Seeking sagely advice on the next gear upgrade

Discussion in 'Leaderboard, Overboard, and Deals' started by MattRG, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. MattRG

    MattRG Facebook Friend

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    My current setup is as follows:
    Windows 10 PC running iTunes 256k AAC or streaming service of my choice to a Fostex HP-A4BL DAC/amp via USB. My headphone of choice at the moment is a Fostex TH-X00. I am enjoying the sound quality I am getting out of this setup but I am fairly new to personal audio and I want to diversify and improve my gear selection as I move forward.

    For reference I mainly listen to EDM and electronica but do also enjoy some modern pop (Adele) as well as Classic Rock, Opera and Jazz.

    As for my goals, I would like increased resolution, detail and soundstage (on music that could take advantage of it - EDM obviously won't) while not loosing the smoothness or strong bass inherent in the TH-X00.

    I have considered first upgrading my headphone to a more ToTL offering and was looking and researching in that direction but am now wondering if maybe a good DAC might not be a better initial purchase? Would the rather inexpensive DAC chip in the Fostex be able to do a ToTL headphone justice and therefore make a good R2R DAC a better buy? Basically, I have read the advice threads we have at the top of this forum but I am still a little unclear as to what might be the best option from where I am now and for where I want to go next.

    I should also note here that I do own a Schiit Lyr 2 with stock tubes so I do have an option for a stand alone amp if the DAC is the better choice.

    I would like to keep the next upgrade under $1500 and I do appreciate any and all words of wisdom.
     
  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar Done his time

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    Grab the new ZMF Eikon and use it with your Lyr 2. Get a Modi MB as the DAC for now. Upgrade the Lyr 2 when funds allow. Sell the rest of your gear.
     
  3. MattRG

    MattRG Facebook Friend

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    @k4rstar I like the way you think. I had actually been considering the Eikon very strongly..
     
  4. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    Did you consider ALAC or WAV audio files? MP3 compression partly explains why you are missing out on some sound aspects here.

    Gear is fine, a good source is better and well go ALAC or WAV first if you can. Build a music library that will set you back an extra hard drive and you have a good start...
     
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  5. MattRG

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    I'll be honest, I've done blind testing on lossless vs 256k AAC and most of the time I can't tell the difference. That being said, I have not repeated that test with the current DAC and headphones. Maybe the gear I have now would better highlight the differences?

    One thing I will do is install JRiver and go back through my favorite CD's and import them at a higher bit rate. That has been the plan for some time, I just need the time to do it. I do appreciate the suggestion though.
     
  6. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    Having spent time with everything that @k4rstar mentioned, those would be my exact recommendations, as well, provided you want to stay with a closed back solution.

    I'd probably give a Tidal subscription a run for a month or two to see if that fits your needs, too.
     
  7. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    Well it would be bad to end up with the same issues with new audio gear. MP3 compression can mess up great recordings and yes sometimes the difference is subtle but there are recordings that really sound their best on at least CD or Vinyl quality. Go for it and trust your ears.
     
  8. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I've found AAC sounds better than MP3 in general, but definitely at comparable bitrates. I'd bet a lot of people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between 256k AAC even with very high end gear.

    Note I'm not saying there is no difference. Just that many people wouldn't be able to discern those differences. I personally go at least 16/44 for everything.
     
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  9. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    Don't think there's much lower than that, other than the odd MP3 rip from YouTube (shame, I know) at 16/22,05. Some performances I can only find there.

    I try to go for 320 MP3 minimum, but FLAC is typical, since it's lossless, so when I listen I get the psychological benefit of lossless even if I can't reliably A/B between 320 MP3 and FLAC for most stuff, and leave the rest to the system.
     
  10. MattRG

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    I appreciate the advice folks. The more I think about it the more the I like the idea of investing in the ToTL headphone first and then upgrading the rest of my gear chain around it. Some things (like going to higher bitrate recordings) won't be expensive but will be time consuming while others will just require some patience and time to save up the funds.

    Based on what I've read here (and elsewhere) I think my endgame might be something like:
    DAC: Gungnir Multibit
    Amp(s): EC ZDS for tubes and ??? for SS
    HP: ZMF Eikon for closed back and ??? for open back (I've got a demo Focal Elear coming in a few weeks from TTVJ over at Head-Fi but based on how much I love the sound of my TH-X00's I don't know if any open back design will be able to get close to that sound signature).

    And then some sort of device to output audio that bypasses the USB ports. Truthfully, I still have a lot to learn in this area and am a complete noob when it comes to alternate technologies in this area. No sweat though as I have plenty of time and the help of SBAF to get me where I want to go. :)
     

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