Please help this Newbie shop!
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Wizard77

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I recently won US$3,000 in a contest and need some serious help shopping. I finally have the money to get good equipment and want to do it right. Unfortunately, I'm a clueless Newbie. I've read thousands of posts here to educate myself. But, I still have questions. Please help me. I hope I'm posting on the right forum. I have Amp and Source questions, but also headphone issues.

Here's my situation...

I like all music, but listen to classical (instrumental only) 90% of the time and want the systems optimized for that. I'm putting together two systems (one for work, one for home). I listen to each system about 20 hours per week. But, I want the home system to be much better. I want the work system to be good, but I use it primarily to keep me from getting distracted from all the noise around me. The only component I have is the work source (Sony D-EJ756CK). I'd like to keep that and add an amp, cable and headphone (absolutely need closed cans). Portability is not important. For home, I need: source + interconnects +amp +cable +headphone (different from work cans). I'm not getting a tuner, turntable, equalizer or speakers at this time. Buying one system and porting it from work to home is not an option (see disability issue below). And, I'm not interested in buying used equipment. Obviously, I would like all the pieces to be well matched. I understand that a system is only as good as it's weakest link.

I have one special issue. I am disabled. It is difficult for me to get around and do things. For example, I'm only 90 minutes from Philadelphia, but couldn't get to the Headroom (HR) show. Demo'ing equipment is almost impossible for me. So, I have to totally trust your opinions and buy through the mail. Even returning an item via the Post Office would be difficult, so I'd like to get this right the first time. My disability doesn't affect my ability to listen to music. I have ears and hands!! However, with apologies to the tube people, tinkering with equipment in any way is not desired.

Here's what I've come up with so far, my reasoning, and the price. Please give me your opinion about my choices, especially as to how well the components meet my needs and mesh with the other pieces of the system.

Work amp: HR Little ($260). As you'll see below, I've designed the systems so that I could order everything from HR (except the home source). Their 30 day return policy is nice because I can't demo the equipment. Also, if I have a problem with a component, I can deal with fewer suppliers (helpful due to my disability). Also, I like that the Little works off of A/C rather than batteries like the Corda.

Work cans: Beyer DT831 ($220). I need closed cans. Your posts indicate that these cans are more easily driven than the Senn HD 600. So, I thought these would be good for my cheaper system and driven fairly well with a budget amp. My second choice is ATH W100 (also closed). I think I would like the more distant sound stage of the Beyers. Plus, being brighter, I felt they'd be super for classical. I know many like the W100 better.

Work cable: None ($0). I haven't read much about a cable improving the 831 (like it does the HD 600).

After you see my home components, you'll think that MacDEF has a mini-me!

Home source: Sony SCD-C555ES ($800). I'm really confused here. I have a pretty good feel for the CD/SACD issue now, but I still don't know which way to go here. I don't own any SACD's now. But, because I want my system to last and can't tinker with it much, I thought the 555 would cover my bases. Right now, redbook playback quality is paramount, but I felt I should prepare myself for the future. I may have an extra $1,000 in two years, so would it make sense to get a great redbook player now and a SACD player in two years when, perhaps, the SACD format is better established? Also, I don't understand issues such as 5.1 channel/2 channel or analog/digital. Help!

Home interconnects: DiMarzio ($80)? These seem to be the only ones HR offers.

Home amp: HR Maxed Out Home ($1000). I definitely feel SS is better than tube for me. My confusion here revolves around matching source/amp/cans. Would I be better off with less amp (HR Home -- $700) and more source (??? -- approx $1,100), or more amp (HR MOH Ref Module -- $1,150) and less source (??? -- approx $650)? What's the best match? I'm not sure about the MOH upgrade path either. Also, I don't feel comfortable with all the HR choices (dual input vs. loop out option). I know that all these questions depend upon my choice of cans, so see below.

Home cable: Cardas for Senn HD 600 ($150). I've heard so many great things about them on various threads.

Home cans: Sennheiser HD 600 ($300). Makes the MacDEF mini-me complete! Seriously, I picked these for many reasons. They should be a bit more relaxed than the Beyers. At home I want to kick back more. Open cans are OK for home. Having chosen closed cans for work, I think I'd like to get an open pair here to begin to educate my ears to the differences. Also, I have very slight damage to my midrange hearing in my left ear. I felt the HD 600s (supposedly good with the midrange) would be better for me. I prefer cans that fit entirely around the ear instead of on or in them. Comfort is important due to my long listening times (6 hours at a stretch). All around, the HD 600s seem to be superb cans that will serve me well over the long term. My second choice is the AKG 501s. Many posters think the 501 has a wider sound stage than the HD 600s and are good for classical. Because they are more easily driven, they may enable me to get by with less amp and afford a better source. I'm not sure how to decide between the tradeoff's of the two cans.

The total comes to $2,810. With tax/shipping we should be close to $3,000.

I realize this is alot of questions/issues. But, I have no where else to go. I know that each of you has your own personal preference about components. But, I'd like to know what you would do about all these issues if you were me, with my unique limitations? It'd be great if you could give me your own choices for each of the systems and why. Finally, is there anything I'm missing? Do I need any special adapters or anything else to get the system to work?

Let me thank each of you in advance for your help. I was drawn to this community due to the incredible help you give to total strangers. It is clear that you have an incredible passion for this hobby. I look forward to joining you! After hearing your opinions and talking with Todd at HR, I will post my final choices. Then, I'll let you know how it's all working out once I'm set up. Once again, thanks!
 
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markl

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Welcome Wizard77,
Based on your description of your needs, you seem to have it pretty well worked out. Everything you've listed are very sensible choices.

"Home source: Sony SCD-C555ES ($800). I'm really confused here. I have a pretty good feel for the CD/SACD issue now, but I still don't know which way to go here. I don't own any SACD's now. But, because I want my system to last and can't tinker with it much, I thought the 555 would cover my bases. Right now, redbook playback quality is paramount, but I felt I should prepare myself for the future. I may have an extra $1,000 in two years, so would it make sense to get a great redbook player now and a SACD player in two years when, perhaps, the SACD format is better established? Also, I don't understand issues such as 5.1 channel/2 channel or analog/digital. Help!"

The 555 is a great choice. You will hear from other folks that will tell you to buy a regular CD player. But, IMO, a Redbook-only player will be obsolete in 2 years time. By then all CDPs will play either SACDs, DVD-As or both. Spending lots of cash on a CD-only machine is money down the drain. Given your budget constraints, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than the 555ES. I say "go for it!".

"Home amp: HR Maxed Out Home ($1000). I definitely feel SS is better than tube for me. My confusion here revolves around matching source/amp/cans. Would I be better off with less amp (HR Home -- $700) and more source (??? -- approx $1,100), or more amp (HR MOH Ref Module -- $1,150) and less source (??? -- approx $650)? What's the best match? I'm not sure about the MOH upgrade path either. Also, I don't feel comfortable with all the HR choices (dual input vs. loop out option). I know that all these questions depend upon my choice of cans, so see below."

Given my experience with the Headroom amps (granted they were the older versions), I wouldn't dip below the MOH. On the other hand, the Sugden Headmaster is another good choice but I have no first-hand experience with it. It does have a remote (I think) so you can adjust volume remotely which might be useful for you.

"Home interconnects: DiMarzio ($80)? These seem to be the only ones HR offers. "

I'll let others reco cables (ICs) in your price range, but I do want to flog a $75 upgrade that you can add to your MOH that will blow you away. Please see this over-long thread for details (and remeber that I was a skeptic, too):

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showth...threadid=10311

Once again, welcome to Head-Fi!

markl
 
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CRESCENDOPOWER

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Headroom Max stepped attenuator: 1887 bucks
Sony SCD-C555ES 800 bucks
Sennheiser HD-600s 220 bucks
Stephan Audio Arts Equinox 200 bucks
Cardas Golden Reference, or Golden Cross 525 to 599 bucks
Yes, it's a little over your budget, but you will probably have 95% of the best headphone system in the world. This is my opinion of course. Good luck!
 
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RVD

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Hi, welcome to Head-Fi Wizard77. I agree with what has been said so far and was just wanted to tell you that Oade sells the 555es for $575.
 
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markl

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$575!!!!!!!!

Damn, jump on that!

Oade is where I would have steered you anyway. Good service, authorized dealer, and GREAT prices.

markl
 
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Jeff Guidry

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Hey wiz...

Unless needing to take the headphones on and off is an issue, I would strongly recommend the Etymotic ER-4S for both home and office. They can easily fit in a front shirt pocket, so I doubt you would have any portability issues. They are the most closed can than any other headphone on the market, and offer crystal clear sonic reproduction that gets better the better your equipment. With the money saved from buying two seperate pairs of headphones and a Senn replacement cable, you'll be within shouting distance of that Max with a stepped attenuator that CRESENDOPOWER is pushing. THAT would be a truly sweet home system!

If absolute sonic quality is not an issue, then just get one of the Total Airhead amps for work instead of the Little. That way, you can save a few more bucks and put it toward better interconnects for your home system.
 
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john_jcb

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Your choices seem very well thought out. One thing I would suggest is to give Tyll at Headroom a call and talk to him directly. His last show is in Minneapolis on the 26th of June and he should be back in Bozeman a few days after that. He will take the time to work with you to build a system within your budget that you will be happy with for a very long time.

Welcome to Head-Fi. I hope when you get everything set up that you let us hear your impressions of your new system.
 
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msjjr

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I would consider the Sugden (BTW, the new model does have a remote) over the Headroom and save about $1K and consider cheaper interconnects. At the risk of getting flamed, I'm sure you can read reviews of cables that are excellent sounding in the $200 range. The HD 600 with the Equinox cable should be the headset of choice for you...no doubt about that.
 
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Duncan

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Could this be the first time in Head-Fi history that we don't have to do our 'trademark' apology about the condition of the thread starters wallet?


I would probably head down Jeff Guidry's path, and seek out the ETYs... that'll leave you with $2700 for a killer source
 
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Wizard77

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Thanks for all the great suggestions so far.

Quote:

I'll let others reco cables (ICs) in your price range, but I do want to flog a $75 upgrade that you can add to your MOH that will blow you away. Please see this over-long thread for details (and remeber that I was a skeptic, too):

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showt...&threadid=10311


I'm pretty much limited to a $3,000 budget. Would you add this $75 upgrade and pick a lesser other option? If so, which and why?

Quote:

DO IT RIGHT!
Headroom Max stepped attenuator: 1887 bucks
Sony SCD-C555ES 800 bucks
Sennheiser HD-600s 220 bucks
Stephan Audio Arts Equinox 200 bucks
Cardas Golden Reference, or Golden Cross 525 to 599 bucks
Yes, it's a little over your budget, but you will probably have 95% of the best headphone system in the world. This is my opinion of course. Good luck!


I understand I could get better stuff than what I have picked but doubling the price of the amp and adding a few hundred for better cables puts me way over budget. I only have the money that I have.

Quote:

Hi, welcome to Head-Fi Wizard77. I agree with what has been said so far and was just wanted to tell you that Oade sells the 555es for $575.


Great. That saves over $200! Anyone have any ideas where to put those savings. I do want to spend $3,000, but not over?

Quote:

Unless needing to take the headphones on and off is an issue, I would strongly recommend the Etymotic ER-4S for both home and office.


I have read great things about the ER-4S, and it's a great money saver. But, I would have to take them on and off alot and don't like things in my ear for more than about an hour. Nice idea, but not practical for me.

Quote:

Your choices seem very well thought out. One thing I would suggest is to give Tyll at Headroom a call and talk to him directly.


Other posters have suggested talking with Todd at HR. Who's better to talk with: Todd or Tyll?
 
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Wizard77

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Quote:

The HD 600 with the Equinox cable should be the headset of choice for you...no doubt about that.


I did spend some time in the cable thread. I see that the Equinox is very well regarded. But, it's $50 more than the Cardas and doesn't seem to be offered by HR. I don't absolutely have to buy from one source, but I think it would make it easier for me if I have a problem with a component (mainly due to disability).

Quote:

Could this be the first time in Head-Fi history that we don't have to do our 'trademark' apology about the condition of the thread starters wallet?


LOL I've read enough posts to know that with my $3,000, that everyone would be trying to get me to spend $4,000! I know that if I were putting together a $10,000 system that someone would say: "yeah that system is nice, but if you only spend $500 more to add (fill in your favorite upgrade), then your system would really kick ass."
 
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markl

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Hi Wizard77,
This is a controversial opinion--- I freely admit that. But-- In my experience, adding a Virtual Dynamics Power 3 Cryo ($75) is BY FAR the best tweak ever. Since the Headroom MOH can accept an aftermarket cable, I can't reco enough the VD Power 3 Cryo. If you have more money, than the higher VD cable you should consider.

markl
 
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markl, aren't you going against your dictum of saving such tweaks for last? You said it was better to build the system and then do the tweaks. Why compromise on the main components initially when you can add on later?

Wizard77, i can hep you avoid the hassle of burn-in by having you ship the equipment to my addy and having me do it for you.
 
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Wizard77

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Quote:

Since the Headroom MOH can accept an aftermarket cable, I can't reco enough the VD Power 3 Cryo.


Consider it under consideration.

Quote:

Wizard77, i can hep you avoid the hassle of burn-in by having you ship the equipment to my addy and having me do it for you.


Sure, as soon as I get it I'll head for the Post Office. Unfortunately, it may take me two years to get there. So, don't wait by your mailbox.
 
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I have a couple of power 3s but I really don't like the way they sit in the IEC socket. They are too stiff.
 
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