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Help Putting Together A Small Armchair Set-Up

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi...Brand new to the site and looking for some advice on putting together a small headphone based set-up. I'm new to the world of headphone gear, but have been into audio a few years now having done a lot of research to put together a decent Marantz/Focal/Rythmik theater set-up for movie watching (mainly learning from the AVS forums). Now I'd like to get mid/hi-fi personal sound with the components fitting on an end table/night stand. I'm guessing this has been asked before (and if so feel free to just direct me to the right thread), but didn't see anything after a few days of searching and reading. So, starting from the source what are your recommendations for equipment with a total cost around $500? Here's what I assume I'll need:

Small CD player (prefer this since I don't have my whole collection stored in full resolution to a hard drive)
DAC (any reason for this if the CD player has a decent DAC?)
Headphone amp (definitely need this as I don't have a small integrated amp or AVR sitting around)
Headphones, obviously.

As stated above I don't need the set-up to be portable, but it must also be small and unobtrusive enough to fit cleanly in a living space (aka my wife doesn't notice it).

Bonus question: Are there wireless headphone systems that are as good as wired? This would allow me to put an integrated amp + speaker system together then listen to headphones when necessary.

Thanks for the advice!
post #2 of 15

What kind of sound signature do you want from your headphones? A lot of bass, a lot of highs, neutral, etc?  As for your chain I'd imagine a lot of people will recommend either Objective 2 amp, ODAC and headphones or Schiit magni and modi and headphones.  I don't know much about CD players but I imagine you can get a decent one for pretty cheap.  

post #3 of 15
Originally Posted by linglingjr View Post

What kind of sound signature do you want from your headphones? A lot of bass, a lot of highs, neutral, etc?  As for your chain I'd imagine a lot of people will recommend either Objective 2 amp, ODAC and headphones or Schiit magni and modi and headphones.  I don't know much about CD players but I imagine you can get a decent one for pretty cheap.  

 

Can attest to excellent sound from the Schiit products...high value.  Based on the reviews, the O2 stuff is as well.  Can't go wrong either way.

 

The options in the CD arena are never ending and would depend on budget ($50 to $5000 & more).  A couple players come to mind that won't break the bank but will perform well based on reviews.

 

Onkyo C7030 ($180) -  Wolfson 192/24 DACs, Analog and Digital outputs, Differential Headphone Amp Circuitry

http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-C-7030-Compact-Player-Black/dp/B004UR487A

 

Marantz CD5004 ($350) - Cirrus Logic DAC, Current-buffered headphone output, reviewed by HeadFi-er Zoom25 here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/619742/marantz-cd5004-questions-updated-with-review)

http://www.amazon.com/Marantz-CD5004-Single-Disc-CD-Player/dp/B003R7KMTW

 

Marantz also has the CD6005...called the best CD player under $500 by WhatHiFi (http://www.whathifi.com/review/marantz-cd6005) for what that's worth!  It also has USB support for media player connectivity in addition to Analog and Digital outputs, Full discrete headphone amplifier.

 

Additional CD Player options from NAD, Cambridge Audio, Emotiva, etc. might be worth looking at.

 

Another idea...all-in-one CD / Network / Integrated Amps...for $300 to $700 bucks can play your CDs, stream music from the internet, play tunes from iPod/MP3 player through speakers or headphones

http://www.amazon.com/Marantz-M-CR610-Wireless-Network-Receiver/dp/B00DS5Z0J0

http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-CRX-332BL-Micro-Component-Receiver/dp/B005YXXS4I

http://usa.denon.com/us/product/pages/productdetail.aspx?catid=streamingmedia(denonna)&pid=rcdn7(denonna)


Edited by GearMe - 5/26/14 at 4:37am
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for replies!

If I were to use the Onkyo CDP above (or something similar), would I still need an external DAC or is the onboard DAC sufficient (I'm guess that as in the home audio world, this is a bit of a loaded questions). Does it depend on whether I'm using the analog or optical outputs?

I'll definitely look into the Schiit and O2 products. What is the ODAC?

As far as a sound signature, I'm partial to a mostly neutral sound but with a bit of warmth and extra bass, if that makes any sense. My home speakers are Focal, if that's helpful.

Concerning budget, I'm starting to think ~$100-150 for the CD player, $100-150 for the headphone amp (DAC?), and $200-$250 for the headphones. Is that reasonable for a nice system?
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jobio View Post

Thanks for replies!

If I were to use the Onkyo CDP above (or something similar), would I still need an external DAC or is the onboard DAC sufficient (I'm guess that as in the home audio world, this is a bit of a loaded questions). Does it depend on whether I'm using the analog or optical outputs?

I'll definitely look into the Schiit and O2 products. What is the ODAC?

As far as a sound signature, I'm partial to a mostly neutral sound but with a bit of warmth and extra bass, if that makes any sense. My home speakers are Focal, if that's helpful.

Concerning budget, I'm starting to think ~$100-150 for the CD player, $100-150 for the headphone amp (DAC?), and $200-$250 for the headphones. Is that reasonable for a nice system?

 

I believe that the Onkyo CD and the Marantz players have good DACs in them for the money -- according to the reviews out there.  

 

A couple of nuances regarding DACs...some are just built to accept USB input from your computer and others have the ability to accept other inputs like optical (Toslink) and coaxial (SPDIF).  Some good discussion on the merits of each type of DAC connection is here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/698371/best-computer-to-dac-connection-usb-coaxial-or-optical).

 

Given that you seem to want to stay with your CD collection as your primary source, below are a few alternatives.

 

1. Using the CD Player's optical (or coaxial) output, bypass its internal DAC and feed the digital signal to an 'outboard' DAC that accepts optical (or coaxial) input, processes it, and then feeds the analog signal to your headphone amp.  Seems like this option would blow your budget.

 

2. Buy the CD player & your headphones...then see if the headphone amplifier in the CD Player does a solid job of powering the headphones.  Since the C7030 doesn't even list the specs for the headphone output, I'm inclined to think it may not be all that great.  The Marantz CD5004 does publish the specs (Headphone output: 18 mW/32 ohms -- variable maximum); may be OK if you buy highly efficient headphones.  Although the CD5004 would be a solid purchase at $349, the cost of this player and your headphones would consume your budget while most likely leaving you with an 'underpowered' configuration.  To put the power differential in perspective, the Magni is 1.2W/32 ohms and the O2 is 613mW/33 ohms.  Heck, my $60 Fiio E10 DAC / AMP combo, which I carry around with my laptop, has 150mW/32 Ohms.

 

3. Using the CD Player's Analog line out to feed the signal directly to your headphone amp (C7030 and Magni).  Seems like this option works within your budget...$180 for CDP & $320 for cans.

 

However, if you're open to migrating (ripping) your files to your computer, then I'd choose...

 

4.  Get the Modi / Magni stack for $200 and a nice set of Headphones for $300.  The Magni will scale well with future headphone purchases (even high impedance ones).  As a side benefit, the footprint of the M/M stack is compact and they are also nice looking (in my opinion) when paired together.  The JDS Objective2 / Standalone ODAC or the O2 + ODAC combo  would work as well but the cost would be $280.  

 

A variation on this theme would be choosing a solid entry-level DAC/AMP combo from Fiio, Audioengine, iBasso, Nuforce, etc. and plowing even more money into your headphones; giving you more options and better sound.  Assuming you get a good DAC/AMP combo for around a $100, you could get a couple sets of $200 headphones (one open and one closed) or a $400 set.


Edited by GearMe - 5/26/14 at 4:03pm
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jobio View Post

As far as a sound signature, I'm partial to a mostly neutral sound but with a bit of warmth and extra bass, if that makes any sense. My home speakers are Focal, if that's helpful.

Concerning budget, I'm starting to think ~$100-150 for the CD player, $100-150 for the headphone amp (DAC?), and $200-$250 for the headphones. Is that reasonable for a nice system?

Sounds like the HD600s would be a good choice for you, they can be had for $200-$250 used on the BST or ebay.  They're just a little on the warm side as you described.  If those aren't warm enough HD600s are darker but tend to be a bit more expensive.  

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

GearMe...Thanks so much the detailed response. I have a much better understanding now on my various set-up options and what the DAC is doing. Unfortunately I won't have a laptop available to connect to the DAC in the room where this set-up will be, which is why a CD player is necessary. However, I have both DLNA and Airplay devices in the house, so I'm now trying to figure out if I can get this set-up networked within my budget.

 

Linglingjr...Thanks for the recommendation. How do the HD598 compare to the HD600? Do you think they have a similar sound?

 

Suggestions for closed cans?

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by linglingjr View Post
 

Sounds like the HD600s would be a good choice for you, they can be had for $200-$250 used on the BST or ebay.  They're just a little on the warm side as you described.  If those aren't warm enough HD600s are darker but tend to be a bit more expensive.  

 

Good idea!  How great would it be to start off your Head-Fi journey with HD600s or 650s?  

 

I had a similar thought about the HD650s...which kinda lead me down the Fiio DAC/AMP scenario ($425 for the HD650s and $75 for an E7).  My question would be if a Fiio like that could drive the 6X0s well.  Noticed you have the 600s; you ever run them with your E7?  

 

Obviously, the lower cost of the 600s would allow him to get a desktop dac & amp that would be fine driving them.  But I've heard that the 650s were the ones with the warmer signature and the 600s were more of a neutral set of cans.  Hope so...as I'm debating between them the DT880s and the Q701s to add as my 'mid-tier' reference cans.  

 

FWIW, the 650s are 'Like New' for $425 and the 600s are $340 'Like New' on Sennheiser's Outlet site (http://en-us.sennheiser.com/outletstore#details)...all packaging, tested, full warranty.

post #9 of 15

HD598s would work for you as well but they're on a lower level than the Hd600s/650s.  They are also extremely easy to drive compared to the higher end sennheisers and you wouldn't need an amp for them (a cheap cmoy or fiio would work fine).  A cd player's headphone jack would probably drive the 598s just fine but you could always go cd player>E7>598 if you want to do something cheaper.  It won't sound nearly as good as the more expensive sennheisers but it'd be a solid start.

 

I wouldn't want to run the HD600s out of an e7.  They would sound okay, especially if you've never heard anything near as good as them before but they sound really boring and lack dynamics without a good amp in my experience.  If an E7 and E9 combo would work well for them too (not as good as the O2 ODAC or Schiit stack but decently).

 

I'd never pay that much for HD600/650s.  I bought mine used for $250 and you can find deals like that on ebay or the buy sell trade forum:

http://www.head-fi.org/f/6550/headphones-for-sale-trade

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by linglingjr View Post
 

HD598s would work for you as well but they're on a lower level than the Hd600s/650s.  They are also extremely easy to drive compared to the higher end sennheisers and you wouldn't need an amp for them (a cheap cmoy or fiio would work fine).  A cd player's headphone jack would probably drive the 598s just fine but you could always go cd player>E7>598 if you want to do something cheaper.  It won't sound nearly as good as the more expensive sennheisers but it'd be a solid start.

 

I wouldn't want to run the HD600s out of an e7.  They would sound okay, especially if you've never heard anything near as good as them before but they sound really boring and lack dynamics without a good amp in my experience.  If an E7 and E9 combo would work well for them too (not as good as the O2 ODAC or Schiit stack but decently).

 

I'd never pay that much for HD600/650s.  I bought mine used for $250 and you can find deals like that on ebay or the buy sell trade forum:

http://www.head-fi.org/f/6550/headphones-for-sale-trade

 

Linglingjr, I thought you'd say that about driving the HD6X0s out of a Fiio.

 

The Sennheiser 5X8 series is a good value -- especially lately with the discounting.  I think the HD558s sound a little better than the 598s; personal preference...like female vocals, piano, etc. better. But to Linglingjr's point, the 6X0 series is reference quality.

 

I've never been able to transition to used in this hobby which I'm sure costs me some money.  I usually wait for a good deal and then jump on it.  One recent find was Denon D600s at BestBuy / Magnolia for $150.  Very nice headphone for the money; like them better than my DT770s.  This buying pattern fits me.  I like owning a variety of headphone sound signatures and matching them to the music genres I'm listening to that day.

 

Jobio, if was looking to spend $300 on closed cans right now, I'd listen to the NAD HP50s, AKG 545/550, and Focal Spirits.  If you wanted to compare a few more, I'd also try the Shure 840s, Yamaha Pro 500s, and the Denon D600s if they're still on sale (in-store only though) at BB/Magnolia. Some people would throw the Senn Momentums in here as well but they were too dark for my tastes.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for the suggestions.

As I was considering all of the ways to listen to my music collection it dawned on me that I could possibly use my iPad to stream music from my computer to a set-up in another room. I have my CDs ripped as ALAC files, and it seems as though people have had good luck connecting iPads to the modi. So I could do iPad > modi/magni > headphones. I assume the sound quality from ALAC files vs CD won't be noticeable.

I think my shortlist is now NAD HP50, DT770, Momentums, AKG 545/550.

Will the ATH-M50x compete with the above list in sound quality, or is it a step down?
Edited by jobio - 5/27/14 at 10:05pm
post #12 of 15
Haven't heard the M50x...supposed to be some improvement over the M50s. I like 770s better than the M50s. But they were $169 and $99 respectively.

Based on the reviews, the HP50 would be at the top of my list. Surprised you're not interested in the Focals given you own their speakers. They're on the Innerfidelity Wall of Fame.

The Innerfidelity site is worth looking at. Tyll, the guy that runs it, is well regarded on Head-Fi. He does a good job of combining the objective and subjective aspects of headphone reviews.

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame-full-size-sealed
Edited by GearMe - 5/28/14 at 1:14pm
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GearMe View Post

Haven't heard the M50x...supposed to be some improvement over the M50s. I like 770s better than the M50s. But they were $169 and $99 respectively.

Based on the reviews, the HP50 would be at the top of my list. Surprised you're not interested in the Focals given you own their speakers. They're on the Innerfidelity Wall of Fame.

The Innerfidelity site is worth looking at. Tyll, the guy that runs it, is well regarded on Head-Fi. He does a good job of combining the objective and subjective aspects of headphone reviews.

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame-full-size-sealed

The reason I'm not looking at Focal is that I like a little variety in my life, so I'd rather start my headphone experience with some companies that specialize in this area.

Where did you find the 770s for $169?
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jobio View Post


The reason I'm not looking at Focal is that I like a little variety in my life, so I'd rather start my headphone experience with some companies that specialize in this area.

Where did you find the 770s for $169?

 

At GuitarCenter...they were $199 and I had a %15 off coupon.

post #15 of 15

Bought my HD650 here at the forums b/s/t for $325 shipped.....great cans.

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