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I am a beginner and need some enlightenment

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi all, 

 

I have always loved music but have never considered myself a serious audiophile. I mean, I really enjoy listening to music but I haven't been able to express how a record sounds like some of you experts here can. To me, if it sounds good, it sounds good. I have always dropped by here once in a while and did some reading but sometimes it's far too technical and I don't understand what you're saying. I am trying to take my music much more seriously and because there's so much stuff floating around and it's mostly explained in audiophile terminology and far too technical for me, I can't find a good place to start. 

 

FYI, I used to own a Shure SE215 and Cowon J3. I am currently using a HTC One M8(2014) as my source, together with a Westone 2 and Sennheiser IE 80. My favourite genres are soul, blues, jazz, pop and rock. But I listen to a huge plethora of music. My favourite artists are Miles Davis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Charles Bradley and Queen. 

Can you guys kindly explain the following to me, in as simple a way as possible? I would really appreciate any help. 

 

1. Impedance and sensitivity 

 

2. Line out. What's a line out? I have seen people here talking about line out vs headphone out but most of the times it's at a much higher level than I can comprehend. Cowon players don't have a line out? iPods do? 

My understanding is that a line out is used to bypass the internal DAC of a player. Is the lightning port of the iPod Touch 5G the device's line out?

The headphone out is the 3.5mm jack on devices, I presume?

 

3. What exactly is a DAC? I have heard people here talk about Wolfson and Cirrus Logic. And how one generation of iPod is better than the other because of this. Is the DAC in my HTC One M8 integrated into the Snapdragon 801 SOC?

 

4. Highs, mids and lows? Kindly explain. 

 

5. Any thing you guys feel I should learn and understand as a budding audiophile. 

 

I might sound like a total idiot but I really don't mind as the first step of learning is to recognise gaps in oneself's knowledge. 

 

Cheers!

post #2 of 6

Hi!

 

I'm not an audio expert but I'll try to answer few of your questions using my limited knowledge:

 

1. Headphone impedance influences the amount of power your amplifier can output. Usually higher impedance means less power, but I don't think it's linear (i.e. headphone with two times more ohms will not have two time less power).

 

Sensitivity tells how much power you need to drive headphone to given level, for example 90dB/mW means that you will need 1mW to drive them to 90dB, this allows you to calculate how much more power you need for higher levels (10mW -> 100dB, 100mW -> 110dB..., 10dB = 10 times more).

 

3. DAC = Digital Analog Converter, if your phone can play music then you can be 100% sure it contains a DAC :). I don't think that newer iPhones have better DAC, I believe that modern DAC technology is beyond threshold of audibility so just one clean and cheap DAC is as good as the most expensive ones, with amps however, it's different, it's still hard to achieve high power outputs with low level of distortion,

 

4. These terms describe three exclusive sound frequency ranges. Lows (bass) is a range between 20 and 300Hz, mids is 300Hz - 4kHz, and anything above is treble (highs). It's balance is what defines how your equipment will sound, for example headphone with more bass and less highs is perceived as slow and heavy (dark), the opposite is called bright and will give you illusion of more detailed and fast sound.

 

5. I can recommend these sites:

http://www.independentrecording.net/irn/resources/freqchart/main_display.htm - frequency charts of instruments and their characteristics

http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary - what is the meaning behind words used commonly in audio context

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Much appreciated. 

 

Just to add on to my post. 

I listen to both lossless and lossy files. I usually encode tracks that I listen to often in FLAC and songs that I listen to less often in either mp3 or AAC. 

 

And yes, I am able to hear the difference between lossy and lossless. I can't describe it in audiophile terms but FLAC sounds better to my ears. 

post #4 of 6
Next thing, if you are really interested in getting the best sound, is to know how to tell whether there is really a difference or is it just your mind playing tricks on you (placebo). Of course if you have infinite amount of resources (money, time, space...) you can just upgrade everything and be happy with probably best sound. But being rational can save you a lot of these and allows you to focus on what really matters.

 

To do that you must get rid of any factors that could give a clue to your mind about what you are listening to. This is done via blind (AB/X) testing, which means that you will listen to two audio setups, and then you are played one again (not knowing which one it is) and you must guess which it was. If you can, then you know that there is a difference.

 

Usually it is done with other people, but in case you are testing things at software level you can do it with a program. To test a difference between two files you can use Foobar2000 ABX plugin. I really recommend to compress your FLAC files into: 320, 192, 128 kbps MP3 and then try to blindly tell the difference between each of them and FLAC file, if you can't tell then you can save a lot of space on your hard drive.

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by harvgadgetmaste View Post
 

Hi all, 

 

I have always loved music but have never considered myself a serious audiophile. I mean, I really enjoy listening to music but I haven't been able to express how a record sounds like some of you experts here can. To me, if it sounds good, it sounds good. I have always dropped by here once in a while and did some reading but sometimes it's far too technical and I don't understand what you're saying. I am trying to take my music much more seriously and because there's so much stuff floating around and it's mostly explained in audiophile terminology and far too technical for me, I can't find a good place to start. 

 

FYI, I used to own a Shure SE215 and Cowon J3. I am currently using a HTC One M8(2014) as my source, together with a Westone 2 and Sennheiser IE 80. My favourite genres are soul, blues, jazz, pop and rock. But I listen to a huge plethora of music. My favourite artists are Miles Davis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Charles Bradley and Queen. 

Can you guys kindly explain the following to me, in as simple a way as possible? I would really appreciate any help. 

 

1. Impedance and sensitivity 

 

2. Line out. What's a line out? I have seen people here talking about line out vs headphone out but most of the times it's at a much higher level than I can comprehend. Cowon players don't have a line out? iPods do? 

My understanding is that a line out is used to bypass the internal DAC of a player. Is the lightning port of the iPod Touch 5G the device's line out?

The headphone out is the 3.5mm jack on devices, I presume?

 

3. What exactly is a DAC? I have heard people here talk about Wolfson and Cirrus Logic. And how one generation of iPod is better than the other because of this. Is the DAC in my HTC One M8 integrated into the Snapdragon 801 SOC?

 

4. Highs, mids and lows? Kindly explain. 

 

5. Any thing you guys feel I should learn and understand as a budding audiophile. 

 

I might sound like a total idiot but I really don't mind as the first step of learning is to recognise gaps in oneself's knowledge. 

 

Cheers!

 

Sensitivity is how loud a pair of headphones will get per mW of output. It's really only a problem with low sensitivity planar headphones, such as the Audeze LCD-2, LCD-3 and Hifiman HE-6. Most others will be fine with most equipment (technically, anyway).

 

Impedance: Lower impedance headphones require more current (mA).  In practical terms, because the numbers don't tell you everything, low impedance headphones with a weaker amp (this is probably bad terminology, but I want to make it simple) will audibly have trouble keeping up with fast passages in music. The soundstage seems to become smaller and the details more blurry. This can most often be observed with planar headphones, which tend to be low impedance and low sensitivity. Higher impedance headphones are easier to drive but tend to work best with amps that can output more voltage (mV). With amps that are weaker in voltage swing the "soundstage" seems to be smaller, where with a better amp it tends to sound wider and instruments are more delineated instead in a "blob" in centre.

 

Line out: The voltage of the connection between stereo components is actually not much different to that for headphone output (though in other ways it is very different) so very often a "line out" might be a fixed version of a headphone out, such as in portable devices. It really is just a term to indicate something which sends out the sound without a volume control, at a fixed level, for connecting to an amplifier. In portable devices, the dock connector might have a line out that is different from the headphone out. Depending on the device, it might sound better using that output sent to a better external amp than what is built in the device, especially with the more expensive, higher-quality full-sized headphones.

 

DAC: Music is stored on an iPod (or computer) in digital format. A DAC converts that to an analog waveform -- what comes from a speaker. It is somewhat more complex than just a chip. I wouldn't get hung up on this DA chip or that DA chip too much. Headphones first! But if you must, the sound out of some devices sound worse than others. I like jazz, so if I hear a violin that sounds, well, harsh and screechy and not like a violin, I don't like that. That's how they sound out of some cheap notebooks and phones, which have bad DACs (and bad inbuilt amps too). But someone who listens to heavily compressed pop or metal, which is already horribly distorted to make it sound super loud on everything, wouldn't notice the difference.

 

Advice? Music and headphones first. Also, go to one of the meets if you can, with your own music. Other than that, what you like and how loud you listen are actually 90% of it. The rest is fine tuning and gear-fi, like any hobby. 

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Many thanks for the replies here. Very informative and helpful.Much appreciated.
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