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Introduction and request for help in picking first setup

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hello Head-Fi'ers,

 

I am new to the world of hi-fi in the sense of headphones and amps/dacs. Over the past few months I have read countless posts and spent more hours than I could care to calculate looking for my initial set up.

 

I have come down to the my initial headphone purchase: Philips X1/28 Fidelio X1 Headphones. Eventually, I would want to step up to some planar cans like the HiFiMan - HE-400 Headphones or HiFiMan - HE-500 Headphones

 

I know with the Fidelios I need a low impedance cable and I am Mediabridge or In-akustik to remove the muddiness the stock braided cables create. I would also be interested in know if there are any other cables I should consider.

 

Here is where my real request for help is needed, the AMP/DAC setup. I will mail listen from my computer desk, I have a current gen 27" iMac. I mainly listen to rock, and a variety of music - think Adele to movie scores (DarkKnight type) to some instrumental. I like a balanced sound, and like to hear the nuances of music...ie bass, mids, and highs. I like separation and a wider soundstage with appropriate positioning is a definite selling point. I would also use these for limited gaming, such as Diablo III.

 

The combos I have come down to are: (any other combo suggestions are welcome)

 

Aune T1 Upgrade Version 6922 Tube 24bit/96kHz Tube Amplifier USB Decoder USB DAC Black

 

Asgard 2 Headphone Amplifier and Bifrost Digital Analog Convertor

 

JDSLABS Objective2 + ODAC Combo Headphone amp By NwAvGuy model

 

Magni Headphone Amplifier and Modi USB Digital/Analog Convertor 

 

 

Please help before I go crazy!

 

Regards and Respect,

 

~ImperialBlade / Eric

post #2 of 25

I would say to get the pile (stack) of Schiit (Magni/Modi).

 

But if your serious about getting the HE-400 or HE-500, you might want to find out what amplifier work best with them, this way you only have to buy one amplifier for use with the Philips and Hifiman headphones.

I would assume any low impedance (3-Ohms or less) headphone amplifier would work with the Fidelio.

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks Purple for the response back.

I didn't think about it that way. From what I have read the Asgard / Bitfrost should work well. Then again, I am still learning so I could be wrong.

post #4 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

I would say to get the pile (stack) of Schiit (Magni/Modi).

But if your serious about getting the HE-400 or HE-500, you might want to find out what amplifier work best with them, this way you only have to buy one amplifier for use with the Philips and Hifiman headphones.
I would assume any low impedance (3-Ohms or less) headphone amplifier would work with the Fidelio.

+1

You could also pair the Modi with the Asgard 2. Additional advantage of the Asgard 2 over the stronger headphone amp from the Magni is the pre-amp output should you ever want to hook up speakers.
post #5 of 25

Schiit (either Bifrost/Asgard or Magni/Modi) and ODAC/O2 are both very popular for the HE-400, and would be fine with the Fidelio. If you're already planning on upgrading the cables on the Fidelios to get better sound, IMO you are better off just getting the HE-400 in the first place. The price difference between the two isn't that large, and buying a $280 headphone when you already know what you want next just sounds like a waste of $280. 

The DAC/ amp choice will be much easier if you realize that all of them are going to sound great and that you will be happy with whichever one you get. Headphone choice is more important, and I don't think you are going to find anyone who would consider the Fidelio superior to the HE-400 (aside from value/ practicality considerations). If it were me, I'd get the HE-400 and whichever amp/dac combo fits in the rest of your budget. 

HE-500 will require more amp than the HE-400. Some people use the Magni or O2, but others say it needs more juice, like the Schiit Lyr. The HE-400 need an amp to get the most out of them in terms of clarity and detail, but they are easy to drive in terms of power.  

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the feedback, that is why I like using the collective intelligence / experience of forums.

 

If I were to bite the bullet and go with planar headphones what are my pros / cons of the HE-400 vs HE-500?

post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ImperialBlade View Post
 

Thanks everyone for the feedback, that is why I like using the collective intelligence / experience of forums.

 

If I were to bite the bullet and go with planar headphones what are my pros / cons of the HE-400 vs HE-500?

"collective intelligence" what do you think we are, the Borg?

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 

Well, if the shoe fits... (just kidding)  :)

post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ImperialBlade View Post
 

Well, if the shoe fits... (just kidding)  :)

It's The Borg, so it's "If the eye piece fits".

post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 

LOL...well played sir! (tips hat)

post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

So here are the last of my question:

 

What do tube provide me that solid state builds don't?

 

How often do you replace tubes? How expensive are they?

 

I hear the HE-400s have more bass, but it is not as detailed as the HE-500s. How is the mids and highs between the two? (I like want clean clear separation) Some people say the HE-400 are "bright" and because of this you want to make sure you amp/dac does not add to this, in other words find something that balances it out, is this true?

 

Of the combinations listed, I assume If I pick what ever could drive the HE-500s would keep me set for awhile, if that is the case which way should I go?

post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ImperialBlade View Post
 

So here are the last of my question:

 

What do tube provide me that solid state builds don't?

 

How often do you replace tubes? How expensive are they?

 

I hear the HE-400s have more bass, but it is not as detailed as the HE-500s. How is the mids and highs between the two? (I like want clean clear separation) Some people say the HE-400 are "bright" and because of this you want to make sure you amp/dac does not add to this, in other words find something that balances it out, is this true?

 

Of the combinations listed, I assume If I pick what ever could drive the HE-500s would keep me set for awhile, if that is the case which way should I go?

 

I will try to answer some of your questions. I use the HE-400 with a tube amp. 

It's hard to be specific if we're just talking about tube amps in general, but tubes flavor the sound a bit. Whether you find that to be a positive or negative is a matter of preference. I use a Little Dot MK3, which takes a wide variety of tubes, most of which cost around $10 each. Some amps use tubes that can cost $100+ each -- cost depends on the tube type. I've never had to replace a tube due to failure; I like to switch them out to change the sound. I can put in tubes that put more emphasis on the highs and make the bass punchier, tubes that bring out the midrange, tubes that make everything smoother, tubes that change the soundstage, etc.  I like it because it's a cheap way to experiment and add variety. So tubes give you the opportunity to try different flavors (though many of the differences are fairly subtle).

The other thing that tubes give you (in general, anyway -- the extent depends on the specific amp and tube type) is more of a "romantic" or "euphonic" sound than solid state. Compared to solid state, tubes can make the highs more silky and smooth, the soundstage bigger and airier, and the midrange and bass richer. People who like solid state would probably describe the same thing as coloration or inaccuracy, but it's a matter of taste. Think of digital photo filters -- some people like to increase saturation and contrast, some people like a more washed out and soft look, some people like to use as little processing as possible. A quality tube amp may emphasize certain parts of the sound in a certain way, but it shouldn't lose any more than the subtlest of subtle details in comparison to a similar quality solid state amp. 

I haven't heard the HE-500, but I chose the HE-400 because there are enough people who have heard both and still prefer the HE-400 that I concluded the differences between them have more to do with preferences than absolute quality (at least, $300 worth of absolute quality). If this is your first set-up, I'd advise you not to listen to people who say that the HE-500 is more detailed. Maybe it is, but we're talking about levels of subtlety that are hard to really understand if you haven't heard this kind of gear before. You will be blown away by either one. The HE-400 has more detail than any of my previous headphones (Q701 and DT990), and more than enough to reveal the limitations of all but the best recordings. IMO, there is a point where detail starts to become a missed blessing. For every glorious sounding album in my music collection where I hear new details and nuances with the HE-400, there are two or three where I'm just thinking "This wasn't recorded well enough." Of course, this depends on your preferences and the type of music you listen to. People who listen to lots of classical don't run into this problem until further up the equipment ladder. I listen to mostly electronic, rock, and new age /  world type music (e.g. Dead Can Dance). 

To make an analogy, say you are comparing 70MP and 80MP digital backs for a medium format camera. Sure, the 80MP back has more detail, but you're only going to see it in your photos if you take pictures of things that are perfectly still while using a tripod, mirror lockup, and a lens that's sharper than the sensor. Conditions have to be perfect for that extra performance to really matter. Same thing with recording quality. 

Anyway, I'd agree that the HE-400 are on the bright side. Not dramatically so, but yes. I EQ the treble down with a max of 3 Db at 9kHz, and they don't sound bright at all that way. But when I'm watching movies with no EQ, the brightness isn't enough to bother me. Compared to the other headphones I've owned, the HE-400 do clean and clear separation exceedingly well. They are very fast. I can't compare to HE-500 directly though. I will say that I get the impression that people who prefer the HE-400 over the HE-500 often mention the bass and the fun presentation, while people who prefer the HE-500 are more likely to mention the mids and highs and more balanced presentation. But it's not like the HE-500 have bad bass or the HE-400 have bad mids... 

EDIT -- Also, I did seriously consider getting the HE-500, and I would have used an Emotiva Mini-X A-100 as an amp for it if I did. None of the amps you've listed are considered optimal (adequate, yes, optimal no) for the HE-500. This is only based on my research though, not direct experience. 


Edited by manbear - 10/6/13 at 11:54am
post #13 of 25

Go to a shop with the pair of headphones you have purchased, and listen to different gear. If you hear no difference between the amps in the shop, you may not want to invest in an expensive one. Unless you just want a very expensive thing on your table you can show to your friends, and hug at night.

post #14 of 25

Just out of curiosity, what headphones do you use right now? 

All of this stuff is hard to describe and the best course of action would probably be to buy your top choices from somewhere with a good return policy, and decide what to keep after you compare it yourself. 

post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 

@ Manbear - The only Hi-Fi listening equipment I use are KEF Onkyo TX-NR818 and KEF KHT3005BL for speakers. For person listening I have Ultimate Ears TripleFi 5 (I think this is the model, they are no longer made) IEMs. So nothing all that awesome.

 

I guess I am going to to go the route of the HE-400s.Having made that decision, I am llon for the amp/dac combo that will balance out the somewhat bright HE-400s. Regardless of bulbs or solid state which would be the best pairing? Also, any need to swap cables at the time of purchase?


Edited by ImperialBlade - 10/6/13 at 5:59pm
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