iRiver iHP-120 + ER-4S - which amp/dac suits this combo ?
post-1437581
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 8

MarcusH

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Messages
275
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Posts
275
Likes
10
Dear Head-fiers,

well, as a long-time reader I've reached a stage where even that allmighty "search"-function won't spit out the wanted answers


My problem boils down to the following questions: Regarding my iRiver iHP-120 + ER-4S (ER-4P through Ety cable) and musical taste, will the supermacro v3 or the emmeline sr-71 better suit my needs ?
Taking the optical out of the iRiver into account - would a portable dac be a better investment ?

As usual - I know preferring either one of the two amps is actually a matter of (subjective) preference of the sonical signature, but I'm on "student budget" and therefore can't try them out both - it already took me some time to save up enough money for the ety's + the soon-to-get amp. Hell, I even skipped the lunch at my university for months now to save money

Therefore I'm going to describe my "head-fi" background together with my musical taste to give you some basis for your recommendations.

musical preference: well, I mostly listen to classical music - preferrably chamber music, but truely not limited to it
But often I do like to listen to electronica, too - mainly Goa (sigh! *g* nowadays called "psychedelic trance" lol) and ambient music (like carbon based lifeforms, Schulman and even Shpongle, Brian Eno (that's true ambient music - no electronica actually *g*), Eat Static - and like every (own) release of ultimae records)

head-fi background:
About one years ago I decided to get new headphones for portable use, because I use busses, trains and the underground on a daily basis - so i needed some isolation - and disliked the sound of the stock earbuds in such surroundings. Using google I stumbled upon a strange site called head-fi.org
which utterly confused me at first because of the sheer amount of information available. I read quite a few reviews to come to the conclusion that the Shure E2c would be my weapon of choice - especially regarding isolation. Next day I bought them at a local dealer - and well I was truely impressed by their isolation AND sound after getting used to the "in-ear-surgery". Probably I liked the sound because of the isolation - I could now hear each and every note .... Well - I liked and used them very much until two or three months ago - I gradually became aware of their more "muddy" and bass-boosted sound when I compared them to my beyer DT931 (amped that 250-Ohm-beast). This is not to say they sounded bad - but in classical recordings i didn't like their lows and highs, they lacked some clarity and detail. Bass-wise I couldn't complain when listening to electronica - but in classical music it always sounded like "boosted".

Again I browsed through several reviews on head-fi and other sites and finally came to the conclusion to buy the ER-4P together with that ER-4P->ER-4S cable. Done that - and in my first listening minutes I wasn't too much impressed to be honest. I expected a too much different sound - but after a while - hours passed by - I truely fell in love with them. I am no expert at all and far from an audiophile but I loved their separation of instruments / soundstage, their clarity, the details - and compared to the E2Cs their bass wasn't "boomy" anymore but more detailed instead. Regarding the "ever-debated" bass: I like the Ety bass details - I even feel that slight bass impact - but it sometimes lacks a bit of that more "oomph"y feeling. Lacking that boomy bass is a very good thing for classical music after all - with the Shures I felt like it doesn't sound "right" (right as "right compared to a live concert") as the lows always sounded a bit "boosted" (?). To do the Shures justice - they are still great compared to stock earbuds, especially isolation-wise.

Using the Etys out of my iRiver sounded already very good - but amping them with my nowadays very old Sansui amp (don't laugh please *g*) and especially with that amp at my parents home improved them even more. I'm not sure how to describe it in correct terms - but I felt like the soundstage opened up a bit - together with the "air" around instruments. Especially choral works recorded in churches, etc. sounded a bit better to me - more like actually sitting in that church and listening to that choir on the balcony

It's a bit like the feeling I get when I switch from CD audio to 128kbit mp3s - the 128er sound a bit more "narrowed" - like I have a plastic bag around my head, instruments don't sound that lively anymore. Perhaps the 128er comparison is a bit exaggerated - but that should just give an impression how it sounds to me personally (and lacking that audiophile jargon and understanding *g*).
Therefore I planned to get a portable amp - which I already had in mind when purchasing the Etys after reading some reviews.

To amp or not to amp ....
I truely hope a portable amp - considering it's small size to a full blown home amp - won't just boost the volume. After reading many reviews I think it came down to the question whether to buy a SMv3 or a SR-71. I was intrigued by some descriptions of that "Ray Samuels home sound" signature - dark, liquid, etc. My main concern is though, that I loooove the details and clarity of my Etys - will the SR-71 with it's "liquidity" and whole sound signature eventually "blur" the sound - steal the clarity and details for some more "full" sounding liquidity ? That was the reason why I at first (!) preferred the SMv3 - it was said to sound a bit more sharp. But I've also read that the SMv3 is a bit more encroaching in the DAP/Headphone sound signature than the SR-71 - which should if true nullify my previously stated concerns.
Perhaps someone who has a SR-71 and the Etys can give me some hints as to how much the SR-71 actually intervenes in the Etys details and clarity.

I guess my dream amp would be probably an amp that retains or even improves the clarity, details and separation of my Etys and actually will give them an even fuller, more liquid sound.

Now some non-audio concerning factors that make me prefer the SR-71 over the SMv3:
Something I somehow disliked with the SMv3 was the fact that it's using 8 (!)
AA batteries contrasting the 2 9V batteries in the SR-71 - both setup are about equally heavy I guess but I somehow like the 9V idea better.
Rays website does look more professional to my eyes than Dr. Xins site - that 's just an aesthetical opinion - but makes me feel more comfortable when spending so much money. I already emailed Ray on his opinion on the SR-71+Ety combo and shipping to Germany and he promptly replied this morning. As of yet I haven't talked to Dr. Xin though.

On the other hand I like the ability to tweak the SMv3 - especially the op-amps and the bass boost, which could be a bit important for me with some bass-heavier tracks. Nevertheless I guess I'm not that much of an DIY guy to play around with those op-amps too much anyways.

So far so good - it got a longer post than I expected, but I hope you now understand that this topic haunts me more than my current examinations *g*. Perhaps some of you can give me some insights on their personal impression of the (iriver +) amp+ety combo - was it worth so much money ?
Please note that I'm far from being an audiophile - I just like my music sound good - but this audiophilia vulgaris catched me and already burned a big hole into my wallet and my fridge
I now can't stand some of my recordings any more with my Etys - especially those Helmuth Rilling (cond.) violine recordings due to their shrillness
which just sounded ok with the Shures.

On a side note - does anyone have any experience with importing these little babies to Germany ? I mean related to custom fees .... I guess there's a difference with shipping with FedEx, etc. or USPS ?!

Well - for those who managed to get this far - a big thank you

Any input is welcome ....

Thanks,
Marcus Huesgen
 
     Share This Post       
post-1437711
Post #2 of 8

jjcha

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jan 31, 2004
Messages
3,590
Reaction score
39
Joined
Jan 31, 2004
Posts
3,590
Likes
39
All I know is that out of my iRiver iHP140 + Overture + SR71, the fifteen minutes or so I listened with the ER4P (with P to S adapter cable) sounded great!

But having said that, I'd rather spend $700 and have my Sensaphonics and listen straight out of my iRiver, than spending the money on an amp or DAC to improve ER4P/S performance.

Of course, what I really prefer is the Sensas AND amp AND DAC


Best regards,

-Jason
 
     Share This Post       
post-1437800
Post #3 of 8

MarcusH

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Messages
275
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Posts
275
Likes
10
Thanks for your input, jason.

Well, I have to admit that the idea came to my mind .... instead of gradually upgrading I could save up and make one big leap and buy something like those sensaphonics. But there are a few factors that made me go the "upgrade route":
- I feel truely bad to spend sooo much money on just one product - I know these headphones must feel like being in heaven, I know after all I'm spending nearly as much on headphones+amp(+dac maybe) like you did with your sensaphonics - but I can't justify to myself to spend so much money at once, at least not as a student. Well, hehe about one year ago I was feeling bad about spending so much on those Shure E2Cs .... now I reached for those Etys.

- once you have them - you'll have to keep them. It can be seen as a plus because once you've got them you're most probably happy with them .... but if not you're stuck. The SR-71 or SMv3 can most likely be sold again.

- having a multi-component rig makes me a bit more flexible when e.g. I'd like to listen to my beyers on the go instead of my etys (aesthetic questions aside *g*) .... sensa/UE-lovers may answer that there is no need to use other headphones


- as you said yourself - it will be even more fun to listen to your sensas through that SR-71 .... maybe when I'm ready (and earning enough money to justify them) I'll get those sensas/UEs in the far far future to complement the SR-71.

Nevertheless you have a point ....

So far it's up to the question - taking my musical preference / background into account: Would an amp or a dac be a better investment; and regarding the amp: SMv3 vs SR-71 ?

All this dreaming aside - I'll take it you'd vote on getting the SR-71.

EDIT: OMG, I just saw that according to TARIC the _added_ costs due to custom fees will be around 18-20% (depending on TARIC-Code) !! Initially thought it would be lower .... that's getting me closer to some UE-5c price wise ....

Thanks,
Marcus
 
     Share This Post       
post-1437957
Post #4 of 8

wolfen68

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jun 4, 2003
Messages
3,672
Reaction score
110
Joined
Jun 4, 2003
Posts
3,672
Likes
110
I have a ihp-140 and an SR-71 I use mostly with Grados. I like the combo as the SR-71 warms up the presentation slightly and expands the soundstage.

Normally I like music with "punch"...but I find that directly out of the Iriver, my headphones (see sig) sound a little flat, cold and "metallic". The SR-71 via the line-out has been my savior....I really enjoy this combo. The Supermacro sounds more my speed, but I was concerned it would sound cold and metallic with my setup.

I've never heard the Ety's...but your money may be better spent saving on the amp and getting upper level IEM's (especially if you like your Iriver sound as is). In the future, you'll be ready to grow into an amp if you wish to explore there.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1438277
Post #5 of 8

Sailcat

Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 14, 2005
Messages
68
Reaction score
0
Joined
Jun 14, 2005
Posts
68
Likes
0
I, too, have an iHP-120, and would like to know if its optical out connected to a DAC will do more to enhance the listening experience than line out through my Porta Corda MkII. Assume one option or the the other; i.e., the DAC without the Porta Corda and the Porta Corda without the DAC. Thanks.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1438465
Post #6 of 8

rab10

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
384
Reaction score
10
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Posts
384
Likes
10
Hello Marcus,

I also am using the iRiver iHP-120 and ER-4p's.

Which ever amp you choose, you cannot go wrong with either of the Ray Samuels SR-71, Xin SuperMacro v3, or even look into HeadRoom's new MACRO LINE: MicroAMP + MicroDAC to match your iHP-120 player itself. Since you have SEARCHED you should know how well these combinations have been reviewed to sound (very good.)

Have you looked into the alternatives Portaphile V2, Go-Vibe, ANT Amber, etc?

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
I was intrigued by some descriptions of that "Ray Samuels home sound" signature - dark, liquid, etc. My main concern is though, that I loooove the details and clarity of my Etys - will the SR-71 with it's "liquidity" and whole sound signature eventually "blur" the sound - steal the clarity and details for some more "full" sounding liquidity ? That was the reason why I at first (!) preferred the SMv3 - it was said to sound a bit more sharp.


The SMv3 will improve the Soundstaging, Details, and Clarity of your Etys, and add even more to your listening experience.


Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
I guess my dream amp would be probably an amp that retains or even improves the clarity, details and separation of my Etys and actually will give them an even fuller, more liquid sound.


Sounds exactly like the SuperMacro. To quote Xin from his website:
"From this tiny beauty, you'll hear macro hall sound with the kind of detail,
accuracy and passion you've never experienced yet!"

The bottom line, for me, was that the SMv3 provided More Options and
Features, that other products still do not provide.

Ontop of that the SMv3 can now be configured for Class-A Biasing (if you have not heard about this already, then you didn't SEARCH enough.) With
opamp rolling capabilities, and extra feature switches, you can adjust the sound you are personally seeking. It makes a world of difference with the Etymotic earphones, to be able to adjust your music the way you like it.

The SMv3, with the impedence switch built in (making my ER-4Ps to ER-4S,)
bass boost when I want it, crossfeed (called Xinfeed) made my purchase all that much more worth it for improving my Etymotics alone. Add opamp rolling capability, relatively smaller size, light weight, great minimalist quality construction, and great power options, can be powered by: normal Alkaline batteries, RECHARGEABLE NiMH Batteries <SMv3 has a built in recharger to charge the NiMH rechargeable batteries, you don't have to frequently physically replace the batteries>, and AC Power Adapter. Finally, the SMv3 is powerfull. It has more than enough power to drive power hungry headphones.

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
Now some non-audio concerning factors that make me prefer the SR-71 over the SMv3: Something I somehow disliked with the
SMv3 was the fact that it's using 8 (!) AA batteries contrasting the 2 9V
batteries in the SR-71



Once the SMv3 is loaded with 8 AAA NiMH batteries, it will be months before you have to open up the AMP to replace them. I recieved my SMv1 back in Nov. 2004, I recieved my SMv3 in late May 2005 and I am still using the original NiMH batteries I originally purchased. The NiMH power the SMv3 for several hours, and when I am charging my H120 my SMv3 gets charged up also. QUITE A COMBO! You cannot say the same for the other products, which saves you on having to purchase a separate charger and/or additional non-rechargeable batteries. The size of AAA batteries compared to 9V is diminutive, it isn't an issue to worry about IMHO.

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
Both setup are about equally heavy I guess but I somehow
like the 9V idea better.



SMv3 is much smaller, and lighter, and the SMv3 is AC Powered also.

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
Rays website does look more professional to my eyes than Dr. Xins site - that 's just an aesthetical opinion - but makes me feel more comfortable when spending so much money.


Don't worry. Xin makes his own website, and spends his time and effort on his other amp/dac/digital audio player projects than on unrelated website asthetics. Xin's developments have spanned over several models and versions, with each building perfecting, satisfying many customers. I haven't read any reports of the SMv3 lables chipping/rubbing off, or of customers begging Xin not to have AC Power capabilities because it downgrades the sound.


Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
I already emailed Ray on his opinion on the SR-71+Ety combo and shipping to Germany and he promptly replied this morning. As of yet I haven't talked to Dr. Xin though.


Both are busy Men. Post your question directly on Xin's "COOL TALK" forum on his website. You will get a quicker response.

Reviews have noted that the SR-71, SMv3, and now the Headroom MicroAMP are all improved by a good digital musical source and DAC.

It ultimately comes down to what products are available, and what you can afford and are willing to spend.


I am currently using a AOS Piccolo DAC (now discontinued) in my setup,
most previous users of this DAC have upgraded to more expensive units
(non-portable) in quest of the best digital audio playback capable setups.

In some reviews the Headroom MicroDAC has been compared to the more
expensive audiophile Benchmark DAC1. There is an improvement in Digital
Audio Playback, but unfortunately right now it is at a premuim price, and
not widely available.

I am curious about adding a Headroom MicroDAC to my setup, and running it A/B testing with my AOS Piccolo DAC. There has been plenty of praise with the Headroom Overture/MicroDAC units, and the price is affordable (compared to the expensive top of the line audiophile DAC units) that it makes
auditioning such products, do-able, to enjoy the merits of Digital Optical
Output Audio (again if you are willing to spend the money.) I am also curious
to what Portable DAC Xin might create. So I am saving my money in the
meantime.


Exporting out of the USA is another issue, that others could help you with.

Good Luck!
 
     Share This Post       
post-1438519
Post #7 of 8

rab10

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
384
Reaction score
10
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Posts
384
Likes
10
Sorry. After I posted I saw that I didn't address some of the key points.
I will remark on here very quickly.

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
My problem boils down to the following questions: Regarding my iRiver iHP-120 + ER-4S (ER-4P through Ety cable) and musical taste, will the supermacro v3 or the emmeline sr-71 better suit my needs?


Either the SR-71 or SMv3 will be a great selection. But since you are using Etys, and a ETY impedence cable already, a SMv3 will make you using your ETYs even more enjoyable. Because the IMPEDENCE switch is buit into the SMv3 amp (no need to carry around an extra cable anymore) and the SMv3 with all of its capabilities and features adds more to listening pleasure and TWEAKABILITY to listen to the ETYs IMHO.


Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusH
Taking the optical out of the iRiver into account - would a portable dac be a better investment ?


You know that with a portable dac you still need a portable amp in your setup. A Portable DAC needs to have an amplifier. If you are going to invest in the DAC then you have to invest, or already have, an amp also.

If you are planning on using the optical out of the iRiver player, and connecting a DAC to it, you still need an AMP to be connected to the DAC. Then from the AMP you can connect your headphones, or etc.

Player -> DAC -> AMP -> Headphones | or whatever.

There are some DAC/AMP combo devices, but their availability might be
limited, and price will be expensive.

It is worth it to add a headphone AMP to your setup.
Specifically, using a portable headphone amp with your iRiver iHP-120/140
will improve the sound of the player (also using WAV files, or high bit rate
encoded MP3's and/or ogg files you will notice a difference in sound)

And using an excellent portable headphone amp, like the SMv3, you will notice a big difference with your ETYs.

Thanks.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1439179
Post #8 of 8

MarcusH

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Messages
275
Reaction score
10
Joined
Jun 10, 2005
Posts
275
Likes
10
Thanks to you both, wolfen68 and rab10. Your inputs were very appreciated.

@sailcat: sorry - can't help you but I think rab10s last post should answer that question indirectly.

@wolfen68:
That's interesting, because before I purchased the iHP-120 a long time ago, i compared several DAPs and found the iHP-120 to be what I wanted. Luckily for all of us there are so many DAPs, headhpones, amps, DACs, etc. on the market, so everybody will sooner or later find what suits him best (at least some of us *g*).
Regarding your "upper level IEM" idea: I just got my Etys - last saturday .... and actually I'm truely satisfied, probably because I don't know better. I guess it's for a future upgrade project .... Lol, sometimes I think I just should delete that head-fi bookmark and _never_ return


@rab10:
Wow, that were two long answers .... Well, after I searched and read so many reviews of both amps I was a bit confused, because it seemed you can't go wrong with either of them and everybody seemed to like what he or she got. Fine for those lucky people but I felt like I couldn't decide upon any one of those two before I clarified a few points hehe.
I completely forgot that you needed an amp for a dac - at least to control the volume as far as I remember. So I guess it's out of the option at the moment - I'll first get an amp and see if I'm satisfied ....
Your remarks on the tweakability are a good point - that's what I liked much about the SMv3.
Regarding Class-A biasing, well yes I've heard of it - it's a plus as long as it doesn't cut down the battery life too much; but that also made me take a look at the new porta cordas which now come with class-a-biasing as standard ....
Regarding other amps like the porta corda, portaphile, go vibe:
My first impression was that both, the SMv3 and the SR-71, were out of my range, but I read many opinions comparing those SMs and SR-71s to other amps that I finally thought it would be a better deal if I save up a bit more money and directly went up to the SMv3 / SR-71 - instead of upgrading afterwards .... With regard to the portaphile - it's not available anyway, I've read that it may take quite a long time (August ?).
The reason why I favoured the SR-71 was probably the same reason why I chose to upgrade from shure -> ety and not to a higher level shure like the e4c: I feared that the higher level shures wouldn't just be that different and that much an improvement to justify the money spent on that upgrade. I thought the SMv3 would just match the Etys a bit better - but wouldn't pull them into new dimensions like the SR-71 with his "different" sound signature could. (After all I am happy to have switched to the Etys and not another pair of Shures because they seem to fit my sound preference even more)
But that concern seems to be obsolete as you said that the SMv3 IS a true enhancement and enrichment to my iHP+Ety combo!
Something that struck me was that people described the SMv3 as "aggressive" - that's why I was concerned it would alter the sound too much - but I guess that's nothing you have noticed in your combo ....

With regard to op-amps - I thought of adding a pair of OPA627 as I've read that they are in comparison the most appealing one's to buy in addition.

EDIT: I think I would go the "SuperMacro-3 Standard" + OPA627 route - any other options I should add ?

So far, thanks for everyones input. I'm going to contact Dr. Xin as to his experience with importing to Germany. As a side note, Mr. Samuels was helpfull in that aspect, too.

After rethinking my preconceptions and opinions on both amps I guess I'll give the SMv3 a chance - as long as there are no other opinions that favour the SR-71. I'm not at all at a stage that I think a sensa or UE is worthy upgrade at the moment as I'm truely in love with the etys - maybe I'll reach that stage in the far future where I think the amped Etys aren't good enough or I'll be all happy with the Etys in my non-golden ears .... Either way I would be happy hehe


Thanks,
Marcus
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top