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Upgrading iPod Classic set-up

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hello,

 

Tbh, I don't know much about audio related stuff as I read through some of the audiophile like forums.

All those terms and sorts of equipment start to confuse me more and more. :D

 

And because I'm a bit intrigued by this topic, I really wanna learn more about it.

 

To start, I have an iPod Classic, last gen, and I'm listening to my music with my Bowers & Wilkins P5.

I consider this headphone a really good one. Built quality and sound are amazing IMO.

But to you, are these good headphones, or is this just like apple, more brand, less quality? (I don't know so much about the impedance and other aspects of a headphone)

 

Most of the time I listen to jazz and for that purpose I find this headphones excellent.

Well balanced, no over the top bass. Just perfect for my needs, I think.

 

I've got a decent set-up, I can say. Reasonably priced too, but worth the money, I guess.

But I'm listening to mp3 files. 'Why?' you ask. Because I've got a lot, I mean A LOT of music, hence the 160gb iPod.

 

I came from a $200 set-up to a current $550 set-up. With great improvements. Even though I still listen to the same files.

 

 

Now, I started wondering. Could it be even better?

A friend of mine told me about a DAC. I study engineering but I didn't know it even existed tbh. Living in these digital era makes everything obvious, even digital music. :p

Now I know it converts the digital file to an analog signal, correct me if I'm wrong? If you want, tell me more about it. 

 

My main question: would an external DAC/amp make my listening experience with this current set-up better? Or wouldn't it make a difference unless I listen to lossless files? Or won't I hear the difference using my current headphones?

 

If it does, what's a decent add-on to my set-up? 

I read about these DAC/amp's from Fiio. And I also came across this crazy set-up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psnZmoNznpU, which intrigues me even more.

 

I'm pretty content of my current set-up, but if I can make it even better, why not. I listen to my music a lot (lots of train travel every day).

Also I think such fine music like jazz deserves a better listening experience. I love jazz :3

 

 

If there are other things I need to consider, please let me know.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 3
Quote:

Originally Posted by 1tio1 View Post

 

Most of the time I listen to jazz and for that purpose I find this headphones excellent.

Well balanced, no over the top bass. Just perfect for my needs, I think.


I've got a decent set-up, I can say. Reasonably priced too, but worth the money, I guess.

But I'm listening to mp3 files. 'Why?' you ask. Because I've got a lot, I mean A LOT of music, hence the 160gb iPod.

 

I came from a $200 set-up to a current $550 set-up. With great improvements. Even though I still listen to the same files.

 

Now, I started wondering. Could it be even better?

 

If I'm in your situation I'd rather focus my resources on a desktop rig at home. Many people (and that's excluding those who aren't really into audio) can barely tell the difference between 320kbps and lossless, but chances are you might be able to appreciate the difference at home with devices that have less compromise regarding battery life, size, and others that concern portability, like open-back headphones with a lot of space between the driver and the ears, and they're angled to simulate speakers. Unless of course you already have a speaker set-up at home and don't need to compromise on the noise level.

 

On the other hand, you might want to explore just upgrading your player. Most compromised on storage for delivering sound quality at a low price point, however, with the iRiver AK100 and the Ibasso DX100, for example, as long as you carry your gear in a bag anyways and won't feel the jones to swap memory cards in the most inconvenient places (like on a metro train across downtown on a weekday), you have theoretically unlimited storage. However with all the music you can cram into a single microSD card labelling isn't as easy as on a MiniDisc, so of course you'd have to get creative. I'd group them by genre in separate 32gb microSD's, but since most of your music is jazz anyways, you could probably arrange them by artist alphabetically. Depending on how many 64gb cards you're willing to get, you could probably store them lossless. I got to try the DX100, and the 320kbps is a wee bit thinner than FLAC (note : take it for what it's worth though as I didn't have an assistant to flick between the files and record my educated guess without my being aware of which was playing).

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by 1tio1 View Post

Now I know it converts the digital file to an analog signal, correct me if I'm wrong? If you want, tell me more about it. 

 

 

Technically, every player that outputs an analog signal has a DAC of some sort. Some now integrate the headphone driver circuit inside the same chip for mass-manufactured portable devices; players that focus more on quality reproduction tend to make less compromises to battery life and/or size to use theoretically better power topologies (ie, Class A, or A/B with more A-bias, vs Class B amplification and other parts of the circuit on most mass-market products). DAC can refer to either a chip or a separate device, which is what the Algorhythm Solo in that link you provided is. Basically, a DAC device is a whole circuit separate from the player - which effectively serves as a transport or as is becoming more common for desktop rigs now, a (digital music) server - that takes a digital audio input and does the job of converting the data.

 

For more on definitions, as well as other terms, see : http://www.head-fi.org/newsearch?search=glossary

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by 1tio1 View Post

My main question: would an external DAC/amp make my listening experience with this current set-up better? Or wouldn't it make a difference unless I listen to lossless files? Or won't I hear the difference using my current headphones?

 

 

It depends. First barrier of course is the listener. While ome have "golden ears" to the point that adding a magnetic dohickey on top of something has dramatic improvements, which is to say, many think they're delusional; others are like my friends (our drummer and bassist) who got to listen to my set-up, they considered it "life changing" because they never thought recorded music can sound "better"* than live (and that's until I dragged them to a HiFi show with a Focal Stella Utopia and a Dynaudio Contour S5.4); others are like their partners who admitted to being tone-deaf and can't tell the difference between a Grado SR225 and the bundled Apple earbuds (they could, however, tell the difference vs a bass headphone, but you'd have to take tone deaf to a very literal sense if you can't).

 

Since you say you've noticed a good deal of difference from your previous set-up I'd guess you belong more to the second category, but here's the next problem : whatever differences you can detect, would it be worth it?  That's particularly hard to have other people answer for you, and its best you listen to a similar set-up yourself. Remember the Algorhythm Solo costs quite a bit of money, and it needs a separate amplifier to drive the headphone. Going back to my old band, our drummer likes the HD600 and my Meier Cantate from a technical standpoint given its more balanced and smoother sound, but for his own listening, he prefers the bias the SR225 has on the percussion (without, say, the harsher treble as on other Grados). Our bassist likes the HD600 for its isolation, since he can hear the music better, but in a quiet room he's asking if there are ways to make the SR225 circumaural.

 

And then there are your headphones. AFAIK, they were already optimized for portable use, so chances are unless the impedance is too low that they may draw a lot of power to get loud but choke dynamics on whatever amplification you're using, improvements aren't likely to be worth the money. A better DAC, maybe, but given the Solo has no amp, your spending on an amp transparent enough (that is, no coloration to the input signal) will make the cost a lot higher than you might think.

 

 

 

 

*By this they mean live music has that energy to it, but many of the venues they've listened to have really bad acoustics, so your enjoyment of upfront music is ruined by bass bouncing off walls or venues small enough that you have to turn down the amps, but one slightly overenthusiastic drummer can drown out everybody else); their listening to my rig not only had balanced sound, but no bloated bass, no sharp treble, they can hear positioning cues on the soundstage, etc, but best of all it wasn't "anemic" and lifeless as most playback systems usually make them seem like

 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by 1tio1 View Post

If it does, what's a decent add-on to my set-up? 

I read about these DAC/amp's from Fiio. And I also came across this crazy set-up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psnZmoNznpU, which intrigues me even more.

 

I'm pretty content of my current set-up, but if I can make it even better, why not. I listen to my music a lot (lots of train travel every day).

Also I think such fine music like jazz deserves a better listening experience. I love jazz :3

 

If there are other things I need to consider, please let me know.

 

Assuming you'd consider upgrading headphones later and would need better amplification (and might as well a better DAC), I'd rather a replacement than an "add-on." Go back to what I've previously stated about the Solo and the DX100. The Solo might be great since you can also use it with your computer, where you might archive your audio in lossless format, but here's a problem - how willing are you to strap that iPod to a DAC and an amp? A DX100 and a powerbank might be more convenient since they don't have to be next to each other all the time; you just connect it to the powerbank when you need to recharge. Even if you have a bag, you still have cables on either ends of the stack if you listen to the whole rig on the go, and every movement you make could move the cables and stress them if not the jacks. The price of the Solo and the matching amplifier, plus the cables from ALO, would put you beyond the price of the DX100 and two 64gb microSDHC cards.

 

Of course, it's not perfect - if the DX100 battery (or other component) fails, you send in the whole thing, and you totally won't have a portable rig. If the Solo DAC's and/or amp's battery breaks, you still have the iPod and/or the amp to drive your headphones.

 

 

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hey thanks for the awesome reply.

 

I will consider this, when I feel the need for an upgrade.

At the moment it's too expensive to upgrade :)

 

Thanks!

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