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Amp--Overkill?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I recently bought a pair of Westone 4, and I would like to get the best use out of that purchase. I mostly listen to MP3 files ripped at 320k, on my laptop/smartphone/ipod (Jazz, acoustic, classical, vocal jazz, pop). My research suggests that an Amp like the Fiio E7s would be a good choice to get the most out of my Westone 4s. Is this the case?

 

Are there other AMPs I should be looking at/should I get the E9, as well? Is the AMP overkill because I'm not listening to lossless audio? Will the difference be night and day?

 

Thank you!

 

PS I also have a HD 598 and PXC 450 for home use. The Westone 4s would be used when I'm on the go/at work.


Edited by moot11 - 10/2/11 at 4:36pm
post #2 of 9

Keep in mind I'm NOT experienced with portable amps but I can give some schools of thought on this. There are some say that portable is NEVER the answer for Hifi audio, and there is some truth to that. A lower class of desktop amps will generally, excuse my french, whoop most portable amps.

 

The Fiio E7 is a staple choice but I have not heard it so I cannot give you details but I can tell you this: All things being the same, the difference will NOT be day and night. It will be... I wouldn't even say it's better... It will be different based on fairly subjective ears. It somewhat depends on what your mind wants to get out of $100. Don't get the E9 since it's not portable but if you want to use it for your home setup... why not?

 

But if you just want the E7, may I also recommend that you wait a few days and get the E10 for cheaper (reviews have yet to come out so if you want to read then get it, you might be waiting a bit).

 

I would also suggest you at least turn upscale the Jazz to lossless audio cause you might not even be doing the W4s unamped justice.

 

I really hope I haven't talked out of my behind and you found this somewhat helpful.

post #3 of 9

Going lossless is the single biggest favour you can do yourself for free when it comes to high quality music, especially when one is talking about quality listening equipment. Why ? Because MP3 sounds more and more like crap the higher in quality your rig becomes. This is the ultimate truth. 

 

There's a section of people that say X is a placebo based on blah blah, but them placebo statements work both ways depending on what agenda one has. But it also really does depend on the person and the equipment too. My own brother says he can't tell a difference between standard definition vs high definition and I think he's certifiable. The only conclusion I come up with is he's either lying to be different or people see things differently (no pun intended) and I firmly believe it's the same with audio. Never trust the mouth, but always trust your instinct, always trust your eyes, and always trust your ears. 

 

I think you should go for the E7 and the E9 because it's both portable and not. And you can combine the two at home for an amazing audio experience. For the money you won't regret it. But I'd seriously consider going lossless  first before you do anything else. Because lossless FLAC on a decent dac/amp system should be night and day compared to lossy MP3 on the same equipment. It won't sound blanketed in any way, whereas with MP3 it sounds somewhat like you've put a blanket over the speakers by comparison.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NinjaSquirt View Post

Keep in mind I'm NOT experienced with portable amps but I can give some schools of thought on this. There are some say that portable is NEVER the answer for Hifi audio, and there is some truth to that. A lower class of desktop amps will generally, excuse my french, whoop most portable amps.

 

The Fiio E7 is a staple choice but I have not heard it so I cannot give you details but I can tell you this: All things being the same, the difference will NOT be day and night. It will be... I wouldn't even say it's better... It will be different based on fairly subjective ears. It somewhat depends on what your mind wants to get out of $100. Don't get the E9 since it's not portable but if you want to use it for your home setup... why not?

 

But if you just want the E7, may I also recommend that you wait a few days and get the E10 for cheaper (reviews have yet to come out so if you want to read then get it, you might be waiting a bit).

 

I would also suggest you at least turn upscale the Jazz to lossless audio cause you might not even be doing the W4s unamped justice.

 

I really hope I haven't talked out of my behind and you found this somewhat helpful.



Thanks for the detailed write up, I appreciate it. I think I can safely say that portal amps/dacs are out for me, now. Are amps mostly for headphones? I ask because some of the reviews suggested that using an E7 was night and day. 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thommohawk View Post

Going lossless is the single biggest favour you can do yourself for free when it comes to high quality music, especially when one is talking about quality listening equipment. Why ? Because MP3 sounds more and more like crap the higher in quality your rig becomes. This is the ultimate truth. 

 

There's a section of people that say X is a placebo based on blah blah, but them placebo statements work both ways depending on what agenda one has. But it also really does depend on the person and the equipment too. My own brother says he can't tell a difference between standard definition vs high definition and I think he's certifiable. The only conclusion I come up with is he's either lying to be different or people see things differently (no pun intended) and I firmly believe it's the same with audio. Never trust the mouth, but always trust your instinct, always trust your eyes, and always trust your ears. 

 

I think you should go for the E7 and the E9 because it's both portable and not. And you can combine the two at home for an amazing audio experience. For the money you won't regret it. But I'd seriously consider going lossless  first before you do anything else. Because lossless FLAC on a decent dac/amp system should be night and day compared to lossy MP3 on the same equipment. It won't sound blanketed in any way, whereas with MP3 it sounds somewhat like you've put a blanket over the speakers by comparison.

 

Thanks for the suggestion. I know this is blasphemy around these forums, but I moved about 5 years ago, and to save on moving costs amd I converted all of my cds to 160-320k MP3s. This was before I joined the forums and was using my laptop speakers to listen to music. I donated/sold my CDs on ebay. =\

 

Now, instead of buying CDs I have a spotify account, which plays audio in 320k. I'm rarely at home, so I thought this would be a good alternative for the office/on the go. I really wish I knew better at the time and converted everything to lossless.

 

 

post #5 of 9
Well desktop amps are for headphones. Portable amps are kind iffy on both. As for the day and night, everyone has their definition. Personally, I'd go for the safe approach. If you go into thinking $100 will get you a big "day and night", you'll probably be disappointed.

May I suggest a read of this thread (not trying depress you, just CTRL + F Lisa III, a $700 portable barely able to keep up with desktop amps). If you went with the Lisa III, I'm pretty sure you'll safety get a HUGE day and night even if it's just placebo one. Although Fiio makes quality products (Again, may I push the cheaper E10? Consider it?), objectively $100 on portable Hifi just isn't day and night money. The subjective day and night will be up your head and ears.
post #6 of 9
The lossless vs lossy debate is an interesting one. I started converting my CDs to MP3 at 128kbps and yes, they expose the fact that lossy at this level is certainly flawed. But higher MP3 rates produced a different result IMO.

I ripped a high quality CD twice - the first time in FLAC and the second time in MP3 320kbps. This was chamber music which is very revealing. I expected the FLAC rip to be much better than the MP3 but even after multiple A/B comparisons, when I got to the stage where I wasn't sure if I had programmed FLAC or MP3, I simply couldn't hear any difference. So if I can't hear any difference why should I go lossless apart from the fact that I can then record the files back onto CD. I still have the CDs so that is not an issue.

I have a MOG account and some of their stuff is stunning sound. I might add that I listen to historical recordings at times so I am used to wide variations in SQ. The golden ears brigade would disagree with me I suppose. All I can say is that if you are enjoying the music then you don't have any worries. Your files will sound as you want them to sound.
post #7 of 9

First up - E10 is desktop/laptop only - you can't listen to it on the go with an iPod/phone (which I'm assuming is what the OP was after)

 

Second - OP - you'll get both sides of the debate in the lossless/lossy debate.  Simple answer is that you have to decide for yourself.  Easiest way to do it is rip a cd that you know really well - use a good ripper like EAC.  Rip to lossless, high bitrate MP3, 256aac if you use and iPod.  Install Foobar and also the abx comparator plugin.  With it you can blind test 2 formats on your own gear.  If you can't tell the difference, don't worry - celebrate.

 

FTR I've got reasonable entry/mid-fi gear, and I can't reliably tell the difference between aac256 and lossless.  So I use aac256 on my iPod Touch (more space - yay) and am perfectly happy.  The secret is actually knowing yourself (your gear / your ears).  There are some people (who have higher end gear and much better ears than I do) that can tell the difference.  I suspect there are a lot of others that can't, but won't bother testing themselves, and thus the "night and day" myth is continually perpetuated - especially by newcomers with golden ears who can supposedly tell on sub $200 cans.  I'm not saying it's not possible - but lets just say I'm very skeptical OK wink.gif.

 

My rule of thumb is to have everything on my home set-up as lossless (FLAC) then transcode to 256aac for my portable.  May as well go lossless when hard-drive space is so cheap, and then if you ever need to transcode to a different format you're correctly doing it from lossless - rather than trying lossy to lossy (big no-no).

 

Third - I haven't tried the Westone4 - but I've had a few IEMs in my time so far.  Go to the W4 thread, and ask in there if they need amping (or if they benefit from it).  I've come to the realisation that as far as portable goes, you only really need an amp if the cans/iems need something more to drive them.  I use both my Beyers & HD600 portably from time to time (actually mainly 'transportably').  If I do - I use my PortaTube - it's because both cans actually need amping.

 

I also have B2 IEMs (DBA-2 clones) - most of the time now I simply use them straight out of my iPod.  I occasionally use my E11 if I want to add a little bass from the inbuilt EQ - but a lot of time the extra bulk just isn't worth it.  Even with my SE425s they didn't really need amping, and any benefit was simply not worth the extra bulk.

 

If you really want to see what a portable amp will do - go with a Fiio E11 (they are very reasonably priced and have a nice form factor and plenty of power - will drive full size cans as well), or a CMOY.  Get a LOD to go with your iPod.  Then you can get a taste of it without paying too much.  You decide if it's worth it.

 

Regarding E7/E9 combo.  Good entry point (I owned both).  The E7 has more value as a starting DAC than an amp.  I enjoyed the E7 portably for a while - but reality is that for my IEMs it wasn't actually doing much.  As a dac for my netbook though, it had a lot cleaner sound.  The E9 on the other hand is a good desktop amp and will drive most cans.  However if you were looking for something that is entry point ~$200 just for desktop - I'd recommend the Audio-gd NFB-12 (amp/dac).  It's not portable - but it does have a decent DAC and a reasonable amp. It also does higher resolutions, and is more configurable.

 

But as none of your current cans really need amping - why not start off with just an E11 or CMOY and take it from there.  Like I said - it'll give you a taste and won't break the bank.


Edited by Brooko - 10/3/11 at 3:36am
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by holden4th View Post

The lossless vs lossy debate is an interesting one. I started converting my CDs to MP3 at 128kbps and yes, they expose the fact that lossy at this level is certainly flawed. But higher MP3 rates produced a different result IMO.
I ripped a high quality CD twice - the first time in FLAC and the second time in MP3 320kbps. This was chamber music which is very revealing. I expected the FLAC rip to be much better than the MP3 but even after multiple A/B comparisons, when I got to the stage where I wasn't sure if I had programmed FLAC or MP3, I simply couldn't hear any difference. So if I can't hear any difference why should I go lossless apart from the fact that I can then record the files back onto CD. I still have the CDs so that is not an issue.
I have a MOG account and some of their stuff is stunning sound. I might add that I listen to historical recordings at times so I am used to wide variations in SQ. The golden ears brigade would disagree with me I suppose. All I can say is that if you are enjoying the music then you don't have any worries. Your files will sound as you want them to sound.


The answer is in your statement, why should you if you can't tell the difference ? You shouldn't necessarily, how much of a deal is a few MB of saved space to you in this day and age with multi terrabyte hard drives going so cheap ? If it's a big deal, save the space!

 

If it's not a big deal, just go lossless! Because like I said, the difference in quality becomes a lot more apparent the better quality your listening equipment becomes. Right now you might be oh i can't tell - but with good listening equipment have another listen I bet you're like holy crap. What headphones and listening rig do you have ? 

 

But yeah, if you struggle to spot the difference then obviously for you in your situation you should be thinking about the space you'd save vs going lossless. But just be mindful that one day if you upgrade those same MP3's could very well sound like ass lol.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by moot11 View Post

 

Now, instead of buying CDs I have a spotify account, which plays audio in 320k. I'm rarely at home, so I thought this would be a good alternative for the office/on the go. I really wish I knew better at the time and converted everything to lossless.

 

 


 

Have you looked into creating your own type of music server ? I haven't looked in to it really but I'll bet there's a way to store your lossless music onto like your own personal cloud server and stream the music at work. In fact I'll bet there's lots of ways that it's possible.

 

But then I'm sure when you're at work or wherever as long as it doesn't sound totally awful....

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