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sayhitojason

Newbie - need help on head-fi setup

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Hi,

 

I am looking to setup a head-fi, and would appreciate if forumers could share with me your experiences. Thank you in advanced.

 

My Situation

 

I have the following home hifi setup:

Marantz CD63 MkII KI --> DIY Belden 89259 I/C --> YBA Integre DT int amp --> Audioquest Type 4+ speaker cables --> Triangle Zephyr speakers

 

I have found that the sound is less than my expectations, but I believe that it is due to my room acoustics. As I do not have the resources to set up a dedicated room properly, I have decided to set up a head-fi arrangement to get better sound when I am doing serious listening.

 

The 63KI has a headphone out, but I doubt it can drive good headphones. This is just an assumption though, and I have not used the headphone outs.

 

The YBA int amp has no headphone out as well.

 

My Thoughts

 

I have thought of the following options for driving the headphones:

1. Get a dedicated headamp.

2. Get another integrated amp with good headphone amp in-built (assuming this exists).

3. Get a preamp with a good headphone amp in-built.

4. Get an AKG 1000 and use my YBA to power it.

 

I would prefer option 2 and 3 as they give me additional functionality which I like. For e.g, option 2 will allow we to have another setup (I have spare bookshelf speakers), while option 3 will allow me to experiment with power amps, and potentially provide remote control functionality (the YBA does not come with a remote).

 

Option 4 will give me one of the coolest headphones, but I am not sure if my YBA will do the job. I understand that the K1000 uses speaker outputs, and not headphone outputs.

 

Also, I would prefer solid-state due to ease of maintenance. I am more the buy-it and play-it kind of guy. Tube-rolling and maintenance is quite a hassle for me, not to mention the heat they produce.

 

My Questions

 

1. Is option 2, 3 and 4 a possibility? I am looking for components that at least meets 80% of the performance of dedicated headamps.

 

2. If 1 is true, any recommendations?

 

3. For option 1, appreciate your inputs on head-fi setups that are very well matched. The only thing I won't change is the source, which is the Marantz 63KI. Personally, I prefer Beyer cans over Senns because I think they provide better value.

 

4. Any general comments on my hifi setup is most appreciated as well.

 

My Experience With Cans

I have head the Senns cans (various models) in shopping centres. I am referring to those that they place in a tower. I think they sounded terrible for the price, but I suspect it is because of the source and amplification.

 

I head the DT880 and DT770Pro via a Denon source and a commercial head-amp at the JBL and Beyer roadshow. I liked the DT880. DT770Pro was out as it was too fatiguing listening to them (bass too strong, and highs too high).

 

I was also told that the DT150 is better than the DT880. Any opinions on this?

 

My Budget

 

This is for the whole system setup.

 

For option 1, if I can keep the costs to SGD500, that will be great. I can stretch to $800.

For option 2 and 3, it will be good if I can keep the costs to $1000.

I do not mind 2nd hand components.

 

My Music

Mainly good vocals like Cai Qin, Susan Wong. I also listen to some pop like Jacky Cheung. I also like late night jazz, especially live music. Next, maybe a bit of classical. That's about it.

 

Once again, thanks in advanced for your inputs. Happy listening!

Edited by sayhitojason

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3. Get a preamp with a good headphone amp in-built.

I personally quite like the Sugden Headmaster though if you were to use it solely as head amp it'd be quite a bit overpriced. I have no idea how it works when used as a preamp. If you like smooth mids (not warm), it'd be pretty good (as a headamp). But considering a Marantz source and the DT880, I feel there might be a high chance that you have to give it a miss. Don't take my word for it though since its an assumption.

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Some amps that function as both integrated and as preamp.

 

2. Get another integrated amp with good headphone amp in-built (assuming this exists).

Some amps that I can think of:

Audiovalve RKV with the Impedanzer, Berning ZOTL,Consonance Cyber 30,

 

3. Get a preamp with a good headphone amp in-built.

 

Meier-Audio Prehead MK I and MK II, Headamp Gilmore V2, PPA (can be customised with pre out although few people do it), Sugden Headmaster.

 

I have the beyer DT880 and it sounds pretty great with vocals and jazz. To me,headphones is the largest factor on the sound and I do recommend that you audition them first before buying. A headphone meet is most probably coming up soon in January and there will be a large number of amps and headphones for you to try.

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Cayin Spark Audio HA-1A. Vacuum tube stereo integrated amplifier, with preamp & headphone function. Click on the tube amp icon on my signature for the photo. Well within your $500~$800 budget. I use it with my current HD600/RS-1/CD3000 & previously DT150. Excellent for vocals, acoustic & jazz however with the DT150 the soundstage will be near non existant & sounds a little dry/dark (initially until you accustom yourself to the sound) but it's detail retrieval is amazing. Bass is quite abundant but not to the "larger than life" level of the DT770.

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Welcome to the forum sayhitojason. U're in luck, IMHO. I've very familiar with your system except for the speaker cables. U've yet to realize the full potential of your amp+speakers for at least 2 reasons; room acoustics (we gotta dig further on the layout of your room) and source - Marantz CD63KI.

 

YBA is not an authority in dynamics but more so in elegance. Your cdp does not do justice to the revealing nature of the Integre amp and Zephyr speakers. It's a wiser move to improve your speakers system before undertaking the headphone route. The latter should serve as a mean to enjoy music if privacy is a main issue. It should not supersede your speakers system for better sound quality unless U wish to move fully into head-fi and abandon speakers.

 

How would I spend wisely and attain a balance between improvement of speakers system and good headphone facility? If U intend to stick to Marantz house sound, save your money for Marantz SA8260. It's fantastic in SACD playback and feasible as hybrids (SACD+CD layers) cost between $20-25 nowadays. This model is also great on CD redbook playback and furthermore, the headphone output is much better than the norm and sports a dedicated and respectable circuit board. Its output is sufficient to drive 300-ohm Senns HD600/650 to defeaning loudness at around 11 o'clock vol pot adjustment. Sound quality is also pretty good and unless U make a comparison with a dedicated headamp, U wouldn't find any major trait left wanting. The only caveat is SA8260 tends to reject cds with copy protection and costs around $1200. U gotta check with KEC and Alpha Audio to verify latest price. However, U could regain some of this expenditure by selling your CD63KI or retain it for plyaback of copy-protected cds.

 

I understand this undertaking will cost more than budget but it serves your purpose both ways; improve speakers system and facilitate good quality headphone enjoyment.

 

Alternatively, search for a different cdp which must not lean towards laidback character and buy a dedicated headamp. I don't propose adding a pre-amp or integrated amp or purchase of AKG K1000 to your existing system. The first two choices simply compound to impending problems without addressing the key area which is your source. Since U listen to jazz, U might find the AKG 1000 to be lacking in bass albeit it's marvellous with classical music.

 

As a whole, I prefer to upgrade the sounce. Who knows? U might just find an all new experience with your speakers system and drop the idea on purchasing headphones. For discussion on possible room acoustics and speakers placement, I suggest U start a new thread.

 

Last but not least, if U truly suspect room acoustics is the main culprit, stick to your present cdp and buy a pair of headphones. Most if not all Marantz cdps sport pretty decent headphone output and yours truly have also driven DT880/990/150 and the likes thru CD63KI. Start with this option first. Alternatively, I also recommend the newer Beyer DT440 which has a much lower impedance at 32ohm and certainly an easier load to drive from your cdp. It's wonderful sounding for the price of around S$250.

Edited by Mackie

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Thanks to everyone for your inputs. Much appreciated.

 

N@Z, the Cayin has very good looks.

 

Mackie, thanks for the lengthy feedback. If I may ask a few more questions:

 

1. Besides the SA8260, are there any other CDPs with good headphone out that you recommend? I believe the SA8260 is discontinued, now replaced by SA8400 which lacks multi-channel SACD playback. Also, I am not looking for the Marantz house sound per se. Actually, I don't know what the Marantz house sound is as I have not heard other CDPs (the 63KI is my first). Since you've used the Integre, I hope you can recommend me a player that is within $2K range (new).

 

2. Do most CDs have copy protection? Kind of a silly error, since the copy protection is to protect the original. But since the original CD cannot be played on the SA8260, it kind of encourages people with SA8260 to buy a pirated CDs instead (not that any owner of such a CDP will buy pirated CDs).

 

3. Since you have heard the DT880 and DT150 with the 63KI, can you assign a percentage to the performance when compared to a dedicated headphone amp that costs say SGD500 (for e.g. the DT880 sound performance on the 63KI is about 70% of the DT880 sound performance through a Rega Ear.)

 

4. You mentioned that if I were to get a dedicated headamp, I should get a CDP that "must not lean towards a laidback character". May I know the reason why? Is it because the Integre is too elegant sounding?

 

Once again, many thanks for the feedback. I will make another post regarding the room acoustics when I get the proper measurements. Until later, happy listening.

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3. Some major labels have CD copy protection. EMI has Cactus Data Shield, Sony had (Sony has stopped copy control wink.gif) Key2Audio. How to circumvent the copy protection? Rip the original CD, so that there isn't any protection tongue.gif

 

Other common CD copy protection schemes are Doc.loc, MediaCloq and SafeAudio. Some CD-RW and DVD drives are able to rip these CDs without any problems.

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Mackie, thanks for the lengthy feedback. If I may ask a few more questions:

 

1. Besides the SA8260, are there any other CDPs with good headphone out that you recommend? I believe the SA8260 is discontinued, now replaced by SA8400 which lacks multi-channel SACD playback. Also, I am not looking for the Marantz house sound per se. Actually, I don't know what the Marantz house sound is as I have not heard other CDPs (the 63KI is my first). Since you've used the Integre, I hope you can recommend me a player that is within $2K range (new).

 

If bright sound and digital glare makes U squirm, try Rega 2000 (CD Acoustics, Adelphi) as it's one of the few cdps that sounds more 'analogue', much like the more expensive Electrocompaniet EMC-1. IThe Rega should cost around $1450. If U really like an elegant sound from your system, try Audio Analogue Puccini (Music by Design) but it could cost more than $2000. Take note that this cdp does not kick ass and IMO, wouldn't do well in rock/hip-hop.

 

MF cdps also suit your system but U'll have to look for used unit. MF X-ray and A3CD comes to mind. They are sweet in the treble, good lower-upper bass and mid range is lovely, although some may find it bright when paired with other systems but not yours IMO.

 

As a general rule of thumb, go around Adelphi and try to audition as many cdps within your budget as possible. Just remember to stay away from those that sound fat in bass, lazy in presentation or too laidback. I certainly think that Rega 2000 should appeal to U. Audition there and if it really piques your interest, negotiate for a home trial to confirm synergy with your system.

 

2. Do most CDs have copy protection? Kind of a silly error, since the copy protection is to protect the original. But since the original CD cannot be played on the SA8260, it kind of encourages people with SA8260 to buy a pirated CDs instead (not that any owner of such a CDP will buy pirated CDs).

 

In actual fact, pretty few labels carry copy protection. The latest Norah Jones cd is encoded with one though. Beside Marantz, Naim cdps are also plagued by it.

 

3. Since you have heard the DT880 and DT150 with the 63KI, can you assign a percentage to the performance when compared to a dedicated headphone amp that costs say SGD500 (for e.g. the DT880 sound performance on the 63KI is about 70% of the DT880 sound performance through a Rega Ear.)

 

Putting myself into your shoes or ears and considering your taste in music, U'll find every detail and tight and deep bass with DT150 but at the expense of soundstaging (close design after all). For pure enjoyment of music, I reckon DT880 is more suitable. Talking about a headamp around $500, I heartily recommend Cayin HA-1A (Audio Precision, agent for Monitor Audio). It sounds great with these 2 cans. DT880/150 driven out of 63KI will only give U about 60% of maximum score when these cans are amped by the Cayin HA-1A. Despite the huge difference, don't forget your outlay of $500 for a headamp which is 30% of the cost of a new cdp like Rega 2000.

 

4. You mentioned that if I were to get a dedicated headamp, I should get a CDP that "must not lean towards a laidback character". May I know the reason why? Is it because the Integre is too elegant sounding?

 

I issued the above caution relative to synergy with the YBA amp and not headamp. Integre amp may not exude the elegance and laziness as that of Audio Analogue but I noticed it loses a bit of dynamics when music becomes complex while attack of snare drum lacks bite and urgency by a tad. It certainly has punch but the speed of climax to decay is a tad slower that equivalently amps. It's also worth noting some amps do present great dynamics but sound coarse. In order not to excerbate this slight "weakness", a slow sounding source will limit your choice of music. Of course, it will not be of concern to U if fast-tempo and complex music would never be featured. Just my opinion and suggestion. Most importantly, let your ears and feet to the talking. If the latter tap along to the music, U know U're enjoying the music. So much for audiophile sound analysis.

Edited by Mackie

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Once again. Thanks for the insightful inputs. I think I'll try the Rega. I think the Triangle speakers are a bit on the bright side, so it should suit well.

 

With the present Marantz, the details are very good, but on bad recordings, it just sounds terrible and bright. That's what I can't stand.

 

I will also be posting another post on room acoustics separately. Your input is much appreciated.

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Btw, if U are aiming for DT880, please check classifieds as I'm compiling orders in conjunction with early Christmas sale. It's sure to be a bargain!

 

Back to the issue on head amp, I also suggest Original Master which costs around S$250 but only available in China. It's capable of driving both high and low impedance cans. It has an outboard power supply as shown on the right of picture.

 

http://www.sgheadphones.net/index.php?showtopic=2688

 

user posted image

Edited by Mackie

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Option 4 will give me one of the coolest headphones, but I am not sure if my YBA will do the job. I understand that the K1000 uses speaker outputs, and not headphone outputs.

I feel that this is a common misconception. I've personally used and have seen others use ordinary headphone amplifiers to drive the AKG K-1000 to reasonably loud volumes. In fact, I've had them driven off a low-voltage, battery powered, amplifier I've built before.

 

I've no reason to doubt that non-portable headphone amplifiers can drive the K-1000's to loud enough volumes unless you're half-deaf or your surroundings are far too noisy. Either case, you've more to worry about than matching the cans to the amp.

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hi sayhitojason,

 

you can try some headphones from the spk out of your integreted amp before you buy any headamps. (you need to diy a conversion cable from spk out to 1/4 headphone jack)

 

I have listened to k1000 on a YBA DT for a short while before. Although it's reluctantly acceptable, it could be good for other 'normal' high impedance cans: AKG 240DF, 240M, BEYER DT880. For me these 3 cans give very good vocal and classical performance biggrin.gif

 

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Whoa, wait a second. Voxel, what you wrote is news to me. Are you saying that I can somehow use the speaker outputs from my amp to drive a pair of headphones by using a conversion cable?

 

I never thought this could be possible as I assumed that the speaker output will overwhelm the headphones.

 

Appreciate it if you can shed more light on how I can achieve this, and if done properly, can I get a sound that is as good as a dedicated headamp?

 

Many thanks!

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