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College Kid, Hi-Fi dreams. Making the best start: desktop listening system

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

For the past two months I have been reading extensively here and elsewhere about making my first investment in a desktop listening system.  I would really appreciate your help, but before I get into specifics, I want to give you a little background on my tastes and my relationship to audio.

 

I'm a college student, about to graduate, and thinking about being out in the 'real world' here in a few months.  At the beginning of this academic year, my plan was to put as much money away as I could, so I could hit the ground running after I walk at graduation… then my best friend got a pair of Audio Technica ATH-W1000x's...

 

I grew up with a father who loved high-fidelity audio.  We had no tv in the living room; the living room was where you went to sit and listen.  When my friend got those phones, I realized how much I loved sitting and listening.  That's the first bit; I'm not concerned with portability, just an excellent setup that I can sit and listen to.

 

So here I am now; I have made the decision that I can bear parting with about $500.  I already have found a nice, fast external hard drive, and am currently compiling a library of lossless; if I'm going to spend the money, I want to do it right, from the ground up.

 

I'll be using a newish (2013) macbook air as my source, running iTunes (mainly lossy right now, but moving to lossless).

 

Musical Taste (in no particular order):

Jazz (Bill Evans, Coltrane...)

Blues (Muddy Waters, Little Walter etc.)

Latin (Buena Vista Social Club, Pedro Luis Ferrer etc.)

Classical (gotta love Beethoven)

Rock (my taste is kind of dispersed. I'm into the Violent Femmes, Velvet Undergound, Hendrix as well as more contemporary/indie stuff: Modest Mouse, Edward Sharpe, Neutral Milk Hotel)

as far as vocals: Bill Withers, Bobby Mcferrin, Joanna Newsom (one of these things is not like the other…)

And man… who doesn't like Bela Fleck?

 

I know I can't have a set of cans that really, truly does it all; if I had to make a commitment, it would be something that makes the jazz and blues really sing.

 

Personal Listening notes on the Grandioso:

I've listened to the Grandioso running off iTunes (albeit lossy formats) through jdslabs portable amp/dac (I can't remember the model, but I think it was $200-$300)

I like the quick responsiveness of these phones.  I like how tight they are, but to my ears their highs are a bit bright and forward, and their lows are a little underrepresented.  I'm not interested in flabby, bloated bass at all, but I do want a little more of the tight, quality bottom then these phones give.  They also, at time, feel a little cold; totally analytical might not be my golden standard.  I'm not mastering the tracks I'm listening to; I just want to feel them.  As compared to low-midrange set of AKG's (overall, they sound a bit mushier; not as much articulation or instrument separation) the Grandioso's soundstage is a bit more in-and-behind my head that out in front.  There's definitely instrument separation, and some imaging, but we're not talking front-row seat imaging. They sound great in general; I get chills when they're fed a song they like, but ya know…they are also a ~$500 set of cans.

 

Headphone Short List (in no particular order):

based on a lot of reading, with particular attention to David Mahler's "Battle Of The Flagships" here, this is what iv'e come up with.

 

Audio Technica ATH-AD 900

Sennheiser HD 600 (this is reaaaaally pushing the budget; I'm on the fence about that one)

HiFi Man He-400

Beyerdynamic Dt-880 (the 240 ohm pro's are $189 on amazon right now)

 

Amp/Dac:

Schiit M&M stack (I'm open to suggestions about whether or not this is really necessary right now)

 

I know this was a long post; I just wanted to give you guys as much info to work with as I can.  You all have already been a tremendous resource to me, and I would appreciated any feedback.  Please help me make the most of my budget

post #2 of 23

I think the HD600 would suit your needs best according to the music you listen to. The Schiit combo seems to be a decent one, though I do not own them. You can always upgrade to a tube amp like the Crack later...

post #3 of 23

If you get the HD600 you can consider the Vali + Modi combo as well. There are quite a few people here who loves the combo. 

post #4 of 23

Guess I second what was said above...

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post
 

Guess I second what was said above...

That doesn't sound super enthusiastic :smile:

So you would go the hd600 over the he-400?  I see you have the the he-500.

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by mullardpassion View Post
 

I think the HD600 would suit your needs best according to the music you listen to. The Schiit combo seems to be a decent one, though I do not own them. You can always upgrade to a tube amp like the Crack later...

I second this!

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mullardpassion View Post
 

I think the HD600 would suit your needs best according to the music you listen to. The Schiit combo seems to be a decent one, though I do not own them. You can always upgrade to a tube amp like the Crack later...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips View Post
 

If you get the HD600 you can consider the Vali + Modi combo as well. There are quite a few people here who loves the combo. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post
 

I second this!

  

You all seem to think the hd600's really benefit from a tube amp.  Would it be worth it to do something like a Little Dot I+ and Modi? If not, then like Snips said, should I go with the Vali?

post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhochman View Post
 

  

You all seem to think the hd600's really benefit from a tube amp.  Would it be worth it to do something like a Little Dot I+ and Modi? If not, then like Snips said, should I go with the Vali?

The Schiit combo I was thinking of was the Magni + Modi.  The Magni is a solid state amp.

post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post
 

The Schiit combo I was thinking of was the Magni + Modi.  The Magni is a solid state amp

 

Everyone seems pretty unanimous then.  Thanks so much everyone! I'm placing the order now.

post #10 of 23

I would use the traditional HIFI approach

 

Spend as much as you on getting the source right, then amps, then headphones

 

Then upgrade headphones, and the quality of the other components will let the change in

headphones shine through

post #11 of 23

I have a HRT Streamer II and Maverick Audio A1 Amp for sale. Alas, I am located in India. I can bet you will not go wrong with this combination as well. Another upside, these can drive a pair of Studio Monitors without much problem.

post #12 of 23
Out of your options list, I would go for the HD600 without reservation.

They are very versatile and will do a good job with all the genres you mention, are comfortable for long listening, and not super hard to drive so you'd have a wide range of choice when it came to an amp.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

I feel settled on the HD600's thanks to everyone's help here.  Now, how does everyone feel about the Magni vs. Vali as the best amp to pair with these phones?

post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhochman View Post
 

I feel settled on the HD600's thanks to everyone's help here.  Now, how does everyone feel about the Magni vs. Vali as the best amp to pair with these phones?

You can always order both and then return one given their 15 day no questions asked return policy.

post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhochman View Post
 

I feel settled on the HD600's thanks to everyone's help here.  Now, how does everyone feel about the Magni vs. Vali as the best amp to pair with these phones?

A tough one, really. I'd personally pick the vali. If I were to get a full on tube amp (the vali is a hybrid) I'd spend more than your budget allows on it else go solid state.

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