New guy, Old Guy--Not a clue.
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ken36

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1-imac G4>itunes>shure>Shure e5c

2-3rd Gen 20GB ipod>Shure e5c


I’m a new kid on the block so I hope you will give me a little slack for asking some not very well researched questions. My music is recorded in itunes at 160/AAC. The two systems above are all I own and they both sound great to me as is. However, this head-fi forum is messing with my serenity as I am slowly becoming addicted to reading it everyday. All of you have me wondering what I need to make my audio pleasure a little bit better. I’m 69 years old and have only recently begun to enjoy music again after a long time away from daily listening just for pure enjoyment and fun. Thus far, my hearing is just fine. My questions are simply:

Would I benefit from a top of the line sound card?

Would I benefit from a ProPhonic 2X-S IEM?

Would I benefit from a headset amplifier?

I just can’t seem to find an answer to these questions, especially since I do not know anyone personnally, with even the slightest interest in this music from a computer.

Please help with your kind advice and thank you in advance.

Ken Gray
 
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blessingx

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Welcome to Head-Fi (sorry about your wallet).

Afraid the answer to all is yes. There are very efficient phones where an amp makes a smaller difference (arguably the Shures and ProPhonic may land here) as there are powerful soundcards. Really depends on the synergy of your setup. To move forward I'd probably up the bitrates though and think about if you want to carry around an amp when portable (many don't). As for bettering your G4s card (and iPod), it's not that difficult.

And just so you know you're not alone.
 
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psyco1

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There's also the Computers-as-Source Components forum here at head-fi: http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=59

And maybe the Hard Forum Computer Audio forum: http://www.hardforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=33

To answer your questions,
1. Yes, a better source is always better.
2. Don't know, haven't heard that one, so I can't comment
3. Yes, anytime you put a better component in the signal path the end result is better*(barring synergy mismatches, like a bright phone and amp)

I don't know too much about Mac hardware, but I'd bet you'd find some soundcard answers at one of those forums.



*As with most things audio, "better" is very subjective.
 
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jjcha

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Ken - welcome to head-fi!

Quote:

Originally Posted by ken36@swbell.net
The two systems above are all I own and they both sound great to me as is.


I used the iPod + Shure E5c. It absolutely sounded great to me. Having said that, I've moved on and the improvements are well worth the money/effort.

Specifically:

Quote:

Originally Posted by ken36@swbell.net
Would I benefit from a ProPhonic 2X-S IEM?


Yes, the ProPhonic 2X-S outclasses the Shure E5c by a significant margin. I found they are a touch less "warm" than the Shure E5c, and they have less in terms of pure quantity of bass. But they are a lot clearer, richer and let you hear a lot more of the detail and texture. This, IMO, will be the most significant improvement in your setup. In other words, with the equipment you've got, upgrading the phones is better than improving your source or buying a good amp.

Having said that, because you already own fine headphones, if you want to move incrementally, I think you would do well buying a better source or amp that matches well with both the Shures and the Sensaphonics. But if I had to pick spending $900 on a good source+amp, or on the Sensaphonics, there's no doubt in my mind, I would go with the Sensaphonics.

Quote:

Originally Posted by ken36@swbell.net
Would I benefit from a headset amplifier?


There is some debate on how much they really improve from a good amp, but I find the Shure E5c and Sensaphonics improve meaningfully with one. It's not that they sound bad straight out of a soundcard/iPod, but once you get used to good amplification, you realize it just sounds stronger, richer, more controlled. An amp can also improve the treble performance (which the Shure and to a lesser degree (IMO) Sensaphonics aren't super strong in).

I can't speak specifically as to soundcards. On my computer, I prefer using my Grace M902, which acts as both an external soundcard and headphone amplifier through its USB capabilities. I don't believe there is a soundcard (and I'm happy if people chime in otherwise) that reaches the level of the Grace m902 in terms of performance.

Improving your source, just like improving your amp, even with compressed 160/AAC will let you hear even more life/dynamics out of your music. The iPod and many standard soundcards sound pretty good already, but the improvement is meaningful and will make you happy. At least it did for me.


Best,

-Jason
 
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VicAjax

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if you have the option (e.g. original cd's), the easiest, cheapest and most significant upgrade you could make is to would begin by re-encoding your collection at 224kbps bitrate or higher...

lossless is ideal, 320kbps is next best, but to my ears, the leaps-and-bounds threshold is crossed at 224. transients are more natural, dynamics open up and the "air" of the music begins to flow. above 224 the changes are less noticeable, but still significant enough if you have the space.

after that, then start thinking about upgrading with soundcard, headphone amp, etc.
 
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Emon

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Actually, his are 160 Kbps in AAC, which is probably damn near CD quality. From what I recall, AAC is almost as good as Vorbis in its compression efficiency, and an average VBR in Vorbis of 200 (nominal 192 or 224) is CD quality. So with a little fuzzy logic, that comes out to being pretty good.
 
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ken36

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I certainly didn't expect all of this good advice. I am studying each of your replies until I understand them. As for now, I plan on going ahead and starting the process to acquire the ProPhonic Soft 2X IEMs as a first step.

As for the rest of your suggestions, I don't have the knowledge to take any action at this time. For instance: My firewire is dead beyond repair so I don't want to put any more dollars into this computer. I plan on ugrading to an imac G5 next year. Therefore, I would need an external sound card that would somehow bypass the present internal sound card. any suggestions?

Ken Gray
 
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Emon

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I'm not sure if the E-MU line of cards work with Macs, probably not. M-Audio has some USB sound cards, I think E-MU might even too. Just google E-MU (EMU) and M-Audio. There's also Creative's Audigy external sound cards...Audigys are decent sources really. Why the need for an external sound card though? If you buy an internal PCI card just put it in your new computer next year.
 
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rhooper

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I'm also a noob (gamer speak for newbie) to head-fi, and have also recently returned to daily music listening myself.

I might reccomend that you try ripping a few of your favourite tracks of different types of music with different bitrates. I would consider trying AAC from 160 through 256kbps as well as the new Apple lossless compression. It wouldn't hurt to try 64 or 96 kbps as a comparison point so you know what a bad encoding sounds like. Keep going until you find the bitrate at which you can't hear the difference from the original CD. If you notice one of your rips has "artifacts" at a later time, re-rip it at a higher bitrate. I already have about a dozen CDs I plan to re-rip now that I've noticed artifacts in them.

One thing that nobody has mentioned yet is a crossfeed filter. To try out whether you like the sound of a crossfeed before you get into making or buying one, check out http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=78447. I'm not a Mac user, so I can't test and of the suggestions.
 
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Jahn

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personally, i hear a degradation in sound quality in AAC up until 198/224, at which time it sounds just as good as 320 - all of which i can live with, although lossless versus 320 AAC sometimes includes a "X" factor I can't put my finger on for particular tunes...


anyhow, have you tried the line out from your ipod's dock? if you like it, get an amp and use that line out to connect to it so you can at least attenuate the volume. if you like that, then you are ready for a serious upgrade!
 
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