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New Member Here--Couple of Questions

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

Hello!  My name is Edward (obvious enough from my account name?!), and I've been lurking here for the past couple months on Head-Fi, but decided I might as well finally take the plunge and join, since I have a few questions related to headphones and music that I thought maybe you guys could help.

 

Quick background about me.  I'm 26 and live in Washington, DC.  I started listening to music through headphones around the time I went to college.  I researched which headphones I should buy on the Internet for a little bit, and settled on the "entry-level audiophile" Grado SR-60 headphones (I don't believe I have the SR-60is, but the older SR-60s, although I could be wrong).  I actually really liked these headphones, other than that they are uncomfortable after wearing them for over an hour, and I still have and use them.  

 

In terms of a source, I didn't even own a cell phone until my senior year of college, so I never had an iPod and iPhone to listen to music till until after college.  I am somewhat of a collectionist, in that I love owning physical CDs.  I probably have upwards of 300 CDs, mostly rock and popular music (I tend to listen to music from the '60s and '70s), but also spanning other genres, such as instrumental soundtracks, hip-hop, jazz, classical, and some electronic music.  So basically I like to listen to good music of ALL genres (and I actually mean that!).  I listen to music on a portable CD player (I believe this is the model I have, although I'm not sure exactly what the model name is--it's Sony), which I connect to my Grado SR-60 headphones.  

 

One of my main questions is: Is playing music off a portable CD player like that hurting the quality of the music I'm listening to?  I know that the headphones tend to matter more than the source, but that the source is also very important (for instance, MP3-quality music will show its limitations when played through nice headphones or loudspeakers).  I prefer music on CD rather than downloaded, for a variety of reasons, but especially for the fact that I own it in a physical sense.  What kind of set-up should a beginner try to put together for a CD-listening experience?  Would a headphone amp help?  I know it probably wouldn't with the Grados, but I'm considering stepping up and getting the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, which I've heard can benefit from amping (although not as much as other headphones, obviously, but one day I will probably step up from the M50s to something like Sennheiser HD600s or something of the like).  Is there even a point to a DAC when I'm listening to CDs?  

 

I'm not sure how much of a difference there is between CD players when it comes to sound quality.  I like the idea of a portable CD player, especially because I live in a smallish apartment, so that I can listen to music wherever I want, but I'm also considering getting a non-portable one one day.  Do they sound better on headphones than portable ones do?  I don't see many articles or posts at all on here about CDs--everyone seems to be playing music digitally these days, even audiophiles, so I thought I'd ask.

 

In terms of other headphones I have, I have the Bose QuietComfort 15s (for travelling and isolation), Klipsch S4As for plugging into my Samsung Galaxy S4 when I commute (the headphones are some of the few with Android controls, as opposed to iOS ones), Sony XBA-S65s for working out, and Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphones for work (cheap, but not bad).

 

When it comes time to actually listen to a new album, I almost always use my Grados through the CD player, though.  That's how I like to "experience an album" for the first time.  I'd much rather listen to the CD than download it and listen off a computer (this way I'm not constrained as to where the computer is).  I might also start using my Bose QC15s occasionally for this task, but the sound on the Grados is probably a little bit better, since it doesn't have the noise cancelling going on.  

 

Anyways, this is my introduction.  I'm very happy to join this site, and I'm sure I'll have a ton of questions in the future.  One thing that confuses me about audio technology in general is that it's just that--technology.  I don't get parts of the technical side.  The idea of when to use a headphone amp versus when to not use one, the differences between headphone amps or CD players for instances--all that stuff can be a bit intimidating.  For instance, is there a huge difference in sound technology between a home CD player and a portable CD player?  

 

Anyways, thanks in advance!

 

Edward

post #2 of 36

Hey Edward!

 

As with new members here... Welcome to Head-Fi! Sorry about your wallet.

 

Anyways..

 

I don't think a CD player has issues with audio quality. The only issue I can see is power. So, yes, a headphone amplifier may be useful. Do you have a budget for that as of yet?

 

Another thing. About the M50.. I don't recommend it to anyone. The M50 sounds congested, and, to me, not worth the money. I only use mine for monitoring. 

 

So, headphones and amp combined, if you're looking, what do you think your budget would be? And what about sound signature, if you have a preference?

 

post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 

In terms of budget, I'd be willing to go up to maybe $250 for a headphone amp.  Do you think that would be sufficient to run headphones up to, say, HD600 level?  I don't know much about headphone amps.  I notice a lot get a headphone amp/DAC combo.  Is that necessary if I run it off a CD player?  

 

As for sound signature, I probably don't know enough about it to really say.  I suppose neutral would be best, if possible, but I'm not too picky.

post #4 of 36

Does it need to be a portable amp? Or could it be one that plugs into an outlet?

post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 

Plugging into an outlet would definitely be fine for me.  Portable amps run off batteries?  

post #6 of 36

listening music from audio cd is good. but a DAP and FLAC files can make the things easier without compromising audio quality.

 

do you need a portable amp?

post #7 of 36
Thread Starter 

Out of curiosity, how do they make things easier?  I'm not against downloading, and might start doing that with music I can't find on CD, but most likely will stick with having CDs as my main source of music for the foreseeable future.  Like I said earlier, I like having a collection (a physical collection).  I'm not against starting a digital collection, though.  I will probably start burning my CDs onto my computer anyways, once I buy a new laptop (hoping to get a MacBook Pro Retina Display).  Does it convert it into DAP/FLAC files automatically?

 

I don't think I need a portable amp.  I imagine the sound would be a good deal better with a desktop amp than a portable one?

post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward777 View Post
 

Out of curiosity, how do they make things easier?  I'm not against downloading, and might start doing that with music I can't find on CD, but most likely will stick with having CDs as my main source of music for the foreseeable future.  Like I said earlier, I like having a collection (a physical collection).  I'm not against starting a digital collection, though.  I will probably start burning my CDs onto my computer anyways, once I buy a new laptop (hoping to get a MacBook Pro Retina Display).  Does it convert it into DAP/FLAC files automatically?

 

I don't think I need a portable amp.  I imagine the sound would be a good deal better with a desktop amp than a portable one?

 

Just a note, a DAP stands for Digital Audio Player, so, when you rip a CD, the files will be converted to digital, so yes, they are. But FLAC is a specific codec. It's lossless, which means that the audio is preserved just as it was originally. Codecs like MP3 and AAC are lossy. While I, personally can't tell the difference, some can. Normally, softwares like iTunes or Windows Media Player rips CDs at AAC format. You can easily change that to FLAC though. 

 

Note that not all DAPs can play FLAC. I don't know specifics, other than the iDevices, that can't (but they play ALAC, which is basically the same thing, but Apple branded)

 

Portable amps normally have a rechargeable battery, like the FiiO E11, but some have batteries that you can replace, however, they normally come with rechargeables, or they at least offer you rechargeables, like the cMoy BB V2.03.

 

The factor of if the amp is desktop or portable doesn't really mean much until you get into the more expensive units. A $100 portable or desktop amp would power your headphones essentially exactly the same. 

 

(PS- Get a Windows PC)

post #9 of 36
I have heard that fiio x3 is a good DAP and value for money.
There are considerable differences between mp3 files against properly ripped FLACs.
Regarding dac/amp, go for modi/magni stack or audio gd 11.32.
The latter can drive a broad range of cans and you do not have a need to think about upgrade sooner.
post #10 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pro1137 View Post
 

 

Just a note, a DAP stands for Digital Audio Player, so, when you rip a CD, the files will be converted to digital, so yes, they are. But FLAC is a specific codec. It's lossless, which means that the audio is preserved just as it was originally. Codecs like MP3 and AAC are lossy. While I, personally can't tell the difference, some can. Normally, softwares like iTunes or Windows Media Player rips CDs at AAC format. You can easily change that to FLAC though. 

 

Note that not all DAPs can play FLAC. I don't know specifics, other than the iDevices, that can't (but they play ALAC, which is basically the same thing, but Apple branded)

 

Portable amps normally have a rechargeable battery, like the FiiO E11, but some have batteries that you can replace, however, they normally come with rechargeables, or they at least offer you rechargeables, like the cMoy BB V2.03.

 

The factor of if the amp is desktop or portable doesn't really mean much until you get into the more expensive units. A $100 portable or desktop amp would power your headphones essentially exactly the same. 

 

(PS- Get a Windows PC)

I will answer this more in-depth tomorrow when I get to work tomorrow, but I plan on getting a Windows gaming desktop and a MacBook laptop, so I will have both Mac and Windows stuff.

post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pro1137 View Post
 

 

Just a note, a DAP stands for Digital Audio Player, so, when you rip a CD, the files will be converted to digital, so yes, they are. But FLAC is a specific codec. It's lossless, which means that the audio is preserved just as it was originally. Codecs like MP3 and AAC are lossy. While I, personally can't tell the difference, some can. Normally, softwares like iTunes or Windows Media Player rips CDs at AAC format. You can easily change that to FLAC though. 

 

Note that not all DAPs can play FLAC. I don't know specifics, other than the iDevices, that can't (but they play ALAC, which is basically the same thing, but Apple branded)

 

Portable amps normally have a rechargeable battery, like the FiiO E11, but some have batteries that you can replace, however, they normally come with rechargeables, or they at least offer you rechargeables, like the cMoy BB V2.03.

 

The factor of if the amp is desktop or portable doesn't really mean much until you get into the more expensive units. A $100 portable or desktop amp would power your headphones essentially exactly the same. 

 

(PS- Get a Windows PC)

 

 

 

Read this more in-depth just now.  Couple questions: Does one need a DAC if you're simply listening to a CD player?  I thought that CD files were analog, but I was looking at a book of classical music last night, and it said that CDs contained digital files, as opposed to tapes,. which are analog.  Even if a DAC isn't necessary for a CD player, I would like to get a combination amp/DAC, since that would just simplify things if I did want to listen to music digitally.

 

What would you guys recommend for a desktop amp that could run headphones up to about the $500 range?  I'd like to get a DAC/amp combo (unless you guys specifically recommend just getting a headphone amp and not a DAC) that can last me a while, and run a variety of headphones.  I don't want something that can just run ultra-cheap ones, but maybe can run headphones up to the HD600/650 range.  Is that unreasonable?  

 

Also, any recommendations for a step-up from the Grado SR-60s?  I'm looking for a headphone to use at home (doesn't need to be mobile-friendly), against all varieties of music.  I could use it for movies and games, too, but that's not a must, since I currently use my Astro A50s for movies/games, and I like them well enough.  Music is the most important part.  Price range is maybe $100-$400 for the headphones.  Maybe up to $300 for the amp/DAC.  I was considering the Schitt Magni and Modi, because of their price.  Could these run headphones like the ATH-M50s or Sennheiser HD598s?


Edited by Edward777 - 11/13/13 at 8:08am
post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward777 View Post

Read this more in-depth just now.  Couple questions: Does one need a DAC if you're simply listening to a CD player?  I thought that CD files were analog, but I was looking at a book of classical music last night, and it said that CDs contained digital files, as opposed to tapes,. which are analog.  Even if a DAC isn't necessary for a CD player, I would like to get a combination amp/DAC, since that would just simplify things if I did want to listen to music digitally.

What would you guys recommend for a desktop amp that could run headphones up to about the $500 range?  I'd like to get a DAC/amp combo (unless you guys specifically recommend just getting a headphone amp and not a DAC) that can last me a while, and run a variety of headphones.  I don't want something that can just run ultra-cheap ones, but maybe can run headphones up to the HD600/650 range.  Is that unreasonable?  

Also, any recommendations for a step-up from the Grado SR-60s?  I'm looking for a headphone to use at home (doesn't need to be mobile-friendly), against all varieties of music.  I could use it for movies and games, too, but that's not a must, since I currently use my Astro A50s for movies/games, and I like them well enough.  Music is the most important part.  Price range is maybe $100-$400 for the headphones.  Maybe up to $300 for the amp/DAC.  I was considering the Schitt Magni and Modi, because of their price.  Could these run headphones like the ATH-M50s or Sennheiser HD598s?

CD players have a DAC inside them, though you can also hook up many CD players to an external DAC as we'll. In order to properly use a headphone amp, the amp needs to be connected to a line level output. CD players and DACs have line level outputs. The headphone jack on your laptop, on the other hand, is not a line level output and should not be connected to an amp. It is almost never appropriate to use an amp without a DAC or CD player.

Schiit Modi and Magni could absolutely run any of the headphones you've mentioned, or any headphones at all in your $400 price range. In fact, they would be close to overkill for the M50s or HD598s. Not that that's a problem.

Standard favorites in your price range include:

Beyerdynamic DT770, 880, 990
AKG Q701
Sennheiser HD600, 650
Hifiman HE-400
Phillips Fidelio X1
Mr. Speakers Mad Dog or ZMF modded T50RP

To narrow it down, you will have to be more specific about what sound you are looking for. Do you like bass? Sensitive to treble? Etc.
post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post


CD players have a DAC inside them, though you can also hook up many CD players to an external DAC as we'll. In order to properly use a headphone amp, the amp needs to be connected to a line level output. CD players and DACs have line level outputs. The headphone jack on your laptop, on the other hand, is not a line level output and should not be connected to an amp. It is almost never appropriate to use an amp without a DAC or CD player.

Schiit Modi and Magni could absolutely run any of the headphones you've mentioned, or any headphones at all in your $400 price range. In fact, they would be close to overkill for the M50s or HD598s. Not that that's a problem.

Standard favorites in your price range include:

Beyerdynamic DT770, 880, 990
AKG Q701
Sennheiser HD600, 650
Hifiman HE-400
Phillips Fidelio X1
Mr. Speakers Mad Dog or ZMF modded T50RP

To narrow it down, you will have to be more specific about what sound you are looking for. Do you like bass? Sensitive to treble? Etc.

Thanks!  This is all very helpful.  I think I will probably start with the Modi and Magni, because is there anything else that suits my needs for that price?  That's great it can run any headphone in the $400-500 price range.  There isn't a problem with "overkill," is there?  I could even hook my SR-60s up to the Modi/Magni, right?  I realize there might not be a discernible difference with such low-level headphones, but hopefully it wouldn't hurt on any level.

 

In terms of sound, I'm not a huge bass-head, so I'd prefer a more neutral sound.  I like my Grados, but they are a bit on the treble-y side.  I'm also considering stepping up on the Grado line.  

 

I've read a little bit about the Beyerdynamics and AKGs and HiFiMan's on this site, but I hadn't really heard of them prior to coming onto here.  What are the advantages of these?  Are these capable of running without an amp?  

post #14 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward777 View Post
 

Thanks!  This is all very helpful.  I think I will probably start with the Modi and Magni, because is there anything else that suits my needs for that price?  That's great it can run any headphone in the $400-500 price range.  There isn't a problem with "overkill," is there?  I could even hook my SR-60s up to the Modi/Magni, right?  I realize there might not be a discernible difference with such low-level headphones, but hopefully it wouldn't hurt on any level.

 

In terms of sound, I'm not a huge bass-head, so I'd prefer a more neutral sound.  I like my Grados, but they are a bit on the treble-y side.  I'm also considering stepping up on the Grado line.  

 

I've read a little bit about the Beyerdynamics and AKGs and HiFiMan's on this site, but I hadn't really heard of them prior to coming onto here.  What are the advantages of these?  Are these capable of running without an amp?  

The typical way using too much amp could hurt is that the volume knob would be very sensitive. Meaning you'd have to make tiny adjustments and it would get loud fast. For super efficient headphones (mostly IEMS), you might also hear hiss or other noise with an amp that's too powerful. I don't think that would happen with full size headphones though and something like the Magni though. Overkill is fine. I'm currently enjoying absurd overkill by running my headphones off a 50 watt per channel speaker amp :D

For other DACs and amps in your price range, the big competitors to the Modi and Magni are the JDS Labs ODAC and O2 amp. They are a little more expensive. A lot of people think they are close to the same, others say the Magni has a little more treble emphasis. Of course, you could also get a Modi and an O2. No reason not to mix and match. Schiit is also coming out with a tube amp called the Vali in the next week or two. It's $20 more than the Magni according to preliminary information. You could listen to the Grados on any of these with the possible exception of the Vali. You might hear some noise or hiss on the Vali because Grados are very sensitive and the Vali is not designed for sensitive headphones. 

For a more neutral sound, scratch the Beyerdynamic DT770 and DT990 off your list. They are rather bassy. The DT880 is the neutral Beyer. The Hifiman HE-400 is also on the bassy side, but uses planar magnetic drivers and has a very fast sound. The AKGs are pretty neutral and definitely worth reading up on. I have the Q701. It has very deep and controlled bass that's not over emphasized at all. But the one quality of the AKGs that sets them apart is the huge soundstage. Everything sounds spacious and open, like you are sitting towards the back of a large concert hall. I haven't listened to Grados, but from what I've read, this is the polar opposite of the Grado soundstage, which is small and intimate, like you're sitting up close to the stage in a smaller room. Supposedly, the higher level Grados retain the basic flavor of the SR-60s, just with better technicalities. Between DT880, Q701, and HD600/650, it's mostly individual preference. They are all very good, so it's hard to go wrong. 

post #15 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

The typical way using too much amp could hurt is that the volume knob would be very sensitive. Meaning you'd have to make tiny adjustments and it would get loud fast. For super efficient headphones (mostly IEMS), you might also hear hiss or other noise with an amp that's too powerful. I don't think that would happen with full size headphones though and something like the Magni though. Overkill is fine. I'm currently enjoying absurd overkill by running my headphones off a 50 watt per channel speaker amp :D

For other DACs and amps in your price range, the big competitors to the Modi and Magni are the JDS Labs ODAC and O2 amp. They are a little more expensive. A lot of people think they are close to the same, others say the Magni has a little more treble emphasis. Of course, you could also get a Modi and an O2. No reason not to mix and match. Schiit is also coming out with a tube amp called the Vali in the next week or two. It's $20 more than the Magni according to preliminary information. You could listen to the Grados on any of these with the possible exception of the Vali. You might hear some noise or hiss on the Vali because Grados are very sensitive and the Vali is not designed for sensitive headphones. 

For a more neutral sound, scratch the Beyerdynamic DT770 and DT990 off your list. They are rather bassy. The DT880 is the neutral Beyer. The Hifiman HE-400 is also on the bassy side, but uses planar magnetic drivers and has a very fast sound. The AKGs are pretty neutral and definitely worth reading up on. I have the Q701. It has very deep and controlled bass that's not over emphasized at all. But the one quality of the AKGs that sets them apart is the huge soundstage. Everything sounds spacious and open, like you are sitting towards the back of a large concert hall. I haven't listened to Grados, but from what I've read, this is the polar opposite of the Grado soundstage, which is small and intimate, like you're sitting up close to the stage in a smaller room. Supposedly, the higher level Grados retain the basic flavor of the SR-60s, just with better technicalities. Between DT880, Q701, and HD600/650, it's mostly individual preference. They are all very good, so it's hard to go wrong. 

Thanks, manbear!  I went onto the Beyerdynamic Web site.  I assume you mean the DT770/880/990 Pro?  I noticed that that distinction was made, which the author of this thread (Battle of the Flagships) claims makes them inferior to the old-fashioned DT line (I'm guessing the older, discontinued line was more expensive?).  I won't like, the HiFiMan's are somewhat appealing.  I read a little bit about them on Jude's summer gift guide.  They seem somewhat similar to the HD600s, in terms of both being similarly priced and designed for in-home use with an amp.  

 

I think I will probably end up getting the Magni/Modi, and maybe I will upgrade to the Vali if that gets good reviews.  Schitt seems like a good company, and you can upgrade pretty linearly along their product line.  Not that I know that much about amps or anything.

 

When I said I was looking for headphones in the $400 range, I should also say that I don't necessarily need to spend that much.  That's why I was thinking of the ATH-M50s, since those are well under the price.  I think long-term I'd like a pair of HD650s or their equivalent, but I'm not sure if I will buy something like that now or not.  The Sony MDR-V6s also seemed like they could be a nice, cheap addition to my collection.  Or the 558/598 (I imagine I'd get the 598s...look at that beautiful color!).

 

I'm also interested in getting a nice pair of mobile headphones someday (not necessarily anytime soon).  Right now it's between Sennheiser Momentums, V-MODA M-100s, and the Bowers & Wilkins P5/P7.  They all look so gorgeous!

 

Edward

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