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Cheap vs Expensive (portable) Amps

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I've been looking around here...and ive not been able to find a thread that could answer my question for me...

 

So I've just been wondering, what is it that an expensive amp can do that a cheap amp can't do. If there is a substantial difference, when does price/quality ratio start to get smaller and smaller? Does using an amp guarantee an increase in sound quality? 

 

Been trying to educate myself about this kind of thing lately since im kind of a noob when it comes to gear...So maybe ill more than just the technical purposes of an amp and more about the innards of an amp and what those do as well if i could start a thread like this and maybe someone else might be able to learn something too from all the contributions to the thread. 
 

Time for the explanations and questions galore! explain away people. :)

 

Jun

post #2 of 24

A more expensive amp will generally have a lower noise floor, better dynamics and more/cleaner power without distortion.    

 

[There is also the whole area of Class A / zero or low feedback designs, but AFAIK, there arent too many portable amps with this design so that is moot.]

 

Leaving these aside, the differences in sound signature are quite subtle and to be honest, in the absence of formal precisely volume-matched testing, it is a matter of opinion how much of those "night and day" differences you read about here are real, placebo or just misplaced enthusiasm.        

 

Where the diminished return curve sets in is hard to quantify.    It depends on how difficult your headphones are to drive, and how much audio equivalent of pixel-peeping you want to do.  I reckon that leaving aside orthos and other hard-to-drive designs, a FiiO E12 or JDS Labs will get you a long way towards something that provides good enough performance that you have to listen carefully to find improvements.

 

That being said, I do feel that my Alo V3 amp, paired with a CLAS -R DAC, provides noticeably better transients and dynamic slam than either my Alo National or Fiio E12.   And they drive my full-sized cans with a lot of authority and control.     So spending more does get you more in some cases.

 

One other benefit of using an amp with a low-impedance output with low-impedancy headphones is that you are less likely to have variations in FR response, esp rolled-off bass.

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Okay, thanks a lot. i still have questions. Im gonna sound dumb asking a lot of questions but i dont care.

 

Anyway, firstly what does AFAIK as an abbreviation stand for?

 

what exactly is low/high impedance?

 

What are the kinds of things i need to know when im buying an amp? I dont wanna just rely on others opinion about which amp is better or not. I wanna be able to judge for myself how good they are subjectively and also become adept at judging what amp is best for the headphones i own.   

post #4 of 24

AFAIK - as far as i know

 

Go to some local head-fi meets if you have a chance.  You'll get hands on experience with amps and you get to indulge youreself in knowledgeable conversations with other members who may have been there and done that. Otherwise, go search for all the amps you may be interested in.

 

I think the first question you need to ask is, "Do I  really need an amp regardless of the price?"  Depending on your setup, you may not need one.  The next might be, "What do I want the amp to do for me?"  As you probably have discovered, there's different implementations with opamps, tubes, buffers, output power and impedance...etc  Some amps are purposely colored or voiced.  Some amps may be way too powerful or under powered for a particular setup.

 

If you're still on the path of finding out the difference between cheap and expensive amps once you hold one, it becomes apparent.  Pride in craftsmanship with meaningful warranties do factor in the cost.  As with everything else in the audio chain, there's a huge jump in cost for small steps in finesse and refinement.

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deeman View Post
 

what exactly is low/high impedance?

 

What are the kinds of things i need to know when im buying an amp? I dont wanna just rely on others opinion about which amp is better or not. I wanna be able to judge for myself how good they are subjectively and also become adept at judging what amp is best for the headphones i own.   

 

I'll let someone else describe impedance to you, as I am not sure how to do it in a relatively simple manner.  

 

The best I can say is that think of the impedance of the headphone as the resistance/load that it presents to the amplifier (well, a combination of resistance, inductance and capacitance, but close enough).   And the output impedance of the headphone-out is the equivalent load presented by the amp unit when the circuit is closed.    In general, the impedance of the headphone should be atleast 8-10 times the output impedance of the amp (headphone out) - that prevents the amp's load from affecting the current/voltage drop across the headphones.     

 

As for what to look for - the most obvious is the output power of the amp.   Your typical headphones will have an impedance of 30-50 ohms, and a sensitivity of 100dB/mW, give or take (ie, they put out 100dB per mW of output watt - with 3dB additional for every doubling of output power).    These are fairly easy to drive and quite frankly, you need to compare the sound with/without an amp to judge whether or not there is a difference.  

 

Now, if you have harder to drive headphones, or headphones with varying impedance across the frequency spectrum (which are harder to drive accurately) - you will need a headphone amp, as it most likely can do a better job of handling this variation.   Check the impedance graph of your cans to see if it is more or less flat or if it has a bunch of peaks and valleys.

 

Another specs to look for is S/N ratio (high numbers are better - pref >100dB).   A higher number means a quieter background - which also means that better ability to play music with a large dynamic range (difference between soft portions and peaks - most obvious in classical symphonies).

 

That being said, specs do not come close to telling the whole story - or even part of it.  I am a tubaholic and tubes measure very poorly compared to solid state amps in virtually every way - and sound a lot better, IMO/IME.   A lot of amps use heavy global feedback to get nice specs but they end up sounding really sterile and lacking in meat/substance/body.

 

So my recommendation would be to only use specs to make sure an amp has the power to drive your headphones and isnt abysmally poor when it comes to S/N ratio.    And then go listen.  

 

At the risk of losing popularity points, I will say that for a bunch of reasons, a lot of the reviews/opinions you will read here are prone to exaggeration, to put it mildly:  people who claim to hear significant sonic differences in different firmwares or various, comparatively-priced solid state amps, etc.     So do not fall into the trap of assuming that just b/c you read it here, it has to be true.    Eg, Head-fi wisdom has it that the output from an iPod/iPhone is crap and you need an amp no matter what.   With my Sennheiser Momentums, I am hard pressed to hear a difference between the output from the headphone-out of my Touch vs the output through an AK10.    

 

Of course, it could be that I have lead ears and am not fit to own anything better than a pair of stock iPod headphones as well  :)

post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post
 

 

I'll let someone else describe impedance to you, as I am not sure how to do it in a relatively simple manner.  

 

The best I can say is that think of the impedance of the headphone as the resistance/load that it presents to the amplifier (well, a combination of resistance, inductance and capacitance, but close enough).   And the output impedance of the headphone-out is the equivalent load presented by the amp unit when the circuit is closed.    In general, the impedance of the headphone should be atleast 8-10 times the output impedance of the amp (headphone out) - that prevents the amp's load from affecting the current/voltage drop across the headphones.     

 

As for what to look for - the most obvious is the output power of the amp.   Your typical headphones will have an impedance of 30-50 ohms, and a sensitivity of 100dB/mW, give or take (ie, they put out 100dB per mW of output watt - with 3dB additional for every doubling of output power).    These are fairly easy to drive and quite frankly, you need to compare the sound with/without an amp to judge whether or not there is a difference.  

 

Now, if you have harder to drive headphones, or headphones with varying impedance across the frequency spectrum (which are harder to drive accurately) - you will need a headphone amp, as it most likely can do a better job of handling this variation.   Check the impedance graph of your cans to see if it is more or less flat or if it has a bunch of peaks and valleys.

 

Another specs to look for is S/N ratio (high numbers are better - pref >100dB).   A higher number means a quieter background - which also means that better ability to play music with a large dynamic range (difference between soft portions and peaks - most obvious in classical symphonies).

 

That being said, specs do not come close to telling the whole story - or even part of it.  I am a tubaholic and tubes measure very poorly compared to solid state amps in virtually every way - and sound a lot better, IMO/IME.   A lot of amps use heavy global feedback to get nice specs but they end up sounding really sterile and lacking in meat/substance/body.

 

So my recommendation would be to only use specs to make sure an amp has the power to drive your headphones and isnt abysmally poor when it comes to S/N ratio.    And then go listen.  

 

At the risk of losing popularity points, I will say that for a bunch of reasons, a lot of the reviews/opinions you will read here are prone to exaggeration, to put it mildly:  people who claim to hear significant sonic differences in different firmwares or various, comparatively-priced solid state amps, etc.     So do not fall into the trap of assuming that just b/c you read it here, it has to be true.    Eg, Head-fi wisdom has it that the output from an iPod/iPhone is crap and you need an amp no matter what.   With my Sennheiser Momentums, I am hard pressed to hear a difference between the output from the headphone-out of my Touch vs the output through an AK10.    

 

Of course, it could be that I have lead ears and am not fit to own anything better than a pair of stock iPod headphones as well  :)

excellent, excellent explanation. I think also totally valid insight into the placebo effects that people experience with various pieces of audio equipment -- 24 bit/16 bit, amps, cables, anything and everything. Although head-fi is, and always will be, a wealth of information, it is also full of self-professed audio addicts (myself included :) ) who may at times be prone to seeing various component upgrade potentials through rose-colored glasses.

 

Vkalia, on an unrelated note, Ive currently got a C&C BH2  and have been considering upgrading it. Currently I'm using Momentums but I'm hoping to purchase a pair of the Fostex TH900s by the end of the year.... either way pretty low impedence closed cans. One of the amps I've considered going with is the ALO Rx Mk3, which is one of the more pricey models, but is said to work amazingly with the CypherLabs CLAS, which I've just added to my rig in the past week. The Rx looks amazing but at $650, I'm not sure 'looking' amazing will be sufficient if the upgrade in SQ is negligible in comparison to my C&C BH2. Any thoughts? 

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattAnthony1990 View Post
 

Vkalia, on an unrelated note, Ive currently got a C&C BH2  and have been considering upgrading it. Currently I'm using Momentums but I'm hoping to purchase a pair of the Fostex TH900s by the end of the year.... either way pretty low impedence closed cans. One of the amps I've considered going with is the ALO Rx Mk3, which is one of the more pricey models, but is said to work amazingly with the CypherLabs CLAS, which I've just added to my rig in the past week. The Rx looks amazing but at $650, I'm not sure 'looking' amazing will be sufficient if the upgrade in SQ is negligible in comparison to my C&C BH2. Any thoughts? 

 

My totally unscientific thoughts based on no experience with the Rx MK3 (so forewarned!):   The Alo amp is likely to be a tangible upgrade, b/c as far as I can tell from its design, it should be able to to handle varying loads a lot more easily (bigger beefier components in amps, capable of putting out greater current generally do).     I am a big believer in size and component weight when it comes to amps.

 

Whether this is a significant upgrade, I dont know.    I am tempted to say yes, but would it be a better choice than, say, a $300 amp?   No idea.

 

I have a Fostex TH600, and while it has a low impedance, it isnt particularly sensitive @ 94dB/mW.   If you want, I can do a little bit of an A/B between a Conti V3, an Alo National and a E12.   While it wont address your specific question, it might give you an idea of how this family of headphones responds to beefier amplification.

 

ETA:  The TH900 appears to be a little more sensitive but not a whole lot more - 0.15mW to hit 90dB, which means 1.2mW gets you 99dB.  30-40mW ought to provide enough headroom handle pretty much most music peaks (20mW gets you 112dB or so).   There appears to be a 20% variation in impedance however, so an amp with good current capabilities will work.   From all accounts, the Rx Mk3 is indeed such an amp.


Edited by vkalia - 1/6/14 at 2:24am
post #8 of 24

Awesome, that is a host of useful information :), I'll have to check out the Continental as well, I've heard good things about it!

post #9 of 24

So I did a little A/Bing today.

 

Source:  iPod Clasic 160GB  feeding a CLAS -R DAC

Amps:  Alo Conti V3 and FiiO E12

Can:  Fostex TH600

 

The most obvious difference is that the V3 has a much darker background to the music than the E12 - almost like the difference between velvet black and dark grey.    The difference is quite subtle when you look for it, but the impact on how the music is perceived is not.   Quiet notes appear more "delicate" and detailed with the V3.   To me, this alone justifies the price/performance difference - on a subconscious level, even though i am not hearing anything more with the V3, the music sounds a lot more natural, enjoyable and less fatiguing.   

 

The other noticeable difference is the more detailed timbre on things like string plucks (quite obvious when listening to the Frank Zappa Wind Ensemble playing "Bolero", for example).   

 

A few other subtle difference, which i dont know would still exist under precise volume matching:

- On complex but soft notes, the V3 does a better job of not smearing them together.  

- Timpani seemed to have a little more solidity to them thru the V3 (eg, in the 3rd movement of Saint Saen's Organ Symphony)

 

Except for the first difference, the others are all quite subtle and require careful listening - ie, the kind where you lie back and listen to music, and not do anything else.  If you are multi-tasking, the difference probably wont be worth the price.

post #10 of 24
I spent 35 years chasing work to feed my familly. Now that I'm retired I finally have time to return to my first love MUSIC. In my youth I had more invested in my stereo than my car but still much cheaper than the many wonderful children that just like BB King said now she wants to give them back. Now on a fixed income while I may have more of a lead ear than I did then, I do have the advantage of actually having been there at the epicenter of the greatest music of this century. The music that was birthed in the cotton field from a marriage of rich african beats with gospel music in places like Tupelo MS . Carl Perkins a cotton picker himself gave us Elvis Johnny Cash Jerry Lee Lewis by sharing with us this wonderful black american soul music. Civil rights detoured this music for a time by way of the brittish. During this unrest in the US the brittish music invasion took us into the richest musical era of our century. Fueled by a cosmic social political energy this post WWII music is the benchmark we are all looking for in our pursuit of the best audio equipment. The late 60's and early 70's music are so powerful that it would be hard to not notice how many remakes of those tunes are in the forefront of todays music. It would be naive not to believe that it is this music that is as important as any other periods of Renaissance that is fueling our passion of the high fidelity sound. My Dad moved us to Liege Belgium until 1966 where I discovered the Beatles and Rolling Stones listening to the BBC on our wide band radio with copper wire strung accross the attic for antenna. I would wire my turntable to the speaker to the family radio and would record the BBC sounds on my wolensak tape recorder. That's how it all started. Oh yes I'm quite shure you can tell where it went from there. Yea dog! Next was half a year salary on a McIntoch preamp a Pionner 4 channel amp a Dual turntable and of course a reel to reel tape recorder KLH and AltecLansing speakers and of to the Woodstock music we went. CSNY blaring, Carlos Santana Soul Sacrifice, Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin with all the intensity of the VietNam war. Compared to the mono sound of the family radio Hi-Fi stereo was epic. And isn't that the magic we are all looking for in todays equipment. I will forever be grateful to all the technical developments that gave us such rich and magical enjoyment. Now I'm so far behind the times that I have to go to the grandkids for tech help. One thing those times taught me it is not just about the money but rather the experience. As I am new at this new world I really appreciate company's like Grado that put sound before status symbol standards. Pride in their craftsmanship and value. They did such a good job on the sr80i's that I would save up for the ps500i's. I might even save up the 2500$ for the magic McIntosh is putting in their new DAC preamp not for the prestige but for the love they have of the music. I like the questions on this forum, help getting thru all the snake oil preying on our passion of the music. Being on a fixed income I need all the help I can get understanding what kind of equipment goes with type files?balanced output?usb powered DAC?low ohms in headphones, music stage reference etc. I know this is long winded I just hoping that if you know where I'm coming from someone out there might be good enough to help me relive the love I put on hold to raise kids. Thanks
post #11 of 24

The short answer to your question, Jim, is that if you care about enjoying good music - as opposed to sitting and trying to distinguish minute differences that may or may not exist between gear - then high-quality audio reproduction is a lot more affordable than the top-end of audiophile gear. 

 

As Yoda said, trust your ears.

post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimr101 View Post

I spent 35 years chasing work to feed my familly. Now that I'm retired I finally have time to return to my first love MUSIC. In my youth I had more invested in my stereo than my car but still much cheaper than the many wonderful children that just like BB King said now she wants to give them back. Now on a fixed income while I may have more of a lead ear than I did then, I do have the advantage of actually having been there at the epicenter of the greatest music of this century. The music that was birthed in the cotton field from a marriage of rich african beats with gospel music in places like Tupelo MS . Carl Perkins a cotton picker himself gave us Elvis Johnny Cash Jerry Lee Lewis by sharing with us this wonderful black american soul music. Civil rights detoured this music for a time by way of the brittish. During this unrest in the US the brittish music invasion took us into the richest musical era of our century. Fueled by a cosmic social political energy this post WWII music is the benchmark we are all looking for in our pursuit of the best audio equipment. The late 60's and early 70's music are so powerful that it would be hard to not notice how many remakes of those tunes are in the forefront of todays music. It would be naive not to believe that it is this music that is as important as any other periods of Renaissance that is fueling our passion of the high fidelity sound. My Dad moved us to Liege Belgium until 1966 where I discovered the Beatles and Rolling Stones listening to the BBC on our wide band radio with copper wire strung accross the attic for antenna. I would wire my turntable to the speaker to the family radio and would record the BBC sounds on my wolensak tape recorder. That's how it all started. Oh yes I'm quite shure you can tell where it went from there. Yea dog! Next was half a year salary on a McIntoch preamp a Pionner 4 channel amp a Dual turntable and of course a reel to reel tape recorder KLH and AltecLansing speakers and of to the Woodstock music we went. CSNY blaring, Carlos Santana Soul Sacrifice, Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin with all the intensity of the VietNam war. Compared to the mono sound of the family radio Hi-Fi stereo was epic. And isn't that the magic we are all looking for in todays equipment. I will forever be grateful to all the technical developments that gave us such rich and magical enjoyment. Now I'm so far behind the times that I have to go to the grandkids for tech help. One thing those times taught me it is not just about the money but rather the experience. As I am new at this new world I really appreciate company's like Grado that put sound before status symbol standards. Pride in their craftsmanship and value. They did such a good job on the sr80i's that I would save up for the ps500i's. I might even save up the 2500$ for the magic McIntosh is putting in their new DAC preamp not for the prestige but for the love they have of the music. I like the questions on this forum, help getting thru all the snake oil preying on our passion of the music. Being on a fixed income I need all the help I can get understanding what kind of equipment goes with type files?balanced output?usb powered DAC?low ohms in headphones, music stage reference etc. I know this is long winded I just hoping that if you know where I'm coming from someone out there might be good enough to help me relive the love I put on hold to raise kids. Thanks

Personal bias but the next good preamp Mac makes will be their 1st. I think it's a good example of cost vs performance not being a linear relationship.

 

When it comes to portable amps the extra funds of costlier designs probably goes to better ways to design dual rail power supplies and eliminating DC offset. Linear PS circuits tend to out perform switching ones but are a lot costlier to get right. Switching supplies also need a bit of massaging to do their best.

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimr101 View Post

I spent 35 years chasing work to feed my familly. Now that I'm retired I finally have time to return to my first love MUSIC. In my youth I had more invested in my stereo than my car but still much cheaper than the many wonderful children that just like BB King said now she wants to give them back. Now on a fixed income while I may have more of a lead ear than I did then, I do have the advantage of actually having been there at the epicenter of the greatest music of this century. The music that was birthed in the cotton field from a marriage of rich african beats with gospel music in places like Tupelo MS . Carl Perkins a cotton picker himself gave us Elvis Johnny Cash Jerry Lee Lewis by sharing with us this wonderful black american soul music. Civil rights detoured this music for a time by way of the brittish. During this unrest in the US the brittish music invasion took us into the richest musical era of our century. Fueled by a cosmic social political energy this post WWII music is the benchmark we are all looking for in our pursuit of the best audio equipment. The late 60's and early 70's music are so powerful that it would be hard to not notice how many remakes of those tunes are in the forefront of todays music. It would be naive not to believe that it is this music that is as important as any other periods of Renaissance that is fueling our passion of the high fidelity sound. My Dad moved us to Liege Belgium until 1966 where I discovered the Beatles and Rolling Stones listening to the BBC on our wide band radio with copper wire strung accross the attic for antenna. I would wire my turntable to the speaker to the family radio and would record the BBC sounds on my wolensak tape recorder. That's how it all started. Oh yes I'm quite shure you can tell where it went from there. Yea dog! Next was half a year salary on a McIntoch preamp a Pionner 4 channel amp a Dual turntable and of course a reel to reel tape recorder KLH and AltecLansing speakers and of to the Woodstock music we went. CSNY blaring, Carlos Santana Soul Sacrifice, Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin with all the intensity of the VietNam war. Compared to the mono sound of the family radio Hi-Fi stereo was epic. And isn't that the magic we are all looking for in todays equipment. I will forever be grateful to all the technical developments that gave us such rich and magical enjoyment. Now I'm so far behind the times that I have to go to the grandkids for tech help. One thing those times taught me it is not just about the money but rather the experience. As I am new at this new world I really appreciate company's like Grado that put sound before status symbol standards. Pride in their craftsmanship and value. They did such a good job on the sr80i's that I would save up for the ps500i's. I might even save up the 2500$ for the magic McIntosh is putting in their new DAC preamp not for the prestige but for the love they have of the music. I like the questions on this forum, help getting thru all the snake oil preying on our passion of the music. Being on a fixed income I need all the help I can get understanding what kind of equipment goes with type files?balanced output?usb powered DAC?low ohms in headphones, music stage reference etc. I know this is long winded I just hoping that if you know where I'm coming from someone out there might be good enough to help me relive the love I put on hold to raise kids. Thanks

Alright man, lemme try and help you out...

 

It really depends on your budget when your considering a DAC and Amp for desktop headphone use, you can spend several hundred dollars up to several thousands, if not far more.  My personal bias is a stand alone DAC + tube amp will result in the highest quality sound. Personally, I enjoy the slight coloration that a tube amp adds to music, then again some people swear by solid states.  A DAC, in a nutshell, is the magical piece of technology that turns the music from digits (0s and 1s) to music that we can hear. The better the DAC, the better the 'source' of your music... if your using good files. We'll get to files later.

 

If I had $500 and I were you I'd get the ALO PanAm. Its a small tube amp + built in DAC, which sounds wholly decent with any headphones that are highly demanding. If you own the HD 800, LCD3s, or the HE 6s this won't cut it. But there again, if you own any of the aforementioned, your probably up to spend a bit more on a AMP/DAC for desktop listening. If your looking to spend a bit more and want to stick with an integrated DAC/AMP I'd recommend PeachTree Audio, for one.

 

Its a bit tough to tell you 'exactly' what to look for other than this. Go with a reputable industry name and realize that hi-fi equipment is a diminishing return investment. In that, if audio quality, is on a scale of 1-100, increasing the quality of your audio from 70-71 may only cost $500 (just throwing a number out there), but increasing it from 90-91 may cost $5,000. Sorry man, I am just trying to make this all transparent and easy to understand for anyone who decides to read it. So there is that.

 

For amps, you have a lot of options. I recommend tube, you can swap tubes out to alter the sound signature, they look beautiful, as do many well-designed solids, and they make the music sound a tad bit warmer, not overwhelmingly, just slightly colored. To do it right, you probably need to spend  $1000 or so, again, the rule of thumb is to stick with a reputable name. Read the forums, get acclimated with various recommend brands, and do your homework. Half the fun is building 'the machine' in my opinion :).

 

If your looking for a jaw-dropping combo and you feel like your wallet is a bit heavy here is a set up: ALO Studio Six (Tube Amp) $3100 + PeachTree's Stand Alone DAC ($500) or, if you fancy some more portable, the CypherLabs' Algorythm SOLO -dB (~$550) has a damn good DAC chip in it, albeit not nearly as good as PeachTree's. 

 

Look, getting one of PeachTree's integrated ($1000,$1500,or,$4500) or ALO's PanAm Integrated ($500) will serve you very well. Alright having covered that lets move on...

 

Ok, balanced output, so I'm not going to go through all the science, but basically, in theory, a fully 'balanced' headphone (has to do with power sources and drivers) will sound better than its counterpart. It is hotly debated whether or not this difference is actually discernible to the human ear, however for audiophiles that is often besides the point. If you have really nice headphones or IEMS (in ear monitors) you might be able to use a balanced output if you want to. Its another costly investment, if I were you I'd spend it elsewhere. If you say your using Grado's, honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. Your sinking money into something that likely won't move the needle on the tangible SQ (sound quality) index. 

 

Alright, lets go to Ohms. Again, I'm not getting into the nitty gritty. Basically, the higher a headphones' Ohms is the tougher it will be to drive. By that I mean it'll need a more powerful, usually more expensive, amp. The higher the Ohms the more 'resistance' the headphones have and are therefore harder to drive.  Again with Grado you don't need to worry about this too much, their headphones are generally 32 Ohms if I remember correctly, which means they aren't hard to drive. Using any of the aforementioned recommendations and you'll have no issues. 

 

Alright, lastly, files. So basically, when music is recorded it is uncompressed, everything from when it was recorded is still present. When music is compressed typically** it loses part of the original recording, hence it is of a lesser quality. So why would people compress music? This should be a crime! Well, for one, uncompressed audio files are way larger than compressed files and take up more space. The second element is that most people generally do not care whether there file is some compressed 128 kbps MP3 garbage or uncompressed audio. They might say they can't hear the difference, but that is a lie, everyone can hear the difference its a matter or whether or not you care. If your using compressed files I can really only recommend two options. There is a form of compressed audio that is 'lossless' thanks to nifty engineering. What you need to know is these formats are FLAC and ALAC (Apple's iTune's compatible version of FLAC), if your using iTunes and ripping CDs to your computer I'd advise this as its just as good as uncompressed but saves space. If you so desire, the uncompressed formats, which are of equal quality, are AIFF and WAV. More space, same sweet music goodness.  If you have to use traditional compressed formats stick with no less than 320 kbps, some argue 256 kbps (what iTunes publishes their music as) to be sufficient. And for you, it very well may be, for myself, 320 kbps is the floor and I stick with FLAC/ALAC/AIFF/WAV if possible. If you (or anyone else) have any further questions on 'files' please let me know. I'm happy to further explain or whatever. Lastly, sometimes you'll hear about 24 bit audio. I wrote a lengthy explanation on another forum page which I'd have to dig up, but to make a long story short don't buy it. The human ear can hear everything it can in 16-bit in practice since nobody has a 'golden ear', 24 bit is not even iTunes compatible, and above all people buy into 24 bit in the vain hope they can somehow eek out that 96-97 or 98-99 SQ, sorry folks you can't. No doubt, this point will be argued against hotly, however I assure you beyond any reasonable doubt that my assertion on this point is 100% factual.

 

So, I think I've explained what you asked for. I'm happy to help. Being on a budget myself (recent college grad), I understand the need to sift through the proverbial B.S.  

 

Best of luck. (and listen to Radiohead's OK Computer if you haven't already)

post #14 of 24

sorry for a few grammatical errors in that post. 

 

one error. I mention the PanAm being able to power any highly* demanding headphones, it should be other than highly*

 

Thanks!

post #15 of 24
Vkalia that is the point. I got so lucky with the grado sr80i, the sound for the money was phenomenal. The problem now is the access to good music. That's where I could use a good guide to understanding all this new technology. I really would hate investing into equipment that isn't compatible with each other. All the different file formats out there is not a matter of being a purist but rather having access to what I want to hear. For instance my CD's that I purchased legally were getting scratched so I down loaded them on my music. I put them on flash drive to preserve them it worked fine but when I got a new player now I'm running into proprietary issues. Im just now learning that while lossless file for some music is wonderful for bringing back the original sound vs remasterd some of the old albums are so bad that the remastered are for the best. I guess what I'm saying is that there is so much snobbery out there that it is very difficult cutting through to the chase. I really appreciate your honest approach to this problem. I've been reading up for weeks trying to find a value priced DAC for the open stage and sound of the Grado's with the ps500 in the future. But for all my reading I don't seem to be getting any closer to knowing what I need to build on as I can afford to practice. I am however learning that it would be very easy to get caught up in over kill if not right out getting into very costly mistakes.
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