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Is basic as good as uber expensive

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
My kit comprises iTunes to matrix mini-i amp/dac to BMF DBV#3 or Denon d2000 modded.

My view is that with the BMF the kit I have is essentially neutral and it goes as loud as I want. Can it be significantly improved?

From what I have been reading I have come to the following conclusions, am I correct?

Dac is probably not needed as I have one in my iPod and iMac.
Desk top Amp is loud enough so can't be improved.
Cables are irrelevant.
A balanced system does not really do anything.
The only real world improvements I can make are getting different headphones.

Since getting a desktop amp I have decided I need a portable amp/dac, the Centrance hifi m8 was at the top of my list but having stumbled onto this part of the forum,I'm now wondering if that capability would improve the sound I hear. Or would a portable amp with my iPod be just as good.
post #2 of 34

Loudness is not sound quality.

post #3 of 34
Thread Starter 
But isn't the argument that an amplifier just adds volume, it does not change the sound.
I've seen people describe amps as a wire with gain, and that's what I understood it to mean.

I forgot to say in my original post that I don't mind being wrong, I just want opinions
Edited by jiminy - 1/18/13 at 4:20pm
post #4 of 34

It's true, 90+% of changes to the sound will come from changing the transducer, once you have a sufficiently competent amp and source - both of which you have

 

amps do sound different, especially across varying topologies, but an upgrade will never make nearly as significant a difference as changing the heaphones will

post #5 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by jiminy View Post

But isn't the argument that an amplifier just adds volume, it does not change the sound.
I've seen people describe amps as a wire with gain, and that's what I understood it to mean.

I forgot to say in my original post that I don't mind being wrong, I just want opinions

 

But when you feel its loud, it doesn't mean anything if its loud in a good way...

 

Btw I think the best way to clear the doubt for yourself is to demo...

post #6 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

 

amps do sound different, ------not always , Masters and Clark did an interesting set of tests back in 1987 writing for Stereo Review where they compared several speaker amps ranging from a $219 Pioneer SX1500 receiver, a Hafler DH-120,  a NAD2200, Mark Levinson ML-11($2000) to $12,000 Futterman OTL monoblocks - in the sighted portion several listeners described in great detail the differences between the amps, during the DBT portion no listeners were able to reliably detect the difference between any pair including the Pioneer and Futterman,

 

 

HeadFi member Pio2001 did however find  measurable and audible differences between some headphone amps  - especially across varying topologies, but an upgrade will never make nearly as significant a difference as changing the heaphones will (Absolutely !)

post #7 of 34
Thread Starter 
I've been ignoring tube amps because I'm under the impression that they colour the sound. If we stick with solid state is there any meaningful improvements by going balanced.
post #8 of 34

There are tube amps with minimal coloration, especially if you're using certain headphones and not others.  These tend to be more expensive though, based on the designs required for such a thing.

 

Regardless of parts used, balanced operation brings some benefits that aren't of practical interest for home audio reproduction, along with some small disadvantages and then certainly higher cost.  There's a real motivation when running long cables across stage next to big power amps and speakers, but not really at home.

 

Amps can always be improved, just not necessarily in meaningful ways, or worth spending a lot or any money on.  That said, an amp that is good enough for one headphone might not necessarily be good enough for another, mostly because of differences in sensitivity and impedance and partly because of headphone performance.  Some more-expensive headphones might pick up things less so than your current headphones.

post #9 of 34

There are differences between equipment, but as long as your equipment goes loud enough and meets a certain basic standard, they are pretty insignificant. Very cheap equipment can have poor SQ, but it's not necessary to spend a lot of money to get good sound quality these days. Most people agree that a Sansa Clip+ (U$35) is pretty ****ing good, and the measurements confirm that. If you pair that with some Klipsch Image S4 in-ear phones (U$45) or Koss Portapros (U$35) which also get very good reviews, you will have a combination which is very hard to beat at any price. You certainly won't have any reason to feel that there is some musical pleasure that you are missing out on. Any improvement you can get will be absolutely miniscule, and the difference is so small that anyone with normal hearing and taste can easily ignore it. After all, you can enjoy a track you like, played over a supermarket public address system. Just read the reviews to find out what's what.

 

It's nice to spend money, it's nice to have expensive gear, but it's only jewellry when it comes right down to it. I have lots and lots of equipment, computers (3 PCs, 2 laptops and a Raspberry PI), soundcards (4), DACs(2), players (CD, DVD & BluRay), DAPs(2+ a phone), solid state amplifiers(10?), tube amps(2), speakers(3 pairs), headphones(5?), but I don't kid myself that I bought it or built it because I needed to, to get sound quality. I just like gear. I'm a gearhead.

 

More than that though. I play guitar, mandolin, penny whistle, harmonica and a bit of keyboards, and I can make a stab at a few others. I enjoy music.

 

Don't take any wooden nickels.

 

w

post #10 of 34

I should have specified "can" make a difference - I certainly can't tell differences once a number of major flaws have been removed (bad output transformers, heavy distortion, etc.).  Obviously switching from a $500 6sn7->300b to a $5000 6sn7->300b is the world's most overrated "upgrade" ;) 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post
 
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by jiminy View Post

But isn't the argument that an amplifier just adds volume, it does not change the sound.
I've seen people describe amps as a wire with gain, and that's what I understood it to mean.

I forgot to say in my original post that I don't mind being wrong, I just want opinions

 

A truly neutral amp does exactly that. However, you need to consider the fact that its also a power source (primarily voltage source), and that requirement also needs to be sufficiently met for the headphone.

 

Once these two are met, then yes, its a matter of how the headphone sounds.

post #12 of 34

agree w/ kn19h7

post #13 of 34
The greatest improvement short of new headphones would be equalization and/or DSP.
post #14 of 34
NwAvGuy designed the O2 and the ODAC to make a point: completely transparent gear is not rocket science or magic, and it doesn't need to be excessively expensive.

The O2 and the ODAC are already overkill though. That's not a bad thing (as I always say, I love overkill, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling), but I believe you can get even cheaper gear that's transparent too.

I don't believe the claims that TOTL gear ($1,000 and more) are more "Hi-Fi", i.e. "high fidelity", because cheaper gear already is. I'm willing to believe that maybe some of that expensive gear really does sound different, maybe even more pleasing, but that's another matter entirely. In that case, high fidelity is not the goal: perceived sound quality is. Personally, I don't think such subjective improvements are worth the money. I'd rather get some cheap, efficient DSP. But that's just a matter of opinion, and I won't blame anyone for disagreeing with me on that particular point.
post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by skamp View Post

NwAvGuy designed the O2 and the ODAC to make a point: completely transparent gear is not rocket science or magic, and it doesn't need to be excessively expensive.

The O2 and the ODAC are already overkill though. That's not a bad thing (as I always say, I love overkill, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling), but I believe you can get even cheaper gear that's transparent too.

I don't believe the claims that TOTL gear ($1,000 and more) are more "Hi-Fi", i.e. "high fidelity", because cheaper gear already is. I'm willing to believe that maybe some of that expensive gear really does sound different, maybe even more pleasing, but that's another matter entirely. In that case, high fidelity is not the goal: perceived sound quality is. Personally, I don't think such subjective improvements are worth the money. I'd rather get some cheap, efficient DSP. But that's just a matter of opinion, and I won't blame anyone for disagreeing with me on that particular point.


What if the expensive gear actually measures better than the O2/ODAC? (i.e. more "Hi-Fi", more transparent) It seemed to me that some Objective fans tend to neglect this possibillity in their posts...

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