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drawing the line for best sound from an ipod/mp3 player

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hey there headfi! i've been studying up on the forums for the past six months now on what headphones sound best straight out of a portable source. What i'm looking for is a headphone that has low impedence and will make-do with mp3 files- not anything lossless or FLAC. i'd really appreciate it if you guys could help me cross out some of these off my list. the reasons for crossing out can be as follows:

1. has high impedence, and will sound tinnny without a strong source of power
2. is too revealing of the music found on the apple store and whatnot
3. has the potential to sound exceptional that can't be reached without an amp and would be a shame to not use that potential
4. would be a shame to buy such great 'phones only to listen to mp3 music files out of an iphone, ipod, etc.
5. the increases in cost from lower models can't be justified as the improvements in SQ are incremental due to the pure lack of sonic information in mp3 files


,,, you get the idea. as i've posted in previous threads, i don't want to go the hassle of buying an amp, dac, cables, etc. and updating my music library to lossless files. it would also be too memory- consuming to use such files on a smartphone. basically, what range of headphones/ price point can make the most of a source with low output and mp3-level music?
here is the list of headphones i need clarification on (further suggestions are more than welcome, but i will tell you i've done my fair share of research):

ath-ad900, hd598, philips fidelio x1,L1, $500 iems (se535, w4, pro copper, ie80, etc.- is it a waste to use their capabilities of detail finding with mp3's?)(same goes for iems in higher ranges: ie800, k3003, se846, ue11, jh13, jh16) ultrasone edition 8, grado ps1000, denon d600, mad dogs

for example: i've read ps1000 will deliver great sound from portable sources- but is it enough to justify the difference in price with, say, a momentum when the files/recordings you're listening to aren't of high quality

i've kind of established the line at the 300 dollars headphones (momentums, hp50, p7, m100, m500, etc.) to be where the [B]limitation of source kicks in, and i won't notice much difference for money not due to the headphones, but because of the player/files. what do you guys think?[/B]

BTW please no exaggeration of minor differences in sound! i've experienced too many instances of people claiming the differences are vast, only to be disappointed. it may be that i don't exactly have "golden ears" but if you figure the sonic difference will be marginal to 80% of the population please don't exaggerate
Edited by squirrelboy1210 - 2/20/14 at 8:22am
post #2 of 22
Speaking from personal experience, you shouldn't need to worry too much about file compression. Having done a few blind tests myself, I honestly couldn't differentiate accurately between lossless and compressed formats (256kbps AAC). Just make sure you use files from credible sources, i.e. not files ripped off YouTube etc.

I listen to MP3s and iTunes AAC on my AD900X, and they sound good. Hooking up a portable amp improves the bass, but not significantly so.

The 300 dollar list you've given seems about right, anything above that would usually require some sort of amping to justify the cost of the headphones themselves. I use my P7 for casual listening as well and they sound great.
post #3 of 22

I'll suggest doing some reading up on Dunu DN-1000 hybrid for $200.

I'll give you review, the price to performance ratio is high, the Dunu remains one of my best purchases in late 2013, I find it superior to Westone 4 and Westone 3, among a few other IEM.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/695577/review-dunu-dn1000-immensely-capable-hybrid-iem

 More impressions can be found in the thread.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/681435/dunu-dn-1000-dunus-hybrid-iem-appreciation-thread

As for file formats, I have not really tried AAC, as I stick to FLAC, though I would try not to go under 320kbps. (MP3)

post #4 of 22

So those headphones you listed will be fine with mp3s and even if they were poorly recorded (< 320kbps) mp3s you will probably still be fine.  You will still get the benefit of the sound signature even with those higher end headphones but what you will notice is that these higher end headphones will bring the "holes" in the recording to the forefront more so than the headphones you first mentioned.  That's the best way I can describe it from my own personal experience.  I have noticed that 256kbps is usually alright but anything less than that you really notice the "holes".

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
could you clarify "higher end headphone?" if it seems too vague i'll take an approximation (price wise would be good)
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
those look like some miiighty fine iems there! just might be my next purchase! sadly most of my library is 256 frown.gif but then again i do want MORE music when i'm on the go so it leaves some memory space
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirrelboy1210 View Post

could you clarify "higher end headphone?" if it seems too vague i'll take an approximation (price wise would be good)

These are higher end headphones (I'm quoting part of your list here):

 

$500 iems (se535, w4, ie80, ie800, k3003, se846, ue11, jh13, jh16), ultrasone edition 8

 

From everything I've read the Edition 8, sound-wise, isn't a high end headphone but it is pricey so I included it.  Ultrasone's get mixed reviews.

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirrelboy1210 View Post

those look like some miiighty fine iems there! just might be my next purchase! sadly most of my library is 256 frown.gif but then again i do want MORE music when i'm on the go so it leaves some memory space

 

256kbps is fine, you will likely not be able to differentiate between these and lossless formats. Like I mentioned earlier, the mastering/recording of the files is most important, as a badly mastered track will sound terrible on good headphones/IEMs, lossless or not.

 

Most of the headphones you've given above will be pretty much capable of exposing faults in badly mastered tracks. When using my P7s, I am always taken back by the some of the faults being exposed in tracks that I thought were perfectly fine when using cheaper earphones/speakers.


Edited by Dratino - 2/21/14 at 5:20pm
post #9 of 22

And in case you're still worried about your 256kbps library, take a look at this link, where a blind testing between 128kbps AAC and lossless was done...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrfX-g8auc8&feature=c4-overview&list=UUG-kL1LRqw6Akq0ktl9da1g

 

Even though 3 results (4, if you include the owner's own results) isn't representative of the population, I think its fair to say that the average user will not be able to differentiate accurately between lossless and lossy formats.

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dratino View Post
 

And in case you're still worried about your 256kbps library, take a look at this link, where a blind testing between 128kbps AAC and lossless was done...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrfX-g8auc8&feature=c4-overview&list=UUG-kL1LRqw6Akq0ktl9da1g

 

Even though 3 results (4, if you include the owner's own results) isn't representative of the population, I think its fair to say that the average user will not be able to differentiate accurately between lossless and lossy formats.

I'm not a big fan of that guy's videos but that video was eye opening and well done!

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
So does this mean using a k3003 with an ipod that has 128 or 256 bitrate wouldn't be necessarily a waste? What about other summit-fi? I've read using things like hd650 with mp3 files is blasphemy, but does it really sound that bad or do the people using those just have reeeealllyy good hearing?
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirrelboy1210 View Post

So does this mean using a k3003 with an ipod that has 128 or 256 bitrate wouldn't be necessarily a waste? What about other summit-fi? I've read using things like hd650 with mp3 files is blasphemy, but does it really sound that bad or do the people using those just have reeeealllyy good hearing?

On a nice pair of headphones I can tell when a recording is 128 and my hearing sucks.  The musical notes and such have more depth to them.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirrelboy1210 View Post

So does this mean using a k3003 with an ipod that has 128 or 256 bitrate wouldn't be necessarily a waste? What about other summit-fi? I've read using things like hd650 with mp3 files is blasphemy, but does it really sound that bad or do the people using those just have reeeealllyy good hearing?

 

I wouldn't kill myself over it, just gotta remember that you're spending your own money and enjoying your own music :) don't let the opinion of others affect your own enjoyment of music. There's usually a bandwagon effect on these forums, and everyone starts making the same claims regardless of whether they have tried it out for themselves.

 

In addition, from your list of criteria, it seems like you're intending to use the headphones on the go. Outside of the house, where you're going to get noise interference from your surroundings, the difference between lossless and lossy become even more negligible.

 

That said, you would want to justify the cost of your headphones by scaling up your equipment/source comparatively. No point spending hundreds of bucks on a pair of nice headphones if you're not prepared to pair it with decent source files. While I wouldn't go to the extreme of changing my entire music library to lossless quality, at least start getting rid of the 128kbps mp3s. :D Your 256kbps AAC files will do fine (you mentioned music from the iTunes store, so I'm assuming your songs are in AAC formats).

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post
 

On a nice pair of headphones I can tell when a recording is 128 and my hearing sucks.  The musical notes and such have more depth to them.

 

I won't deny that with the right gear, you would be able to do A/B comparisons and differentiate between 128kbps mp3s and lossless formats. Without an A/B comparison, however, most people may not even realize they're listening to a lossy format :p

post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 

so let's see if i've got this straight (summarizing some info i've gathered) ... for ipod users, headphones won't need to go over the $300 mark, (maybe with exception of p7, but those extra 50 bucks are mostly high quality build/ design anyway) cuz those above need amps/dacs to bring out the music, and they also sound bad under 256 bitrate; maybe 320 depending on your ears.

iems should be cut at the $500 mark- (se535, w4, ue900, ie80, etc) while higher models don't necessarily need amping, a portable amp is recommended. they will bring out the bad points in recording/mastering/ and bitrates uder 256 or so quite easily, being detailed. for these higher end iems, a portable amp/quality music player with quality music is needed to justify their price.

 

conclusion: sell se535 at $400, and m50 at $150 (i live in korea)

 

buy dunu-dn1000 as iem $200, and p7 $400 as headphone (stuck between p7, nad viso hp50, kefm500, and maybe momentum/mdr1r/m100/k550, but will probably get p7)

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