or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Better to get a dedicated headphone amp or use my old NAD amp?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Better to get a dedicated headphone amp or use my old NAD amp?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

After leaving Minidisc behind in 2009 and wanting a better sound, I'm aiming to get a Fiio X3 later this year to use as a DAP & DAC/amp for my PCs (maybe not my main PC with it's SB Audigy 4 card) to drive my Grado SR60s.

 

Of course it's likely in that I'll want to get an amp with a bit more oomph and I'm wondering if it's worth digging out my old NAD C320BEE integrated seperates amp out of storage just so I can drive my phones OR for a similar price, would a more recent dedicated desktop or portable headphone amp be a better investment?

 

Thoughts and experiences welcome. :)

 

P.S.: Just spotted the O2+ODAC which can be DIYed (very tempting for an electronics engineer like myself :D).


Edited by locksbury - 1/16/14 at 4:37pm
post #2 of 16

The Grados don't need an amp, although they may be helped by one--depending (in part) on what else is in the chain feeding them.

 

Try you old amp before you buy something else.  There is no down side.

 

Probably my most powerful amp for driving headphones is from the jack of my vintage Sansui receiver.  It does a quality job on most harder to drive dynamic and ortho cans.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply KG Jag. Your thoughts make sense and tie up with what I've been reading in the forums and thinking as an engineer.

 

For now, my sound sources are:

 

PC with Sound Blaster Audigy 4 internal PCI Soundcard (gives me the best sound so far with Grados).

2010 Mac Mini (drives the grados alright, but the PC always sounds that bit better).

Small IBM Laptop (can hear all the internal electrical noise on that one!)

 

So as you say, there's no harm in trying my NAD; aside from the sheer amount of desk space it'll take up! :)

 

I will say the O2 amp looks tempting, as it appears I'm going to be in my rented room for a few more years (so don't have room for the NAD system and with it being DIY, it looks like a good excuse to get into building electronics at home again with a project that I'd actually use daily...

 

Of course, this could all change when I get a Fiio X3! :biggrin: (Anything would be an improvement on the laptop sound!)


Edited by locksbury - 1/17/14 at 5:06am
post #4 of 16

I suspect that an external DAC or sound card (perhaps with a built-in amp) for your Mac and laptop may be the place to start.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I was thinking more along those lines earlier. The full DIY O2 amp kit from Headnhifi in Switzerland looks a very good deal, comes in a multitude of colours (http://www.headnhifi.com/diy-kits/o2-kit-full) and then there's the option of the ODAC as well.

 

Getting a new DAP is a definite and so far I've narrowed it down to the Fiio X3 or a Rockboxed 2nd hand Ipod Classic (Gen 5/5.5) which both seem popular on the forums and often hooked up to other amps. Either option would give me line out (for the car) and FLAC support, with the bonus for the Ipod being better battery life, space for music and playlist support; whilst the X3 can be used as a DAC out of the box. Of course these would be good sources for a portable setup when strapped to the O2 amp.

 

Concentrating on the desk setup, this would narrow down the choices to:

 

PC -> X3 (DAC Mode) -> O2 Amp -> Grado SR60s

PC -> ODAC -> O2 Amp -> Grado SR60s

 

So I suppose my query now is which DAC out of the X3, Ipod and ODAC gives the best sound before being passed to the O2 Amp? Has anyone compared them?


Edited by locksbury - 1/17/14 at 3:20pm
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post
 

Hi guys,

 

After leaving Minidisc behind in 2009 and wanting a better sound, I'm aiming to get a Fiio X3 later this year to use as a DAP & DAC/amp for my PCs (maybe not my main PC with it's SB Audigy 4 card) to drive my Grado SR60s.

 

Of course it's likely in that I'll want to get an amp with a bit more oomph and I'm wondering if it's worth digging out my old NAD C320BEE integrated seperates amp out of storage just so I can drive my phones OR for a similar price, would a more recent dedicated desktop or portable headphone amp be a better investment?

 

Thoughts and experiences welcome. :)

 

P.S.: Just spotted the O2+ODAC which can be DIYed (very tempting for an electronics engineer like myself :D).

 

I had an SR225 and a NAD304 before. Sound was decent but the percussion was livelier on my CMOY. If you no longer have a speaker set-up, you can sell the NAD for now to fund the O2+ODAC and save some space.

 

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

ProtegeManiac, I hope it doesn't come down to selling my NAD/KEF Hifi (the O2 kit is only £60!), but of course Sod's law will mean that shortly after I do, I'd find place of my own and somewhere I could have put it! :tongue_smile: Anyway, how do you find the SR225s? From all the posts I've read, they seem the next sensible price point in the Grado range.

 

As for the DAC quandry, I've realised that I can do this mod: http://www.pbase.com/objective3/inbox (with a better milled back plate of course). So I can get the O2+ODAC in the same case, still use the batteries and then have a device which would double as a DAC/Amp for desk use and a DAC once I can get that place of my own.

 

 

I think that all clears up this thread, except for which colour to get the case in and which DAP to go for. Cheers for your help guys! :cool: 


Edited by locksbury - 1/18/14 at 2:27pm
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post
 

ProtegeManiac, I hope it doesn't come down to selling my NAD/KEF Hifi (the O2 kit is only £60!), but of course Sod's law will mean that shortly after I do, I'd find place of my own and somewhere I could have put it! :tongue_smile:

 

Well certainly if you have place to store the amp for now then you should certainly keep it. I had to sell my NAD304 because there's still my PhD down the line, and likely in the US (my brother is egging me to move back in with the family) or Canada (I could move into an apartment complex where a couple of high school buddies live), so I sold it to someone who would use it. Still have buyer's remorse over it being such a great value at the time, more so when I bought it after the factory here moved to China and I got it for $100 from the firm that liquidated the last stocks.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by locksbury View Post

 

Anyway, how do you find the SR225s? From all the posts I've read, they seem the next sensible price point in the Grado range.

 

It was great when I got it but the longer I had it the more I realized there were aspects of the sound that were wanting. It had a too strong, trident-shaped soundstage - strong Left, Center, Right, with recessed notes in-between them that desperately depended on Crossfeed. Then there's how itchy the foam pads are (I'm not one of those sickly kids but as far as itching is concerned my skin's sensitive, so this is not something I expect others to encounter). I did however get great service from Grado - this was purchased in Singapore but one email with my brother's address in California and they sent over a replacement fork (that oblong plastic part with a metal rod on it) free of charge. Anyone looking for fun headphones and noise leakage isn't a concern I always recommend Grado. Heck, if I didn't need an IEM more, I'd have kept mine, but I don't want to annoy anyone next to me in a train or jet.

 

If you don't expect to get fussy about imaging I would definitely recomment Grado, and if you can go up to the price of the 225 or 325is, I'd go for one of those. 225 would be the safer bet, but as long as you're using fresh earpads, I'd get the 325.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post
 

As for the DAC quandry, I've realised that I can do this mod: http://www.pbase.com/objective3/inbox (with a better milled back plate of course). So I can get the O2+ODAC in the same case, still use the batteries and then have a device which would double as a DAC/Amp for desk use and a DAC once I can get that place of my own.

 

That's the most sensible thing to do, really - if you have the skills to put them together definitely put them in the same chassis. You wouldn't pocket this anyway, I'm sure your bag won't notice the larger chassis with both over just the O2.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post

 

I think that all clears up this thread, except for which colour to get the case in and which DAP to go for. Cheers for your help guys! :cool: 

 

If you have the ODAC in the same chassis, why not skip the DAP and just use your smartphone or tablet (or when you upgrade the smartphone to a compatible unit)? Check the Android DAC thread - apparently the Samsung S3 works with the ODAC without a separate battery pack. You can even get a dock for it off Amazon and it'll be a neater set-up at home, kind of like how I use mine:

 

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

So far the Grados are the best headphones I've owned. The foam pads don't annoy me, sound great and play nicely with my glasses. :)

 

Less can be said for my previous Sennheiser 525s which broke at the headband despite being handled delicately [managed to get a replacement headband and sell the lot off] and somehow rubbed uncomfortable on one specific part of the cartilage on my outer ear. :triportsad:

 

Anyway, I only use the Grados in my room (may push to listening when cooking), so there's no problem with sound leakage and for portable use, since my small ear canals don't like ear buds, I've got my Sennhesier PMX60s, which are the behind the neck style so I can where my hat. I'm not trying to block the world out, just drown out the traffic a bit and still be aware enough I don't get run over. Maybe at some point I can look into proper IEMs...

 

I'm an electronics engineer by trade, so the two in one box mod is easy and I can always recase it or change the sockets if I need to hook it up to my hifi when that gets used again. If the ODAC works with my current (or future phone), that's a bonus, but the O2+DAC would be primarily for room use and maybe with the laptop when I'm visiting friends or family.

 

Ironically, what started me getting onto this forum was trying to find a DAP in the first place which would replace my phone where the headphone socket was starting to break, as it's the only source I have which can drive the aux in on my car stereo. :tongue:

 

In the end I'm debating whether the Fiio X3s shortfalls of limited space, lack of playlist support and high cost, but better sound quality and ability to drive any better headstones in future, outweigh the convenience of space and price than say a Rockboxed Ipod Classic 5G. :)


Edited by locksbury - 1/19/14 at 4:52am
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post

 

In the end I'm debating whether the Fiio X3s shortfalls of limited space, lack of playlist support and high cost, but better sound quality and ability to drive any better headstones in future, outweigh the convenience of space and price than say a Rockboxed Ipod Classic 5G. :)

 

Totally missed the X3 in your original post when I typed. If you're getting the X3 you won't really need the ODAC and the O2 - it can be hooked up to a PC as a DAC too, that way any other content (like streaming audio or video) can play through the X3. That's quality enough decoding and more than adequate amplification for Grados.

 

The only reason to have both the X3 and the ODAC (and of course the O2) is if you'd prefer a very transparent DAC. However if you're into a more "fun" reproduction then the X3 by itself should be good enough.


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 1/19/14 at 8:11am
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

Gah! I can see why this is a fun hobby. So many things to consider! I've always tried to keep my kit neutral in sound signature (no EQs, etc...) so the music does the talking.

 

And I know there's a op-amp swap mod which supposedly gives the X3 a flatter signature, but the DIYer in me is very tempted by the O2/DAC setup.

 

I suppose the only way to see what's what is to find someone who can lend me a O2/DAC and X3 for a test at home. :D

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post
 

Gah! I can see why this is a fun hobby. So many things to consider! I've always tried to keep my kit neutral in sound signature (no EQs, etc...) so the music does the talking.

 

And I know there's a op-amp swap mod which supposedly gives the X3 a flatter signature, but the DIYer in me is very tempted by the O2/DAC setup.

 

I suppose the only way to see what's what is to find someone who can lend me a O2/DAC and X3 for a test at home. :D

 

Well at that price point you can always have all of those :D

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

 

Well at that price point you can always have all of those :D

 

Precisely! :)

 


Still, need to think whether the extra £100 of an X3 and SD card is worth it over the 5th Gen Ipod. I mean I'm not expecting hifi quality when I'm in the car and the X3 firmware is far from perfect still.

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by locksbury View Post
 

 

Precisely! :)

 


Still, need to think whether the extra £100 of an X3 and SD card is worth it over the 5th Gen Ipod. I mean I'm not expecting hifi quality when I'm in the car and the X3 firmware is far from perfect still.

 

The X3's line out would likely be closer to a true 2v, 10kohm redbook signal than any other source's headphone jack. Maybe even better than an iPod but of course I'm less confident about that one. Beyond that I wouldn't expect much from an X3, or even a HiFiMan 901, in a car unless it can magically transform your car into a Mclaren F1: you're still sitting off to one side. Proper car audio processors however introduce the time alignment/time delay to have all speakers' outputs arrive at the driver's ears at the same time though. If at any point you fancy doing anything like what the people competing in EMMA events do with their cars (which I emphasize isn't always trying to blow their windshields off with a subwoofer), mosey on over to www.diymobileaudio.com :ksc75smile:

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well, if the Fiio X3 mutates my car into a GTR, then we're talking. :D

 

I was never expecting hifi audio from any car hifi and I'll have to keep the car stock for that inevitable day I have to sell it to build up a house deposit.

 

I suppose my other reason for looking at a higher end DAP was more so that I didn't have to have two sets of music at different bit rates for portable and home hifi use.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Better to get a dedicated headphone amp or use my old NAD amp?