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DAP setup best matched with M50

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  1. ee-yun
    Hey everybody,

    I am just getting into becoming an audiophile and learning to appreciate high quality sound. But the decision on what equipment I should start off with is giving me grief.

    Starting off, I am thinking of getting the ATH-M50. They are pretty reasonably priced and I've heard really positive things about its performance given that reasonable price.

    Now the big questions is, what DAP setup is best matched with the ATH-M50s? Currently on my list:

    1. FiiO x1 - cheapest option but also heard good things. Some of my research is telling me an amp would be helpful since I would be rocking over-the-ear headphones

    2. FiiO x5 or DX90 (leaning towards DX90) - heard these are really nice machines but I'm thinking they may require better headphones to really grasp the quality of the sound. Also, pricier

    Used where? Subway rides, walking from place to place, pretty much need music while in motion

    I mostly listen to folk and indie rock but I delve into metal, EDM, Pop, RnB, classical, pretty much anything. As she said in Detroit Rock City, "good tunes is good tunes". I'm just trying to find the best medium.

    Please help me head-fi community, you're my only hope.
  2. cel4145
    If you have money for the DX90 or X5, better to buy the X1 or X3 and spend more money on headphones. That's where you get the most bang for your buck in terms of sound quality for your dollar.

    What kind of headphones do you currently own/have heard? What did you like/not like about the sound?
  3. ee-yun
    Well, I have mostly been using the Samsung IEMs that come with the phone. I also use a pair of inexpensive JVC over the ear headphones at home. I wish I could give you the model number right now but I'm not at home at the moment.

    In terms of listening experience, the JVC are sort of all I know right now. I like that they give me private sound when I don't want to be too loud but I can't hear that much of a difference between them and my computer speakers (Logitech z cinema). It's hard for me to see what I like and don't like because I've been isolated and don't have anything to compare them to. The closest thing would be to my Samsung IEMs and the main difference I get from them is the IEMs remove all outside noise on the subway so I can clearly hear the music. I wish I could give you more information
  4. cel4145
    Headphones range in sonic character from warm (more bass than treble), to v-shaped (bass and treble emphasis, with decreased mids), to neutral, etc. The M50s are more v-shaped.
  5. Music Alchemist
    If you want a detachable cable and a few other benefits, the ATH-M50x is about the same price as the ATH-M50. I may get the limited edition ATH-M50xBL soon, which has a blue body and cables and tan-orange ear pads and headband.
    If you have the budget for higher-end DAPs, I agree with cel: it's better to get better headphones and a cheaper DAP.
  6. reddog
    +1 what he said.
    I would go for the x3 , my friend has one and it's very nice, in a old school , sorta way. I have only read about the x1 and everything I have read about the x1 has been good. Hope you find the right rig to put a smile on your mug.:)
  7. ee-yun
    I'm hearing if you use over-the-ear headphones, you should get an amp. Should I? I read the following rules on whether to get an amp or not:


    Do you agree with this?

    cel4145 Do you happen to have a resource I could use to narrow down which sonic profile would work best for me? Something that could tell me which sonic characters match with which genres. I know it might be a lot to ask for a headphone that could traverse the music spectrum with me but is there a setting that could be good as an all-rounder?

    I am currently trying to do some research on higher grade headphones. Currently looking at the entry level and mid-range in the headphone buying guide (http://www.head-fi.org/a/headphone-buying-guide). Trying to see what sonic character matches me.

    I know this may seem random but here's a list of the music currently at the forefront of my collection. I know this might be stupid but I'm hoping it could give an idea as to which sonic character works best

    Grimes - Oblivion
    Grimes - Genesis
    Shugo Tokumaru - Katachi
    Interpol - All the Rage Back Home
    Volcano Choir - Byegone
    Stevie Wonder - Love's in Need of Love Today
    Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopédies
    Blessthefall - Hallow Bodies
    Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
    Two Door Cinema Club - What You Know
    Arcade Fire - Afterlife
    Bobby Shmurda - Hot N*gga
    Dimmu Borgir - Vredesbyrd

    I also like listening to some EDM but I am not listening to it right now.

    Music Alchemist Oh I saw those and man do they look nice. That was definitely on my consideration list when I was originally picking the headphones. But I heard that there isn't that much of a difference between the M50 and the M50Xs (http://www.wirerealm.com/reviews/audio-technica-ath-m50x-headphones-review):

    Main difference I read was the padding, the detachable cords, and a change to the treble.

    Definitely seeing the common theme here with cheaper DAP and better headphones

    reddog I really want to have a smile, specifically on my mug! I'm currently doing some research on the difference between the x1 and x3. I've heard some people have gripes with the button layout on the x3. Does your friend have any issues with the UI? Both sound like solid pieces of machinery.
  8. Music Alchemist
    The main headphone specs you need to look at are impedance and sensitivity. The M50 and M50x have an impedance of 38 ohms and a sensitivity rating of 99 dB/mW. Without going into further detail, you won't need an external amp, but it can help a bit. The DAPs you are considering have decent output power on their own, though. If you get a desktop system, you should get both an amp and a DAC. It could be better to get separate ones instead of an integrated amp/DAC, since you may eventually want to upgrade one but not the other.
    The best advice I can give you is don't trust all the reviews out there; just use them as a guideline. You may have the opposite experience of someone else, after all. The only real way to determine what you like is by hearing it with your own ears.
    Haha. I'm giving a buddy of mine a long list of metal songs to check out, and that song just happens to be one of them.
    The M50x improves upon the M50 in various ways. Certainly nothing huge, but it may be worth getting the new revision. Check out this review to read about more differences: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/legend-continues-audio-technica-ath-m50x
    FYI, my desktop audio system has far higher resolution (as in sound quality) than any portable system I've used.
  9. mrsamsa
    I can't speak about purchase advice, I had m50s prior to getting an X1. I was using an old sony walman player (NWZ-S739) before that. I really like the x1 sound with the m50s. Everything sounds good to me without the EW on. If there's bass in the recording it comes through on the phones, and I don't find the treble grating even with treble heavy stuff like black metal (the old "kvlt" stuff I find totally listenable full stop, mind).
    In summary, I don't know if they're your best bet, but they sound great to me with the X1.
  10. ee-yun
    I went to the Sonic Sense website and went to their resource center to hear the different headphones. One thing I learned while listening was between the M40X and the M50X. I actually really liked the M40Xs more. I felt like everytime I switched from the M50X to the M40X, the sounds just boomed and the vocals and mids came forward instead of hiding behind the bass in the M50X. I was reading online that the M40X is a more neutral sounding headphone relative to what cel4145 about the M50X being more V shaped. This makes me think that I value the mids more.

    I think in terms of percentages, I have a lot more folk and indie rock kind of stuff in my library and more guides I'm reading say mids need to come out for those. Also reading open is better than closed for those genres but I can't since I want to use these on the subway.

    Do you guys have any suggestions about what headphones are the next step up from the M40X? Since you guys agree putting more change into the headphones would be of more value to me. Or maybe I should bank the extra change and use it towards the next pair of headphones?
  11. cel4145

    Just keep in mind that the Sonic Sense website really doesn't help you much to tell how headphones will sound since whatever headphones or speaker use to listen to their recordings will color the sound. It's just as likely to give you the wrong impression as the right impression.
  12. ee-yun
    I just tried to note the change in the sound. I found the model number of my JVC. It's the HA-X570. I played them through my Logitech z cinema speakers.

    Unfortunately here in Canada, you can't go to a store and try display headphones. It's some health thing. Also makes it hard to try headphones and return them after because once they are open, you can return them. Same health law.
  13. cel4145

    Well, the change in the sound will be highly colored by your JVCs. Like I said, I would bet on that method to lead me astray as much as it would give me the right impressions.
  14. mrsamsa
    Are you sure you can't try them? I phoned Long & McQuade a few months ago and they told me they had lots of headphones that could be tried. (I'm in AB)
  15. ee-yun

    I was looking at the return policy at Future shop (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/help/returns-and-exchanges-policy/hc82.aspx) and it shows

    I also went to Canada computers and the guy at the desk said if I bought a pair of headphones that did not have a seal or with a seal broken could not be returned.

    Also, a friend told me that Bay Bloor Radio (big dealer for music audio sound headphone stuff and stuffs) took down their demo rack for headphones.

    I'll try and call my local Long and McQuade and see if they have headphones to demo.

    Might be just an Ontario Law...

    Let's say I can't try the headphones on. What is the next best method on deciding what to pick?
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