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Upgrading my Fiio K5.

Luke Lemke

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Hey guys, I'm new to the forum and would like some help to upgrade my Fiio K5.

My current headphones are: Focal Clear, Beyerdynamic DT 1990, Hifiman Sundara and Sennheiser 660S. I drive all of them with my Fiio K5 Pro, which a like a lot.

Problem is, I've never tested any of these headphones with a "better" Amp. Any amp recommendations below $500? My priority is an amp that would pair well with the Focal Clear.

Thanks!
 

AdamG247

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Hey guys, I'm new to the forum and would like some help to upgrade my Fiio K5.

My current headphones are: Focal Clear, Beyerdynamic DT 1990, Hifiman Sundara and Sennheiser 660S. I drive all of them with my Fiio K5 Pro, which a like a lot.

Problem is, I've never tested any of these headphones with a "better" Amp. Any amp recommendations below $500? My priority is an amp that would pair well with the Focal Clear.

Thanks!
Welcome Aboard @Luke Lemke.
 

raistlin65

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DACs and solid state headphone amps are now a mature technology. A JDS Labs Atom stack or Schiit Heresy and Modi 3+ for $200 measures so freaking accurate that it is easily arguable to be noise and distortion free within the range of human hearing. In other words, the highest fidelity sound quality you can perceive.

For example,

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jds-labs-atom-dac-review.14002/

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ents-of-new-jds-labs-atom-headphone-amp.5262/

Since either stack will drive 99% of headphones, you'd be all set for pretty much anything moving forward from here.

That being said, I can't promise you you'll hear a lot of difference between that and your K5 Pro. Only that these setups measure significantly more accurate.
 
OP
Luke Lemke

Luke Lemke

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Thanks a lot for your reply, I've been looking at the Schiit stacks for a while. They also have some cool DAC+Amp combos, like the Asgard and the Jotunheim. The Jotunheim has a balanced output, so I could use that with my Focal clears. Do you think balanced cables make any difference?

I also fear I will not notice much of a difference between my Fiio K5 and these better amps...
Thanks!
 

raistlin65

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Thanks a lot for your reply, I've been looking at the Schiit stacks for a while. They also have some cool DAC+Amp combos, like the Asgard and the Jotunheim. The Jotunheim has a balanced output, so I could use that with my Focal clears. Do you think balanced cables make any difference?

I also fear I will not notice much of a difference between my Fiio K5 and these better amps...
Thanks!

Reread my previous post. You could not improve upon the fidelity of the sound output that you would get from the Atom or Heresy/Modi setup, even if another setup offers lower noise and distortion. You'd have to upgrade your ears to be able to hear the difference :)

So balanced won't do anything for you. The main advantage of balanced output is if you have headphones that are difficult to drive, and so you get an amp that has balanced output which is more easily able to handle that.
 
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Luke Lemke

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Hello, Just wanted to give you all an update. I had to import the Heresy/Modi stack from the US to my home country (Brazil) and it took around a month for them to arrive. I'm now in the process of comparing the Fiio K5 and my Modi/Heresy set-up.

Headphones tested:
-Focal Clear
-Sundara
-DT 1990
-Audio Technica R70x (recently purchased)

My first impression was that the Magni was "wider" and the bass was more punchy.

Then, I asked my son's help so I could do a "blind test". Guess what, I did not pass the blind test.
My objective conclusion so far is that I CAN HEAR NO DIFFERENCE between these two amps when I'm able to do volume matching properly. I must say Raistlin65 warned me of this, and he was correct. Maybe, just maybe, I could say the bass is more "punchy" on the Magni (I did get this right a couple of times during the blid tests) but that could be just in my head. I need to highlight that I listen mostly to prog metal and bluegrass, so it's possible that the differences could be more obvious in other music genres.

The Magni is more powerfull of course, but the Fiio has more than enough power to drive any of my headphones at a high volume, even the 480 ohms R70x

Just out of curiosity, I asked my son, which is 14 years old, to do the blind test too. My son is not an audiophile by any means, but he has "perfect" hearing due to young age, he can hear up to 20,000 hz. He also couldn't tell the difference between the amps.

Hence, my conclusion for any beginner is: Spend your money on getting the best headphones you can afford based on your sound signature preferences. Then get a decent enough budget dac/amp.

I will continue with the comparisons in the next days and If I discover any significant differences, I will post here.

If anyone has any other input or thoughts about it, I'd be happy to hear :).

Thanks!
 

raistlin65

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Hello, Just wanted to give you all an update. I had to import the Heresy/Modi stack from the US to my home country (Brazil) and it took around a month for them to arrive. I'm now in the process of comparing the Fiio K5 and my Modi/Heresy set-up.

Headphones tested:
-Focal Clear
-Sundara
-DT 1990
-Audio Technica R70x (recently purchased)

My first impression was that the Magni was "wider" and the bass was more punchy.

Then, I asked my son's help so I could do a "blind test". Guess what, I did not pass the blind test.
My objective conclusion so far is that I CAN HEAR NO DIFFERENCE between these two amps when I'm able to do volume matching properly. I must say Raistlin65 warned me of this, and he was correct. Maybe, just maybe, I could say the bass is more "punchy" on the Magni (I did get this right a couple of times during the blid tests) but that could be just in my head. I need to highlight that I listen mostly to prog metal and bluegrass, so it's possible that the differences could be more obvious in other music genres.

The Magni is more powerfull of course, but the Fiio has more than enough power to drive any of my headphones at a high volume, even the 480 ohms R70x

Just out of curiosity, I asked my son, which is 14 years old, to do the blind test too. My son is not an audiophile by any means, but he has "perfect" hearing due to young age, he can hear up to 20,000 hz. He also couldn't tell the difference between the amps.

Hence, my conclusion for any beginner is: Spend your money on getting the best headphones you can afford based on your sound signature preferences. Then get a decent enough budget dac/amp.

I will continue with the comparisons in the next days and If I discover any significant differences, I will post here.

If anyone has any other input or thoughts about it, I'd be happy to hear :).

Thanks!

That's great that you did a blind test. Now we've made you into an objectivist. :)

If you are at all interested, Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahnemann's book Thinking Fast and Slow is a really eye opener at all of the ways that cognitive biases affect us humans. We make bad decisions all of the time due to cognitive biases, and Kahnemann's book can really help to understand where that happens.
 
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Luke Lemke

Luke Lemke

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Thanks for your support! I'm still keeping the Magni/Heresy stack and selling my Fiio k5 since I'll be looking into high impedance headphones, like the T1, and the cost is very similar. But before I do that, I will continue playing around and testing both with different types of songs, gain settings, etc.

Still, I think it's crazy the amount of money people spend of equipment with minimal, if any, improvements in sound quality. I love the Focal Clears for example, but I have my doubts if they're "better" than my Sundara, which costs 4 times less.

Thanks for the book recommendation, this is a topic I'm interested in.

Take care.
Lucas
 

THW

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So balanced won't do anything for you. The main advantage of balanced output is if you have headphones that are difficult to drive, and so you get an amp that has balanced output which is more easily able to handle that.

even then, “balanced” output is most useful in portable devices IIRC. “single ended” overall just makes the most sense to me.

My first impression was that the Magni was "wider" and the bass was more punchy.

volume level does all sorts of funny things. generally the louder the volume, the more dynamic and “better” everything sounds.
 
Last edited:

Transmaniacon

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DACs and solid state headphone amps are now a mature technology. A JDS Labs Atom stack or Schiit Heresy and Modi 3+ for $200 measures so freaking accurate that it is easily arguable to be noise and distortion free within the range of human hearing. In other words, the highest fidelity sound quality you can perceive.

For example,

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jds-labs-atom-dac-review.14002/

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ents-of-new-jds-labs-atom-headphone-amp.5262/

Since either stack will drive 99% of headphones, you'd be all set for pretty much anything moving forward from here.

That being said, I can't promise you you'll hear a lot of difference between that and your K5 Pro. Only that these setups measure significantly more accurate.

Is the Heresy the best of the three Magnis? It’s trivial but the red coloring is a bit juvenile, I am wondering if the IEMagni is still a good choice at this point to pair with the Modi3?
 

THW

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Is the Heresy the best of the three Magnis? It’s trivial but the red coloring is a bit juvenile, I am wondering if the IEMagni is still a good choice at this point to pair with the Modi3?

AFAIK the IEMagni is basically the Heresy but with additional features and at a slightly higher price, you get negative gain like the L30 as well as I think DC protection
 

Transmaniacon

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AFAIK the IEMagni is basically the Heresy but with additional features and at a slightly higher price, you get negative gain like the L30 as well as I think DC protection

Thanks! Sounds like that will be a good choice then, I imagine it will have no issue driving the HD6XX?
 

THW

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Thanks! Sounds like that will be a good choice then, I imagine it will have no issue driving the HD6XX?

IEMagni shouldn’t have issues based on the output power measurements, my L30 which outputs max 100 mW (assume around 2V input in both cases) into 300 ohms (as opposed to IEMagni’s ~300?) and can drive my HD 600s just fine, this is also with the softer music in my collection and my -10 dB gain for my EQ
 

Transmaniacon

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IEMagni shouldn’t have issues based on the output power measurements, my L30 which outputs max 100 mW (assume around 2V input in both cases) into 300 ohms (as opposed to IEMagni’s ~300?) and can drive my HD 600s just fine, this is also with the softer music in my collection and my -10 dB gain for my EQ

Thanks, so this has tons of power, I appreciate the help!
 
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Luke Lemke

Luke Lemke

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Thanks! Sounds like that will be a good choice then, I imagine it will have no issue driving the HD6XX?
The Magni has enough power to drive pretty much any headphone in the market, with some exceptions. You will have no problem driving the 6XX.
 

raistlin65

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And what about channel imbalance found in the IEmagni, is it something to worry about it? I am thinking on getting this amp. Thanks

I would ask in that review thread. Sometimes with analog volume controls there are units that just have poor channel imbalance, rather than it being indicative of all the bottles coming out of the factory. Sort of bad luck of the draw.
 

Rockfella

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Thanks OP. This makes me like my K5 Pro more than ever! :)
 
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