$350 budget, incomplete system, help.
Mar 15, 2006 at 4:06 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2


New Head-Fier
Feb 6, 2006
This is probably one of the more difficult balancing acts I've had to deal with. I have a sound system which I feel is incomplete, and a small budget. I have many areas to improve, but due to the limited budget I probably won't be able to get everything up and running, but I think some sort of compromise can be reached with $350.

My current setup:

-Thinkpad T42: My main source when I'm at work. Weak output; even the 280s crackle a bit with it, but it's the only way I can access my entire collection and EQ the 280s somewhat.
-Technics SL-D2 turntable with Empire S100 cartridge (discontinued), but no stylus.
-Panasonic SL-CT470 PCDP: Sees very little use, as most of my collection is in FLAC and MP3s. Used mostly for feeding the amp.
-Pioneer SA-408 amplifier: amps up properly, but the noise floor! Don't know whether it's because of bad grounding or if it's just bad. It does give some life to the 280s however.
-Sennheiser HD280

I do by far most of my listening at work, and soon I'll be starting university, so I'll be away from home 15 hours at a time, except when I work at home, which might eventually represent a third of the time I spend working. That's the reason why, despite their criticism, I got the 280s: the isolation delivers, I can just throw them into my backpack without much concern, and after a looong burn-in, EQing and bluetak modding, they sound very decent, but I feel like I want more.

What I want

In the perfect world of expanded budgetness, I would love to have a set of high-end cans and proper amping on one hand for home listening and a decent portable rig with an iAudio X5 or similar to carry my music (note: I have a 35 GB MP3 and FLAC collection).

While I would love to have a great stylus for the vinyls, I don't have that many; it's mostly for the vintage cool factor, but their warm sound is really appealing to me, so it's basically a secondary priority, but I feel money is tight to buy more records and my collection is limited. The fact that the cartridge is discontinued means that I'll probably have to buy a new one as well. That Dark Side of the Moon LP is looking yummy though.

I recognize good headphones might need and amp. If they do, so be it, however I'd like something portable to complimient the Thinkpad and whatever DAP I might have.

What I don't like

I'm afraid I've been spoiled by analytical sound all my life. The high-end senns sound a bit fat to my ears, the Grado SR-60 which I briefly auditioned was screeching, though appealing for rock, and the 280 would need some more meat in its sound. I do not like overpowering bass, and I care above all about detail, soundstage a close second. IEMs would not do, since I need to speak to people at work occasionally and I feel they'd be unsafe in the traffic and train-heavy places I'm at.

My musical preferences

Above all Pink Floyd and similar (Alan Parsons, Emerson, Lake & Palmer). A lot of classical, predominantly violin and piano. Some metal (Tool mostly, Nightwish, System of a Down, Rammstein). Jazz (Thelonius Monk, Pat Mehany), electronica (Paul Van Dyk, Oakenfold).

I'd be willing to sell the 280s to increase my budget to about $500. I know they cost $100 in most places, but I live in Argentina - by far the biggest limitation here - and so I could sell them for more and stretch the budget a bit. I know people that travel frequently to the US, so assume amazon.com-like prices for things.

To sum up,

Ideally (willing to settle for far less than what is ideal):
-Headphone for work (decent isolation and good quality)
-Headphone for home (awesomeness)
-Amp, should it be needed (probably, as the Thinkpad is not the strongest source around)

Realistic priorities:

1. Headphone for work (ideally a decent all-arounder that can deliver properly for home use)
2. DAP (iAudio X5ish. Want the high capacity and strong file format support)
3. Amp/stylus (depending on how much difference the amp makes with the phones).


[size=xx-small]Told you it wasn't gonna be easy![/size]
Apr 5, 2006 at 9:36 AM Post #2 of 2


100+ Head-Fier
Nov 1, 2005
My recommendation is:
*Get the new Total Bithead (Dac/amp) which will be great for the notebook
*Buy old dt880 used for home awesomeness

This would go about 200usd new for the Total Bithead and 160usd (cheapest so far) for the Dt880 used if that comes up again. If you buy the New Total Bithead (notice that it should have to be the new model since it's better) used in the FS forum, that would leave you a little more budget for the headphones.
Keep the HD280. They serve you just fine for work. Despite the bad consensus there is in the forum, keep them. You just need: Quality source---> ASIO or KS ------> FLAC or APE ----> Foobar or similar program EQ -----> Hd280.


If you really want a better closed can and don't mind much about bass, you could sell the HD280 and buy the K271s (160usd new shipped I have read somewhere) or DT250-250ohms. Still getting the Total Bithead of course.


Buying both the Total Bithead and the K271s or DT250 and comparing them to the HD280 to see if you like them, and then selling the one you don't like to buy something like DT880 used if you wish.

Forget about the DAP. You know I think you don't need it since you have that beautiful external drive and you have to use your laptop anyway most of the time.
Next time you come home we'll compare how good the Thinkpad's soundcard is, but I don't trust onboard soundcards. Even the Nvidia Soundstorm (which is known to be one of the least worse onboard soundcards for PC) is miles worse than a good soundcard like my precious Prodigy 7.1 LT (hard to find nowadays).

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