Yet another headphone thread

Malor wrote:

I don't think I'd ever buy one, but I've heard a lot of people like tube amps -- they're noisier and have more distortion than solid state, but people actually like the sound of the distortion.

I already have a Matrix Mini-i. I've wanted to try one of the Tube amps for a long time. The Little Dot series seems to be one of the most universally well liked and the MKIII is extremely popular, so I went for it.

If I don't like the way it sounds after break-in it's not like I won't be able to sell it on Head-Fi for most of what I paid for it.

A big thing with Tube amps is that you can customize the sound by replacing the tubes which you can't do very easily with a solid state amp, they're also supposed to have a warmer sound..

Yeah, I just use my little Total Bithead for amplification purposes. Tubes would be fun to play with, I suppose, but I'm very happy with my current setup, and don't have a big desire to change anything.

One thing I'd be interested in trying is the fully solid-state amplifiers for speakers. Panasonic had some little receivers out that used that technology a few years ago, and AV geeks just raved about them, said they were incredible for such cheap units. Apparently they hardly weighed anything, and didn't do very well in the mass market -- lots of folks out there think that weight is the best measure of an amplifier. So I think Panasonic discontinued them. Kind of a bummer, I'd wanted to check one out, but never got around to it.

they're also supposed to have a warmer sound..

Yeah, tubes have a particular distortion they introduce... it's either odd or even harmonics, but I never remember which. Digital amplifiers, if they add any at all, typically add the other kind. People find the tube distortion more pleasing to their ears, which is why they're still popular. They also clip a lot more gracefully, so if you listen to music REALLY LOUD, apparently tubes are where it's at.

Malor wrote:

Part of the reason I'm somewhat dismissive of your opinion is because you hold so strongly to the idea that you don't need to spend more than $150 on headphones, that any more money is wasted, while simultaneously not having extended experience with the gear you deride. If you actually had a few hundred hours on something really good, like the HD600s or the BT775s, then I'd completely respect the opinion that buying cheaper is better. But as is, I don't think you can make that call.

I am still confused on why it is controversial to judge a pair of headphones on its own merits, or with other pieces of gear in its class. Is it fair to compare a $50 headphone with a $300 headphone, or is it better to compare it with the other pieces of hardware in its class?

Got my Klipsch S2m's this weekend, and am really happy with them as a lower-priced option ($60 retail, $26 shipped from Amazon). I've traditionally been an earbud man, and these being in-ear, I'm really pleased with them for my needs.

I'm gonna be buying a new iPod soon to replace my 2nd gen 8gb (which is going to go to my wife). Anyone got a good suggestion for a nice pair of in-ear headphones? Last pair I bought were a pair of Shures.

Has anyone listened to the Grado iGi in ear headphones? http://goodcans.com/HeadphoneStore/i...

I'm a fan of their headphones, at least I love my SR80s. My previous in ear favorites, Denon AH-C351 have died. I'm curious about the new grado iems, but I don't want to purchase without some more info.

Thin_J wrote:

The plan is to use my Beyerdynamic DT-770's for most of the testing, simply because they're the highest impedance pair of cans I have and should, in theory, benefit most from the amp.

Are you using the 250 or 600 Ohms version?

My Little Dot MKIII came today. Initial impressions are positive but I'm aware there's a lengthy burn in time with sound changing over time as you put hours on the amp. Supposedly I'll have a solid idea where things are going after 48 hours. I'll probably just leave it going over the next couple days with my music collection on random to deal with the burn in.

The biggest advantage right now is that it acts as an in-line pre-amp volume control between my PC and 2.1 setup, which is a big bonus. It's nice leaving my PC cranked to 100% and just using a volume knob to fine tune. Constantly fiddling with my PC's volume was getting old.

I'm also fairly impressed with build quality. This thing is super solid. Very well put together all around. It's certainly bigger than I expected based on pictures, but it's not so big I don't have space for it.

I have a plan to really test out whether I really like the tube amp better or not. The plan is to do it as blindly as possible. I have multiple sets of identical cables that each lead to a 3.5mm jack for my headphones, each of those is in turn conncected to my various amps, including the Astro A40 Mixamp, A FiiO E5 headphone Amp, and the Little Dot MKIII. I'll jumble up all the cables below the desk and toss them up top, and hook the headphones up to each one and listen to a few things. Barring any mistakes, it should be impossible for me to tell what's hooked up to what and I'll have to figure out what I like with my ears. Should save me from any kind of placebo effect. I'll have to go through each independently and try to normalize the volume as much as possible first, but after that I think my methodology is fairly sound, or at least as much as it needs to be for my purposes.

If I end up preferring the sound of something I already had or not being able to tell the difference I'll sell the Little Dot and assume my current setup is good enough.

The plan is to use my Beyerdynamic DT-770's for most of the testing, simply because they're the highest impedance pair of cans I have and should, in theory, benefit most from the amp.

heavyfeul wrote:
Thin_J wrote:

The plan is to use my Beyerdynamic DT-770's for most of the testing, simply because they're the highest impedance pair of cans I have and should, in theory, benefit most from the amp.

Are you using the 250 or 600 Ohms version?

The 250's. I had the 80's originally, but eventually ended up with a couple of headphone amps and traded even to a guy who really wanted the 80's.

The Little Dot is rated all the way up to 600 Ohms though, so really it should power just just about every pair of headphones out there.

*edit*

If I have a complaint at this point it's that I only have one input. I'd love to feed my spare Xbox into the thing too. Then I could flip back and forth between audio on it and the PC, and split that between either my 2.1 or my headphones in whatever way I wanted with just a switch and a button, which is basically what I was doing with the Matrix Mini-I.

heavyfeul wrote:
Thin_J wrote:

The plan is to use my Beyerdynamic DT-770's for most of the testing, simply because they're the highest impedance pair of cans I have and should, in theory, benefit most from the amp.

Are you using the 250 or 600 Ohms version?

The 250's. I had the 80's originally, but eventually ended up with a couple of headphone amps and traded even to a guy who really wanted the 80's.

The Little Dot is rated all the way up to 600 Ohms though, so really it should power just just about every pair of headphones out there.

*edit*

If I have a complaint at this point it's that I only have one input. I'd love to feed my spare Xbox into the thing too. Then I could flip back and forth between audio on it and the PC, and split that between either my 2.1 or my headphones in whatever way I wanted with just a switch and a button, which is basically what I was doing with the Matrix Mini-I.

*edit 2*

I'm still awake screwing around with this thing. I've basically been fiddling with it since this afternoon. I got impatient and went ahead and started my testing, and have kind of gone overboard. Discovered some fairly interesting things though. Instead of just testing with the Beyers though, I also tested with my Sennheiser HD595's just to see how different the results would be with a significantly more efficient pair of cans. I did the 595's first. The results for those are actually pretty interesting. Anyway, once I was sure I had no idea which of the outputs was which I numbered them, and then made columns on a sheet, then I sat through what I think is a fairly diverse playlist and tried to just listen, and see which one I liked better. I went back and forth between the three outputs for each song with both the DT770's and the HD595's. I included the filetypes on everything to give you an idea the kind of sources I'm working with. There's an oddity in there, which is Nightwish with two file types but we'll get to that in a bit.

Playlist:
Dredg - Drunk Side (320kbps MP3)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion (320kbps MP3)
Yo Yo Ma - Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007/Prélude (320kbps MP3)
Frightened Rabbit - Things (320kbps MP3)
Kingdom of Heaven Soundtrack, Harry Gregson-Williams - Ibelin (Lossless WMA)
Soilwork - Like the Average Stalker (Lossless WMA)
Joe Pug - I Do My Father's Drugs (320kbps MP3)
Brian Eno - The End (320kbps MP3)
Adele - Tired (Lossless WMA)
A Perfect Circle - Passive (320kbps MP3)
Dark Knight Soundtrack - Aggressive Expansion (320kbps MP3)
Nightwish - Amaranth (256kbps MP3 first, then Lossless WMA)
Shawn Watkins - Let It Fall (Lossless WMA)
Massive Attack - Angel (Lossless WMA)
Jimmy Eat World - Electable (Give it Up) (320kbps MP3)
Bocherini - Quintetto In Do Maggiore La Musica Notturna Delle Strade Di Madrid Op. 30, No. 6 (G. 324): Passa Calle - Allegro Vivo (320kbps MP3)
In Flames - Move Through Me (320kbps MP3)
Joshua Radin - No Envy No Fear (320kbps MP3)

First thing's first... there's at least a couple of songs where I couldn't tell the difference between any of the three amps with either pair of headphones. Turns out that looking at the waveform for those songs in Audacity basically screams "This is a sh*t recording. Oops." There's very little in the way of peaks or valleys in the waveforms. Everything is clipped and compressed. Terrible. This is what led to me ripping the Nightwish song over again in lossless and listening again. It didn't help. Other songs I failed to identify any of the Amps in: Jimmy Eat World, Soilwork

So with that out of the way, let's get to details. One, the HD595's made the FiiO and the A40 Mixamp almost indistinguishable on just about everything, and the advantages of the Little Dot disappeared on a few songs but were accentuated in others. The 595's are by default very clear and forward with a sound that's not as smooth as most other Sennheiser sets, but has a lot of detail and a great soundstage. They're not at all that usual Sennheiser "house" sound. The Little Dot had a tendency to smooth them out and increase the bass in songs where the other two amps just sounded like the headphones on any other source without the amp, but it did it while still making the soundstage seem wider and more open. At first it almost sounds weird. That was especially true in most of the rock stuff, and anything with an acoustic part. The Little Dot sticks out from the other two pretty clearly, but I seriously could not tell the FiiO and the Mixamp apart. Not even a little. It took me about half the playlist before I had very clearly decided that connection two was the Little Dot. After I finished the playlist and checked my results (Yep, picked out the little dot easily enough!) I took off my numbers and re-jumbled the cables again, then moved on to the Beyerdynamics.

Wow. The 770's were almost like listening to different headphones when I switched connections. I pegged the Little Dot on all of the first five songs, and decided that was probably enough. I then spent twenty minutes trying to separate the FiiO from the A40 Mixamp and absolutely could not. Everything sounds the same through them, which is to say fine, and in most cases good, but not like the sound from the Little Dot. With the 770's the Little Dot makes them sound almost like a pair of open headphones instead of closed. It widens the soundstage so much compared to the other two, it brightens and accentuates the higher frequencies significantly and and even sharpens and cleans up the somewhat heavy handed bass the 770's are known for when insufficiently powered. It really balances this particular pair of headphones out in a way I hadn't expected.

Anyway, that's most of what I've got so far.

I think if there's a flaw in what I've done here it's that I should have had an unamped connection mixed in as a control. If I had to guess I'd say I probably would have mixed it up with the FiiO and Mixamp a few times, but without actual testing who knows. I just know that little FiiO is getting tossed back in the laptop bag.

Tomorrow I'll try and test the Matrix Mini-I against the Little Dot, but I suspect the results will be pretty clear. The Matrix has always been very transparent. It was a clear improvement with the 770's over the other amp I had when I got it (just the Astro Mixamp), but it never blew me away. It was pretty clearly just better because it was finally providing the 770's with enough juice to really run them. I never noticed much difference in the way of sound quality.

The other effect I heard was a fairly noticeable coloring of the sound from my 2.1 system when it's getting its signal from the pre-amp outs on the Little Dot as opposed to coming straight from the PC. So far... I'm really, really enjoying it. Here's hoping burn-in only makes it better!

LiquidMantis wrote:

Unless someone tells me that the 595s will actually outperform the 650s when running off my Firebox or even my X-Fi I'm going to order up a pair.

I would test drive the 600s, like Malor says. You might fall in love and save $100.

Malor wrote:

If the 650s really have bass push and treble rolloff, I don't think I'd buy them. Can you still get 600s?

The 600s are still widely available.

On another note:

I just tried a Foobar plugin that enables Dolby headphone and I prefer it to the different crossfeed plugins available. The massive soundstage it creates is phenomenal and it feels natural without losing the musical detail or coloring the sound too much, like other DSPs often do (EAX, CMSS, SRS, etc.). You do have to tweak the amplification setting (in the plugin) just right, but once you find the sweet spot with your amp/soundcard it is great. It goes a long way to fixing the extreme stereo separation problem with headphones, better than the crossfeed software/hardware I have used to this point.

I only wish I could use the plugin for gaming.

I saw something called "ASIO4ALL," which, I think, will allow that (via Foobar plugin maybe?), but the first question in the FAQ is:

Q: What is this for?

A: If you don't know why you would need an ASIO driver then chances are that indeed you don't need one and came here by mere accident.

RTFM indeed!

Anyone know anything about this?

I want this set-up:

All computer sound-->Foobar with DH plugin-->Nuforce Icon Mobile (USB DAC/AMP).

Thin_J wrote:

Amp and headphone review above.

So which FiiO are you using? Is it the E7 or one of the older units?

I was going back and forth between the FiiO E7 and the Nuforce Icon Mobile and I just pulled the trigger on the Nuforce, but I am still curious about the E7. The reviews I have read have been pretty positive.

By the way, if you can find a set of used 580s on EBay or something, they're almost identical to the 600s and a lot cheaper. They do have some kind of manufacturing flaw that makes the headphone cables get squirrely after a year or so. I think Sennheiser is charging for the fix these days (it used to be free), but they don't charge much at all.

heavyfeul wrote:

I only wish I could use the plugin for gaming.

I saw something called "ASIO4ALL," which, I think, will allow that (via Foobar plugin maybe?), but the first question in the FAQ is:

Q: What is this for?

A: If you don't know why you would need an ASIO driver then chances are that indeed you don't need one and came here by mere accident.

RTFM indeed!

Anyone know anything about this?

This isn't what you are looking for. ASIO is a low latency audio driver generally used for audio recording. It's useful for quality music playback as well as it bypasses the Windows audio stack that does nasty stuff like convert to 48kHz. ASIO4All is a wrapper for sound cards that only have a WDM driver so that you can use them for low-latency realtime tracking.

You might be able to do something with Virtual Audio Cables and loopback through Foobar but I wouldn't put money on it.

heavyfeul wrote:
Thin_J wrote:

Amp and headphone review above.

So which FiiO are you using? Is it the E7 or one of the older units?

E5. I didn't know it at the time, but the Astro Mixamp and the E5 aren't really all that different as far as power output goes. It was sort of a waste to bother testing the two side by side. If it were the E7 I think the results might have been slightly different.

Still really loving the Little Dot though. I've tried a bunch of CD's through Foobar over the last few weeks and it sounds so, so good.

Other than picking up yet another nicer pair of headphones (my love for Beyerdynamic has me leaning heavily toward the 600ohm DT-990's) I think I'm good on headphone gear. Sold my Matrix Mini-I to my brother, and the FiiO now goes everywhere with my ZuneHD.

I think you'll be happy with the NuForce. I keep a uDAC-2 in my laptop bag to bypass the interference laden onboard sound out of my Dell.

Well I am gonna come post my problem here. My AKG 240s lasted 8 years and died. They were 99$ when I bought them. They still make them in an upgraded version. But I want to try a different brand at a high impedence and preferably closed. I love bass heavy music and I saw an amazon review comparing the DT 770s to the AKGs.... It was a very favorable review for both actually. So, my question is what do you guys like. I've been looking at DT 770s, AKG 240s, 271s, and Sennheisers line of HD crap. Also, AKGs DJ headphones. And some other crap. I've spent two years looking up to this point. I am really disappointed that there is no place in Texas to listen to headphones..... At least that I am aware of.... Of the brands I want.

I use an Audio DJ 2 External Sound card but, I don't own an amp and never had for the akgs even though they were 600 ohms. My Alienware Laptop in my opinion did a really good job driving the speakers with power.

So, I've also been looking at amps/dacs but I find it useless since I have a competent DAC (Audio DJ 2).... Why would I spend the money on the amp...

rickyyo wrote:

Well I am gonna come post my problem here. My AKG 240s lasted 8 years and died. They were 99$ when I bought them. They still make them in an upgraded version. But I want to try a different brand at a high impedence and preferably closed. I love bass heavy music and I saw an amazon review comparing the DT 770s to the AKGs.... It was a very favorable review for both actually. So, my question is what do you guys like. I've been looking at DT 770s, AKG 240s, 271s, and Sennheisers line of HD crap. Also, AKGs DJ headphones. And some other crap. I've spent two years looking up to this point. I am really disappointed that there is no place in Texas to listen to headphones..... At least that I am aware of.... Of the brands I want.

Denon makes very good closed headphones. The Denon AH-D1001K is in your price range.

The Denons have indeed gotten popular, and looking at them they seem to be extremely well built. As far as sound quality they seem fairly polarizing. Some people love them, some people hate them. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

If you like Bass, the DT-770's are definitely good, as they skew a bit toward that end of the sound spectrum and tend to roll off the mids some.

As far as how any of them sound relative to a pair of AKG's, I can't say. I've never owned any AKG's

Yeah that tends to be the trend.... Nobody owns any AKG products... Poor Austrians.... Hey thanks for the advice.... I'll check out the Denons and the DT 770s... I'm gonna keep trying to search for places that offer the ability to listen. But the DT-770s might be what I'm riding on or another pair of AKGs.

rickyyo wrote:

Nobody owns any AKG products...

For me, I can say I've been lucky taking a leap on a few things so far, but my one experience with Grado was kind of eye opening. I was going to order a set of SR-80's at one point, and then actually got to test them at a lan party. I found the sound to be overly bright, harsh, and the headphones themselves were uncomfortable after about twenty minutes. Cue the immediate sigh of relief that I didn't blow money and order a pair before I left for the lan party.

Ever since then I've been a little bit afraid to stray from brands who have tendencies I know I like. I got lucky with the Beyerdynamic when I splurged and just bought a pair of those (albeit used, at a significantly lesser price) but since then I've not made any risky headphone purchases.

Thanks for the word of warning. Someone had recommened Grado models. My sennheiser in-ear buds I think MX240s are very bright I think would be the term... So that leads me to be very cautious when approaching that brand.

I just picked up a pair of Koss Sportapro headphones for running and I'm amazed. I've read dozens of glowing reviews of Koss' Portapro and Sportapro headphones that all say basically the same thing: great sound for very cheap headphones that are rather ugly and look fragile but come with a lifetime replacement guarantee.

Anyway, I needed something to run with and I don't like IEMs for running and I'd broken my last set of cheapie earbuds. The Sportapros are as adverstised, sound great, feel cheap, look god awful.

So, if you want really good sound but only have 20-30 bucks to spend, you can't go wrong with these. They sound really REALLY REALLY good. I don't understand how they sound so good while looking (and being) so cheap. They sound almost as good as my Grado SR80s. With my ears, I can't really point to the difference, but they are much more clear than any buds or IEMs that I've listened to. Granted, the best IEMs I have are a set of $50 Denon AH-C351s.

Oso wrote:

I just picked up a pair of Koss Sportapro headphones for running and I'm amazed. I've read dozens of glowing reviews of Koss' Portapro and Sportapro headphones that all say basically the same thing: great sound for very cheap headphones that are rather ugly and look fragile but come with a lifetime replacement guarantee.

Anyway, I needed something to run with and I don't like IEMs for running and I'd broken my last set of cheapie earbuds. The Sportapros are as adverstised, sound great, feel cheap, look god awful.

So, if you want really good sound but only have 20-30 bucks to spend, you can't go wrong with these. They sound really REALLY REALLY good. I don't understand how they sound so good while looking (and being) so cheap. They sound almost as good as my Grado SR80s. With my ears, I can't really point to the difference, but they are much more clear than any buds or IEMs that I've listened to. Granted, the best IEMs I have are a set of $50 Denon AH-C351s.

I always recommend KOSS as a budget product because the two or three earbuds I've tried have been suprisingly good. My mother wanted some earbuds and that is what I got her. It was a couple of years ago...

rickyyo wrote:

Thanks for the word of warning. Someone had recommened Grado models. My sennheiser in-ear buds I think MX240s are very bright I think would be the term... So that leads me to be very cautious when approaching that brand.

That is a bad example of a typical Sennheiser headphone. The 500 line and the closed-back models in the 400 line are a little "bright," (at least compared to other Senns.) but for the most part, Sennheiser headphones have a nice smooth laid back sound. I would really give them another chance if you do not like "bright" headphones. Sennheisers are like the anti-Grado. Or are Grados the anti-Sennheiser?

heavyfeul wrote:
rickyyo wrote:

Thanks for the word of warning. Someone had recommened Grado models. My sennheiser in-ear buds I think MX240s are very bright I think would be the term... So that leads me to be very cautious when approaching that brand.

That is a bad example of a typical Sennheiser headphone. The 500 line and the closed-back models in the 400 line are a little "bright," (at least compared to other Senns.) but for the most part, Sennheiser headphones have a nice smooth laid back sound. I would really give them another chance if you do not like "bright" headphones. Sennheisers are like the anti-Grado. Or are Grados the anti-Sennheiser?

It's true either way. Most of the more popular Sennheiser models definitely have a warm very laid back sound to them. The only really popular model I can think of that's different is the HD595's. They're a little brighter, with a little bit wider soundstage than any other set of Senns I've ever listened to. Still warmer and smoother than Grados though.

Here is the product I was shilling for as a great sound card solution. I really like it and it is cheap. It makes things sound amazing and apparently people's opinions are in the same field.

http://www.native-instruments.com/#/...

I use it in conjunction with some DJ software but again I really like this. It doesn't say it amplifies but my headphones were reaching their limits. (Trying to blow out my ears at the highest setting with 600ohms of impedence).

rickyyo wrote:

Well I am gonna come post my problem here. My AKG 240s lasted 8 years and died. They were 99$ when I bought them. They still make them in an upgraded version. But I want to try a different brand at a high impedence and preferably closed. I love bass heavy music and I saw an amazon review comparing the DT 770s to the AKGs.... It was a very favorable review for both actually. So, my question is what do you guys like. I've been looking at DT 770s, AKG 240s, 271s, and Sennheisers line of HD crap. Also, AKGs DJ headphones. And some other crap. I've spent two years looking up to this point. I am really disappointed that there is no place in Texas to listen to headphones..... At least that I am aware of.... Of the brands I want.

I know I'm a little late to reply, but I have the AKG K271s (the original version, not the current one) and I'm pretty happy with them -- they're not ideal for just listening on, but I use them for monitoring while tracking and mixing, and they're great for that. The isolation is great, and they're quite comfortable, too.

I need to get better about tracking guarantees. No everyday outdoor headphones last more than 10 months with me, and Sennheiser plugs don't come cheap.

wordsmythe wrote:

I need to get better about tracking guarantees. No everyday outdoor headphones last more than 10 months with me, and Sennheiser plugs don't come cheap.

I'm in the same boat. The rather nice Ultimate Ears I got recently just crapped out on me (after about 4 months).

Thin_J wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

Also, it is not like I haven't considered getting a pair of cans from the top shelf....

...I dunno man, looking at all those pairs of lesser headphones I think you could have bought two pairs of HD600's by now

Well...you guys inspired me. I just had a headphone fire sale on eBay and was able to find a new HD600 for $280. It should be here on Monday.