For beginners: So you want to know where to start on portable audio
Sep 27, 2011 at 10:53 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


Aka: whodiss, whodisss, whodatt
Mar 2, 2010
Sorry if this is the wrong place to put it (feel free to move to what you think is an approprate location)
I made my musings on what beginners to the portable audiophile world should consider.  I posted in a separate thread also but thought it might be relevant to others so putting it in its own thread.  It is by no means exhaustive but should start a good discussion.  Its my fist post of this length so please be gentle :wink:
My music taste is varied along a lot of genres with the only type i really dont listen to being jazz and indie bands.
I am a great believer in having different/specific items and set ups to do a particular job rather than just having one to do it all, hopefully this gives you some insight as to what you can get and do with it.
Im going to split this into
Section 1. Equipment
1.1 Daps
1.2 Headphones
1.3 Amps
1.4 Cables
1.5 Other
Section 2. Combos in Practice
2.1 Genre Usage
 2.1.1 Trance/Electrnic (fun listening)
 2.1.2 Classical/Acoustic etc for Analytical Listening.
 2.1.3  BOOM (thumping out banging goodness)
 2.1.4  Concert (live recordings)
2.2 Practical Usage
 2.2.1 At home
 2.2.2 Out and about
 2.2.3 Gaming
 2.2.4 Gym (im train muay thai semi pro)
Section 3. Future Expansion
3.1 Daps
3.2 Headphones
3.3 Amps
3.4 Cables
3.5 Other
Section 4. Pricing and Conclusion
1.1  DAPS.
I currently have in rotation 3 Daps and i see these as covering my uses pretty well.
Sansa fuze v0.2 rockboxed  
This to me is the perfect portable all rounder it has great sound is cheap (check ebay for refurbished product)  you can pair it with expandable memory and i use this to hold the bulk of my music as well as do most of my listening.  When you load rockbox on it you have control over the dap with an excellent eq function to get you music sounding just the way you want.   The headphone out is perfectly capable and line out is also available although i personally dont bother.  While it lacks in certain areas it is probably the best all rounder in the game.
Cube c30 (Now sold as nationite nanite n2)
This rig gets use due to its increased sonic ability.  The player features a class A amp and produces a full and very clean sound.  I use this as my analytical portable 'rig' and havent ever found it lacking, by direct comparison i can say that the hifiman 601 is only marginally better in sound but is ridiculously expensive, i find on a par with my old s:flo 2 but have had significantly less stress using the cube c30.  The player is not rockbox capable however the sound engineers developed this with audio quality as a priority and thus teamed up with bbe (same as cowon) resulting in a small player with great sound.  Additionally the players amp is powerful enough to deal so that as it has enough power to drive headphones that many other daps would have a hard job with.
Sansa Clip+
The gym dap. Cheap, extremely small, rockboxable, and has the clip for just clipping into shorts when at the gym.  It has the same sound as the fuze and is an absolute warhorse durable and easy to use on the go.  Just as the fuze the clip is also memory expandable.
1.2  Headphones/IEMS
Shure Srh 480 (with 840 pads) -
great sounding and 'low' priced cans that are a great way into over ears, they are closed cans so can be used in public and have a great sound to them.  What more can i say you wont get much better than this in a price/performance zone.  Also im using these as my gaming phones and you can hear footsteps a mile away :wink:
Panasonic hje900 ( triple flange tips and audeo pfe guides)
Possibly the most fun iv ever had with an iem.  The sound just fantastic with almost any genre of music you throw at them, give them a 100 - 200 hour burn in and just listen to the clarity soundstage and generally awesome sound that comes out the things, they thump when they need to thump and thus i cant recommend anything better for trance etc.  To me this is my go to iem and the one i use most.  They are one of the true earphones that punch well above theyre price point and were largely overlooked by the community for a long time but are now coming into theyre own.  Everyone jumped on the flavor of the month bandwagon on these about a year ago and now you see them dropping down lists a bit (although still at the top 10) iv tried almost every phone looking for the step up but havent found it, sony ex1000 give a different take to it and the ddm2 from radius do as well but i dont consider them better (just different), if i did i would have bought them.
Alternatives:  Sony EX1000, Radius DDM 2etc
Audeo pfe  112
I love these iems and they can be used for many different uses due to interchangable filters that can produced different sound tuning.  If you were to get just one iem id say these for that reason however highly reccomend having both these and hje together as its a partnership thin for me.  The pfe are from a very highly regarded hearing aid company and burst onto the scene a few years back with theyre single balanced armature offering the 112.  The phones will highlight almost every sound that is there such as frets bouncing of guitars etc and vocals just shine in these.  They are one of the phones when you here people talk about hearing 'details they never noticed before' in songs.  Now heres the trick the green filters are the bass offering and come with the 012 model, what i would do as they are a lower price is buy the 012 and then buy the black filters seperate, then see if anyone here will trade you a set of green filters for grey.  This way you have all the sound Audeo have to offer.
Alternatives:  RE0,  etymotic ER4S, DBA-02
MEElectronics M6
Cheap great sound and over ear fit for gym,  in the gym i want something that will not move around, with these they offer over the ear fit with memory wire to keep them in place.  I have been through about 20 or so gym phones and these are the only ones that stuck, the have good boom and clarity balance to get you through your workout and a plethora of tips to get the fit you need.  With the triple flange tips in these aint going anywhere, i find them especially good for hitting the punch bag and shadowboxing as i have a lot of head movement.  They never come lose.
Alternatives:  Shure 215, any other over ear with flush fit to the ear.
1.3 Amps
*disclaimer*  I personaly think amps have very limited use.  Unless you are trying to use your players line out or have headphones your probably not going to need them for IEM's (there are ones that benifit however r262 etc) that said i do use them at times but watch out for the good old laws of diminished returns.  Another thing that ****s me is people double amping when not necessary - this means your player is amped through the player then this signal is sent into an amp, in most terms this actually degrades sound quality......... but whatever man some people just like amping stuff, maybe its cos they make theyre rigs look pretty *disclaimer*  THIS SENTIMENT DOES NOT APPLY TO THE DIGIZOID ZO MENTIONED BELOW
Digizoid Zo
Not technically an amp, its a little box of magic.  what they did was kill a ton of pixies, dehydrate the remains and stuff it in a plastic box, attach 2 unicorn horn jacks to it (input and output) and stick the light of 1000 endangered fireflies into each unit, this is fact cindy told me so!.  Seriously though, iv always had good phones and daps since i first got the shure e4c at the age of 14, since that moment i have never heard a product that has got me as exited as this.  Go to the Digizoid Zo thread now and start reading...................why are you still here ..... i said go.
Alternatives:  None.... go buy one now.  (version 2 release soon)
Fiio e6 (just recieved previously used the e5): 
There are better out there and iv had better (arrow) but hey this does eveything i need it too and it does it well, was using the E11 before but like the smaller form factor of this.  Gain and bass adjustment is a nice added feature.
Alternatives:  read above, if you wanna go the amp route there are better people to ask personally i dont buy into it but at the end of the day if it sounds better to you go for it.
1.4 Cables
Again i dont buy into it. You might want custom cables that look cool etc but unless your on really high end stuff your talking about a maybe 1% increase i sound in practice.  FOr me my interconnects are usually cheap ones under 10 bucks but i do have a couple that are in the 50 dollar range  purley for the looks.  I cant tell the difference in sound and probably most people cant either.
1.5 Other
curmpler pp70 , pelican case an audeo pfe bag
Attatching amps/ daps together
Silicone bands from nuforce 3 for 4 dollars is you must but just use a zip tie and cut off excess or a rubber band ***.
Memory cards + extra tips according to your personal needs.
Section 2. Combos in Practice
2.1 Genre Usage
Id like to use this section to highlight the uses of the above equipment with regards to genre.
2.1.1 Trance/Electrnic (fun listening)
HJE900 + Digizoid Zo + Fuze + 16gb card
Gives boom, supreme musicality and great soundstage that just makes your head want to bounce.
2.1.2 Classical acoustic (analytical)
Audeo pfe + Cube C30
The clenliness of the cubes sound paired with the same in the pfe phones allows me to pic out details and really 'listen' to my music.
2.1.3  BOOM (thumping out banging goodness)
Shure srh480 + Digizoid Zo + Fuze +16gb card +rockbox custom eq presets
When i really want to shake the fillings out of my teeth i go for this combo.
2.1.4  Concert (live recordings)
Cube C30 + Shure Srh480
Gives grandest soundstage and makes me feel like im right there Allessandro ms1 was the better phone for this but i had sold them as not as versatile due to open back.
2.2 Practical Usage
2.2.1 At home
Any of the above depending on genre.
2.2.2 Out and about
Most likley the HJE900+ZO+FUZE COMBO......
2.2.3 Gaming
Laptop + Digizoid zo set high + shure Srh480
2.2.4 Gym
Meelectronics m6 + clip + 16gb card
Section 3. Future Expansion
now iv spent thousands on my equipment but now decided that for my needs and for most people that want near top teir equipment the stuff listed above has all areas covered, you can tweak your own equipment needs spending more in one or other areas based on your requirments but again i need to point to the point of deminished returns and false economies.  You can go crazy like i did when i first found headfi and ABI and spend stupid money of for something that may be better but is not.  I liken it like this, when i turned 21 i was given a Range Rover, after that at 24 and had a porsche 911, Now at 27 i drive a ford focus (while still having access to my old range rover when i need it) granted a higher than base model version but the fact is even though i can have a even nicer than the porsche now that my insurance is down, i choose to drive a car that is very nice (the focus) and does the job very well, now the focus costs 1/8th the price of the porsche. Did it increase my life or enjoyment 8 times?, No it didnt. (my breif ownership of a toyota supra while at uni in australia did though and that was around the same price of the focus but i digress). 
Now relating that to headphones etc the top of the line stuff is nice to try and experiment with but in the end there is stuff that gets the job done and does it all very well and when you get to a certain price/quality point the more you spend starts to see lesser increase in performance.
This being said if you wish to take it further read on:
3.1 Daps
Hifiman daps, 801/602/601 S:Flo 2 Colorfly
Each of these have there own problems, an benifits its up to you to way them up.
3.2 IEMS
discernably better than iv reccomended
universal - Earsonics SM3, Westone 4, etc
Customs (from what iv heard)
Bang for buck 1964-t and q     best of best JH audio 16
3.3 Amps
For portability youll be hard pressed to beat the Headstage arrow although others can reccomend you better if youve read this far you know my feelings on this area
3.4 Cables
You can get stupid with your cables and companies like ALO are one of the highest regarded (check out there twag cables for use with you custom iems)
3.5 Other
You can take this as far as you want.  I reccomend getting everything plated in 24k gold.
4.0  Pricing and Conclusion
My equipment:
Shure SRH480 - 74.00
Panasonic HJE900 - 149.99
Phonak PFE - 139.99
Meelectronics m6 - 15
Fuze  4gb - 50
Clip+ 4gb - 34.99
Cube c30 - 40
digizoid Zo - 100
Fiio E6 - 25
Assorted memory cards - 50
Cables - 50
Cases - 20
Tips - 20
So there you go all that for around 750 dollars (not sure on taxes in the states) and thats a hell of a lot of sound for the money.  It covers most genres, sounds, usage and personally i find this is the sweetspot rather that trying to find something that does it all for you in one package.  You can tweak the actual products (i used mine as an example) but the outline of having multiple products for different uses gets you the sound you want, try and set out your different useages and the search the forums for eg. best analytical phone, best dap, best for bass etc custom it for your style and enjoy.

Users who are viewing this thread