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What would you gift your girlfriend?

post #1 of 104
Thread Starter 
UPDATE: I made this thread quite a while ago so I thought I'd change the header into a much simpler one.

Basically I have a challenging wish which is a set of headphones for my girlfriend, who can be rather picky. Requirements are being full-sized, over ear cans for at least decent isolation, and a decent audio quality to introduce her to what lies beyond stock earpods. We'd be looking at anything up to 80 dollars, ideally around 40-60. Being durable is comfortable are key.
Fear not, however, since I've cut it down to only three, with a few others as alternatives only in the case someone would step in and totally convince me about them:

1) Citiscape's Uptown - at first she thought the design was over the top but she now finds them "pleasingly vintage" (lol, I know). Reputably good SQ, paired up with good durability and versatility. Look super comfortable.
~USD65 from Ben's Outlet

2) Aurvana Live! - she finds the drivers to be bulky, but they're the same as any other on this list. I'm guessing it's just the thin headband that gives her the impression. Reportedly very good overall, just might not be as good looking for her (we all like to look at our cans with love). The accessories that come with them are appreciated.
~USD60 from Amazon

3) the MDR-V6 - with their monster reputation, I have nightmares over not having bought a pair when they were $39.99 a couple weeks ago, but even at their regular prices they seem very good. Coiled cable is a big plus, for mobility and convenience, but I'm worried about comfort and durability.
~USD67 from Amazon

Some other options would be Audio Technica's ATH-M30/35/40, the Monoprice ones, alongside a couple others. Not looking in that direction anymore though.

One major issue is that I can only have them shipped until the 19th, 20th of December tops (to Boston, by the way), meaning I am going to decide until next Friday, 14/12/12. My last Amazon order was here in like 2 days, but I don't know about Ben's Outlet. Would have to ask them.

Any help is appreciated!
Edited by Rosbife - 12/12/12 at 9:34am
post #2 of 104

do they have to be cans?  For that price with the requirements I would say maybe check out something like the vsonic gr06.  Good all around iem that lasted me a good while before moving up the chain of iem's.  As far as a fiio amp goes are you going to be using this for mainly portable use or home computer use as well?  If that's the case I would say check out the e17 as it doubles as a DAC for your computer and amp for on the go.  If you are mainly on the go the e11 is a good amp.  I like the slightly darker signature of it compared to the e17 and the bass boost is better imo if you are into that type of thing.  If you are only using this for a dac for your computer get the e10, good deal cheaper than the e17 and sounds just about as good.


Edited by Scyy - 11/12/12 at 6:56pm
post #3 of 104

Citiscape downtowns, you can find them $40-50 these days. The white ones are selling for $45 at Ben's Outlet: http://bensoutlet.com/products/citiscape-downtown

 

Now, I didn't think they sounded all that good. I bought one several months ago for $80 and ended up returning it. For $45 though, these are a steal in terms of sound and comfort. I think your gf will really dig how these look, too.

post #4 of 104

Watch the deals thread next week through Cyber Monday. Then research whatever pops up on special in your budget range. 

 

As far as amps for the M50, what you use it with determines how much you would benefit from one, and if your source is a computer, you might want one with a built in DAC.  
 

post #5 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scyy View Post

do they have to be cans?  For that price with the requirements I would say maybe check out something like the vsonic gr06.  Good all around iem that lasted me a good while before moving up the chain of iem's.  As far as a fiio amp goes are you going to be using this for mainly portable use or home computer use as well?  If that's the case I would say check out the e17 as it doubles as a DAC for your computer and amp for on the go.  If you are mainly on the go the e11 is a good amp.  I like the slightly darker signature of it compared to the e17 and the bass boost is better imo if you are into that type of thing.

Wow, thanks for the super fast reply!
I'm guessing they don't "have" to be cans, but it kind of was the idea. I've actually asked her about that, and she's supposed to let me know about that sometime along the week, but the goal was isolation, some soundstage (movies/series) and good, musical, "fun" sound (for the price!). The Vsonic GR06 do seem pretty good though. The best reliable deal I could find was 63 USD off of Ebay, which seemed great. Tabbed!

As for the DAC/Amp, I only said "portability is just a bonus", when in fact I should have indeed mentioned 90% of the time it'll probably be used with my laptop. I haven't been using my Ipod lately at all, and I don't see it changing that much. I have no commuting to college or anywhere that justifies it on a regular basis. All I'm trying to figure is just how good the DAC on the E7 / E17 are over my Asus N56VZ's integrated RealTek, and how the amps compare on each of the FiiO. I've indeed heard the bass is better on the E11, and I do love a bass boost (and the fact it costs 40% of the E17 :p), but just how much better? Worth not having the DAC function?

Again, thanks!

post #6 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Watch the deals thread next week through Cyber Monday. Then research whatever pops up on special in your budget range. 

 

As far as amps for the M50, what you use it with determines how much you would benefit from one, and if your source is a computer, you might want one with a built in DAC.  
 

Thanks for the help! Actually had that thread already up on my browser, waiting to have a look :)
 

The source would indeed be a computer, 90% of the time I'd say. My particular one, an Asus N56VZ, has absolutely amazing integrated audio. Seriously, I'm a newb at this and don't wanna overhype but it just doesn't compare with any regular laptop I see and listen to (and I spend my day surrounded with laptops!). However, I haven't got much of a clue as to what part of the hardware is actually good, and it is likely only the integrated Bang & Olufsen speakers (as in, no particularly good sound quality, mainly volume). I'm not factoring in the external subwoofer that comes with the laptop.

That being said, I will dish out the ~125 USD (Amazon) for the E17 if it does prove to be worthy. Otherwise, E7, E10 (E11? E9?). Having already read so much about it, I can only ask directly for some updated, direct impressions here at head-fi!

Again, thanks for the feedback!

post #7 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by viralcow View Post

Citiscape downtowns, you can find them $40-50 these days. The white ones are selling for $45 at Ben's Outlet: http://bensoutlet.com/products/citiscape-downtown

 

Now, I didn't think they sounded all that good. I bought one several months ago for $80 and ended up returning it. For $45 though, these are a steal in terms of sound and comfort. I think your gf will really dig how these look, too.

Sorry, didn't see yours. Thanks for the suggestion, hadn't seen those yet! Tabbed and will look into them when I can!

post #8 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbife View Post

Wow, thanks for the super fast reply!
I'm guessing they don't "have" to be cans, but it kind of was the idea. I've actually asked her about that, and she's supposed to let me know about that sometime along the week, but the goal was isolation, some soundstage (movies/series) and good, musical, "fun" sound (for the price!). The Vsonic GR06 do seem pretty good though. The best reliable deal I could find was 63 USD off of Ebay, which seemed great. Tabbed!

As for the DAC/Amp, I only said "portability is just a bonus", when in fact I should have indeed mentioned 90% of the time it'll probably be used with my laptop. I haven't been using my Ipod lately at all, and I don't see it changing that much. I have no commuting to college or anywhere that justifies it on a regular basis. All I'm trying to figure is just how good the DAC on the E7 / E17 are over my Asus N56VZ's integrated RealTek, and how the amps compare on each of the FiiO. I've indeed heard the bass is better on the E11, and I do love a bass boost (and the fact it costs 40% of the E17 :p), but just how much better? Worth not having the DAC function?

Again, thanks!

In that case I would say get an e10 and if you want something portable later get a e11.  The main difference between the e10 and e17 for computer use is the improved amp in the e17 and the m50 is fairly easy to drive so I don't think that would be an issue, again costing a good deal less than the e17. Now if you decide to get some harder to drive cans down the line the e10 might not cut it than but for now you should be good, plus I've always been a sucker for volume knobs over digital inputs.

 

Lastly main reason I mention iem's is I tend to prefer iems over cans for portable use, much more convenient, good isolation assuming you can get a good fit and can sound pretty good to boot.  At that price range I honestly don't think there is that much of a difference between a decent iem and decent can as far as SQ goes.


Edited by Scyy - 11/12/12 at 8:39pm
post #9 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scyy View Post

In that case I would say get an e10 and if you want something portable later get a e11.  The main difference between the e10 and e17 for computer use is the improved amp in the e17 and the m50 is fairly easy to drive so I don't think that would be an issue, again costing a good deal less than the e17. Now if you decide to get some harder to drive cans down the line the e10 might not cut it than but for now you should be good, plus I've always been a sucker for volume knobs over digital inputs.

 

Lastly main reason I mention iem's is I tend to prefer iems over cans for portable use, much more convenient, good isolation assuming you can get a good fit and can sound pretty good to boot.  At that price range I honestly don't think there is that much of a difference between a decent iem and decent can as far as SQ goes.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm leaning towards to as well. I'm only worried about the E10s build quality / durability, as there seem to be a good number of complains, issues with the jack, etc, and durability / reliability will mean the most to me, along with value. You're right, the M50s are extremely easy to drive, I was just wondering whether these amps gave it any other significant SQ improvement, as I know the DAC chip model is the same. I hear SQ improves substantially, which is great to me. However, it does seem that settling for something that would give me the freedom of getting higher impedance cans later on would actually be great added value, wouldn't it?

True, much smaller and practical to maneuver. I actually doubt she'd like the idea of carrying big cans in her everyday "purse". I'll have to hear from her about that. For now, though, I'm still looking at over-the-head. One thing she really pointed out was that full-size can last for so much longer due to being more sturdy and easier to take care of (for someone who's typically not extremely careful with things), as it'll be much harder for you to accidently have someone step on them, close the car door on them or something else that would instantly destroy the set.

Again, thanks for the input :) it's going great already!

post #10 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbife View Post

Thanks for the help! Actually had that thread already up on my browser, waiting to have a look :)
 

The source would indeed be a computer, 90% of the time I'd say. My particular one, an Asus N56VZ, has absolutely amazing integrated audio. Seriously, I'm a newb at this and don't wanna overhype but it just doesn't compare with any regular laptop I see and listen to (and I spend my day surrounded with laptops!). However, I haven't got much of a clue as to what part of the hardware is actually good, and it is likely only the integrated Bang & Olufsen speakers (as in, no particularly good sound quality, mainly volume). I'm not factoring in the external subwoofer that comes with the laptop.

That being said, I will dish out the ~125 USD (Amazon) for the E17 if it does prove to be worthy. Otherwise, E7, E10 (E11? E9?). Having already read so much about it, I can only ask directly for some updated, direct impressions here at head-fi!

Again, thanks for the feedback!

 

I have an Asus laptop that actually sounds pretty good with my M50s, although my E17 is an improvement. Although I just got a Little Dot I+ desktop amp that I'm using with another computer setup, and I really love what the tube amp can do over the solid state headphone amp in the E17. If your DAC is good in your computer and you don't have to have portability, the I+ is something to consider. 

post #11 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

 

I have an Asus laptop that actually sounds pretty good with my M50s, although my E17 is an improvement. Although I just got a Little Dot I+ desktop amp that I'm using with another computer setup, and I really love what the tube amp can do over the solid state headphone amp in the E17. If your DAC is good in your computer and you don't have to have portability, the I+ is something to consider. 

Just how much of an improvement was it, could you describe it? Also, that amp seems extremely interesting but I don't think I'm getting into that level just yet. Really want to give the lower tier a try before I move up the ladder (if I do ^^). I could consider getting it if I could actually know the effective difference between my onboard DAC and the one in the FiiO. But even then I'd probably like to leave it for later upgrading, to have a more complete experience of the audio world. Or maybe I'm just being corny... :p

Thanks though!

post #12 of 104
For question 1)
The headphone I DID gift my girlfriend was the Koss KSC 75 clip-on headphones. In her case, isolation wasn't so important, but I bought these because they are comfortable (comfy!), they don't leak much music out (library appropriate), punch WAY above their price for sound quality, and are inexpensive because she tends to trash her things wink.gif They have a lifetime replacement policy, but I can buy new ones cheaper than the shipping cost wink.gif I honestly prefer them to what I heard from the new Philips offerings I heard at my local electronics store, using my iPod, line-out, and FiiO E5 amp.

For your lovely other, I would wonder about which is more important to her: Soundstage, isolation, or a balance between the two. Obviously you've figured out that IEMs are like earplugs... I believe the Sennheiser model you refer to is a canalbud, which is somewhere between an earbud and true canalphone in that it doesn't insert very deeply into the ear.

If isolation is most important, nothing can beat a canalphone like those from Shure or (my preference) Etymotic. They're like earplugs, and my first high-fidelity headphone was the Etymotic ER*6i that fit far better than the Shures I tested side-by-side at a Macworld Expo, without distorting like the first two models of Shures when I played Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (hate the track, but it's a good test). The Etymotic comes with 3 sizes of silicone eartips, plus expanding foam eartips. Based on my experience, if you actually want to not hear other people talking while studying, IEMs are the only style of headphone that cuts it, and canalphones a work best. I'd recommend the cheapest Etymotic you can find, failing that JVC marshmallows are well received, and Head-Fi'er "Clie-OS" has THE in-depth IEM round-up on Head-Fi. RE0 is another IEM I see a lot of people write about for value.

If soundstage is more important, well... soundstage doesn't expand nearly as well as an open-back headphone. The best sub-$100 (USD) closed-back headphone with a good soundstage I've heard about is the Creative Aurvana Live! (Widely referred to as CAL!) headphone. It's a clone of the very well regarded Denon D1001k, same Fostex driver. It is closed, but doesn't isolate from outside noise very much. Very nice sound, comfortable (for a closed can, as I'm sure you know they all build up heat & sweat after a while), and a great all-round headphone. May be slightly larger than a typical supra-aural (on-ear) headphone, but I'd still say it's portable, doesn't stand out in looks. If you could swing it, this would be my pick.

Another closed headphone that isolates better than the CAL!, so maybe a good balance of priorities, is Sony's MDR-V6. Good price, good sound, good isolation, clamps a little harder than the CAL! which helps with the isolation, a "good" headphone all around. I would describe the looks as "professional" rather than "fashionable," "sleek," or "gangsta." Also, hella durable!


For question 2.)
A more powerful amp fills out the sound... It is noticeable, usually doesn't change the signature of the headphone but makes sounds more distinct and present. Volume <> Amp power. A more powerful amp.... The best way I can describe it is like "An explosion can sound loud, but with a more powerful amp the explosion will sound loud, Big, and Dangerous." With more power, a headphone can more easily produce the long wavelengths of deep bass with authority, but also everything else. If you're at home and you have a receiver for your speakers, try plugging into that as an amp and plug your headphones into the 1/4 headphone jack (turn down the volume first!) to get an idea what more powerful amps can do, although many HTIB and receivers aren't built with the cleanest headphone jacks. Another thing I would mention: my iPod Video's headphone out jack was starting to short out and stuff, and playing my iPod through my car made my speakers sound like they were blown-out. I bought the FiiO L11 line-out dock adapter (LOD), connected that to a FiiO E5, and the effect was like I had bought whole new speakers. IMO, the cheap LODs are a must if you want to connect an iPod to another amp.

When buying headphones & components, the difference is headphone>music file quality (bitrate)>amp>DAC. A better DAC may pull more resolution out from high-fidelity files, but most of the time I'd say spend money on a DAC last.

The FiiO E7 is basically an E5 with a DAC added, FiiO intends to update the E7 with the E6's amp section soon. These amps are barely better than what is built-in to an iPod. An E11 is like an upgraded E6, with much more power, but still only an amp. The E17 is like an upgraded E7, with a more powerful amp, "better" DAC, treble/bass equalization. Not quite as powerful an amp as the E11, but still quite good. The E9 or E90K are essentially the same (with a different dock for either E7 or E17), desktop amps that are the most powerful FiiO makes, and basically are a good sample of what a solid-state amp can do.

Tubes are very interesting to me, and since I have a powerful SS amp in the shape of a Yamaha receiver with a more-than-decent headphone section, I'm about to explore what tube/valve amps can do. I like the idea of changing the sound signature by changing a lightbulb wink.gif I should get a tube amp based on the Super Simple design within days, I should drop reviews on that, my AKG Q701 headphones, a comparison of amps and Q701 vs AD700, and how it all figures into gaming with surround sound smily_headphones1.gif find them when I write them!
Edited by Evshrug - 11/16/12 at 10:07pm
post #13 of 104
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evshrug View Post

For question 1)
The headphone I DID gift my girlfriend was the Koss KSC 75 clip-on headphones. In her case, isolation wasn't so important, but I bought these because they are comfortable (comfy!), they don't leak much music out (library appropriate), punch WAY above their price for sound quality, and are inexpensive because she tends to trash her things wink.gif They have a lifetime replacement policy, but I can buy new ones cheaper than the shipping cost wink.gif I honestly prefer them to what I heard from the new Philips offerings I heard at my local electronics store, using my iPod, line-out, and FiiO E5 amp.
For your lovely other, I would wonder about which is more important to her: Soundstage, isolation, or a balance between the two. Obviously you've figured out that IEMs are like earplugs... I believe the Sennheiser model you refer to is a canalbud, which is somewhere between an earbud and true canalphone in that it doesn't insert very deeply into the ear.
If isolation is most important, nothing can beat a canalphone like those from Shure or (my preference) Etymotic. They're like earplugs, and my first high-fidelity headphone was the Etymotic ER*6i that fit far better than the Shures I tested side-by-side at a Macworld Expo, without distorting like the first two models of Shures when I played Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (hate the track, but it's a good test). The Etymotic comes with 3 sizes of silicone eartips, plus expanding foam eartips. Based on my experience, if you actually want to not hear other people talking while studying, IEMs are the only style of headphone that cuts it, and canalphones a work best. I'd recommend the cheapest Etymotic you can find, failing that JVC marshmallows are well received, and Head-Fi'er "Clie-OS" has THE in-depth IEM round-up on Head-Fi. RE0 is another IEM I see a lot of people write about for value.
If soundstage is more important, well... soundstage doesn't expand nearly as well as an open-back headphone. The best sub-$100 (USD) closed-back headphone with a good soundstage I've heard about is the Creative Aurvana Live! (Widely referred to as CAL!) headphone. It's a clone of the very well regarded Denon D1001k, same Fostex driver. It is closed, but doesn't isolate from outside noise very much. Very nice sound, comfortable (for a closed can, as I'm sure you know they all build up heat & sweat after a while), and a great all-round headphone. May be slightly larger than a typical supra-aural (on-ear) headphone, but I'd still say it's portable, doesn't stand out in looks. If you could swing it, this would be my pick.
Another closed headphone that isolates better than the CAL!, so maybe a good balance of priorities, is Sony's MDR-V6. Good price, good sound, good isolation, clamps a little harder than the CAL! which helps with the isolation, a "good" headphone all around. I would describe the looks as "professional" rather than "fashionable," "sleek," or "gangsta." Also, hella durable!
For question 2.)
A more powerful amp fills out the sound... It is noticeable, usually doesn't change the signature of the headphone but makes sounds more distinct and present. Volume <> Amp power. A more powerful amp.... The best way I can describe it is like "An explosion can sound loud, but with a more powerful amp the explosion will sound loud, Big, and Dangerous." With more power, a headphone can more easily produce the long wavelengths of deep bass with authority, but also everything else. If you're at home and you have a receiver for your speakers, try plugging into that as an amp and plug your headphones into the 1/4 headphone jack (turn down the volume first!) to get an idea what more powerful amps can do, although many HTIB and receivers aren't built with the cleanest headphone jacks. Another thing I would mention: my iPod Video's headphone out jack was starting to short out and stuff, and playing my iPod through my car made my speakers sound like they were blown-out. I bought the FiiO L11 line-out dock adapter (LOD), connected that to a FiiO E5, and the effect was like I had bought whole new speakers. IMO, the cheap LODs are a must if you want to connect an iPod to another amp.
When buying headphones & components, the difference is headphone>music file quality (bitrate)>amp>DAC. A better DAC may pull more resolution out from high-fidelity files, but most of the time I'd say spend money on a DAC last.
The FiiO E7 is basically an E5 with a DAC added, FiiO intends to update the E7 with the E6's amp section soon. These amps are barely better than what is built-in to an iPod. An E11 is like an upgraded E6, with much more power, but still only an amp. The E17 is like an upgraded E7, with a more powerful amp, "better" DAC, treble/bass equalization. Not quite as powerful an amp as the E11, but still quite good. The E9 or E90K are essentially the same (with a different dock for either E7 or E17), desktop amps that are the most powerful FiiO makes, and basically are a good sample of what a solid-state amp can do.
Tubes are very interesting to me, and since I have a powerful SS amp in the shape of a Yamaha receiver with a more-than-decent headphone section, I'm about to explore what tube/valve amps can do. I like the idea of changing the sound signature by changing a lightbulb wink.gif I should get a tube amp based on the Super Simple design within days, I should drop reviews on that, my AKG Q701 headphones, a comparison of amps and Q701 vs AD700, and how it all figures into gaming with surround sound smily_headphones1.gif find them when I write them!

Wow, thanks for the comprehensive write. I haven't tabbed the in-ear ones you mentioned yet because I'm still awaiting some more info from my "lovely other" xD but solid advice on the full-size section! Saved. Also great explanation, really worth the read.
And despite another very good explanation in the amp/DAC section, I didn't really understand if you were advising something or just shedding some light overall :p but again, thanks for making me understand things a bit better, since I've next to no experience with audio gear, with personalized analogies.
Will be sure to find your reviews!

post #14 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbife View Post

Wow, thanks for the comprehensive write. I haven't tabbed the in-ear ones you mentioned yet because I'm still awaiting some more info from my "lovely other" xD but solid advice on the full-size section! Saved. Also great explanation, really worth the read.

And despite another very good explanation in the amp/DAC section, I didn't really understand if you were advising something or just shedding some light overall tongue.gif but again, thanks for making me understand things a bit better, since I've next to no experience with audio gear, with personalized analogies.

Will be sure to find your reviews!

Um, in the part I wrote about DACs, I was basically saying you don't need to bother with DACs yet. Higher-end DACs can dig out more resolution, but you're not going to hear a difference unless you have +$200 headphones, well-recorded music files with very little compression, and you compare two DACs side-by-side. Your money is better spent elsewhere.

Then, I wrote a section basically explaining FiiO's amp lineup, because you wondered about the different models. Basically it's like this:

Portable Amps:
E2< E5, E6 < E11 (< soon there will be a flagship E12, overkill for most headphones)

Portable Amp/DAC combo units:
E7 < E17 (< soon there will be a new flagship E18)

Desktop Amp:
E9, E09k


I'd recommend passing on a DAC for now, just get an E11 that ought to be good for most headphones, and noticeably better than an iPod's built-in amp. It's a better amp than what is built into the E17, and won't become redundant.

If you are interested in an alternative to your laptop's built-in DAC, and you happen to like playing games or movies through your laptop, you could try the Asus Xonar U3 or Creative X-Fi Go! Pro USB dongles. They are average DACs (hardly better than something built-in to a computer motherboard), but add virtual surround sound processing for headphones, so even with regular stereo headphones you get convincing front/back/sides directional cues.

I sure did write a lot before, huh? Lol, sometimes, I get in these moods. Glad to help!
post #15 of 104
Oh, also, IEM fit is very personal... Comfort is very important to me, and I wouldn't want to torture your girlfriend by extension. I found a good fit with the different tips, but if she does go for an IEM, it might be best to buy from some place with a good return policy, like Amazon. You'll have to look in your own country (are you from the UK?), but here is the entry-level Etymotic (I prefer the blue one, but black is $10 cheaper?):

http://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-Research-Noise-Isolating-Earphones/dp/B003S3RFIQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1353133268&sr=1-2
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