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IamKirk

Upgrading amp/dac to drive AKG K701.

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Hi,

 

I am currently using an IBasso D2 boa. It worked great with my old Sennheiser HD555. I recently bought some AKG K701 and I have a feeling they are not being driven to their fullest. I have to turn the volume to 3/4 almost to get a good volume. THe ibasso is more of a portable usbdac/amp, so I was thinking of something more stationary and synergystic with the akg's.

 

I have been interested in the Keces DA-152 and that newfangled matrix dac. I am looking to spend around 400, not much higher, for a dac/amp in one. THe Keces looks very well made and great for usb to HP. I am also in Canada, which makes things a bit more difficult when evaluating the worth of ordering from china/us, etc.

 

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Kirk,

 

I own the AKG K701's myself. I use a HeadRoom Home dedicated amp and it is older but used to be their top-of-the-line amp. To get bigger volume is no big deal because it delivers. If you want to get the phone's to their potential you need a decent headphone amp. Check out http://www.head-fi.org/. These guys know everything and you'll get the right answers. There's a great used section if you don't have big bucks and there are plenty of amps at every price level. Also check out http://www.headphone.com/index.php Their business has been around a long time and they know their stuff. Before buying anything though spend some time at Head-fi and check out your options either SS or tubes. Their are many w/built in DAC's and USB inputs these days.

 

Keith

 

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The Head-Fi forums are a good place to research a DAC/Amp combo once you find one.

 

I just bought a pair of 701's as well as a Benchmark DAC1 USB and I can tell you that to me it's a brilliant combo. The USB version is above your price range though but if USB is not a must have you could look for a used DAC1 at around $600.

 

If $400 is absolutely your ceiling I'd have the Matrix Mini-i at the top of my shortlist. It's gotten pretty favorable reviews here and over at Head-Fi and is a nice looking unit IMO.

 

I've not listened to the 701's on anything else yet so I can't comment on whether or not the Benchmark improves the sound, all I know is that I'm getting more detail out of recordings than I've ever heard in my life. This combo seems to just lay it all out there, warts and all whereas my Sennheiser 580s and Audio Technica M50s both add their own sound signature to the music. Neither is better/worse, just different, but for critical listening the 701s will be my go-to headphone.

 

Bill

 

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Something that worked well for me is this little bugger: http://www.jdslabs.com/products.php?page=cmoy

 

It gives the 701s the low end kick that they need and even sounds good when connected to an iPod. And it's VERY much in your price range for just the amp. And if you need a DAC to go with, the Devilsound (see the CA cash list) should work nicely.

 

But something else about the K701s. I've found they do very well with recabling. The stock cable is very much a limiting factor. I've had mine upgraded with Cardas cables which has made a very nice improvement but at a cost that you may not want to incur. The Bass Boost cMoy is a low risk and cost option so I'd recommend going that way. Here is a review if you're interested.

 

http://www.onheadphones.com/product-reviews/amplifiers/jds-labs-cmoy-bass-boost-v2.00.html

 

Good luck.

 

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My only concern with the matrix is it seems to be a jack of all trades box that is geared more towards a dac than the the headphone part (which is still good according to some folks). I am a simple no tube, no high res music kind of guy so all of the balanced inputs etc are prob not needed. It's still very intriguing for the price. Keces DA-152 is about 500. Audio-gd FUN also looks interesting. You know much about it?

 

http://www.pacificvalve.us/MatrixBalanced.html

http://www.pacificvalve.us/AudiogdFUN.html

 

 

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What drove you to get the Matrix? I guess I am just skeptical of the jack of all trades master of none that you see on a lot of overseas stuff.

 

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Guest WATERLOGIC

I do not use tubes electronics and never will.

 

Sure, there are better HP amps.

Like Lehmann audio Black Cube Linear - LABCL (which I have also cca 700 Euros).

As said, Matrix HP amp is no match to LABCL, but it comes close enough to be considered good.

 

If Matrix is the "jack of all trades" - it is a very good one. You get a good DAC and HP amp, able to push through up to 24/1192 with no upsampling and all this for 240 Euros.

 

What draw me in to buy it ? - pure curiosity. Turns out curiosity is not such a bad thing, after all.

 

WL

 

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I am down to the matrix or the Keces I think. I've heard very good things about Keces as well. Anyone have any experience with both of them? by any chance? lol.

 

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Kirk,

 

I did see you over at Head-Fi and see you're checking some of this stuff

out. This Pacific deal looks too good to be true and I believe that.

Unless I'm mistaken someone there was pumping these up review-wise and they

were not credible. I do believe you get what you pay for and at this price

it wouldn't be quality. A true balanced amp you aren't going to find for

under $1K and that would be used. A really great alternative would be a B22

(these are individually built and DIY). If you can build you can get the

best of everything and save quite a bit of $$. Check out 6 Moon Audio

website for some insight too. They are totally into the Headphone high end.

Their reviews tend to be a bit fluffy though (not the John Atkinson bench

test type). Speaking of John Atkinson: have you considered a Xonar Essence

sound card? Big time great review and supposedly the headphone output is

descent. Hook up a decent headphone amp>RCA outs and you are good to

go>24/192. Of course that excludes Apple since they have that goofy built

in sound card deal.

 

Keith

 

 

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I actually think a "Jack-of-all-trades" is the future deal. The NAD M2 is

just that for a regular system. Skipping interconnects>DAC>Preamp>Amp is

better for starters and it saves you a ton of money too. A Grace reference

902 w/built in high-res DAC is a great solution. Bob Ludwig uses one and

he's as credible as it gets in my book. The new Antelope has everything in

a box too and looks to be a giant killer. Especially the Gold version w/a

separate power supply. Res up to 384 and has 64bit word clocking!?!? This

mainly for studio but aimed at the high end audio crowd. The Silver is

going for $1500 USD, the Gold is going to be $3500. If it's what it's

intended to be it would be worth every penny to me. My DAC and headphone

rig is over that and probably would wimper next to this.

 

K

 

 

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I agree with KDinsmore and that NAD is a very interesting piece. I've come around to the idea that the simpler the system, the greater the potential for high fidelity as there is just less along the chain that could negatively impact the result. That is why I'm moving from a traditional HiFi setup to:

 

Computer-->DAC/Headphone Amp-->Powered Speaker/Headphones

 

Sure you lose a lot of the "tweakability" that comes along with trying to find that Holy Grail called system synergy but I tired of that pursuit and just want to enjoy my music.

 

I'm 3/4 of the way there...just waiting on some speakers and so far the results have been extremely rewarding.

 

Good luck in your search.

 

Bill

 

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The costs of these recommendations are slowly creeping up lol. I just listen to 16/44.1 flacs and some mp3's so I will likely never get into upsampling, high res or any of that jazz. I just need usb to headphone amp, 1/4 inch headphone input, good build quality, good synergy with AKG K701, and something with enough power to let the akg open up a bit. It's always going to be plugged into my computer. I have the IBasso D2 boa here now if i ever wanted to ipod it up. I am just trying to stick around 500 bucks. The Burson is very appealing, but it's too pricey for just a headphone amp, for my budget. It isn't really an elastic budget :S

 

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