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Need a setup for work - Cans/DAC/Amp

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

Total noob here in the headphone department, but I've been told this is the place to come when you have questions. I currently have some Senn HD595's (open) and AT A700's (closed). I'm looking to setup something at work so I don't go crazy anymore and can drown people out when I'm coding. I'm looking for a complete full sound, tight bass, imaging, and soundstage. I'd like to be able to listen to it a couple hours a day, so not too overly 'bright'. Basically I want a home setup (or close to) at work. :)

 

I do not know if you can improve sources such as streaming and mp3s, so that is why I need your suggestions. All of my mp3s are either 160 or 192 kbps. I'd like to get an amp and dac (or combo) for below $600 if possible. I've been looking at brands such as Little Dot, Music Fidelity, NuForce, and Firestone Audio since they look to be in my price range.

 

Sources:

Laptop usb - mp3/pandora/spotify/cd's

Phone jack - mp3/pandora/spotify

 

Please let me know the route you would take. I plan to upgrade my cans to Denon D7000's when I have the money. I'm open to your collective wealth of knowledge. Thanks!


Edited by vabch22 - 9/18/11 at 6:06am
post #2 of 11

hey!

 

welcome the the right place :)

 

my very first suggestion for you is to take a few thoughts towards the quality of  the music you're playing on your headphones. 192 is bad enough but 160 is.. it is a sin. ESPECIALLY if you're planning on getting your hand on the d7000's. The difference between 192/320/FLAC is quite significant already, and better headphones will bring out the worst out of strongly compressed mp3.

 

next.

 

are you working very close next to another person? I have a friend who's got the HD595's and as long as he keeps the volume down, it's not intrusive at all. Well, to my taste at least.. I can see how it could get on someone's nerves though. And since you've mentioned the whole thing, I assume you've already tried bringing your Senn's in and trying their openness on your colleges? :) Have they complained a lot? BTW the senn's sound pretty well unamped, but they totally open up when amped, though. But if you'd bring all that to work.. I can imagine the angry colleges after you crank the volume up. Anyways, it's very nice to hear that you're going towards the right direction!

 

so yea.. not sure if I was helpful at all, but the strongest point would be to consider acquiring some higher quality music to listen to, if you're planning to upgrade your rig. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

 

And you do not really want to amplify the garbage now, do you?

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 


Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr enig View Post

hey!

 

welcome the the right place :)

 

my very first suggestion for you is to take a few thoughts towards the quality of  the music you're playing on your headphones. 192 is bad enough but 160 is.. it is a sin. ESPECIALLY if you're planning on getting your hand on the d7000's. The difference between 192/320/FLAC is quite significant already, and better headphones will bring out the worst out of strongly compressed mp3.

 

next.

 

are you working very close next to another person? I have a friend who's got the HD595's and as long as he keeps the volume down, it's not intrusive at all. Well, to my taste at least.. I can see how it could get on someone's nerves though. And since you've mentioned the whole thing, I assume you've already tried bringing your Senn's in and trying their openness on your colleges? :) Have they complained a lot? BTW the senn's sound pretty well unamped, but they totally open up when amped, though. But if you'd bring all that to work.. I can imagine the angry colleges after you crank the volume up. Anyways, it's very nice to hear that you're going towards the right direction!

 

so yea.. not sure if I was helpful at all, but the strongest point would be to consider acquiring some higher quality music to listen to, if you're planning to upgrade your rig. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

 

And you do not really want to amplify the garbage now, do you?

 

Points taken, and I understand that. Which I guess I should have worded better. At work I mainly stream audio from my phone or laptop because it's quick and easy. I haven't bought CD's in ages due to the fact they kept getting stolen from roommates or damaged. So I assume when Pandora/Spotify/Rhaps all say 'cd quality' in the settings, I assume it to be true. Why would they lie to us.. right? :)

 

I know compressed audio sounds like crap, that's why I was trying to find a DAC. But if I am defeating the whole purpose, I will start seeing what options I have for FLAC files.

 

You hit the point on the head w/ the Senn 595's. I got open so my ears could breath, but I'm sure some people don't care to hear my music. That is why I got the AT's to demo and liked them for closed so I kept them. The Denon's are my next purchase, after I get all the source issues resolved.

 

post #4 of 11

Mr. Enig is right on point.

 

Don't even think of moving up to the Denons if you are playing spotify or streaming stuff from the web without improving the signal chain first.  Yes a dac could help a bit compared to most dacs in the computer but then again most $200 or so beginner dacs are a waste of time at least for the caliber of headphone you plan to acquire.

 

Pandora and Rhapsody are okay and Spotify can sound good when you happen to stumble upon a track that is encoded at a higher bit rate, but many on spotify are not and it sounds like it.  No wonder audio geeks in the know and ones with some cash are using MOG.

 

If I were you and I wanted to get the best bang for the buck I would get a JDS labs cmoy with an external power supply and a Ross Martin dac which is exactly what I use at my desktop for listening to the stuff you plan to use, Spotify, Pandora, and my Logitech Touch which is streamed lossless files form my music server.

 

I have heard lots of dac amp combos like the Centrance Dacport, Nuforce, Little Dot and the above combo sounds better than most.

 

 

post #5 of 11

I'm just going to throw in my 2 cents here, as a beginning audiophile like yourself.

move away from built-in sound card and amp. Once your gone from that, you'll notice little to no difference in amps and dacs. I have dt 990s and hd650s they sound worlds apart(relatively anyways). However when I compare fiio d5 vs little dot mk III + asus xonar d2x the difference is far from as big as with the headphones(I mean very far) that's if the difference isn't a placebo. I'd suggest investing in headphones rather than sources.

 

Edit: also 320kbps does sound a bit better than 128kpbs, but don't think flac will be better than 320kbps,


Edited by Somebody007 - 9/18/11 at 1:28pm
post #6 of 11

I've heard good things about the nuforce udac2.  It is a dac/amp combo in a pretty small package.  It also can be used as just a dac if you wanted to try out different amps.  And it gets it's power from the usb, so no need for an extra power cable.  I don't own it myself but I'm considering getting one for work.  Currently just plugged straight into the macbook and with the Senn RS130 can't really notice a difference (the rs130 seems to lack some extension but it works well enough for me).

 

As for the source quality.  You're best bet is to try different encodings yourself with music you know.  Also don't just pick one song, try choose a variety of tracks in your library.  For me, 192kb is the high quality minimum for me, meaning I can sometimes hear differences between 160kb and 192kb but can't discern any difference above 192kb.  Depending on how noisy your work environment is that could be lower.  192kb is the safe level... for me... with my equipment.  Everyone is different.  For test tracks keep in mind that usually the first thing to go with lower quality are the highs.  So something with a lot of drums and percussion would be a good one.  With the size of drives now there's no reason not to rip all your cd's as FLAC and toss them on an external usb drive (assuming all you own is a laptop which may not have a whole lot of built in space).  That way you can setup a batch job to convert your flac to whatever quality works for you now.  Then when you want a higher quality or a different codec comes out you can setup a new batch job and let it run overnight.

 

*edit

Also forgot to mention if you aren't sure how open the sennheisers are then just take them in, play them at whatever your ideal volume is, and ask if anyone around you can hear it.  A coworker has the HD598 and you can't really hear them at the volume he plays them.  I have the RS130 which is open and that doesn't leak sound unless you are so close you're in my personal space :)  Although if your trying to drown out the people around you then probably you'll have to play them at a higher volume.  We had a coworker a few years back with HD600's i think... MY WORD did those leak sound.  I had my RS130 back then and with them on, playing music, and him maybe 10 or so feet away I could still clearly hear what he was playing.  I never actually tried them so I don't know if they are just really leaky headphones or he was killing his hearing.


Edited by vrillusions - 9/18/11 at 9:56pm
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for the comments and suggestions. I've dumped Spotify in favor of MOG due to a noticable difference in streaming quality. Jumping from 192 to 320 kbps you can hear a difference in the mids and highs.  I have yet to find a site to buy and download FLAC files, I guess it's just a matter of buying the CD and ripping yourself. I like the idea of streaming 320kbps since I have such a wide variety of music. I think I have ADD. :) I will pick up a few CD's I and compare them to see how much the sound difference is.

 

I purchased a jds labs cmoy because I love the case haha. It has good reviews too, so you can't really go wrong at $60 for a first amp. I will do some searches for a comparision of the udac2 to the ross martin and see what they recommend.

 

You are able to hear the HD595's due to the open design. When I was breaking them in I forgot I had them on and had the cans stretched on my PC case. I was watching TV and kept hearing something in the background when it was muted. I then realized it was the cans, so I can't imagine them doing well in cubeland. I guess I will have to find another set closed or in ear. Maybe I'll look at the Denon 2000's (compare to the a700) since they are a lower end model and keep them at work.

 

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Somebody007 View Post

I'm just going to throw in my 2 cents here, as a beginning audiophile like yourself.

move away from built-in sound card and amp. Once your gone from that, you'll notice little to no difference in amps and dacs. I have dt 990s and hd650s they sound worlds apart(relatively anyways). However when I compare fiio d5 vs little dot mk III + asus xonar d2x the difference is far from as big as with the headphones(I mean very far) that's if the difference isn't a placebo. I'd suggest investing in headphones rather than sources.

 

Edit: also 320kbps does sound a bit better than 128kpbs, but don't think flac will be better than 320kbps,



Depends on the amp and the dac....and experience....it sounds awfully condescending and elitist thing to say I know, but the truth is if you're just starting out then you likely won't know what to listen out for nor are you half as likely to give things time to settle....also the headphone amps and dacs do have their own characteristic hues that they impart on the overall sound of the headphones as some are transparent and warm, others are punchy and bright. This is where the realm of synergy comes in to play....

 

post #9 of 11

At that price point, you have lots of good options within Audio-GD's lineup as well. Starting with the Fun, and moving up from there. 

post #10 of 11

+1 on Thommohawk's comments.  Not to pile on here but as things get better you are apt to hear more subtle differences in equipment, software, and files.  Flac is a lossless format and will sound better than a 320k MP3.  Whether you hear it or not will be dependent on your listening education, your equipment, and your ears. And  whether you perceive it to be a big or big enough difference is all about you.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thommohawk View Post





Depends on the amp and the dac....and experience....it sounds awfully condescending and elitist thing to say I know, but the truth is if you're just starting out then you likely won't know what to listen out for nor are you half as likely to give things time to settle....also the headphone amps and dacs do have their own characteristic hues that they impart on the overall sound of the headphones as some are transparent and warm, others are punchy and bright. This is where the realm of synergy comes in to play....

 



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Somebody007 View Post

I'm just going to throw in my 2 cents here, as a beginning audiophile like yourself.

move away from built-in sound card and amp. Once your gone from that, you'll notice little to no difference in amps and dacs. I have dt 990s and hd650s they sound worlds apart(relatively anyways). However when I compare fiio d5 vs little dot mk III + asus xonar d2x the difference is far from as big as with the headphones(I mean very far) that's if the difference isn't a placebo. I'd suggest investing in headphones rather than sources.

 

Edit: also 320kbps does sound a bit better than 128kpbs, but don't think flac will be better than 320kbps,



 

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks all. I picked up the D2000's for work since they seem to be a great can for price/sound and will use them primarily for CD's and MOG 320kbps streams for right now. HDTracks doesn't offer any music that I would want to pay the extra money for, so I will keep looking for other sites. I also have yet to find an MP3 site that has 320 kbps CBR (I tried Amazon).

 

I picked up a Ross Martin dual DAC which was recommended, so I'll see how that goes. I may look at a m-stage amp later, but for now I think I should be good.

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