Building a home system around a good (Hd-600 level at least) pair of open cans...
May 27, 2015 at 9:54 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

DCofficehack

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My wife and I are buying our first house, which will, among other things, mean I will have the opportunity to start investing in home audio (we've lacked the space heretofore). I'll have an office. So, I'm thinking, ok, go for some good open cans, something from the $200-$600 range. But then what do I plug them into? I know, it sounds like a dumb question, but I haven't been in a home audio store in decades, so I know that the component systems of yore are gone. Maybe all I need is a good desktop DAC to plug into my iPhone...or do I pony up for a CD-player and receiver? Would the iPhone as a source simply not cut it, even with a good DAC?
 
So, what is your minimal recommendation for a non-portable system worthy of something like HD-600s...?
 
What is your recommendation for a decent starter system (I can afford to spend 'a few hundred' on each component, no more)?
 
Thank you.
 
May 27, 2015 at 4:38 PM Post #2 of 5

cel4145

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A good dac/amp could be a good choice. If you have a good stereo or audio/video receiver, sometimes they work well with high impedance headphones.

iPhones can be a bit of trouble compared to a dac/amp for a computer. See this explanation: http://blog.jdslabs.com/?p=838

Since you are just getting started, look into the AKG K7XX currently available on Massdrop for the next few days for $200. Good deal. Learn more here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/743280/the-akg-k7xx-massdrop-first-edition-thread
 
May 27, 2015 at 8:00 PM Post #3 of 5

Solrighal

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  My wife and I are buying our first house, which will, among other things, mean I will have the opportunity to start investing in home audio (we've lacked the space heretofore). I'll have an office. So, I'm thinking, ok, go for some good open cans, something from the $200-$600 range. But then what do I plug them into? I know, it sounds like a dumb question, but I haven't been in a home audio store in decades, so I know that the component systems of yore are gone. Maybe all I need is a good desktop DAC to plug into my iPhone...or do I pony up for a CD-player and receiver? Would the iPhone as a source simply not cut it, even with a good DAC?
 
So, what is your minimal recommendation for a non-portable system worthy of something like HD-600s...?
 
What is your recommendation for a decent starter system (I can afford to spend 'a few hundred' on each component, no more)?
 
Thank you.

 
Do you have a computer & is all your music stored on it? If so then buy an external DAC & amp and your good to go. Depending on your computer you can use USB, Optical, or digital co-ax to the DAC, as long s the DAC supports it. If you're trying to save money initially something like an ODAC connected via USB will do the trick. The matching O2 will power the HD 600's but it won't take them near their potential. There are many amp options at all prices.
 
May 28, 2015 at 1:15 AM Post #4 of 5

ProtegeManiac

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  I haven't been in a home audio store in decades, so I know that the component systems of yore are gone

 
So are "stores," in the physical sense of the term, in some cases. Head-Fi's rise was due to internet commerce: online marketing, online product development inputs (in some cases), e-commerce retail. Brick and mortar stores were deemed expensive - you would have to have a high concentration of customers in one area just to get potential business, and the occassional costs of returns and replacements relatively cheaper (more so when the return shipping is on the customer; and even then, at least initially, it was cheap for them vs the price of gear in physical stores). Even Schiit basically just offers returns with restocking fees for 30 days, and that fee and shipping don't look bad when you consider how you get 30days with the product in your own home with all your other gear. Physical stores only allowed listening right then and there; you'd have to be one of those trusted customers the owners know to get to try out the stuff at your own house, much less doing so for a month.
 
Just look at how the British brands that made their names by being budget brands through outsourced manufacturing in Japan and SEAsia but are still working through dealer networks with physical stores look like dinosaurs vs Schiit, Meier Audio, and AudioGD in terms of business processes (and for the snobs out there, Schiit can assure them that they don't use sweatshop developing population labor, and created jobs in the US, assembled by people who resemble the economic status of their customer base).
 
  So, I'm thinking, ok, go for some good open cans, something from the $200-$600 range. But then what do I plug them into?...Maybe all I need is a good desktop DAC to plug into my iPhone...or do I pony up for a CD-player and receiver? Would the iPhone as a source simply not cut it, even with a good DAC?

 
Well, for one thing, like with speakers, you're going to need an amplifier to drive the headphones and control the volume with its preamp/potentiometer. If you get literally just a DAC there might not even be a TRS port to plug them into and for good reason.
 
Of course, in some cases the DAC has an amp built into it, or that an amplifier has a small DAC built into it. Or in some cases you may even find one with a sophisticated DAC, a serious amp, and a single large or dual powersupply, all in the same box. Your iPhone can still be used as a music server - I use my SGS3 and iPad2 sending audio to a DAC or DAC-HPamp via USB (using OTG and CameraConnectionKit-USB adapters).
 
Here are my iPad2 and SGS3 with the Meier Audio Cantate.2 - it has a USB input.


 
Here's a photo of how the iPhone works with the D-Zero MkII...

 
...and here's the MkI D-Zero with my SGS3 driving the HD330 headphones...

 
...and here's the phone with the D-Zero MkI hidden in the back, with its line out feeding my back up amplifier.

 
 
 
So, what is your minimal recommendation for a non-portable system worthy of something like HD-600s...?
 
What is your recommendation for a decent starter system (I can afford to spend 'a few hundred' on each component, no more)?

 
I started out using the iPad2 because the CCK allowed it to work sooner than Android was widely equipped to do USB audio; but then iOS6.3.1 screwed it up, and at the same time my SGS died on me so I ended up getting the SGS3, which had less compatibility issues. Best of all it had an SD card slot, so it was easier putting in a 64gb card than shuffling contents on the iPad2's 32gb memory or setting up wireless streaming. Still, if you have no qualms on managing the library (hey, at least it's still more convenient than keeping physical CDs, especially when multi-Disc concerts have that annoying gap when you switch out the disc), then by all means use the iPhone6, but you'll have to double check if anyone's tried any given DAC with the iPhone first (unless it's stamped with a "Made for iDevice" logo).

DAC : Schiit Modi2Uber, $150 (check in case the regular version Modi2 also works with iPhones, it can save you $50)
Amplifier : Schiit Asgard2, $250; or Valhalla2, $350
 
 
If you're going to use a computer, you can use the AudioGD NFB-15 or NFB-26 - they have the DAC and amplifier circuits built into the box together. Performance is comparable to Schiit separates, but I haven't come across anyone using them with iDevices via USB (some USB to coax SPDIF converters work, but that's another $100 to $150). Of course, at that price point something's going to give, and with the NFB-15 the screws are visible and the chassis is plainer (Schiit creatively employed a cheap but aesthetically more attractive chassis that hides screws better).
 
If however by "a few hundred" actually means you can spend $500+ on each, the Meier DACcord and Classic (amplifier) are an option (and bigger AudioGD DAC-HPamps, or amps and DACs). However since you're in the US it's easier to get Schiit to service your gear in case something in them craps out a few years down the line since shipping is easier and so is communication. AudioGD needs translators and sometimes the delays don't go over too well; Dr.Meier's easy to talk to and even sent me schematics when a power issue at my outlet knocked out the PSU and regulators, but I have a tech who can do repairs(and shipping from me to them and back is enough to buy an Asgard, just not enough to ship it to me) - if you don't have one it's cheaper to ship to Schiit and pay for parts if it's not under warranty.
 
 
 
May 28, 2015 at 8:45 AM Post #5 of 5

DCofficehack

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Holy posting, Batman, that was seriously helpful!
 
I won't have time for a thoughtful response (and more questions) until later but I didn't want to let such a great post go unacknowledged, as if I couldn't be bothered to read it.  More later.
Thanks.
 

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