An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Headphones, Headsets, Earbuds, Canalphones - stuff that goes on, around or in your ears.
Post Reply
User avatar
luftkopf
Regular
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:52 am
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW

An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by luftkopf » Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:28 pm

I have a set of AKG K271 MKII headphones. I was thinking of upgrading, considering the AD900 on Marcus' recommendation, because I want a better soundstage. I initially thought that the K271's were a bit fatiguing, because of the detailed treble, but after using them for many hours straight over the last few days, I've realised that was just my initial impression of them lingering, and that I've adapted to, and really love their sound. The bass is there, but not over the top, and I love the detail in the treble. Besides wanting a larger soundstage, the only thing that annoys me is that in certain pieces of music, the vocals are a bit pulled back. It seems to me, though, that this has something to do with that musics mastering, and the K271 is just emphasising it. I may be wrong, but that's my impression, because a lot of other music has no problem whatsoever with vocals.

Well. I've been thinking. Would I be better off getting an amp? At 55 ohms, how easy are the K271's to drive? How much would they benefit from an amp? I realised that I really love these cans, and have no intention of replacing them soon, but might consider the Q701 (or something else, who knows?) in the future, and that I might be better off getting an amp for my Mac. And that leads me to wonder how well the Mac will drive the amp? Would I need to get a DAC too? Given that I'm a student, anything will require a bit of saving, so the less spent the better.

Would the HiFiMan EF2A be a decent upgrade from my Mac's onboard sound? Would it do any justice to my K271's, or the Q701 (or AD900, DT880, or whatever I decide upon at some unspecified future time), or would I need to keep saving? I have a Fiio E7, which is completely useless on my Mac, and iDevices, but makes a world of difference on my old Toshiba laptop.

Sorry for the enormous wall of text, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and every time I do that, I wind up with a lot of questions, and just give myself a headache. :confused:
What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease.
- George Dennison Prentice

User avatar
Drubbing
Lost Cause
Posts: 4651
Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Perth, WA

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by Drubbing » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:37 pm

At 55ohms, very unlikely to benefit from an amp.

If you get better, more demanding phones down the track, I'd budget for a DAC and amp of some sort, as the Mac will be too basic a source for them.
These aren't the memes you're looking for

User avatar
luftkopf
Regular
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:52 am
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by luftkopf » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:55 am

So it basically comes down to what order I save up for things. Amp -> DAC -> Good Headphones, or Headphones -> Amp -> DAC.

Now I have to figure out the cost/benefit sweet spot is. The DACMagic seems well loved by many, many people, but that would probably be a bit expensive for me. Would any of the combined amp/DAC units (HiFiMan, NuForce, Matrix) be good enough to drive say the Q701, or the DT880 reasonably well, or would I just need to resign myself to making this a long term project?
What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease.
- George Dennison Prentice

User avatar
Drubbing
Lost Cause
Posts: 4651
Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Perth, WA

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by Drubbing » Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:08 am

For easy to drive phones, a good source will make more of a difference than an amp. So consider that as an upgrade, as there's one less thing to buy.

The Matrix would run those two phones well, but only if amping from a good source. If you go with the DAC/amps listed, go for easier to drive phones.
These aren't the memes you're looking for

User avatar
luftkopf
Regular
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:52 am
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by luftkopf » Sat Nov 26, 2011 12:21 pm

The further I go above $300 for any component, the longer I have to live off mi goreng, and the longer it will be before I can get the next bit.

If it's DAC is better than the iMac, the Matrix Cube is in my price range. If I didn't need a DAC, if the iMac does a good enough job processing the audio, I could get the M-stage. Would I be right in guessing that you can hear the missing hundred dollars in the HiFiMan?

Compared to my K271's, I really want a bigger soundstage, and would like a little better bass, and don't mind too much if the treble isn't quite so prominent, so long as it is still detailed. I think that I want more detailed mids, because I want clearer vocals (I'm studying singing). I have to admit that I do have a bit of a thing for AKG, and Beyerdynamic, but I'm not *completely* blind to competition. How would the K242, and the DT440 compare? Would the Matrix drive the DT440's well? Are the AD900's that much better? Are there any others that I might consider around that same price range?
What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease.
- George Dennison Prentice

User avatar
Felix
Headphonic
Posts: 1758
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:53 am
Location: Perth
Contact:

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by Felix » Sat Nov 26, 2011 12:30 pm

Of all the headphones you're considering the AD900 is the best, and it has the widest soundstage. The K242HD and DT440 have more bass though. All of them are great at their prices for what you are looking for :)

You would need to upgrade your source quality from the iMac. The Hifiman would be good but you're right to assume the Cube is just that much better, as both a DAC and an amp

Really you can't go wrong with any of the items you're considering here since they'll all offer the improvements you're looking after
Headphonic
http://www.headphones.com.au
Ph: (08) 9388 6333
Don't forget to Like us on Facebook!

User avatar
luftkopf
Regular
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:52 am
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by luftkopf » Sat Nov 26, 2011 1:35 pm

OK. The Cube is on my shopping list.

Now I need to decide between my heart and my head. AD900 vs either the K242HD or DT440. I know the AKGs will be more comfortable, they have the same headband as my current ones, and I've had an Ultrasone that had the same headband as the DT440, and it wasn't as comfy, but headband comfort comes second to sound. Man, I wish I lived in Perth!

I have to decide which one I want first. The Cube, or the headphones. Ah, decisions.

Oh, and there's always the DT250, which I have wanted for a long time, but I already have closed cans, and kind of want an open pair. I think.
What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease.
- George Dennison Prentice

aster
Regular
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:44 pm
Location: Melbourne

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by aster » Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:08 pm

The AD900 have comfort levels over 9000, so you can't go wrong with AD900's if your after 'light and fluffy' phones that just sit on your head like clouds.

User avatar
Belial
Devotee
Posts: 1150
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:26 pm
Location: Canberra

Re: An amp, or a headphone upgrade?

Post by Belial » Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:48 am

IMO, headphones >>>> source > amp. Get good easy to drive headphones, run them from an mp3 player and you'll be miles ahead compared to driving lower quality phones with an awesome amp.

Ben
MS-Pro, DT880, DT531, DT250, MS-1, A31s
Behringer UCA202 -> Octavart O1
Nexus 4

http://benrhughes.com

Post Reply