to the Fostex HP-A8′. Are there any similarities ? One of them will introduce me to AKM chips.

            • Reply August 2, 2014

              dalethorn

              Just read a lot is my recommendation, because sometimes the jump to a new chipset isn’t as simple as the chip comparisons – the implementation sometimes adds more components and the sound isn’t what you expect. Usually the simplest amps are smaller and less powerful, so not always the best choice. But given what you’ve explored so far, I’m thinking separate DACs and amps are a better way to go, so you know what the amp is doing separate from the DAC. Or for the combination DAC/amps you have now, try running the DAC into a different amp. I am always surprised how many obviously different sounds I find that way.

  • Reply October 14, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Hello, help me with this questions please: I listen to rock and hard rock and I plan to buy the senn HD700, which is more convenient Bottlehead Crack + ¿economic dac or amp / dac (eg Theorem 720 Cypher Labs DAC)?

    The music I listen through a Dell laptop.

    Thanks for your comments

    • Reply October 14, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Crack + DAc for Sennheiser

      • Reply October 14, 2014

        Sergio Mejia

        Do you think the Senn HD700 are great for listening to rock and roll?

        • Reply October 14, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          They wouldn’t be my first choice for rock. I’d go for an LCD2 but the HD700 is a GREAT headphone. For rock maybe look into the HD600 and HD650. Most prefer the 600 for rock, I prefer the 650

      • Reply October 14, 2014

        Sergio Mejia

        What economic DAC you recommend it without sound quality is lost with Bottlehead Crack and the HD700?

        • Reply October 14, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          StonerAccoustics, Fiio, Resonessence, ALO, etc…

  • Reply October 27, 2014

    Faisal` .

    Would love to see a head-to-head comparison between this portable DAC/AMP, Chord Hugo and iFi Micro iDSD. Tried the Audeze lineup along with Hifiman HE-560, 500, Sennheiser HD-800 and the Fostex TH-900 first time ever. For me it was down to LCD-XC and the TH-900 as I am more into electronic music and some classic as well. TH-900 faired best for me with some amazing deep bass impact and vastness of the sound for a closed back, a notch better than the LCD-XC. The seal and seating of the XC were significantly better though. I am thinking of going for the TH-900 and will be needing an excellent portable DAC/AMP combo to pair it with my Note 3/4 android phone. Theorem 720 and Micro iDSD are considerably cheaper than Hugo and it remains to be seen how these three compare with each other. Would love to hear others’ experiences, opinions and suggestions on these especially if someone use them to drive their TH -900 with them.

    • Reply October 27, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      I have the Theorem, and will do a Hugo and ifi review over th next few months. I have listened to all 3 and they are all great

      to me Hugo>theorem>Ifi

      • Reply October 27, 2014

        Faisal` .

        Hugo> Theorem> Ifi … This seems to be going in descending order based on the prices of these units. Hugo sounds to be outrageously expensive. I will look forward to your review and comparison of these. For now, what would be your pick of these for pure musical pleasure with closed back headphones (such as LCD-XC or TH-900) if we put the technical accuracies, neutrality and price aside for a while ?

        Thanks.

      • Reply August 23, 2015

        José Julio Cuairán

        Why do you prefer the Theorem 720 about the iFi Micro iDSD? What is superior in Cypher Labs model?

        • Reply August 23, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Musicality, smoothness and timbre

          • Reply August 23, 2015

            Dave Ulrich

            Wish I had a 720 handy.

  • Reply February 15, 2015

    socks mk2

    Opinions on using the cypher labs theorem 720 ($699) to power my Fidelio X2’s and powered monitors coming from a schiit modi+asgard 2? I think it will satisfy my needs albeit at the expense of losing an active pre-amp. I can use my schiit sys for volume control on my powered monitors since the 720 can’t do it native. I would be using the 720 almost exclusively as a desktop setup. Potential future headphone purchases include the LCD-2/2.2F and HE-560 if that helps.

    My 720 setup would look something like:
    PC -> USB -> 720 headphone out -> X2.
    PC -> USB ->720 line out -> 3.5mm M to 2x RCA Y-splitter -> schiit sys (passive pre-amp) -> powered monitors.

    Alternatively, I’m looking at the violectric v100 w/ built-in DAC ($1000). Do you think the v100 would outperform the 720 enough to be worth spending an extra $300? $1000 is really stretching my budget already, but if there is something clearly better at a price that is just slightly higher I would consider saving up a little more. Please let me know what you think. Thank you in advance.

    • Reply February 15, 2015

      dalethorn

      I can’t say about the amps. The advice you’d get from the reviews here would likely be based on simple configurations. Some of what you describe has a lot of cable connections, and that tends to erase some of the quality you’re paying for. I would use a switchbox or splitter to run certain tests, but not for critical listening. My opinion is, whatever you buy, connect it as directly as you can and with the shortest best-quality interconnects you can get.

      • Reply February 15, 2015

        socks mk2

        Thanks for the tip. The v100 w/ built-in dac would be an all-in-one without anything else required.

        My v100 w/ dac setup would look like this:
        PC -> USB -> v100 -> X2 or Powered Monitors.

        That is definitely more direct and with less connections. Maybe I’ll be able to justify the extra expense. If I didn’t have speakers, both would be connected identically. A used v100 or v200 w/ built-in dac would be great for me, but coming across one for sale is going to be a challenge.

  • Reply June 14, 2015

    ro

    I have read L’s comments regarding the Theorem matching well with planars, and I can at least confirm it’s fantastic paired with the LCD-X. I’m sure other amps are able to achieve slightly more powerful low frequency performance, but when taken as a whole from top to bottom, it doesn’t make me regret the (ridiculously) steep price of the LCD-X.

    Also, in case anyone else is using the Theorem with an iPad Air, just a tip – charge the iPad to 100% and then use with the Theorem which will then just provide a trickle charge. Otherwise the Theorem will struggle to charge a device that it really can’t provide enough juice for and will end up heating up and having its battery drained rather quickly.

  • Reply July 25, 2015

    Ant

    Hey doods, great review! I really dig your reviews. The atmosphere of this website is very honest but also fun! i have a theorem 720 which i really enjoy and im thinking about adding a pico slim for iems. I was wondering if anyone can compare the sound of the pico slim ti the 720. Other then the hiss, are there any significant differences? Thanks!

    • Reply July 25, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Thanks. I’m not that familiar with the slim, I listened to it a long time ago

      • Reply July 26, 2015

        Ant

        Hey thanks for the reply.

  • Reply September 24, 2015

    Johan De Spiegeleer

    Hello,What’s difference sound quality se or balanced connection(mini xlr) with sennheiser hd 650. Stock cable or sennheiser balanced cable ch 650 s(+adaptor kobiconn)?Thanks

    • Reply September 24, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      In general balanced gives you more detail, depth and a more spacious sound with a larger sound stage. Body and impact (bass and mids) usually gets less

  • Reply November 2, 2015

    alexander

    Hello, H-man
    I just wonder how does it sound compare to the Lisa 3 amp

  • Reply November 2, 2015

    alexander

    And also which one is batter compare to [ cypher lab algo solo db+ alo rx3b

  • Reply September 3, 2016

    skarlet syquia

    Just awesome topic! I also can be helpful here 🙂 Just look at the service http://goo.gl/RF0Vdv. Its pretty easy to use. I think you can get a free trial if you ask for it.

  • Reply November 20, 2016

    Yannis

    Is Theorem a good amp for T90?

    • Reply November 20, 2016

      Lieven

      Yes, I like it

      • Reply November 20, 2016

        Yannis

        Do I need to modify the T90 cable to use the Theorem balanced output or single ended is just fine? I am looking for an amp to calm the highs down without killing the sound stage. I heard T90 on Crack and didn’t like its somewhat intimate sound stage though everything else was perfect.

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