If you had to start all over with your setup, what would you buy?

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by caute, Nov 29, 2022.

  1. caute

    caute Friend

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    Apologies if there is already a thread out there like this, I am not too good at using even the super search function so, mods, feel free to delete this if it's too similar to an older thread.

    Wondering what the community here would do if you had to start from scratch, with all the knowledge and experience of the gear that you've owned, extensively demoed and just tried out, what you would buy for yourself for your main headphone rig—consisting of a single source (if you're so inclined, a custom-built PC, intel NUC, CDT and that ilk, vinyl if you're going crazy with it), streamer/DDC, DAC, amp and pair of headphones? One and only one of each is the only rule!
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2022
  2. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    If I was trying to keep it low cost and not spend oodles of dough on a system, I'd get this.


    PXL_20221126_031120695.jpg

    I'm happy with where I went with my main rig, but there's no denying that this budget stack (CDT, tube buffer NOS DAC, Piety and vintage Sennheisers) is extremely satisfying. If I'd have stumbled upon this earlier in my journey, I might have been tempted to not climb so high chasing good sound.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 29, 2022
  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I'd likely just skip all the sidegrades and get a Campfire Solaris on the used market and a decent Wolfson DAP as the rest of my budget would allow. It's far from perfect, but those IEMs are remarkable and are more or less what I was looking for in a "non-neutral but thoroughly engaging" voicing.

    ... when they're working well, anyway. Long story but I seem to have bad luck with the golden bananas.

    For desktop use, I'd likely abstain from exploring higher-end headphones and stick with the Sennheiser HD600 and just save up for a nice amp, maybe a ZDT Jr. as a "sane" stopping point with a Modi MB A2 feeding it (Disclaimer: never heard any iteration of the Multibit Modis and am just extrapolating based on hearing about them for ages-- I liked how the original Bifrost MB did staging, but its tonality was a bit hard to work around).

    With a less-realistic-to-me budget, I'd likely go for a DNA Starlett and an iFi Pro iDSD to feed the Senns. The latter may be controversial since the Pro iDSD's got a bad case of feature-itis, but I like how it sounded in demo settings and the Swiss Army Shotgun feature set could come in handy building a system around.

    inb4 this is hardly best-value stuff, but it's what would work for me. If I really were to talk with my past self about building a system, I'd say to get a pair of PortaPros and just spend the money travelling and maybe build a gaming PC before cryptocurrencies ruin the market.
     
  4. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    If I had all my current knowledge and experience? I'd get the hell out of hifi 'cuz you're all a bunch of crazy enabling mofos. I'd get a decent yet ultimately replaceable bluetooth headset (that I could at least open up to mod purely to feed my need to tweak), a music subscription of some sort, and spend the rest on attending live shows and supporting local musicians. Maybe take some lessons myself. Arthritis means I can't play piano anymore, but learning to sing could be fun.
     
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  5. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I'd probably get a good budget setup (Modi MB with either the Magni 3+, Vali2+, or MCTH if I could find one) and then save money for my desired TOTL setup (Stellaris and Wavedream). I'd probably start hoarding some vintage tubes that I like in my current DNA setup as well, who knows when they will become impossible to find.

    Edit: I forgot the transport, I'd get a Pi2Design variant (probably the Pi2AES Lite) and save up for a more expensive transport to go with my absurd TOTL gear when the time comes.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 29, 2022
  6. foo_me

    foo_me Friend

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    I think it's impossible to just do it over again and get to a good place. You typically start low, upgrade, sidegrade, downgrade, and upgrade again (or some variation) to find out what you like and how much you are willing to pay for it.
    I feel you will never know what this level is without going through and trying different gear at different price levels.
    That just takes a lot of time and listening but time and money well spent. As part of this journey, I would also explore speakers before coming to any conclusion. You will have to see if you are happy with speakers, just headphones, or both.
    That all being said, my conclusions are:
    • Buy used and try to get good deals as you start the learning stage so you don't lose too much as you go through different gear. You can buy new when you are more sure of what you want and then the reliability, service, and warranty becomes more important than a cheaper price.
    • I love speakers more than headphones but want both. Certain type of Intimacy with music that you just can only get with headphones. I have invested more in my speakers than headphones but have good enough headphone system where I can get very good sound without wondering about the latest TOTL that comes out.
    • Love the convenience of streaming via Pi2AES and so just dabbled with vinyl but never invested significantly in it.
    • Would avoid ear speakers like the SR1A or K1000. They're great at providing speaker like experience via headphones but it's ultimately a compromise and feel most people will sell it either to get speakers or just focus on headphones.
    • Never liked electrostats aside from the initial wow factor and that's after trying the HE90 system for a while. For all of it's resolution and pleasant sound, it eventually felt boring and unengaging after a while of owning them.
     
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  7. joch

    joch Friend

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    I'm with @Armaegis and would go with another hobby.

    Otherwise, I'd go budget or go big. At this stage I either get a kick out of how good some "cheap" stuff are, or get wowed by the big kids toy (provided that they gel well). The many stuff in in the middle have been distractions from the music.

    At this point, I think a decent IEM (7Hz) and DAP (AK, Sony, etc.) or a Vali + Modi on the cheap end. And then save for that "go big or go home" item like ECP/EC/DNA and some ZMFs.

    I would advise to try out loaners (you guys in CONUS are lucky and just don't know it) to see what works for you.
     
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  8. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Actually probably wouldn't change much.

    A few of the things I spent money on along the way for the sake or trying stuff and learning probably wasn't worth how little I learned relative to the amount of money or time spent, but that's about it. Would have rather sank this same money into a vinyl setup or 2ch or just saved it, spend on other hobbies, invest it, etc.
     
  9. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth 2000% biased Planar Hater

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    If I absolutely had to start from scratch:
    • Source: Pi2AES
    • DAC: Yggdrasil GS
    • Amp: DNA Starlett
    • Headphone: OG Focal Utopia
    Yes yes, the Stellaris is better (by a lot), but I don't fuck with 2A3s and all the other tube shenanigans Stellaris owners go through. Nope, no, and no.

    However, if I bend the rules a little bit and keep my EC Ultralinear, then I'd have a very different system:
    • Source: Pi2AES
    • DAC: Rockna Wavelight
    • Amp: EC Ultralinear 6L6
    • Headphone: HD600 (JAR mod)
    No joke, back when the Wavelight loaner was going around it put me in a crisis because the synergy with the Ultralinear was so damn good.
     
  10. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Value for money wise lately IEM's absolutely dunk on headphones. And speakers dunk on both. If would start over, I'd build a the hugest 3-way speaker I could afford, run it from a 3-way Hypex plate amp and hook a Pi2AES to feed digital signal to it.
     
  11. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    I'm happy with what I have. If I were smart I'd log out of all audio forums and never return. It's a shame that I enjoy the company around here too much.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 30, 2022
  12. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    I see many disappointed people in audio hobby. The reason for this appears to be limited understanding and misguided expectations (that is always the rout of all disappointment, isn't it?).

    To overcome this, I see two ways to go about it:
    - approach with senses - only buy what sounds awesome to you
    - approach with brain - make it bigger than audio (engineering, designing, building)

    I went with the second approach and there is lifetime of positive engagement ahead.
    Audio devices are a engineer's rabbit hole - there is no grand solution apparent in the horizon.

    Only part of my journey I would skip is making purchase decisions based on general forum impressions.
     
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  13. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    This is a timely thread because I’ve only just settled on a long-term system, thanks to a DAC purchase from a Friend a few weeks ago (and an amp purchase from another Friend earlier this year). Getting to this happy place has forced me to re-evaluate my goals. For the past few years I’ve put together several amp and headphone pairings because I’m fickle and like different kinds of listening experience according to mood or genre of music. For the first time, though, I think I could now be content with a single setup: Mac Mini with Roon via USB -> Yggdrasil A2 -> Stratus -> Vérité. To break the rules slightly, I’ve added a Violectric V281 amp for those times when I don't want to fire up the tubes.

    The thing is, though, that for classical music, I prefer the HD 800 SDR, and I’m also tempted to add a Raal SR1a because it’s great with this genre and because, as an apartment dweller, I’m unlikely to be able to have speakers anytime soon. And then there are times when I want a highly engrossing but mellow, relaxing listening experience, in which case the darker-sounding Atrium with the solid mesh might be the ticket (or the warmer-sounding D8000 or LCD-R). And then there's the Mjolnir 1 -> LCD-2 Classic, which is awesome for alternative rock. The combination pulls off the neat trick of being exciting, great fun and, at the same time, not being in the least bit fatiguing, even with poorly recorded or mastered music. It produces the most slam and macrodynamic contrast I've heard - enough to pulverize concrete - and electric guitars have glorious bite, crunch, and growl.

    To get back on topic, though, if budget's a concern, a preferred, more affordable system would become Bifrost 2 -> SW51+ -> HD 600 or, more affordably still, an iPhone -> iFi Go bar -> ESX900. This system also has the advantage of being transportable; for greater portability, I'd switch the headphones for the original Campfire Solaris IEMs.
     
  14. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador

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    I've reached my endgame for my speaker rig, Im so happy with the sound every day I listen, I don't really feel the need to replace anything, so the obvious choice for me if I were to start over would be to buy the exact same rig, MScaler/Dave -> Coda 16.0 -> Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk2 speakers.

    As for headphones, I would just buy a pair of AirPods Max and a pair or AirPods Pro 2 and be done.
     
  15. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    this times a million. except I would add two more ways: 'approach with senses and brain' and 'do not approach at all'

    Even if we wanted to assume that manufacturers of commercial equipment were making the best they could make, which is dubious given all the real world constraints and compromises that exist in commerce, they would only be able to fill a niche of their own sound (the designer's expression) or try to paint with broad strokes (the designer's interpretation of the mass market).

    Building audio equipment for yourself and tweaking on the component level is the only way to fulfill YOUR sound. I think it requires senses and brain as you put it, but I agree it is a rabbit hole with no end. still a lot more fun than buying buying buying
     
  16. Jonah

    Jonah Acquaintance

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    I would skip the headphone phase and IEM phase.

    Get either Apple Airpod Pros or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro depending on what infrastructure you're in for iems. TWS IEMs have come a long way lately. Iems get silly very quick in terms of price/performance.

    For headphones, to me, they're the forgotten middle child, they very much do not matter to me. Most of the time I just use a pair of Koss Porta-Pros from my phone, perfectly contentedly, in lieu of the ZMF and Senns I own with their dedicated stacks.

    For speakers, I would say get the biggest speakers your space allows. No replacement for displacement, the density, ease of sound, presence, and tactility of a bigger speaker is paramount to me. That being said, I'm still quite the novice in the speaker game, and I reckon I'll be learning new insights

    As for the rest of your (speaker) chain, stay sane with your budget. After a certain price point (which I've found is lower than one might expect), things just end up sounding different rather than better. In fact, the higher I've gone in terms of price point, the less satisfied I've been. I've noticed the large majority of ultra high end stuff all tend to be that refined, polite, technical kinda sound which I despise.
     
  17. supertransformingdhruv

    supertransformingdhruv Almost "Made"

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    Maybe I would spend more on the portable DAP + IEMs, skip headphones, and go for speakers. Probably some high-efficiency speaker, something that can run off a little integrated (Bottlehead S.E.X?) and plug my DAP straight into that. Skip the whole Source/DAC business.
     
  18. Slade01

    Slade01 Facebook Friend

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    This resonates with me a lot. I have a 12 year old son whom very contented with his Airpods, Spotify/Amazon Music service. When I approached him about trying higher end headphones on a headphone rig/setup, he's like "why do I need ALL OF THAT when my airpods already sound awesome. and I can listen to these literally anywhere i go!" (and he does.)

    I understand that being in this hobby, we often conflate listening to music and listening for the gear's technical abilities, and sometimes, we do loose sight from time to time with enjoying the music and just being in the moment.

    That said, part of my audio journey towards the end now, I have scrapped everything and after starting over, my current setup is a (OG) Bifrost 2 > Woo Audio WA2 amp > ZMF Atticus

    • The BF2 I feel really represents one of the values in DACs. Coming from the Yggdrasil, I really don't miss it...the BF2 gives me the same level of enjoyment. I also had the SW51+ (as @Tchoupitoulas has stated to be a great amp on a budget), and probably would have had kept that, were I not a fan of tube rolling. The Bottlehead Crack w/speedball also another amp I could have been happy with along the same lines. The WA2 amp, I have only because I got it used at a great price (about the same as the current SW51 now)...its now a 14 year old amp that I've been able to refurbish and get it up to speed.
    Sorry, but budget is always a concern of mine and i'm mostly entrenched and contented in the "middle-tier costs territory", and doing it over, it would be the BF2 and (if not WA2) then one of these amps for sure (i prefer tube amps to SS).

    Everyone here that has expounded the virtues of the SW51 and BH Crack/Speedball being top price to performance contenders and would opt to have this until you were ready for DNA/EC amps etc. is right on the money, in my opinion.

    For a more no-holds-barred approach? "Rockna Wavedream > DNA Stratus > Focal Utopia" FTW. It's the best I've ever heard personally.
     
  19. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    • Source: Pi2AES
    • DAC: Yggi
    • Amp: Cavalli Liquid Crimson or, because it's unobtanium, i would be happy with my SW51+.
    • Headphone: HD800 or, since it's hard to get the SDR mod nowadays and since i wouldn't be able to obtain a crimson, HD600.

    I would also like to state what i absolutely didn't like during these years. There's a lot but some cost a good amount of money (for my shallow pockets) but i definitely got scarred by these buys:

    • DAC: Nuforce icon dac. Yulong something. I really tried to remember the model but could not.
    • Amp:Little bear p1
    • Headphone: The first Beats. God awful piece of shitty junk. Honorable mention to the HD700s.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2022
  20. rott

    rott Secretly hates other millenials - Friend

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    I haven't cycled through gear as much as the more active members here, so I don't really regret my journey and have enjoyed experiencing the subtle differences in sound through the years. Stepping into the ZMF catalog has actually caused my CD collection to expand (thank you Discogs).

    OTH I think I could probably be just as happy with my Phone/iPad and AirPods Max, but I know myself and eventually I'd be itching for something better (more immersive, better SQ). I can't do IEMs (ear issue) and speakers don't fit my late-night listening that would disturb the family. So I'd probably end up right where I am now, but probably without a separate desk setup.

    The one sure thing I'd avoid in a do-over is HeadFi - soooo many hours wasted trawling through threads with some useful nuggets/reviews/comparisons scattered about but drowned out by so much useless crap. Still, probably hard for a newbie to avoid.

    No forum is immune to hype, but I appreciate the quality over quantity here at SBAF. I don't have any desire to purchase more audio gear (until something breaks), but I still enjoy reading write-ups of new stuff here.
     

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