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First audio rig, need some help.

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

First up, apologies if I'm posting in the wrong place. I've been trying to research what I can for a while now but this site is still rather overwhelming!

 

So right now I have nothing. I have an ipod, a PC using the mobo for sound and some cheap generic headphones.

I should point out that I am a musician by trade so I consider myself to have a moderately good ear in general, I've spent time in studios and can hear the difference between what I like and what I don't. That said I'm not intending to use any of this equipment to make music, purely enjoy it. It's about time I had something to truly enjoy listening to music and finally have the (limited) funds to do something about it.

 

I'm running a budget of around £500 (yup, I'm in England) with less always being better. I'm aware this is nowhere near the budget of what many users here are willing to spend however I feel it should be enough to begin my journey into better listening. 

 

Everything I listen to is from the PC, either downloaded or ripped, I try and keep all of the files at the highest quality. 

 

Honestly I'm completely confused by all the terms/names and other language used around here and thus totally lost as to what I actually need. A headphone amp? a DAC? upscaling? I really have no idea what any of it even means. 

 

I was looking at the asus items, the essence one. Also the internal soundcards ST and STX? Would one these combined with some decent headphones (more on these later) be suitable as an entry setup? Is something missing from this setup for it to function?

The other items I currently have on my radar are the Fiio series of E7/E11/E17 etc etc, I can't tell what's what between them other than picking by price. Same deal as the asus, combined with headphones is that a full rig or do I require something else? How do they compare to the asus items (they're cheaper than asus), they have the advantage of not being internal and I could potentially use them for my laptop / ipod also. 

I've looked at some other options but really it means nothing to me, I'd purely be picking based on cosmetics and price. I'm sure I've already made myself look enough of a fool with my above comments. 

 

As for headphones.... pretty much the same ones seem to crop up wherever I look. the HD650, the K702, the HD595, DT770, DT880. 

That order also seems to be the order I'm rating them at right now based on what I've read only. 

I value comfort very highly, I spend extended periods of time wearing headphones (pretty much all day - sometimes longer!), almost to the point I'd value comfort above sound quality if it's a small difference. I'm not looking for massive bass or anything, I listen to a variety of music often favouring more relaxed to aggresive. Classical / Jazz / pop etc

 

 

I'm sure you folks here get these questions often, I do apologise I just seem unable to process all of the information here fast enough, coherently.

 

Really just looking to be told what to start out with since the options seem limitless without any kind of basis to make my own opinions.

 

Thanks in advance - Jake.

post #2 of 30
Thread Starter 

E17 + HD598 seems to be the combo I'm steering towards right now, any comments on that? :/

 

Or a dragonfly...

 

Or HD650s. 

How long to I keep changing my mind until I figure this out?


Edited by Redsparowe - 8/21/12 at 5:57pm
post #3 of 30

An external DAC will outperform a sound card in sound quality any day of the week.  I have owned an Audigy 2 ZS and now an X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty.  The ONLY, and I mean ONLY thing I use my internal sound card for, is processing for games.  For music, external DAC any day of the week.

 

Further, a good headphone amplifier is a very good idea as well.  I typically shy away from the DAC/Amp combos; I prefer separates.  

 

I started with Alessandro MS-1 headphones ($99) running straight from an Audigy 2 ZS soundcard.  The sound was certainly better than anything I had heard before.  

 

I then added a PA2V2 amplifier (~$50 I think...I honestly forget).  Definitely made a big difference.

 

My next upgrade was an external DAC, and then lastly a better amplifier.  

 

Through the entire process, I went from different headphones, kept moving up, and finally met my sweet spot at the HD650.

 

Bottom line: External amp and DAC is your best option for the best possible sound quality with music.

 

What kind of computer will you be connecting to?  What kind of outputs do you currently have?


Edited by I3eyond - 8/22/12 at 5:39am
post #4 of 30
Thread Starter 

I'm not really sure what the relevant parts are on a PC, but here's what I'm using;

a GA-Z77-DS3H mobo, honeslty unsure what I'm looking for but here's a link; http://www.gigabyte.us/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4147#ov

 

intel ivy i5 3550, 8gig ram, 6850 gpu, windows 7 64bit, 650w power. 

 

Looking at the E1, it's a bit over my budget (I could probably stretch if it's really much better, but would almost certainly have to go with the cheaper 598s - not particularly a bad thing), it also seems plagued by firmware troubles? Either way it's by far the most expensive of the ones I mentioned, does it really outperform the E17 / dragonfly by such a margin?

 

Whilst I appreciate that building up from nothing is probably the best way to learn about what I like, I also want to get the most out of my budget

 

 

 

So far I've been looking at dac/amp combos since they seem most price effective. Any suggestions for what units (or brands) to be looking at if I went with a seperate dac and amp?

post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsparowe View Post

I'm not really sure what the relevant parts are on a PC, but here's what I'm using;

a GA-Z77-DS3H mobo, honeslty unsure what I'm looking for but here's a link; http://www.gigabyte.us/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4147#ov

 

intel ivy i5 3550, 8gig ram, 6850 gpu, windows 7 64bit, 650w power. 

 

Looking at the E1, it's a bit over my budget (I could probably stretch if it's really much better, but would almost certainly have to go with the cheaper 598s - not particularly a bad thing), it also seems plagued by firmware troubles? Either way it's by far the most expensive of the ones I mentioned, does it really outperform the E17 / dragonfly by such a margin?

 

Whilst I appreciate that building up from nothing is probably the best way to learn about what I like, I also want to get the most out of my budget

 

 

 

So far I've been looking at dac/amp combos since they seem most price effective. Any suggestions for what units (or brands) to be looking at if I went with a seperate dac and amp?

Nice rig you've got there!

 

So it looks like your only option for transport from computer to a DAC is going to be via USB.  Not necessarily a bad thing, however in my setup when I went straight from PC to DAC via USB I got this odd hissing sound.  It wasn't overbearing, but in the pursuit of perfection I found the Musical Fidelity V-Link which matches with my Musical Fidelity V-DAC; not only did it get rid of the hissing, it improved sound quality in my setup as well. 

 

What I really like about Musical Fidelity is their components are straight plug and play; no firmware, software, drivers, nothing....just plug it in, and it shows up as a Playback device under Windows' sound option.

 

If you don't care about your equipment looking like a Ferrari, I would highly consider Musical Fidelity's V series.  I have been very pleased with mine.  They may not look like a Ferrari, but my HD650s certainly sound wonderful with them; great synergy.

 

Amp wise, I like my Matrix M-Stage amplifier.  Does the job very very well with my Sennheiser HD650s.  

 

Edit:

 

User review of the Matrix M-Stage:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/475618/matrix-m-stage-amp-review-simple-cheap-and-excellent

 

 

 

And on the Musical Fidelity V-DAC:

Quote:
The V-DAC is a sensational state-of-the-art DAC. By any measurement its performance is way beyond so-called state-of-the-art competition. 

In fact overall the technical performance of the V-DAC is probably about the best in the world regardless of price. There is no trickery here. It's simply that we use state-of-the-art digital components (these are very expensive) and implement them with state-of-the-art circuitry and layout. The secret is simple; there's no ridiculous packaging, and absolutely no wastage on anything. The V-DAC is rather like an F1 racing car. It is completely funcitonal with no excess flab or wastage anywhere.

Edited by I3eyond - 8/22/12 at 6:27am
post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 

So for the total setup that'd be the Vlink, Vdac and the m stage? Or are the vlink and vdac doing the same job in this case?

Even just the vdac + mstage are pushing past the £350 mark though, which is leaving very little breathing room for headphones. This does seem to be one step higher than I'm currently looking, and something I could potentially grow into. 

post #7 of 30

hav u considered the hd600?

post #8 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

hav u considered the hd600?

I have done but the price is very similar to the hd650, reading what reviews I can the HD650 seems closer to my tastes - more open / airy? If I needed to save some cash then I'd probably drop down to the 598s, which I'm considering anyway as supposedly they're very comfortable

post #9 of 30

YGPM

post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsparowe View Post

So for the total setup that'd be the Vlink, Vdac and the m stage? Or are the vlink and vdac doing the same job in this case?

Even just the vdac + mstage are pushing past the £350 mark though, which is leaving very little breathing room for headphones. This does seem to be one step higher than I'm currently looking, and something I could potentially grow into. 

 

It is best to spend the most on the headphones, as those make the most difference. For the HD600/650, and DT770/880/990 250 or 600 Ω, the Xonar ST or STX could actually work quite well, despite some people telling otherwise (usually affected by a "sound cards are bad" bias). If you do need something external - some high performance gaming PCs can be quite noisy electrically, and I only recommend the headphone amplifier of the above sound cards for high impedance headphones - then the EHP-O2D would be a reasonably priced solution with good specs (although lacking on the side of features and aesthetics). The FiiO E11 would be useful for portable use, it works decently with headphones that do not need a lot of power (either current or voltage), and is cheap. Depending on what headphones you choose, the E17 - which includes an amplifier comparable to the E11 - alone could be a reasonable solution.


Edited by stv014 - 8/22/12 at 9:34am
post #11 of 30
Thread Starter 

Is the E17 capable of driving all of the headphones mentioned so far in this thread?

 

Also, I'm pretty confused by the Fiio line. What's the difference between the E7, and E17?

The other products also, E10 and E7. E10 and E7 combined come to about the same price as the E17. The E7 and E17 appear to be serving the same function, the E7 at half the price.

 

 

I'm sure I'm missing something here, anyone able to clear this up for me? Is it just an options thing or is there more to it?

post #12 of 30

I think you might want to go with the Beyerdynamics or AKG's. I end up using the Dt990 32ohms the most because they play every category of sound the best. Be it gaming, music, movies, or unusual sound recordings, they work flawlessly. I have mine matched with a nuforce HDP DAC/amp but if you need something cheaper the nuforce HD works about the same just only a USB in and nothing else, which is actually all you need if your only using it with a computer.

 

I cant recommend the sennheiser's because of the high ohm rating, they take alot more power than you would receive using any small size dac/amp. Unlike headphones 80ohm's or less you can use these with any practical 3.5mm plug.

 

The 32 ohm beyerdynamics work well with almost anything. as well as the AKG k701,602. you should be available to  find the beyers for a good price. and use them with the Fiio E17 easily. I'm quiet certain you will get better sound with this set up than with the Sennheisers. For a long term set up the Hd600 or 650 will play well with high powered amps but if you need a well rounded DAC/amp + headphone system now i wouldn't bother with the HD's. I think HD's  feel slightly better for long term use because there not as tight as the Beyers or the AKG's but the let a lot of noise in and a lot of sound out. and they tend to feel a lot looser on the head if you have medium size head. 

 

Keep in mind the higher the ohm rating the more power is possibly needed to drive them, although they will play music with low powered amplification, doesn't mean you are running enough power for its rated power output.


Edited by maxmays1 - 8/22/12 at 7:03pm
post #13 of 30
Quote:

Originally Posted by maxmays1 View Post

 

I cant recommend the sennheiser's because of the high ohm rating, they take alot more power than you would receive using any small size dac/amp. Unlike headphones 80ohm's or less you can use these with any practical 3.5mm plug.

 

The 32 ohm beyerdynamics work well with almost anything. as well as the AKG k701,602. you should be available to  find the beyers for a good price. and use them with the Fiio E17 easily.

 

Impedance is not the only factor determining how difficult a headphone is to drive. Higher impedance by itself also does not need more power, only higher voltage (but lower current). The AKG K701 is one of the hardest to drive dynamic headphones due to its low efficiency. The Sennheisers have higher impedance, but are much more efficient, therefore they need slightly less voltage than the AKG, and much less current. Many "3.5mm plugs" do not work very well with low impedance headphones, because they have too high output impedance, roll off the bass, or are too noisy.

I would expect the E17 to work reasonably with the HD6xx, 250 Ω DTxx0, and even the K701 for most people, but some may prefer more power if they like to listen to music with a high dynamic range and/or at dangerously loud volume.There is more than enough power for the HD595 for anyone.

post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsparowe View Post

E17 + HD598 seems to be the combo I'm steering towards right now, any comments on that? :/

 

I'm new to this caper as well, in fact have only set myself up with an E17 and HD598's in the last week or 2 (so I'm no audio expert) however I am more than happy with the combo. I am sure there is better out there but this a reasonably priced entry rig (and you can throw it on your ipod and chill out in the backyard/beach etc!)

 

The E17 is a very nice piece of kit, it oozes quality, as do the senny 598's - very comfortable to wear and the sound from them is excellent. I can sit at the mac for hours listening to music (while browsing/working etc) and hardly know I've got them on my melon. I also use BitPerfect software (mac only though I think) with itunes. I have a lot of ripped CD's but am starting to buy HD music (24/96) online.

 

I have just bought a small line out dongle thing (20 bucks) which plugs into the back of the E17 and gives me line out audio to my powered speakers/sub. I'm all set - couldn't be happier with this rig.

post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

Impedance is not the only factor determining how difficult a headphone is to drive. Higher impedance by itself also does not need more power, only higher voltage (but lower current). The AKG K701 is one of the hardest to drive dynamic headphones due to its low efficiency. The Sennheisers have higher impedance, but are much more efficient, therefore they need slightly less voltage than the AKG, and much less current. Many "3.5mm plugs" do not work very well with low impedance headphones, because they have too high output impedance, roll off the bass, or are too noisy.

I would expect the E17 to work reasonably with the HD6xx, 250 Ω DTxx0, and even the K701 for most people, but some may prefer more power if they like to listen to music with a high dynamic range and/or at dangerously loud volume.There is more than enough power for the HD595 for anyone.

I'm having a hard time agreeing to your argument. Being that i have used both the k701's and the hd 600, and own almost all variants of the DT line headphones, i found the Sennheisers to be the most difficult to drive on any normal media player output(computer,cell phone, media source) IN COMPARISON to the lower ohm DT 32ohm headphones and the AKG's 62ohm's.

 

Now if you have used any of these with the Fiio E17 and know without a doubt then i cant argue, i have only used the Fiio E7 and im not to fond of the amount of power it produces for any of the higher impedance cans i tried on it(dt770 250ohm), the power is simply not available and you end up going into the distortion levels of the amp just to produce normal listening volumes. My Nuforce produces more power than the Fiio and I know forsure it can't produce enough power to drive either the HD600's or 250ohm DT's.  I see no purpose of buying High impedance drivers if you plan on using them on a low powered MOBILE device, it just doesn't equate, even the manufactures (Beyerdynamic specifically) states the 32ohms are best matched for on the go or low powered sources, being the E17 is not a high powered source i don't  suggest using it on more expensive and harder to drive headphones.

 

Also i dont understand why you would suggest lower ohm headphones not work well with your standard 3.5mm outputs if they were made in mind of the usage of standard outputs. Same reason why most high end headphones higher ohm or high powered include either trs 1/8th or XLR plugs.

 

I don't know why anyone would suggest the anything higher than hd598's for portable use. the 598's i would agree to using as the are very good daily drivers and can work well with many sources. not the hd600 or 650's.


Edited by maxmays1 - 8/23/12 at 11:09am
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