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What's the first thing you'd change in my rig?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi all, 

 

I'm posting this here, since I can't think of any better place for it - apologies if it's not quite the right place. 

The question is  - what's the first thing you'd change about my rig, to try and make a step up in quality? Any advice or just opinion, no matter how specific or otherwise, would be welcomed. I'm just a little bit out of ideas on how to progress without spending £500 or more, so it would be good to see what any of you think the weakest link might be.

 

I'm not made of money - it generally takes me a few months to save up for each component, so things like upgrading to the Stax Omega II are not realistic :)

 

So, my current rig is: 

 

Laptop/CD -> Arcam rDac -> Little Dot mkiii -> HD650. 

 

The laptop and CD link to the rDac by USB and optical link, respectively. 

 

I keep the gain setting the mkiii on 4 most of the time. My personal experience is that it REALLY changes the sound. I used to like the sheer detail and intimacy of the 10 setting, but found it quite tiring. I've changed the power tubes to Electro-Harmonix 6H30-pi and have generally settled on EF95 driver tubes. Current favourites are 1940's Tung Sol 6AK5's... particularly for Jazz and Classical music, and (and this was a surprise to me) some 1960's GE 5654 for Electronic stuff - they seem to be a little more prominent in the bass and extend a little further down. I've discovered gradually that I don't like the Mullard sound very much - everything I've tried - m8100, m8161, EF91, EF92, M8083, has sounded a little gritty in the upper mids/lower treble. I've also found my tinnitus has decreased majorly since I stopped using them.

 

Some thoughts I have been having are: 

 

When I go away with work I use a Fiio E7/79 combo. It's fine as a portable setup, and while the quality's not anywhere near my main setup, I have noticed that it extends further in both the bass and treble. So I've been thinking solid state is maybe the way to go - Graham Slee kit seems to have a good rep with the HD650 but I haven't heard any. 

 

Secondly - I think the rDac does a good job, but have no idea if there's any kit in the same price range (or cheaper) that might do a better job. 

 

Thirdly, all my cables are pretty standard stock stuff. Having tried some blind tests years ago (and despite having pretty finely tuned ears back then) I couldn't tell any difference in quality between expensive and cheap cables. I'll always remain open minded though - there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our theories of AC signals, etc, etc, blah, blah. 

 

I love my setup, but am something of a tinkerer, as I expect many of you are too. 

 

Cheers, 

 

Rich. 

post #2 of 19

I have the hd650 and I have owned a few of the LD amps and honestly I don't see anything wrong with your setup. biggrin.gif

 

DAC's and cable will make very little difference. So on the cheap you could try some more tube rolling to tweak the sound. The bigger difference would be in an amp swap. Since the hd650 scales up so well, you'll see the biggest difference there but you'll shell out some money for it. I have my 650 on the lyr with some Lorenz tubes most of the time. It's sublimely good to my ears. 

 

gL!!


Edited by MattTCG - 11/13/12 at 5:33am
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by richdytch View Post

Hi all, 

 

I'm posting this here, since I can't think of any better place for it - apologies if it's not quite the right place. 

The question is  - what's the first thing you'd change about my rig, to try and make a step up in quality? Any advice or just opinion, no matter how specific or otherwise, would be welcomed. I'm just a little bit out of ideas on how to progress without spending £500 or more, so it would be good to see what any of you think the weakest link might be.

 

I'm not made of money - it generally takes me a few months to save up for each component, so things like upgrading to the Stax Omega II are not realistic :)

 

So, my current rig is: 

 

Laptop/CD -> Arcam rDac -> Little Dot mkiii -> HD650. 

 

The laptop and CD link to the rDac by USB and optical link, respectively. 

 

I keep the gain setting the mkiii on 4 most of the time. My personal experience is that it REALLY changes the sound. I used to like the sheer detail and intimacy of the 10 setting, but found it quite tiring. I've changed the power tubes to Electro-Harmonix 6H30-pi and have generally settled on EF95 driver tubes. Current favourites are 1940's Tung Sol 6AK5's... particularly for Jazz and Classical music, and (and this was a surprise to me) some 1960's GE 5654 for Electronic stuff - they seem to be a little more prominent in the bass and extend a little further down. I've discovered gradually that I don't like the Mullard sound very much - everything I've tried - m8100, m8161, EF91, EF92, M8083, has sounded a little gritty in the upper mids/lower treble. I've also found my tinnitus has decreased majorly since I stopped using them.

 

Some thoughts I have been having are: 

 

When I go away with work I use a Fiio E7/79 combo. It's fine as a portable setup, and while the quality's not anywhere near my main setup, I have noticed that it extends further in both the bass and treble. So I've been thinking solid state is maybe the way to go - Graham Slee kit seems to have a good rep with the HD650 but I haven't heard any. 

 

Secondly - I think the rDac does a good job, but have no idea if there's any kit in the same price range (or cheaper) that might do a better job. 

 

Thirdly, all my cables are pretty standard stock stuff. Having tried some blind tests years ago (and despite having pretty finely tuned ears back then) I couldn't tell any difference in quality between expensive and cheap cables. I'll always remain open minded though - there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our theories of AC signals, etc, etc, blah, blah. 

 

I love my setup, but am something of a tinkerer, as I expect many of you are too. 

 

Cheers, 

 

Rich. 

 

Heya,

 

Schiit Lyr as your new amplifier. Or a Woo Audio WA3.

 

The HD650 is a headphone that scales. It changes based on the amplifier and synergy. Give it something in a whole new class of power and signature. The Lyr is excellent for the HD650. It'll start to really flex it's sonic muscles for you.

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX - 11/13/12 at 6:24am
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

MattTCG and MalVeaux - great that both your replies agree with each other. I've not heard of the schiit lyr before, so will be researching that with interest. Many thanks for your replies. 

post #5 of 19

You can grab a like new one off the used forum now for about $350 shipped. Just a great amp for hp's like the hd650 and orthos.

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 

Might need to wait until around Christmas to do that, but thanks very much for the tip-off Matt. 

post #7 of 19

I may get flak for this... but honestly... if you can get a used moon audio cable or if you know how... order the parts and DIY, an upgrade cable really does help fine tune the sound from these cans.  I'm more doubtful about the need for interconnects to be super high end, but replacing the stock HD650 cable definitely helps =) I was a sceptic before I tried it.
 

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Jobobbilly - thanks for your reply. I'll give anything a try, although I'd like to try and borrow a cable before I ever forked out. In my own experience of blind tests with speaker cables, I've never been able to tell the difference between standard copper mains cables and uberposh, uberexpensive ones. Will give anything a go though. 

post #9 of 19
I would honestly say figure out what you want to change - "better" is a terrible response to that question - and then find a pair of headphones that will accomplish that. The HD 650 are good, but they aren't the ever-ever; changing your source, amplification, cabling, etc is going to make very subtle and nuanced changes to the system overall. And you will never transfigure the HD 650 into something they aren't (that doesn't stop a lot of people from spending a lot of money to try it) - enjoy them for what they are, but if you want something different, get cans that will deliver that.

This doesn't mean a new amplifier, new cable, new DAC, etc is bad - it just isn't where I'd prioritize. If you want a brighter sound, for example, get a brighter headphone. If you want a better sound-stage, get a headphone that stages better, etc.

Multiply the above answer by 5 if the HD 650 are the only pair of headphones you've ever owned.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

I would honestly say figure out what you want to change - "better" is a terrible response to that question - and then find a pair of headphones that will accomplish that. The HD 650 are good, but they aren't the ever-ever; changing your source, amplification, cabling, etc is going to make very subtle and nuanced changes to the system overall. And you will never transfigure the HD 650 into something they aren't (that doesn't stop a lot of people from spending a lot of money to try it) - enjoy them for what they are, but if you want something different, get cans that will deliver that.
This doesn't mean a new amplifier, new cable, new DAC, etc is bad - it just isn't where I'd prioritize. If you want a brighter sound, for example, get a brighter headphone. If you want a better sound-stage, get a headphone that stages better, etc.
Multiply the above answer by 5 if the HD 650 are the only pair of headphones you've ever owned.

 

+1

 

Also, don't go and buy the Lyr without first having good information that the Lyr would in fact be a decent improvement over the Little Dot. You'll have people say they like the Lyr with the HD650 but that's not what you want to know. You want to know if it's worth going there from a Little Dot 3.

 

Just my 2ct.

post #11 of 19

garbage in, garbage out.  tongue_smile.gif

 

buying a new amplifier or headphones will just be like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

 

you want better sound?  you need to attack the source.

 

look at my profile.  look at my gear.  i am not messing around.

 

the HD650 is an incredibly capable headphone.

and your little dot amp is also capable of sounding 2, maybe 3 times better than you think it does.

 

STEP ONE:

whatever software you are using now, ditch it.

i noticed you said "laptop/CD".  do not play spinning CDs from your laptop.  please, rip them and play them back using software.

and speaking of software, i have tried them all ---  itunes, foobar, windows media player, jriver, etc.

and JPLAY stands alone at the top.  don't beleive me?  fine.  try it for yourself.

 

STEP TWO:

JKenny DAC.  USB to SPDIF converter built-in.  world-class dac for only $680 (500 euros).

 

STEP THREE:

a cheap upgrade that - i crap you negative - will have a more "beneficial" effect than tube rolling the little dot is to buy a Shunyata Venom 3 power cord for it.

get rid of (in part, at least) that noisy AC that is keeping your audio signal from being smooth, deep, and impactful.

 

STEP FOUR:

rip your music to lossless format, play back through JPlay, and voila!

you now have near world-class sound --- a system that sounds like about a $2,000 DAC connected with a $5,000 CD player.

all for well under $1000.

 

 

......or...  you can piddle with different amps, and really all you'll end up doing is amplifying the same high-jitter, high-distortion audio signal...

sure, it will sound different, and will please you for a while, but then you'll get that nagging feeling....  upgrade-itis.

 

 

here's the thing:

the beauty of hindsight...  i spent 3 years or longer to get to where i am in the hobby.

and wasted countless money cycling through gear in pointless fashion.

until i realized the importance of these three things:    Jitter, Distortion, Power.

 

here's hoping you get there much quicker than i did.

follow your own muse, and above all else - enjoy sound!!

 

cheers!

The Wuss

post #12 of 19

Today I'll change my USB to SPDIF convertor, and maybe some day I'll try out some exotic cabels above 1K.happy_face1.gif

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWuss View Post

 

STEP ONE:

whatever software you are using now, ditch it.

i noticed you said "laptop/CD".  do not play spinning CDs from your laptop.  please, rip them and play them back using software.

and speaking of software, i have tried them all ---  itunes, foobar, windows media player, jriver, etc.

and JPLAY stands alone at the top.  don't beleive me?  fine.  try it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=92856

post #14 of 19

Paying money to play audio files? lol, kill me rolleyes.gif

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWuss View Post

....
post #15 of 19

I agree with source improvements if you are going to start somewhere.  The Little Dot and HD650s work fine for each other.  You can change the "signature" of the sound, but "better" will either be a different signature and/or a lot of money, with small "improvements"

 

I agree with maximizing your computer for audio file playback.  Minimum would be to make sure your files are lossless (FLAC, ALAC or similar), and to use Foobar2000 to play them back bitperfect.  Lots of information on many forums about both of these two parts, and best of all its free.  Surely you can spend money for a "better" playback program, but start with Foobar,

 

There are many flavors/prices for USB cables.  The only ones that make sense to me are the ones that physically separate the power portion of the USB (or do  away with altogether) and the data lines.  Many of these cables are flat, with each side of the cable holding one of the sets of wires.  I found a short USB cable for not too much, I think in the lower tiers of the Wireworld cables.

 

I think a lot of improvement can come in both the USB converter and/or the DAC, improvement that will be easily audible in your amp/headphones.  There are a lot of less expensive DACs out there if you don't insist on having 24/196 file capability.  24/96 
hi rez files are pretty easy to find now, so I don't include them in a stratospheric, hard to find music.  Of course if you are playing back CD rips, and online music only, even 24/96 is overkill today.

 

Try to find a DAC with a well made power supply.  You can find DACs still with only SPDIF inputs, requiring some sort of USB/SPDIF converter.  If you can find one of these you like, the converters are readily available now in all sorts of price points.  The good thing about doing it this way, is that getting a better converter later to handle higher rez files will not require replacing the DAC. (for awhile at least, they keep the benchmarks moving quickly in the DAC and hi rez world)  I think trolling the source section of the for sale threads here at HeadFi is the best place to find that component that is just off the bleeding edge of the curve, and at a decent discount over new.

 

The Shunyata cords have been complemented frequently on many reviews to help with digital source (and most non-power amp applications.)  I have not done this yet, but is on my radar.  This type of tweak you can keep between other upgrades.

 

 

 

My thoughts.... Conventional wisdom will usually start at the source in a current, balanced system, such as yours.  Upgrade-itis is such a terrible thing.  As the saying goes here : Welcome to HeadFi and sorry for your wallet!

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