How much would it cost to set up a listening station?
Jul 29, 2008 at 7:02 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

Ruahrc

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 2, 2002
Posts
289
Likes
10
So I have a little end table next to my couch and it has nothing on it. I have been thinking about setting up a little headphone listening station so that I could sit/lay on the couch and listen to some tunes.

How much would it cost to get a basic starter setup going to accomplish this? I'm thinking that the components I'd need are:
Headphones
Amp
Digital Source (which would necessitate a DAC?)

Here's what I currently own:
-Etymotic ER-4P (can be "converted" to 4S using the cable, resulting in a better sound? A possibility is to use these phones in the setup in order to save money)
-iPod 2nd generation 10GB (dinosaur I know! As I rarely use it for portable music purposes, can this be used in some way?)

I like the Etys but to be honest for a more stationary setup like this I'd almost prefer getting a more traditional set of cans to use, for convenience and comfort's sake.

As far as source media goes, my music is in digital format ripped from CDs using EAC and encoded in LAME: -alt preset extreme which gives VBR MP3 files that have a bitrate averaging around 200kbps, higher or lower depending on music content. It's not the greatest but I'm assuming it's good enough to feed into a DAC/Amp setup and actually get better sound? I have moved across the country to attend grad school since I have ripped the music, and did not elect to take my CDs with me- just the digital versions.

Music types are pretty varied, from classical to modern rock. Alternative, pop, punk, rock, some oldies, etc. I don't have a particular preference and don't think I am enough of an audiophile to justify selecting products specifically to enhance any one type of music. To give a short description of my listening preferences, I really enjoy the great detail in my Etys but could do with a little warmer/fuller sound. I always find myself trying to listen for the bass in my ER4Ps (typically driven from my iPod or straight from my Powerbook G4) but my KSC-35s give the bass such that I don't have to consciously listen for it.

As far as amps go, frankly I know nearly nothing about amps, especially as I have not kept up with new amps and such in the past few years. As such I don't really know where to start as far as brands or models go, other than perhaps the Headroom amps as I bought my Etys from headroom. I remember looking into the Grado RS1s and RA1 a while back but heard a lot of mixed reviews regarding the amp. I remember looking at another amp that looked similar to RA1 except it was a really sleek brushed aluminum housing, but I can't seem to pull it up again anymore. If anyone has any idea what this amp may have been, I'd love to know.

Regarding sources, like I said I've got the 2nd gen iPod. Since it lacks a line out it may not be a good solution for this setup. I had another idea which was to get an apple airport express- since this thing has an optical out one could theoretically pipe this into a DAC that has an optical input, right? The only issue I see with this here is that ideally I'd like this setup to be independent of a computer and with the airport express one would need a computer to change the tracks. Perhaps buying a cheap newer ipod to serve as the source would work here? Maybe this is finally the justification I need to upgrade my 2nd gen ipod, probably 6 years old now! Would it be worth it to get a DAC, or just go with a digital player with a line out?

Lastly, cost. The real reason for this post- I'm wondering how much it would really cost to make this a reality, to see if it is feasible for me at this time. Clearly there is a wide latitude in potential prices depending on the equipment selected. Being a relatively poor graduate student I obviously am not going to shell out on some Stax Orpheuses but consider the equipment I currently have (namely the ER4Ps) and realize that I'd like something on that level or above. Perhaps the Sennheiser HD650s + a suitable amp, or do you think this is jumping too far ahead?

Would appreciate any feedback or advice! Thanks for reading

Ruahrc
 
Jul 29, 2008 at 10:23 AM Post #2 of 15

Dept_of_Alchemy

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 28, 2006
Posts
2,901
Likes
53
A system based on the HD650 would set you back at least $700~$800, which includes $300 for the HD650, $250 for a budget amp like a Little Dot MkIII and $250 for a DAC of your choice. If all of your tunes are on your ipod anyway I would just buy a line-out dock for your ipod and plug it into the amp whenever you listen, this will save you some money on the source end but you'll still be looking at at least $500 to get a system started, if you buy used you might get it down to $400.

By the way, the Orpheus (HE90) was actually made by Sennheiser and not Stax even though it's a electrostatic headphone.

- DoA
 
Jul 29, 2008 at 7:24 PM Post #4 of 15

Ruahrc

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 2, 2002
Posts
289
Likes
10
Yeah my ipod doesn't have a line out, thus it is not really ideal as a source. Aside from a new iPod, what are some alternatives? I can probably knock a decent amount of cost off the system if I get a source that does line out which I can put directly into an amp- vs a source that ouputs a SPDIF digital signal because I wouldn't need a DAC. How much difference in sound would there be between these two options?

Where can one get HD650s for $300? I've seen close to that but not quite that low.

Ruahrc

P.S. I found that other amp I was looking at before: the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite. I really like its looks, how does it sound?
 
Jul 30, 2008 at 2:58 AM Post #5 of 15

pat1006

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 23, 2007
Posts
241
Likes
10
I really enjoy the gilmore lite with my hd650s. I haven't listened a lot but I like it. Once I get a emu 0404 I will be able to have better impressions of the 650s and teh gilmore lite.
 
Jul 30, 2008 at 4:36 AM Post #6 of 15

zoso

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
I recently had the same idea and found a used little dot mk5 on ebay for $220, Sen 650's from jr.com for $350, used lite audio dac from ebay for $125. As sources i tried an ipod nano but was not impressed so went with some decent quality rca cables from a sony cx995v 400 disc dvd player with built in dac for cd's (already owned it) and went with the digital headphone out on my mac (optical to the lite dac). In itunes i converted my tunes to apple lossless. It sounds really good. The sony dvd also plays sacd's so i ordered a couple to see if there is any difference. I have not received them yet. I have some er4p's also but have not tried them yet as they are being repaired. They are pretty amazing plugs but the sens are more comfortable.
I spent about $100 on decent quality zu cables to tie it all together and have been having fun listening ever since.
Have fun.
zoso
 
Jul 30, 2008 at 6:11 AM Post #7 of 15

Dept_of_Alchemy

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 28, 2006
Posts
2,901
Likes
53
I'll tell you a secret... Sony S7700.

I'm partial to the little dots as I think it's the best deal by far in terms of bang for your buck in this segment of the market, but I understand if tube amps are too much hassle for some people.

- DoA
 
Jul 30, 2008 at 10:52 PM Post #8 of 15

Ruahrc

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 2, 2002
Posts
289
Likes
10
Not that tube amps are really a hassle, but I'm not really into tube rolling so I think a solid state amp would be fine for me.

I think my biggest problem is figuring out a source. Since my current iPod won't work, and I kind of want the source to be next to the amp (i.e. not have to bring my laptop over to this area every time I want to listen), I need some kind of source to play from. And I'd prefer it to be pretty compact since I am kind of aiming for the unobtrusive look. Since all my music is in digital format with the original CDs 2000 miles away, some kind of digital player is what I really should be looking for.

The sleekest solution I came up with would be to get a NAS loaded with all my music, and run an iTunes server from it. Set up an Airport Express near the listening station and run an optical cable to a DAC. Then I could get an iPod Touch to use as a wireless commander that you could use to select and play tracks from. Pretty sweet I'd say but way too expensive. This is way out of budget, what else can I do? Just a plain iPod or Touch and use the line-out?

Going back to one of my earlier questions, is it worth it to try to go to a digital output source with a DAC? Are HD650s good enough to benefit? What about my source MP3s? And is it not a good idea to buy "too good" of an amp? One option I was considering was maybe the Headroom Ultra Micro. It's pretty pricey (something in the price range of the Gilmore Lite is more of what I had in mind) but if it's a good amp I can really grow into- maybe I can be convinced. Plus it has good upgradeability in that I could upgrade to the matching DAC later on.

Otherwise I'm thinking about the Gilmore Lite + DPS. Adding a DAC is not as elegant but a DAC seems like it is going to incur significant expense considering I don't have a digital source handy either...

There's a philosophy I came across when buying a tripod for my camera which was that if you buy the correct gear the first time around, it's cheaper in the long run because you don't spend all that money on incrememental upgrades only to ultimately end up buying the expensive high end tripod (or amp, in this case) anyways. I took this route when buying my tripod and I believe it was a good choice. Perhaps the same argument can be made regarding audio gear.

Ruahrc
 
Jul 30, 2008 at 11:35 PM Post #9 of 15

MusicallySilent

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
May 11, 2007
Posts
837
Likes
0
Why not this way

250 Dollars for headphone of choice, ex K701, HD650, SR225, etc. etc.

250 Dollars for Amp of choice, little dot, gilmore lite, M^3, etc.

250 Dollars for an old iPod and have some member who is skilled perform a DIYmod for you to squeeze out more performance, and get a line out dock for it, if I interpret this correctly, you will still be able to use the headphone out for your ety's
 
Jul 31, 2008 at 1:35 AM Post #10 of 15

Random Access

Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2008
Posts
68
Likes
0
I made a little listening corner in my living room a few weeks ago.

I bought a squeezebox duet as my source.
X-Can V8 as my amp (2 headphone out)
And AKG 701.

I can't think of any other way of doing it successfully than with the Duet. The Duet controller gives me alot of freedom and has alot of nice functions.

X-Can V8 is not a good alternative is you live in the US. You could probably get something good and cheap like a Headbox SE II (also 2 headphone out and 2 separate volume controls).

I'm very happy with the AKG 701.

I might get a DAC at some point but we'll see.
 
Jul 31, 2008 at 3:50 AM Post #11 of 15

Ruahrc

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 2, 2002
Posts
289
Likes
10
How do you like the squeezebox? Are you running it over PC or Mac? Just briefly looking through the amazon.com reviews, apparently both systems have a few bugs, and Mac seems to be the worse of the two.

Is the main benefit of using a squeezebox the DAC it uses? Or maybe the fact that it has digital out? Otherwise does it perform any better than an iPod or other line-out DAP?

It's too bad that it requipres a host computer (no NAS).

How would you describe the AKG 701s? What about comfort and isolation? I don't know much about them- but as I read around I begin to hear things about the HD 650 that I don't like. "Veiled"?

Ruahrc
 
Jul 31, 2008 at 9:54 PM Post #12 of 15

Random Access

Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2008
Posts
68
Likes
0
Put it this way. (excuse the wall of text)

Yesterday I got an extension cable for my headphones and sat on the balcony with a glass of wine and a small shot of anis liqeur. Smoked a few cigarettes and listened to some Dire Straits and Sultans of Swing was just killing me by how good it sounded. At that point I said to myself... screw getting a DAC... or at least wait a bit. You can't buy 4k worth of stuff in 1 month. But yet here I am today looking at DACs... :p

So I sat on the balcony with my AKG 701 and then went in and switched to my HD600 and listened to my playlist again. Then I went back in and got my SE530 and tried the same songs off a D2 and then my HTC Touch and then my PC. And then I connected the AKG 701 back to my PC and tried Sultans of Swing again. Haha... talk about masturbation.

Went back to the balcony and listened some more... realized that it sounded perfect for the genres I am using it for and just sat there playing air guitar at 3 am saying to myself, "Mike, it was worth it. Your life is better now".

Now how did I control the playback? With the Duet controller that I had with me to the balcony! No line of sight crap, volume control is there... etc... it can even lower volume digitally if you use a DAC (to a certain extent without quality loss)!

Today I bought a pair of DT-770 250 ohm 2005 edition since I needed a closed pair of phones (Denon 2000 don't count as closed phones IMO) so I did some more comparing and AKG 701 is just ridiculously good. Whether it's on my PC or on my X-CAN V8. Next week my iBasso D2 will be arriving so I will have some fun with that as well.

In comparison the DT-770 have more pronounced highs and bass. The highs aren't a problem for me because I have my own built in roll-off after 4khz but it's a bit rougher for my fiancée who is only 28 and is very sensitive to high frequencies (some day I will tell the tale of my experiments with 17khz tones at home and her screaming wondering whats wrong with her ears the whole time me being oblivious to the sound). The AKG 701 sound is much airier, makes you feel like you are there, is very detailed and guitars just sound insane.

The only thing I could complain about is the low lows... the HD600 wins in that area as do the DT-770 (and the SE530). So here is yet another person saying that they are perhaps not best suited for electronica type music although I find them to be very relaxing to listen without bass being to dominant. And you can use bass boost or EQ if your source allows it for a bassier sound which I sometimes do on my PC when listening to some Armin Van Buuren (and then quickly lower to default :p).

The AKG 701 are not as comfortable as the HD600 or the DT-770 because of the bumps on the headband. I had to shave all my hair off because of chemo last week and now I am beginning to understand why people think they are uncomfortable after long periods of wear. Before shaving my head I had no problem with the bumps whatsoever. There is no isolation whatsoever. You can hear everything and everyone can hear you. If comfort is more important I would suggest Beyer Dynamics DT-880 which have a similar sound though less soundstage.

Everytime I go for a pair of headphones now I go for the AKG 701. Same for my fiancée. Vocals are chilling.

But today I will listen to music in the living room without having to close the door to the bedroom since I will be playing around with the DT-770. And next time my living room turns into an intergalactic warzone because my SO is watching Stargate at ear blasting volume I will be sitting there with my DT-770 not noticing a thing except for an annoying explosion here and there. And she won't be hearing me either.

I have an Audigy 4 in my PC which with the proper drivers can actually drive the AKG 701 to pretty silly levels with very nice audio quality. It does sound better with my X-CAN V8 though and the tubed amp does make the sound a tiny tiny bit more mellow which is nice and relaxing although I don't think my PC has a sharp or analytical annoying sound.

I am more than happy with the squeezebox although I can't help but wonder how much better everything would sound if I threw an X-DAC V8 or a Benchmark DAC1 into the mix. I'll try the iBasso D2 next week and then when I get back to work in september (hopefully) i'll bring my headphones and try them on some of the more exotic equipment available there. I can conduct some tests tomorrow with my D2 and my X-CAN V8. I prefer my SE530 with iPOD classic rather than D2 though (yes through the normal headphone amp!). No hiss... nice balanced sound. No rolled off lows. Just nice and smooth and convenient. I bought the classic for my fiancée today... damn now I want one too! 80gb in such a small package and it does gapless and lossless. The interface was fast as hell and insanely intuitive! I'll have to listen to it some more tomorrow.

No problems with bugs of any kinds on OS X or Windows XP with Squeezebox. I do work as a computer technician though so my stuff is tip top. And I work at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm (but not doing anything audio related... listening to music is just one of my many geeky hobbies). So maybe i'll have some fun when I get back to work and just run around trying equipment!
wink.gif


Hope I didn't bore you to death!
 
Aug 1, 2008 at 9:38 AM Post #14 of 15

Random Access

Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2008
Posts
68
Likes
0
Haha! It all started with an innocent looking table!

DHL just knocked on my door and dropped off my D2 Boa. Yay! Tried it with the ipod classic (headphone no lineout yet), iRiver S10 and iMac so far. It's an amazing little bugger! Works perfectly with my DT-770 2005 edition.

Damn... ipod classic has really impressed me so far. Together with the Boa it is quite sick as a portable listening station. Add the video functionality to that and it's just insane.
 
Aug 1, 2008 at 11:34 PM Post #15 of 15

moredes

Head-Fier
Joined
Apr 12, 2008
Posts
61
Likes
10
All I wanted to do was listen while my wife was asleep in the room on the other side of the wall.... I thought--Denon AH-D5000!! It's getting some damn good reviews... $450 later, I realized my "headphones out" on my HK receiver is a real pig, and I started lookin' for an HA. Lookin', lookin', lookin'.... ahh... here we are--there's a buncha satisfied guys reviewin' the MPX3 SLAMs.... 'nother $1400 later, I got a sound I like, BUT... DAYUUM, these tubes are addictive...
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top