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Audiophilian Newbie Question Time: Of Burning-In, Amps, DACs, and iTunes

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hello there Head-Fiers, I am relatively new to these forums and to proper audio-appreciation in general. Therefore, I was hoping that any kind soul out there giving this a read would be so generous as to help a newbie like me take my first steps to enjoying the most out of my music. To get right into it, I just recently made the plunge and bought a pair of Sennheiser HD 650s to replace my faltering HD 595s. I received them yesterday and have absolutely fallen in love with them; the crispness of the cymbals, impact of drums, overall warmth, and just everything about them haha. Needless to say, I'm very happy with my purchase but I can't help but think I'm not getting the most out of them and I really want to take that next step-up to enjoying my music.

 

So, to kick-off my plethora of questions, I've come to hear that a headphone does not begin to sound it's best or sonically peak until it's been used for a certain amount of time. If that is true, is there any method for efficiently burning-in or is there anything I should absolutely avoid doing? As these are my first pair of brand new headphones, I want to make sure I'm not starting things off in the red-zone haha.

 

Secondly, as of right now I have them plugged into an old STR-AV200 that my Dad handed down to me to use with my old HD 595s. As I understand it, that massive black behemoth is basically operating as both an amp and DAC. My question is, if I can detect static/low-rumblings when I listen to music with my headphones plugged into it but no static when I listen through my iPod/headphone-jack on my desktop, does that mean the stereo-receiver is giving out? Over the past year or so, it's been going through minor to annoying malfunctions and I feel as though now may be the time to go ahead and upgrade in the amp/dac department as well. That said, with a budget ideally within $300ish, what would you say is the best amp/dac I could get that would be a good match for the HD 650s? So far, I've come across Schiit and Maverick Audio and they both seem to have appealing options at comfortable pricings. Also, on a semi-related note, and please excuse my ignorance, what exactly constitutes a good match for headphones and amps/dacs? Should I place a higher priority on one over the other or are they equally important?

 

Finally, I am, and will be for the foreseeable future, listening to music on my desktop, specifically through iTunes. From what I've seen so far, it seems that a majority of people find iTunes to be not very desirable for listening to music. Consequently, I was wondering if there were any popular alternatives or ways to enhance my library without having to use a different service or whatnot. Basically, what's the best way to listen to music on my computer if I've been listening to it through iTunes since forever or does iTunes actually work just fine?

 

Well, that's pretty much all that comes to mind at the moment. If you've made it this far, I really appreciate you taking the time to read all this and would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers :)


Edited by Grazel - 1/9/13 at 9:02pm
post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grazel View Post

So, to kick-off my plethora of questions, I've come to hear that a headphone does not begin to sound it's best or sonically peak until it's been used for a certain amount of time. If that is true, is there any method for efficiently burning-in or is there anything I should absolutely avoid doing? As these are my first pair of brand new headphones, I want to make sure I'm not starting things off in the red-zone haha.

 

No just use them normally.

post #3 of 7

Hey Grazel,

 

When it comes to burning-in your HD650's, you have a few options that I know of, first one that most people do is just use them like McNuggetsPie suggested, on average it takes 300hrs depending on your cans, some take longer than others. If you want to speed up the process make a play list and put on repeat and walk away. You can also do this using pink noise... however using pink noise (Which I've never felt the need to do myself) should be done with 30min intervals every 2hrs.

 

As far as your dac/amp it could be a number of reasons for the static/low-rumblings, what you could try is open the dac and use a air compressor or air-in-a-can to dedust "do not use a vacuum cleaner" as this will create static. If you end up wanting to buy a new one specifically for the HD650's check out what dac's others use on the forum that use HD650.

 

Yes you can enhance your iTunes library by using "free source" application called Foobar2000 which most headfiers use on a regular basis, mainly because of a plugin called ASIO which gives you the ability to play your music in bit perfect to bypass windows altogether. If your hungry to learn you will want to know more about Foobar and ASIO...... That said, there is nothing wrong with listening to music through iTunes while you learn more and consider your options for more gear, if that's the road you take.

 

Lastly I'm also new to audiophile equipment, so hopefully I've given you the right information. Enjoy your new senns mate :)


Edited by Gandah - 1/10/13 at 4:17am
post #4 of 7

Per numbered bullets:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grazel View Post

1.) So, to kick-off my plethora of questions, I've come to hear that a headphone does not begin to sound it's best or sonically peak until it's been used for a certain amount of time. If that is true, is there any method for efficiently burning-in or is there anything I should absolutely avoid doing? As these are my first pair of brand new headphones, I want to make sure I'm not starting things off in the red-zone haha.

 

2.) Secondly, as of right now I have them plugged into an old STR-AV200 that my Dad handed down to me to use with my old HD 595s. As I understand it, that massive black behemoth is basically operating as both an amp and DAC. My question is, if I can detect static/low-rumblings when I listen to music with my headphones plugged into it but no static when I listen through my iPod/headphone-jack on my desktop, does that mean the stereo-receiver is giving out? Over the past year or so, it's been going through minor to annoying malfunctions and I feel as though now may be the time to go ahead and upgrade in the amp/dac department as well. That said, with a budget ideally within $300ish, what would you say is the best amp/dac I could get that would be a good match for the HD 650s? So far, I've come across Schiit and Maverick Audio and they both seem to have appealing options at comfortable pricings. Also, on a semi-related note, and please excuse my ignorance, what exactly constitutes a good match for headphones and amps/dacs? Should I place a higher priority on one over the other or are they equally important?

 

3.) Finally, I am, and will be for the foreseeable future, listening to music on my desktop, specifically through iTunes. From what I've seen so far, it seems that a majority of people find iTunes to be not very desirable for listening to music. Consequently, I was wondering if there were any popular alternatives or ways to enhance my library without having to use a different service or whatnot. Basically, what's the best way to listen to music on my computer if I've been listening to it through iTunes since forever or does iTunes actually work just fine?

 

Well, that's pretty much all that comes to mind at the moment. If you've made it this far, I really appreciate you taking the time to read all this and would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers :)

1.) It's an audiophile ritual, it's psychological, nothing more. Lots of people will say you need burn-in. And many will say you do not. You'll have to decide for yourself. But I'll just say, it's way more likely that your hearing (which is a crude sense frankly and we are not dogs) and how a devices "changes" over time is more psychology of expectation and accustomization, then it is truly appreciable physical change. I say this because to keep it brief and simple, since burn in should be a physical change, should be able to be measured via a change in how it produces sound. Even if it's subtle. And the reality of this is that nothing conclusive or repeatable without massive loads of obvious bias has been produced to this day on this subject. My advise to you on this subject: just listen to your gear and enjoy some music. Don't get caught up in this silly ritual sorcery stuff. Use your own ears. You're not doing anything wrong enjoying them on day one.

 

2.) It's possible that it's just noisy from age, dust, old parts, corrosion, etc. If you want something clean in the $300 range, I would have you look at three options: A) The Schiit Modi/Magni, B) the JDS Labs O2 & ODAC, and C) any DAC with an entry OTL amp like the Little Dot MK II (and preferably try and find a used amp to keep costs down). Good match has everything to do with your preference, known as synergy of devices together. Put all your priority on the headphone, an amplifier that has output sufficient and appropriate for a high impedance headphone, and then a basic, but clean and simple DAC (this can be very inexpensive too, contrary to what you'll read honestly).

 

3.) If you want high quality music, you're going to be buying it. I would suggest you hunt Amazon and Half.com or even eBay for used CD deals and used collections. I get CD's for $3~5 all the time off Amazon used. I then rip them myself. Alternatively I also get music in high sample and high resolution from HDtracks.com, but you have to be picky about it and preview things (which is nice and everything has preview on that site); prices are fair there considering some of the quality. I would suggest you start listening to uncompressed/lossless via something other than iTunes, like FooBar2000, using FLAC or WAV or if you must compress, some MP3 at 320kbps using the Lame Codec. The HD650 is pretty forgiving of quality since it has a big treble roll off, so ultimately it will sound fine likely, even with compressed sources so long as they're not just completely awful.

 

Very best,

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by McNuggetsPie View Post

 

No just use them normally.

 

Ah, I see. Thank you for the speedy response. Much appreciated :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gandah View Post

Hey Grazel,

 

When it comes to burning-in your HD650's, you have a few options that I know of, first one that most people do is just use them like McNuggetsPie suggested, on average it takes 300hrs depending on your cans, some take longer than others. If you want to speed up the process make a play list and put on repeat and walk away. You can also do this using pink noise... however using pink noise (Which I've never felt the need to do myself) should be done with 30min intervals every 2hrs.

 

As far as your dac/amp it could be a number of reasons for the static/low-rumblings, what you could try is open the dac and use a air compressor or air-in-a-can to dedust "do not use a vacuum cleaner" as this will create static. If you end up wanting to buy a new one specifically for the HD650's check out what dac's others use on the forum that use HD650.

 

Yes you can enhance your iTunes library by using "free source" application called Foobar2000 which most headfiers use on a regular basis, mainly because of a plugin called ASIO which gives you the ability to play your music in bit perfect to bypass windows altogether. If your hungry to learn you will want to know more about Foobar and ASIO...... That said, there is nothing wrong with listening to music through iTunes while you learn more and consider your options for more gear, if that's the road you take.

 

Lastly I'm also new to audiophile equipment, so hopefully I've given you the right information. Enjoy your new senns mate :)

 

 

Really appreciate the response! I think I'll take the more laid-back approach to burning-in and just play as much music as possible; though I do already thoroughly enjoy the sound so if they get even better that's just a bonus haha.

 

In regards to Foobar2000, it sounds very interesting and I'll have to give it a more in-depth look. That said, do you have any recommendations on places to look for said information? Any good articles/write-ups out there for someone like myself who has absolutely zero knowledge of how digital-audio "works". It's kind of funny because now I have even more questions and it's driving me crazy hah.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Per numbered bullets:

1.) It's an audiophile ritual, it's psychological, nothing more. Lots of people will say you need burn-in. And many will say you do not. You'll have to decide for yourself. But I'll just say, it's way more likely that your hearing (which is a crude sense frankly and we are not dogs) and how a devices "changes" over time is more psychology of expectation and accustomization, then it is truly appreciable physical change. I say this because to keep it brief and simple, since burn in should be a physical change, should be able to be measured via a change in how it produces sound. Even if it's subtle. And the reality of this is that nothing conclusive or repeatable without massive loads of obvious bias has been produced to this day on this subject. My advise to you on this subject: just listen to your gear and enjoy some music. Don't get caught up in this silly ritual sorcery stuff. Use your own ears. You're not doing anything wrong enjoying them on day one.

 

2.) It's possible that it's just noisy from age, dust, old parts, corrosion, etc. If you want something clean in the $300 range, I would have you look at three options: A) The Schiit Modi/Magni, B) the JDS Labs O2 & ODAC, and C) any DAC with an entry OTL amp like the Little Dot MK II (and preferably try and find a used amp to keep costs down). Good match has everything to do with your preference, known as synergy of devices together. Put all your priority on the headphone, an amplifier that has output sufficient and appropriate for a high impedance headphone, and then a basic, but clean and simple DAC (this can be very inexpensive too, contrary to what you'll read honestly).

 

3.) If you want high quality music, you're going to be buying it. I would suggest you hunt Amazon and Half.com or even eBay for used CD deals and used collections. I get CD's for $3~5 all the time off Amazon used. I then rip them myself. Alternatively I also get music in high sample and high resolution from HDtracks.com, but you have to be picky about it and preview things (which is nice and everything has preview on that site); prices are fair there considering some of the quality. I would suggest you start listening to uncompressed/lossless via something other than iTunes, like FooBar2000, using FLAC or WAV or if you must compress, some MP3 at 320kbps using the Lame Codec. The HD650 is pretty forgiving of quality since it has a big treble roll off, so ultimately it will sound fine likely, even with compressed sources so long as they're not just completely awful.

 

Very best,

 

First things first, a huge thank you for the thorough response! Very helpful 

 

1) Luckily, I already find myself very happy with the sound of the HD650s so if they were to get even better, then that's just icing on the cake. I appreciate the info and words of wisdom though, very nice :)

 

2) The thing is admittedly pretty old(10ish years) though I am absolutely clueless as to the longevity of these kinds of things. In terms of an upgrade/replacement, I'm beginning to lean pretty strongly towards the Schiit combo. It has such a nice price-point, the reviews seem overwhelmingly positive, and I can always keep upgrade to something better down-the-line and have them as a more portable back-up( or convenient birthday gift haha). In terms of priority, I find that a bit surprising but maybe I'm just misunderstanding their functions. I get that the headphones come first but doesn't the DAC take all my music and "translate" it in higher quality? What exactly does an amp do besides allow me to listen to my music at a higher volume? On a semi-related note, something I noticed right away when I plugged in my 650s for the first time was that everything sounded quieter and that I needed to turn up the volume on the stereo receiver in order to better experience the music. Is that what people mean when they say certain headphones need certain amps in order to "drive" them? Are the HD 650s significantly more power-hungry than the 595s? So many questions, aaaah! Haha

 

3) As silly as this may sound, I just don't see buying CDs as an option at the moment. Every ounce of music that I own is on iTunes and it's super-convenient to have it all right there in one application while also being my primary way of discovering new artists. Although, I don't want to completely close the door on that option though and maybe further along I'll experiment with making the switch but, as for now, I think I'll be sticking with the digital side of things. In regards to listening to higher-quality formats, HD Tracks sound excellent but they don't exactly have the scale of selection as iTunes. For that matter, and just to get some more clarity on the whole process, why exactly does iTunes compress the music to a lower quality format? Would I be able to just convert my iTunes library to a higher quality format and listen to it there or is that non-sense? Finally, if I were to buy some CDs and pop them into my tower, could I play them in iTunes while preserving the CD-quality sound? Sorry for the overload of questions again but all this info just has my curiosity burning and I'm at a loss as to where to find more information on these topics. If you have any recommendations on articles or write-ups of these topics, I'd be very interested.

 

Once again, thanks so much for the responses guys. Very much appreciated and very interesting. Cheers! :)


Edited by Grazel - 1/11/13 at 8:47pm
post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Per numbered bullets:

1.) It's an audiophile ritual, it's psychological, nothing more. Lots of people will say you need burn-in. And many will say you do not. You'll have to decide for yourself. But I'll just say, it's way more likely that your hearing (which is a crude sense frankly and we are not dogs) and how a devices "changes" over time is more psychology of expectation and accustomization, then it is truly appreciable physical change. I say this because to keep it brief and simple, since burn in should be a physical change, should be able to be measured via a change in how it produces sound. Even if it's subtle. And the reality of this is that nothing conclusive or repeatable without massive loads of obvious bias has been produced to this day on this subject. My advise to you on this subject: just listen to your gear and enjoy some music. Don't get caught up in this silly ritual sorcery stuff. Use your own ears. You're not doing anything wrong enjoying them on day one.

 

2.) It's possible that it's just noisy from age, dust, old parts, corrosion, etc. If you want something clean in the $300 range, I would have you look at three options: A) The Schiit Modi/Magni, B) the JDS Labs O2 & ODAC, and C) any DAC with an entry OTL amp like the Little Dot MK II (and preferably try and find a used amp to keep costs down). Good match has everything to do with your preference, known as synergy of devices together. Put all your priority on the headphone, an amplifier that has output sufficient and appropriate for a high impedance headphone, and then a basic, but clean and simple DAC (this can be very inexpensive too, contrary to what you'll read honestly).

 

3.) If you want high quality music, you're going to be buying it. I would suggest you hunt Amazon and Half.com or even eBay for used CD deals and used collections. I get CD's for $3~5 all the time off Amazon used. I then rip them myself. Alternatively I also get music in high sample and high resolution from HDtracks.com, but you have to be picky about it and preview things (which is nice and everything has preview on that site); prices are fair there considering some of the quality. I would suggest you start listening to uncompressed/lossless via something other than iTunes, like FooBar2000, using FLAC or WAV or if you must compress, some MP3 at 320kbps using the Lame Codec. The HD650 is pretty forgiving of quality since it has a big treble roll off, so ultimately it will sound fine likely, even with compressed sources so long as they're not just completely awful.

 

Very best,

#1 is THE BEST thing I've read in a long time!!!! 

post #7 of 7

      As a fellow newbie to head-fi, I sympathize with the OP with my own head of unanswered questions. And I believe I might be able to shed some light on this question, and provide a question of my own:

Quote:

3) As silly as this may sound, I just don't see buying CDs as an option at the moment. Every ounce of music that I own is on iTunes and it's super-convenient to have it all right there in one application while also being my primary way of discovering new artists. Although, I don't want to completely close the door on that option though and maybe further along I'll experiment with making the switch but, as for now, I think I'll be sticking with the digital side of things. In regards to listening to higher-quality formats, HD Tracks sound excellent but they don't exactly have the scale of selection as iTunes. For that matter, and just to get some more clarity on the whole process, why exactly does iTunes compress the music to a lower quality format? Would I be able to just convert my iTunes library to a higher quality format and listen to it there or is that non-sense? Finally, if I were to buy some CDs and pop them into my tower, could I play them in iTunes while preserving the CD-quality sound? Sorry for the overload of questions again but all this info just has my curiosity burning and I'm at a loss as to where to find more information on these topics. If you have any recommendations on articles or write-ups of these topics, I'd be very interested.

      I believe audio hosting services, like iTunes, offer compressed audio files simply for the purpose of conserving space. Being that a higher quality audio file is much larger than it's lower quality counterparts.

 

     Also you can't take the compressed/lower quality audio file, like mp3, you already have, and convert it into an uncompressed/larger file, like FLAC or WAV, and expect any change to the sound. If you want the full audio file, untampered, you need the original, uncompressed file. If my meager attempts to explain have left you confused read here about my toast metaphor:

 

     If you have some butter spread over a small piece of a piece of bread, (your compressed mp3 files) and you spread the butter that butter out across the rest of the piece of bread, (a FLAC OR WAV file converted from a smaller file type) you haven't changed the amount of butter on the bread, it's just spread out over a larger area (your converted mp3 files haven't gained any more complexity or detail in the way they sound because you haven't added any data to the file just by converting it to a larger file format).

 

    Most of your music collection is probably compressed at 320kb/s mp3 or 256kb/s AAC, which is good quality as far as my needs go (i'm only listening on the infamous audio technica m50s though). It's only worth getting the uncompressed music files if you can tell the difference between the music you own already, and I would think the likelihood of that would be small. I am  by no means experienced though.


Edited by WherRTheLurkers - 1/17/13 at 11:12pm
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