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Little Dot MK V or MK VII? help

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi head-fi people!

 

First of all, I love this board and I've been learning a lot.

 

I own HD650s with a Xonar Essence STX soundcard (pretty common I guess) so they sound closed.

 

I'm planning on buying a good Amp this month to find back the wider soundstage/unveiled/non muffled/crystal clear/detailed yet warm sound I heard in a shop on a good amp. I mainly listen to classic, baroque, opera, jazz, orchestral works, piano, violin, movie soundtracks, so basically instruments and voices. Also some electronic music (not boom boom techno) but if I want to enjoy "youth music", I'll switch to cheaper phones.  

 

1) Which should I get: Little Dot MK V (got a barghain at $100) or MK VII (barghain at 200$)?

Which one is the best for HD650 and also the best barghain?

Is MK VII a real improvement to MK V's sound or is it just the same with XLR plugs and a little more power

 

---

 

more questions:

 

2) What does "balanced" amp mean? Would I need expensive "balanced" cables and does it add anything significant to the sound or can I use it like a normal amp (both seem to be balanced amps)? 
 

3) Also been looking at Schiit asgard, Nu Icon HDP, Musical Fidelity VCAN2, Matrix M-Stage or the Meier audio corda series, are those much better than the Little dots?


I want the best sound for the best price because I'm on small budget. Ideally around or under $250, definitly not over $350 (I'd go up to there only if really necessary to feel a big difference compared to the $100 MK V). I hope the MK V or MK VII is good enough. The others are hard to find at barghain prices! 

 

4) No tubes for HD650, right?

 

5) Would these amps work with HD600s, Grados or Shure SRH940 if I wanted to try brighter headphones?

 

---

 

Thanks a lot :)


Edited by jarvis2010 - 10/21/12 at 2:05pm
post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've just read that MK V (and even MK VII) wouldn't drive the HD650s as properly as MK IV or even MK III (i can get one for $240) because the cans are +300ohms and Little dots are:

 

MK III: 350mW @ 300/600 ohm

MK IV: 500mW @ 300/600 ohm

MK V: 187mW @ 300 ohm

MK VII: 800mW @ 300 ohm

 

Therefore as the HD650s often go above 300ohms, MK III or MK IV would be required to drive them fully. But i've read somewhere else that HD650s didn't match well with tubes because the sound was already "round" and tubes added roundness, so...?


Edited by jarvis2010 - 10/21/12 at 2:44am
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

up!

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

bump?

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

bump

post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jarvis2010 View Post

Hi head-fi people!

 

First of all, I love this board and I've been learning a lot.

 

I own HD650s with a Xonar Essence STX soundcard (pretty common I guess) so they sound closed.

 

I'm planning on buying a good Amp this month to find back the wider soundstage/unveiled/non muffled/crystal clear/detailed yet warm sound I heard in a shop on a good amp. I mainly listen to classic, baroque, opera, jazz, orchestral works, piano, violin, movie soundtracks, so basically instruments and voices. Also some electronic music (not boom boom techno) but if I want to enjoy "youth music", I'll switch to cheaper phones.  

 

1) Which should I get: Little Dot MK V (got a barghain at $100) or MK VII (barghain at 200$)?

Which one is the best for HD650 and also the best barghain?

Is MK VII a real improvement to MK V's sound or is it just the same with XLR plugs and a little more power

 

---

 

more questions:

 

2) What does "balanced" amp mean? Would I need expensive "balanced" cables and does it add anything significant to the sound or can I use it like a normal amp (both seem to be balanced amps)? 
 

3) Also been looking at Schiit asgard, Nu Icon HDP, Musical Fidelity VCAN2, Matrix M-Stage or the Meier audio corda series, are those much better than the Little dots?


I want the best sound for the best price because I'm on small budget. Ideally around or under $250, definitly not over $350 (I'd go up to there only if really necessary to feel a big difference compared to the $100 MK V). I hope the MK V or MK VII is good enough. The others are hard to find at barghain prices! 

 

4) No tubes for HD650, right?

 

5) Would these amps work with HD600s, Grados or Shure SRH940 if I wanted to try brighter headphones?

 

---

 

Thanks a lot :)

 

Hello hello! Welcome to head-fi! Sorry you haven't gotten any love here, I don't know why no one has posted so far, but luckily for you I currently have a Asus ST and have had tons of experience with little dot amplifiers!!!

 

1) I'll answer this one through the other questions

 

2) Balanced  can be tricky to explain, but basically what it means is that you separate each channel going to the headphones (that is, R+ R- L+ L-). Each one of those channels gets treated separately and the amplifier has a completely different section to amplify each channel. The result is a more controlled and open sound, as there is less crosstalk. (you will get a good sense of that with this picture). See the 4 separate sections of the amp? ,I should also note you'll probably want a balanced DAC to pair with this balanced amplifier, to get it's full effect. 

 

3) Answered later

 

4) Not really true. I really enjoyed the MKIII with a HD650. The pairing of a HD650 with tubes makes them very warm and smooth. You may or may not enjoy it. 

 

5) All of these amps will work with the other headphones you listed, but they may not necessarily be 'ideal'. The Grados require less power, so giving them all the power of a MKIII for example, may not be ideal. However, they will still sound pretty well. Any of the little dot amps (aside from the I+) will definitely have the power for a HD650 level headphone.

 

Now, onto other thoughts for you. The Asus STX you have is actually (imo) a stellar little unit. The amp in it is excellent, and I would suggest changing the OPAMPS in it instead of trying to get a little dot. Truthfully, a MKV will be more of a side-step instead of a step up. In fact, most of the amplifiers you listed won't give you enough of a difference in sound that I think you'll really hear a big difference, and you may feel (as some other newcomers have) that changing from the STX to one of those amps is more or less a waste of money. Have you looked at the ST/STX tweaking thread yet? I think you could spend $30 on opamps and put the other funds towards a different pair of headphones... just a thought

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Ty for your detailed answer!
I don't think I'm enough of an audiophile to go into the balanced stuff, as it would require to buy a dac and special cables and I'm on low budget.

For the rest, I share your point of view, I don't want to invest in an expensive medium-end amp if there's not a huge difference compared to STX. I might have $400-500 to invest in an excellent amp in the future, but I still can't stand the muffled sound of the HD650s for now and I always end up playing with the "treble" levels and the volume on Xonar Audio Center, but just a little bit meaning that I'm sure a good amp would solve this. Im not looking for too much treble otherwise i'd switch to the K701's. 
Therefore I was wondering if medium amp would help until I get a big one. Tweaking the STX for now sounds like a good and cheap idea, thanks for the advice. Will it make the sound brighter for sure?
Let's say the MK V is a bad idea because not enough power for HD650s (as i've read in some other thread), is the MK VII still a good one? Isn't it a great barghain that I could easily sell back anytime if I buy another amp? (I can get it for $200 and I've only saw it sold at $400 minimum on ebay!). Would I need balanced stuff or is the jack a "normal" plug and the XLR are the balanced plugs?

 

Last questions: I understand the MK III would be the best affordable little dot and I can get it at $240, but appart from the warm and smooth sound will the MK III enlarge the soundstage, give a better sound with brighter highs and clearer details, less muffled or veiled and more power? Or does it just adds volume, warmth and smoothness?

 

If i tried other headphones that would be the shure or the HD600, which amp would work with them as well as with the HD650 for sure? Little dots would?


THANKS.


Edited by jarvis2010 - 10/23/12 at 5:27am
post #8 of 13

I've had a Little Dot Mk7 (original-not the current +) and has all the power HD650 needs but you have to invest also in a new cable for its balanced output.

It is not the best amp out there. The Burson HA160 for instance is a better amp in every way and sounds great with HD650.

I would try ODAC+O2 amp if I were you.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jarvis2010 View Post

Ty for your detailed answer!
I don't think I'm enough of an audiophile to go into the balanced stuff, as it would require to buy a dac and special cables and I'm on low budget.

For the rest, I share your point of view, I don't want to invest in an expensive medium-end amp if there's not a huge difference compared to STX. I might have $400-500 to invest in an excellent amp in the future, but I still can't stand the muffled sound of the HD650s for now and I always end up playing with the "treble" levels and the volume on Xonar Audio Center, but just a little bit meaning that I'm sure a good amp would solve this. Im not looking for too much treble otherwise i'd switch to the K701's. 
Therefore I was wondering if medium amp would help until I get a big one. Tweaking the STX for now sounds like a good and cheap idea, thanks for the advice. Will it make the sound brighter for sure?
Let's say the MK V is a bad idea because not enough power for HD650s (as i've read in some other thread), is the MK VII still a good one? Isn't it a great barghain that I could easily sell back anytime if I buy another amp? (I can get it for $200 and I've only saw it sold at $400 minimum on ebay!). Would I need balanced stuff or is the jack a "normal" plug and the XLR are the balanced plugs?

 

Last questions: I understand the MK III would be the best affordable little dot and I can get it at $240, but appart from the warm and smooth sound will the MK III enlarge the soundstage, give a better sound with brighter highs and clearer details, less muffled or veiled and more power? Or does it just adds volume, warmth and smoothness?

 

If i tried other headphones that would be the shure or the HD600, which amp would work with them as well as with the HD650 for sure? Little dots would?


THANKS.

 

Going balanced is a bit of a jump, because it requires you to change your headphone cable, your amp, and your dac. I agree you may want to see if this is your thing before you invest a lot of dough. Unfortunately the STX has stock opamps which will not go well with the HD650. They are bloated on the bass, which is definitely NOT what the HD650 needs. You can check out that thread here. When you run into questions, post in that thread. People there are more knowledgeable about things than I am.  I would suggest this opamp  to start off. I got them fairly cheap and they are readily available. I think that will take care of the overbearing dark sound you get with the HD650. 

 

From recollection the MKV definitely had enough power for the HD650. A lot of little dot products are built and tested around the HD650/HD600 range, so they all match pretty well. Little Dot products used to be a lot more popular around here. There isn't a big market for used ones. The $400 you see on ebay is for brand new units. Used goes for around $200 tops around here (from my memory). You can use the "normal" plug you have on the HD650 (often called 1/4" jack, 6.5mm jack, stereo, or TRS connector) into the MKVII's TRS outlet, but it will give you the identical sound to the MKV, because it won't use all the amplifiers that it would if it was a balanced connector. That is, only half of the actual amplifier will be active. 

 

 

If you venture out to other headphones, they will work with the STX or a little dot amp. I wouldn't worry about getting the perfect amp for your headphones, because chances are you'll switch headphones around in the next upcoming year. Get an amp that sounds great and will allow for some swapping. On a side tangent, if you're looking for other headphones, I wouldn't necessarily go for a HD600 or Shure pair. There are a lot of other really great headphones out there. 

 

Also, I agree with ceausuc, below. At this point in the market there are better amplifiers to be found at the price range of a MKVII or even a MKV. I would still stick to my comments that you STX is a clear competitor to both of those, and the change in SQ would probably make you feel like you wasted a bit of cash.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ceausuc View Post

I've had a Little Dot Mk7 (original-not the current +) and has all the power HD650 needs but you have to invest also in a new cable for its balanced output.

It is not the best amp out there. The Burson HA160 for instance is a better amp in every way and sounds great with HD650.

I would try ODAC+O2 amp if I were you.

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks elwappo99!

I'm gonna buy the opamps and try them for sure (until I buy a $500 amp, instead of buying the average Little dot MK V or VII that will require a balanced setting).
Are these the good ones? http://www.ebay.com/itm/2x-Dual-Hi-Fi-Audio-Operational-Amplifier-LME49720NA-NOPB-National-/221120838938
Cause I don't want to order them from China.
Should I change the 3rd one too or leave the stock?

I've read that they make the sound too bright with the HD595s (that match perfectly with the stock opamps), therefore I guess they will give a great sound with the HD650s! 

I don't believe they can make the STX as good as any external amp though, how could they?! If this was the case, why would Asus make the Xonar Essance One and why would people spend hundreds of bucks to buy good amps? You really think tweaked STX can make the HD650s sound as good as any Nu Icon HDP, Matrix M Stage or Littledot MK III, MK IV, MK VII? I'm doubtful. As good as the MK II, perhaps.

 

 

@ceausuc

thanks for the advices, I'd love to get those but they are way out of my budget!  


Edited by jarvis2010 - 10/27/12 at 9:41pm
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jarvis2010 View Post

 

I don't believe they can make the STX as good as any external amp though, how could they?! If this was the case, why would Asus make the Xonar Essance One and why would people spend hundreds of bucks to buy good amps? You really think tweaked STX can make the HD650s sound as good as any Nu Icon HDP, Matrix M Stage or Littledot MK III, MK IV, MK VII? I'm doubtful. As good as the MK II, perhaps.

 

 

Those look fine. You can also try Digikey. I know there is a bit of a opamp market, so I'm not an expert on where is the correct place, but TI lists digikey as an authorized retailer. You'll need to double check, but I believe the 3rd one is the same as the others to begin with. Actually Asus sold an 'upgrade kit' for this card which included these two opamps. 

 

This will definitely lighten up a dark pair. I find it to be a little bit bright of neutral, but not by much. Biggest thing is that it controls the bass, which the stock ones do not do at all. 

 

As for the comments on money, well if people will buy it, they will build it. I personally have heard nuforce products and think the Asus would top it. The Little dots have a tube sound, so they aren't such an easy competitor, but overall I think a well set Asus ST could hold its own on the comparison. There have been some really serious tweaking done to the card.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Have you realised that by removing the foams and the earpads, the sound gets way brighter? It sucks. The pads and foams are part of the reason for the muffleness.

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Ordered your opamps, will tell you whats up!

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