High quality output from a computer

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by nickfriend54, May 3, 2011.

  1. nickfriend54

    nickfriend54 New Member

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    Hi,

    I am currently using a Musical Fidelity A1 and Celestion DITTON 130 speakers from which I stream at lossless quality music via an apple airport express. So far I have been very happy with the quality of this; it is much better than a direct connection to the amp with the 3.5mm port of my mac.

    I am now switching to headphones (not my idea!), but I don't get a good sound out of the 3.5mm port. What I would like to do is get a headphone amplifier that plugs into the USB port and acts as an external sound card (DAC). I am not sure which one to go for; I considered going down the M-Audio pro range but they are very pricey and I don't need the kind of input that they provide. I thought that maybe the iBasso D2 and the Grado SR125i would be a nice combination?

    I am willing to spend £200 on headphones that are solely for home use; but from what I've read Grado are great for the kind of music I listen to (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Phil Collins etc). Is the SR125i the best bet for me or would the SR80i be enough?

    I really like the look of the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA but that is a hell of a lot of money and I think it would be wasted on non-classical music.

    I would be very grateful to know what you think. Thanks in advance.

    Nick
     
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi Nick

    Grado SR125i are one of the stand out models from their range and I'm sure you would really enjoy this model for the music you like. Picking an amp is really important as each amp has a quite different effect on each different model of headphone.

    Grado Are open backed and will leak quite a bit of noise, also the Grado headphones are on the bright side as are the iBasso amp. With the extra detail from the DAC this set up might end up a little bright.

    What is your preference for presentation? Do you like a bright and aggressive tone or do you prefer a warm and relaxed tone? I am happy to answer as many questions as it takes before you are sure of the set up you are getting:)
     
  3. nickfriend54

    nickfriend54 New Member

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    I like quite an aggressive tone with the bass; I like it to penetrate through but not to overpower. I always find sennheiser headphones to be a bit empty in the bass with the treble being a bit too crisp. I really want 'soundstage' I guess; which is why I started looking at grado. I like headphones that really transport you into the sound. I do like warmth; my celestion speakers have a very warm sound which slightly distorts classical music but is fantastic for the music I am into.

    For example when I listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn on my brother's Meridian system with Monitor Audio gold floor standing speakers I find that more sound comes through; by that I mean that there is fantastic definition in the upper range, but I do find that it loses part of the magic of the music. My hi-fi suites this music well because there is enough muscle and energy in the sound. I do find that when i'm listening to say Elliot Smith, the celestion speakers don't transport quite enough emotion through; they are slightly too warm and the sound comes out a tad generic. But I guess you can't have everything.

    I own a pair of bose triport headphones which I use when I don't want people to hear what I'm listening to on the train or whatever - but when I'm at home I find these to be lacking. They amplify great mid on some songs and great bass on others, but they never seem to fully hit the nail on the head.

    I guess what I want is the soundstage of my system at home with a bit more emotion available for artists like Radiohead or Elliot Smith, but with enough energy to really get into the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Stevie Ray. If possible I would like to be able to get quite a lot of soundstage without having to deafen myself.

    For these headphones I don't care if others can hear what I'm listening to word for word as I already have a pair that don't let too much out. I don't even care if they are massive; as they will sit on my desk at home.

    Maybe the answer is the grado headphones with a warmer amp or vice versa? I am totally in your hands on this as I don't have enough time to become an expert and spend hours and hours reading reviews.

    I would be happy to phone up and have this conversation if you think it will be quicker. I would ideally like to get this for the weekend.

    Thanks very much,

    Nick
     
  4. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hope you really enjoy your DT880 32ohm and your iBasso D2!:D
     
  5. nickfriend54

    nickfriend54 New Member

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    For the benefit of others who might be looking for the same thing as me I am going to write a full review of my new 'setup'.

    Firstly I would like to thank Robin at HifiHeadphones - I spend about ages on the phone talking about these and he was extremely patient. It really pays dividends to buy this kind of equipment from people who really know what they are talking about; I am absolutely over the moon with this equipment and am very grateful to them for rushing this order through for me.

    So; what I ended up with was the iBasso D2+ and the Beyerdynamic DT880 32Ohm.

    Firstly I will talk about the iBasso. This unit is so so well made. It is a fantastic little amplifier; I know it will last for a long time. It is very stylish and the gain and DAC function really add to the sound from my Mac. Worth every penny!

    I have been listening to the Beyerdynamic DT880s for about two hours so far. They are exactly as Robin described them. The sound is full and definitely what I would call 'reference' quality. They are fairly flat EQ which is actually not quite what I was expecting, but they really do cover the entire spectrum of sound very very well and produce a great, not overly crisp sound. They sound fantastic with ALL different types of music. What I did decide to do was use 'Hear' - a software EQ for mac because for certain tracks I do like quite a 'cheap' sound with lots of bass and a kind of false boost to the sound. I am very glad however that the headphones don't do this automatically because with some songs it ends up detracting from the sound and emotion if the headphones are boosting the sound automatically.

    What I do is if I am listening to very live music like the Red Hot Chili Peppers I boost the bass and add more soundstage via the EQ, and the headphones can cope with it with ease; there is no distortion, it just sounds exactly how I like it. However with other music like Elliot Smith or classical music I just take advantage of the clean sound of the headphones and I really do end up absorbed into the music. The DT880s don't falsify the sound like my Bose Triports; they just output it as it was recorded. So I guess what I'm saying is that the headphones can cope with anything you throw at them, but you don't have to compensate for their natural 'sound' you just change the EQ to match how you like certain music to sound. This is a much better system than what I was originally looking for because it is very easy to get bored of an overly aggressive natural sound and when you don't have the EQ available it can ruin some music. This system will definitely last a long time because I won't get bored of the clean reference sound that the system produces. I originally was going to choose Grado headphones because I thought they would be a better version of my Bose headphones; but I'm glad I didn't because I have a very broad taste in music.

    I was also very grateful to HifiHeadphones because I had no idea how the Grados and the iBasso would work together but they obviously did and it was very valuable to find this out before hand. To anyone who is thinking of buying new headphones I would say that the best thing is to listen to your current system or your favourite music and think about what kind of sound you like; then call them up or write on this forum and they will be able to reccomend something. I put myself in their hands because I didn't have enough time to buy loads of magazines and spend a lot of time reading reviews and I'm very glad I did.

    What I was also very impressed with is that HifiHeadphones didn't just try and sell me the most expensive system; in fact Robin gave me very good advice on whether it would be worth spending x amount more or less and what you get for the extra money: no hard sale, just very very good advice.

    So I now have a perfect system that does exactly what I wanted. I wanted a great output from a computer which was high quality and well made. The iBasso D2+ fits this bill perfectly. For the headphones I wanted comfort, build quality, a broad sound spectrum that wasn't fake or transparent and a a sound that would work across different genres of music. Well; that is exactly what I ended up with. The DT880s are very comfortable, the build quality is fantastic with metal parts where other brands might use plastic and the sound is not only very genuine and full, but it really does play all different music very well. Thats not to say that if you only listened to classical music you couldn't do better; I'm sure that HifiHeadphones would pick the right ones for you and they may or may not be these ones, but whether I'm listening to 80s music where I want soundstage and bass or classical music where I want quality of sound; a penetrating fullness and emotion, the DT880s really do step up.

    BUT now that I've said that, I would not recommend this system for you... why? Because headphones are a very personal thing and it is ALWAYS worth talking to the experts about it because you may like your music to sound totally different to me. So; what I would say is give HifiHeadphones a call if you are looking for a seriously good headphone system and they will advise you which products match what YOU are looking for. Their advice really is very impartial and it pays off to ask them.

    I really can't thank you enough HifiHeadphones. I am very very happy with my new setup!

    Nick Friend
     
  6. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Really glad to help out Nick! Was a pleasure to have a chat on the phone and please do let me know if you need any help again:D
     
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