I have been debating whether I should buy an amp and, if I upgrade, what kind of amp I should get. This has gone on for a few months, so I now bring my question to everyone at Head-Fi. First however, I would like to give some background into what I want my setup to sound like. I included as much information as possible here, so this post is fairly lengthy. My questions for my fellow head-fi'ers are listed at the bottom of this post on the next post.
My first cans were the Alessandro MS1s, which I picked up about the same time as the UDAC (original model). Then I got the Sennheiser hd595s. To me, the Sennheiser cans were drastically better than the MS1s. The detail is what I really love about the hd595s. The sound also sounds a lot more "full" than the MS1s to me. I now use those 95% of the time, occasionally switching to the MS1s for music that I want to be a little more forward. (Read: very infrequently. I probably do this for 2 hours per month max.)
Preferred sound signature
I make amateur music as a hobby, so balance is somewhat important. This is the main reason why I upgraded to the hd595s. I am somewhat concerned about the "boring" sound on equipment, but have yet to hear anything that actually sounds "boring" to my ears. Note: I've only heard my own equipment, so I don't have a huge reference point for this.
From my relatively limited points of comparison though, I really like the sound signature of my 595s a lot. I like how much bass it provides (much better than the MS1s), though I wouldn't want much more. To me, bass should have some heft to it, but not be overpowering. The highs -- they're fine. I found my MS1s to be a touch grating, especially when I first got them. And my 595's mids -- again, much better than my MS1s, but I have no great reference point for what other mid-fi phones sound like.
In short: I like the sound signature of my hd595s a lot. I'm not sure if I would prefer a more "neutral" phone like the hd600 or akg k701.
I listen to a pretty wide range of music. A majority of it has electronic influences -- psychedelic rock (Pink Floyd), breakcore/IDM (Venetian Snares), trip-hop (Massive Attack), dance (Simian Mobile Disco), chillout (Mr. Scruff), ambient (Brian Eno) and synthpop (Kraftwerk). I like some rock as well -- noise/drone rock (Bardo Pond), math rock (Battles), post-rock (Sigur Rós), indie rock (Bloc Party), classic punk (The Clash), post-punk (Franz Ferdinand).
Some of these genres (breakcore/IDM) need a detailed, almost mechanical sound, while others (trip-hop) need a more warm feeling. I'm inclined to take the midground between a mechanical sound versus a warm one. Most of the genres benefit from a wide soundstage (trip-hop), but others benefit from being more upfront (Franz Ferdinand). I'm inclined more toward a wider soundstage. I like what my hd595s provide -- I'm not sure if I would prefer more distant sound than what the hd595s give though.
I currently play 320kbps mp3s off the MOG streaming service. This is the best quality I'm willing to seek. Currently using my UDAC.
Update: I am thinking about getting the hd600 now. See following post.
I am interested in purchasing all new components eventually. I make about one gear purchase per year. Because I like the sound of my hd595s so much, I am inclined to upgrade along the Sennheiser line to the hd600 or hd650, though I don't know if those would be too "neutral" sounding. I will probably also eventually upgrade my DAC. What I am currently looking at is getting a dedicated amp to use with my UDAC.
Current upgrade options
Update: I am now leaning toward getting the Schiit Asgard instead of the MKV. See following post.
I am considering getting a dedicated amp to pair with my current setup. I am looking mostly at the Little Dot MKV Solid State amp, though it seems like a lot of people here seem to like the tube amps. To me, the tube concept seems like not only a hassle, but also a distortion of the sound. However, I am worried about my music sounding too "mechanical" as I have heard solid state amps described.
Update: My wallet is getting sadder by the moment... It'll probably be around $570 for the hd600 and Schiit Asgard.
The upper end would be the cost of the MKV -- $279 + $45 shipping. I'm inclined to buy new, though I wouldn't turn a stellar used deal down.
What I would like to know - responses to any of the following are appreciated!
Update: These questions aren't so relevant anymore. See following post.
1. Whether an am will significantly improve my current setup -- or if I should invest my money elsewhere. Every purchase I've made so far has been a big improvement over what I previously owned.
2. A comparison between the LD MKV and MKIII (or include other amp brands if you think there are better options), given my listed tastes
3. Whether suggested amps will scale nicely if I upgrade to higher end headphones
Edited by qoouep - 1/16/12 at 7:47pm