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Laptop Source - should I get Amp or Headphones first?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Hi There:

Hope this is posted in the correct place, and there isn’t a sticky somewhere that exactly answers my questions. I have looked but am getting more confused.

I live in a small space (made smaller by the fact that my wife utilises a greater share of everything). We have a 21 inch Laptop which serves as our TV/DVD player, sometimes-serious-work and mostly internet-surfing-waste-of-time-machine.

I would like a set of closed headphones to watch movies without hearing/disturbing her. I would also like to "really" listen to CDs using the laptop (wide range of music) and would consider getting an appropraite portable Amp if it is necessary, and would even consider getting a separate pair of open headphones if (along with an Amp) they would make a significant enough difference. If it helps, we have a Dell XPS M2010.

So my questions are as follows:
  • Would the Beyerdynamic DT 770 be a better choice over the Senn HD 280 Pro for a closed set?
  • Would either handle being driven by the computer for DVDs and would either need an Amp to get the most out of them for music?
  • If an Amp is required, for the laptop, what would you recommend given the headphones above and possibly below?
  • Would either of the Senn HD 595/600/650 be overkill for the laptop for music listening, and perhaps I shouldn't consider anything high end given the poor source.

I would rather spend more now and have some longevity (stop laughing you in the back) and I do not want to be spending anymore after this ... really ... I am not joking ... This will be my only post!

Many thanks in advance.

Brilliant site, well done!!!
post #2 of 33
headphone. I am driving KSC75 out of my IBM laptop and it sounds AWSOME, for what it is.

much better than ipod, IMO
post #3 of 33
HD595's ares open cans, and work great without an amp.
For way less $$$, the open Sennheiser PX100 sound very good, also without an amp.
For closed, I have the HD280 pro -- they have great mids/highs for clarity, but less bass volume than the HD595, but good depth to the bass -- they also work great without an amp. Also, the Sony V6 is a very good closed can, and does not need an amp.
Somebody that also has 770's would have to comment on them.
post #4 of 33
Essentially you should improve every link in the chain, but that shouldn't be too expensive. You could get a cheapo USB sound controller that will beat your dell's onboard sound and a simple amp to make the sort of raw sound of this signal sound smoother and better. This should run under $100, and you'd then be in position to get good performance out of most headphones, even ones like the upper Senns. There's still a long way to go up from there, but that's kind of a minimum means of getting a laptop into shape. (assuming you've already got decent music files, like high-bitrate LAME-encoded mp3s or something lossless. If not, get on that too)
post #5 of 33
DT770/80 Pro work fine out of the headphone port of my laptop. They are comfortable enough to wear through an entire movie without adjusting it or taking a break.

Some laptop onboard soundcards aren't that good so you may consider something like the Turtle Beach usb soundcard or something similar.
post #6 of 33
Thread Starter 
I am certainly leaning towards the 770s for my DVD-Listening-and-not- bothering-anyone headphones. That's one down!!

It looks like I need to start researching USB Sound Cards/Controllers and Amps. There goes my weekend!!

If I used the HD 650 as an end point (for the sake of research) how do I determine the best Soundcard/Amp option which will drive them? I saw a sticky in the Amps section ... very scary part of the forum I might add.

Do you consider commercial CDs as a "good" sound source? I would mostly be using them unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Regards
post #7 of 33
laptops are great for DVD watching through headphones!!!! Make sure your software DVD player has Dolby Headphone or SRS headphone. Pop in Matrix, and listen through headphones. Won't be quite as spatial as a true surround speaker system, but it does add a lot of life to movies.

If you are leaning towards the 770s, I'd recommend just trying them out on your laptop first. I'm not sure about their sensitivity (the real indicator of loudness), but they are 250 ohms. So that means if they're hard to drive, you'll notice clipping (actual static) coming from them. If such is the case, then get a portable amp. Any begining one will do. It doesn't make sense to get an expensive amp, unless you get an outboard DAC too.
post #8 of 33
If you're going straight out of the laptop, try looking for the 32ohm or 80ohm versions of the dt770.

They are easier to drive so you might not have to buy an amp, unless you want to.
post #9 of 33
Although you could always down 200 bucks on a usb headphone and sell your soul to head-fi ;-).

dt770 sounds like a better choice than hd280pro, especially considering that dt770 is much more comfortable.

Although to what extent are you considering not disturbing your wife, because open headphones will sound much better for the same price, and their sound leakage is to the point where your wife will probably be able to tell that you are listening to music or watching a movie if she is in the same room, but thats about it. Open headphones never even stopped anyone from sleeping from my experience (in dorms).

Overall if open headphones sound fine to you, consider hd595 - best all-rounder you will get that runs just fine out of on-board sound cards. And if you get creepy like us about it you can just shoot for an amp/dedicated audio later.


edit:
what do you mean commercial CDs? Nothing against cd recordings here, we love em. They are the best source of music we can at almost all of the time. CD-players can be good or bad - you can take bets there. Everyone who uses portables here uses HDD players mostly because really with type of source quality is not the main concern, the concern is portability. People who want absurd quality from CDs here use stationary receivers - and lets not go there. Now since you swear you don't want to get caught up with us, if you gonna use stationary or portable cd-player - whatever, get either one, you honestly wouldn't notice the difference of more tan 5% between two stationary sources, and that is produced with mighty big headphones with unhappy pricetags on them. You might find that the player is too quiet for the headphones you get, in that case just get an amp - could be something as simple as cmoy. If you don't have volume problems - don't. If you are willing to spend some money on a setup that works all around, with computer and cd players, and provides you with two headphone outs in case you want to have two people listening that way - get yourself a Total Bithead. It runs out of usb instead of audiocard for comp, and it has a plug for use with line-out if need be. (although its 200 bucks, but I think it is the top of efficient quality:money ratio, especially given how it doubles in its uses. After that we are getting into perfectionism.) Honestly, just grab the dt770 + bithead, and runnnnn. xD
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
Wow! Thanks for the quick and usefull reponses.

I feel things are getting quite dark and I am getting sucked into some sort of vortex. I don't remember the last time I stayed up and posted to a forum after midnight.

Two decisions made:
  • DT770 32ohm
  • Total Bit Head - I thought MaloS was insulting me until I found some stunning reviews

I need to stick with the 770s as they will let me watch movies in bed on the smaller laptop while madam reads, also enables me to watch movies peacefully when its (noisy) girls movie night and I am banished to another room.

last few questions.
  • Should I get the HD595 as my nothing-but-music open headphones or go for the HD650. I would hate to get the HD650s if my set up is not suitable or worthy enough to get some reasonable appreciation from them. I do not intend to purchase any separate components at present. It will have to be Laptop plus Total Bit Head.
  • Since I will only be using the headphones at home via the laptop DVD drive, I presume I do not need a portable HDD player?

That's it. Almost there!! Hope I haven't bored anyone to tears.
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by raymondrajotte View Post

Two decisions made:
  • DT770 32ohm
  • Total Bit Head - I thought MaloS was insulting me until I found some stunning reviews
....
  • Should I get the HD595 as my nothing-but-music open headphones or go for the HD650. I would hate to get the HD650s if my set up is not suitable or worthy enough to get some reasonable appreciation from them. I do not intend to purchase any separate components at present. It will have to be Laptop plus Total Bit Head.
  • Since I will only be using the headphones at home via the laptop DVD drive, I presume I do not need a portable HDD player?
People around here seem to prefer the 80 ohm DT770 to the 32. Otherwise I think the combination of that with the bithead is very solid thinking. A bithead isn't going to get you everything an HD650 can do, but I think it is enough to open up a wide gap between a 650 and a 595. But I'd wait to try out the Beyers first, and then decide how you feel on the upgrade front. No reason to dive into an HD650 if later you learn that something else would have suited your tastes better.

And yeah, I don't see any reason why you'd need a portable player if you're not going to listen on the run.

good luck with it all, FV
post #12 of 33
Of course you won't need a portable player - thats for those who listen to music on the go. at home laptop is way to go.

dt770 should do just fine with music, so the choice to get open headphones is up to you. It is not necessary at all to have a separate headphone for music, and I would only consider it if you find something about dt770 that is not warmly satisfying when listening to music. It would honestly help you to hear for yourself what you want, and I would just try dt770 for music for time being and think about what you are lacking in the sound of them and come back to the question of getting open phones with a more experienced ear. Maybe you will find dt770 very satisfying, or it might even turn out that the sound you will want for music would be better provided by another beierdynamic headphone, or an akg model (i am thinking comparably here: dt880/dt990, akg k501/k601/k701). Sennheisers, while great, only represent one side of the available spectrum and have their downsides. Also - bithead is a fine source component that will drive most dynamic headphones available on the market (except for electrets, which are not even produced anymore, akg k1000 - which has similar situation as electrets, and maybe select few others in the upper range may have problems getting good sound from it). Although, as people say here, to make hd650, or hd600, really show why they are worth the extra cost, you need to be willing to improve the source too...and that is just excessive honestly, unless its the type of glaze on cake that ticks for you.

In short, you don't want to put down money on two pairs of expensive phones right away until you know what you want them to do for you. First purchase demonstrates whats possible and what you want to hear from music, second choice will probably be alot closer to what you are looking for, and hopefully the final. If you do come back to looking for a stronger headphone for music than dt770, try to formulate what exactly you want to hear from each instrument/voice, and how you like things to sound. And try to avoid the audiophile vortex for your own good =] I am on my first home listening headphone right now myself, second for portable use, and looking to a replacement one for home that will hopefully be my last one for at least a few years.


And btw - you are not boring anyone here, for me personally you put up an interesting problem to solve, and hopefully this helps you out. Plus I find it great that you enter this forum with a sense of purpose rather than folks who come here to join the 'wild audio expenses club'. If you can firmly settle yourself with a bithead and two headphones for your purposes and keep it at that, you will have actually what any music/movie lover needs and probably be happy for the rest of the time you own these. As long as you avoid hearing something way up in the high end... (thats what killed me).

Also, when you get your headphones, keep in mind - most of these have a burn-in period, so they will sound quite like what they are supposed to be until at least 1-2 weeks of listening time. Usually thats described by bass not sounding weak at first and headphones sounding bright to the point of being fatiguing.

Either way, hopefully all of this ramble helps, and good luck with your family/music experience.
post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by raymondrajotte View Post
Wow! Thanks for the quick and usefull reponses.

I feel things are getting quite dark and I am getting sucked into some sort of vortex. I don't remember the last time I stayed up and posted to a forum after midnight.

Two decisions made:
  • DT770 32ohm
  • Total Bit Head - I thought MaloS was insulting me until I found some stunning reviews

I need to stick with the 770s as they will let me watch movies in bed on the smaller laptop while madam reads, also enables me to watch movies peacefully when its (noisy) girls movie night and I am banished to another room.

last few questions.
  • Should I get the HD595 as my nothing-but-music open headphones or go for the HD650. I would hate to get the HD650s if my set up is not suitable or worthy enough to get some reasonable appreciation from them. I do not intend to purchase any separate components at present. It will have to be Laptop plus Total Bit Head.
  • Since I will only be using the headphones at home via the laptop DVD drive, I presume I do not need a portable HDD player?

That's it. Almost there!! Hope I haven't bored anyone to tears.
The 595 is a better value than the hd650 if you are not getting into more expensive amps ex. the Heed CanAmp
post #14 of 33
I can speak from experience that the HD595 should never be overlooked. It scales up quite nicely. Even on larger equipment, the HD650 doesn't stomp it: they compliment each other well. The HD595 is more intimate: like you're right up near the performers: like the conductor. The HD650s give more air. Different presentations, but both very enjoyable.
post #15 of 33
I hate to say it, but Dave's punishingly relentless head-fi omnipresence and stalwart advocacy in the last weeks may be wearing me down to where I'll finally give the HD595 another chance. I'm not promising I'll like them any better, but maybe I'll give 'em a whirl.
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