My new setup (update!) Final thoughts and reviews
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TiestoFan

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I would like to post an update with pictures for a thread I started a few months ago. If you would like to see that thread then here you go: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/explain-like-im-5-please.930273/ but in summary, I had only ever owned a pair of Sony MDR XB500s and ATH-M50s without any other additional equipment and I was asking for help regarding amps and studio monitors etc as I was building out a new setup in my new home.

A few months later and I have finally put together what I think meets my needs. It is no small thanks to the great advice and recommendations from folks within that thread as well as throughout the forum. A special thanks to @pbui44 , @ScornDefeat , and @StarTreker for all your help. It made the process much easier to comprehend and more enjoyable.


I will spend more time discussing the audio components of my setup and what worked and what didn't work. In addition to that, the pictures will also include the overall setup and if you have any questions for what things are or where I got them from I'd be happy to answer but I didn't want to clutter the post with too many irrelevant details.

And finally, if you have any further recommendations or tips to improve my setup (without purchasing any more expensive audio equipment :beyersmile: ) then I'd be glad to hear it. I may or may not have things connected optimally (I think I do though). In going through this post, I will also do my best to share with you what I think of the product from a person who is NOT an audiophile, just an audiophile wanna-be. So, without further ado:


The full setup:

20201017_151729.jpg



20201017_150802.jpg



What you're looking at here is the entire setup: My computer, Ultrawide monitor on an arm, Logitech mouse and keyboard, a touch lamp, two edifier monitors, a Schiit Stack (magni+modi), ikea plant, and digital clock all sitting on an Ikea kitchen countertop supported by the Mikey drawers also from Ikea.

This is a build I had in mind for a very long time and I basically kept a running list of these things and I would swap things in and out of that list as I learned more (especially with regards to the audio pieces). My overall idea was to have as CLEAN of a setup as possible. The hardest part was coming up with an inexpensive solution to what is likely going to be a jungle of wires. Each of the tech components above requires power sources, connections between each other, and other miscellaneous cords that made figuring out how to tuck them out of site challenging. For instance, the PC to the monitor had several cords and the DAC/AMP combo also created a lot of clutter. The solution was to find a way to route these wires underneath the desk instead of tangling them up or coiling them up and using twist offs. So, I borrowed some ideas from other folks with this build and added my own twist on it.

I bought two (and eventually 3 but its not pictured) angled beams from home depot. I spray painted them black and then drilled them into the desk with sheet metal screws. This created an opportunity for two things:

1.) To provide additional support for the Ikea counter top so it does not sag over time
2.) Allow me to run cords and wires and zip tie them to the beams and maintain minimalism.
20200715_165649.jpg
20200714_212630.jpg



This as the hardest part of the setup but once completed made putting together the rest of the setup very straightforward.




Alienware 34'' Ultrawide Monitor:

20201017_152034.jpg


Not much to say here, this monitor has been pretty amazing for both productivity and recreation. The screen real estate is great for having an internet tab open, Tidal, and a word document if I'm working on something. It is mounted with a single side arm mount.

Desktop Computer:

20201014_213036.jpg


Not much to say here either (at least not on this forum!). This is a computer I continuously work on.It has a core i7-9700k, RTX 2070 Super, NZXT AIO CPU cooler, 16 GB Trident Z RAM.....and a whole bunch of other hardware/mods that are outside the scope of this forum.



Massdrop HD6xx:

20201017_152443.jpg


Alright, so now we are getting to the relevant stuff. I spent quite some time researching which headphones I wanted to get. This process has been ongoing for roughly 2 years or so as I was really happy with my ATH-M50s and never felt the need or desire to upgrade. But as a frequent visitor to this site, I was always intrigued by what an amp/DAC could really to my phones. Therefore, for a long time I only considered getting an amp/dac. My research eventually led me to conclude a few things:

1.) The ATH-50s would not see a benefit great enough to offset the cost of an amp/dac and
2.) Audio equipment is a deep rabbit hole that can easily lead you to spending hundreds/thousands of dollars for diminishing returns.

I decided I would do my best to find the sweet spot between performance, my needs, and price. The Sennheiser name was known to me even before joining this forum and the 650s were long hailed as "one of the greatest headphones." So I always wanted to try one and see how they would compare to my M50s. The Massdrop version HD 6xx went on sale and after having already read about them and watched dozens of YouTube videos gushing praise over them I decided that I would jump in.

The headphones themselves are extremely well made. They are made of plastic but the quality feels very solid, smooth, and pleasant to hold. As for looks, I can't say that they are exactly the nicest looking cans but I do like the look of the drivers. Since I use this at home I really didn't care for how they look anyways. Comfort-wise they fit great and felt snug on my head and ears without cramping my ears. No complaints there.

What about the sound? Well....the first time I put them on the first thing I noticed was how "warm" these sounded. I am generally very ill equipped to describe in words what things sound like but I can confidently say that this is an accurate description. That overly warm sound initially really put me off. In comparison, my M50s sounded very cool-toned and bright and level. This led to an unpleasant first 1 hour of listening to the headphones as I felt I had lost something from the M50s. I used the headphones for about a week. I bought a subscription to Tidal and started listening to both new music and old favorites. After a while I stopped being able to notice the warmth of the sound and I began to notice how the music presented itself to me in layers (part of this is the audio source from Tidal being very good). I was able to separate the drums from the synthetic beat from the vocals. They no longer all sounded like they were coming from the same place. I suppose this is what you call "separation." The other thing that became apparent was the clarity of the sound. This was most noticeable in tracks that I was very familiar with, such as Blackheart by Two steps from Hell. Having heard this song so many other times I knew when all the instruments would hit, the vocals etc. With the HD6xx, the clarity was so good that certain sounds, such as the vocals that appear at around 47 seconds sounded so different, so....detailed as compared to before. Suddenly, I began to enjoy music I've listened to dozens of times before because I was catching new things: a new guitar string, a small squeak, or a small instrument in the background I never noticed before. Listening to Good Riddance (Eurydice Solo) by Darren Korb I could hear the musician's fingers sliding across the guitar strings (great song btw, check it out). I fell in love. The HD6xx make the music I'm listening to feel alive if that makes any sense. As if I were there.

One week into this experiment I tried my M50s again and... oh boy. They are still GREAT headphones and I will keep them. But my initial reaction to the M50s after an extended break was: "Why does the sound.....sound so thin?" And that's when I realized, that "warmth" in the HD6xx I was detecting at the beginning was really my brain adapting to the fullness of sound that is now present. There is actually more information coming into my ears than the thinner, brighter sounding M50s. The m50s are still enjoyable in a different way because they have very clear bass, they are probably more accurate, and they make the music sound like its in front of you but the 6xx makes the music surround you like a bubble and the bass is more all encompassing. I think for me the bass is the hardest to put into the words. For instance while listening to Acid Rain by Lorn, the large THUMPS that begin at around 20s sound absolutely incredible on the 6xx, not so much on the M50s. I have not gone to the M50s since then because the 6xx really just sounds so majestic. So, thank you to those who pushed me in this direction. These headphones are AWESOME.



Schiit Magni3+/Modi 3 (AMP/DAC):

20201014_200542.jpg


20201017_152744.jpg


20201017_152802.jpg


So, also after much research and a lot of painful reading and learning I decided that the Schiit Magni 3+ and Schiit Modi 3 were the best options for me. This was based off multiple reviews and a heart to heart with myself that even with this setup I wasn't likely to notice much of a difference or detect any changes. The way I have this setup is the following:

PC to Modi 3 (via an optical cable), from Modi 3 to Magni 3+ (via RCA cable), from Magni 3+ I have two outgoing connections: 1.) My headphones or 2.) My Edifier monitors via RCA cables. The Magni 3+ is set to high gain. My pc volume is set to max (100) and I control volume via the knob on the magni 3+.

So overall, I am happy with the setup. I think of all my upgrades this one is the LEAST profound but that's probably because I'm just not experienced enough. I often cannot tell if the DAC is doing anything at all. I sometimes think there is less noise and more clarity but other times I think its just placebo effect. When listening to Strobe by deadmau5, I have noticed the synthetic sounds sound cleaner but I have not been able to reproduce this observation in other places. The AMP on the other hand has noticeable effects. While the tone, sound signature and other characteristics are not drastically different the sound IS much louder, fuller and I can turn up the volume without any kind of distortion, and if I'm not mistaken that is the point of an AMP. Very happy with this little Schiit stack and plus it looks kinda cool sitting there. I don't regret getting the DAC either because I'm sure its doing something, I just don't have the ears to detect it. After looking back on the recommendations and my own research I think I landed in a good spot because I'm just at that point where I've reached my limit as to what I can hear so for 200$ for the Schiit stack, hell yes why not.



Edifier R1700BT Studio Monitors:

20201014_200303.jpg


20201017_151018.jpg


Of everything in my setup, these things were the most pleasant surprise. So much time was spent reading about amps/dacs/headphones that expectations were high and thankfully were met (and exceed by the HD6xx). However for monitors I had no expectation and I quite frankly didn't care too much. Luckily, a fellow forum member (shoutout to @StarTreker ) was super helpful and recommended the Edifier R1700BT. They sound AMAZING. They sound so good I honestly have trouble deciding whether or not I need to put on my headphones or just let the speakers do their work. As mentioned earlier these receive an audio signal from my Magni3+ via RCA cable. I have the treble, bass adjusted to the above settings and the volume knob turned up about 3/4th of the way to max (these settings are constant and I don't change them). I then use the knob on my Magni 3+ to adjust volume.

I have yet to turn these things up all the way because they can be heard with crystal clear clarity everywhere in the house. In fact, while playing Microsoft Flight Simulator the amount of air being moved by these monitors is so large that it feels like wind is blowing on your face while flying the small propeller engine planes ( an accidental positive side effect). I do not really use the bluetooth functionality so I could have done without it. On an interesting note, I actually do think that the DAC may be doing something here as the Edifiers sounded slightly clearer when hooked up to the dac vs when not. A really solid recommendation and once again thank you @StarTreker for this and your other recommendations.

Few final things:
For music I am almost exclusively using Tidal. I feel that in order of priority for reasons why my music now sounds good this is probably at the top second only to the HD6xx. The least (subjective opinion here) influential part of my build is the DAC. Am I satisfied with the whole setup? YES. Is my music hardware journey over? I rarely say this about tech/equipment type stuff but yes I think that aside from maybe trying out different headphones in a few years I probably won't go further than this.

Well that about wraps up everything I had to share with you. I hope that someone out there who is looking to create a similar setup gets some inspiration/tips from what I've done and can create something that suits their needs/wants. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer! :darthsmile:
 
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genck

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My desk would stay that clean for about 5 minutes. Nice setup.
 
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TiestoFan

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My desk would stay that clean for about 5 minutes. Nice setup.

Lets be real, mine isnt that clean all the time either. Add a coffee cup, coaster, my phone, a book or file I'm working with and a candy wrapper and thats probably what it looks like 90% of the time lol. Thanks for the compliment. :beerchug:
 
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ScornDefeat

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Stunningly beautiful set-up! I'm super happy to have helped provide some useful insights in you getting to this point in the journey. Great photography work and write-up, as well! The star of the show, though, is how CLEAN your whole set-up is; such a good outcome to a thoughtful approach.

Everything you noted in your chain seems A-OK to me; 100% PC volume, Tidal as the streaming app, the Magni as the headphone/active monitor hub, etc.

Awesome!
 
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StarTreker

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First, I would like to point out, that I absolutely love it when people post fully detailed message posts like this.
Second, can I just say that I really love your desktop setup with all the lighting, its awesome.

My review of your desk setup:
First of all, that is a nice thick desktop surface, should be able to hold lots of weight no problem. Also, I like the black drawers on each side, should leave you plenty of room to store all your required stuff. And what desk would be complete without some grass, that way, you have the illusion of being outside with nature, when your actually inside for hours. That clock is most certainly neat, a great way to tell the time in style. Don't think I didn't see your favorite color of red lighting behind the desk, seems to work nice.

You obviously did good cable management like you said, otherwise it would be a mess like my desk, you don't want to see the wire collection I got going on, it would horrify you. Nice simple black mat. Can't tell what model that keyboard is, but I think thats more specifically a Logitech G5 wired mouse that you are using. :wink: The ultra wide monitor is very nice, most people seem to like them, as they add a benefit to productivity just like you were saying. I think that paddle looking device is a light as well.

My Review Of Your Computer:
Your computer case might look utilitarian from the front of it. But the side panel totally looks like glass, which is the latest standard for gaming computer cases now days. Acrylic never lasted long cause it always got scratched up, like on my old computer. You are running a very nice computer setup. The 9700K is a fast CPU, pretty sure Linus approved of that chip. Linus most certainly approves of your 2070 super card, that thing aint gonna have any issues playing games!

Everybody knows that Trident Z is some good RAM, but you might want to upgrade that to 32GB at some point. Thats an excellent cooler you got on there, did you know that NZXT makes coolers for other brands as well? Thats cause their company has the expensive tooling required to make liquid coolers. Also, its no surprise that your computer has excellent cable management. If your willing to cable manage your desk, you sure as heck want to cable manage that computer, great for looks, and great for natural airflow too!

The Schiit Stack:
That is some deliciously good stack of Shciit on your desk. (Ohhhhh, how I love how that just writes itself!) I am happy to hear that your review on the stack is a positive one. A DAC's job, is to make sure that your audio sounds as good as it can be, but its never supposed to be too obvious when doing it. But I can guarantee you that it is processing the audio from your computer, better then your computer could do on its own otherwise.

It is awesome to hear that you are really enjoying what your amp is doing. That style of amp, will both amplify the audio, providing little to no distortion, and it also colors the sound a bit, its a good thing you enjoy that sound. Couple this stack with your Sennheizers, its no surprise that you are enjoying the sound. You've discovered that the warmth of sound, is not that bad, because the sound is fuller, and more present then before.

The Edifier Speakers:
I was really pleased and entertained reading this part. I was never going to let you buy that cheap 20 dollar computer speaker crap, because if you did, you would have regretted it. You have confirmed what I was telling you, that those speakers produce a very full sound with excellent clarity. And not only that, they are capable of producing that sound loudly without distortion. As your reviewer accounts proved, you could hear them throughout the entire house! You truly made me laugh at the part where you said that they sounded so good, you couldn't decide weather at the moment, you should listen to your speakers, or your cans. HAHA Bravo, clapping...

Review Of Lighting For Photographs:
I am an amateur AKA hobbyist photographer. And while I am no professional nor an expert, I do recognize proper lighting when I see it, and what the artist was going for doing it. You've seen my photo's before, you will notice that I usually like to go for a sort of dark background, but the light I chose to do, is a low intensity sort of white light. Its not overpowering no, but its also not warm either. The warmth provided by your lighting is truly nothing short of amazing. It really made your photographs give me this feeling of the fact that this environment is home, a comfy place, warm place, a happy place.

Conclusion:
You were gone for so long, I thought we were never going to hear from you again, or maybe that something bad happened. I am happy to know that you are OK. And it truly just goes to show, that good things are always worth the wait. Your post was nothing short of excellence, a pleasant, entertaining, funny, and informative read. I loved reading about your experience with this project, I loved all the photo's, including the tool related ones in the building stage. I am truly happy that I, along with other's, were able to help you decide on what to buy. And I also truly appreciate all the accreditation you gave me.

PS: You are most certainly welcome, but after seeing this post, I also feel the need to thank you. :)
 
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willywill

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Looks good, just upgrade to mechanical keyboard and that it enjoy what you have
 
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StarTreker

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Looks good, just upgrade to mechanical keyboard and that it enjoy what you have
True, but as you know, not all mechanical keyboards are created equal. I seriously doubt that he would want a mechanical keyboard with BLUE switches, those are so loud, you could swear he was operating the space shuttle out of moth balls. I personally, am operating a Corsair K95 mechanical gaming keyboard with all bells and whistles. But the thing is, its like a 160 keyboard. He could get the K70 for 130 dollars but I don't recommend it.

I used to use the K70, until the cable developed a short where it enters the keyboard, and the company refused to replace it under warranty, because the serial number got worn off the bottom of the keyboard. And that would never have happened if they just stamped the serial number into the bottom of the keyboard instead of using a stupid sticker where the info rubs off with use. Checkout mechanical keyboards that use BROWN or RED switches, he'd probably like those.

BLUE switches will send you running for the nearest airlock to make the sound stop lol.
 
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Very nice clean setup!

Such a far cry from my messy desktop :sweat_smile:
 
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TiestoFan

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First, I would like to point out, that I absolutely love it when people post fully detailed message posts like this.
Second, can I just say that I really love your desktop setup with all the lighting, its awesome.

My review of your desk setup:
First of all, that is a nice thick desktop surface, should be able to hold lots of weight no problem. Also, I like the black drawers on each side, should leave you plenty of room to store all your required stuff. And what desk would be complete without some grass, that way, you have the illusion of being outside with nature, when your actually inside for hours. That clock is most certainly neat, a great way to tell the time in style. Don't think I didn't see your favorite color of red lighting behind the desk, seems to work nice.

You obviously did good cable management like you said, otherwise it would be a mess like my desk, you don't want to see the wire collection I got going on, it would horrify you. Nice simple black mat. Can't tell what model that keyboard is, but I think thats more specifically a Logitech G5 wired mouse that you are using. :wink: The ultra wide monitor is very nice, most people seem to like them, as they add a benefit to productivity just like you were saying. I think that paddle looking device is a light as well.

My Review Of Your Computer:
Your computer case might look utilitarian from the front of it. But the side panel totally looks like glass, which is the latest standard for gaming computer cases now days. Acrylic never lasted long cause it always got scratched up, like on my old computer. You are running a very nice computer setup. The 9700K is a fast CPU, pretty sure Linus approved of that chip. Linus most certainly approves of your 2070 super card, that thing aint gonna have any issues playing games!

Everybody knows that Trident Z is some good RAM, but you might want to upgrade that to 32GB at some point. Thats an excellent cooler you got on there, did you know that NZXT makes coolers for other brands as well? Thats cause their company has the expensive tooling required to make liquid coolers. Also, its no surprise that your computer has excellent cable management. If your willing to cable manage your desk, you sure as heck want to cable manage that computer, great for looks, and great for natural airflow too!

The Schiit Stack:
That is some deliciously good stack of Shciit on your desk. (Ohhhhh, how I love how that just writes itself!) I am happy to hear that your review on the stack is a positive one. A DAC's job, is to make sure that your audio sounds as good as it can be, but its never supposed to be too obvious when doing it. But I can guarantee you that it is processing the audio from your computer, better then your computer could do on its own otherwise.

It is awesome to hear that you are really enjoying what your amp is doing. That style of amp, will both amplify the audio, providing little to no distortion, and it also colors the sound a bit, its a good thing you enjoy that sound. Couple this stack with your Sennheizers, its no surprise that you are enjoying the sound. You've discovered that the warmth of sound, is not that bad, because the sound is fuller, and more present then before.

The Edifier Speakers:
I was really pleased and entertained reading this part. I was never going to let you buy that cheap 20 dollar computer speaker crap, because if you did, you would have regretted it. You have confirmed what I was telling you, that those speakers produce a very full sound with excellent clarity. And not only that, they are capable of producing that sound loudly without distortion. As your reviewer accounts proved, you could hear them throughout the entire house! You truly made me laugh at the part where you said that they sounded so good, you couldn't decide weather at the moment, you should listen to your speakers, or your cans. HAHA Bravo, clapping...

Review Of Lighting For Photographs:
I am an amateur AKA hobbyist photographer. And while I am no professional nor an expert, I do recognize proper lighting when I see it, and what the artist was going for doing it. You've seen my photo's before, you will notice that I usually like to go for a sort of dark background, but the light I chose to do, is a low intensity sort of white light. Its not overpowering no, but its also not warm either. The warmth provided by your lighting is truly nothing short of amazing. It really made your photographs give me this feeling of the fact that this environment is home, a comfy place, warm place, a happy place.

Conclusion:
You were gone for so long, I thought we were never going to hear from you again, or maybe that something bad happened. I am happy to know that you are OK. And it truly just goes to show, that good things are always worth the wait. Your post was nothing short of excellence, a pleasant, entertaining, funny, and informative read. I loved reading about your experience with this project, I loved all the photo's, including the tool related ones in the building stage. I am truly happy that I, along with other's, were able to help you decide on what to buy. And I also truly appreciate all the accreditation you gave me.

PS: You are most certainly welcome, but after seeing this post, I also feel the need to thank you. :)

Thanks!!! Yea I told you I'd be back, it just took longer than I expected because life happens haha. The setup IS a cozy happy place. Even my wife who does not care for tech, audio equipment lighting finds it soothing and I catch her sitting here sometimes listening to music.

Your review was pretty accurate as far as what I was going for. The mouse is a G502 :wink:.The keyboard is also a logitech but its actually just a cheap 10$ wireless keyboard. In the future I would like to upgrade to a mechanical one. The problem I'm having is that most of these keyboards have that "GaMerZ" asthetic to them that I don't like. I want something subtle. I have contemplated building my own but....that is not a hobby I really want to get into. I would rather just buy a good looking mechanical keyboard.

The lighting took some time to figure out. Everything came together once I came up with the idea to put an LED strip on the back of the counter top so that light bounces off the wall. This creates such a nice depth and ambiance.

The RAM is absolutely my next upgrade :)

Again thanks for the comments!
 
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RockaRolla

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Your review was pretty accurate as far as what I was going for. The mouse is a G502 :wink:.The keyboard is also a logitech but its actually just a cheap 10$ wireless keyboard. In the future I would like to upgrade to a mechanical one. The problem I'm having is that most of these keyboards have that "GaMerZ" asthetic to them that I don't like. I want something subtle. I have contemplated building my own but....that is not a hobby I really want to get into. I would rather just buy a good looking mechanical keyboard.
Have a look at Filco, they are a no-nonsense brand, no gamer tag, no bling bling rgb. Built like a tank and weigh like 1, it just oozes quality compared to these logitech/razer mech keyboards
 
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