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Select equipment to listen to classical music as a pain management

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I discovered that listening to music somehow helps me to live with my cancer pain. Therefore I'd like to buy appropriate gear. It should be of decent quality to help me for comfortable listening for many, many hours. As I don't know how long I'll live I don't have time for experimenting with different gear and collecting bigger CD library. I think that subscribing to music services like Spotify can give me access to many interesting pieces of music. There's a minus. They offer only 320kbps bitrate and music is highly compressed. Is it enough to really become immersed in music? Can you recommend any other places with good classical music, classical guitar and jazz?
Initially I was thinking about buying Violectric DAC V800, Violectric HPA V200 amp and HD 650 or HD 800 as a CD player Marantz CD6005
My budget is $5,000 AUD.
I really appreciate any suggestions to get the right gear.

post #2 of 11
First off - I'm sorry for your condition and I wish you all the best. I also applaud you for finding a way to use music to make the situation a little more bearable.

I think subscribing to a music service is a very good option for you. IMHO, the bitrate difference between 320K and lossless is hugely overblown - it is yet another of those audiophile issues that makes us chase the last 1% while ignoring the benefit of the 99%. I think the bigger issue with streaming services is the network connection and the ability of the services like Spotify to handle the ever-increasing demands. So, I think you can go a long way toward optimizing your streaming experience by making sure you have a rock solid internet connection that is capable of sustaining the streaming data.

Now, as far as the requirements for having music be "immersive" - I do NOT think you need to have the utmost in summit-fi for music to be immersive - or at least I don't need that. I believe that even much more modest music systems than what you are proposing can deliver that experience. Again - it's about listening to the 99% you have, not fretting about the 1% you don't. I think that if *you* believe you can get enjoyment from your music, then you *can* get enjoyment from it - regardless of audiophile level your gear and sources are at. I strongly believe the most critical aspect of any listening experience is the listener.

Sure - you need to make sure you have eliminated the obvious quality issues that would immediately distract you away from the music - like audible noise, glaring tempo/tone issues, playback gaps, environmental noise, etc - but after that, it's about *listening* and letting the music you find enjoyable take you to that magical place.

post #3 of 11

Everything BB above has said is true. Head-Fi has a way of amplifying the differences--often minute--between different pieces of gear and different audio formats. This is probably to be expected since it's an enthusiast forum for personal audio, but nonetheless HF culture tends to project the notion that if it ain't summit-fi and doesn't come in 24/192, it ain't any good.


Personally, I haven't experienced this to be the truth at all. As BB says, it's all about how well you're satisfied with the gear you have, and that's as much a mentality as it is a function of how well the gear itself actually performs. I currently have in my modest stable a former flagship (Beyerdynamic DT880) and an underappreciated monitoring model (Shure SRH440) which have so far survived any intentions I've ever had to upgrade or replace one or the other. Every time I consider upgrading, I ask myself, "What specific, fundamental improvement will this upgrade afford over what I've already got?" and the answer is invariably, "There is none." My gear does everything I need it to do, and I'm not convinced (despite being a long-time Head-Fi member!) that anything I could realistically buy (or, really, anything in existence) would be a quantum leap in performance over what I already have.


That's not to say that my gear is perfect, but then, there's no such thing as a perfect piece of gear. I happen to know that I can live with the flaws my current gear has, and that I can thoroughly enjoy the music through it, which isn't something I can necessarily say about whatever I might get as a replacement, even if it costs $$$$.


When it comes to compression formats, after having read so much about how lossy compression destroys music, I didn't trust my unaided judgment whether or not I could hear a difference at higher bitrates. I instead worked out where my own personal transparency points are via ABX testing. The results were enlightening, humbling, and liberating all at once. I imagine it's theoretically possible that somebody could consistently split 320 mbps MP3 from the original source file, but I happen to know that I cannot (I top out at LAME's V0 VBR setting, which is ~245 kbps), which is all that's important for my own listening.


The upshot of what I've said in the previous paragraphs is, when I slap my headphones on, the only thing I worry about is which performance of the Brandenburg Concertos I want to listen to at that moment. It's a great feeling not worrying that somewhere out there, there might be a headphone that theoretically inches a minute distance further toward transparency than what I'm currently listening to, or that somewhere in the file I'm listening to, hundreds of kilobits were thrown away by the encoder.




All of this said, I'll offer some general suggestions for what to look for in a good headphone for classical. Generally, you want a neutral tonality with good extension in both directions (i.e. a tonality that doesn't focus unduly on any one region of the sonic spectrum and which produces usable response through the lowest and highest frequencies audible to human hearing). For comfort and fidelity reasons, you'll want a circumaural (over the ear) design. You'll also likely want an open back design as opposed to a closed back one, unless isolation from your surroundings is of paramount importance. Theoretically, it's not physically impossible to produce an exemplary closed-back headphone, but in practice they're not as common, mainly due to engineering difficulties involved in extracting a natural response from a driver in an enclosed cup.


Looking at your OP, the models you've selected are excellent choices for all of the above. The HD650 is going to be more laid back and fuller bodied than the HD800, but not to excess. In fact, plenty of people enjoy their HD650s for classical to this day, even though newer, shinier models are available. You might also look at the HD600, which is a little closer to neutral than the HD650. There's an excellent InnerFidelity article about the HD6x0 line here. I can also vouch for my DT880, having had many years experience with it and having enjoyed it thoroughly for classical, though to be honest, there probably isn't a tremendous amount it can do that an HD800 wouldn't also accomplish (albeit for a lot more money).

post #4 of 11

I would suggest HD600 for classical. I find it to be the most versatile of the currently available options. I could tell very soon that it was something special like my discontinued K501. I tested it with organ, piano, orchestral, piano and orchestra, harpsichord, countertenor, and old mono records. The soundstage sounds more enclosed than the arguably too big one on K702, but the tone is more integrated and accessible. I prefer HD600 to HD800 because HD800 isn't as suave; it's a powerful experience and the slightest bit bright. You are less likely to be offended or bothered by HD600 than any in production model. I'm considering that Marantz player myself and I would pair it with the Objective O2 (note: you'd need the stronger adapter because it's 300 ohms) or maybe a decent tube amp. Besides that, stay strong and be well. God bless.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello guys,
Thank you very much for good wishes and great common sense, professional advices.
Let me clarify a bit more my situation.

I have got 2 sitting stations:
1. For night listening my arm chair with my laptop on my laps. For this I use Byerdynamics DT660 plugged in directly into the headphone port on PC.
2. For all other times at my desk. It's about 2 meters from position #1. I use either DT660 plugged in into the headphones port on Asus Xonar Essence ST sound card or Fostex PM 04 studio monitors (powered loudspeakers).
I found that DT 660 are not comfortable particularly during hot weather (heavy, sweaty) and extended listening sessions. Hopefully lighter, open headphones might server me better.
When I want to listen to CDs I have to use in-build CD drives in my PCs.

As I explained before I'd like to avoid redundancy and costly mistakes in buying my feature gear.
After reading all answers I started thinking about a few possible options:
1. For position 1 and listening to Spotify buy portable combo DAC + hp amp. Plus new headphones
2. For position 2 and listening to Spotify buy desktop models of separated DAC and hp amp. Plus new headphones (as in #1).
3. For position 2 and listening to my CDs separated DAC and hp amp (as in #2) and Marantz CD 6005
4. For position 1 and 2 and listening to Spotify use the same DAC and hp amp as in option #2. I think that in this option it would be necessary to use longer cables, about 2 meters. Is it really a viable option/solution ?

As you suggested I don't like to go over the board but rather concentrate on more modest gear and lower my aspirations.
What parameters are appropriate? Which criteria I need to use? As I worked all my life in IT I'm pretty analytical and have long experience dealing with both hardware and software.
What should I select first, second, etc? Headphones, amp or dac?
In the next few days I'm planning to visit a few shops and listen to HD600, HD650, DT880
Could you suggest me some possible candidates for dac and amp, please?

Many thanks

post #6 of 11
Adding a modest extension cable of 1 or 2 meters to the headphones is absolutely no problem - it is not going to affect the result.

IMHO, this is not much different than selecting an appropriate IT system (I'm an IT manager):

1. Determine the requirements. (You have done this quite well)
2. Select the end product that best meets the requirements. (In IT, this is selecting the SW, but here, I would claim this is the headphones.)
3. Select the infrastructure that allows the end product to operate at it's best. (In IT, this is selecting the HW infrastructure, but here I will claim this is the Amp, DAC, etc)

Once you get above the minimum level to go from cr@ppy to good, the headphones have, by far, the largest contribution to the final sound quality you hear. An amp should be selected that meets the requirements of the headphones. The DAC & source should be able to provide the amp and headphones what they require. Finally, all of the gear must meet the logistical requirements for portability, aesthetics, price, etc.

IMHO, that's the analytical approach. You will notice I didn't worry over all the details of bit depth, the oxygen content of the wires or the color of the rainbows the gear shoots out of its arse. I leave that to golden-eared audiophiles. IMHO, the gear has to both sound good and fit into my intended use pattern. Buying a portable tube amp that will drain the batteries in 1 hour is of no value if the intended use case is for it to be used on trans-Pacific airplane rides - regardless of how sweet and mellow the sound it produces.

Hopefully someone else will chime-in with suggestions for the amp to pair with the Sennheisers and/or the Beyers - I suspect both would appreciate the similar type of amp, but I really don't know. In general, I would look for an amp with enough power and gain to push the high impedance headphones - that is going to be the most critical aspect. IMHO, the DAC is important, but any good quality DAC will meet your requirements. I do think you should look for velour earpads - and I believe both the Sennheisers and the Beyers either come with velour earpads or can be fitted with them. This will definitely help with the "sweaty ear" issue.

One more thing: Don't neglect the top of your head! Comfort issues with the headband rubbing/pushing on the top of your head are not uncommon during long head-fi sessions - especially for those of us that are "folically challenged" (ie, bald as a bowling ball). I don't think this is a specific issue with the headphones you are considering, and there are various aftermarket headband pads that can be added.

Edited by billybob_jcv - 2/10/14 at 7:49am
post #7 of 11
I've owned both the DT880s and HD600s. I preferred the 880s and have had the dt880s for almost a year now. Although it's not my primary cans anymore, it's definitely a keeper. But with that said... I don't know how helpful I can be due to the lack of experience in dac/amps variety but here's what I can offer. smily_headphones1.gif

For the DT880s, I really like Audio-GD's offerings. I just recently aquired a NFB-12 for my home setup (Laptop >> NFB-12 >> DT880/600). It sounds great, just warm enough so that it's musical but still gives me the treble sparkle that I love. It's convenient and has plenty of juice. Unfortunately it's been discontinued but it has a replacement, the NFB 15.32.

I also like it amped with an Objective2 and Darkvoice 336se with various neutral-ish dacs like the Modi, Aune T1, and E17.

Well wishes to you. smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much for all the answers. Everything looks clearer.
I have finally decided to buy Senheiser HD 600. Next thing - which amp? I wonder if I can find something which can drive HD600 and also my old DT660. I checked that sensitivity of both cans is identical (SPL = 97dB). Main difference is in an impendance 32 oms  vs 300 oms. I'm planning to use HD600 about 80% of my time (acustic music).  It seems to me that balanced audio is an overkill. My budget < $1,200 AUD. Could give me a few suggestions, please
Once I decide on amp I'll search for both DAC and CD player.

post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by Zbyszek View Post

Thank you very much for all the answers. Everything looks clearer.
I have finally decided to buy Senheiser HD 600. Next thing - which amp? I wonder if I can find something which can drive HD600 and also my old DT660. I checked that sensitivity of both cans is identical (SPL = 97dB). Main difference is in an impendance 32 oms  vs 300 oms. I'm planning to use HD600 about 80% of my time (acustic music).  It seems to me that balanced audio is an overkill. My budget < $1,200 AUD. Could give me a few suggestions, please
Once I decide on amp I'll search for both DAC and CD player.

A Project Ember (less classic of an option but more versatile) or Bottlehead Crack would do nicely for you

post #10 of 11

There are many good ones. The O2+ODAC combo is a reliable choice.


Note: You'll have to ask JDS Labs which AC/AC adapter to buy because I think you need a more powerful one for HD600 than the usual one they recommend.

post #11 of 11

Can't really give any suggestions to help, but sorry to hear about your condition and best wishes.

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