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Opinion on Entry Level Gear!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Heya there! I'm getting to know the audio world and, despite not being sure if I'll be investing much in the future, I am extremely eager to get started. Recently purchased an ATH M-50 (I know, reportedly no longer king, other stuff out there, but for me it's still worth tasting the somewhat legendary set ^^), to pair up with mainly my Asus N56VZ laptop (occasional Ipod), and am now looking into external DACs / AMPs.

My starting budget is very modest, even if only to truly taste improvement over the years. I'm not looking for something in the X dollar price range, as much as I am looking for value. I'll be as happy with a 50 dollar gadget as I'll be with a 150 one, so long as it's great value (upwards of 150 is very unlikely though). However, the last thing I want is to spend 50 dollars on something that will do nothing for me :p
Been doing extensive reading on the FiiO line and I've a lot of interest and therefore questions to the more savvy, experienced ones!
Portability is a nice bonus but not mandatory at all. I'll be using it mostly with the laptop, charger-powered. It would be cool to be able to lend it to my GF who uses her Ipod virtually all the time, but it isn't a deal breaker by any means. 

First, just how much better would you say the DAC on the E7 / E10 / E17 are when compared to my standard RealTek integrated sound card? Considerable SQ / soundstage (?) / etc improvement, or?


Second, I realize the M50s need no extra driving for volume. But would the Amp on any of the FiiO (including E9 and E11) be a considerable upgrade in SQ, even if only through features such as boosts? I also very much like the idea of, with the new amp, having the ability to later buy higher impedance cans with higher impedance and drive them well (or at least decently).


Third, the E17 costs about twice as much as the E10. At first I guessed it was only because the E17 was portable, but been reading otherwise, that it is overall better sounding and more versatile. What is your experience with this, and impression on the value of each? The E17 seems beautiful and extremely impressive, the reviews are amazing, but I really don't want to dish out twice as much for roughly the same performance.

Fourth, is the loose-jack issue of the E10 that much of an annoyance? It is reported so often it gets me wondering. And then people also complain about cracks and pops, which get somewhat better with MUSB to MUSB cable adapters, and foiling, and whatnot, but bad build quality would definitely be the biggest deal breaker to me.

Lastly, is the E9 / E9K amp that much better than the ones on the other models? Since it's much bigger, docks the E17 (however rendering its amp useless) and costs ~100 USD on its own. Would E9+E17 be any good value? Would they add anything to low impedance headphones?

--- 

That's it! I know it's a lot of doubts but I just really want to get off on the right foot with this. I'll also probably be buying in the US and bringing it to Portugal (so much cheaper abroad) where I live, so returns and warranty is basically out of the question, which is why I worry so much about durability and reliability.

Thanks for your help!
 

post #2 of 6

At what bitrate do you compress your music?

 

If you answered with a number, your computer's DAC is probably just fine. If you looked cross-eyed at me for even asking that question, then you'll find most anything mentioned on these pages a huge step up from your on-board sound.

 

Without a budget, any recommendations you get will be pretty meaningless. Audiophile gear is a slippery slope. Pick how much you are willing to spend and then people can make meaningful recommendations. As you read the threads here, realize that anything that hasn't been mentioned in a year, no matter how good the reviews once were, probably isn't highly regarded any more.

 

There are some great DACs starting at ~$50 and amps at $100-150. Decent DAC/amp combinations start at a little over $100 with great ones in the $250-300 range. You can get away with under $100 for both and have something that is functional and decent. Remember that my "decent" and "great" are not the same as others. You can also easily spend $2000-3000 for a DAC and the same for a headphone amp. I understand what the attraction is, usually I think I can hear it, and I completely understand why people will take that next step.

 

Decide on a budget, read the threads, and decide what makes sense to audition, or what you might just try because it's cheap enough to trade away if you don't like it.


Edited by jeffsf - 11/12/12 at 10:29pm
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffsf View Post

At what bitrate do you compress your music?

 

If you answered with a number, your computer's DAC is probably just fine. If you looked cross-eyed at me for even asking that question, then you'll find most anything mentioned on these pages a huge step up from your on-board sound.

 

Without a budget, any recommendations you get will be pretty meaningless. Audiophile gear is a slippery slope. Pick how much you are willing to spend and then people can make meaningful recommendations. As you read the threads here, realize that anything that hasn't been mentioned in a year, no matter how good the reviews once were, probably isn't highly regarded any more.

 

There are some great DACs starting at ~$50 and amps at $100-150. Decent DAC/amp combinations start at a little over $100 with great ones in the $250-300 range. You can get away with under $100 for both and have something that is functional and decent. Remember that my "decent" and "great" are not the same as others. You can also easily spend $2000-3000 for a DAC and the same for a headphone amp. I understand what the attraction is, usually I think I can hear it, and I completely understand why people will take that next step.

 

Decide on a budget, read the threads, and decide what makes sense to audition, or what you might just try because it's cheap enough to trade away if you don't like it.

I actually know what you're talking about, I just don't know the answer. Guess that's as good as not even knowing what you meant.

As for the budget, sorry, I thought I'd been more clear than that. I meant that I'm looking for something between 50 and 150. I know it is an unusually large range, but I think I'd be just as happy with a $50 very high value one, all the while saving a lot of money, as I'd be with a $150 one, assuming I'd still be getting great value. Hope I made myself a bit more clear now :)

I don't know if by auditioning you mean consider/compare them here in the forums or ordering them, giving them a try and returning if they don't suit me. Anyways, I can't do the latter, as I'll be buying through my brother in the US (coming to Portugal for Christmas), as they are super expensive in Europe, meaning the best I could do would be trying to resell.

Thanks for your reply!

post #4 of 6

I find the quality of most on-board sound to be pretty poor. I haven't listened to them, but many here seem to believe the Fiio units to be a pretty good value for the money. There is also the Himediy Saber USB DAC which is available on eBay that many think sounds pretty good for the money (ships from Shanghai, China, I believe). The "O2" or "Objective 2" amp many also like at its ~$150 price for an assembled unit.

 

PurpleAngel suggests an inexpensive sound card that may help your PC issues. (Oops, I missed that this was a laptop.)

 

If things are more expensive at home, then, if you don't like it, wouldn't you be able to sell it for at least what you paid?


Edited by jeffsf - 11/13/12 at 12:15pm
post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbife View Post

First, just how much better would you say the DAC on the E7 / E10 / E17 are when compared to my standard RealTek integrated sound card? Considerable SQ / soundstage (?) / etc improvement, or?



Thanks for your help!
 

I've had both the E7 and E17.

They sound considerabley better than the RealTek onboard chip...

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

I've had both the E7 and E17.

They sound considerabley better than the RealTek onboard chip...

That's great news. Any idea on the difference between those two? There's bound to be some, but if we're talking big diminishing returns, say, just 10-20% difference, it might not be worth the extra 100% in price  I guess ^^

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffsf View Post

I find the quality of most on-board sound to be pretty poor. I haven't listened to them, but many here seem to believe the Fiio units to be a pretty good value for the money. There is also the Himediy Saber USB DAC which is available on eBay that many think sounds pretty good for the money (ships from Shanghai, China, I believe). The "O2" or "Objective 2" amp many also like at its ~$150 price for an assembled unit.

 

PurpleAngel suggests an inexpensive sound card that may help your PC issues. (Oops, I missed that this was a laptop.)

 

If things are more expensive at home, then, if you don't like it, wouldn't you be able to sell it for at least what you paid?

Hmm, the Saber USB DAC doesn't seem to be viable as they offer no returns or exchanges. Can't find much on the O2 amp but it's should be out of my budget anyways.

And yeah, that's pretty much what I intend on doing with stuff that I can't return! The thing is, something like the ATH-M50, which cost me 87 euro worth of dollars, would probably sell easily here in Europe where they go for ~150 euro. But a FiiO? I'm not so sure, it could take long, it could have little value. 

I'm almost set on the E10 (or eventually E7 if I start using my Ipod a lot more), unless I really get good feelings about the E17. If it cost 50% more than the E7... that'd be something, but at twice the price it's hard to consider.

On a different note, does anyone know just how much better the E9 / E9K is against the amps on the E7/E10/E17/E11? 

Thanks!

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