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DAP+IEM/HEAD combo for £150-£300

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Dear all,


(I just noticed this is a bit long but I hope its worth the read and consideration since I am trying to mix work and fun here)


I've been reading quite a few threads over the last few weeks whenever time allowed and I want to get a kit going and my requirements are not incredibly technical, but more like a bit "all rounder" type of thing.


I love my music, like all of you here do, and I really love just getting sucked into it. I never had a reference for good or great quality sounding kits before but my experience with DAPs and headphones has been:


Panasonic CD player (cant remember which one but it was the one with the vibrating headphones)

iRiver H120 (the one with the remote)

iPod Classic 5g

Samsung GS II

Blackberry Q10


The only two pairs of headphones I bought purposefully are AKG K271 II and Shure SE215

The reason for the AKGs are for video editing (someone not very informed at the store advised so) since I need to clean and work with audio.

The reason for the SE215 was a compact noise isolating earphone (London underground can be very noisy so I don't want to compete with loudness and these worked great)


In short, I only have the BB Q10 running with Neutron now (sounds OK but not very rich) paired with the SE215s.

The previous DAPs or the SGS II either died or were sold (actually, only the SGS II was sold)


I want a dedicated player and whilst researching Sony walkmans I came across head-fi and you guys are a great resource I need your help.


I do video editing and although not synonym, I do the audio for it too. I'm not great with it but I want to hear a nice clean sound to make sure I can clean as much noise from the audio as I can. So far the AKGs (go figure) worked well since most of my colleagues are either going deaf or not very critical since most like how I work the audio out. Knowing its a bit of a bassy headphone, I'm rather concerned I am not getting much headroom to work out other audio nuisances. I used it always plugged straight to the computer (I am a real starter here, bare with me) and it wasn't up until a week ago that I heard the AKGs with the AQ Dragonfly that I realised how much I was really missing. All of the albums I ripped or downloaded in either FLAC or WAV sound amazing now! (amazing for me, that is)


I perceive not much of a difference with the SE215s though.


So, I love my music and I ought to work with sound too. I wish I could pay a sound engineer to do the work part, but as a freelance I have to kind of be a one man band until I can afford a team.


What I want is a great DAP+IEM/Headphone (circumaural please - my ears never liked on ear headphones, tried them) where the headphones/IEMs can also double up as good audio monitors for editing. My budget is shown above and I know it isn't much in the great perspective of all things audio.


After a few weeks of research here, I found that the Fiio X3 can also be used in a similar way as I am using my Dragonfly now (which means I can sell the Dragonfly to gather cash) and amp up a good pair of IEMs/Headphones since the X3 is also a bit amp-ed so I will me amp-ed-out while working and while listening to music on the go.


It appears to be that the X3 is also a player with a marginally better UI minus the mucho-pressing the up/down buttons to scroll through hundreds of folders.

I was also looking at the Colorfly C3 because of its price. I am slightly drawn away from it now since a few people here seem to use it predominantly hooked to an amp to get the best of it. To that end, would a straight C3+IEM/Headphone combo be not much better than a Sansa Fuze/Clip+ and IEM/Headphone combo? If so, is there a pair of IEM/Headphones that can be a great match to the Sansa that I can also use as monitor iem/headphones?


If not, then would you advise anything other than a Fiio X3 (since an amped C3 is as large and likely as expensive according to my research)?


If X3, what sort of headphones/iems can cover my editing and my music:



Punk (Ramones, Rancid, Sex Pistols)

Metal (Megadeth. Pantera, Metallica)

Electronic (Prodigy, Juno Reactor)

Fatboy Slim

Other Classics (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Deep Purple)

Other Rock (Readiohead, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, Pearl Jam, Black Keys)

Rap/Hip Hop (Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Tres Delinquentes)


Last but not least, if it helps anyone here with their hobby (other than audio) I can very thoroughly help with their photography...I am a professional.


Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 5

so, sony, X3, i see a warm DAP trend developing there.  also your 215s are pretty warm and when you say the AKGs were offoring more i suspect that could be more to do with a sound signature differences than anything else.



now its hard to work out what works for you when you havent heard enough to got any good frame of reference to judge. picknig a dap will be especially hard to do on sound so id say pick it on other attributes.  (buttons/touchscreen, file formats, size etc etc)


for headphones/iems.  well for monitoring and long allday use if your using "professionally" you already both hit and missed.  Shure is a good way to go but you got the one Shure thats rather"consumer" orientatied and bassy.  other shures are all rather more monitor like both their headphoones and IEM's.


also bare in mind that what makes a good impression in the short term isnt always good.  you say the AKGs offor more, i suspect thats down to offoring more treble which can give the sence of greater clarity but the down side is, if you are listenenig all day long treble will tire your ears and is why monitors tend to be a bit reduces in treble (and bass) compared to consumer aimed products.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi mark2410


Thanks for the advise.


I forgot to add the only time I was in a completely professional audio set up was at British Grove studios and they had Beyerdynamics there. DT770s and I was shooting this pianist and a few other musicians that showed up. I really liked the sound of those headphones but I don't think I can drive them and I think they were very thin on the bass.


The reason why I say the AKGs offer more is because they appear to separate sounds more. When I bought the 215s I bought them mainly because of the sound isolation and because I wasn't ready to buy more expensive IEMs without proper researching. I forgot to mention that before the 215s, I had a pair of Senn's IEMs and I hated them. They sounded very thin so I stopped using IEMs for a while, using only the AKGs and my ipod's own earbuds. One of those days on an Amazon email I get the Shure's offered and read some of the reviews there and I really wanted small headphones that I can carry in my pocket that would also stop me from raising the volume too loud to compete with the underground train. So, jumped in on those although I thought at the time that £75 was pretty high for IEMs (then I saw the price of the other siblings and I kind of put it in perspective)


The reason why I want circumaural more than IEM is because I find it easier to work with them. This is especial since whilst working there is people talking to me or I have to pick up the phone (good IEMs with mic can be welcomed)


I know that what I am asking for is a pretty wild range to cover. So I have re-thought my needs and I have decided on the following:


"IEM or Circumaural, warm is nice since I like warm but not too much. SE215s are too bassy. The AKGs have just about the right amount of bass, I believe. Is there anything in between the DT770 I heard at the studio and my AKGs either in IEM version or in circumaural? If so, would an X3 be enough to drive them? I decided for the X3 since it has an amp included and I can use it to amp my PCs as well."


Thanks again.

post #4 of 5

as DAPs go something like the x3 is a great generalist option  http://www.head-fi.org/t/690705/fiio-x3-review i detail my thoughts on it there.


its a great place for you to start with, try, play about with it and one youve got a handle on how it sounds then pair up headphones or iems to go with them.  also the x3 lets you eq the bass and trebble plenty so you can adjust things significantly.  ie lot you tone down the bass on the 215 for the moment

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi Mark,


Thanks for your help.

In the end I decided to keep the Dragonfly and skip the X3 for USB-DAC purposes.

I also decided to skip the X3 as a portable player.

I decided that, for now, I would be best served with a DT770 32ohm version and a Clip+.

I know it sounds like I went cheap but since owning these two I can say that all FLACs sound a world different than my previous ipod or BB Q10 combos. Also, the 32ohm version of the DT770 allows the Clip+ to drive them really well (Rockboxed and with US set as the region)

The bass, compared to driving them with the Dragongfly, is a bit tighter which I like (this is using the pleather pads)

Using the velour pads I am able to reduce the bass from the DT770s to a very good level where musically they are really good but for monitoring they become quite impressive (a mile better than the AKG 271 mkIIs)


I may come back to give further impressions of this set but so far I ought to say that I am really happy with it.


If anyone has anything to add here, please do.

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