The Ultimate Lurker's Guide to a Winning Budget Setup, SBAF-Style

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by caute, Dec 6, 2022.

  1. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I don’t quite agree with this. A lot of us already have a large music collection but listened with the cheapest earbuds or boombox because it was “good enough”. Re-listening to your old music is a great way to give your old tracks an upgrade.

    Just think about it in the PC sense. There’s lots of gamers that basically just play one game and upgrades to the latest ZTXPro-n00bkill3r GPU are to improve whatever they are already playing.

    Really the basis is how much music you listen to, not how much you buy
     
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    Last edited: Dec 21, 2022
  2. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    ^ Id agree with that @Cspirou . I didnt have that experience though. The catalyst for my deeper music interest was hifi. Prior to that I accumulated only a few new albums per year.

    @Woland Id muuuch rather have instant access to a (carefully curated) growing album collection than have that next equipment upgrade w/ random radio. Itd be like having to go back to standard cable television after having become accustomed to the internet … and instant streaming.
     
  3. Climber

    Climber Facebook Friend

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    Was glad to see this mention but I think it's worth circling back and giving some additional love to Meze 99s.

    It's one thing to be a form-follows-function hobbyist but if you're brand new to all this, looks are probably going to matter. If you share a living space with someone, looks matter. As deep as I've gotten in the hobby, it's the 99s that I *like* to leave casually laying around because I like looking at them and other people do too (mine is the Miami drug dealer maple/white version.)

    In fact, they're something other people are drawn to. For a bit I had a $12K-retail LS3/5a-based system in the same room but it's when friends see the Meze they say "those are cool, can I try them?" Or at the very least, the design language makes the price tag less shocking -- fewer people saying "wait, you paid $200 for THAT?"

    Moreover, I straight dig the sound -- they are largely genre-agnostic with no major offenses. It all sounds pretty good on the Mezes, they're comfy, and I sometimes reach for them when I don't want to think too hard about what I'm hearing. Basic easy-going pleasure machines, they're an easy crossover point between visual appeal and audio performance for most people.

    I haven't found them to scale up tremendously (a downside) but in terms of pairings ...
    • 99s don't need a ton of juice so get a used/semi-busted LG V series phone off eBay for cheap. I bought a bricked V30+ with a bad camera ... but the wifi and (scratched) screen work, so boom, a $40 ESS-chipped DAP with Tidal.
    • Helm Bolt or other dongle-of-the-moment? (I liked them with the Cobalt I have since sold, though AQ Dragonflies are not the value proposition they once were)
    • Let's not forget, iFi has a dedicated Meze 99 amp! (Anyone heard it? I have not.) There's even a bundle with an upgrade cable and Zen DAC Signature V2
    (An aside: Many thanks to mods for cleaning up the thread and getting it back on track.)
     
  4. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE MOT: NITSCH

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    ^Something to add is that when we had large Massdrop offices, guys AND gals really liked the Meze. Comfy fit achieved without any messing with notches in the headband and they are very comfy with the elastic suspension (fast, easy fit).

    My experience was that people coming from 2-channel really liked the warm sound, was more familiar to them. Maybe they had warm 2-channel set-ups or lots of room reverb.

    AND: we worked hard to get the extra pads in the Noir box that are not as warm/bassy, trying to emulate the very first pads in the OG batch of 2000 99 Classics before they had to change suppliers. Please roll those if you have them to know what they sound like. :)
     
  5. weicheheck

    weicheheck Almost "Made"

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    You hit the nail on the head with this one I've tried tons of aftermarket pads with the He6, Zmf suedes, Vegan pad look alikes, focus pads, but none of the sounded as good as the Ether Angled pad! More clarity, better imaging, and more even frequency response with them
     
  6. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    3 happy people if that old curmudgeon is married.
     
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  7. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    That's interesting. Although there are measurements on the Drop page, I hadn't I realized what the second set of pads were really about back when I bought them a few years back. I just went with the more comfortable pair and had the impression that the 99 Noir was very bass heavy. I've swapped into the other set now and though still bass happy they seem more balanced, and work really nicely with Magni Piety on low gain.
     
  8. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE MOT: NITSCH

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    ^Thanks for trying them AND for buying a Piety! :p
     
  9. rfernand

    rfernand Almost "Made"

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    I think with 2k you can experience a lot of good stuff. I will steer you towards Schiit because of value proposition, customer service, and overall great synergy with a wide range of headphones.

    Schiit Bifrost 2/64 - $799
    Schiit Jotunheim 2 - $399

    Right here you have a very, very good sounding DAC that a lot of folks use in their big rig systems. Their design to turn bits into sound is proprietary, very natural, and widely admired in the community. These two guys go well together - not just on top of each other - but by virtue of coming from the same company. The amplifier alone will serve you very well - and can also serve as a preamp later. Both these things are modular and upgradable, so you will have room to grow. But again, they sound great together, you have power to spare, and a very versatile system that will grow with you if you so desire.

    $1198 down, $802 to burn. Let’s keep going.

    You have a lot of choices for headphones, but I will steer you to a well-loved perennial of the hobby at a very good price:

    Massdrop HD6xx - $279

    This is the Sennheiser HD650 at a discount. Different color scheme, same device. It has a sound signature that folks describe as “warm” and “veiled”, especially when compared to its sibling the HD600. If these words sound like the opening of a bad porno, let me explain: The drums and the bass are more present. Veiled, in my biased opinion in this context, is pejorative for “non-fatiguing for most people”. Yes, some headphones sound so good and go into the other direction (“bright”) that you may end up with an earache and a headache. These headphones are a safe bet for most people. What will strike you immediately is the width of the soundstage and the detail you’ll hear. You’ll enjoy discovering things in songs you thought you know. Yes, even those Spice Girls CDs you had in middle school have things you likely haven’t heard yet. They have an “open back” design (they let ambient sound in, and leak a little sound out) so plan to be 7 ft or so away from others if you’ll be using these in a shared room, or reserve them for home use. Plus, Jotunheim has enough power to let these guys do their best job.

    $1477 down, $523 to burn. Let me inoculate you against cable nervosa for a reasonable price.

    Schiit PYST USB - $20
    Schiit PYST (Snake Oil) RCA - $25

    You’re already ordering from Schiit - might as well add stuff to the cart. Cables are not magic, but bad cables suck. @atomicbob showed some differences in USB cables and concluded “Audioquest and Schiit know how to specify and build (or have built for them) cables with decent shield connections”. So that USB cable (plus the fact Schiit’s implementation of USB is pretty good) will for sure work great for you. As for RCA, same thing, I just trust Schiit to spec stuff well and the price is fine.

    $1522. Not bad, eh?

    There. We’re all set, and inoculated against nervosa, leaving you with $478 to pay taxes in CA, or get the silver version of the Schiit because it goes better with your mac, donate beer money to chiropractors without diplomas, or a couple of years of Qobuz sublime.

    You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck here, IMO. This is a very good sounding rig that will give you years of tunes and room to grow if you so desire. I know because it’s my “at work” rig (thou I use other headphones more often). I recommend this because I use it and know it well.

    Stop here. You’re done. If you keep going, that’s less dough for charity.

    A feature of the rig I recommended is that it has “balanced” outs. That’s code for “nerd shit that’s more complicated and allows you to have serious-looking cables”. You can spend $50 on the XLR Snake Oil cables and ~160 in a balanced cable for your headphones from Sennheiser. In truth and simplifying things, having your components and headphones enjoying an end-to-end balanced connection means the left and right channels stayed separate all the way to your ears. Separation can be good. Will you be able to tell the difference? Highly unlikely, but you may… <— That’s nervosa in action. Don’t bite.
     
  10. TamHo

    TamHo New

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    So much love for Schiit stuff. Am I the only one who hate the Schiit flat and harsh sound? Ime I always tell newbies to stay away from low to mid tier amps and dacs from Schiit if they want a defined sound
     
  11. luckybaer

    luckybaer Friend

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    Plenty of constructive criticism for Schiit here if you’d bother to read moar.
     
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  12. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    Ah, I see you've never been to the Magnius thread.

    Personally, I don't like the Schiit budget amps much (Asgard 3 aside.) Their dacs are fantastic though.
     
  13. rfernand

    rfernand Almost "Made"

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    Can you please share (or link to) your experience with Jotunheim 2 and its lack of definition in the Jotunheim 2 thread? I’m very curious to read your thoughts about this specific amp.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2023
  14. Entropy

    Entropy Facebook Friend

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    Surely they're primarily referring to the things such as the magni hersey, magnius, and other products in that class, rather than schiit's "higher-end" offerings? They might not be responding specifically to you- after all, they didn't specifically quote your message.
     
  15. rfernand

    rfernand Almost "Made"

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    Oh, don’t assume I was annoyed - trust me, I say “f**k off” without ambiguity (rather rarely thou).

    But the lines that piqued my interest were

    Considering this is a thread for lurkers and aimed at giving practical advice on a budget to have a good system, and I just talked about a lot of Schiit including Jotunheim 2 ($399 is what? Mid tier at best?), I figured he has some insight we’re missing, especially a day after Dan Clark announced Jotunheim 2 would be in their recommended amp list in preparation for CanJam.
     
  16. Darko

    Darko Acquaintance

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    Rocking a 6XX, Magni Piety, and Apple Dongle from my iPhone 8 and have only a tiny desire to add a proper DAC. I’d rather grab an og HE400 for some fun than put more money into a DAC right now.
     
  17. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Meier Audio Corda Daccord FF € 375,– (€ 320,– without VAT for buyers outside the EU)
    Meier Audio Corda Jazz FF € 425,– (€ 365,– without VAT)

    Incredibly good combo for the price. Extremely resolving, silken treble, great musicality.

    To my ears, the Focal Clear Mg has a great synergy with this pair. Just wonderful. To stay below the € 2000 limit, use a deal or buy B stock. I bought mine as B stock at SG Akustik in Germany for € 999,–, and they still have it for that price.

    For absolute perfection, add a good streamer. Depending on where you are and what you paid for the Clear Mg, a Pi2AES might still fit in the budget. To me, the jump from Pi4 USB to an iFi Zen Stream was a quite substantial one, which also tells a story about just how resolving the combo is.

    ETA Mini C works very well with the Meier stuff, too.

    I also like my HD650 on that rig, quite a bit better than I liked it from Jot 2 which wasn’t bad at all, either, but I personally don’t feel the synergy at play there that I feel with the Clear Mg.

    Daccord + Jazz + Clear Mg is just absolutely amazing to my ears. Punchy, resolving, natural sound, very engaging, perfect separation, details galore—to me, there’s nothing left to lust for, except the general suspicion that there is probably gear out there that is even better. For MUCH more money, though.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2023
  18. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    I'm gonna go ahead and amend my vote:

    - used Pi2AES - 250
    - used Gungnir A1 - 750
    - bsJAR600B - 800
    - used Piety - 200

    This is my actual setup and it f'ing kicks. You'd have to be pretty lucky to find the Piety and the Gungnir for so cheap tho, but the Pi2AES I've seen go here for less than $250 tho. And JARification includes shipping to Korea, so keep that in mind. And then you'd need cables, a BNC cable and some RCAs, so this is kinda upper-tier budget...
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2023

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