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Need help to get started...amp, headphone and portable digital audio device

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, it's been a week, more or less, since i've started reading this forum (i find it beatiful) and i decided to join because i think i've a lot of caos in my head (a noob reading posts from experts can get confused) and because i think i can learn a lot, trying to be useful to someone else one day.
My name is Edoardo, i'm 17 years old and i live in Italy, near Rome.

I started searching for everything concerning about hi-fi music listening because since i've started playing guitar i noticed that i'm quite disappointed about the quality of my listening on my iPod.
First: i own an iPod Classic 5 g (the last with the hard drive and the DAC Wolfson WM8975) 60 gb and the Akg K518LE and i listen most to Heavy Metal, Hard Rock but i listen also a lot to Prog Rock/Metal, Folk Metal, Southern Rock, Blues, Jazz, Fusion and some Country (i think i've wrote down every genre, but that's it).
I've to say most of time i listen to music in my room, with the home theatre and the CDs and i am quite satisfied with that but, as i said, i want to improve my "itinerant" listening.
At first i thought i had to change my iPod with a newer version hoping it would have sounded better but i've tried the new iPod Touch 5g and i found out that is not like that. I mean, i think it's better in someway but not in someothers. Imho (remember i'm a newbie biggrin.gif) the iPod Touch sounds brighter, with a general more definition while the Classic i have, sounds warmer and darker someway. In addition i removed the volume limit imposed by EU on my iPod (i saw that on the Touch 5g you can disable it just by going into settings but, i assure, it's not the same) and mine is much louder and this is important for me because i use my iPod mostly on busses or trains and i have to cover the noises (i know it depends from the headphones too, but i find the k518 quite suitable to this, even though they're not loud).
Then i began to search for others audio portable hi-fi devices and i found Astell & Kern products, which have a various price range and i don't know how to move in this field. Then i decided to try the iPod as a source, connecting it to the home teatre and i found out that is not so bad as it seems to be hearing by headphones (even tough they're mp3 320kbs and the differences with the CDs quality are, to my ears, enormous). So i tought the problem was due to my headphone and i started searching about that and i read about portable amps (i didn't even know they existed!).
The point is: i do not know what to change. The iPod? The headphones? Should i buy a portable amp without changing anything? Should i buy an amp and new headphones? Should i re-convert my CDs to a better quality than 320kbs mp3s? (please answer "no" because it's a lot of work! biggrin.gif I've like 35gb of music in my iPod and it took a lot of time to convert every single CD in mp3, i don't want to imagine what it would mean to re-do everything converting in a higher quality format, even considering that i don't know if 60gb would be enough).

Considering that my budget is around 400-500 €, what do you suggest me?

Sorry if i wrote a lot and sorry if there are some grammatical errors.
Thank you very much!
Edited by Edo2 - 11/27/13 at 6:00am
post #2 of 18
Traditional greeting:

Welcome to head-fi, sorry about your wallet...

I would start with an inexpensive amp, like something from Fiio with your current ipod. Get an ipod dock->lineout adapter so that you bypass the ipod internal amp (Fiio makes one, or look on eBay). I suspect you will find that does make a difference with your current 'phones. After that, I would try different headphones. The headphones make much more difference in the sound you hear than any other decent quality component in the chain. I must say I'm a little surprised when you say you hear an"enormous" difference between a CD and a 320K mp3. It makes me wonder what else was different in your audio system to cause the enormous difference - or if the mp3 rip you have has something else going on with it. One thing to be careful of is matching volume when doing A vs B comparisons. A small difference in volume can be perceived as a big difference in sound.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi, thank you very much for your answer!!
So how do you suggest to spend my money? Spending more for the headphones and less for the amp?
And could you tell me please the name of the amp/headphones models you have in mind that could suit my situation?
Due to my English ignorance i didn't understand the sentence "or if the mp3 rip you have has something else going on with it"; i will try to explain better what i wanted to say.
I connected the iPod to the home theatre (which is connected to two monitors and a subwoofer) and i found out that it's not bad as it seemed to me via headphones but anyway there's a big difference using the same home theatre (with the same monitors and sub) played directly from the CD. To me the sound is more "airy", with more body and depth, more punchy basses and, in general, it's more full (or fuller?...my poor English!).
These are, more or less, my impressions; i hope i explained them better than before.
Thanks again!
Edited by Edo2 - 11/27/13 at 1:54pm
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
None? frown.gif
post #6 of 18

320Kbps MP3s are fine.


You can switch from the iPod to FIIO X3, which is just 200$


You can use the "fb2012fiver" coupon to take another 10$ off.


What's great about it, is that you can also use it as a DAC/Amp with your computer.


JVC HA-S680 are a great portable headphones:



You can have it for 81$ on eBay or around 70$ from http://www.fromjapan.co.jp

post #7 of 18

Hey Edoardo!


-I would start by getting an external amp to go with your iPod (look for something like the FIIO E7, FIIO E11, FIIO E12)


-Then I would get an LOD Cable (it's a cable that plugs into your iPod via the 30pin connector and plugs into your external amp via 3.5) this disables the iPod's internal DAC, which provides un-amplified music straight to your external amp and then to your headphones.


-If your budget allows it, look for some headphones.. A pair of not-so expensive (but good) set of cans are the Audio Technica ATH-M50s and the Sennheiser HD 598s. 


Keep in mind that all of this is progressive.. So you can start by getting the external amp and see if you like the way your music sounds.. Then get the headphones, and eventually get your music into a lossless format (320kbps is perfectly fine, it sounds great, but to me, music in the 900-1400kbps is the best).


Hope this helps!

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much guys!!
So the best solution, in terms of audio quality, would be iPod + FiiO E12 or the FiiO X3?
If i don't have to change iPod, i could buy the FiiO E12 (which is around 120 €) and the cable (which is around 10 €) and have around 250 € for the headphones.
What do you think?
Thanks again!!
post #9 of 18

Go with the E12 + iPod combo (unless your iPod isn't working properly).. The X3 would be more of an addition to the E12, at least in my opinion.

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot! And, even though i have around 250 € for the headphones, do you still suggest me the aforecited headphones or anything else?
post #11 of 18

E12 would only help you if you have some hard to drive headphones, that iPOD can't drive.

It won't do much for you, as DAC is more important than amplifier when using efficient headphones.


FIIO X3 will make much more of a difference for headphones like HA-S680.

And it has a very good amplifier, on par with E17, slightly below E12.


post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Sorry for my ignorance, what does it mean "to drive a headphone"?
post #13 of 18

ciao edoardo,

depending the impedance and efficiency rating of a headphone, it may need more current or more voltage. Portable devices such as mobile phone or ipod can not drive all phones. In this case, an amp would be beneficial.

For further reading, take a look into these posts




post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ciao rubinstein, thank you very much!!
I was offered (for a thing i'm selling) this headphone:

Headphile Grado 325i with Gaboon Ebony Cups and Korina Wood Housing + Upgraded Cable

* Gaboon Ebony earcups 
* an upgraded 1.5 meter BlackCopper cable attached to a Neutrik 1/4" plug
* stealth screens added
* Headphiles new Korina wood driver housingsIncludes the COA right from Larry at Headphile as well.

And it has the earpads of the Sennheiser HD 414, which should be more confortable.
The guy who proposed me this values the aforecited headphone 300 €.
What do you think about the headphone? (i mean in terms of quality...could they be ok?
And what do you think about his estimation?
And, also, if i'd take this headphone what solution would be better?
Thanks again, really helping me, i'm very grateful!!!
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Any suggestions? frown.gif
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