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Headphone+AMP/DAC. £450 budget. Help a newbie student out.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hey all,

 

I've lurkled here for quite a while now, and have dabbled my foot into the audiophile world on a few occasions. I currently own a pair of Audioengine a5's and a pair of UE super fi pro 5's with a Westone custon cable, both of which I absolutly love and use daily.

 

However, living in a B&B with my parents is pushing me over the edge with noise control, when we have guests in I now often to have to revert to my IEM's (which can get uncomfortable after a while) or my Roccat Kave Gaming headset (which to be honest, is definitly not made for music listening) so as to keep down the noise. I will also be taking them to uni in september.

 

I'm currently looking for a set of cans and possibly an AMP/DAC combo (if needed). My total budget is around £450/$720 but I could maybe stretch it if you think it would be definitly worth it. My music taste is incredibly broad so I'm really looking for a great all rounder. I love acoustic music (eg. Bright Eyes, early Dylan, Tallest Man On Earth, Two Gallants etc.) but am also really into Chillwave and some electro (e.g. Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi, Yacht, Caribou etc.) and then there's everything inbetween, Indie, rock, post rock, I might even stretch to some pop if I'm feeling like it. Sorry if it sounds like i'm being pretenious but from looking at other "what should I buy " threads, it seems the more specific you are, the better. And as stupid as this sounds, the look of the headphone is a factor in what I buy, I'm a design student and love good aesthetics, I'm put off buying headphones just because of what they look like.

 

I don't have much preference on open/closed headphones, but from what I gather , open give a much better soundstage and are normally just generally better sounding headphones. (forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm only newbie)

 

From just mere browsing (unfortunatly I don't live near to any shops that stock good headphones) I like the look of the Audio Technica ath-w1000x (I love the look of wood cups) but they mgiht be stretching my budget some what. I also like the look of the Grado sr325i's ( I might have a chance to try a pair belonging to my dads friend next week sometime) but am put off by the comfort issues some owners have reported (I will most likely be wearing these for long periods of time)

 

So yeah, apologies for the long post, I look forward to hearing your reccomendations.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

 

post #2 of 5


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DougHiggs View Post

Hey all,

 

I've lurkled here for quite a while now, and have dabbled my foot into the audiophile world on a few occasions. I currently own a pair of Audioengine a5's and a pair of UE super fi pro 5's with a Westone custon cable, both of which I absolutly love and use daily.

 

However, living in a B&B with my parents is pushing me over the edge with noise control, when we have guests in I now often to have to revert to my IEM's (which can get uncomfortable after a while) or my Roccat Kave Gaming headset (which to be honest, is definitly not made for music listening) so as to keep down the noise. I will also be taking them to uni in september.

 

I'm currently looking for a set of cans and possibly an AMP/DAC combo (if needed). My total budget is around £450/$720 but I could maybe stretch it if you think it would be definitly worth it. My music taste is incredibly broad so I'm really looking for a great all rounder. I love acoustic music (eg. Bright Eyes, early Dylan, Tallest Man On Earth, Two Gallants etc.) but am also really into Chillwave and some electro (e.g. Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi, Yacht, Caribou etc.) and then there's everything inbetween, Indie, rock, post rock, I might even stretch to some pop if I'm feeling like it. Sorry if it sounds like i'm being pretenious but from looking at other "what should I buy " threads, it seems the more specific you are, the better. And as stupid as this sounds, the look of the headphone is a factor in what I buy, I'm a design student and love good aesthetics, I'm put off buying headphones just because of what they look like.

 

I don't have much preference on open/closed headphones, but from what I gather , open give a much better soundstage and are normally just generally better sounding headphones. (forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm only newbie)

 

From just mere browsing (unfortunatly I don't live near to any shops that stock good headphones) I like the look of the Audio Technica ath-w1000x (I love the look of wood cups) but they mgiht be stretching my budget some what. I also like the look of the Grado sr325i's ( I might have a chance to try a pair belonging to my dads friend next week sometime) but am put off by the comfort issues some owners have reported (I will most likely be wearing these for long periods of time)

 

So yeah, apologies for the long post, I look forward to hearing your reccomendations.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

 



Nuforce HDP is a wonderful choice. 

post #3 of 5

At £340, the HDP wouldn't leave much for headphones.

 

What about an E9+E7 for ~£150, leaving you £300 for some cans.

post #4 of 5

The Open headphones are sonically better but others can hear your music and closed back cans block the outside noise. I will recommend these closed back headphones ATH_ES10, ESW10, Z1000, D5000, FA003, AD1000, Pro900, W5000 but if you use them outdoor too then try more portable friendly AMPs/DAC E7 + E9. If purely need desktop AMPs/DAC then i will recommend Matrix M Stage + Mini i or just D100(AMPs section is very good). Please tell us more about the use of AMPs/ DAC(home use only or portable included) and open cans or closed with the soundsignature you likes(fun, warm, neutral, detailed).
 


Edited by ZARIM - 6/23/11 at 7:07am
post #5 of 5

We'd need more information to make a reliable suggestion, anyway, I don't own much in the way of gear, so all I can really do it give you some models and tell you what the general consensus on them is, essentially, its a condensed google search that features lesser known models (for the dacs at least)

 

I'll start with the headphones, there are a few different sounds you might probably be looking for, bass heavy, musical, accurate, fun and/or detailed. If you like extra bass, I can vouch for the sony xb700. They seal out a ton of noise, are extremely soft, and actually have decent mids and treble. Just playing a couple of songs that my friend who owns them has that I actually enjoy, they are remarkably neutral for how much bass they put out. They sound closed in, but I never thought that the mids were as colored as they are on the beats. Still colored though. The bose on ear headphones are made of the same material, so they're also unbelievably soft (I think I ended up unintentionally grinning when i had them in my hands. that soft.) nothing special to speak of on these though. And the beats by dr. dre aren't any good.

 

For a musical pair of cans, I'd point you towards a cheap pair of closed denons, perhaps the AH2000 or the AH5000 depending on how much you spend on your dac, or the AKG K701/2 or senn 598s for an open pair. Also, the dt770 and dt990 could be decent. I own the 595s, and the soundstage is pretty good on these, and the 598 are said to be better, so those could feasibly replace your gaming headphones. I actually compared the turtle beach earforce x41 and my senns and its no contest to me, 595s with fallout three are enough to make me turn around and look where the noise is coming from. Musical cans typically have a warmer, slightly bassier sound to them than perfectly neutral. 

 

A more "accurate" pair of cans focuses on a perfectly flat frequency response (meaning that they produce all frequencies close to equally loud) and exactly replicating the music. Some people might say the 598 are more in the accurate category, and the "accurate" and "musical" headphones aren't terribly different, with the difference being just a couple decibels of bass response. DT880s, senn hd600s, and ATH AD900s would be more "accurate" headphones. 

 

As for "fun" and detailed headphones, grados are well known for being highly detailed and fun, any fo them. I just wouldn't completely skimp on grados because the lower end models have some substantial bass rolloff (so do the higher end models but thats a different story, or so people tell me). Grados usually have a little bump in the bass and a treble boost. a lot of people say they are either neutral or slightly bright.

 

So I haven't heard 90% of those headphones, I've just heard them get lumped into the same category. After you decide what "kind" of headphones you want it gets into picking among features, namely on ear or around ear, and closed or open. I haven't heard a closed air of headphones in a while, so I can't say anything about the closed/open argument. So those models will be a good starting place for google searches for "hd600 reviews" and the likes. I'm sure more headphones will turn up in your searches, but these are the really big ones in your price range.

 

Moving on to the dac, there aren't many differences between dacs other than inputs and outputs. There have been numerous blind tests done to address whether its possible to tella  300 dollar dac from a 3000 dollar dac, and the results say "no". So personally, I'd try and spend as little as possible to get the inputs you need. I picked up an ibasso d4 because it was only 30 more dollars than the d2 and it came with the ability to be used as a headphone amplifier / didn't need to be plugged in. This page here has a decent list of dacs. http://www.headfonia.com/category/source/desktop-source/ unfortunately I stumbled across it after I pulled the trigger on my d4, the dr.dac2 down there looks like a really good deal, it comes with most of the ins and outs of a dacmagic for about a hundred dollars less, so if you have an xbox / ps3 that you want to hook up to your dac with an optical cable, or even a roku box or dvd / blu ray player, id go with that. the uDac 2 looks like a good option for only a hundred dollars - http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC2-HP-Black-Headphone-24bit/dp/B00442KO0Q which would leave about enough money for you to pick up the AH5000 or the hd650, which were the most expensive headphones I listed. Now if you subscribe to the school of thought that DACs can sound different (not judging, i think they can, just that its not worth hundreds of dollars) the HRT MSII with a decent amplifier looks like a really good system. 

 

Hope this was helpful.

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