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Need help for Noob based in the UK!!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi, I caught the audiophile bug a few years back and have been experimenting with various equipment. I am currently trying to set up a system for listening to music that I can take away with me when I travel. I only use lossless files.


My current setup is the ipod 5g Nano, fiio E12 and the AKG K550. It produces a decent level of sound quality but there's always room for improvement. I am a bit stuck at the moment as the weakest link in this system appears to be the DAC chip installed in the 5g ipod Nano. Without going too crazy how can I improve the sound quality while keeping the fiio E12 and the AKG K550 (both are brand new!)? Whats the best bang for buck mp3 player out there with expandable memory? Should I ditch the fiio E12 and the ipod Nano for a meatier mp3 player with amp + DAC?


Any suggestions please as I am confused :s

Edited by Liquid04 - 2/15/14 at 7:30am
post #2 of 10

Not sure on your primary question, but have a couple of suggestions.


First, if you have a CD player, line-out from preamp etc (in your main rig or in a friend's system), then I would suggest to try temporarily removing  the iPod from the mix and just using that known source in critically evaluating your amp+headphone combination.  If that's up to snuff, then yes perhaps another DAP is in order.  If not then might be worthwhile looking at different amps, for example.


Second, since you already have an external amp, you might find it worthwhile taking the analog line-out signal from your iPod.  Are you doing this already via  a "line out dock" cable?  That takes the iPod's amp circuit out of play, and you might find that it cleans things up a bit.  That's what I do with my iPod Classic and iPod Touch.  

post #3 of 10

You have not mentioned whether you are using LOD cable with your current set up or not.


If you want to get a budget DAP, look at fiio x3.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

I did try listening on my home setup but reached the conclusion that I'm not comparing like for like. I was comparing mp3 on the home setup to an ALAC through the Nano, and how about different volume levels? None the wise. The problem is the sound I'm getting can seem 'scratchy' at times. I think it's the tendency of the K550 to lean toward the treble side, who knows. Right now it sounds fantastic and it is around about the 100hr mark in terms of break-in too. I think I need to give my ears a thorough clean and try out the Chinese Colorfly C3, which I hear helps to produce a warmer sound so should in theory tone down these cans a little. Hopefully it will be an upgrade on the iPod Nano 5g with Cirrus chip in terms of SQ. For the record I've always used a LOD.

post #5 of 10

give some more time and you may start liking the sound quality.

post #6 of 10
Originally Posted by Liquid04 View Post

I did try listening on my home setup but reached the conclusion that I'm not comparing like for like. I was comparing mp3 on the home setup to an ALAC through the Nano, and how about different volume levels? 

Yes, there are so many variables when trying to compare system to system.  It's hard to get it just right.


My approach is to identify various musical elements in a particular set of tracks and then use the same file (or media) in both systems.  For me, I look for the rendering of the vocals including the clarity of diction, how the vowels sound, and how phrases begin and end. Compare the bass line and scrutinize the apparent weight and balance and likewise the precision of how notes start and how they are sustained.  Etc.


Well, what I mean to say is to find things about the music you like which are important to your listening pleasure -- and then compare those elements between systems.  If you look at 4 or 5 different aspects and there's no meaningful difference, then there you go.  Of course it is also good to match volume levels, but if you can't --  then you still might identify some key differences that help you make your decision.


Definitely get the same files to use on both systems, however.  

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Ok, its taken another turn for the better. I've cleared my ears out, no seriously. It's the most important piece in the system after all...


I've also turned the volume down! I had the volume on too high with the K450 just to hear the mids and highs, that part of the spectrum is not as clear as it is on the K550. Also, I couldn't hear the bass on the K550 as clearly as I did on the K450 so remained at the same level which is just way too high. I found a 'reference' music file, not really too my taste, but that helped me to hear how loud I had the volume and has given me a new appreciation for listening to music as the musician intended. I'm going to continue to burn these in, now at higher volume and bass levels. Also found one of many cheap ipod 5.5gs with Wolfson chip on ebay at the moment, so will add that to the mix soon.


I get the feeling that it's a steep slope from herein in terms of return on sums invested on portable music equipment but this setup should keep me happy for some time yet...

post #8 of 10

Yes it is a bit of a steep slope on the cost curve to perceptible improvements.  On the other hand, using whatever you have now, to discover the elements that are important to you is time well spent and costs very little.


I've never heard the K550, but I've read that getting a good fit (headphones on head and getting closure all the way around the ear) make take some work.  If I recall correctly, some owners have had problem getting a seal at the bottom and to the rear.  May not have that right, but you might want to search for k550 threads and see what people say about that.


Good luck!

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

I received the ipod 5.5g today with Wolfson chip. The ear piercing screechy highs are gone, completely! Huge relief.


ipod Nano 5th Gen --> LOD --> Fiio E12 or Fiio E7 --> AKG K450 (Works)


ipod Nano 5th Gen --> LOD --> Fiio E12 or Fiio E7 --> AKG K550 (Bad idea)


ipod Classic 5.5g --> LOD --> Fiio E12 + Bass boost --> AKG K550 + Burn in (Awesome!)


The second I plugged in the Classic I couldn't believe my ears. Really hits the spot on all levels, tight accurate bass (though a little light) and lovely detail in the mids/highs. The soundstage has also opened up considerably and has put distance between me and the music. My poor ears will suffer as a result as it still sounds great at really high volume levels...


The AKG K550 is problematic at first, I've been constantly adjusting it to get a good seal. I ended up gently bending the metallic head band, and now I just set it and forget it. Having said that it's not a ready to use product as this coupled with the fact the stiff drivers need burn in has probably resulted in a lot of customer returns. If you don't amp it or pair it with an incompatible DAC like I used with the ipod Nano, the SQ is terrible!


These cans are not for the complete novice or someone with an 'I want it now' mentality IMO and they will never satisfy the bassheads among us :)

post #10 of 10

Cool and thanks for reporting back.  Most setups do take some work, one way or another it seems to me.  


Over time, the seal on my AKG K-702 seemed to form-fit for my head with normal use, but it took a lot of

hours of use and I think I did do a bit of stretching and twisting along the way.  Every head is

a bit different.


I just read/watched Tyll Hersten's review of the new  AKG K-812 and I really like how they engineered the pads to

fit under and back of the ears.  Really addresses the main trouble spot -- and am hoping this earpad

design to become more widespread. Not sure I'll ever be in the price bracket for the K-812s, however!

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