Advice Wanted =] for Classical music headphone system under $2500
Dec 2, 2009 at 11:16 PM Post #46 of 66

limpidglitch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wavoman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Tricky to navigate the choices here. An external DAC is ultimately the best way to go, so the idea is start using the Oppo (cheap), and upgrade when you can afford it to the external DAC, ending up with a world-class solution.

At the NJ meet two years ago, a bunch of us listented hard to the analog outputs of the Oppo and were surprised how good it was, given its reputation as not being that great.

I think this might be a better route than getting a mid-range SACD player now, then orphaning its abilities (which you paid for) when you upgrade.

On the other hand, used is always better than new in this game, as long as the caps are not dried out, so a late model used mid-range unit might be a better path, as limpid suggested.



That is of course very correct. I'm pretty sure the Oppo and the Marantz will perform close to identically when used only as a transport, and that the Oppo would be the wiser choice due to its lower price. But this all relies upon a DAC purchase waiting on the horizon. If you want to keep things a little simpler and go: SACD player -> Amplifier -> Headphones, the Marantz will probably be the better choice, if you want to invest the extra money.

Most of the used SA8001s on the market will be ~1 year old and ~50% of original price. I think that's a fair deal.

But then again, if an external DAC is going to be a part of the final set-up, a cheaper Oppo will be an even better deal.
 
Dec 3, 2009 at 1:39 AM Post #47 of 66

XXII

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Great thing you are doing for your mum. You should definitely go for SACD if you're exclusively listening to classical. The improvement is very noticeable (on most SACDs).

Here's a list of all the SACDs ever released: SA-CD.net - Titles

You can check if suitable material is available. Most of the mainstream stuff will be but if you want a specific recording by a specific orchestra then you might not be able to find it.

I don't know if this has been suggested but you should consider getting the Denon 3910 for the SACD player. The prices have gone down recently (since the player doesn't do Blu-Ray) but I have seen it go for as low as $300 used. You can get it for $600 new. It's originally MSRP was around $1500 I think.

This would free up your budget for headphones and amp. For me, I would go for a HD800 + amp rig e.g. HD800 + Woo6...
Otherwise, I would stretch your budget slightly and get a Stax sr-007 rig.

Edit: The Denon also plays DVD-audio btw so you would have even more stuff to choose from.
 
Dec 3, 2009 at 8:24 AM Post #48 of 66
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I see that, unfortunately, people have posted their own preferences for what they like, or what they have an agenda about, first.

My suggestion is: Can you get to a hi-fi store that stocks headphones and try a few pairs and report back? Women are apparently more sensitive than men to some things. There's no point in suggesting a bunch of stuff only for her to say that it's too bright, or the headphones are uncomfortable and she doesn't like wearing them. It will have all been for nothing.

------

To keep it separate from the above comment, yet keeping with it, this is what I'd ponder for my mother for $2500 if she were still alive (noting that this is based on gear I've listened with at one time or another, which isn't as comprehensive as what some people have):

Headphones: Stax Lambda Nova Signature (2nd hand) or 404LE (new or 2nd hand), or jump right up to second-hand Omega 2s (SR-007).
Amp: Stax 717, 007t, T1, T1S or the one that matches with the 404LE, the model of which I forgot.
DAC: Anything from Audio-gd from the DAC-19MK3 to the Reference 1, depending on budget. You may need an adaptor for the more expensive models to connect to your computer. Vintage Parasound and Assemblage DACs too could be added to this list as they can be found for similar prices and have similar quality and capabilities.
Cables: Get someone to DIY you some using high-quality OCCC copper wire for about $100-150. Beware of silver plated copper (as opposed to cables made from silver extruded over copper) as they tend to make the music sound harsh to some degree.

Reasons: The headphones and amp can come to as little as $1k second-hand. The DAC can thus be anything from $500-$1500. Stax Lambdas are light-weight, give an effortless and accurate sound and are generally non-fatiguing compared to many other headphones that feel like an annoying clamp on one's head (K701/702 and new Sennheisers, I'm thinking of you). The DAC choices are because they are very smooth and natural-sounding, which is important when listening to instruments such as violins, and are least likely to cause fatigue when your mother is listening.

Another rig, which comes to mind as being close to your budget that might work:

Headphones: Sennheiser HD800
Amp: Elekit TU-882R (requires assembling, but not any soldering)
DAC: Audio-gd DAC-19MK3 or vintage Parasound or Assemblage again.

Reasons: BIG soundstage with the HD-800s, which will be great for getting lots of space in classical performances, but the smooth tube amp and DAC offset their brightness. They are also quite comfortable, if somewhat heavier than the ultra-light Stax. If you're just going to use a CD player, Elekit have a matching one to go with the amp too.

Other headphone brands, by the way, that are quite comfortable that are worth trying are Beyerdynamic and German Maestro, but I haven't tried either lately so I wont comment on them. However, one point might be, noting the most expensive components is, you probably don't have to spend the entire $2500 to get a very nice rig (specially with vintage Stax) and end up with something that will make your mother happy.
 
Dec 3, 2009 at 9:29 AM Post #49 of 66

GuyDebord

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My advice would be the following as I believe that electrostatics and classical are a perfect combo and you dont want to give your mother a used set of cans (HE60...):

Stax 4040 system, which includes the SR-404 headphones and the SRM-006TII amplifier
DAC: PS Audio Digital Link III or MusicHall 25.2
 
Dec 3, 2009 at 6:03 PM Post #50 of 66

Necrolic

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Quote:

Originally Posted by rokkyboy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
A good source (lossless is the term?)

an amp - to transmit sound from the source and improve -balance- the output -headphones-

Good wire and plug - to reduce the loss of quality

Output - Headphones in my case, that can deliver the above.



That's a general idea of what you'll need, but a few comments first.

Lossless is the term for the type of music you want to be playing through your source. Now since your mother has a PC already, I recommend she use that as a place to store all her music, and as a transport to the DAC that will convert it to analog so it can be played. I'll go more into this later.

Wire and plug isn't all that important to be perfectly honest. Some people swear that it is massively important and gives a noticeable improvement, but for the most part that is only true if the stock cables you have are terrible. In a $2500 system, you would benefit more from spending more on the rest of your equipment than dropping $500 of that on cables. Cables are really just to get that last few % out of your system and IMHO should only be upgraded when you have nothing else to improve on.

Onto the recommendations, I'll cover one section of the system at a time here. Normally transport wouldn't be included in this as it's just the PC, but I'll use that section to explain how to set up lossless files from CDs so that they can just be played from the PC.

Transport

As you said you'll be buying her CDs, all you have to do to get them on the PC in lossless format is the following:

First of all, I recommend using FLAC as your lossless format, but if space is an issue on her computer, 320kbps mp3 files are a more conservative alternative that, unless you have fantastic ears, aren't a lot worse in SQ.

Download Foobar2000, which can be used to convert the files to FLAC (Google a guide for this). After all her files have been converted and she's ready to listen, I also recommend making Foobar2k the default player for them, as it's the best music player available for PC.

That about covers everything for transport and no recommendations necessary here, it's just the beginning to the system.

Headphones

I'm going to cover this first, as there are some fairly inexpensive options here that are better for classical than many high end options, and that really opens up opportunities in the rest of your system.

For classical music I highly, HIGHLY, recommend the AKG K701. It is an absolutely fantastic set of cans for classic, with it's wide soundstage, neutrality, and crystal clear details. They are also only $250-$300, and truly are one of the best options out there for classical. Also, you can get a balanced pair (I'll go more into balanced later) from HeadRoom for cheaper than any high end headphones that would be better than the stock K701, making it better than the other options or on par with them.

Just to explain the balanced cables, balancing cans is really the only time I'm all for recabling, it really does make a noticeable difference. For the K701 balanced, you can get it with the Cardas cable from HeadRoom, or from Moon Audio with a Silver Dragon recable for the same price. Now to find out which of these is the better option, you'd need to make a separate post because I do not have experience with them.

The only other real options, without dropping massive amounts of money on your complete system to support it, are Grado headphones. The RS1i, GS1000i, and PS1000 are all good for classical (GS1000i and RS1i are from personal experience, PS1000 is an assumption). RS1i is worse than K701 for classical, but more expensive, so I'd skip it. GS1000i I personally have not directly compared to a K701, but it's more expensive than a balanced K701, and I love K701 for classical so much I would recommend just getting a balanced K701 as it leaves you more room for the rest of your system and, chances are, would be better for classical.

Source/Amp

This is where my knowledge pretty much ends, but I can mention a few things, but after reading this I suggest you take the 2 recommendations I'm going to make to the Amp and Source forums and ask them for other suggestions in your price range.

HeadRoom makes very high quality products, and I highly recommend their amps/DACs. They offer a few options depending on whether you decide to go with a single ended headphone option (stock K701), or balanced.

Single Ended - The Grace Design M902 is a DAC/amp combo in your budget from HeadRoom, or another option is HeadRoom Ultra Desktop (not sure which is better).

Balanced - Ultra Desktop Balanced and Ultra Desktop DAC. This puts you like $800 over budget after everything is factored in including headphones, so you may want to look for cheaper options in the other sections of Head-Fi if you want to go balanced.
 
Dec 3, 2009 at 6:20 PM Post #51 of 66

Frank I

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My recommendations would be to get the Outlaw 2150RR receiver with the AKG701 and the Marantz 8003. The total cost for this rig would be 1700.00 if you shop online add audioquest Black Samba interconnect and we are at 1800.00 Now she has future upgradeability along with FM tuner and you could add speakers in the future. TYou will be very happy with this setup. The Outlaw also has USB and Ipod capability with the great head amp and superior phono stage.
 
Dec 4, 2009 at 5:19 AM Post #52 of 66

rokkyboy

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Wow!

More choices =]

Sorry I have not been able to keep up with the thread as much as I wanted to, and should have. I'm working in the online department of an electronic outlet franchise and it is December!!
Things are getting crazy down here
smily_headphones1.gif


I really should be sleeping, but I wanted to participate a little bit before I went to sleep.

Here are the list of advices (not limited to) I have received so far.




SACD (search one with spdif)
zero dac with tube amplifier
(perhaps an extra headphone amp)
&
sennheiser hd800 (detailed and nice sounding headphones)
sony mdr-sa5000 (for really really detailed sound, almost technical detail)
- Justice Strike




Audio-gd Compass and a set of AKG K701
- Yikes



HE60/HEV70
- Vcoheda



Headphones: AKG K701 ($250)
Amplifier: SPL Auditor ($900)
DAC: PS Audio DLIII ($650)
&
Sennheiser HD800 ($1400)
WooAudio6 ($600)
PS Audio DLIII ($650)
- AmanGeorge



Phone: Grado GS-1000 (used one is around $600-$700)
DAC/AMP: Grace design m902 (the new one costs $1595)
Source1: laptop
Source2: Sony SCD-CE595 (An entry level 5CD SACD player, try to grab
refurbish one from Sony outlet $9x)
- Stokitw



HE-5 with EF5 amp
- Lecky



Benchmark DAC1 USB and HD650
- Fishski13



HD800 ($1400)
and the combined DAC/AMP Grace 902 (1600)
- DavidMahler



Stax Lambda Sig, 404, or better yet Senn Baby Orpheus, HE60 + Stax 717 amp or even a lower model solid state used Stax amp (e.g. SRM-1/MK-2)
- Wavoman



Oppo + DAC or
SA8001 -> AMP -> Headphoens

-Limpidglitch



HD800 + amp rig e.g. HD800 + Woo6.
-XXII



Headphones: Stax Lambda Lova Signature (2nd hand) 404LE, or Omega 2s
AMP: Stax 717, 007t, T1, T1S
DAC: Audio-gd, DAC-19MK3, Reference 1, Vintage Parasound, Assemblage
Cables: DIY high-quality OCCC copper wire

HD800 + Elekit TU-882R + Audio-gd DAC-19mk3/Vintage Parasound/Assemblage
-Currawong


Stax 4040 system + PS Audio Digital Link III or MusicHall 25.2
-GuyDebord


Balanced - Ultra Desktop Balanced and Ultra Desktop DAC

Single Ended - The Grace Design M902 is a DAC/amp combo (or HeadRoom Ultra Desktop)
-Necrolic


Outlaw 2150RR receiver with the AKG701 and the Marantz 8003
-Frank I







Thank you all for your great help!!

I've searched, and PMed what I can find of the headphones that are on sale here in Head-fi, Audiogon, and E-bay.

Yesterday, I won a K701 from ebay for $218.
I was waiting for responses from few sellers, but not much luck there.

Now its down to an amp. People here suggested EF5, I was thinking of purchasing it from head-direct.com because I could not find anyone selling it here or audiogon.

This is the idea I have right now.
As it is December, and my workload is not going to get any lighter, I wont be able to spend too much time looking into every product that were advised. Therefore, I decided to choose an amp and an SACD player by next week, and ask about DAC to you guys. As I looked around here at Head-fi, people said the headphones make the biggest difference in SQ (some people called them selves as a 'grado person', some preferred senn over anything, etc). I guess it has to do with sound signature of headphones (bright, dark, deep, heavy, light, and all the other terms used that I can not yet related to =P). So, I thought why not (since K701 will arrive within a week) find an amp that will match K701 (most all-round amp) and try all different 'sound signatures' of various headphones until my mother knows how to describe her 'taste in music'. Then, I will come back here and ask again for more specific rig, which will lead me to more choices to explore. As for a DAC, I would like to get it if you guys think has a significant effect in overall sound, but if not, I would like to invest the rest of the money for other headphones.

However, since using a computer with a DAC is another possibility, how does SACD sound quality compared with Lossless file formats from regular CDs?

So far, I've heard that a good paring amp for K701 is EF5 and SPL Auditor. Anything else?

I'll start looking for amps and if I can't seem to find any from Head-fi or Audiogon, I will get head-direct's EF5 for now.

limpidglitch mentioned that Marantz SA8001 + AMP + Headphone is simple,
but cheaper Oppo would be a better deal if DAC will be in the rig.

I'm sort of leaning towards lowering the budget and take her to concerts more often. Talked to her today, she was quite adamant on the fact that it was very hard for her to take a day off, but I think I can find a way =]
I am going to purchase a ticket to Il divo Concert here in Toronto for next week. As I read more and more of Head-fi, regular concert might be the best investment for my mother. Although I still want to get her something for this Christmas =]

Thank you everyone for your generous time and great advices!!
 
Dec 4, 2009 at 5:54 AM Post #53 of 66

limpidglitch

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The EF5 was released very recently, hence you'll be unlikely to find one for sale, used.

a slightly cheaper alternative to to the PS Audio DL III you might want to check out is the Cambridge DacMagic. Other than that it's basically up to you to decide what price level you're comfortable with. All of the DACs hitherto posted are considered good offerings in their respective price classes (not that it's up to me to decide this, it just seems to be the general consensus on these boards).

As the EF5 is very new, there isn't a whole lot of impressions about it, but what there is is collected here.
From what I can make out, it – as a powerful tube hybrid – at least has the potential of being a decent all-round amplifier.
 
Dec 5, 2009 at 6:40 AM Post #54 of 66

rokkyboy

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Quick update,

I decided to purchase HD800 due to very high recommendations..
Now I will end up with K701 and HD800, without an amp, and less than 1,000 for the budget.

Which amp should I get for HD800, that is under 1,000?
also, considering that I might need to get SACD player, or DAC (for a computer)
which would be a better choice? since I have about 1,000 left =]

will SACD provide much better SQ then computer with lossless files + DAC?

Thanks!
 
Dec 5, 2009 at 8:02 AM Post #55 of 66
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It probably depends on the SACD player. Before you got the HD-800s I was going to suggest you let your mother try the K701s first. Sure they are great for the kind of music she likes, but she might find them uncomfortable, which would render the purchase useless.

There seems though, to be quite a few people who got good results with tube amps and the HD-800s. In my case this was the some-assembly-required Elekit TU-882R and for others, a Woo Audio 6 or similar.
 
Dec 5, 2009 at 8:10 AM Post #56 of 66

LevA

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I also remember reading that EF-5 amp matches well with the HD800. not sure if EF-5 is a dac/amp combo or only an amp. the price is pretty good (~$500) but do not know how tubes match with 701s, whether they are better with SS or tube amps.

I have no first hand experience with any of these so please check the EF-5 thread to see if this might be for you.
 
Dec 5, 2009 at 10:19 AM Post #57 of 66

KevM2

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Honestly, I would avoid buying the HD800s and go for a more modest rig to see if she enjoys it, and also, a speaker setup wouldn't be that much more expensive if so at all. For example, you can get a very solid speaker, the energy RC10, for $300.

The problem with the HD800s is that you need to pair it with good gear to get the potential out of it.

What I would do if I was you is get modest equipment and pair it with the 701s to get a baseline and then upgrade components from there.

** well since you've already purchased a pair of HD800s, it looks like you have $1000 to split between an amp and DAC. For DAC, a great choice I know of is the Audio GD DAC19MK3. That will leave you $500 for an amp, and I'll leave the amping issue to someone else.
 
Dec 7, 2009 at 12:57 AM Post #58 of 66

rokkyboy

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It seems like HD800 was not the best choice, so I cancelled the order.
I will try HD650, SA5000, DT880, and if I can find it, STAX headphones first.
I think I'll purchase two headphones, and DAC and AMP both in the range of 500. I think that'll leave me enough room to venture around different headphones for until my mother finds what she likes. Then, I guess I'll study more about AMPs, DACs, and cables.

Also, I think HD650 would probably be my next phone since it was one of the most recommended phones next to K701.


So far, below is what I'm searching through head-fi and audiogon. Any other suggestions for a very generally used (all-round) AMP and DAC that would be easier to sell and trade later on? =]
I read on Wikipedia that AMPs come in various forms.. are they all specified for different headphones?



Audio GD Compass

Audio GD DAC19MK3

EF5

WooAudio6

PS Audio DLIII


Should I purchase whatever I can find on Head-fi and Audiogon sales forum?
I was thinking maybe if I can't find any sellers by this week, I should get EF5 since they are always on sale.. I would like to buy used equipment if possible, so I can keep trying other equipments.


Thank you all for your support!
 
Dec 17, 2009 at 3:00 AM Post #59 of 66

rokkyboy

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These are what I ordered.

K701, HE-5 & EF5 combo, and Cambridge Dacmagic.

The total cost was

K701 $240, HE-5 & EF5 $900, Dacmagic $500

Total: $1640
I'm thinking of getting Denon DVD2910 DVD/CD/SACD Universal Player used, for $350.
I'll invest the rest into CDs, and hopefully when used HD600 come up in Audiogon or Head-fi, I'll try to purchase them.


Thank you everyone for your immense help!!
 

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