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Desktop setup for new member

  1. BMI18
    Hi friends,

    As you will gather, I’m new here; although, I’ve read numerous helpful and informative articles, comparisons and opinions. However, I am truly at a loss and have reached a point where reading and trying to understand things for myself is not a very cost effective nor wise audio strategy or solution.

    I’ll be as brief as I can, I’ve recently ‘stepped up’ my audio equipment both in terms of iems and cans. At present I have two top shelf sony iems and the isine 20. For cans I just ordered the Fostex th900. I also got a DF colbalt as the store rep convinced me it was a great pairing with my Sony’s. (As an aside, I’ve never really invested much in Dacs, the only other one I’ve have and owned is a Fiio e17 Alpen. I like the cobalt for portability. The Fiio e17 I haven’t really bothered with all that much.)

    In any event, I have the cobalt for transport, which is fine, but I’m writing about a desktop setup. My top shelf Sony and Fostex cans are/will be for office desktop use. Is the Cobalt enough? I know there are plenty of different views on this. Ideally, I want something that I can plug into and be done with. I find myself tinkering and exploring with settings and levels and eqs, and it’s like, what did I get this stuff for in the first place? To constantly be searching for something else? Or to endlessly tinker with sound so that each and every song I play sounds like I want it to? It’s frustrating and is spoiling my appreciation for how fortunate I am to be in a position to own some pretty okay stuff.
    I will say, however, that the ISine is the only product that I’ve stopped tinkering with. I set the eq and I am totally content. No touching. The cobalt on the other hand? I plugged my Sony into it today and any female s sound is like someone inserting a pin in my ear. Way too sharp. Of course, I adjust treble and the next song is a mess. Shoot me.

    I’ve taken the situation above to my absolute limit. Hence me reaching out to the experts here who are much more knowledgeable about this stuff than me. I don’t exactly trust store reps. I’m not saying the rep was dishonest, heck, maybe he is right for all I know, but he told me the cobalt was a great option for me. Even when I explained it was for desktop use.

    Lastly, based on some research and mostly due to availability, I wonder about the Marantz HD 1dac? It’s available nearby and seems like a pretty good option. But hell, I don’t even know if it is needed at this point? I won’t buy online so that narrows things down to what I can find locally. I don’t want to invest more into this if the life of chasing great sound involves turning knobs endlessly or going to school to become an audio engineer. Save me!

    Apologies for the length but I hope you will understand. I just want to get some solid advice and be done with it so I can just sit back and say, I’m happy. I love my music.

    Thank you, kindly.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Unless you're asking one person you personally know and just go with what he says, you're going to have to go and read and understand the different directions that forum members are likely to take you.

    Do you mean transportable (use)? Because the Dragonfly Cobalt is a DAC-HPamp, not a digital transport.

    That depends on how high the sensitivity of your headphones are, what their impedance is, and what your expectations and use case are.

    If you're using high sensitivity, not too low impedance headphones, and bonus if they're closed back headphones and/or you'd never use it in a noisy area, chances are you'd be able to get away with it. Higher impedance and you could start offsetting the distortion and noise benefits of using higher impedance when you have to crank these up. Low sensitivity and low impedance, you'll need a fair bit more spare voltage and current, and that thing runs of 5V 500mA. That's like taking a Munich taxi 5-series and you'd have to not expect it to drive anything like an M5 even more.

    Unfortunately a forum isn't exactly going to narrow that down for you considering each person that replies to your query can have a different response to what they would get if they were in your place.

    The simplest really is actually to deal with brick and mortar stores (assuming you don't have a local audio community where you can try out the other members' gear), try out what they have, and then buy whatever combo you like, regardless of whether it adds objetively and quantitatively more distortion or there's another option available only through internet resellers that will perform better objectively or subjectively. Otherwise you'd start wondering what equipment out there might work best with what you bought, you stew in that thought, you add in other things like shipping costs and what not that you already state you'd rather not have to deal with...

    The most precise anyone can be at advising you is what how they would spend whatever budget you have.

    And if I'm to respond to that, well, just get the best headphone for most of what you listen to, and do not use the equalizer as a per-genre tuning tool but rather only use the equalizer to remove peaks in the response or make the low end which tends to roll off a lot more. That's not even taking into account other factors that you will just have to accept, like how you might want to skew the overall response to favor the low end since an objective measurement of a headphone at a few inches from the drivers can match the in-room measurement of speakers, and yet the latter by virtue of having the soundwaves all over the room, can end up with the more tactile low frequencies affect your perception of the bass. Like how a speaker that rolls off at 55hz can still have a kick to the chest at under 2.5m distance vs a headphone that only has the soundwaves firing into your ears even if it doesn't start rolling off until around 20hz, the limit to human hearing and without much of it in most recordings anyway.
    PaganDL likes this.
  3. BMI18
    Thank you for taking the time to read and respond PM. I really, really appreciate it.

    I understand much of what you are saying. I suppose I had hoped for a simple, direct answer, but I realize there are so many different parts and subjectivities to this.

    What I know know, after reading your response, is that my Sony IEM’ s would be considered low impedance. The standard I saw was above or below 50.
    They are, Sony 1: 20 ohm and 103db; Sony 2: 40 ohm and 103 dB: and Fostex 25ohm and 100db.

    Considering the above, does the DF Cobalt serve? I meant that I’d like to use the DF as a portable solution, but I also wonder whether it is sufficient for my desktop setup as well? From what I’ve read, I don’t think an amp is essential for any of them. A dac, however, I’m less certain. I know the DF is both but I want to make sure it’s good enough for my gear. Hence me looking into the Marantz hd1. It’s available nearby and I can try it out tomorrow. Having said that, I’ll probably leave that store with something if opinions shade towards the DF not being an adequate solution.

    To sum up, ideally I’d like to a) know if the DF is an acceptable choice for the specifications listed; and (2) if not, would the Marantz HD 1 be (or something at a similar price-point). Something I can plug into and forget about without having to wonder if I am getting the full potential out of my earphones, essentially.

    Thanks again, for the response.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  4. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    For the IEMs, no question about it. Those have isolation to help with not having to crank it up.

    For the Fostex, as long as that's 100dB/1mW, then the Dragonfly's good enough. If the ergonomics work well enough (ie you have the laptop open, you control output on there instead of a physical knob on an amp, etc)

    You have an amp in the Dragonfly. It's a DAC-HPamp.

    Its limitation really is that it has to pull power off USB, so it's limited to 5V/500mA. If the headphones have too high impedance the voltage output likely goes down much more than on a good amp using A/C power; if the amp has low sensitivity and low impedance, and worse if its impedance swings around far from the rated nominal impedance, you'd have a problem delivering current not having fat capacitors and a large power supply.

    You already have a DAC in there.

    The problem you have is you can't just add something else to the Dragonfly, much less a DAC, since it only takes digital inputs.

    For what you have, very likely not a lot of improvement.

    Unless you need more inputs and outputs I'd much rather save that money now and get it for when you get anything else that could use more power.
    PaganDL likes this.
  5. BMI18
    Thank you, PM!

    Honestly, your responses have really helped and saved me from spending on something I don’t really need. Literally, thousand dollar advice.

    This hobby can bankrupt new members like me. Therefore, I really do appreciate you taking the time to assist me. I look forward to learning more from your posts and recommendations.

    All the best!

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