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Advice needed on ultimate transportable setup

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by dungie, Aug 23, 2012.
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  1. dungie
    Hi everyone,
    Suppose I have a backpack ready for hi-end audio. Suppose I'm not strong enough to carry things like RWA Isabellina HPA with me. For simplicity, let's limit setup with 4lbs. What components should I choose?
    Source: is there anything better than battery-powered Apogee miniDAC?
    Amp: is there anything better than TriadAudio L3? 
    Phones: is there anything better than JHAudio JH13?
    Cables: is there anything better than Piccolino?
    Thank you for all advices.
  2. zowki
    FitEar ToGo 334 IEMs with SXC 24 cable driven by Rx MK3-B amp. Not sure about source.
  3. dungie
    Thanks, those FitEar IEMs do look interesting. Did you compare SXC 24 to Piccolino?
  4. dungie
    I ordered ToGo 334, let's see what they are capable of comparing to JH13. As for the amp, does everyone agree that Rx MK3-B is the best transportable amp (better than L3 for example)?
  5. zowki
    Yes, the Triad L3 should be better than the ALO Rx MK3-B. I should have recommended that to you instead.
  6. Currawong Contributor
    The other way around. The RX3-B is better, IMO, than the L3, refinement-wise. However, for just IEMs, after having spent a couple of weeks with a bunch of amps and FitEar 334s, I'm not sure that something like an RX3 plus the cost of getting a balanced cable for IEMs isn't overkill. I was quite happy with the 334s out of a Pico Slim.
    zowki: By the way, please don't make recommendations about gear you aren't familiar with. Thanks. [​IMG]
  7. ericfarrell85
    Being only able to comment on the gear I own, I can say that my Westone ES5 out of either a CLAS or DX100 (as source) into an Alo MK3 is a phenomenal setup (and with the right bag or case easily portable). In a quiet setting the DX100 is slightly more transparent and "refined" than the CLAS, but outdoors the differences are hardly distinguishable. Also, the MK3, while in my opinion the finest portable amp I have heard, provides only a subtle improvement over my Stepdance with the ES5. The Stepdance remains my pick for best value portable amp, but slightly shy of "ultimate" due to the MK3. I have not heard the JH13 and can't say how it compares with the ES5 (from the descriptions and graphs it doesn't sound like the sound signature I'm after). I'd also consider that the ES5 isolates substantially better than anything else I've heard or owned, with the UM Miracles a distant second in that category. This should be a very important factor in any considerations of a portable setup. Only the ES5's can drown away the noise and turmoil of NYC buses and trains.
    You haven't mentioned your music preferences and this makes it hard to recommend a custom in ear. Of the three I have the UERM is most genre-versatile, the UM Miracles most refined and genre-limited (but EXTREMELY well suited to jazz and classical) and the ES5's by far my preferred for anything modern/poorly recorded/rock. As for cables I have not heard the Piccolino, but my silver black dragon provides a nice, albeit subtle, (mostly an improved texture and weight) improvement over the Miracles stock cable. My MK3 does have an easily heard background hiss, though unheard excepting for the softest passages when music is playing) and also has the gain lowered. The lowering of the gain was necessary for every iem I have tried minus the EX1000. Without this tweak you will not have any volume range on the pot. 
    Currawong likes this.
  8. dungie
    Currawong, thank you for your comment. So far L3 is the easiest to listen to amp I tried - because of its fine imaging and because it sounds quite natural overall. I didn't try Rx MK3-B, but I remember MK1 being quite far from Lisa III (which is worse than L3 in my opinion) in this regard. Is MK3-B any better?
    ericfarrell85, thanks a lot for such a great comment. A lot of things to consider. Mainly I listen to rock, pop, electronic and classical (orchestral or chamber) music.
    I can't help noticing that there's a huge gap in size/weight (and, probably, sound) between the amps being discussed here and Isabellina HPA. I'm wondering if any devices fill this gap. I'm also wondering if any full-sized cans driven by a transportable amp can sound better than top-tier IEMs. I was considering Ultrasone Ed10, but reviews are not promising.
  9. ericfarrell85
    As for gaps between smaller, portable rigs and a desktop setup, I can say the experiences are vastly different, but in most cases I would prefer a full-size open headphone. Customs are wonderful for clarity, effortlessness and sometimes transient speed, where headphones absolutely have dominion in weight, grandness, headstage, texture, dynamics and overall palpability. Something like my AD2000 driven by a Zana Deux is far more emotionally involving (for me) with, say, Eliot Smith, than say the ES5, which from my experience substantially betters any in ear I've heard with this music. The drawback is obviously the setting in which an open headphone can be used. Without complete silence and a calm, rested disposition, a 4k desktop setup is mostly just pretty landscaping. I should say though that when the moments are right, the experience of an HD800 out of a Beta 22 or Zana is far, far, far more impressive than anything portable. I find that a portable setup just gives a far better return on the money, as isolation and sound quality that can be taken anyplace, is very rewarding and in my case much more commonly used. I'm not a big fan of closed headphones, but I have not heard any of the upper tier Ultrasones. The best closed headphone I owned was an ES10, and I prefer any of my customs to it for sheer enjoyment (in large part due to the far better isolation). As for carrying around a large setup in a backup I don't really see a way that it could be used often. You would be tethered to an outlet and would probably require a table for setup. The value of a small, transportable setup is found in the little happenstance moments, of which there are so, so many, where all one has to do is push a few buttons and phenomenal sound is delivered. Trains, buses, coffee shops, office waits, walks, work breaks, are just a few examples of the wide ranging use that a smaller portable setup can supply. 
  10. reddragon
    Hey about portable amp, how about rsa sr71b?
  11. ericfarrell85
    I preferred both my Stepdance and SR71A single ended to SR71B single ended. I didn't have any balanced cables at the time so I'm sure sq was sub-optimal. Saying that, single ended, I prefer the ALO MK3 over the SR71A (by a considerable margin) and Stepdance (smaller). Assuming the 71B is substantially better run balanced and one is willing to invest in balanced cables I can see the value in picking one up used (as the price seems now to be falling). From my short audition it wouldn't be my first choice. 
  12. HiFlight
    Just thought I would enter my on-the-go rig as food for thought. Takes a really small backpack! (Tera-Player+MG6Pro/TwAg)

  13. MrMobius
    Hi.  Have you looked at the 'combo' new Pan Am rig coming out from ALO.  It is transportable though perhaps not quite fully portable (I'm not sure how heavy it is) and has a separate battery pack (to the AMP/DAC) and also has a separate power conditioner for desk-top up.  It's discussed elsewhere on this forum.
    And there is a review here.
    It comes out Sept 5 and costs $699 and not too much more for the Gateway and the Passport.
  14. Student_Driver
    Really appreciate the comments on this thread.. are there any other suggestions.. particularly for Urban (think NYC streets with 100db ambient noise)... Apart from the custom IEMs.. has anyone had good luck with closed cans?
    Am torn between building a system around my HiFiMan 602, iPhone(s) or starting from scratch with something like the DX100. 
    Would love a good portable rig which could also drive my HD 800s in a hotel room etc.
    Am thinking about perhaps an ALO (Mk3 or Continental). 
    Am really stumped on the closed vs IEM issue.  All of the IEMs I've had (TFI10s, Etymotic 4s, Monster Miles Davis, Sure 535s) have been ok but not as magical as the HD 800 experience...and definately not as comfortable...
    On a slightly tangential thread... I've been playing with Radio Shack Cardioid microphone head set combo with my IEMs trying to get better SQ for my phone conversations.. it's a bit of a pain to get the IEMs on and then the mic headset (my teenage children laugh at me) but I think the SQ is better than any bluetooth or Factory iPhone mic/headset combo..
    I have the Sennheiser ME 3 headset mic also but it needs a mic amp.. so it's not a practical solution...  I'd love to see a headset amp which had an integrated mic amp and a super cardioid mic/IEM combo with superior audio for music but also superior noise rejection for phone calls.. Am I nuts..probably... 
  15. Currawong Contributor
    Is that your blog? Have you heard it? 
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