Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Importance of headphones, amp, dac, cable, music player, etc
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Importance of headphones, amp, dac, cable, music player, etc

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Have a question I want to ask veteran audiophile

When I first bought an audiophile grade headphone, the headphone cable was recommended to increase the sound quality. After that the earpad. After that I had to get an headphone amp followed by a DAC to use with my mpb. Then there are cable that connect AMP to DAC to mpb,etc. Then I have to buy music players like Amarra, Pure Music, etc. After that I have to buy/download lossless such as flac quality songs. Now, from what I read I know that headphone makes the most difference in sound quality. However, the amp, DAC, cable, and music player can effect sound quality as well but might be subjective or only slightly. Can any experienced audiophile please give a score of how important each element are? Say headphone get a 100 because it is important to get good sound quality. What score would the amp, dac, cable, music player, music files get. This will help me clarify on what really matters and what I should expect when I upgrade my stuff so I wont over spend on unnecessary items.

Thank you for all advices.

.

post #2 of 17

I am not a "Veteran Audiophile" biggrin.gif

 

But here is my list of importance...

 

100 Quality Music Files

75 Amplifier

50 DAC

5 Music Player

0 Cables

post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chawanwit View Post

Have a question I want to ask veteran audiophile

When I first bought an audiophile grade headphone, the headphone cable was recommended to increase the sound quality. After that the earpad. After that I had to get an headphone amp followed by a DAC to use with my mpb. Then there are cable that connect AMP to DAC to mpb,etc. Then I have to buy music players like Amarra, Pure Music, etc. After that I have to buy/download lossless such as flac quality songs. Now, from what I read I know that headphone makes the most difference in sound quality. However, the amp, DAC, cable, and music player can effect sound quality as well but might be subjective or only slightly. Can any experienced audiophile please give a score of how important each element are? Say headphone get a 100 because it is important to get good sound quality. What score would the amp, dac, cable, music player, music files get. This will help me clarify on what really matters and what I should expect when I upgrade my stuff so I wont over spend on unnecessary items.

Thank you for all advices.

.

 

Headphone > Amp > DAC = File >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cable

 

Amps/DACs are useless without a good headphone.

Amps are important because they need to power the headphone adequately.

The DACs don't make a huge difference, most are comparable (unless you're comparing with onboard sound).

Music files also the same. It'll be hard to distinguish between a 320kbps MP3 and a FLAC.

 

Cables are way below in the chart, utterly insignificant.

post #4 of 17

Actually cables are pretty important...

 

When you compare them with wireless headphones...

post #5 of 17

Everything about such ratings are relative. Depends on the headphone, where you are coming from, what gear you own etc..

 

I am not a veteran. I only have 1 example where I compared 2 setups costing about the same with different pricing on headphone, amp and the like.

 

Pretty much: HE-400 well amped vs. HE-500 not as well amped

 

HE-400 won to me, even though I do like the HE-500 enough to justify its higher price.

 

The setups were:

X-can V8 -> HE-400

Fiio E17 -> HE-500

 

In this case I felt the amp was important enough to justify spending more on amplifying and less on the headphone. Of course I ended up with X-can V8 -> HE-500 since that combo ofc sounded better than both mentioned above.

post #6 of 17

I am not a veteran and I assume you are building a rig.

 

For me the most important is the music quality, crap in = crap out.

 

Then it's the headphones.

 

After that you want a decent physical music player (with line out) if you are not using your computer as source, for your computer, don't waste your money on paid music players just install foobar2000 (free).

 

If you got a physical music player then an amp, if you are using your computer a dac is more important, amplifying a noisy/crappy signal from your computer sound card will make it worse.

 

It depends on what headphones you are using and what you are happy with, I personally have a Nuforce HDP, which is a decent amp and dac in one, as I have plans to travel. Later on when I settle down I'll probably get a better amp and keep the HDP as a dac.

 

Then comes the cables and mods, it really depends on what headphones you have, the cables do make a difference. I am lucky enough to have visited Hong Kong, where I tried different cables at the stores.

 

With my headphones (W4r and LCD2) the difference is obvious especially my W4r, portable wise, I feel that the cable made more of a favourable difference than my ibasso D10 + rolling opamps. For full size headphones the amp is definitely more important.

 

Hope this helps!

post #7 of 17

Order of importance relative to perceived sound quality:

 

1 - Headphone & High quality file (wav/flac - minimum 320kbps MP3 - also good recordings play a big part)

2 - Amp

2.1 - Mods like earpads can make a big difference in perceived sound and quality

3 - Dac

 

4 - Cables

 

I put a gap between 3 and 4 because most of the time cables won't improve or change the sound unless you're ready to drop A LOT of money for VERY LITTLE return.


Edited by GREQ - 5/23/13 at 7:05am
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all advice, all of it has been very helpful. 

Anyone is welcome to express your opinion and not just veteran audiophile biggrin.gif

More comments, advices, and opinoins are welcome as I enjoy reading what everyone has to say....

post #9 of 17

well im no veteran, but i do have something to add. in general, i agree with the general consensus of this thread. i.e:

1. high quality files (i do believe 320kbps mp3s are sufficient)

2. headphone/ mods and pad changes

3.amp

4.dac

 

 

 

100. cables

 

a cable is meant to allow the signal through from device A's output into device B's input. that is all. the ability of the cable to do this depends on its build quality and impedance. the latter is directly relative to the thickness of the wire. what im trying to say is that a bad cable can degrade music, but a good cable can not improve it.HOWEVER, because of what i have written above, i never felt any need to invest in high end cables of any sort. so all that i said above is not coming from personal experience. hence, i may well be wrong. but in theory, i dont think i am. at any rate, the importance and the effect of cables is a dangerous topic here, almost as flammable as the old lossless vs. lossy debate. its best to read up about these subjects as much as you can, and then decide for yourself whats true and whats not. taking anyones word for it, mine or anyone elses, is imho unrecommended. 

 

one more thing to consider is the setup as a whole. assuming your source has a good quality dac and amp of its own, and your using low impedance/high sensitivity headphones, you may very well not need an amp at all, and adding one would be superfluous. on the other hand, assuming again that your source is giving a high quality signal, but your using high impedance/low sensitivity headphones, then no matter how good the headphones are, and no matter how good the signal provided by the source is, the music wont sound right without an amp (external or otherwise) powerful enough to meet the electrical requirements of your "hard to drive" headphones. so it all depends.

it also depends on your preferences. what you deem as high quality isnt what i would. some like tube amps, some like solid state. some people are looking for bass emphasis or treble happy sound, when others want linear, neutral sound. 

in any case, its important to look at the whole picture, and not just evaluate each individual component. you could decide that the headphone is the most important bit and therefore pay 1.5k for a pair of HD 800s. but running them off a fiio e6 just wont do. see what i mean?

post #10 of 17
I am not a head-fi veteran but with reference to my journey in the land of music up to now (see my equipment) and looking backwards it wasn't the equipment itself but also the whole chain that got me a satisfying result ( and of course sometimes the money :-) ).

Starting with things like sansa clip+, fiii e6 or e11 it was a learning process not related to my music preferences but about the sonic signature and quality i wanted or expected vs. the sonic signature and quality i got. And even now the 'what i want' is changing at the monent from the analytical to the precise but warmer presentation of music.

Maybe investment is a process, not a single point decision.

So everything posted here is true, and reading a lot of head-fi threads helps me a lot understanding what i want to hear and with which equipment that can be achieved.

To use the best quality music files is fully clear

Looking backwards i now would spend much more time in listening before buying and thinking about the overall sound i like most, then i would look for a headohone that fits the sonic signature i want (hifi shops usually also have nice amps to listen to without buying them), then i would look for the right amp or would buy a satisfying amp while saving money for the best one

Only for portable high end players, not other sources:

The (portable) source for me is more independent than the general decisions above (how to say, if you buy a colorfly c4 or a dx100, you can be pretty sure that at least the player is not that bad)

cables - this last step of fine tuning should always be seen in relation to the budget and the possible small effect.
Edited by GermanGuy - 5/25/13 at 8:47am
post #11 of 17
assuming you already have an Midfi set up and would like to upgrade.

0 ears
1 source
2 dac
3 amp
4 headphone
5 power supply
6 cable
post #12 of 17

In general I would say the closer component is to your ears the bigger impact on sound it has (headphones > amp > DAC > source), assuming you are not playing some funny 128kbit MP3s. So, as long as you are having standard 16/44.1 FLACs, the difference in sound quality between files are fairly small. Cables are different category tho, the pricier they are the lesser improvements they bring (sometimes none at all, depends on gear and ears), but it depends on listening conditions, especially for power cables. That being said, as someone already wrote, in audio/video there is one a golden rule - garbage in, garbage out. It applies on file quality as well as component powering. The quality of electrical grid is sometimes very poor, especially in old houses/flats, and I know many people who benefited the most from quality power conditioners, filters and power plants. But I would say there is no need to dig into cable hunting unless you have fairly high budget ($3000+) .

 

So, my order of importance:

1. headphones

2. amplifier

3. power management (quality of electricity supplied to components - power cables, power plants, conditioners/filters...)

4. DAC

5. Environment - this is not directly related to sound itself, but the more comfortable you are the better perception of music you have

6. various IC cables

7. source files (assuming we are using lossless file compression)

post #13 of 17

320 kbps music files are considered high quality, right? 

 

I ordered a FiiO E7 dac/amp for my Sennheiser HD 558 headphones. That should make a difference, right? Right now I'm listening to these headphones straight out of my ipod and I think it sounds alright, but I imagine it could be better.


Edited by Hifi Man - 6/6/13 at 5:31am
post #14 of 17
HD 558 is said not to benefit that much. 320 kbit is okay
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post

HD 558 is said not to benefit that much. 320 kbit is okay

So I should probably return the FiiO E7?

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Importance of headphones, amp, dac, cable, music player, etc