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Home Desktop vs. Balanced Desktop vs Max Desktop

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Before I even ask the question, the answer is Max Balanced Desktop (but we know that can't be the answer...hence the question).


I am in the market for a new rig. I was going to blow some mooolah on a stereo but then I was reminded that I live in an apartment with thin walls when the neighbor's phone rang and woke me up. I currently operate with my laptop sourcing a Total Bithead feeding HD580's. I did this about 3 years ago and since it was my first halfway decent setup, I was happy.

I like my Senn's and muddy isn't really the term I'm going for here but they aren't as separated or clear as I'd ultimately like to have (This could also be that I just need a better amp and I don't plan on losing my Senn's anytime soon...possible cable upgrade in the future, though). HR has 2 packages with the k701's that I have become interested in after reading opinions of them at the same price point; Maxed desktop and the balanced desktop. The unbalanced version of the balanced desktop (home module and DAC) and cans would be about 1/3 less than the balanced setup. I've never heard a balanced system and live in an area that unless I buy one, I never will. From what I've read, you get a broader soundstage and whatnot which is what I'm after along with clarity. So between the balanced and unbalanced, the balanced should win, right?

However, y'all at HR have the maxed desktop right next to the balanced desktop and my brain can't take it. I'm not going to be able to audition any of these amps before I buy them and I'm not ordering both Of the two, I'm conflicted over whether the upgraded electronics is better than the balanced system. "Better" is relative and if I need to be clearer on what I'm looking for, I'll try to do that. 99.9999% of the time, I will be using a computer running Foobar2k as the source. I'm worried about the grass being greener.

I don't know if I would be considered a hobbyist. I just know what music is supposed to sound like (especially if its a recording of something I've heard live) and want it to sound like that when I get home from work at 4am without waking the neighbors.


Sorry if I'm dumb or otherwise noobish
post #2 of 14
Personally, I would go with the Desktop Max, and avoid having to restrict myself to using balanced cans, and then perhaps a balanced source.
Especially considering your use of computer as source.
*I* like the versatility of staying with normal single-ended equipment, and the Max module is very good anyway.
I have a Max, in addition to a Desktop with Home module -- very good amps, and also several other high-quality amps as well.
I have never felt a need to go balanced, myself. But that's just me.
post #3 of 14
Since you're using your computer as your source, the Max Desktop with Max DAC might be the way to go. The Max DAC reclocks the input signal, which should be very beneficial for you if you'll be connecting it to your computer via USB, since USB is very high in jitter. I don't know about the Max vs. balanced home amp sections, though.

If you're going to be spending that much on your headphone setup, I'd spend a little more on your headphones, since headphones make the biggest difference in sound quality. The Edition 9 is my favorite.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by steaxauce View Post
If you're going to be spending that much on your headphone setup, I'd spend a little more on your headphones, since headphones make the biggest difference in sound quality. The Edition 9 is my favorite.


If I bought those, the best amp/dac I could get and stay in budget (around $2k) is the micro stack. This is not necessarily something I wouldn't do but then the same argument would be made that if I'm spending that much on 'phones, I should drive them better. You can see my externalized internal conflict. Also, unless those are the end all be all answer to headphones, I may like the characteristics of less wallet-intensive instruments better but I guess I'll never know until I try (own) them all
post #5 of 14
Well, the Edition 9 can be had for $1100 if you know where to look, but the places that sell it for that price are out of stock. But if you want it right away, I have one for sale. If you don't want to spend that much, the ATH-W5000 is also a great choice, and many people like the JVC HP-DX1000, though its not my cup of tea. The Dennon AH-D5000 has also been getting a lot of praise at $550. If you get any of these headphones, the maxxed desktop would probably be the better choice of the two, since these low impedance headphones benefit little from being balanced. More important is an amp's ability to supply a lot of current.
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffneckxx View Post
Before I even ask the question, the answer is Max Balanced Desktop (but we know that can't be the answer...hence the question).
If I'm reading the upgrade options correctly, we can now upgrade from desktop balanced Home Dac to Max DAC for $599.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffneckxx View Post
I am in the market for a new rig. I was going to blow some mooolah on a stereo but then I was reminded that I live in an apartment with thin walls when the neighbor's phone rang and woke me up. I currently operate with my laptop sourcing a Total Bithead feeding HD580's. I did this about 3 years ago and since it was my first halfway decent setup, I was happy.

I like my Senn's and muddy isn't really the term I'm going for here but they aren't as separated or clear as I'd ultimately like to have (This could also be that I just need a better amp and I don't plan on losing my Senn's anytime soon...possible cable upgrade in the future, though). HR has 2 packages with the k701's that I have become interested in after reading opinions of them at the same price point; Maxed desktop and the balanced desktop. The unbalanced version of the balanced desktop (home module and DAC) and cans would be about 1/3 less than the balanced setup. I've never heard a balanced system and live in an area that unless I buy one, I never will. From what I've read, you get a broader soundstage and whatnot which is what I'm after along with clarity. So between the balanced and unbalanced, the balanced should win, right?

However, y'all at HR have the maxed desktop right next to the balanced desktop and my brain can't take it. I'm not going to be able to audition any of these amps before I buy them and I'm not ordering both Of the two, I'm conflicted over whether the upgraded electronics is better than the balanced system. "Better" is relative and if I need to be clearer on what I'm looking for, I'll try to do that. 99.9999% of the time, I will be using a computer running Foobar2k as the source. I'm worried about the grass being greener.

I don't know if I would be considered a hobbyist. I just know what music is supposed to sound like (especially if its a recording of something I've heard live) and want it to sound like that when I get home from work at 4am without waking the neighbors.


Sorry if I'm dumb or otherwise noobish
Good question. Your options are really two: HRD Balanced or HRD-SE maxed-out. Which is better? I'm still wrestling with this one. I bought the balanced thinking of getting rid of the SE. But I can't seem to do it because the SE still gives me SQ that I can't get out of the balanced. The WOW! factor is really with the balanced. Almost instant take-your-breath-away. But if you're also familiar with the maxed SE, you'll know that it has an SQ that's timeless. Tough call.
post #7 of 14
ruffneckxx, does your laptop have optical or coaxial out? If yes you can send the signal to the Head Room balance setup (with the home or max Dac) and you will have a balance source.

I believe the plugs in the Head Room desktop balance amp allows the insertion of a 1/4 single ended, so you would not restricted. I hope someone can verify this.
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
I believe the plugs in the Head Room desktop balance amp allows the insertion of a 1/4 single ended, so you would not restricted. I hope someone can verify this.
Correct. Either headphone out jack accommodates SE.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post



Good question. Your options are really two: HRD Balanced or HRD-SE maxed-out. Which is better? I'm still wrestling with this one. I bought the balanced thinking of getting rid of the SE. But I can't seem to do it because the SE still gives me SQ that I can't get out of the balanced. The WOW! factor is really with the balanced. Almost instant take-your-breath-away. But if you're also familiar with the maxed SE, you'll know that it has an SQ that's timeless. Tough call.
I'm happy to see that my thread is not without merit
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffneckxx View Post
I'm happy to see that my thread is not without merit
It has been posted elsewhere here in HeadFi that the maxxed vs balanced home are quite similar in SQ -- just slightly different sound signature.

I would get the maxxed and a set of Denon D2000 for around $250 or so -- you will have a hard time wiping the smile off your face with that for starters.


THEN, you can ride the slippery slope of "upgraditis" trying various cans, until you maybe (someday) fine your favorites. Happy hunting -- it never stops, for some....
Sorry about your wallet....
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by silverrain View Post
I would get the maxxed and a set of Denon D2000 for around $250 or so -- you will have a hard time wiping the smile off your face with that for starters.


THEN, you can ride the slippery slope of "upfraditis" trying various cans, until you maybe (someday) fine your favorites. Happy hunting -- it never stops, for some....
Sorry about your wallet....
Not a bad idea. I may get the Denon's but I think I'll start off with the 701's because if you get a maxed Desktop, they basically give you a pair for $30
post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffneckxx View Post
I'll start off with the 701's because if you get a maxed Desktop, they basically give you a pair for $30
this sounds like a good idea to me! and you have the option of either package deal that come with the 701's at the same price point. the fully pimped out Desktop w/ DPS or the fully pimped out Balanced Desktop w/ Balanced Headphone cables plus USB and Fiber Optic Cable.

I'm torn between the two as well for there is a feature I like about the Desktop that the Balanced Desktop does not have. being able to use it as a preamp

with the DAC in the Balanced Desktop you are ready to use your Laptop as a fully balanced source be it USB or Fiber Optic. sweet! q:O) also something sweet about the Balanced Desktop is that you can use it to drive to sets of single ended headphones when a friend is over with one plugged into the left channel and the other in the right channel. "Also provided is our new HeadRoom-engineered Balanced Stock AKG k701 cable which allows the headphones to be used in either single-ended or balanced-drive as needed" and ya don't plan on getting rid of your Senn's so you will already have two sets of headphones to use in a single ended situation and one as a balanced.

I like them both and there is no way I could steer you towards one over the other for both would be very nice to own. I want one!
post #13 of 14
I would say go with the Desktop Balanced. I would also take a look at the packaged system with the Sennheiser HD650s. I've heard that the Senns benefit the most from balanced drive. I've never heard this particular setup myself, but I've heard another balanced system and it is very transparent and high contrast.
post #14 of 14
I'm not making a recommendation, just reporting my own experience. I just purchased a Balanced Desktop Amp/Dac w/home module. I use use Senn 650's w/Stefan Art Equinox balanced cables. The sound is rich, clear, three dimensional, and fully present. The bass is no longer muddy and the mids and highs are nicely expressed without overkill (I found the K701 too bright and harsh) The famous 650 veil is greatly diminished and while I still would say these cans are warm I would not call them laid back or lacking in presence or attack. The sound stage is expanded and while I don't know it's comparative size to the K701s, I find it more true and natural (I found the 701 more synthetic and artificial) Voicies are much clearer and distinct, more upfront than single ended but here's were I think the 701 outshines them all.

Bottom line, IMHO, there is some quite special, vital and unique about the HR Balanced Desktop/Amp w/home module. Oh, and don't forget the package includes the astrodyne power system which seems to add to the clear sound. I haven't done enough A /B comparisons, used the single end access two at a time to see what that delivers. But as it is, with the 650 and the Equinox cable, from what I hear with my own ears and from what I've heard from other headfiers, there is nothing to be lost in going HR balanced. If you any of you want, come over and I'll buy the cookies. I got lot's of CDs. What about it Nose?
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