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What to upgrade?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Greetings Audio Buffs,

Earlier this year, I began searching for a pair of full sized closed back headphones. I am a student and primarily wanted them to block out all the noise around my apartment, so that I could study. After a great deal of research, I purchased a pair of Sony MDR-7506. Aside from the fact that they are ugly and have an extremely long cord, I have been very satisfied. I have enjoyed them so much, in fact, that I am now considering making further investment in higher quality audio.

A little more about my situation: I listen to a fairly wide range of music - Classical (orchestral, solo violin, and piano usually), Acoustic Guitar, some folksy and blue grassy stuff, some Classic Rock, and sometimes just white noise. I usually listen from a MacBook Air or an iPhone. I listen to music that is not particularly high quality - from 128kbps mp3 to 256 AAC and often 160kbps streaming from Spotify.

So, my question is what upgrade would make the biggest difference in my listening experience? I have considered higher end headphones (PSB M4U1's and HiFiMan HE-400's in particular, which I realize are open backed), a headphone amp/DAC (HiFiMan EF-2A, Aune T1, Schiit Modi and Magni, and the Topping TP30) and investing in higher quality music (like Spotify premium - 320kbps). As far as budget goes...as little as possible, lol. So, please don't just tell me to get all these things. I am mainly interested in the biggest bang for my buck. I would be interested to know the best that I could do with $100-$150, maybe with an eye to investing a little more later.

Thanks for any advice!
post #2 of 15

I'm assuming this is for a Windows PC?

Sound Blaster Z sound card, $85 (best value in it's price range)

post #3 of 15

I've recently gone through this transformation myself, in terms of what do I need to do to make things better. I started out with the fun process of buying headphones, and have slowly gone through (starting) to warrant the purchases I was making.

 

 

I used to be a huge supporter of 128 kbps mp3 because of an outdated notion about size and portability and 'reasonable' quality. About two years ago I re-ripped everything in 256 (using Windows Media Player) and recently again have started dual-ripping in Lame v0 and Flac using DBPowerAmp. If you look into DBPowerAmp or EAC (free) you will see that they both support AccurateRip and other such things. The main thing I found was the limitations of the ripping quality in Windows Media Player, regardless of mp3 bitrate was still pretty bad even for comparable sizes.

 

However, I found that straight up the upgrade from 128 to 256 made a world of difference, and focusing on finding what you feel is 'higher quality' baseline of acceptable source material (no matter what anyone else says - it's your ears) will go a long way. And it would be wise to stick to it - ensure that your streams, rips and downloads are at that level or better, and you'll probably see a fair bit of improvement.

 

Along those lines, if you're also using your laptop or an iDevice or some android phones/tablets for music listening, a DAC will also help resolve those digitial files more nicely, and you can find DAC/amp recommendations galore on here.

 

THere's always things to upgrade, and there's better headphones, and better everything, but it's up to you where you want to go as well. :)

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Uhh, nope. Like I said, I have a MacBook Air and sometimes even listen from my iPhone. So, I would need something that could benefit both those devices.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by viperlt86 View Post

Uhh, nope. Like I said, I have a MacBook Air and sometimes even listen from my iPhone. So, I would need something that could benefit both those devices.

Actually... the soon to be launched Hifiman HE 400i might b up your alley, traditionall warmer headphones can some times allow low bit rate music to... not sound as clipped or harsh as it might normally on a brighter headphone

 

that and the 400i has a low impedance so it should be easy to drive from both your phone and your macBook 

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by viperlt86 View Post

Uhh, nope. Like I said, I have a MacBook Air and sometimes even listen from my iPhone. So, I would need something that could benefit both those devices.

 

Oops, missed that part that said you have a Macbook air.

Guess I should wear my reading glasses when I'm on the computer.

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by viperlt86 View Post

Uhh, nope. Like I said, I have a MacBook Air and sometimes even listen from my iPhone. So, I would need something that could benefit both those devices.

 

As your using your iPhone for listening to music, does that mean you will be traveling around with your headphones?

post #8 of 15
If you do a lot of listening to spotify, then upgrading to premium ($10 month) would be worthwhile. After that, an external DAC and amp. For instance the NuForce uDac3 is amazing for the price.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the replies! Sounds like I have a few votes for improving my source material, so I will certainly get started on that. If I would also get an amp/dac, like the Nuforce, what improvements and how much of an improvement could I expect with my setup? Is a MacBook Air's sound card really that bad? Would an amp help a headphone with a low impedance? As someone who is not an audio expert with highly discerning ears, how much of a difference would I notice? Could I expect to be impressed?

I know some of these questions are kind of impossible to answer because sound is so subjective, but, I would appreciate any opinions. Thanks again!
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by viperlt86 View Post

Thanks for all the replies! Sounds like I have a few votes for improving my source material, so I will certainly get started on that. If I would also get an amp/dac, like the Nuforce, what improvements and how much of an improvement could I expect with my setup? Is a MacBook Air's sound card really that bad? Would an amp help a headphone with a low impedance? As someone who is not an audio expert with highly discerning ears, how much of a difference would I notice? Could I expect to be impressed?

I know some of these questions are kind of impossible to answer because sound is so subjective, but, I would appreciate any opinions. Thanks again!

I own the Sony MDR-V6s, which are like the older, almost twin brother, of the 7506s.

Nice headphones, good headphones if your making music, but there is better for the end-user.

 

 

Typically Apple computers and phones will come with a little bit better audio hardware, then their non-Apple competitors.

But usually your playing more money for your "Apple labeled" product too. 

I would say to return (or sell off) the Sony 7506s and put all your budget into the best headphones you can, ones in the 25-Ohm to 40-Ohm range, which is very easy for your Macbook or iPhone to drive.

I would say to buy some (40-Ohm) used Audio Technica ATH-A900X (closed) headphones and some Hifiman HE Velour ear pads for them.

Plug the A900Xs straight into the Macbook and iPhone

 

Used A900Xs, $130

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headphones-/171344431904?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item27e4ec8b20

 

Used, A900X, $136.24 or make offer.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headsets-New-in-Box-/291158350841?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item43ca63dbf9

 

Hifiman Velour ear pads, $10+shipping.

http://www.headphone.com/products/hifiman-velour-earpads-pair

post #11 of 15
The DAC in the Air isn't bad but the amp is weak. Sticking to low impedance headphones (say, under 80 ohms) will minimize the problem. I think if you use the Schiit or NuForce products you will experience noticeably better sound, and I would say it's worth it, but that part is up to you.
Consider Sennheiser Momentums if you can find them used. They're $300 new, sorry, but look for a deal on used ones. They're closed 'phones that sound great from an iPhone or laptop (if they fit u well).
post #12 of 15

Hello! I am afraid I am not an audio buff, but I can recommend a product. The beyerdynamic DT 660 has a realistic sound signature for listening to classical music. I listen to choral works on them, and I find them to sound pretty realistic after some burn-in. The headphones themselves clamp a bit tightly out of the box, but they loosen up over time. They are 32 ohm headphones, they are closed back, though they do not have noise cancelling technology, and they are super comfortable. The only gripe I have with them is the build. They are not as good as higher end beyers when it comes to structure.

 

Also, I would read reviews about Grado Headphones. I have not tried them, but they are open headphones that may serve your purposes well if you choose to go open.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

I own the Sony MDR-V6s, which are like the older, almost twin brother, of the 7506s.
Nice headphones, good headphones if your making music, but there is better for the end-user.


Typically Apple computers and phones will come with a little bit better audio hardware, then their non-Apple competitors.
But usually your playing more money for your "Apple labeled" product too. 
I would say to return (or sell off) the Sony 7506s and put all your budget into the best headphones you can, ones in the 25-Ohm to 40-Ohm range, which is very easy for your Macbook or iPhone to drive.
I would say to buy some (40-Ohm) used Audio Technica ATH-A900X (closed) headphones and some Hifiman HE Velour ear pads for them.
Plug the A900Xs straight into the Macbook and iPhone

Used A900Xs, $130
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headphones-/171344431904?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item27e4ec8b20

Used, A900X, $136.24 or make offer.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headsets-New-in-Box-/291158350841?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item43ca63dbf9

Hifiman Velour ear pads, $10+shipping.
http://www.headphone.com/products/hifiman-velour-earpads-pair

Thanks for the advice Purple Angel! I am quite intrigued by the a900x's. they are $120 used on Amazon, which I think seems like an excellent price. I have a couple of questions though. First, could you compare these AT's to my 7506's(or to your v6's) and give me some idea of what improvement I could expect? I like that the AT's have much bigger drivers, a wider frequency response, and are only 40 ohms. Second, would I be better off in the long run by waiting until I could spend a little more money later? At some point I could see being able to put around $300 into a good pair of headphones, but I doubt I would ever spend much more than that unless I hit the lottery or something, lol. I doubt I would ever be able to appreciate fully or would ever care to buy $1000 headphones. So anyway, would the AT's hold their own against phones in a $300 price range? I really like the Sennheiser Momentum's, PSB M4U 1's, HE-400's, and I have even considered modding a pair of T50RP's. So, I'm wondering whether the AT's would satisfy me, or if I would still be wanting to upgrade to these other phones after 6 months. Thanks for all your help!
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by viperlt86 View Post


Thanks for the advice Purple Angel! I am quite intrigued by the a900x's. they are $120 used on Amazon, which I think seems like an excellent price. I have a couple of questions though. First, could you compare these AT's to my 7506's(or to your v6's) and give me some idea of what improvement I could expect? I like that the AT's have much bigger drivers, a wider frequency response, and are only 40 ohms. Second, would I be better off in the long run by waiting until I could spend a little more money later? At some point I could see being able to put around $300 into a good pair of headphones, but I doubt I would ever spend much more than that unless I hit the lottery or something, lol. I doubt I would ever be able to appreciate fully or would ever care to buy $1000 headphones. So anyway, would the AT's hold their own against phones in a $300 price range? I really like the Sennheiser Momentum's, PSB M4U 1's, HE-400's, and I have even considered modding a pair of T50RP's. So, I'm wondering whether the AT's would satisfy me, or if I would still be wanting to upgrade to these other phones after 6 months. Thanks for all your help!

 

When the ATH-A900Xs first came out they were almost $300, I paid $256 for my A900Xs.

So if your getting used (but in good shape) A900Xs for $120, your getting a great value.

Where as the V6/7506 headphones make good studio monitors, which I guess is more for analyzing audio.

The A900Xs are more for enjoying the music, more "life" to the sound.

But one of the nice parts about the A900Xs is they are easy to drive.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

I own the Sony MDR-V6s, which are like the older, almost twin brother, of the 7506s.

Nice headphones, good headphones if your making music, but there is better for the end-user.

 

 

Typically Apple computers and phones will come with a little bit better audio hardware, then their non-Apple competitors.

But usually your playing more money for your "Apple labeled" product too. 

I would say to return (or sell off) the Sony 7506s and put all your budget into the best headphones you can, ones in the 25-Ohm to 40-Ohm range, which is very easy for your Macbook or iPhone to drive.

I would say to buy some (40-Ohm) used Audio Technica ATH-A900X (closed) headphones and some Hifiman HE Velour ear pads for them.

Plug the A900Xs straight into the Macbook and iPhone

 

Used A900Xs, $130

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headphones-/171344431904?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item27e4ec8b20

 

Used, A900X, $136.24 or make offer.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-ATH-A900X-Black-Headsets-New-in-Box-/291158350841?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item43ca63dbf9

 

Hifiman Velour ear pads, $10+shipping.

http://www.headphone.com/products/hifiman-velour-earpads-pair


I second the choice of A900x if portability not an issue.

That combined with better sourcing will go a long long way. Do read up on 'fit issues' though with those. I don't have an issue with them but some do.

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