Jacq's Opinion Editorials (#2: The Ever Elusive Audio Nirvana)

Discussion in 'SBAF Blogs' started by jacq, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. jacq

    jacq Friend

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    Hello guys, been a long time lurker but I haven’t really posted much in the forums and I’ve decided to change that with my reflections during my trip to Asia. About me, I’m not very technical as most of you folks though I enjoy the hobby as much as anyone here. As my gear is constantly changing, I’d like to link you guys to my headfi account instead in where I keep my current gear inventory updated.

    As for what I intend to post, I’d like to just treat this thread as an opinion thread about headphone stuff I see, along with the pictures you may often see Instagram and other sites. I guess the reason for the change is that I’m kind of tired of the lack of quality Reddit offers and with the mods telling me my posts are just for “moneyshots” to reap karma. Being kind of insulted with this, I decided to just move my content elsewhere though I’m not that disciplined to keep a personal blog. I am hoping that the SBAF community would be accepting for what kind of content I want to share online. Please let me know if you have any questions. Hoping to update this twice a month or at the very least, once a month.

    Here are examples of my headphone shots. Along with some here on my IG.

    Index:
    #1: Traveling with a DAP + IEM? How ideal is it?
    #2: The Ever Elusive Audio Nirvana
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017

  2. jacq

    jacq Friend

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    #1: Traveling with a DAP + IEM? How ideal is it?

    [​IMG]
    DP-X1 + UERM along with its case, my daypack and carryon.

    I’m insanely jetlagged right now and I decided to take up on writing about my 30-hour flight from Asia to Florida. This journey was done with multiple layovers, and I definitely had to sit to listen music during the times those times. I suppose I’ll start with my own personal rules when it comes to choosing a portable setup:

    · UI – subjective but this is of absolute importance to me as I tend to enjoy choosing different playlists or albums when I listen.
    · Battery life – pretty self-explanatory but the more battery the better when you’re out and about
    · Storage – also subjective but being able to bring however much music is pretty great to me. I love dual microSD or DAPs that offer over 128gb.
    · Sound quality – for me, there’s really just a baseline to establish and I enjoy a detailed, neutral DAP that would be a reliable reference if I were to demo something when I travel.
    · External outputs – having digital out like USB, optical/toslink, Coax is very nice when you go to meets or testing equipment on the go.
    · Streaming – I stream so this is a must for me though it’s a non-issue for some people.
    · External controls/ergonomic design – I like having something easy to use when I’m in public transportation or walking, playback controls are definitely a godsend.

    The DAP that fit this bill has been the DP-X1 to me, so far. I had an Apple iPod Video back in high school and I’ve owned others ever since then, like the DX50, FiiO X5c, AK100ii, AK240. Soundquality wise, I think the RWAK240 is still better sounding than the DP-X1 but the price difference was just way too big that I couldn’t really justify the 240. Instead, I took the money and put it towards the Yggdrasil and I’m happier than before. The DP-X1 definitely needs work in the battery life area along with sound quality but given the fact that you get a lot of features, it’s hard not to be compelled to buy it.

    In regards to AK, I know they’re hated around this parts and with good reason. Poor customer support, rapid product release turnover, lack of -almost- essential features like streaming, some build flaws that cause certain issues to suffice even faster, and worse of all, it is tied with a hefty pricetag. It’s definitely a fashion-fi piece with its cases made from reputable tanneries, along with the luxurious product launches they do so I can definitely say it’s not for everyone. I continue to be interested in what they release in the market in hopes that other companies will take the features they have to integrate it to more affordable models.

    [​IMG]
    RWAK240 + SE846 with some badass looking cheapo cables.

    Now, despite all the idealized concepts about owning and bringing a DAP to travel, the biggest issue still remains, it’s still bulky. It’s a separate device from your phone, and if you’re anything like me when I travel I mostly bring my phone, camera, powerbank, wallet, IEM, and DAP. I’ve asked myself multiple times about this, how do I optimize what I carry onto the plane and my own daypack to be able to not feel weighed down with the stuff I’m carrying? I’ve tried several things just to streamline the storage process and I think the most simplified way is to carry it with just the DAP + iem case that’ll fit in one of your bag compartments. Having a pelican case may be nice and I have owned one along with other cases but having the DAP inside a pouch will just add unnecessary bulk if you’re carrying a small sling bag of sorts.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Decisions decisions... Eventually went with the black pouch with carabiner which would hang nicely on the airplane bin where they keep the magazines with less weight than the pelicases.

    Perhaps the argument of stacking can suffice as well. With all the portable DAC/amp choices out there, there’s a massive realm of possibility if going this route. Owning an iPhone may complicate things further as some DAC devices refuse to play nice with Apple and others may drain the battery faster. This can also mean adding unnecessary bulk onto the case with rubber bands or Velcro. I’ve owned a few DAC/amps to go with my phone or my DAP itself to give it an extra sound quality boost but I found that most times, I'm not too willing to carry it. It also makes me feel angry that it’s often not pocketable with an excess of wires sticking out due to interconnects. I do keep an RSA Intruder on standby as a transportable setup with the HD800 if I really have to bring the HD800 to have someone try. Otherwise, it’s DAP + IEM for me.

    [​IMG]
    Got too lazy to find an actual pic but this is what my transportable rig looks like, DPX1 + Intruder + HD800. It's connected through restickable tape by Scotch.

    Anyway, now that I’ve gone through this long winded tangent, I will tie it all together to say that I have traveled with my UERM + DP-X1 for around 50 hours total, excluding all the layovers. and I’d like to give my data upon walking around and traveling with it. Of course, take with a grain of salt… It’s pretty subjective.

    · Having the DP-X1 out, especially when I was commuting was not fun. Overall, it was a bit too bulky. I wore a coat when I traveled and I had the DP-X1 in one pocket, my phone in another along with my wallet. Perhaps if I had a breastpocket, it would fit quite nicely.
    · My UERM is 2.5mm TRRS terminated so I had to use a 2.5mm – 3.5mm adapter along with a 3.5mm – lightning connector to use with my iPhone 7. It doesn’t sound very good with piercing treble and it sounding very thin so I hope more and more companies release alternatives to the lightning to 3.5mm connector.
    · The DP-X1 was great to use when I was able to sit and listen without any interruptions so it was mostly used during boarding gate queues, sitting out somewhere, or flights itself.
    · After owning the UERM, CIEMs are definitely a plus for me in terms of comfort. I don’t think I’ll be going back to universals unless I could get a custom sleeve.
    · In terms of sound quality, the UERM could use a companion IEM that’s fun and engaging that would fit my preferences. The good thing about IEMs is that they’re so small that you don’t really notice them so I can see myself bringing a second pair without any issues.

    Overall, I think owning a DAP is worth it if you’re okay with it being an extra bulky thing to bring. I think this can be a non-issue to those who commute to work or school on a daily basis though I don’t think it’s completely ideal for traveling where you have to be somewhat aware of your surroundings. Despite of its shortcomings, I’m probably still going to keep the DAP + iems setup to bring with me in my upcoming travels.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  3. jacq

    jacq Friend

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    #2: The Ever Elusive Audio Nirvana

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Current setup as of today, January 24, 2017.

    Alright, I figured I’d write all this I become extremely overwhelmed with all the gear I’m going to go through in the next few months. As of now, I have an HD800, SR007, L700 with an SRD7, ampnsound Mogwai (loaner) and a Schiit Yggdrasil in my possession while my Master9 and Studio are on loan. The Studio is less than 2 miles away so I will get that back once the RCA black plates arrive to write a proper review, though the Master9 is still in NYC loaned to someone. It has been one hell of a ride for me in the past year, gear-wise and the way I listen to music has definitely changed—for the better(I think?!).

    Looking back to when I came back to the hobby from being burnt out with midfi, I deciding to stop wasting my money on midfi and just going to the best that I could afford with all the upgrades. My initial purchase started with a 400i and the Alpha Dogs which I sold my LCD2.2 for, due to the fact that I couldn’t power it very well(was using an Objective2, lol). After obtaining those cans, I bought an NFB-15 which I eventually sold for a Liquid Carbon preorder, while springing for an LCD-X and an Asgard 1 I picked up for very cheap. As for the DAC, I was able to get a cheap R2R DAC, the ADCOM GDA700 which I intended to use with the LC through balanced XLR. I then eventually got an Ether open, that I briefly owned as I decided to sell it for an HD800 and a STAX L700 with an SRD-7 the following month. Upon countless delays with the LC, I decided to cancel my preorder and put my money into a Mjolnir 2 and I eventually replaced the DAC with a Gungnir Multibit. The Mjolnir 2 lacked detail that I craved for and I was really disappointed with how the Ragnarok performed so I blind bought an Audio-GD Master9. The LCD-X eventually got replaced with an LCD-3 and life was good with my LCD-3, HD800, L700 trio. Curiosity about the Yggdrasil then dawned on me so I decided to sell my AK240 DAP + Gungnir Multibit to fund it and it has been one of the best purchases I’ve had so far. Fast forward to late 2016, I decided to sell my LCD-3 to buy an SR007 in Japan, while deciding on having a KGSSHV built as soon as my builder is ready, which will be around March. Now I have plans in trading off my L700 for an LCD-4 + cash on my side. Early 2017 came to me as a surprise as I got some (surprise) money back home and so, I decided to get an EC Studio that was in the classifieds which I figured wouldn’t be too hard of a thing to sell if I didn’t like it.

    [​IMG]
    The Setup. ~September 2017.

    And so, here we are in late January 2017.

    I wanted to write this to state my opinions about my thoughts on endgame and what I learned throughout the way. I think as time went by, I learned more and more that endgame is a mindset rather than a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. If I had to pinpoint a time when I realized this, it was probably when I got the M9+Yggy combo with my 3 headphones. All three are great, though my desire to upgrade or get better things come from curiosity and also, because the opportunity presents itself in a way that I don’t seem to lose very much. I realized that I upgraded because I was more curious about things, rather than trying to hope that an upgrade would be the end of spending for me in the realm of audio. I think things are constantly changing, they will be upgraded and new features will be added that people would hype up as if it’s the product you’ve always been waiting for. So I thought, why fight it? Why not try to refine the thought process so that it doesn’t get out of hand, so that it’s logical and hopefully economical, and it doesn’t leach out to your relationships or character?

    [​IMG]
    Hugo TT not mine but HD800 - Studio - Yggy + Singxer is here to stay.

    I’ve been trying to create a system in how to streamline my audio setup and what I want from it and I think I’m comfortable sharing my process. One, I like having multiple pieces of equipment but I make sure they are all being utilized in one way or another. Anything that doesn’t get used can be sold to be recycled into more expensive gear if I will it. Two, I think that it’s important to know what you want out of your setup and not be so judgmental to those who think differently. I can definitely sense the elitism in some people with hatred towards others with what they possess. I think we just all hear differently and plus, it’s others people’s money. Three, never feel bad with hyped up bad purchases or losing money over deals because you can always cut your losses and move on. I know some people who are discouraged with preorders, early adopters, or even overpaying on used products but it’s futile to think negatively. Thinking about how these bad deals are a temporary thing probably helps with one’s endurance/sanity, as that’s pretty much how I’ve stayed for so long with this hobby. Four, think of it as a passion or interest and not a vice. Headphones are addicting and buying gear is addicting. I know it reeks of consumerism and materialism, which is totally the opposite of simple living but I learned how to enjoy it in my own way. I label myself as a minimalist and I still stand by that, as I streamline the SNR in my life and make time for the things that matter. Whenever I meet new people, they ask me about my interests and audiophile headphones has always been one of them. Most people probably think it’s pretty useless but who cares, it’s my life and my money. I like being able to sit down and hear all the details, realize how fun some albums can sound, and being able to hear live recordings like I was there. I love it, these are all the reasons why I love headphones. Being able to talk about the gear, similar artists and overall enjoying the company of others are other incentives, and I try to say that it’s pretty much like how other people are interested in their own hobbies. I guess I write this to those who feel like this hobby is something one should be ashamed of, especially when it comes to upgrading gear. I’m sure this interest means something different to everyone so I guess I urge everyone to find what this all means to you personally.

    I remember one question I asked myself when I got the Yggdrasil, what’s next after this? There were a million combinations, it was like when I spent more, more new things needed to be bought. I thought about running my mind through all those combinations but eventually I took a step back to enjoy the present. What was I thinking? I JUST got a Yggdrasil after 3 weeks of waiting, I should enjoy it! I know endgame is a destination we’re all trying to reach and all, but sometimes it’s nice to look around to relax and enjoy all our temporary endgames for the time being.

    [​IMG]
    One of my favorite pairings, Yggdrasil - Master9 - LCD-3 2016 revision.
     
  4. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    I moved you over to the prestigious blog sub-forums with Moffat and @MuppetFace. Thanks for sharing your audio journey. Maybe move on to a turntable? You've heard pretty much everything else you need to hear.
     
  5. jacq

    jacq Friend

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    Welp, wow I'm at a loss for words, thanks! I will definitely update this consistently now haha. I'm definitely thinking about moving to TT's @Mikoss and @JoshMorr have been telling me that I can't escape my fate as I have an insane fondness for Jazz that I'm pretty sure only analog can satisfy. I will be moving for graduate school in June but with the luxury of having my own place, it will be much easier to venture onto speakers and vinyl if I decide to.
     
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  6. Cspirou

    Cspirou Friend

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    I like the posts!

    Whenever I read about someone's endgame system, it's usually the HD800 or some other full size headphone from the $1000-$2000 range. However there are also a lot of IEMs in that price range but I never really read about them considered in an endgame system. More like the best portable system. However if I am looking at IEMs at that price, i think they should be competitive with anything else regardless of physical size.

    What do you think about IEMs as a primary system?
     
  7. jacq

    jacq Friend

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    Personally, I haven't heard of a portable setup besting a desktop setup to date. With the Studio and the Yggdrasil in my possession, the bar is set very very high but despite these two, I still find IEM setups a bit too overpriced for what they can do right now. Like, I enjoyed the AK380 though I don't think it's worth the price, along with the mojo. I recently tried the iSine20 and I wonder if this is a new change for IEMs, they kinda sounded like full sized to me because of the added air though they are heavy on the ears and kind of big. For real world use, I'd imagine they'd be used at home as part of a high end transportable system while having no regard to cost or portability. In terms of killers in value, I would give credit to the UERM and the Andromeda, which I have heard and really liked though the UERM is hard to find now. Hearing the K10 and Katana, I suppose they are good but not $1600(or whatever) good.

    My biggest problem with IEMs is that everything in the high end is absurdly expensive with very questionable value in terms of sound quality. For me, I think a decent, competitively priced IEM setup can be done, being the andromeda to be the frontliner for then paired with a good DAP that can power it. If we're talking about the bleeding edge, like 5% stuff, it can get absurdly expensive fast. Add in the fact that the portable manufacturers keeps releasing new things every 2 months or so. I am hoping this normalizes within the next 2 years.
     
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  8. Warrior

    Warrior Friend

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    Great blog @jacq!! I always enjoy your thoughts on audio, and reading about your journey is no exception.

    I'm one of the few that prefers iems to headphones. Not sure why. I definitely enjoy my headphones, but iems I find very enjoyable for some reason. Even when I have the opportunity at work, I grab my IEMS before my headphones. I have 650s and Th900s. I just purchased a pair of zmf Blackwoods, but I doubt that will change my preference.
     
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