[SOLVED] Audiophile my notebook headphones

enewmen

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Ten years ago I finally got good computer audio and I can't go back.
It is a Shure SRH750DJ full over-the-ear headphone 32ohm & 3.5mm for about $100 and works well. But I think I can do better and tell the difference.
To do better, I can spend a lot on Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic, but that will still be 32ohm and may not be much better than what I have now.
For really good high-impedance, FULL range headphones, I need an amp. Closed so I don't disturb others.
I'm looking for something very solid that will last decades of abuse and can comfortable to wear all day.
Is there a compact amp that plugs in a notebook? What is the best way to connect to a notebook PC, USB, 3.5mm, or 3.5mm to RCA?
Any ideas? Am I wrong about everything?
thanks!
Back in the late 80s, I spent around $400 for the Onkyo amp and $600 for the Bose speaker (plus turn-table, tape player, etc). This setup should be a bit less, but I think my wife will notice if I spend over $500.

EDIT: I'll use them for classical, rock, pop, games, tuning, most everything. Consuming, not producing.
 
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anort3

Titan
Moderator
There isn't really a closed back equivalent of a K712 Pro. Not without spending 3 times the money. Also I haven't used any of the Dragonfly line but I'm also a moderator at What Hi-Fi and the general consensus over there is one of disappointment. So take from that what you will.

There just isn't really a standout closed back 'audiophile' headphone under $500. The Massdrop x Fostex X-00 series but they aren't in production as of now. Maybe the E-Mu Teak which uses the same Fostex driver.

https://www.emu.com/teak.html

The Massdrop x Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go. It's better than the 1770 Pro as they tamed the ear splitting treble but a friend just recently tried them and he ended up buying a used TH-X00 Mahogany and selling the 177X. That doesn't mean you won't like them.

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-x-beyerdynamic-dt177x-go-headphones
 
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there's plenty of options, kinda depends on what you're aiming for.

there's some AMPs, DAC/Amp, DAC/Amp/PreAMP combos that use an USB interface, some that use optical, XLR, basically whatever.
the fairly compact ones that are easy to connect are usually the lower end ones, which doesn't mean they're automatically bad, chances are a 150$ Dac/Amp will be all you ever dreamed of, especially if you don't use some crazy high-Ohm headphones, but will be fine with some up to 150 Ohm ones if you don't live on a construction site.

as to what is the best way to connect: for a notebook a USB dac/amp without dedicated power is usually compact enough and has it's benefits -- but of course they're not as powerful as the pro equipment. personally if I have a notebook I don't want audio equipment that needs more space than the notebook itself and various converters in between. but you might be different. you might have a fixed desk with plenty of space but use a laptop because you're doing teleworking a lot. in that case the portability and compactness might not be too important to you.

Given that you're connecting it to a laptop and that laptop most likely has a <Mod Edit> DAC, I wouldn't use a 3.5mm connection but get an external DAC that connects via USB or whatever port your notebook has. Not all come for example with an optical port.
set on USB as input will however limit your available selection. However it's not necessarily a small choice. for example looking at Schiit and their external AMP-lineup there's AMPs for 100, 700 or up to 2500$ with USB input.

same with headphones. I wouldn't necessarily be too focused on the resistance. there's 600$ headphones with less than 30ohm. and they sound amazing.

so it kinda depends on what you aim for in terms of budget, if you're also producing music or are only consuming it, if you're listening to 64bit FLACs or just stream from Spotify, if you plan on using your headphones only at home or taking them with you somewhere and so on.
 
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enewmen

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Thanks for the post!
I don't have optical, so I'll need a USB DAC/AMP combo. The suggested Schiit small external DAC/AMP is about what I imagined.
Since my notebook DAC is likely EDIT: (not as good as possible) like you said, an external $100 DAC should be an improvement no matter what kind of headphones I end up with.
Using 32-ish ohm headphones, I can use the external DAC and the phones will still be barely loud enough without the amp.
You think $600 <= 32 ohms sound amazing. Not go nuts with high impedance can simplify things a lot. I don't need ohms, just sound.

Uses: I will just be consuming (all kinds of music and sounds) or playing electric guitar for myself. I want good headphones so I can tell difference between FLAC and mp3. I will use the headphones only at my desk never moving, so I want bulky/comfortable / heavy/ sturdy phones. I prefer metal instead of plastic and leather/cotton over the cushions that never crack over the years. Coiled detachable cord.

The Schiit Modi looks like a good place to start since most external DAC/AMPs will be a big improvement over my notebook.
Does a DAC powered from USB give enough volume @ 32ohm? What dBSPL & Sensitivity db(1mw) should I look for (high without getting ear damage)?
I still need help finding a good headphone.
 
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hang-the-9

Titan
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The OHM rating on the headphones don't really say anything about the sound. In many cases the higher resistance was made for studio use so when the people mixing swap headphones or put them on, their ears don't get blown out by loud volume when the gain is turned up. For getting something you like better than your headphones, or at least different, there are dozens and dozens for $100-300 (and up if you want to go that high) to try. At the higher end and easier to drive https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-x-beyerdynamic-dt177x-go-headphones#overview , Audio-Technica ATH-M60X, Beyer DT 770 Pro, Meze 99 are all cheaper but maybe not at the top rank of sound like you can get to with 400-500 price range.
 

enewmen

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What's your total budget and what type of music do you listen to?
Looking for bulky/all-day comfortable/study full over-ear, full-range headphones. I already have a Shure SRH750DJ as a reference.
Listen to all kinds of sounds, mostly all kinds of music (classical, rock, pop, loud base, etc), and games. Stealth games that require me to hear the direction and location of footsteps from far away.
I think I'll need to spend $500-$600 just on headphones to tell the difference between FLAC and MP3.
Isokolon suggested I also get a USB DAC/AMP to get a cleaner signal and a little more power.
Thanks for the post!
 
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anort3

Titan
Moderator
On the amp/DAC front there are literally dozens now that are all pretty good. Do you want an all in one or a separate amp and DAC?

For headphones I'd start somewhere like the AKG K712 Pro. They're exceptional all arounders and work with any music and for gaming. They're also fairly cheap now after being $499 for years. You can get them for under $300 on sale. The most comfortable pair I own or have ever owned. I forget I'm wearing them.

You could also check out the Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro. It's perhaps less comfortable than the K712 Pro which is a 10/10 and it has a smaller soundstage but the imaging is better and it comes with 2 sets of pads that change the sound signature.

Going straight to the big boys would be something like the Massdrop x Focal Elex. A very, very good headphone but not something I'd want to wear all day like the K712 Pro.
 

anort3

Titan
Moderator
Oh and as far as telling the difference between MP3 and FLAC..... MP3 can be of varying quality. 320kbps MP3 is very good and I can't tell the difference between that and a FLAC file. But I can tell a difference between a lower quality MP3 and FLAC ( or a 320kbps MP3 ). That being said I have my entire 500+ CD collection ripped to FLAC.
 
Ten years ago I finally got good computer audio and I can't go back.
It is a Shure SRH750DJ full over-the-ear headphone 32ohm & 3.5mm for about $100 and works well. But I think I can do better and tell the difference.
To do better, I can spend a lot on Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic, but that will still be 32ohm and may not be much better than what I have now.
For really good high-impedance, FULL range headphones, I need an amp. Closed so I don't disturb others.
I'm looking for something very solid that will last decades of abuse and can comfortable to wear all day.
Is there a compact amp that plugs in a notebook? What is the best way to connect to a notebook PC, USB, 3.5mm, or 3.5mm to RCA?
Any ideas? Am I wrong about everything?
thanks!
Back in the late 80s, I spent around $400 for the Onkyo amp and $600 for the Bose speaker (plus turn-table, tape player, etc). This setup should be a bit less, but I think my wife will notice if I spend over $500.

EDIT: I'll use them for classical, rock, pop, games, tuning, most everything. Consuming, not producing.
You know what lovesssss high impedence headphone?

Tubes.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA9bluZ6kMU


Not a huge fan of this brand but they sound good for the money. Don't expect them to last.

This guy does do a decent review.
 

enewmen

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Thanks for the posts!
I'll check the Dragonfly Cobalt . I'll also check the Ikko Zerda that looks like it does everything the Cobalt does at half the price. These are very portable and they seem to drive headphones up to 150ohms, but I keep my notebook on the desk 99% of the time anyway. I may get tubes later.

I'll get the DAC/AMP first since that alone should improve the sound a lot.
I'll also look for a closed back equivalent of the AKG 712 Pro as well so I don't disturb others.
thanks for the help.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Thanks for the posts!
I'll check the Dragonfly Cobalt . I'll also check the Ikko Zerda that looks like it does everything the Cobalt does at half the price. These are very portable and they seem to drive headphones up to 150ohms, but I keep my notebook on the desk 99% of the time anyway. I may get tubes later.

I'll get the DAC/AMP first since that alone should improve the sound a lot.
I'll also look for a closed back equivalent of the AKG 712 Pro as well so I don't disturb others.
thanks for the help.
I also like the Fiio products for a small portable DAC and they can be used for a bluetooth adapter as well. I own a FiiO BTR1K (no longer made) and have gotten a lot of use out of it. Connect one end to headphones or to a car aux in and you have a high quality bluetooth adapter, connect USB end to a computer and you have a small DAC with a bit of an amp.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085XT3V3X/ref=sspa_dk_detail_6?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B085XT3V3X&pd_rd_w=lNoXu&pf_rd_p=7d37a48b-2b1a-4373-8c1a-bdcc5da66be9&pd_rd_wg=UJDZh&pf_rd_r=2WH8HKC50D2Z1VV1R63W&pd_rd_r=1d889f05-b662-4d9d-ac79-45e9cfdb36e2&smid=A14IIJ8CA334LK&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzRUtZSEUxTjFOUDc3JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMjAzNjI1MVJJVk1KWEtQVjdPNSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMzAzNTU2SzRRVUUyT0pSM05YJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfZGV0YWlsJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

https://www.amazon.com/FiiO-BTR5-384K-Bluetooth5-0-Headphone-Unbalanced/dp/B07ZK3M6XK/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=FiiO+BTR5&qid=1605802129&s=electronics&sr=1-2

This is a newer product that has gotten good reviews also
 
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anort3

Titan
Moderator
There isn't really a closed back equivalent of a K712 Pro. Not without spending 3 times the money. Also I haven't used any of the Dragonfly line but I'm also a moderator at What Hi-Fi and the general consensus over there is one of disappointment. So take from that what you will.

There just isn't really a standout closed back 'audiophile' headphone under $500. The Massdrop x Fostex X-00 series but they aren't in production as of now. Maybe the E-Mu Teak which uses the same Fostex driver.

https://www.emu.com/teak.html

The Massdrop x Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go. It's better than the 1770 Pro as they tamed the ear splitting treble but a friend just recently tried them and he ended up buying a used TH-X00 Mahogany and selling the 177X. That doesn't mean you won't like them.

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-x-beyerdynamic-dt177x-go-headphones
 
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enewmen

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There isn't really a closed back equivalent of a K712 Pro. Not without spending 3 times the money. Also I haven't used any of the Dragonfly line but I'm also a moderator at What Hi-Fi and the general consensus over there is one of disappointment. So take from that what you will.

There just isn't really a standout closed back 'audiophile' headphone under $500. The Massdrop x Fostex X-00 series but they aren't in production as of now. Maybe the E-Mu Teak which uses the same Fostex driver.

https://www.emu.com/teak.html

The Massdrop x Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go. It's better than the 1770 Pro as they tamed the ear splitting treble but a friend just recently tried them and he ended up buying a used TH-X00 Mahogany and selling the 177X. That doesn't mean you won't like them.

https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-x-beyerdynamic-dt177x-go-headphones
Thanks for the help, but I'm a little confused.
The Dragonfly got a good review at What Hi-Fi
https://www.whathifi.com/reviews/audioquest-dragonfly-cobalt

I don't know much about DACs. But in any case, it seems ANY good external DAC/AMP will be a big improvement over a phone or notebook built-in DAC.
DACPort HD, Ikko Zerda, Cyrus SoundKey , etc. looks & sounds about the same at half price. There are also Bluetooth versions like FiiO BTR3K if I need that.
I'll just get a simple DAC to get me started.

The closed-back headphones seem sensitive to different earpads with different materials & sizes than open-back, and they can change the sound a lot on closed-back headphones. I can get a few and compare.
 
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