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Ideas 4 system for AKG701 <$2,000

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I've read too much and not listened enough so need your suggestions for a system up to $2,000 max. probably built around AKG 701.

I've read for hours and it is clear to me that there are plenty of interactions (type of music; source; head amp; phone; listener preference) so really only the total system can give pleasing results. I listen primarily (65%) to classical (orchestral; chamber; with preference for violin, flute, cello, and piano concerti. Very little vocal and no opera.) 25% to new age (piano; flute; or synthesizer) and 10% (jazz; 60's rock; folk; female vocals). While I have improved my eyesight and reduced my prescription with eye exercises, alas my high frequency response at age 62 is not what it used to be.

I'm used to and appreciate good sound and primarily listen to speaker system (Vandersteen 2-ce) with Monarchy DAC and Monarchy amp, but have recently decided to revive listening with HPs and took out an old pair of Sennheiser 535 to decide that HPs will make an interesting exploration and contrast to main rig for listening in a different room.

I have read too many opinions and am too confused to be set on much of anything. I picked the AKG 701s over the Senn 650 as it seems from freq response that 701s might balance my own hearing curve in the high end, and it seems that they would have a more open and spacious sound stage. While I enjoy the detail and clarity of hp, since I listen to a lot of orchestral music and would prefer to easily hear (or imagine) the music more out in front of me, the 701s from some reports seem perhaps a better choice than the 650s or any Beyer. Somehow Grado got dropped early on but as I said I am open to any system suggestions.

Two kinds of help: 1) I occasionally get to Portland Oregon so some place where I can actually listen would be great; and suggestions of online sources with good return policies and minimal restocking fees. 2) Complete system suggestions (cdp; headamp;phones {even ICs} . I strongly prefer a single cdp. I am fine with used and am not particularly concerned about warranty issues (e.g. Eastsound E5). Initially I thought that crossfeed would be a must-have and reading the threads on that it seems that Meier Audio has a preferred implementation of that to Headroom; cf seems like a plus but I have decided that hp sound will be different from speaker sound and seems like a nice flip of a switch option but definitely not a must-have. My first hi-fi in 1960 was a Dynakit so I go way back in terms of experience with tubes and am certainly open to some tube rolling. Relatively full names and ball park of cost is greatly appreciated.

I expect that I can listen to some phones locally but unlikely that anything is burnt-in and certainly none of the head amps that are likely to be suggested will be available so aside from comfort, appearance, and an initial impression of the sound I am not sure that just auditioning the phones will move me along. So thanks for your sound advice and your attempts to cut my learning curve, and I hope you have fun spending someone else's money! It has been great reading so many threads but I'd rather be doing it with phones on.
post #2 of 11
I recently had to wrestle with some of the same choices you are faced with now. You can reach a point where you start to over analyze things because you are wading into unfamiliar territory. The diversity of opinion can be both a blessing and a curse. It's great because it helps to bring all of your options into sharp focus. It's a curse for much the same reason. There are too many choices, you're not sure who to believe, and you are somewhat fearful of making a purchase that you may later regret.

I own the AKG K701s, and they are superb cans. I also own a pair of Sennheiser HD650s, and they are terrific. Lastly, I have a pair of Grado RS-1s. I love 'em. Do I have a preference? Not really. I tend listen to rock on Grados, jazz and classical on the 701s, and a variety of stuff on the Senns. If the gods of music demanded that I could only own one set of cans and asked me which two pair I would give up...my answer would be take two of them away at random and just leave me a pair...any pair, because whatever I am left with out of those three will be just fine. Right now I am listening to Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow on vinyl with my AKGs and well...it just doesn't get any better than this.

I would suggest the following as the basis for a really nice system:

Headphones......AKG-K701 ~ $300
Amplifier......Woo Audio 6 (w/ V-Cap coupling cap upgrade) - $690
CD Player.....Rega Apollo - $995

I bought my AKGs on eBay brand new for $279 plus $10 shipping.
For the amp go to http://www.wooaudio.com
For the CD Player if you are buying new it will need to be from a Rega dealer.

I'm fan of tube amps in general and real huge fan of Woo Audio in particular. I own a WA-2 and it has provided some the most intensely pleasurable listening moments I have ever experienced in home audio. Jack Wu is a real gentlemen and customer satisfaction is his number one goal. His amps have amazing build quality. I consider myself a Woo Audio customer for life.

That will pretty much eat up your budget. I'm not really fussy about interconnects. I think you can do fine buying from Blue Jeans Cable, http://www.bluejeanscable.com where a 6ft stereo IC will set you back about $45.

Hope this helps.

--Jerome
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Jerome ... thanks so much for your thoughtful and complete reply - right down IC suggestion. I wonder whether you have actually lived with the suggested system, or to what extent your are extrapolating from your exp. with similar components from same vendor. I know you use K701 and Woo 2 (not the suggested Woo 6) and I believe have the Rega Saturn (not the suggested Rega Apollo). Since your post I have read with keen interest posts on Woo Audio and Apollo, so again thanks.
I realize I failed to mention in OP that I do not own SACDs and it is unlikely that this will ever be even a minor part of my collection, so while Apollo capability here is nice it is a non-factor. In hopes that there will be numerous other system suggestions I will refer to Jerome's as Sys 1 in future posts.
Edward
post #4 of 11
Hi Edward,

Allow me to clarify a few things. First, I was trying to make recommendations that would keep you within your stated $2,000 budget. My WA-2 would eat up half of that. Unless you need to connect multiple sources to your headphone amp or need preamp functions, the WA-2 would be more amp than you really need. Since I trust Jack Wu from my experience as a WA-2 owner, supported by the testimonials of hundreds of happy WA-6 owners here on Head-Fi, I am quite confident that you will be pleased with any Woo Audio amp. There are many other fine amps that you could choose from, in both tube and solid state configurations.

Be advised that the Rega Apollo is a redbook CD player. It does not play SACD or DVD-A, though it can play the redbook CD layer of a hybrid SACD. There are other capable CDPs in this class, such as the Cambridge Audio Azur 740C, which costs about the same as the Apollo. I think the Apollo is getting slighty better reviews and that is why I suggested it. If you can stretch your budget by about $400 the Cambridge Audio Azur 840C is very interesting and receiving great reviews. But then you can get into a spiraling upward budget situation because you just need to stretch it a little bit more to get to the next level. Pretty soon a $2,000 budget is now $5,000, or a $5,000 budget is now $10,000 and you're wondering how you got there...

I do not own the Rega Apollo or Saturn. Right now I am using a Denon DVD 3910 universal player. I am happy with its performance overall but am seriously thinking of upgrading. I am considering the Meridian G08, Rega Saturn, or perhaps the Esoteric DV-50, but I am a long way away from making a decision on that. SACD and DVD-A are not as important to me as I thought they would be, so I only have a few high resolution audio titles. Go going with a redbook only player is very much an option for me.

I think the key is to find equipment that has been well-received by the Head-Fi community, gets solid independent reviews, fits within your budget, and appeals to your sense of style and aesthetics. Once you get all of that down then be decisive and make your purchases. Spending too much time trying to find the perfect system for your budget is an exercise in futility since you are largely dependent on the opinions of others to help inform your judgment. So divining the perfect choices from a litany of opinion is going to be impossible. In a perfect world you could demo everything in your home for 30 days. The next best thing is to buy from companies with a strong customer satisfaction focus and liberal return policies if it turns out that you are not happy. Woo Audio is one such company and it is completely safe to buy from them.

Good luck.

--Jerome
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Jerome ... again thanks for the post and clarification of the basis for your recommendations which certainly have merit. I agree that ideally I'd be able to audition things with my own familiar music. Since so many people stress the synergy of the components while I appreciate your recs, I also hope to hear ideas from those who actually currently use (or have used) the system that they are recommending.
Edward
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edor View Post
Initially I thought that crossfeed would be a must-have and reading the threads on that it seems that Meier Audio has a preferred implementation of that to Headroom; cf seems like a plus but I have decided that hp sound will be different from speaker sound and seems like a nice flip of a switch option but definitely not a must-have.
My opinion on this is that "different" is not really good... stereo sound is mixed for speakers, not isolated phones. My amp doesn't have crossfeed but my source is a PC, so I do it in software as per my signature, and it's fantastic. I think many opinions against crossfeed are based on the reduced separation which is obvious, or possibly the treble rolloff that can occur (and depending on the solution a reduction of volume) - personally I wasn't immediately impressed the first time I tried, but after you get used to it, and switch it off to do a comparison, you realize how artificial and unnatural raw stereo sounds. Given your stated desire for orchestral soundstage, I would encourage you to focus on amps that allow you this option.

Afraid I don't have the experience to recommend specific components although I imagine Meier will appear on your list if you follow this advice.
post #7 of 11
iMod and grace m902...
post #8 of 11
For K701, the Rudistor RPX-33 I have works well (for a lot of phones I might add), but it eats too big a part of your budget (1300 euro). I found the Stello HP100 (595USD) to be almost as nice, but much cheaper. To bad I didn't hear it before I bought the RPX-33.
The Sony SCD-CE595 (100USD?) is a good enough transport, which also should leave enough room for a DAC in your budget. Yes, it's a changer, yes it also plays SACD which you don't need.
Then things get difficult for me: I listened to all Stello DACs and I'd still choose the Stello DA220MKII, but that's pushing things way out of your budget. Although offering a little less detail than the DA220 series, I think you'll like the Stello DA100 (695USD). Given the price it's hard to beat: if I HAD to pick below the 1000$ mark, it would be the DA100. It also matches nicely to the HP100 in looks.
Together with the K701 this should leave you with some budget for a few cables.
post #9 of 11
Arcam DiVA CD73 > HeadAmp GS-1 > AKG K701

That was the system I used for quite a while, was a great system while I owned it. As soon as I upgraded the CD player things went all downhill from there as my wallet screamed for mercy.

You can get a used CD73 on the FS forums here, and the GS-1 from headamp.com. That will leave you enough to get Blue Jeans interconnects which I'm sure are good (no personal experience with them) or maybe the Analog Two from signalcable.com. That would all be a nice budget-fi rig once assembled.
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post
Arcam DiVA CD73 > HeadAmp GS-1 > AKG K701

That was the system I used for quite a while, was a great system while I owned it. As soon as I upgraded the CD player things went all downhill from there as my wallet screamed for mercy.

You can get a used CD73 on the FS forums here, and the GS-1 from headamp.com. That will leave you enough to get Blue Jeans interconnects which I'm sure are good (no personal experience with them) or maybe the Analog Two from signalcable.com. That would all be a nice budget-fi rig once assembled.
I am currently testing the Green Solo. This evening I will post my thoughts at the 100 hour mark of burn in. Based on what I heard at the 24 hour mark it has an amazing affininty for the AKG cans. Just some food for though.

The Arcam DiVA CD73 is indeed a sweet unit and should provide many hours of listening pleasure.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edor View Post
Jerome ... again thanks for the post and clarification of the basis for your recommendations which certainly have merit. I agree that ideally I'd be able to audition things with my own familiar music. Since so many people stress the synergy of the components while I appreciate your recs, I also hope to hear ideas from those who actually currently use (or have used) the system that they are recommending.
Edward
I can respect and appreciate that, but I think there is a certain amount of futility in your approach. Who is to say, for example, whether one person's endorsement of his setup is any more or less vaild than another's? If you are just looking for people who really like and will recommend their own gear, there are thousands of them here on Head-Fi. If every single one of them posted their setup in this thead and told you how much they loved their stuff and explained why then I doubt that it would get you any closer to a decision than you are right now. Many of us have already been down that road and know from experience.

At some point you are simply going to have to make a leap of faith and trust that you have enough information to make the best choice you can under the circumstances. In the absence of real first-hand experience that information will be limited to opinion. The good news is that most of the gear that is well received and respected here on Head-Fi is quality stuff so it will be hard to make a blunder.

In the world of amps you are not going to be making a mistake if you buy a Woo Audio 6, regardless of whether or not I have personally listened to one. Similarly, you are not going to be making a bad move if you buy a Single Power PPX-3 SLAM, or a Mapletree EAR+ Purist HD. These products are too well respected here to be anything less than spectacular. Knowing what sort of sound you are after might be helpful in narrowing down your choices (tube vs. solid state), but beyond that all of these are solid products and you can't go wrong with any of them.

In my opinion, what you should be looking for is some synergy between components. Especially between your amp and headphone of choice. The AKG K701 is a low impedance can, and not all amps will drive them well. They are great with my Woo Audio 2, and they are also a good fit with the Woo 6. The Mapletree EAR+ Purist HD is also great with low impedance cans such as the AKGs and Grado RS-1s, and you can't go wrong with a Single Power. I'm more familiar with tube amps because I prefer them over solid state. But there are a lot of people here who will be happy to tell you all about the great solid state amps that fit within your budget.

I know this will drive a number of people bonkers, but I think the choice of CDP is somewhat less critical than the choice of headphones and amp. Of course, I can say that because I have not listened to any of the high-end players. As I said, I like my Denon DVD-3910 universal player and don't have any complaints, but I am thinking about a major CDP upgrade, perhaps to a Meridian G08. I am only entertaining that idea because the rest of my system is great and is very much to my liking. Back when I first started I had more meager goals because I had a lot of stuff to buy and was trying to get it done on a budget. That was approximately five months and $8,000 ago.

--Jerome
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