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Ultrasone 2900 + portable amp or amp/dac

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hello there,

It's my first post on this forum and I'm looking for some help. I'm planning to purchase Ultrasone 2900 Pro (thanks to the opinions found on this forum) but because of my limited resources at the moment, I'm only looking for portable devices to support the cans. I was thinking about Fiio E11 or E17 but I'm not sure those headphones really need DAC. Thank you for your comments!

post #2 of 12

Well, what's your budget? If you can do $100, the C&C BH is a good option. As far as a DAC goes, except for a few Android phones, you can't use a DAC with a portable device. (unless it's a laptop.) The actual amp portion of the E17 is inferior to the E11.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

My budget is 100-150$. Sorry for not mentioning the source in my first post. It's gna be samsung galaxy S2 (S IV in couple of weeks) and a laptop.
 

post #4 of 12
Just a thought/note - when you mention portable devices, I'm thinking you mean for these to be portable/mobile headphones. That's a bad role for the PRO2900 (because they're open, and provide no isolation (they also leak)). redface.gif

If you're just looking at portable amps because you feel you can't do any better, I'd like to introduce you to the Fiio E9. smily_headphones1.gif That said, the PRO2900 are pretty easily driven; I'd be surprised if your phone couldn't hack it (with the laptop who knows). If you want mobile use, consider the PRO900 instead (they're closed-back; if you want the sound of the 2900, buy the 2900 pads from Ultrasone (~$50) and swap'em out - pretty close to the 2900 sound, and you get the isolation of the 900).
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

To be honest my choice of the source and amp are strictly influenced by the financial restrictions. I'm not planning to walk around with 2900's. It's just one of the small steps I have to take.

post #6 of 12
I'd suggest holding off until you've got more of a budget for amp/dac. I had the Ultrasone PRO2900s and my experience was the opposite of obobskivich's. I found them difficult to drive even though they are a low ohm headphone. Driving them direct with my Sansa Fuze they sounded worse than the stock earbuds. The mids were so low in the mix with this setup that when playing metal it sounded like the vocalists were whispering.

At the time I got the headphones I was using the ASUS Essence STX soundcard(which is an amp/DAC combo that should fit your budget.) Unfortunately it became obvious pretty fast that the ASUS wasn't up to the task either. The sound was harsh and underwhelming.

From there I made a big jump to the Burson 160DS. This proved to be a poor match with the Ultrasones as well. The sound was better fleshed out but the synergy was way off. The Burson is a better match for darker headphones that need a bit more pep and already accel in the soundstage department.(The Burson had great image placement and stability but wasn't as spacious as I would have liked.) I also think it was a poor match because the Burson had a poor noise floor with the Ultrasones. When I wasn't listening to music there was a light background static.


On a note of the PRO2900s themself, what are you going to be listening to with them? They are a highly resolving headphone and generally don't tolerate anything but the best recordings. This was another mistake on my part as I listen to a lot of rock/metal that has been mastered poorly(or too loud). You're also want to make sure that your music is encoded in OGG, FLAC, WAV, or other such formats. MP3s tend to sound muddy through the 'Sones. Where Ultrasone can't be beat, electronic and synthesized music. They're as close to perfection as you'll get with such music.

Silly as it sounds, I took the same philosophy as you have when buying all my headphones. I went for broke on the phones themself and spent the next few months saving up for a decent DAC & amp. I wouldn't recommend it. The most important part of the chain is the source. When your source lets you down you'll hear it. Next is the headphone/amp.(these must be looked at together in my eyes for synergy's sake.) When your headphones are the weakest link their faults are generally of omission rather than major faults.

Generally I'd recommend spending the same on your source as you do your cans/amp combined.
For example if you have a $350 DAC you would want to be looking at amps/headphones in the $100-200 range.

And if you're new to headphones stay under the $350 mark for now. Trust me, it's unwise to spend too much on a brand you are unfamiliar with the 'house sound' of. Best to learn what you're looking for out of your headphones before you get an expensive fair. I thought the 2900s were a highly detailed, dynamic sounding can. They put out a very good sound but overtime I found I just couldn't live with the brightness. With audio it's as much about finding a sound that holds your interest as it is to find quality gear. What's the point in listening to the best if all you are thinking is "too warm, too bright, boring, etc.". biggrin.gif
post #7 of 12
I would have to respectfully disagree with the "spend more money than anything on a DAC and forget the cans" - both empirically and experientially. I do agree that the 2900 are unforgiving of garbage, but that's kind of the point. redface.gif Well recorded and properly ripped music/movies/etc and an appropriate amp and you'll be good to go. QED.

Drive-wise, they're low impedance, and *kind of* insensitive (iirc its 94-96 dB/mW); any reasonable amp should have no problem with them, but some portables might struggle (some portables may only put out 1-2 mW).

That's terrible to hear that the Burson had hiss coming through the 2900s - just terrible. (It isn't the headphones' fault).
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

I mostly listen to electronic music - one of the main reasons i started looking at 2900's. I had few headphones before and I deceided to go up a class. Was using Sennheisers 598 for some time but they just weren't good enough for the type of music I'm listening to. The just weren't coping with the speed and bass. I used fiio e11 with those headphones but unfortunately both the amp and the headphones misteriously dissappeared on one of the flights I was taking. I looked up the C&C BH but unfortunately the amp isnt availible in my country (I'm from Poland). So my main concern is wether the fiio e11 will work fine with those headhones (2900's) or should I get something else. I wanted to thank for the previous comments, this forum is truely the moset helpful forum I've seen so far.

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

I would have to respectfully disagree with the "spend more money than anything on a DAC and forget the cans" - both empirically and experientially (the biggest factor is that price != quality; there's plenty of expensive stuff that sucks, and cheap stuff that rocks). I do agree that the 2900 are unforgiving of garbage, but that's kind of the point. redface.gif Well recorded and properly ripped music/movies/etc and an appropriate amp and you'll be good to go. QED.

Drive-wise, they're low impedance, and *kind of* insensitive (iirc its 94-96 dB/mW); any reasonable amp should have no problem with them, but some portables might struggle (some portables may only put out 1-2 mW).

That's terrible to hear that the Burson had hiss coming through the 2900s - just terrible. (It isn't the headphones' fault).

I didn't mean to blame the headphones for the hissing. Back when I owned them there were a few other people complaining about the Bursons, the common factor was using low ohm dynamics. I made the silly assumption that because it worked well with the LCD-2 it would work well with dynamic phones with a similar resistance. Bad move on my part. redface.gif

Luczez, I've also owned a pair of Senn 598s. I found them difficult to drive as well, straight out of my PC or Sansa they sounded poor. Without proper amplification the bass comes off loose and the treble grainy. On the 'hard to drive' scale I'd say it's a little easier than the 2900. I'm unsure of the output impedance of the Fiio but if it worked well with the Senns I doubt it'll run out of juice with the 2900s. I'm curious though, what didn't you like about the 598? The 2900 is it's polar opposite. If the 598 is like listening to music in a theater, the 2900 is like being in the studio. Where the 598 has a huge, musical(IMO too calm and warm) sound; the Ultrasone has an accurate if a bit sterile/overly-hyped sound.

I still stick by my 'source first' philosophy. In order to fund various headphone purchases I spent awhile using the DAC built into my computer. And I can say for fact I preferred my first headphone rig(ASUS Essence STX > Grado SR80i) to that DAC and anything else(Senn 598, STAX SR-5s, etc.) The source creates the sound and the amp/headphone give it to you as pure as they can. When the source is putting out worse sound than the rest of the system is capable of you'll know it immediately. As for budget, you're right that money doesn't guarantee quality. I used those specific numbers because I found the Schiit Bifrost(a $400 DAC) wasn't quite up to snuff with $400 headphones(Pro 2900 and my STAX SR-5) For amplification I'm using a vintage receiver I got off of ebay for $100. It sure isn't portable and it's certainly not the most refined or accurate amp out there but it beats the Burson where it counts IMO.(Dynamics, musicality without going too warm, emotion, soundstage size, control of bass/highs)
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

MohawkUS, I think you misunderstood me a little bit :) When I got the 598's they sounded like heaven to me after moving from hd 497. But as it happens with time and I'm sure everyone on this forum will agree with me, you start striving for perfection. After my senns were stolen and I got some money back from the airline I started looking for better cans which would suit the type of music I'm listening to - the electronic music. If I won't like the 2900's I will send them back - that's not an issue. I just want to make sure that if I buy them together with a portable amp I will be able to experience at least some of their capabilities. I don't want to make a mistake of misjudging them because of a useless amp.

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Luczez View Post

I mostly listen to electronic music - one of the main reasons i started looking at 2900's. I had few headphones before and I deceided to go up a class. Was using Sennheisers 598 for some time but they just weren't good enough for the type of music I'm listening to. The just weren't coping with the speed and bass. I used fiio e11 with those headphones but unfortunately both the amp and the headphones misteriously dissappeared on one of the flights I was taking. I looked up the C&C BH but unfortunately the amp isnt availible in my country (I'm from Poland). So my main concern is wether the fiio e11 will work fine with those headhones (2900's) or should I get something else. I wanted to thank for the previous comments, this forum is truely the moset helpful forum I've seen so far.

I think the E11 should be fine; iirc it can do ~100mW/side which should be no problem with the 2900.

Sorry to hear about your stuff getting knicked. frown.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by MohawkUS View Post

I didn't mean to blame the headphones for the hissing. Back when I owned them there were a few other people complaining about the Bursons, the common factor was using low ohm dynamics. I made the silly assumption that because it worked well with the LCD-2 it would work well with dynamic phones with a similar resistance. Bad move on my part. redface.gif

Yeah, impedance (it's not quite resistance) isn't the only factor - sensitivity is important too in considering noise/performance/etc. The PRO2900 are fairly sensitive, the LCD-2 are less so (by planar magnetic standards they aren't bad at all, but by dynamic standards they're on the low end of the spectrum).
Quote:
I still stick by my 'source first' philosophy. In order to fund various headphone purchases I spent awhile using the DAC built into my computer. And I can say for fact I preferred my first headphone rig(ASUS Essence STX > Grado SR80i) to that DAC and anything else(Senn 598, STAX SR-5s, etc.) The source creates the sound and the amp/headphone give it to you as pure as they can. When the source is putting out worse sound than the rest of the system is capable of you'll know it immediately. As for budget, you're right that money doesn't guarantee quality. I used those specific numbers because I found the Schiit Bifrost(a $400 DAC) wasn't quite up to snuff with $400 headphones(Pro 2900 and my STAX SR-5) For amplification I'm using a vintage receiver I got off of ebay for $100. It sure isn't portable and it's certainly not the most refined or accurate amp out there but it beats the Burson where it counts IMO.(Dynamics, musicality without going too warm, emotion, soundstage size, control of bass/highs)

I think I understand where we're missing each other - you're talking about "just" audio components, while I'm assuming that folks have a ritzy soundcard/computer on hand (which will generally measure/perform on par with a lot of D/A converters). JA said it really well a few years ago - digital has gotten super cheap and super good in the last few years. However there's a lot of manufacturers that are content to sell bottom-of-the-barrel for top-shelf prices, because they need the mark-up to stay afloat (I'm not saying Schiit is in this group btw; everything I've seen, they're one of the manufacturers going against that grain) - and the end result is kind of a "portion distortion" in terms of performance/$.

To an extent I'd worry about the source, especially if you're playing back analog media, but I'd spend more time worrying about the source media and headphones/speakers (and if speakers, their placement/arrangement) - IME differences between D/As are relatively minor, but there are certainly dumpy models out there that make the whole thing look suspect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luczez View Post

MohawkUS, I think you misunderstood me a little bit smily_headphones1.gif When I got the 598's they sounded like heaven to me after moving from hd 497. But as it happens with time and I'm sure everyone on this forum will agree with me, you start striving for perfection. After my senns were stolen and I got some money back from the airline I started looking for better cans which would suit the type of music I'm listening to - the electronic music. If I won't like the 2900's I will send them back - that's not an issue. I just want to make sure that if I buy them together with a portable amp I will be able to experience at least some of their capabilities. I don't want to make a mistake of misjudging them because of a useless amp.

Yeah, I think you'll be fine with the 2900s and the Fiio. One thing to throw out there - we're really not kidding when we tell you these things are unforgiving of bad recordings or bad quality media; as I've said in the past, they will drive nails on demand. If you want a more forgiving and laid-back sound, the HFI-2400 would be a good candidate (they also cost a bit less). Both are good, and while I do think the 2900 are better, if you're listening to a lot of music with relatively low production values (and some electronica can be like this - especially if you're listening to online streams or more underground stuff), the 2400 would probably be the more enjoyable experience.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post


Yeah, I think you'll be fine with the 2900s and the Fiio. One thing to throw out there - we're really not kidding when we tell you these things are unforgiving of bad recordings or bad quality media; as I've said in the past, they will drive nails on demand. If you want a more forgiving and laid-back sound, the HFI-2400 would be a good candidate (they also cost a bit less). Both are good, and while I do think the 2900 are better, if you're listening to a lot of music with relatively low production values (and some electronica can be like this - especially if you're listening to online streams or more underground stuff), the 2400 would probably be the more enjoyable experience.

 

I think I'm going to stick to the initial setup with 2900's and Fiio. I understand the unforgiveness of this type of headphones - but it's not that big of an issue for me since I've been collecting music for years mostly in FLAC. Thank you both for sharing your knowledge!

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