I understand there are many threads that compare amps w/ DACs (such as the Predator and Pico, etc.) but I would like to get a little help in deciding what to purchase based on my personal preferences and you guys seem to know what you are talking about. Unfortunately I have no way of trying / listening to any of the discussed amps since I am not very active in any audio communities and don't know anyone who has a portable amp or any experience in audio. There is also no shop I know of near my residence where they have those kinds of products in stock. In essence I'm trying to decide what to buy based on other's opinions and descriptions I find on the Internet, and this strategy served me well to date. I know everything is subjective in this domain but if I can get many opinions I should be able to make an enlightened decision.
I hope this thread can help people with similar musical tastes as me!
First a little intro on my situation:
I was looking for new earphones because the cables on my Shure E2C's split near the earpieces. In addition, I find the Shures quite muffled compared to my other audio components (which of course cost way more than the E2C's). I finally settled on the Westone 3's (I actually considered the GR8, but there is a severe lack of reviews, I can't believe no one has those, anywhere!). I should receive the W3's next week
I plan to use those with my iPod Touch (2G) and I'm wondering what portable amp to use (and if I need one) to get the most out of the W3's.
Factors I consider important for the amp I'll choose:
- The amp should not be too big (something like the Predator seems great).
- It must have a DAC for use on my MacBook Pro and home PC.
- It should have reasonable battery life (at least as much as my iPod Touch 2G).
- It should mate well with the Westone 3's sound signature, i.e. it shouldn't boost whatever frequencies the W3's emphasize if any; I don't want to be overwhelmed with certain frequencies although more bass is good as long as it's well-defined and "dynamic" if I may use that term.
- I want the best I can get for my money (which seems logical doesn't it?). I mean by that that if I can get 50% more sound quality by spending 50$ more I'll be glad to do so, but if it costs 50% more for sound which is only a tiny bit better I'll pass. Obviously I'm exaggerating but you get the idea.
- Of course it should also have a good build quality, and additional accessories such as an interconnect cable and/or a pouch are a nice plus.
- I'll be listening to the Westone 3's and this amp all day in many cases, so I want to avoid listener's fatigue as much as possible.
- Must be able to be powered by the USB port (and ideally charge from there too if applicable).
Amps w/ DACs I might consider :
iBasso 3Move, RSA Predator, Headamp Pico w/ DAC, etc.
The price of the iBasso 3Move is very interesting considering it's been rated better than the Predator in this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f105/r...mpared-214588/ but 9hrs battery life seems a bit limited to me… any hints?
I have a couple of hi-fi audio components already (although not the most costly, I am certainly happy with those). Here's what I think about each, just to give you an idea of what sound signature I am looking for:
Home System : NAD C325BEE amplifier + NAD C525BEE CD player, with Monitor Audio RS1 bookshelf speakers and an Energy S8.3 subwoofer. I love this sound system, it has a very clear & crisp sound signature and plenty of very dynamic bass (dynamic as in not boomy; you can ear notes in the bass instead of just a big heavy thump like so many car subwoofers out there). Maybe the mids are a bit lacking on this system, but it does sound very musical to me.
Headphones : Grado SR325i. I love the sound of the Grados, it is very clear and crisp, even more than my NAD/Monitor Audio system, with a satisfying amount of very precise bass. Although I love the detailed sound of the Grados, I find that listening to them can become a bit fatiguing after a while because of the pronounced highs (and I must say the Grados are not the most comfortable headphones I've tried, too). Still I must say I'm pretty much a Grado fan as far as sound signature is concerned.
Earphones : Shure E2C (replaced by Westone 3 next week). I like the E2C's, but they are lacking in the highs department to me. They sound muffled and a bit lifeless compared to my Grados and home system. In general there is much less detail in all frequencies compared to the Grados & Monitor Audio / NAD sound system, which I think is normal considering they are not in the same league.
Kinds of music I listen to and some bands & artists:
Everything from Heavy Metal (and very intense, "treble-y", "layered" metal like Strapping Young Lad & Devin Townsend, which can be *almost* ear-piercing at times with the Grados), to jazz, classical, world music, trance, ambient, etc.
Mr. Bungle (experimental)
Strapping Young Lad (heavy metal, with lots of layered sounds, choruses and echoes)
Devin Townsend, Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project (has much of the same characteristics as Strapping Young Lad sound-wise, but more mellow)
Amon Tobin (drum & bass)
Alamaailman Vasarat (experimental-klezmer)
Infected Mushroom (techno-trance)
Porcupine Tree (rock)
John Zorn (jazzy-experimental)
Stuff by Mike Patton (experimental)
The Prodigy (techno-pop)
Robert Rich & Brian Lustmord (ambient)
Various classical, orchestras & jazz albums,
So what amp/DAC(s) should I consider?
I've looked into RSA's The Predator and it seems like a great little amp / DAC combo, but I'd like to get more opinions. Is its price reasonable compared to similar offerings? The iBasso seems like an interesting (and more affordable) alternative, but the 9V battery and 9hrs runtime are not very appealing to me…
In addition if you've got some advice on a good interconnect to use with the amps you'll suggest I'm also interested in knowing about those. I'm not too inclined on paying 125$ for a 6 inch interconnect like the one sold on RSA's website, although it must be of very high quality.
Thanks in advance for your expertise and opinions!