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Should Like-Sounding Components Go with Each Other or No?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've spent probably too much time on this forum over the last month and I've learned a lot. One thing that still perplexes me is the pairing of components (especially for portable rigs) that seem like they would not go together.

 

For example, if a sound source is a little warm-sounding, wouldn't it make more sense to use a warmer cable and warmer (perhaps dynamic driver) cans to get the most "bang for your buck"? 

 

I've seen many posts instead that recommend using treble-boosting components to balance out other warmer components and vice versa.

 

Anyone care to chime in?

post #2 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDoe View Post

For example, if a sound source is a little warm-sounding, wouldn't it make more sense to use a warmer cable and warmer (perhaps dynamic driver) cans to get the most "bang for your buck"

 

By source do you mean the DAC? If so, then get a better DAC that doesn't give a drastic sound signature. IMO the headphones should be the only thing that offers a warm-signature. The cable doesn't change very much in your overall system. BTW why would a warm signature mean more bang for your buck?

 

I don't use EQ or anything for boost so I cannot comment on that.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

DAC or the more subjective source based on opamp i.e. iPod 5th gen vs 6th, etc. 

 

And by more bang for the buck I just mean if you have components that are tuned for a warmer sound, wouldn't you want to reinforce that and maximize the things that your setup is already "good at"? Rather than incorporating parts with opposite attributes to balance things out.

 

Hopefully that makes sense.

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDoe View Post

 

And by more bang for the buck I just mean if you have components that are tuned for a warmer sound, wouldn't you want to reinforce that and maximize the things that your setup is already "good at"?

My logic says yes, if you are looking a warm sound

post #5 of 8

99.9% of the character of your sound is the headphones.  The remaining 0.1%, if it's even that much, is probably the electronics.  Cables have zero effect.  

 

Pairing is something you do with wines and food.

 

Pretty much everything has opamps in it, all DACs, players, sound cards.  So does your headphone amp, unless it's a tube unit.  Opamps don't color sound because they are opamps.  If they color sound at all, it's because someone chose the opamp poorly, or designed the circuit around them badly. But it doesn't matter, because if they do anything it's part of that 0.1%.

 

If a DAC produces anything but ruler-flat response, it's designed badly.  If it does produce flat response, it has no special character other that what is there by expectation and suggestion (color and style of the front panel, etc).  

 

The only possibly match problem you could have is the rare case of low impedance headphones with highly variable impedance curve driven by a high impedance output headphone amp.  That would be a mistake, but it's pretty hard to find high output impedance headphone amps.  Again, tube amps come to mind, a good reason to avoid them.

 

Spend your time and money picking headphones.  That's where you'll get the biggest bang for the buck. The differences between them is huge and unmistakable.  The character of your headphones will be there regardless of what drives them.  Find some you not only can live with, but love, and you'll be happy with everything else too.

post #6 of 8

I like to use the analogy of building a clean brick wall vs. choosing randomly sized stones/rocks that somehow fit together filling the bigger holes with gravel and extra cement,

where the bricks are properly designed, well-measuring and priced components vs.

where the stones/rocks are usually badly-measuring and expensive components,

gravel are various snake oil tweaks like fancy cables, cable lifters ...

and the extra cement is extra bias.

 

If you look at the components from a pure performance point of view, the higher end you go: the

- flatter the frequency response,

- less noise / lower noise floor,

- less nonlinear distortion (not just harmonic),

- less time-based errors (wow, flutter ..)

- lower crosstalk

- higher output power (granted makes only sense up to a certain point given a set of headphones/speakers)

- higher damping factor (same as above ^)

...

 

so if you go that route there's no room for "synergy" / fiddling / attempting to cancel weaknesses of one component with another component's weakness.


Edited by xnor - 5/6/13 at 6:32am
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

99.9% of the character of your sound is the headphones.  The remaining 0.1%, if it's even that much, is probably the electronics.  Cables have zero effect.  

 

Pairing is something you do with wines and food.

 

Pretty much everything has opamps in it, all DACs, players, sound cards.  So does your headphone amp, unless it's a tube unit.  Opamps don't color sound because they are opamps.  If they color sound at all, it's because someone chose the opamp poorly, or designed the circuit around them badly. But it doesn't matter, because if they do anything it's part of that 0.1%.

 

If a DAC produces anything but ruler-flat response, it's designed badly.  If it does produce flat response, it has no special character other that what is there by expectation and suggestion (color and style of the front panel, etc).  

 

The only possibly match problem you could have is the rare case of low impedance headphones with highly variable impedance curve driven by a high impedance output headphone amp.  That would be a mistake, but it's pretty hard to find high output impedance headphone amps.  Again, tube amps come to mind, a good reason to avoid them.

 

Spend your time and money picking headphones.  That's where you'll get the biggest bang for the buck. The differences between them is huge and unmistakable.  The character of your headphones will be there regardless of what drives them.  Find some you not only can live with, but love, and you'll be happy with everything else too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

I like to use the analogy of building a clean brick wall vs. choosing randomly sized stones/rocks that somehow fit together filling the bigger wholes with gravel and extra cement,

where the bricks are properly designed, well-measuring and priced components vs.

where the stones/rocks are usually badly-measuring and expensive components,

gravel are various snake oil tweaks like fancy cables, cable lifters ...

and the extra cement is extra bias.

 

If you look at the components from a pure performance point of view, the higher end you go: the

- flatter the frequency response,

- less noise / lower noise floor,

- less nonlinear distortion (not just harmonic),

- less time-based errors (wow, flutter ..)

- lower crosstalk

- higher output power (granted makes only sense up to a certain point given a set of headphones/speakers)

- higher damping factor (same as above ^)

...

 

so if you go that route there's no room for "synergy" / fiddling / attempting to cancel weaknesses of one component with another component's weakness.

Thank you both gentlemen. Its very confusing reading so much about upgrading smaller parts of the setup (especially for the amount of money they cost) given that the return is minimal at best.

post #8 of 8

Yeah, most of the difference is the headphones.

 

Even if something changes to warmer would it always make sense to go warmer and warmer?  Surely at some point there can be too much warmth.  Your and my predilection toward warmth might vary. 

 

A educational way to play with such is to EQ digital files digitally.  Audacity and other software can do it for free.  A good way to start might be putting an even tilt either upward or downward over the whole band.  See if either is better.  Try +3db at 40 hz sloping steadily down to -3db at 20 khz.  Also try the reverse.  You can get more complicated as you wish from there.  Much more genuine benefit and no cost other than time and experience to find your preferences. 
 

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