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Best audio gear for college?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hey guys. First and foremost I apologize if I'm posting in the wrong section, I have a bunch of questions but I thought the headphones forum would be a good place to start.

 

In the coming months I'll be preparing for college and I'm really looking to get some nice audio gear to make the most out of my time there. I'm looking for a full-size pair of headphones for my dorm (CLOSED for isolation and comfort), an amp/soundcard/USB DAC recommendation, a nice pair of IEM's for either the library or walking/running, and computer speakers. I don't have a problem spending a lot but I have a fantastic employee discount at Best Buy (cost for store + 5% on all products) so if at all possible I'd like to stick to products and brands I'm able to purchase directly from there. Even though everyone on here has a pretty negative opinion of Bose sets because of their quality to price ratio, I actually get fantastic discounts (I'm talking $80 instead of $300) on these kinds of items due to their mark-ups. So let's not rule anything out because of its "reputation." With that said, I'm not anticipating astronomical savings on all brands so any single item more than maybe $500 is definitely out.

 

My first priority is comfort. I'm anticipating long nights where I need to free myself from distractions to get work done, and it's not going to be a fun time if they're uncomfortable. I have a pair of Hifiman RE-262's and Sennheiser HD280's at the moment, and although I find them both very acceptable, for longer listening periods I find the 280s to be very uncomfortable. I think the headband is way too tight and don't think the ear pads are anything special either. I'd like to be able to comfortably lay down on a couch or bed without them digging into my head (bad past experiences with the 280s).

 

 

Next priority is sound quality. Over the past few years, I've found that I tend to prefer a slightly warmer sound rather than an analytical sound. For both the 262s and 280s, I usually find myself using an EQ when listening to music and boosting the highs and lows a bit. (With that said, I HATE the "colored" sound of something like the Klipsch Image S4 or any of the Beats by Dre series to give you an idea.) I'd like something that's slightly warmer than what I have now but doesn't ruin the music for me.

 

Next priority is sound isolation. My dad has a pair of Bose QC15s, and although I don't personally enjoy the sound quality, they have fantastic isolation in my opinion.  I'm not sure if active noise cancellation is something I should definitely be considering for a noisy dorm or bus ride home, but if not the sound isolation needs to be good. Also, noise bleed is something I'd like to minimize so I don't annoy my roommate or anything like that.

 

I'll be listening from a variety of sources, so an amp is possibly an option for my desktop computer but if I'm using my laptop or phone I'd like the full-size cans to still sound good if I'm not able to carry around a portable amp all the time. I'm not sure if it would make more sense to invest in a nice soundcard for my desktop or an external USB DAC, what do you guys think? As far as computer speakers go, I don't want to invest in anything more than maybe a 2.1 setup at max. I definitely want powered speakers also. Big bookshelves and a receiver aren't an option because I simply won't have the room. I'd like them to sound really good and be able to crank them up for football games and things like that without worrying about distortion. I've heard really good things about the Klipsch ProMedia system, not sure what your opinions are on that or if there's something better without getting too crazy.

 

I know this is a pretty big list and apologize for the length of the post, I just wanted to be as specific as possible to minimize any confusion.

 

Thanks guys, really appreciate the help :)


Edited by snoshreddax21 - 11/23/12 at 8:41am
post #2 of 25

Hey ya,

 

I'm currently a senior in college and I've gradually built up a pretty decent collection. When you said you worked at Best Buy, I immediately thought that you should check out the Audioquest Dragonfly for a USB DAC and amp. It'll help run your RE262s a lot better too, so that'll cross of two things from your list (DAC/amp and IEMs). As for speakers, I think the Audioengine A2s are the perfect size for a dorm -- they can be a bit expensive at $200 though.

 

As for a full-sized closed can, the UE6000 might be at Best Buy. I haven't heard them myself, but they've been very well-reviewed lately so I'd check them out. The Shure SRH840 is also a good option.

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeroicPenguin View Post

Hey ya,

 

I'm currently a senior in college and I've gradually built up a pretty decent collection. When you said you worked at Best Buy, I immediately thought that you should check out the Audioquest Dragonfly for a USB DAC and amp. It'll help run your RE262s a lot better too, so that'll cross of two things from your list (DAC/amp and IEMs). As for speakers, I think the Audioengine A2s are the perfect size for a dorm -- they can be a bit expensive at $200 though.

 

As for a full-sized closed can, the UE6000 might be at Best Buy. I haven't heard them myself, but they've been very well-reviewed lately so I'd check them out. The Shure SRH840 is also a good option.

The dragonfly to me just seems like a toy. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I wouldn't want to plug anything into that in fear of breaking the output jack or a USB port. That's a pretty pricey investment for a "flash drive" of a DAC. I'm looking for more of an "interface" I guess. And I'm definitely in the market for a NEW pair of IEM's, overall I've been kinda dissatisfied with the quality of my 262's. I've filed a warranty claim twice for broken drivers/connections and in my opinion they're not terribly comfortable either.

 

I checked out the A2's though, and those were actually my second choice after the Klipsch system. They look pretty small to me, do you think I'd have any problem cranking them up, especially without a sub?

 

As for the headphones, I'm not familiar with either of those. I looked them up and they got great reviews, though. Those are both definitely on my list of possibilities, how about something from maybe Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser as well?

post #4 of 25

From your options, headphones with a warm sound that are also at Best Buy are the Audio Technica ESW9 (smallish, but I've always found them comfy), the Bowers and Wilkins P5, and kinda sort of the Audio Technica A900X (they're a little bright to me). The UE6000 (which is definitely sold at Best Buy) do sound quite fun too. They're probably better for you than the ESW9 or P5 if you didn't like the Image S4 or Beats though because of their almost excessive coloration.

post #5 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by snoshreddax21 View Post

The dragonfly to me just seems like a toy. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I wouldn't want to plug anything into that in fear of breaking the output jack or a USB port. That's a pretty pricey investment for a "flash drive" of a DAC. I'm looking for more of an "interface" I guess. And I'm definitely in the market for a NEW pair of IEM's, overall I've been kinda dissatisfied with the quality of my 262's. I've filed a warranty claim twice for broken drivers/connections and in my opinion they're not terribly comfortable either.

 

I checked out the A2's though, and those were actually my second choice after the Klipsch system. They look pretty small to me, do you think I'd have any problem cranking them up, especially without a sub?

 

As for the headphones, I'm not familiar with either of those. I looked them up and they got great reviews, though. Those are both definitely on my list of possibilities, how about something from maybe Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser as well?

 

The Dragonfly is a great device, no doubt. You can look at reviews, part of why it's so special is because of the small size.

 

As for IEMs, I really don't think you can do too much better than the RE262s for the price. You could look at the Shure options which Best Buy should have, but that's one of the only brands that Best Buy carries that are upper tier.

 

As for headphones, most Sennheiser options need a proper amp so I didn't really consider them. Maybe the new Momentum though? Same goes for Beyer, but you could look for the Custom Pro One.

 

The A2s are great. You really don't need to crank them up in the dorm (they'll be loud enough for a dorm) and they fit perfectly on a desk. Great sound too.

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishcabible View Post

From your options, headphones with a warm sound that are also at Best Buy are the Audio Technica ESW9 (smallish, but I've always found them comfy), the Bowers and Wilkins P5, and kinda sort of the Audio Technica A900X (they're a little bright to me). The UE6000 (which is definitely sold at Best Buy) do sound quite fun too. They're probably better for you than the ESW9 or P5 if you didn't like the Image S4 or Beats though because of their almost excessive coloration.

I'd rather stay away from the smaller ones if at all possible, so that rules out the ESW9, and the A900X looks HUGE to me. So I think the UE6000 and the P5 are definitely on my list to try out in the store.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeroicPenguin View Post

 

The Dragonfly is a great device, no doubt. You can look at reviews, part of why it's so special is because of the small size.

 

As for IEMs, I really don't think you can do too much better than the RE262s for the price. You could look at the Shure options which Best Buy should have, but that's one of the only brands that Best Buy carries that are upper tier.

 

As for headphones, most Sennheiser options need a proper amp so I didn't really consider them. Maybe the new Momentum though? Same goes for Beyer, but you could look for the Custom Pro One.

 

The A2s are great. You really don't need to crank them up in the dorm (they'll be loud enough for a dorm) and they fit perfectly on a desk. Great sound too.

I think if I can get a chance to hear the A2s just to make sure I'm sold on those, I really like the look of those too. How do you feel about the A5+? Would that be TOO much for a dorm? If you think they would be fine I wouldn't mind paying the extra $200 to future-proof them if I move into an apartment after my freshman year.

 

I'll keep the Shures in mind when I stop in, but I won't be able to try any in the store to get a feel whether I like them or not. And I'd agree with you about the Sennheisers as well. I know my 280s sound like a completely different animal when I plug them into my audio interface for recording. And I'm looking for a more modest set that will still sound great if I'm just laying in bed with my laptop.


Edited by snoshreddax21 - 11/23/12 at 9:38am
post #7 of 25

Heya,

 

Headphones:

 

Beyer DT770 PRO

AudioTechnica A900X

AKG K271 MK II

AKG K167

Ultrasone PRO 750

 

DAC/AMP:

 

Fiio E10

 

IEM's:

 

Shure SE215's maybe?

 

Speakers:

 

Do not bother with "computer" speakers. Look towards things like M-Audio AV40's or BX5 D2's. Or get just good bookshelf speakers and a speaker amp (like Polk Monitor 40's and an amp like AudioSource AMP100 or an Emotiva mini-X A100).

 

Very best,

post #8 of 25

The P5 is about the same size as the ESW9 actually.

 

There's also the Monster Inspiration, which I thought was more veiled than the UE6000, but they're decent overall.

post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Heya,

 

Headphones:

 

Beyer DT770 PRO

AudioTechnica A900X

AKG K271 MK II

AKG K167

Ultrasone PRO 750

 

DAC/AMP:

 

Fiio E10

 

IEM's:

 

Shure SE215's maybe?

 

Speakers:

 

Do not bother with "computer" speakers. Look towards things like M-Audio AV40's or BX5 D2's. Or get just good bookshelf speakers and a speaker amp (like Polk Monitor 40's and an amp like AudioSource AMP100 or an Emotiva mini-X A100).

 

Very best,

 

Those M-Audios you mentioned are actual close-field studio monitors, aren't those more for accurate sound when recording rather than filling a room with music? Also, you mentioned the FIIO E10. Would that work as just a DAC if I'm using already powered speakers like the Audioengine 2's? What about the Fiio E17?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishcabible View Post

The P5 is about the same size as the ESW9 actually.

 

There's also the Monster Inspiration, which I thought was more veiled than the UE6000, but they're decent overall.

I'll keep it in mind, however in my personal experience at Best Buy Monster is one of the brands that are just absolutely ridiculous. Some of the mark-up brands I can at least partially understand, like Bose, because a lot of people genuinely enjoy their sound quality. But Monster HDMI cables are $300 for the same cable you'd get for $2 on Amazon.

post #10 of 25

Yeah they kinda suck with their markups. Their outlet store pricing seems to be the only reasonable pricing. But I suggested it because I'm assuming you'd get a very hefty discount with them. Monster's stuff actually usually doesn't sound too bad. Two years ago, Monster's Turbine Pro IEMs were fantastic compared to the Beats, so we know they know how to make good-sounding stuff. It seems that splitting with Beats was the best thing that could have happened to us considering the situation. I mean, the Inspirations still aren't that great, about M50-level, but they look nice, and again, I'd be surprised if you got anything less than 50% off them.

post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishcabible View Post

Yeah they kinda suck with their markups. Their outlet store pricing seems to be the only reasonable pricing. But I suggested it because I'm assuming you'd get a very hefty discount with them. Monster's stuff actually usually doesn't sound too bad. Two years ago, Monster's Turbine Pro IEMs were fantastic compared to the Beats, so we know they know how to make good-sounding stuff. It seems that splitting with Beats was the best thing that could have happened to us considering the situation. I mean, the Inspirations still aren't that great, about M50-level, but they look nice, and again, I'd be surprised if you got anything less than 50% off them.

Oh yeah, absolutely. That kind of stuff has some of the biggest markups in the entire store. Beats headphones are like $150 for their top model and I'd guess those Inspirations would probably be around $80 or so. But I'd much rather put that discount to better use on a quality pair of Shures or Bowers that you guys were recommending. The markups probably won't be nearly as much as brands like Monster or Bose, but I'd be willing to bet I'll save a few hundred bucks on all the stuff I'm buying.

post #12 of 25

The Inspirations are technically superior to the P5 actually, but the P5 has the type of sound signature that, if it meshes with you (like it does with me), is intoxicating. It's very, very colored though.

post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishcabible View Post

The Inspirations are technically superior to the P5 actually, but the P5 has the type of sound signature that, if it meshes with you (like it does with me), is intoxicating. It's very, very colored though.

I wasn't a massive fan of either, the P5 never really got may attention while the Inspiration sounded really badly veiled that it bordered on completely muffled, like I was listening to the headphones with a pair of thick socks placed between my ears and the pads. I thought the Skullcandy Aviator was a bit like a poor mans P5 and sounded better than the Inspiration, albeit still somewhat veiled.

 

I still need to try the Crystal tears though, since people seem to quite like them, but I haven't been overly impressed with the new monster line up(with the inspiration being the biggest disappointment).


Edited by Tangster - 11/23/12 at 10:34am
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishcabible View Post

The Inspirations are technically superior to the P5 actually, but the P5 has the type of sound signature that, if it meshes with you (like it does with me), is intoxicating. It's very, very colored though.

I'll definitely have to check them out next time I'm at the store. Do you enjoy the colored sound of something like Beats or the Image S4s? Those are about the most colored I can think of and I hate that kind of muffled, compressed spectrum of frequencies. Do the P5's have a similar signature or is it completely different?

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangster View Post

I wasn't a massive fan of either, the P5 never really got may attention while the Inspiration sounded really badly veiled that it bordered on completely muffled, like I was listening to the headphones with a pair of thick socks placed between my ears and the pads. I thought the Skullcandy Aviator was a bit like a poor mans P5 and sounded better than the Inspiration, albeit still somewhat veiled.

 

I still need to try the Crystal tears though, since people seem to quite like them, but I haven't been overly impressed with the new monster line up(with the inspiration being the biggest disappointment).

 

 

Nor have I. In my opinion, aside from maybe the gold turbines, none of them are particularly spectacular.


Edited by snoshreddax21 - 11/23/12 at 10:37am
post #15 of 25

I hated the S4 and the Beats. The P5 has more mids than both. I didn't think the Inspirations were badly veiled, but definitely veiled, like every M50 I've used. Actually, my favorite headphones at the moment are the super-bright Sony SA5000, so I'm not sure why I didn't rip either off my head. QC issues make some pairs better than others?  I definitely wouldn't pay more than $150 for either, but I didn't find them bad at all.

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