3rd World Country Audio Advice (lol)
Sep 4, 2009 at 5:29 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

JimVincible

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Hi guys,

Okay, so technically South Africa is a "developing country" and not 3rd world, but the issue still stands: It's virtually impossible to get decent affordable audio equipment.

I'm a pretty noob audiophile, just getting started. My current "rig" is basically an iPod Nano 3rd Gen and some UE Super.fi 5 Pros (using 320kbps mp3 or .alac) I used to carry them around with me at school etc, but they are impractical for everyday use (time to put them in, can't hear people talking, afraid of breaking them accidentally etc.) That's why I got some "disposable" (dons fire-proof suit) SkullCandy 'phones.

Aanyways... I have decided to focus more on a home setup, as I don't really need a high quality mobile setup (yet.) Currently, I am using my desktop computer (reasonably fast) as a source with the (stock) "SupremeFX" soundcard on my Asus Commando motherboard. I want to improve on this, computer audio is far from ideal.
The problem is that A: I don't have much money and B: I don't have much selection for variety or price. I have found only one supplier nationwide that sells Grado, I can get some SR-80i's for about $142, roughly $40 more than the rest of the world lol...

I am uncertain which will give me a better result, buying some SR-80i's (which, through reading here, I believe are the best cans for the money) or continuing the use of my S-F5P's and getting a better soundcard. I don't want to spend more than ~$150 (R1200) on either option, so let's call it about $100 in the American market to compensate for exorbitant prices over here.
I have access to a decent range of AKG and Sennheiser, but both are overpriced.

In terms of a soundcard, I'd prefer something simple and USB (desktop,) won't go into detail, it would just be much more convenient for swapping audio (I could also use it on my netbook/USB extensions are easy to find, decent 3.5mm aren't.)
I was going to get an Asus Xonar U1, which seemed like a nifty device. However, there is only one supplier for that as well, and they don't have any (with no ETA.) Lots of online stores have them listed, but none have stock (or ETA.)
That would seemingly leave me with a "Creative Sound Blaster Digital Music SX" or.. um.. that's it. Can anyone vouch for this card? It's hard to find solid technical reviews on products not designed for audiophiles ("it was an improvement over my motherboard audio" is a little less detail than I had hoped for.)

The main question is: Would the Grados be a bigger improvement than a sound card of sorts, or is there a better headphone for the money/some source I am overlooking?

Also, how will the experience change from my UE IEM's? I've only ever had a Zalman 5.1 gaming headphone set for closed cans and they were terrible, muddy and uncomfortable.

Thanks in advance to everyone that read this and is willing to help with the severe pickle I seem to have found myself in. Any help/advice is much appreciated. Many days have been spent googling/head-fi-searching to little avail.

-
Jim
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Sep 5, 2009 at 10:09 AM Post #2 of 15

JimVincible

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Shameful bump
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I really need help here... I've found an E-MU 0202 locally for $260 :/
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 11:07 AM Post #3 of 15

fatcat28037

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And we in the US think it'd bad because so few retailers carry headphones, at least we have a vibrant Internet market.

I'm not a sound card kind of guy so hopefully someone else can answer that question. I can however vouch for the RS-80. I think they would resolve your headphone concerns and will sound great right out of the Nano, especially with 320kbps files. You'll be able to hear the rest of the world an I suspect improve on the detail.

Are there any used options available, like EBay, that way you could cut down on that $140 price. ouch!

Good luck.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 11:13 AM Post #4 of 15

JimVincible

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fatcat28037 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
And we in the US think it'd bad because so few retailers carry headphones, at least we have a vibrant Internet market.

I'm not a sound card kind of guy so hopefully someone else can answer that question. I can however vouch for the RS-80. I think they would resolve your headphone concerns and will sound great right out of the Nano, especially with 320kbps files. You'll be able to hear the rest of the world an I suspect improve on the detail.

Are there any used options available, like EBay, that way you could cut down on that $140 price. ouch!

Good luck.



Thanks fatcat, what about the Audio Technica AD-700s? I can get them for $160 here. (lol
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)

PS

Our eBay equivalent is dodgy :p
 
Sep 6, 2009 at 1:08 AM Post #6 of 15

catachresis

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Jim, you're a lucky dog to be living in a place as beautiful and interesting as South Africa.

One rule of audiophilia is that the source is the most important component. However, if you've got a relatively new ASUS motherboard with *digital* (what they call it) integrated audio, then you'll probably have to spend somewhere around a $100.00 US to get a sound card that sounds significantly different right out of the jack. The road from a better soundcard leads to an amplifier and conceivably a DAC. That's a long ways down the road.

I've heard others say that the speakers are the most important component of the system because they have the most impact on your listening experience. I'm sceptical of that, but in your case, I agree that a good, careful choice of headphones will give you a lot of satisfaction. Even going directly out of the integrated phones-out miniport of your motherboard, good headphones will sound exciting. I think that you'll be happier than if you had bought Zalmans.

Next, what will you do about finding a source for equipment.

1. If you're interested in Grados, I'll let you know that The Alessandro MS-1s are a highly revered adaptation of the Grados. Years ago, when I was in Dublin, I emailed Alessandro, and they were willing to ship directly to me.

2. Think about Ebay in Europe. Ebays -- .co.uk (Brit), .fr (France), and .de (Germany). Are good places to look for both used and new equipment. Just be sure to contact the seller directly before buying to work out whether he'll ship to SA. Note that many Japanese and Chinese sellers who would have no problems with shipping their new products to SA advertise through European (and 'Merican) Ebay.

3. Have a look at the For Sale sections here at Headfi. There are many friendly individuals in Europe and the Far East would would consider selling to you. There are also many great pro merchants would would work something out with you.

I've had Alessandro MS-1s. I also own Audio Technica ATH-AD900s. I think that, for the money, you would be happier with the MS-1s than with the AD700s, but that's merely my opinion. There are lots of options. Don't limit yourself to new, retail components. Audiophiles tend to take very good care of their headphones and equipment.
 
Sep 6, 2009 at 1:43 PM Post #7 of 15

JimVincible

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Thanks for the advice catachresis, much appreciated. Unfortunately, buying internationally is an issue. I ordered my UE Super.fi 5 Pros in conjunction with someone else in my town from Amazon via DHL (supposedly the most reputable..) His were stolen and mine were opened but untouched, it's tragic how bad that type of thing is here. Amazon doesn't even ship to SA anymore (I don't think) because of those kind of problems. Also, import duty $$$.
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The nice thing about wantitall.co.za (distributor of Amazon for SA) is that, although you pay roughly double what you would pay in the States for items, you don't have to worry about them being stolen. (EDIT: The price I pay for living on an island :p )

I plan on using them A LOT though, so comfort and relative ease of listening is quite important. Are the Grado/Alessandro cans a bit too unpadded/aggressive for that type of application?
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 9:38 AM Post #9 of 15

JimVincible

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Thanks jung, but those (apart from the alessandro) aren't really what I'm looking for...
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:43 PM Post #10 of 15

thebathingape

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I bought some Beyerdynamic DT-770 pro 80 from Beyerdynamic in Johannesburg straight when i lived there. I can't remember exactly what I paid but it wasn't too bad. Maybe its abit out of your pricerange.
They gave me good service though and no hassle repair.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:50 PM Post #11 of 15

JimVincible

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Thanks bathingape,

Which Beyer is comparable with the ATH-AD700s?
Thanks
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Sep 8, 2009 at 6:15 PM Post #12 of 15

thebathingape

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Never tried those so i cant say.
I also bought some DTX 900 from Beyer which fits your pricerange better, but i haven't listened to them in a while so i cant really comment on their sound (gave them to mum).

If I was going for Beyer I would save up a little more and look at maybe a DT770 or DT880, which you could later on down the road upgrade with an amp. I feel with e.g. the DTX-900 you cant really go any further from where you start off, while a DT770 or DT880 can take you much further.

There are lots of threads about them here if you search.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 8:11 PM Post #14 of 15

dBel84

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Hey JimV , being an expat I can commiserate with the often dismal support you have in the higher end headphone industry. That said there are quite a few South African HeadFiers in your neck of the woods ( a little spread around - Pretoria, Bloomfontein, Cape Town ) My advise to you would be to find out from them how they went about it, they may even have a pair of headphones that they wouldn't mind parting with.

Alternatively , get a "cheap" affordable set locally ( SR60 or even the meagre ksc75 ) and modify them to sound MUCH better. I will even plug ortho's seeing as they offer you an ideal opportunity to end up with a first rate headphopne - search SFI and or orthodynamic on headfi .

Last option - pm me if you are in JHB as I may have family heading back that way in October

..dB
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 9:00 PM Post #15 of 15

JimVincible

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Thanks for the advice dB, unfortunately I'm not in Joburg (or any city for that matter lol) but thank you for the kind offer
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I'll definitely look into it, although I must say I'm a noob and not very comfortable fiddling with even the most basic mods. Especially on a R900 pair of headphones...
I had a glimmer of hope when I saw the AKG K701 online in the US for ~$260... But local online stores don't have them for less than $1000, very depressing.

I am going to continue my quest for the Audio Technicas for the time being. How much would a headphone amp (eg. a basic ~$120 Little Dot) improve the listening experience?

Thanks again to everyone that's helped.
 

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