Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Source Gear › Which player is at the top of the SQ chart?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Which player is at the top of the SQ chart?

post #1 of 61
Thread Starter 
As my ears have become more sensitive over the past few years of headphone tweaking, I've started to notice source more and more. One of the first things I noticed is how terrible iPods sound from their internal amp.

I carried around a 5G iPod and a Bithead for nearly half a year. Sounded good, yeah. But it became so inconvenient. On a whim, I started listening to my PSP and KSC35s... whoa, this sounded pretty darn close to the Bithead combo. So I know that portable players can sound good without external amplification. At some point, I'm going to want a dedicated HD player again... but for the first time in years, it isn't going to be an iPod.

I'm looking for a player that sounds dynamic, first and foremost, with a relatively smooth sound. Doesn't need to sound perfect with my ER4, but it should be quite enjoyable (at least as much as the PSP) with my KSC35 and SR60. I don't plan to ditch iTunes 6 for my primary music playing, but I'm willing to install a program for managing a music library on a player. I'd prefer drag and drop, but if it must be a dedicated program due to the sound quality of the player, that's fine.

I don't give a jack about any other features. I only want to listen to my music on it and have a relatively intuitive navigational system.

So far, I've been considering the Zune and the Creative Vision M. I know the Zune's got software issues, but word is that the player itself seems fairly robust and sounds good. The Creative players for a long time have been championed for their overall SQ.

Long story short: what are the defining sound characteristics of these players, if you've heard them? Are there others I should consider, and how do their sound signatures differ?
post #2 of 61
You're going to get posts like X is head and shoulders over Y. Or the irritatingly common lately (and oh so descriptive) X SUCKS! Even the mythic Karma and lowly iPod aren't that different (and are those that prefer the latter to the former). Be suspicious.

I'd say if you're looking for the best sound (which for you is unknown elsewhere) look for output strength and sound customizing options (to get your preference). A 50-60 mW output and a customized EQ (or proprietary shaping tech) does wonders.
post #3 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessingx View Post
I'd say if you're looking for the best sound (which for you is unknown elsewhere) look for output strength and sound customizing options (to get your preference). A 50-60 mW output and a customized EQ (or proprietary shaping tech) does wonders.
Which leaves the karma, ipod and njb3, right? I don't know of any other dap's that have a 50-60mw output. Personally, I would recommend an iriver...H100 or H300 series since they can easily be found. The njb3 is just too darn big.

Hey Mercuttio, I have a H140 and a H320...interested in a portable shoot out? Let me know.
post #4 of 61
I'd really only recommend H1xx players for people who plan to use them with amps and especially an external DAC. As I've posted a couple of times here and on MisticRiver, I've lately been finding that with my Future Sonics EM3 plugged directly into both of my players, the H120 ends up sounding fairly poor compared to my Cowon A2 (both with flat EQ settings, and this is with both the heaphone and line-out jacks on my H120). Not that the H120 sounds bad, it's just not nearly as good as the headphone output on a Cowon A2. I'm still hoping that the H120 with a Tomahawk (and eventually a HeadRoom Micro DAC) will outshine the A2, since the H120 with Rockbox is so much more usable. Rockbox rules all!

So yeah, I can say with great confidence that the Cowon A2 sound quality is noticably superior to the direct output of the H120. Wanna start a SQ chart? You can start with that. If anyone in NYC wants proof, I'll gladly let you plug into both of my gadgets with your own phones and hear just how much better everything sounds on the A2. Vastly superior control, wider soundstage, and greater clarity. Beautiful.
post #5 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessingx View Post
! Even the mythic Karma and lowly iPod aren't that different (and are those that prefer the latter to the former). Be suspicious.
Respectfull Rant from Karma Fan:

Those little differences are what this addiction/hobby is about.. Kinda like saying the HF-1 and HD600 sound is not that different and my old Kenwood Turntable sounded like my Linn LP12. Not!

-IMO- The Sound Signature of an iPod is very different than a Creative and they are different than that of a Karma. I believe most could easily identify the differences in a blind test. What can be decieving is when you cannot compare the different players with each other and decide what is truely best for you. Then we come here to gather as much info as we can from others experiance to help us decide what is the best move to make.

With reguard to power, my iPod shuffle (the better sounding, most powerful of the 3 iPod models I've listened to) -> Pimeta, sounds very good until I hookup to my Karma unamped, which has a much richer and more detailed presentation, bass is every bit as extended but much tighter and less bloated. So I doubt power plays much of a roll other than volume.

Which Sound Signature appeals to people would of course depend on their preferences.

As for the original post:
If you truly are looking for SQ and not concerned with Video I would be patient and see what comes out of the Trekstor VibeZ. Kind of the 2nd Generation of, as blessingX put it, the Mythic Rio Karma. It offers Gapless playback, crossfade, handles a large number of file types, has great EQ capabilities(like the Karma) and could have sound quality 2nd to none. For more on sound signature and user interface search the Karma posts. Downside is a smaller capacity than the other offerings. Currently limited to 12gb with 15gb being available in the spring of 07.

Good Luck..
post #6 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Packgrog View Post
So yeah, I can say with great confidence that the Cowon A2 sound quality is noticably superior to the direct output of the H120.
When I had an X5, it also sounded superior to my iRiver when using headphones direct or to an amp. I only kept with the H140 because with a DAC, it handily beat out the X5 with better soundstage and detail....and ultimate sound quality was the deciding factor.
post #7 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by DobsOnly View Post
Respectfull Rant from Karma Fan:

Those little differences are what this addiction/hobby is about.. Kinda like saying the HF-1 and HD600 sound is not that different and my old Kenwood Turntable sounded like my Linn LP12. Not!
Respectful reply:
I was referring to quality level differences, not differences in sound. To say the K701 and HD650 are similar in sound quality does not mean they sound the same. I tried to emphasize personal tastes involved here. The Karma has gained near mythic status (strangely when in less and less hands - see history of posts and even review forum for a difference when both where "alive"). It though allowed much more customization of sound - a big plus. This forum more than most seems the ground for descriptiveless rants (This sucks, that was way better, etc.), that isn't found is the majority of headphone posts. As an owner previously of the NJB and a few iPod models, and having the Karma for a few weeks, either test them out yourself or allow the most flexibility in shaping the sound thru EQ. If you're going ampless go for a powerful headphone out.
post #8 of 61
Yeah, a friend of mine had mentioned the x5 before I finally settled on the A2. I've heard that the A2 sounds noticably better than even the x5, which wouldn't surprise me given the superior processor. What WOULD surprise me is if the Zen Vision M sounded noticably different from the A2, since they have the SAME processor. But then, there ARE other components in the audio chain that could be significantly different. Who knows, maybe the huge battery in the A2 is a contributing factor in it being able to use better audio components with high resistance.

Thanks for sharing your personal experience with external DACs with the H1xx. That's really the biggest reason I've hung onto mine for so long (though Rockbox and it's general versatility and usability are significant contributors as well). Question is, what DAC/amp combos have you used with it (though that may be more appropriate for a different thread)?

The only other DAP I've ever owned was my old Creative Nomad (the original 6GB blue thing that looked like a CD player). My stepfather may still have it, but he moved on to a 20MB Gmini. My wife has a 40GB 4G iPod, but I haven't borrowed it to do listening tests, and she'd go nuts if I put Rockbox on it. My mom has and iPod Photo. Someday I might try to do some comparisons with each of these, though. Maybe I can sneak a listen to each when I visit my folks this weekend.

I'm also wondering which of these people might want some nice IEMs for Christmas... heheh!


On a different note: Does anyone else remember the original Nomad Jukebox? I recall it sounding pretty good, but my ears have become far more discerning in the years since I had that. I *DO* remember it being a pain in the @$$ to use, what with the horrible software Creative forced you to use, the slow USB 1.0 transfer rates, the awful and laggy OS, the obscenely long startup time thanks to Creative's irritating startup banner (yes, we KNOW it's a Creative device, there's a logo on the player already!), and a buzzy port port. But still, it DID have a separate line-out, and despite it's bulk, it was fairly pretty to look at. Plus, due to the large size of the hard drive (2.5" laptop drive if I recall), the drive could be upgraded fairly easily.

But does anyone else who had more discerning ears back then (or now, if you still have one) remember how the sound quality was? If not for the buzzy A/C port, the thing could find some interesting use as a dedicated desktop player piped through an amp, assuming the DAC measures up. Anyone?
post #9 of 61
my karma just died

i am considering the x5l and the zune

which is better as far as sound quality
do either of these have gapless playback IMPORTANT
does the x5l have video

i know that the zune does not play as many formats but that is not a problem
post #10 of 61
The X5 is gapless when used with Rockbox.
post #11 of 61
Thread Starter 
Yeah, it's really tough to ask "What sounds best" and I definitely did phrase the title of the thread incorrectly there. I know exactly what I like as far as sound is concerned... I'm a Grado guy and I like a clean dynamic source that's balanced in terms of bright/dark presentation. Essentially, I'm looking for a portable version of my home setup but I don't demand nearly as much from it. Pretty heavy bill to fill, but I think the PSP succeeds in many areas of that request.

I wish a few more people would pick up a Zune so I could get an honest feel for the sound of it. I kind of think I need to audition one at some point... I wish I could listen to the same couple of files on a bunch of different systems.

Oh, heh, yeah, I've heard nothing but awesome about the Karma. Shame a lot of folks' Karmas are breaking at this point and there's no real replacement... this thing some of you are mentioning is a spiritual successor, or what?
post #12 of 61
If you can/will use a portable amp, then for the best sound a iPod with the RedWineAudio iMod must be strongly considered.
post #13 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post
If you can/will use a portable amp, then for the best sound a iPod with the RedWineAudio iMod must be strongly considered.
Nope. Thing's got to fit in my pocket and not require any batteries. The bithead sounded great with the iPod, but the whole thing was massively unportable and sucked down AAAs, 4 every 2 weeks.
post #14 of 61
get an x5 and throw rockbox on it. You get a nice form factor a relatively hiss free headphone and all the advantages or rockbox; with its longer battery life, gapless playback, and all the other notable too lazy to list features. Did you try rockbox on your 5th gen?
post #15 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderman View Post
get an x5 and throw rockbox on it. You get a nice form factor a relatively hiss free headphone and all the advantages or rockbox; with its longer battery life, gapless playback, and all the other notable too lazy to list features. Did you try rockbox on your 5th gen?
I did not. I suppose I didn't think that it would improve the sound quality much given the lousy internal amp... I might have been wrong though.

X5 huh? Maybe. They're cheaper now, aren't they? Nice metal design?

Based on research today, I'm leaning toward the Creative. Seems like most people dig the sound a bunch, and I'm liking the EQ. It's classified as "warm" and I'm wondering just how dynamic it is.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Source Gear
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Source Gear › Which player is at the top of the SQ chart?