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Just how much would a better amp improve my HD 650s? - Page 8

post #106 of 156
As you say,listening to headphones is different from speakers. I used to prefer speakers and found hps a substitute. Now I prefer headphones...

Yes, indeed, the gear I use alters my musical preferences. It has really widened up new landscapes for me. I find that when the sounds themselves are presented in a good way, more music appeals to me; it's like "that drum has a fabulous sound", or "I love the way that triangle in the background just shines".. I used to be way more genre-bound. Contemporary free jazz e.g. has finally gotten to me.
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post

The E9 is the best amp I've yet heard - please read that carefully because I'm not saying it's the 'best' at all - just that I haven't yet been able to sample anything better.  So I wonder if I have any idea what my HD650s are even capable of.  And yet, I LOVE what I've heard so far.  Yet, with my DICE Tube amp near field (am I using that term correctly?) iPod dock set, the sound is....richer...like a syrupy liquid - and yet also not muddled or artificial.  I suspect the DICE isn't even all that...but I'm looking for richness, clarity AND engagement from my DAC/Amp/Headphone chain.  Again, NOT to replicate a speaker set-up, but to find in headphones their own charms in richness, clarity/space, and engagement without fatigue.

Brief aside - has anyone here had their headphone listening warp their musical preferences?  I used to love electronic music with samples and mashups - but the problem is you're really listening to a recording of a recording...whereas with a well-recorded (or even just adequately recorded) analogue or acoustic piece of music, there's more depth when the clarity of your listening device gets better.  It's making my electronic music sound flashy but flat.
post #107 of 156

My musical preferences were shifting prior to my headphone/source pursuits. I love rock in all of it's flavours, but I can't stand the compressed, no dynamics left sound anymore. My brain thirsts for dynamics, for timbre and tonal detail. As such I listen to rock through my portable rig with VBR 0 mp3s because frankly, the recordings are so poor they do not deserve anything better (some of the older rock has substantially more dynamics, but often sounds somewhat flat to me). This dilema has had me exploring any and all musical generes in pursuit of dynamics. I really love music and after 30+ years as a serious music lover I have found that there are so many styles of music that are worthwhile and meaningful that I do not need to be confined into the "rock" camp. My last CD purchase that has floored me was Bruce Hornsbey's Harbour Lights. The first 5 tracks are musically very engaging and the recording is quite fine.


After reading another head-fier's suggestion I purchased a used non-remastered version of Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble's album - Beyond the Horizon which is really quite good. I have found respite from harshness with most Peter Gabriel material. I still find modern electronica listenable despite the "compressed to the nuts" approach. The reason as far as I can tell is that the music-scape is less full of trully complex passages where the wall of sound effect takes over like with a driving rock album (I still love listening to Tool mind you). For instance, I took the Chemical Brother's track - Come Inside into Adobe Audition and looked at it's waveform - certaily compressed and the amplitude analysis revealed literally 1000s of clipped samples. However, it still sounds good and I use it as a test track because despite the challenges it should present to sonic quality, it isn't complex and the individual generated sound elements have room to actually establish themselves. Thievery Corporation - The Cosmic Game is another such paradoxical album, compressed as hell, yet still sounds good. I don't find this happens in any modern rock recording, there is just far too much information presented to retain any detail, it is just such a wall of sound effect. The new Rush album is full of great music, actually stunning music content, but the recording is simply horrid. To make it listenable for portable use I went into Audition and used the parametric EQ to remove some of the offending bass/mid range noise (of which there was plenty of pure garbage noise) and then normalized the tracks down by -1.5db. Makes it listenable, but just.


Anyway, back to the OPs question, I can't see how a reasonable upgrade in amplification won't provide some benefit, but your expectations need to be realistic. I think it has been said here quite properly that the differences will not be huge shifts, but likely refinement of an already nice voicing. I like the 650 myself, I have just recently purchased my 650s and I have no regret at all. My Auditor amplifier should be here within a few hours so I should be able to see after some time if there is more to be had from the 650s. David from headphones.com seems to feel that of the many combinations he has heard with the 650 that the Auditor is the best of them. Hope he is correct. For myself, I think in about a year from now I will likely try either an LCD version or the new Fostex TH900 which sounds very intriguing, perhaps a D7000 as well? I purchased the SS amp I thought was the best I could afford that would allow me to grow in this hobby. I hope you have some success finding your new amplifier which I would think under any realistic scenario is a worthwhile purchase. A better amp is perhaps a more subtle upgrade in terms of sonic improvement than say a significant headphone upgrade, but from what I can tell the 650 is a very nice headphone and should be able to provide some excellent listening. Your taste will change over time perhaps, or like most of us, you will just want to hear another sound signature from all of your components and eventually upgrade/change signatures. Why not? If you keep your gear in good shape and sell before they are too old you can get a big chunk of your original investment back to make moving upward possible (assuming upward in price is worthwhile which it isn't always of course). To fund my Auditor I sold my Valhalla. I loved the Valhalla, but after a year I wanted to explore a new sound, so here comes the Auditor. Eventually I will return to tubes as I liked the experience quite a bit. The guys at Schiit sure seems to know their stuff and I think when I look into a DAC I will look there. Anyway, good luck with your search.

post #108 of 156

Well, I have my answer to the OPs original question, at least in regards to using an SPL Auditor with the 650s, and that is holy-crap Batman, where did that come from! Okay, I am not one to just gush at anything, at least I try to be objective as much as possible, but what just happened to the sound of my 650s is significant. I don't care who you are, unless you have some serious neurological damage going on, the improvements I have just heard would be unmistakable, I'll say it again in capitals UNMISTAKABLE. A little background is required here first. I have two amplifiers that I previously heard the 650s with for extended, and varied listening sessions; the Novo by Graham Slee and through my Creek integrated amplifier which is no slouch. The 650s are new to me, a few weeks, but I have already put quite a few quality hours on them so I am somewhat comfortable discussing the 650 sound signature.


While I would not use the term veiled to describe the treble presentation, I think perhaps calling it slightly safe and understated (not to be read as inadequate) would be my impression. I know about the opposite end of the spectrum with years of the Grado sound and a year and a half of the DT880 sound. In respect to the lower frequencies with the 650, I liked the presentation very much, there was plenty of quantity and a very good measure of quality, but I have to admit to finding some bass bloom and less articulation than I was accustomed to. This is the game changer for me folks, the Auditor has changed these perceptions at once, and dramatically, far too much to write it off as expectation based. I'm a psychology major who believes in the burden of scientific proof steadfastly, and I am quite aware of the role of expectation in perception. In truth, while I made the move to the Auditor, I really didn't think the differences would be that profound. I fully expected to have it grow on me over time with just a modest and reasonable amount of sonic change for the better (depending on your idea of better of course). In fact, I received the Auditor today and when I only had a rushed first impression as I had to get to class I was actually not that impressed with what I heard, underwhelmed would be accurate to say. I say this just to illustrate the point that my expectations were far from unreasonable. I am in my 40s now and I have had years of audio experiences so I don't tend to get all giggly about new gear.


Now to the change in sound from my 650s. It was at once apparent, but in the last few days I have been playing about 5 tracks from Fleetwood Mac's greatest hits quite a bit so I had a very good feel fro the material, not to mention I have been listening to this music on and off for a few decades. The bass on the 650s suddenly became far more controlled and quite articulate, Prior to the Auditor the bass was somewhat lush and really not that complex, not of the one note variety by any stretch, but not like it is now. The Auditor is so poised and in control of all of the sound, in a word it seems effortless and fluid, confident and musical, but neutral without being bland. I think when Zombie_X called the Auditor neutral and natural he said it best. The music has a great deal more air and shall I say rightness about it for lack of a better adjective. Some of this apparent change (see the scientist in me still says apparent) is most certainly due to the insane control over the drivers the Auditor seems to have. There is much, much better instrument separation and tonal balance. I have played drums for many years, my wife plays violin and sings in a choir, her father plays the piano like you wouldn't believe, one of her brothers the flute in an orchestra and I have attended many, many, lives shows, so I do feel I have some grasp of what decent tonality is. The Auditor has seemingly also brought the best character out of the 650s higher frequency voicing as well. The treble is more pronounced and impactful now, but just never harsh, just more present, and more balanced in the mix I feel. Previous to the Auditor being in my chain I found turning the volume up to my upper listening levels made the 650s seem a tad over-matched and a little on edge, just not comfortable. Well tonight I really let the Fleetwood Mac and some Yo Yo Ma roast and the 650s just sang so sweetly.


Anyway I am going on a bit, but it is certainly motivated by another poster in this thread insisting that an amplifier change really couldn't make any significant change to the 650 sound. While I will agree in principle, I now feel it is far more accurate to say that the 650s are capable of quite a great deal of sonic quality when the drivers are well controlled and fed from a decent source. While not a giant killer, my Rega Apollo does have a nice DAC in it and as a source is certainly able to feed some good sound into the 650s. I will have to disclose a possible confound, but not much of one if at all. I do not know where I stand on the whole cable thing. While I suspect there can be differences from cables, I also suspect such differences should be quite minor to perhaps even inaudible (but I can't say one way or the other at this point). I also switched cables as I was given a set of Vovox cables from the US distributor of SPL as they took so long to get me my Auditor. Maybe the cables are a factor? I don't know, but I feel I need to at least mention this. Regardless, even if they are a factor, they are only so in conjunction with the amplifier so take that as you will.


So my very long post boils down to this, I now have ZERO doubt that the 650s can change significantly within their design limits with a good amplifier. I loved my Valhalla, but holy-s***t, the Auditor is just kicking my ass. I have to get back there and listen some more so I'll sign off now. Sorry for the huge babble folks.

post #109 of 156
Nice wrire-up! You should post it as a review, both of the HD650 and the Auditor

BTW +1 for Creek amps being good for headphones smily_headphones1.gif
post #110 of 156
Originally Posted by ardilla View Post

Very nice looking amp. I'd like to hear it some day. Very nice tube storage concept (but what about dusting?) Looks like you have your source in order as well. A+ :)

Thanks! Those are the tubes that get rolled regulary, no need to dust them off! About my sources, yeah I'm a M fanboy!

post #111 of 156

@Sonic defender, nice review, I too was astonished at what the HD650 was capable of when first hearing it through LF339. Before that I only used integrated yamaha, CMOY, sony walkman, and while it sounding great already it pales in comparaison to how grand and solemn it now sounds.

Architecturally I would say that a poor amped HD650 is like a beautiful old roman church, and HD650 with a LF339 it is like the Pyramids in Egypt. First time you have a hard time to hold your jaw from dropping.


But beware upgrade syndrom is around the corner and is definetly costly. (Don't sink money into cables, it's not worth it...)

post #112 of 156


But beware upgrade syndrom is around the corner and is definetly costly. 



Yes - I agree 100%  I'm all cought up beerchug.gif

post #113 of 156

@preproman, those look like some nice NAD components in your avatar. I have had some really nice NAD equipment over the years myself and when you get the good stuff (late 80s early mid 90s) it can really be nice stuff.


@telecaster, thanks, I intend to do a full and proper review once I have some more time with the Auditor, and more time in general. I am taking a tough statistics course this summer, working, have a 7 year old yada, yada, yada, so time is scarce. I will do the review with both the 650s and 880s being used where they perform best. Hopefully I can do this soon. Is there a paricular way you designate a thread as a review? I'm sure there is a way. Do you find the item and then click something like review this item? Not quite sure how. Thanks again.

post #114 of 156
Originally Posted by Sonic Defender View Post

@preproman, those look like some nice NAD components in your avatar. I have had some really nice NAD equipment over the years myself and when you get the good stuff (late 80s early mid 90s) it can really be nice stuff.



That is a 2012 build of a DIY B22 by YMB audio.  I never did really like the way the NAD stuff looked early on.  Now they are starting to look pretty good.

post #115 of 156

There are two ways people post reviews around here: 


1) Click the "Head Gear" banner, then choose category and find the product you're gonna review. If yo cannot find it, you can list it yourself. The HD650 is here: 


    the SPL Auditor is here


    This way people find your review by searching for a product. You must give the product stars, pros and cons etc. 


2) Start a new normal thread in appropriate category in the Equipment Forums http://www.head-fi.org/f/3/equipment-forums. This is were we are now.

    This is normal for extensive reviews, and the review will often be discussed more widely by users since it is part of the forums. 


Of course, you can do both - with extensive reviews I think that is the best. Start a thread in the Foruns (just keep the word "review" in the title), post a normal review with the star rating etc and just link to your Forums-thrad. 


Looking foreward to read your HD650 and Auditor reviewed ;)


Originally Posted by Sonic Defender View Post

............... Is there a particular way you designate a thread as a review? I'm sure there is a way. Do you find the item and then click something like review this item? Not quite sure how. Thanks again.

post #116 of 156
Thread Starter 

Wow...I'm not any further along than I was when I started this thread!  What I really want when I upgrade is the HD650 bass and space with more clarity and 'engagement' - but I need something that will get me there WHILE improving the HD650s.


Much perplexed.

post #117 of 156
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post

Wow...I'm not any further along than I was when I started this thread!  What I really want when I upgrade is the HD650 bass and space with more clarity and 'engagement' - but I need something that will get me there WHILE improving the HD650s.


Much perplexed.


Buy a pair of Mad Dogs and be done with it. Cheaper and much better than your desires. IMO, of course. http://www.mrspeakers.com/
post #118 of 156

Hi disastermouse, I don't know if that is true, there seems to be several posters with direct experience telling you that some amplification changes are going to have what most would consider a positive effect on your 650s. I liked the 650 before the Auditor, now I really like them and I personally feel anybody would hear the differences I believe I am experiencing. I am not suggesting that only a $1000 amp will do this, I am sure there are several strong performers based on what I have read from other users here in the forums. With all due respect to the poster who said otherwise, I have always felt, as do many others it seems, that while less dramatic than say a significant speaker or headphone upgrade, a step upward in amplification quality has definite sonic advantages. Think about it, what if you have a set of really nice speakers, but you have been driving them with a poorly designed and equipped Walmart amplifier. Is there any chance in hell that those same speakers driven by a properly designed and appointed amplifier won't sound better and closer to their design goals? Of course not, the real trick is not spending past the point of diminishing return.


You can make a case that a $2000 integrated amplifier may not sound much better if at all than say one at $1200 if all design parameters are equal, but it certainly is reasonable to expect that the $1200 amp will sound "more improved proportionately" when compared against say a $300 amp. Price can matter when the differences are found in aspects of design and build that have been demonstrated to improve sound quality. I am not saying that all expensive designs are always going to be better, but when done correctly they should sound noticeably better than products that are not as well designed and equipped. There is no doubt that to a point a better power supply helps, as do better op amps, capacitors etc. How much better is the question, with much, but not all of this perceived sound quality improvement being subjective. I don't think that is a big stretch or unique to audio products, it is possible to improve performance based on technology with anything, but again, there will always be a point at which the improvements don't retain their value to cost ratio at the same rate. The jump from low to mid-fi is often experienced as more profound than the move from mid to higher end gear. Same with cars. For certain a $50 000 Audi will destroy a $15 000 Hyundai in almost every facet of performance, but will it proportionately outperform say a $40 000 Audi? Not likely as the technology gap narrows as the upper reaches of technological achievement are being approached. I'm sure this is something you already know so sorry for stating the obvious, and my apology if I sound like a preachy idiot, it isn't intended that way.


I guess I am just saying that if you find what aspects of amplifier design are most influential in regards to the 650s design parameters, I'm sure you can get noticeable sound quality improvements like you are asking for without having to spend stupid sums of money. Sorry again for the babble, hopefully somebody else can save this thread from my rant.

post #119 of 156
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post

Wow...I'm not any further along than I was when I started this thread!  What I really want when I upgrade is the HD650 bass and space with more clarity and 'engagement' - but I need something that will get me there WHILE improving the HD650s.


Much perplexed.

The best amp set up that I've had with my 7 yr old 650's was the hybrid Xcan V3, very good synergy. It's a notoriously bright amp and with great soundstaging. Really brought my 650's to life!  I've tried many from SS to OTL and this is still the best. Also, a silver or SPC cable("imo" don't want to start a cable debate) also gives more clarity. I think the 650's benefit from both current and voltage, so (havent heard) the lyr will most probably be brilliant too.  OTL amps power them well and offer the best soundstage but they can sound too dark (unless you go very high end and in that case you can afford the hd800's and don't need the 650's!), SS amps add the brightness and sharpness at the top but lose soundstage size and oomph at the bottom.

post #120 of 156

a well designed amp should not change the sound at all , it should be as Peter Walker said, a straight wire with a volume switch.


the most effecient way to improve or change the sound is starting with the source, and even the masterings of the music you buy,.

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