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Headphones for Astell & Kern AK120

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I own an Astell & Kern AK120 which I bought 3 months ago. I bought it to replace my 11 year old iPod. Now, you may struggle to understand or believe this, but I cannot tell the difference in sound quality between the two devices. I play FLAC files on the Astell & Kern AK120 with the Graphic Equaliser switched off (as suggested on this forum). I use Sennheiser Momentum and Sony MDRXB500 headphones and I am told that this could be the problem as they are too colored. I have looked into buying more Headphones but there are so many... I read that to get the best out of some of the high-end Cans then I need a headphone amp but this seems crazy as I bought the AK120 as a portable device!

 

I am "upset" that my new £800 device sounds no different to a cheap iPod so if anyone can recommend better headphones then I will give them a go. I listen to prog Rock, Rock & Metal, ie, Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Deep Purple etc

 

Thanks! Ade.


Edited by Pudsi - 10/31/14 at 6:35am
post #2 of 4
Thread Starter 

...anybody?!

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

I guess not then :-(

post #4 of 4

Hey Pudsi,

 

Just saw your post. I don't have the AK120, I am assuming that you are talking about the older model that I have never heard. I do have the newer AK100 II but those are very different signatures. However, it sounds like you have a few typical bottlenecks to deal with:

  • Genre: I love rock and can occasionally find some well mastered stuff, but most of it stinks in terms of mastering. Even if it is high quality 24/96 remastered, the original mastering can sound compressed and lifeless and shouty making the experience unpleasant. So I have become a little more selective in my rock choices making specialty gym playlists, etc which I know sound great. That doesn't help when your favorite song is one that was poorly mastered, but that seems to be the breaks for now and has lead me to find some new music that i like that does sound good from those genres.
  • File Type: I don't know if you are using lossless yet or not, but my iPod was full of MP3s from back in the day when storage was an issues. Currently iTunes only sells MP3s so they have a way of making it onto the player. However, my biggest upgrade ever was re-ripping my CDs into lossless AIFF or Apple Lossless format. While it is not always day and night given the poorly mastered recordings, well mastered recording start to give you the wow factor. Once you start to make playlists that contain all wow factor songs in lossless, you will start to hear a consistent difference. 
  • Pairing: The AK120 is supposed to be very warm in signature. While that is good for colder HPs, pairing with a warmer HP can be too much. For example, I would use my HD700 to pair with it to balance out the 700's colder signature. I am not sure where your HPs fall into the spectrum but pairing may be an issue.
  • HP: The key bottleneck in any audio chain is the HP as that is what you actually hear. It has SQ effects in the 10's of percentages where the DAP is more in the 2 percent range. So listening to the best quality headphone properly paired to the sig of the DAP, to well mastered songs will definitely give you the best results. But remember, the LCD-X or HD800 for example may be able to make the DAP sound as best as it can, both will scale up further with better desktop source equipment so your DAP will become the bottleneck if you scale too high in HPs. Not an really an issue as you can always buy something later to scale the HP further if desired.

 

In the end, I would suggest finding a place to audition HPs locally if possible. Or you can order from Amazon and take advantage of their return policy. If you are talking about the older AK120, maybe the HD700 is a good start. But portable DAPs beg for in ears and I am a custom type person. 

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