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Moving from High-end Car to Home Audio. Requesting Help : )

  1. maky
    Hello Everyone!

    I'll just post a little intro so you all can understand where I'm coming from...
    So I used to massively be into Car Audio for years and years till I heard a proper Home Audio setup at an expo not that long ago, i.e. pre-amp, amp, towers etc. and It just blew my mind with the level of overall SQ that they had compared to my car's setup & even when compared to much higher-end car audio setups I had heard. In my vehicle I have as setup, A Pioneer 80PRS source, Zapco Z-150.4 LX Amplifier, Morel Elate drivers and everything setup as fully active, which sounds lovely but my god after the presentation at that expo 0_0. I was then told that Headphones are capable of delivering as good or even better SQ(I say SQ in a nutshell) for a fraction of the cost of a full fat home-audio setup. So here I am : )...
    I like the 'sound signature' I get in my vehicle and would like to retain the same basic sound in my future headphone setup at home. I'll try and best describe my taste in sound so ya'll can guide me best:

    -I would like a sound where the vocals are ‘butter smooth’ and I think this is what people refer to as as warm, music where the vocals sound ‘soothing’ is very very important to me.
    -I would also like it where the highs are clearly audible, NOT bright but just not muted & clearly distinguishable. I really dislike bright highs.
    -The music should also have both the sub and mid-bass ‘kick’ If you will. It doesn’t have to be something that will shake my ears and become overbearing not at all, but bass presence should be felt.

    If any further information is needed on my musical tastes to help you help me, do let me know.
    In total I have a $1,000 budget set aside for the DAC, Headphone Amplifier and the Headphones themselves. I can stretch +/- $200.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Well, in a proper home audio set-up vs (even a proper) car audio set up:

    1. You're dealing with a much lower noise floor - even an idling engine is noisier than a modern split A/C, plus tyres if you're moving, all the noise where you are even if it's a quiet parking lot, etc.

    2. You're in a larger area, so the speakers can be spaced farther apart and given no reflections, can project a wider and potentially deeper soundstage as opposed to being restricted by a windshield and more glass.

    3. You get larger if not more midwoofers all in specially designed cabinets or a subwoofer all in front, instead of smaller midwoofers free-air mounted in doors stiffened at best by some fiberglass and resin on the plastic panel and sound dampening, so basically you have better control of driver movement and you don't need the time alignment to try to trick your brain that the bass isn't coming from the rear...

    4. ...nor need that T/A to correct the fact that you're sitting closest to the driver side tweeter and farthest from the passenger side midwoofer and the subwoofer.

    We'll have to break that nutshell down though. For starters, you see the comparison as to how home audio is better than car audio? You're going the opposite direction from car audio with headphones when it comes to soundstage. You have a smaller space to "image" the soundstage in, or at least try to. Imaging and positional cues depend a lot on both ears hearing both direct and indirect sound from both speakers - you don't have that when the drivers are sitting right by each ear heard only by the ear they're blowing sound into. There are tweaks like Crossfeed (but this creates soundstage depth at the cost of pushing the cymbals inward, though that's proportionally more realistic), or listening to binaural recordings that were recorded with a mic set up designed to mimic being able to hear both speakers in both ears (these are rare for now), but they still can't reproduce speakers in a good room (let alone a properly treated large room).

    The only way headphones are easily better than speakers is that you don't need to worry too much about room acoustics, but again, this isn't without trade offs. In my case, the outer walls of my house, the wooden inner walls, and the slanted roof made acoustics a total headache in that house, so I've been using headphones. And on the road I just quit driving my car thanks to traffic and parking, so I just use IEMs. At least until I can build a new house somewhere else where I'll build an isolated audio room inside another room.

    Here's where you can run into a few problems. It's already difficult to design a specialized driver that has a wide and flat response, and that gets even more difficult for fullrange drivers operating in either free air or small closed enclosures. A lot of fullrange home audio drivers tend to have a peak in the treble and roll off at around 60hz, which they address with a notch filter and a transmission line enclosure. You can use a digital EQ on a headphone, but you can't design a transmission line enclosure that can work as a headphone, although the roll off can be deeper into the bass considering how close the drivers are to your ear.

    The alternative though is that there are some headphone drivers that have a rather flat response, but:

    1. They might be flat in either treble or bass (HE400, HE400i, etc), while relatively problematic in the other, or the midrange (HE400)
    2. Some have a relatively smooth response in the treble and bass, but the bass region is still louder than the treble, dropping off in the upper midrange, like the LCD-2 and HD650.
    3. They can be relatively expensive (LCD-2 and the rest of the range).

    So far the closest thing to the sound is the Audeze LCD-2 Classic for $700, so you basically have $300 to $500 left for upstream components.

    Maybe get the Audio GD R2R-11.
    maky likes this.
  3. cossix
    I'd second the suggestion of the LCD2C! However I would disagree with the "headphones give better SQ" argument. Although they tend to be much cheaper than a full home theater setup, I think the only thing they really win out on is detail. My LCD2 is more detailed than my Polk home theater setup (Monitor 60 fronts and CS10 center, with Denon AVR-S530BT) but the home theater has vastly superior soundstage, naturalness, and low frequency impact. To compare, (and I'll compare Amazon retail, not what I paid) the LCD2 costs $995. The theater setup I have costs a total of $665 and you can add a Bic America F12 to round it out and still be under budget for the LCD2.

    Headphones are a compromise over speakers, even near field monitors or bookshelves. They are something to use when you can't fit speakers in your listening area or don't want to bother other people. If you are talking about the most accurate reproduction of music, speakers are simply better.

    Not trying to bash your decision, just trying to enlighten you on a few things and perhaps have you look at things differently after reading this!
    maky likes this.
  4. maky
    This has been quite an Informative read!
    Although aware of the reflections and moving environment of the car making it far from the most ideal listening environment. We try to combat this with use of sound deadening material such as Dynamat and the use of DSP but then after going through 32 bands of EQ I don't know how much of the amplifiers original sound signature is really left.

    This LCD-2 would tick most of my boxes?
    If any further recommendations on Amp and DACs please? I have heard a lot about Schiit Audio in this regard. Also, shall I go tube or something like a Class-A solid state?
  5. cossix
    Many tube amps perform their best with high impedance loads, which the LCD2 is not. I'd vote solid state with a good amount of power. I run my LCD2 balanced from my Jotunheim combo and absolutely love it
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Dynamat doesn't really manage reflections. it's designed to absorb backwaves so they don't cause cancellations and any other kind of interference with how the driver operates or the soundwaves coming out the front of the diaphragm to the listener (especially in older cars where there's an inner metal mounting frame for the driver and locking mechanism in the door with the outer plastic grille separate) while weighing down whatever it's attached to so it won't rattle, basically lowering the noise floor. That's kind of like if you used to listen to home audio speakers in a shack then upgrade to a dedicated listening room in a mansion.

    Despite that, you can't manage reflections in a car because you have all those windows to see out of. You can line all walls of a house with reflection--managing acoustic panels but unless we're talking about a sound system in the back of a limo, you can't do that in any car for the driver to listen to such a system because 1) it's illegal and 2) the reason why it's illegal is because how the heck can you see outside the car. Maybe with VR and 360 cameras this can change, or heck, self-driving cars.

    An amplifier isn't supposed to have any "real" signature, the speakers do. That's because it's a lot easier to design an amplifier to have a flat response, the difficult part is 1) how much power it can put out before that response is no longer flat and 2) at what impedance it can do that (more of a problem with the wide range of headphone impedances), as well as by not piling on noise either. By contrast transducer design hasn't reached a point where you can easily get around the variables involved - sensitivity, reliability, flat response, driver toughness, etc.

    Some amps do have variances in sound but it will not be a lot - more of how when pushed one amp starts to sound sharper and another slightly warmer. Anything that extremely swings one or the other way is just distorting heavily.

    You'll get what you want out of the vocals and the highs are extended but they remain relatively flat from 1500hz up. It's just a matter of cranking it up a bit more since it's a lot stronger from 800hz down.

    And it's the LCD-2 Classic, a reissue of the original, not the current LCD-2F (for the current Fazor drivers).

    If you can spend more you can get the Meier DACcord FF and Classic FF (high Class A bias solid state), or any DAC and use it with the WooAudio WA22 (transformer coupled tube amp). Both options are beyond the price range stated though, which is why I didn't mention them in the other post.
    Grimbles likes this.
  7. maky
    Indeed, dynamat in the doors inner and outer walls to help with the bass response is what I meant. I have also seen people apply some materials on their dashboard to help with the reflections though always questioned the actual results after making your dashboard look so ugly with 'black carpet' look.

    Yes the drivers are ultimate but I've always felt that something like a Sinfoni always sounded more musical to my ears than anything else....

    The LCD2 Classic isn't available locally(India) to me. Your opinion on the LCD X? Its only slightly more expensive than the LCD 2
    Also, the Schiit Audio Asgard 2 Class A? It's relatively cheap.
    On a side note, could you comment on the real world performance difference between a regular DAC and a multibit one? keep hearing mixed opinions on the same.
  8. Grimbles
    Enjoy these threads where @ProtegeManiac gets his teaching hat on! Always learn a lot. Anyone dragged these together into a single tome yet?
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    The easiest way to minimize it within a cabin is to use tweeters with a narrower dispersion pattern, although they'd be harder to aim properly.

    I'd err on slightly muted than direct you to something that has bright highs that would render them painful to listen to, since the first one can be compensated for by cranking it up.


    Clearer, better imaging. As to whether the improvement is worth it, it's hard for somebody else to answer for you.
    maky likes this.
  10. maky
    Thank you and everyone for their feedback. It's been very educational!
    I'll keep updated when the time comes to make a final decision.
  11. maky
    Hello again!

    Sorry for not updating but my headphone purchase got postponed by a long while due to unavoidable circumstances.
    Today I'm able to buy these. I went to a local business to demo the LCD-2 Classic, Sundara, for the luls a lovely STAX unit & HD800S as well.
    I'm very much into the LCD-2 sound however some questions about amplification. The demo they were running on was a Cayin iDAC-6 & iHA-6 unit which is quite beyond my budget. I then had a listen on the Chord Mojo and found it quite pleasing. I would like to know if the Mojo is good enough or if I ya'll have any other recommendations for a DAC and Amp(or combo) in the <US 600$ range.

    Thank you again : )
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    AudioGD NFB-11
    maky likes this.
  13. maky
    I had totally forgotten about Audio god : O... thanks I've noted it down.

    Your take on the O2 DAC/AMP combo for these Planars? and the Schiit Jotunheim?
    I would have to import, which will attract additional import duties, the O2 and GD but the Schiit is available locally. I don't mind spending extra on import duties If either is well worth it of course : ).
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    AudioGD has more power in case you can use it. Also the O2 tends to be slightly harsher when pushed hard. If you can swing for the NFB-11 and don't need analogue inputs then it's worth getting it over the O2.
  15. maky
    and neither of these, the Jot or O2, NFB, would undo the 'warm' vocals that are so important to me yes?
    I figure low and high end would be a constant across them all.

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