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Need some help with choosing an AMP, and some general questions

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm thinking about venturing into headphone hifi. I listen to my music for about 4-6 hours a day so why not spend some money on it to enjoy it even more. 

At the moment i'm thinking about buying either a DT990/250 or an HD650. I am looking for an amplifier that will drive these headphones nicely. I haven't decided on the tube/SS debate. My setup will be iMac(2010 model)->amplifier->headphones.

The amps that look nice to me, and fit within my budget are:

-Audio-gd FUN

-Matrix M-stage

-Schiit valhalla/asgard

-Little dot MkIV(SE), but these are a bit on the pricey side for me.

-NuForce icon HDP (also a bit pricey, but if they are a class above the other amps im willing to spend a little extra)

-Maverick Audio Tubemagic D1

 

Which of these amps would make a good match with the headphones I'm looking to buy? If there are any other amps that you experienced users think that I should have a look at please let me know.A general question I have. What is the importance of a DAC in a good setup, and would buying a DAC at this point make much sense. If it does make that much of a difference, would it be a logical step to buy the Audio-gd FUN, or would buying any of the listed amps and a separate DAC be better?


Edited by maxietheboss - 11/9/10 at 11:31pm
post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 

bump. 

Any suggestions on amps/experiences with these amps?

post #3 of 17

I've only got one on the list - the Maverick TubeMagic D1, so I really cant comment on the others.  I'll just say that the D1 (+ paying a bit extra for tube rolling) has been good value for money.

 

I read somewhere that the Little Dot MK IV SE is ideal with the HD650, but not so much on the HD800.  I've heard the HD650 also goes well with the other ones on your list.  So it may come down to - which one you prefer to live with smily_headphones1.gif

 

I've not read up on the others as I already have two DAC's and dont plan to purchase another one anytime soon.

 

Heres a list of DAB popularity among head-fiers:

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/454955/dac-popularity-check/435

post #4 of 17

I forget who, but there is a member here who uses the uDAC as a source, the Valhalla as his amp, and HD650s as can of choice.  He posted on the forums his love for that rig.  And thinking about the sound sigs of those products, it should be a great match.

post #5 of 17

Focusing on the HD 650 (I don't know much about the DT990 250 ohm); kboe's suggestion sounds like a good one. I have the HD 650 and the udac and the two pair well together (with a suitable amp in the middle of course). I don't know anything about the Valhalla but given it's an OTL tube amp, providing the sound signature compliments the HD 650, I imagine it would be a very satisfying pairing (OTL tube amps are a popular choice for the HD 650 due in part to their higher impedance).

 

I have the Little Dot MK IV SE and it too sounds great with the HD 650 (it's also an OTL tube amp).

 

I've read good reports about the Nuforce HDP, and although it's comparatively pricey, it has a built in DAC, so you're getting two key components for your money.

 

I would say providing your setup is resolving enough (and all the options and headphones you've listed are) then a DAC is essential to getting the best out of it. My first real revelation in the benefits of investing in decent audio gear came when I purchased a DAC, the increase in detail, clarity, instrument separation etc. was very noticeable and satisfying.

 

To my mind, you only get the full benefit of investing in good audio equipment if the following key elements are all up to par:

 

Your music (i.e. CD quality - if you're using audio files these should be in lossless format from good CD rips, i.e. FLAC)

Your source (i.e. the DAC)

Your Amp

Your headphones.


Edited by jr41 - 11/12/10 at 7:42am
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the answers you gave me. I have yet to compare the DT990 and the HD650 in real life. I have looked at the price of the MKIV SE and with shipping and the probability of added taxes will make the price too much for me so that one is off the list for now.

 

I mostly listen to MP3 files, but those are all at 192kbps minimum, I haven't yet been able to expand on my flac collection.

Would this basically invalidate the added bonuses that I would get when buying the dac, amp and headphone and thus make it a waste of money? 

post #7 of 17

I would recommend you try the DT990 and HD 650 if you get chance. As I said, I don't know much about the DT990, but from what I've read in passing it sound like it has quite a different sound signature to the HD 650. Also, you may want to look into the 600 ohm version of the DT990 as I've read many comments that the 600 ohm Beyers are the best.

 

You may want to give some thought to the sound signature you're looking for, and the genres you like to listen to, as this should heavily influence your choice of headphone. There are many impressions of both headphones on head-fi which should help you understand which is the best for you if auditioning them isn't possible.

 

I'm not sure what minimum MP3 bit rate is required to justify a DAC, but I recall reading people struggle to tell the difference between 320 kps MP3 and lossless formats such as FLAC.


Edited by jr41 - 11/13/10 at 9:02am
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

Yeah im definitely going to try them out in real life. To me the hd650 look a bit more comfy and they are 50€ cheaper. I think i'm going for the dac->amp->headphone combo, as the DAC in my iMac is not one of the best I presume. 

post #9 of 17

I'm new here, but after having done a bunch of research on gear, I went with the HRT Music Streamer II DAC and output to a used component amp that had a good headphone output. I've been pretty pleased with this setup. As far as heaphones, I went with Ultrasone HFI780s since I needed a closed back setup to keep the wife happy.

 

As far as the mp3 vs lossless argument, there's no doubt to me that I can hear a difference between a lossless version and a compressed version of my music. I'd imagine that if you did a little A/B listening with a CD in your iMac once you've got an improved setup, the difference will jump right out at you.

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by locust View Post

I'm new here, but after having done a bunch of research on gear, I went with the HRT Music Streamer II DAC and output to a used component amp that had a good headphone output. I've been pretty pleased with this setup. As far as heaphones, I went with Ultrasone HFI780s since I needed a closed back setup to keep the wife happy.

 

As far as the mp3 vs lossless argument, there's no doubt to me that I can hear a difference between a lossless version and a compressed version of my music. I'd imagine that if you did a little A/B listening with a CD in your iMac once you've got an improved setup, the difference will jump right out at you.



I am not going to compare them lossless vs lossy, ignorance is bliss they say right wink.gif

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by maxietheboss View Post

I am not going to compare them lossless vs lossy, ignorance is bliss they say right wink.gif


Too true. The rabbit hole is VERY deep, my friend.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by locust View Post

Too true. The rabbit hole is VERY deep, my friend.


 

It's actually quite shallow. When the difference costs nothing to achieve aside from selecting a different option when you rip a CD, there is no argument but only a question: Why would you make your music the weakest link in your audio chain?

 

If you want a deep rabbit hole, check out a balanced setup :)

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thing is, most services such as iTunes and Spotify don't offer higher than 320kbps MP3 files. 

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by locust View Post

I'm new here, but after having done a bunch of research on gear, I went with the HRT Music Streamer II DAC and output to a used component amp that had a good headphone output. I've been pretty pleased with this setup. As far as heaphones, I went with Ultrasone HFI780s since I needed a closed back setup to keep the wife happy.

 

As far as the mp3 vs lossless argument, there's no doubt to me that I can hear a difference between a lossless version and a compressed version of my music. I'd imagine that if you did a little A/B listening with a CD in your iMac once you've got an improved setup, the difference will jump right out at you.


I have a pretty decent setup and having done quite a lot of ABX testing using Foobar2000, I can tell you it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between lossless and mp3 encoded properly (e.g. LAME VBR) with an average bitrate of 256 or above. I can reliably ABX LAME mp3s at v4, but even that isn't easy and requires a lot of focus on specific aspects of the music, for instance the way transients sound (hi-hats are one of the main giveaways for me).

 

Bear in mind too that before I tried ABXing, I was convinced I could hear night and day differences between FLAC files and mp3s at any bitrate. When it comes to actually telling which is which, or even telling them apart at all, the differences are nowhere near as great as you might think. You should give it a go using Foobar's ABX plugin. If nothing else, realising how small the differences were enabled me to stop obsessing about things like mp3 encoding and bitrates, and just enjoy the music.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by maxietheboss View Post

Thing is, most services such as iTunes and Spotify don't offer higher than 320kbps MP3 files. 



Then I guess you're choosing to make the program you use the weakest link? iTunes will do ALAC from what I remember. I just looked up Spotify, it looks pretty useless.

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