First of all, as my username suggests, I need a job. I am gonna need a lot of money come the end of my next billing cycle. Hey everyone. You don't know me but I feel as though I know many of you. And although you may not be aware, you are enablers. This post is to outline my sudden plunge into head-fi from approximately 3 weeks ago 'til now. It doesn't have a happy ending so those expecting one might as well stop now. I came here for the first time because I wanted to beat my stupid friends at Call of Duty: Black Ops, a $60 game of no life-altering consequence. I love COD but I am one of those unfortunate players who are not as good as they aspire to be and knows they will never likely be. But (being unemployed) I have little to do but play COD for hours on end while pretending to study for the hardest bar exam in the country. My buddy told me that I could get a slight edge by getting a gaming headset so that I could get better situational awareness in-game. So I went to Amazon and started looking at headsets. Just as anyone who is similarly not an enemy of value might proceed, I dutifully started to do my due diligence, researching reviews and comparing prices. My investigation led me to the MLG forums (Major League Gaming - yeah something like that exists) where the geeks espoused endless adulation on their Astro Gaming Mixamps. So I bought a Mixamp with Astro's A30 headset ($200) which the interwebs all proclaimed to have sublime audio. I got my new rig shortly thereafter and was nearly instantly disappointed. This is what passes for ultimate audio after all the superlatives thrown about in forum after forum and expert reviews on Wired and other tech sites. So I returned to the MLG forums to voice my discontent (or at the very least lurk with a bad attitude) only to dig a little deeper to find that the head geeks there all rocked their Mixamps with a pair of Sennheiser HD555 or Audio Technica AD700 phones. So I went back to Amazon and bought a HD595 figuring I could justify the $165 expense because I could always listen to music with it and watch movies in Dolby Headphone in addition to soundwhoring on COD. Before I placed the order, I looked up 'HD595 reviews' online and this site was prominently displayed. So, when literally hours after I ordered the 595 Amazon put up the UE Triple.Fi 10 Pro as its Deal of the Day at $95, I came here. Two minutes later, the Triple.Fis were out of my Cart and into my Recent Orders. I started reading deeper into the site at what people had to say about different headphones and IEMs and learned that a amplifier could greatly impact listening pleasure. A little more research later and I had placed orders for a Hi-Fi Man EF2A hybrid tube/SS DAC/AMP and an iBasso D4 Mamba SS DAC/AMP combo. I probably should have had an intervention at this point but the A&E guys are probably busy with their families this time of year. I kissed a DAC and I LIKED IT. A few days later, I was awash in discarded boxes and cables and I set about trying out every possible combination. I liked almost everything. Except my music. I started to listen to my iTunes library and realized that every time I was paying Apple 99 cents for a song, I was actually paying them a dollar and change (Apple collects tax in my hemisphere) for the privilege of being sexed by them on me in the butt with gravelly overcompressed mush they call "CD-quality." Apparently, when you're not listening out of a Macbook headphone port through white iBuds, 128-bit AAC files are not so "hi-fi." Go figure. So began the search for my old CDs and FLAC recordings online to convert to Apple Lossless (I know some folk here are Apple-averse but I am entrenched in their one-way pit of consumerism with my iPhone and other iDevices much like Boba Fett was ensnared by the Mighty Sarlacc). And, after a weekend of hard work, I had whittled my over 14,000 track iTunes library to around 3,500 tracks of 320-bit or higher MP3 and ALAC. And I went and got a sandwich and sat quietly by myself for about an hour. Then I went back to really listen to my music for the first time in a LONG time and it was glorious. The Bug had not only bitten, it had burrowed, laid its eggs, and built a nesting hatchery. This is when my reading of this forum really shifted to another gear. I read about the virtues of the Sennheiser HD580, some of the same sentiments I vaguely remember reading when I bought a pair a decade ago to use with my iPod (no generation designation, the ORIGINAL Apple iPod with mechanical wheel and firewire port). I also have vague memories of using it for two days: Day 1 - marvelling how this is truly the life I am leading as a bona-fide audiophile, and Day 2 - okay, let's put those big honking things away now for, um, EVER and reattach those white buds that sound just as good, if not better. I knew I still had the HD580s somewhere cause I never sell or throw away anything (I am like one of those hoarders on A&E's Hoarders but I move all my junk into an unused room and when that fills up, I move into a bigger house with more unused rooms to fill. Yeah I know, it's a problem. So I searched for 3 days. And sure enough, they were right where I knew they'd be: Somewhere. I alternately hooked up the HD580s to the IBasso and EF2A and it was like my 18 year-old self came back from 2001 and punched me IN THE DICK for being such a blockheaded dumbass. I really never knew. Out of a headphone amp, the HD580 was a revelation. I am not really an audiophile and so I don't know all these terms and expressions you guys all use to describe a soundstage from a headspace just quite yet (they sound vaguely like drug references). But it was as if the music actually made sweet love to my ears and through my head out of these phones in a way that I did not want to call 911 afterwards to report it and file charges. I simply did not realize that music sounded so good. I read more and more and more and then even more. I knew I wanted even better sound. I read users' impressions of headphones and amps and DACs. I became intrigued by the sonic properties of solid state versus tube amplification, the nuances of Wolfson and Burr Brown DAC chips, and the vintages of 70s production vacuum tubes and opamps of inscrutable nomenclature. And, much like Vader, my journey to the Dark Side was complete. Hahahaha. I knew I wanted the most variety of sounds possible at the highest level I could reasonably afford. Unfortunately, I currently fill out online surveys for free packets of Bisquick and comb through the magazines in the library hoping to find samples of Pantene still attached. Okay, if you haven't guessed by now, I am sometimes (though very rarely) predisposed to hyperbole. But the truth isn't really far off the mark (I self-efface to mask the pain). I really am kind of poor especially with student loans and the no job thing to worry about. So, instead of getting everything I wanted, I tried to figure out the best way to get as much quality and variety as I could for as modestly as I could manage. Which is a really long and inarticulate way of saying "I'm gonna go bang-for-the-buck, Baby!" So, that was the plan. And it was so, so good, that plan. But I kept reading this forum. You guys are great but you all have a problem. You love to love good stuff. And let others know about it too. It's like going to a AA meeting to seek advice about curbing the carousing and being told how awesome drinking is. And I GET it. That's really MY problem. I was all set to get a Little Dot I and a PAV2V2 until I read about the Little Dot IV and how it compared to a Woo 3. I am not very smart. I am kind of short. I do not excel in sports. I can't really carry a tune. And I am not awesome at COD. I always used to be afraid that I would be kidnapped and held for ransom in Tijuana or that I'd perish in the aftermath of a nuclear winter cannibal encounter. Who knew that my greatest anathema would be the XX vs. YY thread on this forum? Long story short, in the last 24 hours, I ordered a AKG K701, Matrix M-Stage with Class A biasing mod, and a Woo Audio 2. I am currently looking for a good DAC (was looking at the Audio GD series, possibly a NFB-11 if they can ever work out those issues or a C2) and wondering if I have enough courage to order a HD800 or a Beyer T1 before I need to leave the country to flee my creditors. But I have heard rumors (urban legends?) that there is no running from American Express and their worldwide private army. Maybe one day soon, I will be knowledgeable or articulate enough to describe some impressions I have of my new gear but I am still learning and I suppose, at the end of the day, I just want things to sound "good." Thanks for indulging the story of a budding head-fier on his journey (without foreseeable end in sight) as he tries to find his way. Can anyone recommend a good DAC to me to make my other gear shine? I'm looking for something around $300 but, in no case, more than $1000. um. Probably.