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audio_noob_69

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Apr 9, 2021
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Dear members of Audio Science Review,

Lately I have been trying to figure out how to upgrade my music listening experience. I own the Sony MDR-ZX660 headphones. I listen to music using my laptop or my phone. Usually, I listen to mp3 files (320kbps). I am not satisfied with the sound quality of my phone's & laptop's DAC/AMPs. When I connect my headphones to a normal speaker amplifier while using the same sources the sound reproduction is much better. There is a substantial improvement regarding clarity, instrument separation, presence of details and a certain "warmth" in the sound in general.

So, will I be able to improve my listening experience with a portable headphone DAC/AMP that is compatible with both PCs (Windows 10) and mobile phones (Android)? Will the improvement be substantial? Do you have any devices to suggest that are suitable for my case and I should definitely try out?

I have found 4 candidates until now
  • Audioquest Dragonfly Black
  • Creative Sound BlasterX G6
  • Fiio Q1 Mark II
  • Fiio Q3
Thank you for your time.
 
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No one has any advice to offer? Such a disappointing experience for a new member...
Maybe i posted this in the wrong category?...
 
I would rather get better headphones than spending money on a portable/dac amp. Take your pick from amir’s recommended headphones. With another headphone the difference will be much more noticeable. I guess your speaker amp has a high impedance headphone out and therefore changes the frequency response of your low impedance headphones, sometimes the effect is a boosted bass. Just use the forum‘s search function, you‘ll find a lot of information on all of that.
 
I do agree with @artburda. Looking at your setup you would get the most improvement if you would upgrade the headphones. There are some very nice headphones available in the price range you have listed for the DAC/Amps.

There are many options depending on your music genre/sound preference. Some that come to mind just as an example are the Philips shp9500 (open back) or for instance Beyerdynamic dt 770 pro (V-shaped tuning so more bass, the 32ohm will work fine without dedicated dac/Amp on your pc and mobile phone). Both have a very different sound profile but are fine examples in your price range. There are many options so first decide what kind of sound you are looking for (very clean vocals vs powerful bass) and then start your research (or feel free to ask for recommendations).
 
Thank you for your replies.

Are you saying that these portable dac/amps are overkill for my headphones? That the MDR-ZX660 do not have any room for improvement?

I do not want to buy another pair of headphones until the MDR-ZX660 break, it would be a waste to just buy new headphones when the ones I already own serve me quite well. Also, they are very convenient because they fold, I can easily fit them in my bag when I am travelling. When they break, I will buy new ones.

For now, I want to achieve a better listening experience with the MDR-ZX660 that is like plugging them in to my speaker amplifier. Is that even possible with a portable dac/amp? Or will I just waste my money?

Regarding my listening preferences, I listen to almost all kinds of music, so I do not need more bass or extremely clean vocals. A balanced combination is what I aim for.
 
Just play around with some EQ on your smartphone‘s audio player. Adjust it to your taste. Almost every headphone needs some EQ to achieve the best sound.
 
For now, I want to achieve a better listening experience with the MDR-ZX660 that is like plugging them in to my speaker amplifier. Is that even possible with a portable dac/amp? Or will I just waste my money?

Does it get loud enough for you now? Do you hear anything specifically objectionable, or are you simply hoping for it to all just get better with some new hardware?

If the former, a number of great devices can be suggested. If the latter, you may want to look towards the headphones themselves for real, noticeable improvement.
 
I have found 4 candidates until now
  • Audioquest Dragonfly Black
  • Creative Sound BlasterX G6
  • Fiio Q1 Mark II
  • Fiio Q3
Thank you for your time.

Independent of the 'new headphone' issue, I suggest adding the Qudelix 5k at $110 to your above list. While your PC can run PEQ (Parametric EQ) software, the Qudelix includes it, providing it both for Windows and Android.

As you gain experience, you will value having PEQ for whatever headphones you end up with. Personally, the Qudelix is an easy choice for me over all of the above.

https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/qudelix-5k-bluetooth-dac-headphone-amp.17386/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088F7C976/

Amir has shown that PEQ can make a substantial difference in the $9 MDR-Zx110. It will likely also do so for your $30 Zx660..
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/9-headphone-review-sony-mdr-zx110.19484/
 
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Independent of the 'new headphone' issue, I suggest adding the Qudelix 5k at $110 to your above list. While your PC can run PEQ (Parametric EQ) software, the Qudelix includes it, providing it both for Windows and Android.

As you gain experience, you will value having PEQ for whatever headphones you end up with. Personally, the Qudelix is an easy choice for me over all of the above.

https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/qudelix-5k-bluetooth-dac-headphone-amp.17386/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088F7C976/
I agree with this. OP needs to experiment with eq.
 
K371 + Hiby R2 and you are set for years.
I concur, I love that k371 hiby r2 combo as well as that ibasso dx300 combo but the latter might be too expensive for the lad,also you can get the k371 from harmon in 4 easy payments.
 
I have already played around with EQ settings inside AIMP player (windows) and the ones found on android. There is a difference without a doubt, but I still cannot replicate my experience with the speaker amplifier. It changed how the headphones sounded altogether. That's the reason why I am asking if a portable dac/amp can come close to offering that kind of listening experience when paired with my headphones.

Both the laptop and the phone can make the headphones sound louder than I can handle. I usually listen to them at a low volume setting because I do not want to damage my ears, my job requires me having an excellent hearing ability.
 
I have already played around with EQ settings inside AIMP player (windows) and the ones found on android. There is a difference without a doubt, but I still cannot replicate my experience with the speaker amplifier. It changed how the headphones sounded altogether. That's the reason why I am asking if a portable dac/amp can come close to offering that kind of listening experience when paired with my headphones.

Both the laptop and the phone can make the headphones sound louder than I can handle. I usually listen to them at a low volume setting because I do not want to damage my ears, my job requires me having an excellent hearing ability.
When you say "speaker amplifier" do you mean you are tapping the speaker terminals, or a headphone jack on the amp? What model?

As others have said, it's likely the amp has high output impedance compared to the cans, so you won't get the same response from (most) dedicated headphone amps, which tend towards one ohm output impedance.
 
The amp is the Yamaha AX-550. I plug the headphones in using an adapter in the front port located down, to the left.
Yamaha AX-550
Yes, if I've read the specs right, that headphone amp is 390 ohm so no headphone amp, portable or otherwise, is likely to sound like that without trying to eq the same effect.
 
Never seen specifications written in such a way
471AC412-BD29-411B-A0AE-BF19F42FA6EA.jpeg
 
Okay, I understand. Thank you for the detailed answer.

Will a portable dac/amp improve the sound reproduction of the MDR-ZX66 (aside from adjusting EQ settings or trying to match the AX-550 sound style)? Will I be able to notice a difference between the external dac/amp and the internal of the laptop/phone?
 
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