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View Full Version : What should I fix?



Jacob Potter
2005-10-01, 18:44
Hi all -

I've been looking to improve the sound on my SB2 system a bit, so I'm
trying to figure out what I should do to get the best bang for the
buck. My current setup is:
- SB2 wired
- Grado SR80s on SB2 headphone output

The obvious thing is to get a proper headphone amp; from what I've
seen on Headwize, the "Apheared 47" design is ideal for Grados (it's a
bit higher-end than the standard CMOY, but nothing too fancy). But
here on the SB2 list, the most popular upgrade seems to be an improved
power supply.

Would a simple AC wall-wart -> rectifier -> 7805 -> bunch-o'-caps be a
worthwhile improvement over the stock supply? Or should I focus on the
amplifier first? Are my Grados even good enough to not be the weakest
link themselves?

Any suggestions appreciated :)

- Jacob

pfarrell
2005-10-01, 19:30
On Sat, 2005-10-01 at 21:44 -0400, Jacob Potter wrote:
> The obvious thing is to get a proper headphone amp; from what I've
> seen on Headwize, the "Apheared 47" design is ideal for Grados (it's a
> bit higher-end than the standard CMOY, but nothing too fancy). But
> here on the SB2 list, the most popular upgrade seems to be an improved
> power supply.

I would recommend you be careful making judgements based on how
popular mods are. First, upgrading the power supply is easy
and fairly cheap, so even if it doesn't do much for most
listeners.

Second, I think most of the folks on this list have mid-level
or higher speakers, so they are not likely to think of headphone
amps. I know I haven't used headphones for serious listening in
at least thirty years.



> Would a simple AC wall-wart -> rectifier -> 7805 -> bunch-o'-caps be a
> worthwhile improvement over the stock supply?

I am not a circuit designer, but I have a hard time imagining that this
would do anything good. The best you can say is that it would be cheap.
The reason everything uses cheap switching power supplies is that
they deliver a lot of bang for the buck. By setting the switching
circuit frequency over 20kHz, you don't have to worry about
noise in the circuit, your approach is sure to have some 60hz
noise flowing thru. Clearly you could use lots-o-bunches-o caps
but that is not elegant and stops improving pretty quickly.

Why not just stick a bunch-o-caps on the current power supply?

I think that if I was living on headphones only, I'd look for
some electrostatic headphones first, and then look for
a really good tube headphone amp.

But what you really need are some Quads :-)

--
Pat
http://www.pfarrell.com/music/slimserver/slimsoftware.html

Fifer
2005-10-02, 06:22
Second, I think most of the folks on this list have mid-level
or higher speakers, so they are not likely to think of headphone
amps. I know I haven't used headphones for serious listening in
at least thirty years.

Pat, I think that disqualifies you from comment. ;) Headphone technology and quality today is unrecognisable from that of 30 years ago. It's a commonly held viewpoint that decent headphones can deliver sound quality that you would have to pay 5 to 10 times more on to match with speakers. There are also some stunning headphone amp designs around.

SR-80s are excellent headphones for the money. They were my first pair of 'serious' cans and I still use them regularly. My main headphones just now are Sennheiser HD650s which, paired with my WNA HeadAmp Mk2 provide amazing sound quality for the price. I must admit a soft spot for the Grado sound though.

My experience is that the SB drives SR-80s surprisingly well, but a decent headphone amp should provide a significant improvement. Spend a bit of time on Head-Fi to get a flavour of what's available. You don't have to spend a fortune to get decent sound with headphones and even less if you can handle a soldering iron.

pfarrell
2005-10-02, 07:42
On Sun, 2005-10-02 at 06:22 -0700, Fifer wrote:
> > . I know I haven't used headphones for serious listening in
> > at least thirty years.
> >
> Pat, I think that disqualifies you from comment. ;) Headphone
> technology and quality today is unrecognisable from that of 30 years
> ago. It's a commonly held viewpoint that decent headphones can deliver
> sound quality that you would have to pay 5 to 10 times more on to match
> with speakers.

What part is unrecognizable? Good headphones have sounded very good
and were lots cheaper than amps and speakers. I see that Koss is
still selling the Pro4-AA that I used thirty years ago.

The cool part of headphone technology is that you only need a handful of
watts to drive any of them. And making a flea powered amp is tons
easier (and lots cheaper) than one that puts out hundreds of watts.

And if I need only a couple of watts, tubes is the way to go.

> There are also some stunning headphone amp designs
> around.

No argument from me. I have fifteen or twenty pairs of headphones
that I use all the time in my recording studio. I currently
prefer the Sennheiser HD-280. There are lots of good ones.

But when I listen to music seriously, I don't use headphones.
YMMV

--
Pat Farrell PRC recording studio
http://www.pfarrell.com/PRC

Fifer
2005-10-02, 08:51
What part is unrecognizable?
It's a fair cop, my choice of words was poor. I should have said 'headphone technology and quality have come a long way in 30 years'. The point I was trying to make was that 30 years ago, the choice of high quality headphones was fairly limited and what was available was fairly expensive. There is a much wider selection available now and very good quality to be had for reasonable amounts of money.

pfarrell
2005-10-02, 09:13
On Sun, 2005-10-02 at 08:51 -0700, Fifer wrote:
> 'headphone technology and quality have come a long way in 30 years'.
> The point I was trying to make was that 30 years ago, the choice of
> high quality headphones was fairly limited and what was available was
> fairly expensive. There is a much wider selection available now and
> very good quality to be had for reasonable amounts of money.

I'll agree that the quality you can get per dollar today is much
better, and there are lots more choices. Driven I think by all the
walkmen, diskmen and now iPods.

But the technology hasn't changed any at all that I can see.
Except that there were no small, in ear systems 30 years ago.
And there were no ear-bud styles earlier than about 15 or so years ago.

But the drivers are still either dynamic or electrostatic.
I don't know if any ribbon drivers, but ribbons are 50+ year old
technology. And the electrostatic still are big and expensive and
wonderful.

What has changed is that the dymanic drivers are lots better at lower
price points. And they are more comfortable to wear, lighter, etc.

Of course, I'm not sure what technology changes have to be made to
change the technology. Do new ways to manufacture a mature design
count as new technology?

--
Pat
http://www.pfarrell.com/music/slimserver/slimsoftware.html

Fifer
2005-10-02, 11:57
But the technology hasn't changed any at all that I can see.
Except that there were no small, in ear systems 30 years ago.
And there were no ear-bud styles earlier than about 15 or so years ago.
I suppose you've partly answered your own question, but aside of the miniaturisation that allows Shure and Ety to make their stunning in-ear systems, materials technology has improved with new cone, conductor, magnetic and housing materials being used and manufacturing technology has improved allowing better driver matching, closer tolerances in driver assembly and better ways of making driver housings. These are evolutionary technological improvements rather than revolutionary new technologies I admit, but major improvements nonetheless.

pasodoble
2005-10-02, 16:10
Something like a PIMETA (http://tangentsoft.net/audio/pimeta/) should be more than sufficient. I understand it grew out from the Apheared design (in fact, I further understand that the A in PIMETA is for Apheared). JMT Audio (http://www.jmtaudio.com/) builds PIMETA amps in Transportable, Portable and Home (probably the best option) versions.

Headphones. The SR80's are fine, but I suppose it depends on the budget and style of listening. Personally speaking, I've never been a Grado fan. For all-purpose listening with a pop/rock bent though, I guess you could do a lot worse than the SR80's for about that ballpark price. Your budget and listening will dictate the recommendation and you're best off going to Head-Fi for that sort of stuff. Youo can certainly do better in all sorts of ways than the SR80 and I don't think with a decent headphone amp the Squeezebox will be the limiting component, but you might need to pay more than you expected for real step up.

On the matter of headphone+amp usage, a DAC-amp seems to do a better job in my view but the analog outs certainly are not a slouch. Frankly speaking, I was seriously surprised at how good even the Sennheiser Orpheus sounded directly from the SB's analog ports. Perhaps it was a case of low expectations, but I was genuinely taken aback at the results.