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Before you buy headphones: A hopefully helpful guide for newbies - Page 8

post #106 of 147
Quote:
Originally Posted by the chemist View Post
I think it might be important to add how one should upgrade. Ultimately as noobies we dont initially have a nice DAC or dedicated headphone AMP. Maybe the best bang for your buck upgrade path for low impedence and high impedence headphones? Would it be better to upgrade to a nice dedicated DAC if using low impedence headphones like grados first? If one initially buys high impedence headphones like HD-650s does one upgrade the AMP before the DAC?

I have come to the conclusion as I read and re-read the forums that the best initial bang for the buck is to get the best headphones you can afford. Assuming you do that, then what? Will one always benefit from getting the amp next or dac and does it depend on low or high impedence phones? Certainly one could argue and say just get an amp/dac combo to start like the compass. Personally however something like that will be replaced rather quickly and I would rather get a nice dedicated DAC or nice dedicated amp to start and slowly build up with quality parts.

hope I made sense here.
After a bit more digging on and off the forums I have found what I believe to be the optimal upgrade path if building piecewise.
from my research it shouldn't matter if you have low or high impedence headphones. The optimal audio path should be headphones>>amp>dac assuming that your medium is properly setup/downloaded for hi-fi.
Originally I had thought for low impedence headphones it might be more optimal to upgrade the dac first but upon discovering that a good amp may actually help lower the distortion and even "clean up" the source a bi makes this the better initial purchase after headphones.

Does this seem right to those "in the know" ?
post #107 of 147
I agree for the most part, but I think that the bitrate quality of you music files is also a major concern and should be the first thing that gets sorted out after getting a good-to-great pair of headphones (i.e. no less than 320 kbps, although some 200+ VBR mp3's sound plenty good to me). Plus, re-ripping your tunes is generally a free upgrade method (apart from all those cursed hours at the computer, re-recording everything).
post #108 of 147
Exactly why I made an account, too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteleaf View Post
This is probably one of the most, if not the most, impressive, insightful, well organized, and extremely helpful threads on this site. And I've read A TON of helpful threads (that's why I finally made an account)
post #109 of 147

Thank you sooo very much!

This is my very FIRST post on Headfi!

This article has been one, if not the most useful i've ever encountered here some time back, as a lowly lurker lookin' for better sounding cans!

Thank you so much as the "principles" you've laid down have helped me screen the millions of posts on getting the "perfect"can, and helped me enjoy my journey into the world of personal audio (and the cans that ended up stuck to my head).

I definitely got more bang for my buck with this guide! Godbless you! Cheers!

post #110 of 147
Thanks a lot Boomana for this guide. Very handy even for someone who's been lurking in other head-fi forums.

I'm curious about how important amps are though. Within my budget, I may potentially pick up a HD650 (second-hand) and a DAC like the ibasso D4 (in that price range or lower). Should I do so or should I portion the money out equally between the headphone/dac/amp? In the IEM forums the emphasis is generally on the earphones rather than source (unless it is poor). I do need a USB DAC so I'll be getting one. Are there such DACs that are cheap and powerful enough to power something like the HD650s?
post #111 of 147
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Dying_Wren View Post
I'm curious about how important amps are though. Within my budget, I may potentially pick up a HD650 (second-hand) and a DAC like the ibasso D4 (in that price range or lower). Should I do so or should I portion the money out equally between the headphone/dac/amp? In the IEM forums the emphasis is generally on the earphones rather than source (unless it is poor). I do need a USB DAC so I'll be getting one. Are there such DACs that are cheap and powerful enough to power something like the HD650s?
I wouldn't necessarily look at what you need in terms of money ratios. I'd do research into the best amps you can find within your budget, and the same for amps and take it from there. You might, like many of us, build a 650 rig in stages, get the headphones now, a source or amp later, and the etc, enjoying what you have, but planning and looking forward to learning how well they scale. What I wouldn't do, if I were you, is just jump for any solution (portable amp/dac for example) because it fits in your budget this week. There's still something to be said for saving up your money and getting something that will make you happy for a long time, even if it means waiting.
post #112 of 147
Quote:
Originally Posted by boomana View Post
I wouldn't necessarily look at what you need in terms of money ratios. I'd do research into the best amps you can find within your budget, and the same for amps and take it from there. You might, like many of us, build a 650 rig in stages, get the headphones now, a source or amp later, and the etc, enjoying what you have, but planning and looking forward to learning how well they scale. What I wouldn't do, if I were you, is just jump for any solution (portable amp/dac for example) because it fits in your budget this week. There's still something to be said for saving up your money and getting something that will make you happy for a long time, even if it means waiting.
So I guess to get my foot in the door in the first place I should go audition and pick up some headphones with what I can? I do need some sort of source though as I don't think the clip or cowon d2+ is going to cut it. I hope the D4 will be an acceptable temporary measure.

Thanks for your advice . Sounds like headphones are gonna be far more interesting than IEMs.
post #113 of 147

Thank you!

Wow, that was a good read. I'm new to this site, and to the whole audiophile sorta thing. I guess it's the beginning of a crazy journey.

Thanks Boomana, this was the first thing I read when I got here. It's really helpful!
post #114 of 147
It seems that the main point of this website is to optimize the potential of the headphones themselves to maximize the listener's experience with them.

Sure wish I found this thread first, even though it's fun trying out different combos to see what I really value in a system, just a bit expen$ive.

I'm currently having a lot of fun comparing different "medium-high" phones with different "medium-low" amps; I use good sources always, an outboard RIAA phono preamp or Apple Lossless with some kind of outboard DAC.

The only thing that I can add from my limited experience so far is to no. 2; I would add a no. 2.5: that small single-tube hybrid op-amps are not going to satisfy in the long run either. A real amp has real transformers and multiple tubes and stages and y'know big, heavy stuff, not digital op-amps with a single tube, tiny capacitors and a wall wort.

You need big, heavy stuff to get the best "headroom" and "bass extension" from the best headphones. And that's my highly-technical explanation for that. Still saving $ and researching on that.

Avoiding the "cheap-@ss hybrid shortcut" has been the harshest lesson for me so far as far as purchasing guidelines go. Others seem to enjoy the hobbyist aspect of tweaking these things, but I would rather save for something good than roll tubes and op-amps and switch caps and attenuate the gain, and...

I am noticing that some headphones that sound "just right" with one amp don't perform as well with another. For example my Grados sound great with my G&S amp, while my ATH's show their stuff when connected to the the headphone output of my Panny surround receiver (in stereo).

I stumbled upon this as I was searching for a thread about different headphones matching up with different amplifiers, and this has been the best I can find. There are many specific comparisons of amps and cans and so forth, but no single place focused on general guidelines and theories for matching them up that I can find. If anyone knows of one, please tell me!

This is the best I've found for that so far, so thanks
post #115 of 147
Quote:
Originally Posted by grokit View Post
It seems that the main point of this website is to maximize the potential of the headphones themselves to maximize the listener's experience with them.

Sure wish I found this thread first, even though it's fun trying out different combos to see what I really value in a system, just a bit expen$ive.

I'm currently having a lot of fun comparing different "medium-high" phones with different "medium-low" amps; I use good sources always, an outboard RIAA phono preamp or Apple Lossless with some kind of outboard DAC.

The only thing that I can add from my limited experience so far is to no. 2; I would add a no. 2.5: that small single-tube hybrid op-amps are not going to satisfy in the long run either. A real amp has real transformers and multiple tubes and stages and y'know big, heavy stuff, not digital op-amps with a single tube, tiny capacitors and a wall wort.

You need big, heavy stuff to get the best "headroom" and "bass extension" from the best headphones. And that's my highly-technical explanation for that. Still saving $ and researching on that.

Avoiding the "cheap-@ss hybrid shortcut" has been the harshest lesson for me so far as far as purchasing guidelines go. Others seem to enjoy the hobbyist aspect of tweaking these things, but I would rather save for something good than roll tubes and op-amps and switch caps and attenuate the gain, and...

I am noticing that some headphones that sound "just right" with one amp don't perform as well with another. For example my Grados sound great with my G&S amp, while my ATH's show their stuff when connected to the the headphone output of my Panny surround receiver (in stereo).

I stumbled upon this as I was searching for a thread about different headphones matching up with different amplifiers, and this has been the best I can find. There are many specific comparisons of amps and cans and so forth, but no single place focused on general guidelines and theories for matching them up that I can find. If anyone knows of one, please tell me!

This is the best I've found for that so far, so thanks
IMO you don't need everything big and tons of heavy stuff for headphones to sound great. Moar clean power seems to be often better to a point, but SS can get you there as well as tubes and there are different ways. No glaring rules of thumb for making the best choice between high-end amplifiers sadly for your phones.

Different amps do have synergy it seems with different headphones often, few amplifiers do every compatible headphone well. Its not easy to try all these combos in person.

If you want to know what matches well with what, I have a great suggestion here on this site. Read the impressions forum. Its not perfect, but its a great great resource.
post #116 of 147
it is a very helpful info for reference. Great reading! Two thumbs up!
post #117 of 147
Quote:
Originally Posted by manaox2 View Post
IMO you don't need everything big and tons of heavy stuff for headphones to sound great. Moar clean power seems to be often better to a point, but SS can get you there as well as tubes and there are different ways. No glaring rules of thumb for making the best choice between high-end amplifiers sadly for your phones.

Different amps do have synergy it seems with different headphones often, few amplifiers do every compatible headphone well. Its not easy to try all these combos in person.

If you want to know what matches well with what, I have a great suggestion here on this site. Read the impressions forum. Its not perfect, but its a great great resource.
I have since learned that when I said "big, heavy stuff" to get the best "headroom" and "bass extension" from the "best headphones", I meant an amplifier that is capable of the "high current loads and the huge voltage swings" required to maximize the potential of certain "mid-to-high-impedance, low efficiency" headphones. I think
post #118 of 147
Great work , thanks.
post #119 of 147
Hi! I need some advice about headphones. I have a Shure SE530 for portable use, but id like to get high quality headphones for home use. Looks like senn's hd 650 meet my needs the most as it has more boomy bass, what lacks a little bit on my shures (for my taste - funk fusion jazz). My question is, will my phillips cd source and yamaha rx v440 receiver will be enough to drive the hd 650s or do they need further amplification?

Other question is can i drive them on iPhone, or theres no portable amp to get the best out of them on an iPhone?

Thanks in advance!
post #120 of 147
Quote:
Originally Posted by spyromezzo View Post
Hi! I need some advice about headphones. I have a Shure SE530 for portable use, but id like to get high quality headphones for home use. Looks like senn's hd 650 meet my needs the most as it has more boomy bass, what lacks a little bit on my shures (for my taste - funk fusion jazz). My question is, will my phillips cd source and yamaha rx v440 receiver will be enough to drive the hd 650s or do they need further amplification?

Other question is can i drive them on iPhone, or theres no portable amp to get the best out of them on an iPhone?

Thanks in advance!
"Need" is a strong word, and amplification requirements are partially personal taste, but I wouldn't expect the HD650s to sound better than the Shures out of an iPhone.
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