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World Tour: Need advice

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Ok, hardcore music fan here. But completely new to the head-fi scene.

Background:
I currently listen on my home rig, which uses a NOS DAC into one of several custom built SE tube amps. I prefer to listen on a 2-way Open Baffle speaker setup. I love the very open and spacious sound. I listen to almost anything. I have an iPod touch and an iPod Classic to start things off as a source.

The Plan:
Quitting my job, selling my house and taking my wife and 4 kids on a one year world tour.

The Need:
I need a full portable rig. After spending a little time looking through the forum here I'm amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of information and knowledge.

Since there doesn't seem to be a venue to ask for the sort of advice I need it looks like I will have to split up my questions into the separate components I will be needing to acquire.

I tend to lean towards getting an IEM for all the benefits that they offer for my application: supreme portability, noise isolation, small size.

I am also open to getting a small DAC to go with a portable amp. But things need to be small. I'll be carrying it all(and a lot of other travel related junk) literally all over the world.

The Question:
Which IEM should I go with and why? After reading a little it seems like the EarSonics SM3 would be a good option. But I need something that is robust and will stand the test of continuous travel. Opinions?

After I get settled on this question I will move on to source, possibly a DAC and an amp.

Thanks,
Erik
post #2 of 16

welcome to head-fi! 

 

First thing, you'll need to decide on a budget or you'll go nowhere with recommendations all over the place.  Price doesn't necessarily equate to quality, but in general the higher-end products will get you more bang.

 

Other things you may want to consider:  portable, or transportable?  Reading through the forums you'll get the impression you GOTTA have an amp/dac setup.  Additional equipment can make the experience a little better, but not by much, and if you're traveling around the world you may find it to be a tangled mess more often than you can handle.  If the AMP/DAC means you gotta settle for IEMs one rank lower, by all means GET THE BETTER IEM.  I have a pair of JH-16 customs ($1149) and a set of Shure SE530s (~400), and you can't run them through even the best home dac/amp setups and expect them to come close to equal.  Read amp/dac reviews/recommendations with extra-heavy grains of salt, because there's a ton of people out there that're hearing improvements simply to justify their purchase.  I've gone through portable amps many times and finally decided the difference is too negligible to warrant the extra equipment; only thing I have left now is a Headroom Total Bithead which I occasionally use for its built-in crossfeed.  Same goes for all the cable hoopla you'll run into here as well.  Budget for 'extras' afterwards, and make liberal use of their return policy.

 

Other things to consider would be: how much isolation do you want/need?  Not all IEMs are equal, if you must have better-than-earplug quality sound isolation you'll want to stick to products by Etymotics.  Are these for yourself only or for the whole family?  For the former if you can live with 'good' sound isolation spend the extra money on a custom.


Edited by MuuMuu - 4/16/11 at 9:19am
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply MuuMuu,

Ok, as far as budget, since I was beginning to brace myself for spending on the whole DAC/Amp combo I'll use that figure. Say around $1000(cringe), plus or minus a couple hundred. Is my iPod up to being the sole source/amp? I've used the Touch as a source for my home stereo before and it is no slouch, it can sound very good. I'm fairly committed to Apple and have all my music in iTunes, most of it Lossless. So, I'm likely limited in players, right? If that is the case, is one iPod model better sonically than others? Perhaps I should ask on another board but it should hurt to dip my toe in here with my own thread, right?

I'm not sure that I follow you on portable or transportable. Seems like a distinction without a difference, but you obviously mean something specifiic by it.

If I can get most of the way there by simply buying a very good set of IEM's then I would prefer that solution. As you say, more components can make a mess of wires and disparate chargers/batteries etc. I prefer a simple solution if one exists.

I would certainly settle for "good" isolation. These will be for me, not for the family. I'll consider some customs. What should I look for?

I'm familiar with trying to get into something in a budget manner and then upgrading incrementally. It's a false economy. I'm willing to get what's best first off this time and forgo all of that.

Again, thanks MuuMuu for your perspective. It is much appreciated and I agree that simplicity is worth a lot. Also, that we in audio are often quite susceptible to snake oil and the tendency to make things over complicated in our quest for the music.

Cheers,
Erik
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SlingBlade View Post

The Plan:
Quitting my job, selling my house and taking my wife and 4 kids on a one year world tour.
 


What do you do after the 1 year tour? You've quit your job, and sold your house. Not to be offensive, but to me it doesn't sound like a great plan. Otherwise I'd recommend the Etymotic ER-4P if you like bright sound, and don't want much bass.

 

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Yliu,
Thanks for the reply. I understand your concern but it's just something we've got to do. Also, I've been working on getting my 'location independent' revenue things going so $ won't be too much of a concern. We've given ourselves until January of next year to prepare, so we aren't just flying off the handle on some wild hair. And I've got a trade which I can come back to and work almost anywhere, thankfully. So, this quest for a portable rig is part of my preparation before we really get going. Also, if things don't work out on my first try with gear it will give me a little time to settle on what really works.

As far as describing the character of sound I hope to get, I would say that I'm not as interested in a 'bright' sound if it even gets close to strident. And I do like deep and very controlled bass. It's one of the things I love about Open Baffle speakers, the bass is simply amazing; effortless. At home now I use tubes and vintage hi-res drivers for a pretty laid-back but very revealing sound that's got plenty of slam. I would hope to find the equivalent sound in some IEM's.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply!

Erik
post #6 of 16
If I were travelling all over the world I'd go with small and inconspicuous. Anything that has multiple components or was too big to slip in a pocket simply wouldn't get used.

GR10 + Nano 6g. Sounds great and you can always carry it with you.

EDIT: Sorry, I wasn't paying attention to your sound signature preference. You probably wouldn't like the sound of the Grados. I mentioned them because they are easy to drive and sound fantastic unamped - if you like their sound that is.
Edited by Pudu - 4/17/11 at 10:11am
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SlingBlade View Post
As far as describing the character of sound I hope to get, I would say that I'm not as interested in a 'bright' sound if it even gets close to strident. And I do like deep and very controlled bass. It's one of the things I love about Open Baffle speakers, the bass is simply amazing; effortless. At home now I use tubes and vintage hi-res drivers for a pretty laid-back but very revealing sound that's got plenty of slam. I would hope to find the equivalent sound in some IEM's.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply!

Erik


The Sennheiser HD25 have a powerful deep controlled bass. It's a great headphone, although you are looking for an IEM. I also read a lot of good reviews about the Westone 3 & 4, FutureSonic SM3.

 

Joker's review can be really helpful: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/478568/multi-iem-review-162-iems-compared-kozee-infinity-x1-earsonics-sm2-added-04-16

 

post #8 of 16

I also recommend bringing more than 1 IEM with you, in 1 year you never know when will an IEM fail on you.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yliu View Post

I also recommend bringing more than 1 IEM with you, in 1 year you never know when will an IEM fail on you.


That is very practical advice and I will certainly take it seriously. I like practical things.

Also, thanks for the recommendations. It looks like I have some reading to do. I guess at this point that I am leaning towards unamped, as it has practical advantages. Does that limit my options with IEM's? Or do all tend to be pretty easy to drive for something like an iPod?

Perhaps I should clarify, I am not wanting my choice of hardware to be based on quantity of bass, but rather a bass that is balanced with the rest of the audio spectrum and can be described as taught and fast, with good impact. I'm not a basshead, I like sweet treble too. A good balanced and neutral sound. I may have to learn more of the jargon for describing what I'm looking for but I think the key is "balanced".

Pudu, your input is also appreciated. I had never considered something like a Nano 6G and have never listened to one. Do they sound as good/better than the latest iPod Touch, which I have?

Thanks,
Erik
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
After reading around a bit I'm now wondering about my desired sound signature. Perhaps this is where I should have started. I want something that is musical and will draw me in to the music. So, it seems to me that 'analytical' is not what I want. Maybe something more along the lines of 'warm', but I hesitate to say that. It could be more in line with my preference for tubes though, although my amps aren't too warm as far as SET amps can go. Just thinking out loud here....
post #11 of 16
Don't know about the Touch as I have never owned that model. I think the 6G Nano puts out very good sound. The strength of it is really size and convenience - but the sound is very decent. Spend your money on the iem's - they will have the biggest impact on your listening experience. Then find a source that is a good compromise between sound quality, usability, and portability. I'd try to get a combination of iem's + source that would let me get away without an amp.

We're a foreign service family so I travel a fair bit - and I've learned that if it isn't convenient and easy to carry - it doesn't get used. I have a nice SLR and every single trip I would debate whether it was worth schlepping it along. Now we have a small, very capable digital camera that comes everywhere and gets used all the time.

I have an ipod 3G attached to an Ibasso PB2, connected to DT880s which I consider my 'home' rig. My nano 6g goes with me in my pocket, everywhere, every single day. I wouldn't hesitate to take it with me on any trip. Travelling around the world, you're going to have to make a lot of compromises (unless you have unlimited resources) - for me the 6G + quality iems wouldn't be that much of a compromise.
Edited by Pudu - 4/18/11 at 9:35am
post #12 of 16

Doubt you'll run into a problem powering most IEMs.  If anything you may end up having to upgrade your ipod as they're so sensitive you can hear faint low-level static on some devices.  I noticed that w/ my 1st gen ipod touch, with my iphone4 it's dead silent.  Neither prove to be an issue once tunes are running.

 

btw, for questions you asked me over PM:  I chose the JH16 because at the time the RSA protector 'balanced' JH13/16 was the best thing out there.  the balanced output did sound great, but in the end I got rid of my amp because of its portability and its innate ability to pick up phone data signals.  I was not up for buying another media player just to get everything straightened out, and then make sure the phone doesn't stay within 10feet of it.  I bought and tried other amps as well and came to similar conclusions.

 

by the way, JH16s are somewhat bass-heavy, though I myself don't consider that to be a bad thing.  If you don't plan on pumping sound out at what would be perceived as reference levels the extra bass does pretty much what Audyssey Dynamic EQ would do for you... at least that's my logic.  Preferences over sound signatures vary, I suggest you try and see if you can audition any custom out before you take the plunge.  They should all be fairly good, with slight differences in fit and sound signature.

 

'portable' and 'transportable' around here refer to how much baggage you're carrying.  You can have a big amp/DAC setup that you can "transport" from home to office.  You wouldn't want to walk around with 2lbs of equipment that's the size of 3 thick wallets, but on the side of your desk it would be no problem.  You could also have a 'portable' setup that's either just your ipod, or maybe one of those fancy super-thin amps.  Won't be cumbersome to carry around you at all times.

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

Pudu and MuuMuu,

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences and the reasons you've chosen your particular paths. Pudu, I like your idea of a small unobtrusive and ultra-portable rig.

 

I'm all for finding a very good pair of IEM's that I won't need to amp. In looking through reviews the described sound signatures that appeal to me are the Earsonics SM3 and the EM3Pro custom. There is a heck of a price differential though. I'm a little scared to squeeze the trigger on a custom $$, especially with dollar weakness compared to the EUR and with the always present possibility of breakage or theft. I take really good care of my gear though, so breakage shouldn't be an issue except for manufacturer's defects.

 

Cheers,

Erik

 

 

post #14 of 16
No problem.

I just like the fact that someone has started a post with " Pudu and MuuMuu,..." biggrin.gif
post #15 of 16

I would either go with a Cowon X7 or IPod Classic which both give you 160gb of harddrive space. If you would listen to a computer I would go with the Echo Indigo. As you will be travelling quite a bit, I would stay away from a (even portable) amp.

 

IEM's I cant recommend all that much, I got a pair of Etymotic ER4P and - oh noo, OH MAN - Bose IE. I like that the Bose IE is open...

 

Maybe you still want to take one pair of lets say Sennheiser HD 598 with you or something equally that is foldable. I dont really like to have something IN my ears for too long.

 

 

THats about it :)

Andre

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