Let me cut to the chase! :)
Gave up on IEMs. It's now time to invest in a mid-range head-fi setup that will LAST and without me losing them on public transport or out drunk.
I'm normally pretty good at researching but this is just a minefield...I'm overwhelmed!
I figure budgeting up to around $1k will provide a good mid-range bang for the buck.
I expect to spend about half n half on the DAC/Amp and headphones (i.e. around $500 each) since I figure they're equally important.
Intended source is as mentioned a recent MacBook Pro.
Intended use is mainly home listening and something to take away on holidays and listen to in a hotel room. i.e. not for out and about or wearing on a plane. Open is OK.
Given I intend to pack it and travel a lot a DAC/Amp that's relatively robust...i.e. no valves!
Smaller is better but pocketable is not necessary. Mains powered is expected and preferred for DAC/Amp. If I'm plugging in the MacBook Pro I don't mind plugging in an amp as well. I don't anticipate using it in an airport lounge but a bus (or dual powered) option may be considered because I always get to airports ridiculously early and spend hours waiting (especially international).
Preferred sound signature
This is quite hard to describe. My tastes are very varied so something fairly balanced and versatile. Big fan of piano-based rock and pop à la Kate Bush, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tori Amos etc. Also heavier/faster rock and electro clash (Peaches, Chicks on Speed) and French pop and rap (Christophe Willem, Zaho). In contrast I love experimental ambient electronica (DVA, Loscil) where openness and soundstage can shine. I listen to a LOT of live recordings. I try to be open and experience new styles of music all the time...when have the time!
So really nothing too limiting but probably slightly on the forward/punchy side but capable of good refinement and detail/clarity and space and nothing too dark or too bright. I know I can't have it all for this money.
Edited by simonm - 4/30/14 at 10:32am