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(Yet another) beginner's rig recommendation thread. Yes, I have searched.

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for viewing.


I've come into some money and I'll be willing to spend upwards of $500-750 on a decent rig (headphones/amp/dac if needed) for the buck.  Right now I have a pair of Brainwavz M4s.  I have owned Sony MDR-V6, Grado SR-80, and Audio Technica AD700's in the past.  I play MP3s on my laptop ripped in mainly V0 (with the occasional 320 CBR rip that sometimes pops up via free artist downloads.  seems like the music industry has not caught wind of variable bitrate ripping or something, but I digress).  


I like the Brainwavz IEMs, they do the trick for portable use but I want a home setup that'll wow me.  I want to enjoy some "fun" toe tapping lows, mids, and highs and make my cans "sing" or whatever and I'm sure I'll be "sorry for my wallet" when it's all said and done, lol...  The thing is, I need advice for someone who's in my position.   I listen to a LOT of music.  To give you an idea, it's not uncommon for me through shuffling to flip from rap to indie, folk, electronic, hardcore and metal, post-rock, reggae/ska and then land on some 80's new wave or something.  It's all good to me and I want a headphone that'll bring out the best in every genre.   I mostly listen to indie/folk stuff and want to enjoy the details and layers in that stuff, but when it's time to rock out I want the Grado-like "fun"ness there, or if I get something electronic, I want the right amount of bass there too. Am I looking for flat/analytical in this case?  But I don't want to be "bored" with my music.  aggh.


And yes I've searched extensively and always come up with mixed results.  Some things are confusing, like headphones geared toward specific genres. i.e. Grados are good for rock but not much else, or, these phones are great but lack bass (like the AD700's which, yes, was confirmed) or, if you get this headphone, you need an amp, but wait, this amp might not pair well with this headphone, etc.  it's all quite confusing.  So yes I feel like I need my own thread here.  I know it's all subjective and ultimately I have to figure out what works best for me, but I'd feel better with a little guidance. 


right now i'm strongly considering:

Grado SR-225

Audio Technica AD-900

Fiio E17


haven't experienced any Sennheiser, AKG, Beyer or Denon stuff but if you feel any of their phones fit the bill, I'm all ears.  I'm clueless on good amp pairings and I'm skeptical if DACs will make any noticeable improvement on my stock laptop soundcard but I'm willing to take a gamble on it.  If it comes down to buying multiple headphones in the long run, I'll do that too.  




post #2 of 10

I'll be watching this thread closely as I'm very interested in the results.  I'm pretty much at your level of knowledge, so I don't have much to contribute, although my impression from browsing these forums for a while now is that you will, unfortunately, probably have to buy multiple headphones for your different genre tastes.

Also, I can say from experience that upgrading to a USB DAC vastly improved the audio on my laptop.  YMMV, of course, as it largely depends on your laptop and the DAC you choose.


The E7 was popular when I came around looking for my first setup, it was recommended to me and I like it very much.  At your price point and with new products running around, I'm not sure what they'd recommend--but I doubt you'll go without one. :)


I'm strongly considering moving into a pair of Denon D5000's and a FiiO e10 for my needs.  If you like closed cans, they're supposed to be nice all-rounders that really benefit from high-quality source gear, so you can upgrade your dac/amp later and improve your experience further, but they're pretty easy to drive with whatever you have.  That's my limited understanding anyway :)

Edited by Throdd - 3/18/12 at 11:51am
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for checking in, Throdd.


My laptop's about four years old, so I don't doubt that DACs would improve the audio, but from what I've read, people usually go the DAC route when their laptop soundcard is faulty or noisy...but mine suits me just fine.  Still, I'll keep it in mind happy_face1.gif

post #4 of 10

Yup, my onboard audio was pretty noisy, so I needed the DAC to clean it up.  Even so, I get an improvement on that same DAC from my desktop PC, which has a decent dedicated sound card to compare to.

This could be sampling bias, however, because my DAC (FiiO e7) is also an amp.  Then again, sound cards have built-in amps as far as I'm aware, so it should, theoretically, still be comparing apples to apples.

I dunno, like you said, it's all pretty confusing :)

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm fairly certain I want to stay with the Grado sound signature because I'm familiar with it and thoroughly enjoyed the SR-80's.  I've been searching head-fi for threads about DAC/Amps to pair with the SR-225 within the < $200 range.  Problem is, these threads are quite dated and like you said, there are probably newer products out that could be recommended instead.  


Audinst HUD MX1 comes up fairly often when searching, so I've been keeping it in the back of my mind, but I wonder if some of the more portable options (fiio, ibasso, nuforce udac) offer competitive quality at cheaper prices.  With the Fiio E17 only available for pre-ordering I wonder if I should go with the E10 or something else like the uDAC 2...


Hope I get some recommendations soon!



post #6 of 10

I'd suggest trying locate a used (or new) HD-580. It's good for most every genre and I've found it much more fun and engaging than the HD-600 (stock).

It definitely has more forward upper mids and more bass. Best of all it's cheaper. I know it uses the same driver. HD-600 with stock cable puts me to sleep.


Going rate is $150-$160 and any decent portable amp can drive it.


I actually think the Q701 is now a "Do everything" headphone. That's another option, but is harder to drive with portable amps and is not suggested.

Mine has similarities to the K702, but it really doesn't sound the same at all.


There is also the HD-598, but you'd have to sacrifice some bass. Q701 has a little more bass, but isn't as warm.


None of these headphones probably have enough bass for your requirements. Especially the SR-225i. The 225 seems to focus most on mid-bass and then then it doesn't have a lot of that.

Very little sub-bass on the SR-225i. Not 100% sure on the AD900.


I do love the 225i though.



post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hey tdockweiler,


Could you recommend a DAC/Amp combo for the phones that you mentioned?   I see you have the HRT Music Streamer II but I don't think it has an amp component.  Could it be paired with a fairly cheap ( < $100) amp? 



post #8 of 10
Originally Posted by RMac View Post

Hey tdockweiler,


Could you recommend a DAC/Amp combo for the phones that you mentioned?   I see you have the HRT Music Streamer II but I don't think it has an amp component.  Could it be paired with a fairly cheap ( < $100) amp? 



For everything except the Q701, believe it or not the $40 X-Fi Go (PC DAC) drives them. I'm extremely picky about amps and the HD-580/600 sounds good from the X-Fi Go. Makes no sense. It even has a large soundstage!

You can then invest in something better down the road. I actually prefer it to the E7 and my $75(?) Nuforce Icon Mobile.


The Fiio E9 actually sounds good with the Q701 and HD-580 (large jack only!). It runs about $125, but requires a DAC like the E7 (which I didn't like). The E10 might be a good match for the E9, but haven't yet tried it.


From what i've heard, the E10 can drive the Q701, but again, haven't tried it. It's fairly cheap.


Another amp I love is the Headroom Total Airhead. It's a portable amp, but drives the Q701 and HD-580 quite well. The E9 is still better for the Q701, but the hD-580 is pretty impressive with the Airhead.

The Airhead seems to do better with some of the harder to drive headphones than cheap portables. You can even get it with a DAC and it's the Total Bithead. It does cost a little more since it's built in the USA.


The HRT MS2 I have supposedly clips with the Fiio E9, but it's never done that for me at all. IT even works with my Total Airhead! The MS2 has been worth every penny IMO.




post #9 of 10



I'd suggest you consider:


Denon D5000

AKG K550

Ultrasone HFI 2400 or PRO 2500

Sennheiser HD600

Beyer DT770

AudioTechnica A900X

Brainwvaz HM5


All would work fine on the Fiio E17 (or E10 to keep it simple and at home).


Very best,

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your responses.  I've got the E17 committed to purchase soon, and will consider the Grado SR-225 weighed against the other phones mentioned in this thread.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › (Yet another) beginner's rig recommendation thread. Yes, I have searched.