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WooSennMStageMamboMan.Fi701 or my wallet hates you all

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by igotnojob, Dec 22, 2010.
  1. igotnojob
    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.
    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.
  2. estreeter
    Get a job. 
    For those of us who are currently enslaved, er, employed, its tough to hear from someone who can afford to spend up to a thousand dollars on a DAC, whether its an attempt at humour or not. 
    (For those thinking 'Easy for you to say, Mr Lifetime Employment', I spent roughly 8 months of 2010 with no source of income beyond my savings - I can assure you that I didnt spend it on audio.)
  3. igotnojob
    I'm lookin', brother. Believe me, nothing I want more than to be gainfully employed. Tough, tough economy in these neck of the woods.
    But that doesn't help the fact that I am still in need of a decent DAC.
  4. dayamax
    I don't have much idea about DACs, but this is the greatest "What amp/dac/hp I should buy ?" post I've read on these forums.
    Good luck with the job situation man. 
  5. OG10
    April Music's Stello A100 is very nice. It falls under the USD 700 mark I believe. 
    I really enjoyed reading your post. I think like any hobby you need to dedicate time to audiophilia. I didn't spend more than $500 when I first came on here, then I started using my music as a background to other activities. This is the biggest error you'll ever commit. You need to dedicate time to your music to enjoy the subtle revelations your kit can bring to you from the music you love. Alas I have now dedicated more time to enjoying more of my music and am learning the limitations of the equipment I have. At this point an upgrade is warranted for me. 
    I have too many wide ranging hobbies, and slowly but surely I am reducing it down to one. So I can spend all my money on one thing..
  6. igotnojob
    Thanks for the recommendation. I will check it out. I googled the Stello and couldn't find any dealers for new stock. It links to forums where some ppl are selling used ones. And eBay has like 2 models that don't seem to be the ones you listed. Is this DAC still currently manufactured? What is the best retailer for US sales?
    And, as far as DACs are concerned, is a $700 or a $1000 DAC that much better than a $300 one? Where is the price-performance sweet spot on these? Especially with the equipment I am getting/considering? From the limited time I've had to devour some of the threads here, I seem to be getting more bang for the buck spending on amps and headphones. Does the same level of incremental gains apply to DACs? I asked about Audio GD DACs because they seem to get good word-of-mouth in these forums and they seem to have attractive prices. Would they help bring out the best of my headphones (HD580, K701, HD595, UE Triple.Fi 10) and my amps (Woo WA2, Matrix M-Stage, Hifiman EF2A, iBasso D4 Mamba)? My taste in music is extremely eclectic and I will listen to just about everything including all kinds of world music and even beat poetry slams. Only thing I don't listen to at the moment is death metal. Are there any other headphones that will round out my sonic variety? DT990/600?
    I just got my AKG K701 tonight. They sound fan-freaking-tastic out of my Macbook -> iBasso D4 (DAC+Amp sections). So much better than my HD595 (better than their even twice the price difference). Lossless files are great and so is music out of Pandora One (192-bit?). I finally know what a lot of you are talking about and can hear those very characteristics in the K701s. Nice detailed highs with superb instrumental/vocal separation and a sense of spaciousness. I can't wait to hear these phones through the M-Stage and the Woo 2 which should be on their way to me any day now. For headphone break-in/burn-in, what volume should I have my amp to? Normal listening levels or will louder levels help break them in faster?
  7. igotnojob
    Just heard Noel Gallagher cough at the beginning of 'Talk Tonight.' Lovin' these headphones. K701 resolves crazy details.
  8. Armaegis
    I think Audio-gd has a special intro price on their NFB-13 or something like that. Only $200.
    You should get yourself a vintage Beyer DT48. They have no bass, clamp your head like a vice, and weigh as much as a brick... but they have the most incredible midrange clarity that you will ever hear. It completely blows the K701 out of the water for detail.
    While we're at it, have you considered orthodynamics? Something like the HiFiMan HE-6 headphone with matching EF5 tube amp from HeadDirect... or perhaps the LCD-2 running off a beta22, because you might as well start at the top.
    Oh, and I think I saw some Stax systems going for cheap on the sale forums.
    ... just sayin' [​IMG]
  9. Chimera-se
    I'll throw a word in for the Music Hall 25.3. I recently heard it feeding a Woo WA3 and my T1s...it's a nice little DAC.
    BTW, I hope you stick around here...your writing style is great!
  10. navii
    do you have a surround sound system? I like playing video games with my surround system instead of headphones... i still get my butt handed to me in COD BO
  11. igotnojob
    @navii - I do have a full surround system but my current living situation is such that I would get evicted in a flash if I listened to it at a volume that would adequately drive my surrounds. And so, my 10" powered sub stays in a box somewhere. I do find, however, that Dolby headphone works for now. I know it's not actual surround, only downmixed stereo with virtual surround imaging, but my Black Ops game has actually become fairly respectable as of late. I don't get snuck up on nearly as much when rocking Ninja Pro. Still, the dream is to one day live in a place where I can blast full 11.1 surround and go all Leeroy Jenkins on people.
    @Chimera-se - I appreciate the tip but it caught me just a little late. I admit I got antsy after checking in last night and went ahead and ordered a Yulong D100 DAC off eBay after reading reviews here from several very satisfied owners. Now that I've had a chance to look up the Music Hall, it seems very competitive to be sure. Now I am wishing I wasn't so impatient and waited a bit so I could weigh all my options. But I suppose that is what happens when I get like this. By that, I mean I tend to get really excited when I start getting into something new like I am with the head-fi thing. And, in a sense, that impatience to go deeper is amplified by the fact that I have always loved music but, until I came here and ordered my first head amp + DAC + decent headphones, I never really knew how good music could sound. I feel like I've wasted so much time with the not knowing and I want to make up for it. Anyway, I hope I don't regret the Yulong because I may have to use it as my primary DAC for awhile until my financial advisor at Ameriprise starts taking my calls again.
    @Armaegis - All good suggestions, sir. You are a gentleman and a scholar. And, to be honest, that is eventually where I will go with all of this. My next step will likely be a balanced setup followed by orthos followed by a hours of listening enjoyment followed shortly thereafter by a long prison sentence. With that setup you mentioned, I would quickly find myself going from the poorhouse into a 3-5 stretch at Sing-Sing for grand theft stereo. But then I wouldn't have to listen out of headphones cause I understand penal colony common area loudspeakers sport fairly good fidelity. But I can dream. [​IMG]
    I think I am looking for headphones next. Any suggestions on one more pair to complement the ones I already have (HD580, HD595, K701, T.Fi)  to round out any holes in my sound spectrum?  I want to spend ~$300 (the better phones will have to wait for later, I suppose). After I get the phones, I think I'm gonna STOP THE INSANITY, Susan Powter-style, and spend a good long time listening and enjoying before I move up to the next level. Thanks for all of the awesome suggestions and recommendations so far. Even if my anxiousness has led me not to heed all of them at times, I really do appreciate your thoughts on different gear and it all helps me choose by pointing me to more topics I can search for and read up on in these forums.
  12. Armaegis
    Upgrade your HD580 into a HD600. All you have to do is buy the HD600 grills (you just pry off the old ones and slip the new ones on). Get the HD650 cable while you're at it since it's much more solid and durable. Total upgrade cost should be about $40.
    I consider the vintage AKG K240 Sextett an improvement over the K701. It loses out a bit of that high end detail, but the mids and especially midbass open up and gain a wonderful warmth to them. Absolutely magical coming out of a tube amp, and the only full sized can I kept after going through a massive spree in the summer like you.
    Beyond that, save the money for moving up the ladder rather than sideways.

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