Comparing the Grado RA-1, Headroom Little, Rega Ear, etc...
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kelly

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Quote:

Originally posted by fiddler
I also disagree with the statement: "you'd have to get to at least $1,000 CD players before you'll start noticing differences among various headphone amps".
I'm using a Panasonic CT570 PCDP as a source and I was able to clearly hear the differences after very slightly modding a Corda. If I can hear the difference between the stock and modded versions of the same amp, I'm sure it'd be easy to hear the difference between say, a Corda and a Creek.

The combination sounds sweet, by the way.


The stock Corda + Panasonic CT570 was my work rig until I was able to connect a DAC to my PC.
 
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bifcake

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I didn't realize my CD player statements would cause such controversy. Let me qualify my statements then:

I think that your source components would have to be upgraded to the level of a $1,000 CD player before worrying about amplifier upgrades. Upgrading the source components to that level would provide the best bang for the buck. The $1k or there about is the point of diminishing returns when it comes to CD players (I think). Upgrading the amplifiers prior to that point will do less in terms of improving the sound quality then upgrading the source components. Once you've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to sources, then you start upgrading your amps until you hit a point of diminishing returns on that end. Once that happens, upgrade cables. That's the most efficient way of doing one's upgrades. Otherwise, you wind up spending a lot of money and going through multiple iterations of the same upgrade.

One more thing: Is the $1,000 for a CD player set in stone? Absolutely not. For some that mark may come at $500, for some it may be $1,500. I used $1,000 as a general reference point.
 
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FCJ

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Quote:

Originally posted by bifcake
I didn't realize my CD player statements would cause such controversy. Let me qualify my statements then:

I think that your source components would have to be upgraded to the level of a $1,000 CD player before worrying about amplifier upgrades. Upgrading the source components to that level would provide the best bang for the buck. The $1k or there about is the point of diminishing returns when it comes to CD players (I think). Upgrading the amplifiers prior to that point will do less in terms of improving the sound quality then upgrading the source components. Once you've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to sources, then you start upgrading your amps until you hit a point of diminishing returns on that end. Once that happens, upgrade cables. That's the most efficient way of doing one's upgrades. Otherwise, you wind up spending a lot of money and going through multiple iterations of the same upgrade.

One more thing: Is the $1,000 for a CD player set in stone? Absolutely not. For some that mark may come at $500, for some it may be $1,500. I used $1,000 as a general reference point.


Generally, I agree. This was the Linn argument when they said that the turntable (or source) was more important than anything else in the chain.

However, the problem comes when you put a cost figure on the upgrade. Inherently, you are saying that cost equals value (the higher the cost, the higher the value) until you reach a point of diminishing returns. However, there are components that cost less than others but actually sound better. Cost is in and of itself not necessarlily an accurate barometer of value.

Ultimately, you can discern differences in components (headphone amps, for example) using sources that may or may not be on the same "level" as that component. But let's all remember, it's ultimately the enjoyment of music that's the goal.
 
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bifcake

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I think that when it comes to audio source components, you have what looks like a standard bell curve. As a general rule, you get considerable improvement in sound quality as you move from $100 CD players to $500 CD players to $1,000 CD players. Once you reach that point, the bang for the buck diminishes quite substantially to the point that after a while, you have geometric increases in price for marginal increases in sound quality. That's not to say there aren't exceptions, but for the most part the bell curve holds.

I don't agree that the source components are more important than anything else. They are an integral part of the chain. I'm not sure that there is such a thing as the "the most important component". In this case, a speaker (headphone) upgrade has been made. I have tried to outline the most logical and economical upgrade path to get the most bang for the buck. Given that at this point, the headphones are the best components in the chain, and the source is the worst component in the chain, it made sense to recommend a source component upgrade prior to worrying about the differences in amplifiers and the marginal improvements one might gain given the weakest link in the chain.
 
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kelly

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I agree that there probably are diminishing returns that could be demonstrated by a bell curve. What I wonder, though, is how many CD players one would have to audition in order to determine what that bell curve would look like, and whether you actually have. From my experience, I definitely have NOT heard enough sources to try to draw that curve.

For headphone amplifiers, I've maybe finally auditioned enough of them to start drawing that curve in pencil. I haven't spent enough time with some of them though, meaning I'm not really in a position to talk at length about Headroom's crossfeed circuit or determine how much of a difference there really is between the Max and the Blockhead.

Regardless of that curve, for me the cheaper amplifiers simply have too many alternatives in the DIY community to be viable--whether this means building one yourself or talking to someone who would do it for you. The lowest priced commercial amplifiers I have heard that I could recommend are still the Corda HA-1 and ASL MG Head.
 
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FCJ

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Quote:

Originally posted by bifcake
I think that when it comes to audio source components, you have what looks like a standard bell curve. As a general rule, you get considerable improvement in sound quality as you move from $100 CD players to $500 CD players to $1,000 CD players. Once you reach that point, the bang for the buck diminishes quite substantially to the point that after a while, you have geometric increases in price for marginal increases in sound quality. That's not to say there aren't exceptions, but for the most part the bell curve holds.

I don't agree that the source components are more important than anything else. They are an integral part of the chain. I'm not sure that there is such a thing as the "the most important component". In this case, a speaker (headphone) upgrade has been made. I have tried to outline the most logical and economical upgrade path to get the most bang for the buck. Given that at this point, the headphones are the best components in the chain, and the source is the worst component in the chain, it made sense to recommend a source component upgrade prior to worrying about the differences in amplifiers and the marginal improvements one might gain given the weakest link in the chain.


I agree with you about diminishing returns. An extra $1.00 spent doesn't necessarily get you $1.00 in improvement. No matter where you are on the curve.

I don't necessarily agree about the considerable improvement going from $100 to $500 to $1000 CD Players (or anything else), given the variability between products costing the same money. As an example, while the Little, Creek, and Grado all are in the same price range (relatively speaking), I don't think you'll get 100% agreement about their value.

I'm not sure about the source being the most important. That was Linn's argument, not necessarily mine.
 
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dgs

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B4S:

I use the Corda with my Senn580's, and it sounds pretty sweet. I got it about a month ago, and I'm really enjoying the sound. Not at all veiled, very revealing. A morsel of dirt in the sound at times depending on the source, but I'm still burning in. I struggled with the little vs the corda too, but when I read reviews here (this one in particular: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showth...&threadid=1808 by Kurt W), in which he compares the sound of the Corda to headroom amps costing much more, along with DarkAngel's raves about the Corda last year, and I decided to go with Jan's amp. You might like the little more...definitely a warmer and darker sound...but again, I'm really pleased with the performance of my Corda so far.
 
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bifcake

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Quote:

Originally posted by FCJ

I agree with you about diminishing returns. An extra $1.00 spent doesn't necessarily get you $1.00 in improvement. No matter where you are on the curve.

I don't necessarily agree about the considerable improvement going from $100 to $500 to $1000 CD Players (or anything else), given the variability between products costing the same money. As an example, while the Little, Creek, and Grado all are in the same price range (relatively speaking), I don't think you'll get 100% agreement about their value.

I'm not sure about the source being the most important. That was Linn's argument, not necessarily mine.



The bell curve does not automatically translate into 1:1 price/performance ratio anywhere on the curve. What it does show is that there is an efficiency quotient at a certain range, which diminishes quite rapidly as you approach the top of that curve.

There can never be agreement as to which components are best in their price range. However, for the most part, and there are exceptions, components within a certain price range are in the same class. It's that class that I was referring to, rather than individual components within it. In other words, some may argue that Adcom is the best player for the money, while others may argue that it's Arcam or Musical Fidelity or Rotel. However, most will agree that all of these products are in the same class as opposed from offerings from Krell or Mark Levinson or Linn. Is the Krell CD player better than Rotel? Probably. Is it so much better as to justify its price difference? The price/performance ratio between Krell and Rotel will probably be considerably greater than that of a $100 JVC player and the Rotel player.

This brings me to the example of Creek, Crado and the Little mentioned in the quote above. There will be argument ad nauseum about which one of these amps is the better amp. However, most will agree that they are in the same class, thereby occupying the same point on the bell curve. Therefore, the argument as to which is the better one is largely a matter of preference. However, when you start comparing those amps with let's say a $1,000 headphone amp (pick your favorite), then the argument will shift towards whether the extra money justifies the extra performance gained because the argument will involve comparisons of two different classes of products.

I hope I made sense.

In any event, I'm still sticking to my original recommendation that given a PC and a portable player as the source, any amp will do and before tossing money for a better amp, the source components will have to be upgrades quite substantially (beyond the consumer mass market offerings).
 
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kelly

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bifcake
Have you heard the amps in the other classes?
 
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bifcake

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
bifcake
Have you heard the amps in the other classes?



Yes, I have. I heard the Headroom Max and the Max monoblock something or other. The top of the line headroom product. I also heard the Orpheus, although that's different since it comes with its own set of phones.
 
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FCJ

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Quote:

Originally posted by bifcake
I hope I made sense.

In any event, I'm still sticking to my original recommendation that given a PC and a portable player as the source, any amp will do and before tossing money for a better amp, the source components will have to be upgrades quite substantially (beyond the consumer mass market offerings).


Yes, your argument makes sense.

However, I don't think that tossing money away on a better amp when your source component doesn't measure up to that amp is a waste of money. While at first you may not be getting the most out of the amp, if you do upgrade down the road you will enjoy its advantages. No need to upgrade twice. Plus, while you may not be taking full advantage of the superior amp, you will still have an overall advantage against lesser amps.
 
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kelly

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bifcake
Sounds like you made it to a World of Headphones show stop.


I was really wondering more about whether you'd spend any time with the rest of the range.

Either way, here's my feeling on it. I'm pretty much all about source, too. I think it's funny (funny ha ha? funny sad? I dunno) that so many people on here buy mediocre to bad sources and connect expensive amplifiers and headphones to them--then complain about the amplifiers and headphones! But that aside...

If you needed a portable CD player... say, to take to work, to take to other places where for whatever reason, a stand alone CD player isn't practical -- the next step up from the Creek/Little is a jump in performance (I'd say Grado too but I'm talking about for non-Grado headphones; we can debate that elsewhere). The Corda HA-1 is fairly easy to carry with you with a portable CD player and it's simply much better than the other amps.

Of course, as I said, if you can't (or won't) afford the Corda HA-1, I recommend DIY. Most everyone considers the META42 a step up from Creek/Little/Grado and yet you can build or have built one for less money.

Of course, that's all subjective regardless.
 
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FCJ

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
bifcake
Of course, that's all subjective regardless.


Ain't that the truth. . . .
 
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