Listening to $100+ headphone directly from a smartphone?
Feb 13, 2015 at 12:20 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

cardboardhome

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Posts
158
Likes
14
Hi I am relatively novice headphone user, here's the headphones/IEMS I've listened to:
1. RE-0
2. Monster Turbine 
3. Monster Turbine Pro Copper
4. ATH-CKS77
5. Beyerdynamic Dt-770 Pro 32 Ohm
6. Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 Computer Speakers
7. A ton of crappy come with your device headphones
 
Currently I listen to all my music through my computer or smartphone. I am curious about audio quality so I had a few questions:
 
1. When should I purchase different source components ie a better source (high quality mp3?), amplifier, etc. Essentially, is the threshold $200 headphones? $300? 
2. What are all the source components (am I using that term correctly?) that impact audio quality? How does this differ from computers to laptops. 
3. Honestly, is the different significant if I upgrade these components? 
4. Is the difference between mp3 320kb/s to FLAC really noticeable at my level of audio components? 
5. For those who listen to FLAC files, where do you get your FLAC audio? 
6. How to IEMS vs Headphones vs Speakers compare for bang for your buck? Are you always going to get more bang for your buck when you go to larger devices? In other words is bang for you buck always in this order (Speakers>Headphones>IEMS)?
 
 
 
I have these questions because I am considering purchasing the following IEMS and comparing them to each other and #5 and #6 of my headphones/speakers, but I don't want to do a comparison and have my source be the bottleneck so they can't even perform to their true capabilities. At the same time though, I don't want to purchase $1000 of source components and be listening through devices that are way lower in quality. 
 
1. RHA MA-750i
2. Klipsch X7
3. DUNU-DN1000s
 
Two last questions:
7. If I do conduct my comparison, what songs do you suggest I listen to in order to test their quality? 
8. What threads should I look at to become educated enough to give a proper review? 
 
 
 
 
Thanks so much to anyone that responds! I am looking to learn more and become an audiophile haha, so sorry for all the questions and feel free to answer only 1 question if you want! Everything helps! 
 
PS: Sorry if this is in the wrong subforum, mods feel free to move it!
 
Feb 13, 2015 at 2:14 PM Post #3 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
Most headphones can easily be driven by a smartphone. Don't bother upgrading source components (like amps and DACs) until you have headphones with higher impedance and/or lower sensitivity. The difference will not be significant until you have higher-end headphones. Price isn't the only factor. Many expensive headphones are easy to drive, while a few affordable headphones are harder to drive.
 
The difference between 320 kbps MP3 and FLAC is negligible, even on the best systems. If you have plenty of hard drive space, then it makes sense to use lossless; otherwise, I recommend converting lossless files to 256 kbps AAC for portable devices.
 
In my opinion, circumaural (over-ear) headphones provide the best value. Some would say that the best $1,500 headphones are better than the best speakers of the same price. Speakers are much more complex than headphones and present their own challenges as well.
 
If you want lossless files, you can either buy and rip CDs, etc. or download them from the Internet. For the latter, start here:
http://www.head-fi.org/a/list-of-lossless-and-high-res-music-flac-alac-aiff-dsd-dxd-etc-download-sites
http://www.head-fi.org/t/731523/the-free-music-thread-100-legal-downloads-of-all-formats
http://www.head-fi.org/t/644595/official-free-flac-file-music-sharing-thread
 
Feb 13, 2015 at 2:17 PM Post #4 of 19

cardboardhome

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Posts
158
Likes
14
Awesome, thanks so much for your insight! So basically don't worry about the source till the resistance is higher? Also, why are there rather expensive mp3s then? 100s of dollars to thousands? 
 
Feb 13, 2015 at 2:26 PM Post #5 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
  Awesome, thanks so much for your insight! So basically don't worry about the source till the resistance is higher? Also, why are there rather expensive mp3s then? 100s of dollars to thousands? 

 
Basically. You will always get the best bang for buck by upgrading your headphones, and many high-end headphones are still easy to drive.
 
Give me your reference. I rarely see expensive MP3 files.
 
Feb 13, 2015 at 4:10 PM Post #6 of 19

kramer5150

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 20, 2004
Posts
14,427
Likes
199
My .02$
 
1. When should I purchase different source components ie a better source (high quality mp3?), amplifier, etc. Essentially, is the threshold $200 headphones? $300? 
There really is no headphone dollar threshold where one should start thinking about source and amp upgrades.  Apple OEM earpods for example are decently good sounding even for an OEM and they are detail revealing enough to reveal sonic differences of whats upstream.   As far as lossless -vs- compressed data I generally prefer lossless audio (.m4A) or 320k MP3.;  Storage solutions are getting cheaper and cheaper... external drives, flash cards etc.  So file size is not nearly as constrained as it was in eras past.  The exception would be Apple of course, who charges a premium for memory space and refuses to incorporate flash storage.  But as long as you steer clear of the Apple infrastructure and business models you should be OK with big bloaty files.  Read/write speeds over USB is one difference thats often overlooked though.
 
2. What are all the source components (am I using that term correctly?) that impact audio quality? How does this differ from computers to laptops. 
Digital / Anlog conversion is the most important factor in all sources... PC, laptop or dedicated audio component.  A digital bitstream of lossless audio data from a computer, laptop or ipad is indistinguishable from the same bitsteam originating from redbook CD through a CD deck... provided they are feeding the same DAC stage of course.  But that again is where the big difference lies.  Streaming Data is Streaming Data.  IMHO of course.  My comments are limited to redbook CD audio though.  SACD is another world that I am not qualified to comment on.
 
3. Honestly, is the different significant if I upgrade these components?
Digital sources no.  As I said before, Data is Data.  I have always used DVD players as CD transports to feed the coax digital data stream to my DAC.  As before My comments are limited to redbook CD audio though.  SACD is another world that I am not qualified to comment on.
 
4. Is the difference between mp3 320kb/s to FLAC really noticeable at my level of audio components?
For me personally 320k mp3 is indistinguishable from .m4a in a Blind ABX.  But as I said before, with storage getting so cheap there's really no reason to compress anything.  I have two drives a 500M with 192k mp3 and a 1.5T with lossles .m4a and a handful of 320k mp3.  The only reason I have a duplicated compressed library is because Apple iPhone storage capacity stinks, and I dont want to pay associated premiums for a cloud storage network solution... which is all compressed anyways. 
 
5. For those who listen to FLAC files, where do you get your FLAC audio? 
I buy CDs and burn them to .m4a lossless or compressed MP3.  I am old fashioned and I believe I should be in control of MY data.  I should have the liberty to copy it over and over infinitely to my hearts content, I should be the one picking the compression rates I want...etc.  The subscription and download based music industry has completely brainwashed people into blindly giving up this most basic freedom.
 
6. How to IEMS vs Headphones vs Speakers compare for bang for your buck? Are you always going to get more bang for your buck when you go to larger devices? In other words is bang for you buck always in this order (Speakers>Headphones>IEMS)?
That one I am not sure.  One thing I am absolutely sure of though is no IEM can image and set a sound stage like a full sized headphone.  Same goes with headphones versus speakers.  I have read comments by John Grado about a decade ago saying a headphone can image a soundstage just as well as a speaker system.  Don't what he spiked his Grado cool aid with at that time... but he couldn't have ben more wrong.
 
 
 
I have these questions because I am considering purchasing the following IEMS and comparing them to each other and #5 and #6 of my headphones/speakers, but I don't want to do a comparison and have my source be the bottleneck so they can't even perform to their true capabilities. At the same time though, I don't want to purchase $1000 of source components and be listening through devices that are way lower in quality. 
 
1. RHA MA-750i
2. Klipsch X7
3. DUNU-DN1000s
 
Two last questions:
7. If I do conduct my comparison, what songs do you suggest I listen to in order to test their quality?
Start with music you are very familiar with.  From there go with highly dynamic recordings.  Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Dreamtheater, Stevie Ray are things I am familiar with and dynamically enough recorded.  I can usually come away with a strong impression with these bands.
 
8. What threads should I look at to become educated enough to give a proper review?
Not sure about that.  I personally really like comments and opinions that directly compare a point of reference.  Product A versus... something else.  
 
Feb 14, 2015 at 6:47 PM Post #7 of 19

cardboardhome

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Posts
158
Likes
14
   
Basically. You will always get the best bang for buck by upgrading your headphones, and many high-end headphones are still easy to drive.
 
Give me your reference. I rarely see expensive MP3 files.

I apologize, I meant expensive mp3/audio players. 
 
 
  My .02$
 
1. When should I purchase different source components ie a better source (high quality mp3?), amplifier, etc. Essentially, is the threshold $200 headphones? $300? 
There really is no headphone dollar threshold where one should start thinking about source and amp upgrades.  Apple OEM earpods for example are decently good sounding even for an OEM and they are detail revealing enough to reveal sonic differences of whats upstream.   As far as lossless -vs- compressed data I generally prefer lossless audio (.m4A) or 320k MP3.;  Storage solutions are getting cheaper and cheaper... external drives, flash cards etc.  So file size is not nearly as constrained as it was in eras past.  The exception would be Apple of course, who charges a premium for memory space and refuses to incorporate flash storage.  But as long as you steer clear of the Apple infrastructure and business models you should be OK with big bloaty files.  Read/write speeds over USB is one difference thats often overlooked though.
 
2. What are all the source components (am I using that term correctly?) that impact audio quality? How does this differ from computers to laptops. 
Digital / Anlog conversion is the most important factor in all sources... PC, laptop or dedicated audio component.  A digital bitstream of lossless audio data from a computer, laptop or ipad is indistinguishable from the same bitsteam originating from redbook CD through a CD deck... provided they are feeding the same DAC stage of course.  But that again is where the big difference lies.  Streaming Data is Streaming Data.  IMHO of course.  My comments are limited to redbook CD audio though.  SACD is another world that I am not qualified to comment on.
 
3. Honestly, is the different significant if I upgrade these components?
Digital sources no.  As I said before, Data is Data.  I have always used DVD players as CD transports to feed the coax digital data stream to my DAC.  As before My comments are limited to redbook CD audio though.  SACD is another world that I am not qualified to comment on.
 
4. Is the difference between mp3 320kb/s to FLAC really noticeable at my level of audio components?
For me personally 320k mp3 is indistinguishable from .m4a in a Blind ABX.  But as I said before, with storage getting so cheap there's really no reason to compress anything.  I have two drives a 500M with 192k mp3 and a 1.5T with lossles .m4a and a handful of 320k mp3.  The only reason I have a duplicated compressed library is because Apple iPhone storage capacity stinks, and I dont want to pay associated premiums for a cloud storage network solution... which is all compressed anyways. 
 
5. For those who listen to FLAC files, where do you get your FLAC audio? 
I buy CDs and burn them to .m4a lossless or compressed MP3.  I am old fashioned and I believe I should be in control of MY data.  I should have the liberty to copy it over and over infinitely to my hearts content, I should be the one picking the compression rates I want...etc.  The subscription and download based music industry has completely brainwashed people into blindly giving up this most basic freedom.
 
6. How to IEMS vs Headphones vs Speakers compare for bang for your buck? Are you always going to get more bang for your buck when you go to larger devices? In other words is bang for you buck always in this order (Speakers>Headphones>IEMS)?
That one I am not sure.  One thing I am absolutely sure of though is no IEM can image and set a sound stage like a full sized headphone.  Same goes with headphones versus speakers.  I have read comments by John Grado about a decade ago saying a headphone can image a soundstage just as well as a speaker system.  Don't what he spiked his Grado cool aid with at that time... but he couldn't have ben more wrong.
 
 
 
I have these questions because I am considering purchasing the following IEMS and comparing them to each other and #5 and #6 of my headphones/speakers, but I don't want to do a comparison and have my source be the bottleneck so they can't even perform to their true capabilities. At the same time though, I don't want to purchase $1000 of source components and be listening through devices that are way lower in quality. 
 
1. RHA MA-750i
2. Klipsch X7
3. DUNU-DN1000s
 
Two last questions:
7. If I do conduct my comparison, what songs do you suggest I listen to in order to test their quality?
Start with music you are very familiar with.  From there go with highly dynamic recordings.  Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Dreamtheater, Stevie Ray are things I am familiar with and dynamically enough recorded.  I can usually come away with a strong impression with these bands.
 
8. What threads should I look at to become educated enough to give a proper review?
Not sure about that.  I personally really like comments and opinions that directly compare a point of reference.  Product A versus... something else.  

 
Thanks so much for your detailed explanation. Really goes to show how awesome this community is. Thanks!
 
Feb 14, 2015 at 7:11 PM Post #8 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
  I apologize, I meant expensive mp3/audio players. 

 
Ah, okay. Portable digital audio players are commonly referred to here as DAPs, for future reference. Generally, desktop systems (especially headphone amplifiers that have far higher output power than any DAP) are a better investment if you are going to use serious headphones, but it all depends on your gear.
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 1:22 PM Post #9 of 19

Elsweyr

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 17, 2014
Posts
9
Likes
10
so.. there is no improvements on sound quality if i change my good $100 headphone for a brand new great $1000 headphone (aside maybe from audio signature differences)? both will sound equaly good on a cellphone?
 
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 2:00 PM Post #10 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
  so.. there is no improvements on sound quality if i change my good $100 headphone for a brand new great $1000 headphone (aside maybe from audio signature differences)? both will sound equaly good on a cellphone?

 
Different headphones rarely sound equally good, as you say; they would just sound different. How they sound on portable devices depends on the impedance and sensitivity of the headphones, as well as the output power and output impedance of the source components, among other factors. Some headphones need an external amp to sound good; most don't. Upgrading your headphones before other things is always the best choice.
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 2:09 PM Post #11 of 19

Elsweyr

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 17, 2014
Posts
9
Likes
10
yes, but let's put as an example two headphone with similar sound signatures: one cost $100 and another $1000. both are well-reviewed headphones and both drives easy on a phone. because the sound signature is the same for the two, will i see some (if any) improvements on audio quality switching from the cheaper one to the pricier one? (not counting comfort, isolation, etc) ((sorry my english, i'm from Brazil))
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 2:11 PM Post #12 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
  yes, but let's put as an example two headphone with similar sound signatures: one cost $100 and another $1000. both are well-reviewed headphones and both drives easy on a phone. because the sound signature is the same for the two, will i see some (if any) improvements on audio quality switching from the cheaper one to the pricier one? (not counting comfort, isolation, etc) ((sorry my english, i'm from Brazil))

 
So...you're asking whether two headphones that sound exactly the same will sound different? XD
 
I don't know of any $100 headphone that sounds like any $1,000 headphone, though there are certainly similarities.
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 2:17 PM Post #13 of 19

Elsweyr

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 17, 2014
Posts
9
Likes
10
haha i can't explain better than that. what i want to know is there are so many cheap headphones that sound great.. why does a $1000 headphone can sound greater than those? a am no audiophile, but i have listened one cheap and one pricier headphone.. and the difference was about zero. (beside one being more bassy and another not). i just can't see why a cheaper but good headphone ($100, $200) cannot be as good as a $500 or $1000 headphone at all.
 
Feb 15, 2015 at 2:24 PM Post #14 of 19

Music Alchemist

Pokémon trainer of headphones
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
20,092
Likes
2,181
  haha i can't explain better than that. what i want to know is there are so many cheap headphones that sound great.. why does a $1000 headphone can sound greater than those? a am no audiophile, but i have listened one cheap and one pricier headphone.. and the difference was about zero. (beside one being more bassy and another not). i just can't see why a cheaper but good headphone ($100, $200) cannot be as good as a $500 or $1000 headphone at all.

 
Which two headphones were they?
 
Once you hear enough headphones, you may find that some of the ones that cost thousands of dollars actually sound worse than affordable ones, though this is not the norm. The law of diminishing returns does apply, but there are still significant differences to be found. Most of the ~$100 headphones I've heard sounded pretty bad to me, honestly. I do have one ~$80 headphone that punches far above its price, though.
 
Here are some links to get a better grasp of the improvements brought about by ultra-high-end headphones:
 
http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/comparing-world-class-headphones
http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame-full-size-open
http://www.head-fi.org/a/head-fi-buying-guide-ultra-high-end-headphones-summit-fi
 
Feb 18, 2015 at 11:14 AM Post #15 of 19

chupacabra314

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 8, 2014
Posts
364
Likes
195
 
Hi I am relatively novice headphone user, here's the headphones/IEMS I've listened to:
1. RE-0
2. Monster Turbine 
3. Monster Turbine Pro Copper
4. ATH-CKS77
5. Beyerdynamic Dt-770 Pro 32 Ohm
6. Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 Computer Speakers
7. A ton of crappy come with your device headphones
 
Currently I listen to all my music through my computer or smartphone. I am curious about audio quality so I had a few questions:
 
1. When should I purchase different source components ie a better source (high quality mp3?), amplifier, etc. Essentially, is the threshold $200 headphones? $300? 
2. What are all the source components (am I using that term correctly?) that impact audio quality? How does this differ from computers to laptops. 
3. Honestly, is the different significant if I upgrade these components? 
4. Is the difference between mp3 320kb/s to FLAC really noticeable at my level of audio components? 
5. For those who listen to FLAC files, where do you get your FLAC audio? 
6. How to IEMS vs Headphones vs Speakers compare for bang for your buck? Are you always going to get more bang for your buck when you go to larger devices? In other words is bang for you buck always in this order (Speakers>Headphones>IEMS)?
 
 
 
I have these questions because I am considering purchasing the following IEMS and comparing them to each other and #5 and #6 of my headphones/speakers, but I don't want to do a comparison and have my source be the bottleneck so they can't even perform to their true capabilities. At the same time though, I don't want to purchase $1000 of source components and be listening through devices that are way lower in quality. 
 
1. RHA MA-750i
2. Klipsch X7
3. DUNU-DN1000s
 
Two last questions:
7. If I do conduct my comparison, what songs do you suggest I listen to in order to test their quality? 
8. What threads should I look at to become educated enough to give a proper review? 
 
 
 
 
Thanks so much to anyone that responds! I am looking to learn more and become an audiophile haha, so sorry for all the questions and feel free to answer only 1 question if you want! Everything helps! 
 
PS: Sorry if this is in the wrong subforum, mods feel free to move it!
 

 
A quick reply to your questions above:
 
Q1-5. I don't think the source or FLAC vs 320kbps Mp3s will make a significant difference to untrained/inexperienced ears. I still can't tell the difference between FLAC and 320kbps Mp3s even with $400 IEMs and a dedicated source. I haven't tried more expensive DAPs but I assume the differences will be too subtle for me to justify the 3-10x cost. As other ppl said - the headphones/IEMs make the biggest difference in sound by far.
 
Q6. I think nowadays higher price doesn't necessarily mean better performance, especially given the fact that good performance means different things to different ppl. I'm afraid the only way to find out is try for yourself. Reading reviews is a nice starting point but you should only use them to narrow down your choice of things to try. In this case the MA750, X7 and DN1000 all have different sound and different construction so it will be very hard to give you a recommendation without knowing in depth what you are looking for. 
 
Q7. As other ppl said. Start with your favorite songs. This way you can easily spot the differences between configurations.
 
Q8. See here http://www.head-fi.org/a/glossary-of-terms and here http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top