I've been lurking around the forums for a little while, and decided to dive into the discussion. I have looked around a bit to find a discussion that suited what I wanted to say, but couldn't quite find one. So I thought I'd be brave and start one. This is also my first post to this site. Please forgive any noobishness you may observe. I promise to improve.
It has been a long time since I've been able to spend any money on good audio gear (marriage, and especially divorce, has that effect). The last time I had good audio equipment was before we had the Internet, before I got married, and way, way before I had to think about someone else before I spent money.
My latest adventure with audio began at work. I'd been using an ipod and some cheezy headphones while I'm working for years. They come in handy especially in the lab, surrounded by computers with many fans. I managed to break a set of headphones I've had for the last 5-odd years, so I started looking for a new pair.
Through the miracle of the Internet, I started finding all of this wonderful gear. Things have changed. There are more headphones and amps to look at than donuts in a Krispy Kreme store. I became lost in a forest of circumaural, supra-aural, IEM, class A, class AB, solid state, tube type equipment, that has frankly made my bald head spin.
I recovered from this state of confusion by remembering that what I was looking for, was something I could use at work. Something that might get stolen. I don't want to truck my gear to work and home again every day. I want something I can leave there. So, it must be inexpensive, in case some evil troll decides to steal my stuff.
I'm also talking about an ipod nano as the source. Yes, I know this audio source leaves something to be desired. Perhaps a lot to be desired. But if someone steals it, it won't hurt too badly.
So I replaced the headphones first, with an Audio Technica ATH-M40FS. Yes, they are cheap, less than $50 bucks. But, they were comfortable, and seemed clean sounding. And if someone walks off with them, it won't hurt much. They were a huge improvement over what I had. But now, the weakness of the ipod was really showing up. I could hear it, but it was weak. Wimpy. It needed help.
Next I went to Amazon and promptly searched for headphone amp. Being a cheap old guy, I picked one of the cheapest amps I could find. A Fiio e6. It had 300+ reviews and 4 stars, how could I go wrong? Right? LOL. What I heard when I plugged it in was a joke. I had to pull it in and out of line a few times to make sure it was doing anything. It had barely any gain over a plain ipod, and the EQ was a joke.
No more fooling around. I wanted a nice little amp. After 5 years of listening to a bare ipod, I wanted more. It needs help. After much reading of this website and many others, my choices narrowed to 2: Schiit Magni, or Bravo Audio v2. Both are in the $100 or less category, which is what I was shooting for. I really really liked the looks of the Magni (especially the American made aspect), but I succumbed to the lure of the tube. And it was only $75 bucks, including shipping.
This past week, I got to plug that Bravo amp into the M40's. And my world got better. Oh my. I heard stuff from the music I had not heard before. It was like the old days, when I could pour cubic dollars into Good Audio Gear, and visit the mystical land of Beautiful Sound. At 50% on both the ipod and the amp, it sounds nice. Bump the ipod up to around 70% and I'm rockin my cube so bad, people are visiting me to find out what all the tapping on the desktop is for. LOL.
I realize that this setup is what most of you would term a starter rig, at best. I'm sure it's lacking. But, it's cheap, sounds pretty nice to me, and if someone steals it, I won't be out a ton of money.
Which brings me to my next dilemma. I have opened Pandora's box again, and she is calling to me. I want more. I want a nice setup at home now. Something better than the ipod, the Bravo, and the cheap AT's.
1) I want tubes. That much I am sure of. Schiit Valhalla is what I currently have my eyes set on. That may change, but $350-$400 is about what I want to spend on an amp.
2) I want a nice headset. Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic. Something in the approx. $400 range. I am not sure which yet.
3) The source is the biggest question. I have this crapton of ipod music. Yes, I know its lossy. I have discovered that I can upgrade the quality of some of it by subscribing to that Apple cloud service, but I don't know if that gets me to lossless. I haven't been able to figure that out. I may have to go buy new music. Fortunately I still have some older stuff on CD's, so I can rip those to lossless. But I am really confused about what to do for a music source at home. Do I get a CD player? Or do I use the computer? Is one better than the other? I see that I will need a DAC if I use the computer. I do not know what sort of budget I need. I have plenty of computers. I am lost.
I humbly solicit your recommendations. Thank you kindly for taking part of your day to read this.