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How to get HiFi quality via Headphones at work?

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by Crocodile JD, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. Crocodile JD

    Crocodile JD
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    For good quality CD play back at work, what is the best way to run my HD580 cans (300 Ohm) at work. I assume the PC would give me the best chance of a less conspicous system, but I do want a good sound.

    What have you guys done?

    Cheers

    Croc
     
  2. alexs2

    alexs2
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    I use a similar setup at work here,using an HP laptop and HD600's or a set of Etymotic in-ear phones,but have to say the laptop struggles to drive the HD600's adequately.

    One thing I haven't tried which may be useful is a headphone amp aimed at the PC market,and the Headroom Bithead with it's USB input seems not only well reviewed,but cheap currently...may be worth a look if you want a bit more power available for proper headphones.....I'm not sure it will be an option for me,as if my wife finds another bit of hifi creeping into the house there may be trouble(she hasnt seen the size or cost of the 300B valve amps arriving for Xmas yet).
     
  3. Crocodile JD

    Crocodile JD
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    Is that for use with a sound card that has a USB connection then or any USB I/O?
     
  4. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Best thing to do is to take a look at the maker's blurb on this,as it explains it a lot better than me!

    http://www.headphone.com/layout.php?productID=0000010003

    Hope it helps,as it does look like a very useful device for laptop audio.
     
  5. cwick

    cwick
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    The MAudio Transit does a similar job. Just plug it into a spare USB port and you're good to go.
     
  6. alexs2

    alexs2
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    It certainly does,and also uses 24bit DACs which the Bithead doesnt,but I'm not sure of the power output of the Transit,and thus of it's ability to drive headphones like the HD600 or similar to high(ish) levels....would be very interested in your comments on that,if you've used one,as it's more compact and obtainable here,so may be a possibility for me as well.....
     
  7. cwick

    cwick
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    Personally, I use the MAudio Sonica (pre-dates the Transit). It's loud enough for me most of the time, although my EarMax Pro does go louder (driving HD600's), but I don't think I could recommend it if loud is your thing.

    A friend of mine did buy the Transit though - he tried my Sonica and found it just wasn't loud enough for him (into some HD580's, I think), but he's very happy with his Transit, in a mines-better-than-yours kind of way. I'll try and nick it off him for an evening to compare and contrast.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  8. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Thanks Carl for the info there.....I'm not out for loud as such,but do appreciate an amp that can go loud without distress when required,so what you've said there is very helpful,and makes the Transit one I'd consider myself now.

    BTW...nice choice for headphone amp...good to see another one here(have you tried NOS mil-spec tubes in it yet?)
     
  9. cwick

    cwick
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    I had a go with the Transit last night, and I'm suprised at how much better it is than the Sonica. Much, much clearer low end and midrange, it made the Sonica sound very muddy indeed. A definate improvement.

    It wasn't significantly louder, if at all, than the Sonica, but it was certainly handling my HD600s better. The Sonica, in comparison, just went to pieces at high levels whereas the Transit seemed to keep it together. I did notice some clipping at max volume on the Transit though.

    However, all this was through a Mac which appears to have more limited driver options. And my mate swears it goes louder when driven from his PC & HD580s. I'll give that a go on Friday.

    I still prefer the sound of either when passed through the Earmax, but I'm pretty sure a Transit is now on the toy-list (unless something more interesting comes along). It's clearly a major improvement over my Sonica :(

    Haven't tried any replacement tubes in my Earmax (yet) - I'm still happy with the sound it makes right now, but I'm sure I'll get the itch eventually :) Any pointers on where to get 'em from ?

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  10. ipodstudio

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    OK, this is my territory... :devil: What I've done is to buy a Denon DCP-150 PCDP which is often said to be the best PCDP ever built. I then run that to the Larocco Full Monty headphone amp via either digital or optical connection. From there I run a Cardas v2 headphone cable to Sennheiser HD 650 headphones. I previously used a fullsize Arcam FMJ CD33t source but I can tell you the difference between the two setups is far less than you'd think. With that kind of setup you will receive audiophile quality music anywhere you like, even on the go. :smashin:

    Right now I'm in the process of designing a new kind of headphone amp together with Larocco Audio in the States. More about that in a couple of weeks!! :lesson:

    In the meantime Jan Meier, a well respected headphone amp designer based in Germany has given the ipod studio a limited supply of Porta Corda MKII portable headphone amps for half-price (90 Euros or $120) instead of the normal €175. They'll be available next week at the exact same price plus shipping as we're conducting this as a group-buy. (we're just a non-commercial/non-profit hobby site).

    LOL! You got the scoop on this first as I haven't even made the announcement at IS, yet.. ;)

    Going back to your original question, you could always replace the soundcard in your computer and use that as the source. Great thing about a PCDP, though, is you can just pick it up and take it with you if you like, amp and all if it's small enough. Good luck!
     
  11. ipodstudio

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    I haven't heard the Bithead, yet, but I'd like to. I've read alot of positive comments and reviews about it.

    My wife just cocks her head on one side and looks at me like I'm an idiot..:D
     
  12. extremelydodgy

    extremelydodgy
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    I guess it depends on how much you want to spend, and whether you have a laptop or desktop. I don't really have much experience in truly portable audio cards, but I occasionally use an Echo Indigo PCMCIA card. It will power the HD650 to reasonable levels, but like most soundcards it will struggle to boom on high impedance / mid sensivity cans.
    If you're installing / have a usable soundcard with questionable power, then Headsave (www.headsave.com) sell very effective and inexpensive headphone amps.
    If you are considering something truly portable, something far more versatile than any 'classic PCDP' is the iPod. Amped, it sounds remarkably deck-like. Fill it with Apple Lossless compressed tunes for CD-quality audio on the move. The Rio Karma with it's ampable docking station also gets kudos from many. It also supports lossless compression, this time via the more open FLAC format. Both are worth trying if you're looking for pieces in a solution which you can move from home to work (and inbetween) easily. You can leave the HD580 and amp at work, and enjoy tunes to and from work using a more compact phone like the Shure E2c.
     
  13. ipodstudio

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    That's very true. I've long beeen amazed at how good an ipod can sound in the right setup. ;)
     
  14. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Thanks for the comments on the Transit.....on my toy list now as well!

    As to the Earmax....plenty of good sources of NOS tubes around,and I'd be happy to point you towards a few of my favourites,if/when you want to try or just have a change.

    I have one of the original Earmax's(not the Pro)and the difference between the original tubes and e.g.Telefunken ECC86 tubes,and Mullard mil-spec ECC81's is quite striking....much better defined without being sharp.
     
  15. ipodstudio

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    Alex, did you see the new
    Meier Audio Eartube? Looks interesting! Seems to combine solid and tube in one. I'd like to test one of these real soon. I think Jan's releasing the first batch in a week or so.
     
  16. alexs2

    alexs2
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    NO...hadn't seen that,and it does look interesting,as does that nice 2A3 amp(the Moth or Eddie?),but I've got my hands full with a pair of 300B kits right now,and my wife would have a fit if any more things came into the house(the 300Bs arrived in the form of 45kgs worth of transformers etc!).
     
  17. ipodstudio

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    LOL! I've got a bit of leeway with the wife for the next few weeks as he's just seen my Arcam (temporarily;)) replaced by a Denon DCP-150, making lots of space on my desk. She thinks I'm becoming normal......WRONG!! :devil: Just the lull before the storm.. :D
    We're having a European ipod studio & Head-Fi meet down here in S. Spain in Febuary. I hope to pick up a Meridian 508.20/24 by then.
     
  18. Crocodile JD

    Crocodile JD
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    extremelydodgy wrote
    I've got an under PC monster (I do 3D design and the software is hungry) at work. I don't listen to music on the move so I'd be happy with a saparate amp so long as it was portable enough so that I could take it home to use (via tape loop from my amp) when required. I don't even need to transport the cans as I have 2 sets.

    The Headsave looks like a good option, Pbirkett had already given me the heads up on it and I've had a quote from Norm. The only thing then would be the sound card. How much do I need to spend on a sound card (and which one) to justify a separate amp? I was thinking possibly of the MAudio 2496 or something like that, but with the amp as well (and recent outlay on 2nd set of cans, I'm pushing the budget. What is a good value for money option???. I don't need EAX or DD/DTS etc., just good quality stereo.

    Thanks for all the replies guys

    Cheers

    Croc
     
  19. extremelydodgy

    extremelydodgy
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  20. CJROSS

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    Alex

    The M-Audio is a stunning piece of kit IMHO, has a few uses : as a headphone amp [edit + source of course] ( I drive Sony MDR-EX71 in-ear & £100 Sony MDR-V700 closed back cans very well – noise levels are non existant with these phones) off my PC, you can of course use a 3.5mm minijack to RCA lead for connecting to an amplifier if you wish, It can also be used to optically output from your PC a toslink optical output (Ive even used it as a transport to my DAC with great results) and it features a minijack toslink input & anlg input. Can be set to a number of settings & sample rates, ie 16/24 Bit or 48Khz or 96Khz sampling. A stunning piece of kit IMHO. The Sonica is the same piece of kit without a anlg input AFAICT.

    More about it here FYI (Funnily enough in a thread that started about the Emu 0404 card) :

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=12957
     
  21. cwick

    cwick
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    Hmmm ... maybe I need a driver update for my Sonica ? The performance difference I heard the other night puts the two miles apart - there was nothing subtle about it either.

    Quick google does indeed suggest that they are basically the same thing apart from that analogue input. The Transit was running the latest drivers, the Sonica had whatever I'd installed many months ago ....looks like a driver refresh and a re-test.

    Thanks for the heads-up - you might have just saved me some cash
    :smashin:

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  22. extremelydodgy

    extremelydodgy
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    The EX71 and V700DJ are great phones for ironing out variations in sources, as neither resolve to a high level and both have a generally 'fun' tone. True high fidelity phones such as the HD580 will brutally point out inadequacies which are only hinted at with those phones.
     
  23. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Well Extreme comparing the "fun" tone I hear from the M-Aduio transit & V700s to my hifi rig Im more than happy. They resolve plenty to these ears TBH. OPMMV of course. I cant see wht the V700s are not true high fidelity phones either TBH. IMHO.
     
  24. extremelydodgy

    extremelydodgy
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    I knew I'd put someone's nose out of joint. Sorry about that, but I'm not one of those Internet idiots who would bash stuff just because it's made by Sony... actually quite the opposite in many ways. But take a listen to an HD580 or HD650, and I dare you to tell me with a straight face that the MDR-V700DJ is a high fidelity headphone, which is presumably what we're talking about in this thread. I have a pair and I find them very entertaining (if pretty uncomfortable) with portable players but I wouldn't use them to comment on the quality of sources / amps.
     
  25. Crocodile JD

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    On the sound card, its between the M-audio 2496 (PCI), the E-mu 0404 (PCI) or the M-Audio Transit, but I need some advice. I wanted to try running the cans without an additional amp initially just to see if I can get away with it. I'm interested to see how my lower impedence HD590s will fair. The question is: is the line level analogue out good for either going on to an amp or connecting direct to the headphones. I know the Transit is, in fact it is easier to connect cans than an amp as it has a mini jack out and the spec states that it is for either, but the others don't say. I was pressuming that they would do the same, except that the adaptation would be the other way around i.e RCA back to mini jack for connecting the cans. Is this right?

    TIA

    Croc
     
  26. WhyAyeMan

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    Actually if you plan to utilise the analogue out, many people are preferring the 0404 to the 1212M due to its more forward, lively nature. I have one myself and its absolutely amazing for the price. I had a Terratec EWX before (Terratecs equivalent to the M-Audio Audiophile card) and the 0404 sounds considerably better to these ears. The 0404 uses a top of the range AKM AK4395 DAC, so its very detailed and has excellent bass.

    It can drive headphones directly with the right cable (you would need 2x male jack plug at one end, and 1x stereo jack/minijack female at the other end) however its not designed to run headphones so I would strongly recommend using a dedicated headphone amp for the best results. Apparently, it works best with high impedance cans when used directly though.
     
  27. Crocodile JD

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    ...well the amp is gonna have to wait as Norm has just notified me that his order books are full and he's not taking any more until January (Does me a favour TBH as funds are a little tight now until after christmas).

    what about the M-audio then, is that a better either/or? Is the 2496 line out spec. the same as the Transit line out spec. because the Transit is advertised as being suitable for cans direct?

    Cheers

    Croc
     
  28. extremelydodgy

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    The Head-Fi 'Computers As Sources' contingent has a high placebo factor. Still, it's a semi-pro soundcard, only £60 and you can be sure that your money's gone into the sound and flexible routing capabilities as opposed to shiny 3D effects. Looked at either way it can't be a bad choice. I suppose you could make a headphone adaptor cable from bits out of Maplin right now, grin and bear it until Norm gets back to Nor... no, that's too weak a crack even for me. An alternative is JMTaudio (jmtaudio.com) with the PIMETA which is the best amp that he offers, and he does a pactec-encased portable amp for $150 or thereabouts. I don't know what his work is like recently but his build when I bought an amp a couple of years back was first-rate (although not as pragmatic a build as Norm).
     
  29. Crocodile JD

    Crocodile JD
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    Thanks for the replies again....well I've gone for the internal SC the M-audio 2496. I know some say the E-mu is better, but I managed to get my company to purchase the card :thumbsup: :D (since it is for work PC and since they know I'm more likely to work over if I have a decent music option at work), but the budget was capped and it wouldn't quite stretch to the E-mu. Really in my heart of hearts I was only ever gonna be happy going to an external head amp so the integral RCA's will be perfect.

    extremelydodgy thanks for the heads up on JMT - I did look at the possibility of building my own PIMETA some time ago but shied away from it - I'll certainly have a look at JMT's version anyway

    Cheers

    Croc
     
  30. WhyAyeMan

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    True enough, although with the 1212M you are paying for extra digital board. It uses a Crystal DAC which is more laid back, but possibly more detailed and refined - depends what you want....

    Croc JD, I'm surprised the M-Audio was any cheaper than the 0404 to be honest. Never mind, the M-Audio is still a very good card IMHO.
     

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