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The First Steps

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My curiosity for audiophile quality sound emerged in the last couple days when I decided that I wanted to upgrade my headphones to something significantly more "high end." (If only to accompany a similar progression from high school to college.) While beginning to search for headphone reviews, models, brands etc., I fell into the strange and specialized world of audiophiles and was quickly left wanting to know more. I guess my overarching question is what do I need to do to get started producing high quality sound from my Macbook Pro, but I have left some more specific questions down below. I want to apologize in advance for requesting any information that might have been posted in other places throughout the forum, I have gleaned from many of the discussions but unfortunately, in some cases, audiophile jargon can obfuscate valuable advice especially to those who are completely new to the hobby. I promise I'm not looking to waste anyone's time.


The following questions were generated from material I did learn in the forums!


First, Are over ear headphones generally considered to produce better sound than in ear headphones? The two headphones that I am considering buying are the AKG K701's or the Shure SE530's... Good first choices? Any other suggestions for better headphones around that price range?


Second, If I were to buy a DAC, it would be in the vicinity of $100 to $200... Would a low end component like that make a significant difference? (Remember I have no experience with high end equipment or sound...) Ideally, I would like to buy a DAC amp combo, something like the Headroom Total BitHead so I can at least try to use the high end phones to their potentials, but I really don't want to waste money on a lost cause either. Again, Reviews on the Total BitHead? Other suggestions for a better product with a similar function and price tag? Are there other options for getting better sound than just plugging the phones directly into the computer?


Lastly, I fully understand the concept of Lossless formats and I'm eager to try them and hear the difference but I don't know where to find them. Where are the basics and best sources for these type files? And do regular CD's contain these high end formats within them?


Thank you so much for any help,


I can't wait to get started!


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Hi sparticusfinch - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I have to say you really sound like someone with a great attitude about this stuff! It should be very fun discussing this exciting hobby with you and help you get the most enjoyment out of your music. Don't worry about wasting anyone's time around here. This is a very laid back site. If people don't want to respond because they feel it's a waste of time then so be it. That would be a rare instance at Computer Audiophile. One piece of advice I can give you is to keep asking questions if you have them. Frustration only comes from misunderstandings and unanswered questions that may or may not have been asked :-)


The two headphones you are considering are two totally different animals. I have a paid of Ultimate Ears ue11 Pro earphones and some Grado RS-1 and Sennheiser HD600s. All three are pretty different, but comparing the ue11s to the others is really hard. In my opinion the most transparent sound comes from open ear headphones like the 701 or HD 650s. My ue11s fit a purpose and provide excellent sound at the same time.


You really do need an external DAC. That is one component that will raise your game a ton compared to the internal DAC of a MacBook Pro. I suggest calling the guys at Headroom and discussing exactly what you want to do. I'm sure they have a generous return policy if you don't like the sound of their products. I'm working with them right now on an Ultra DAC review and they are very nice people.


File formats - CDs contain uncompressed files like WAV and AIFF. That's it. To get a lossless file or different format you need to use a program like iTunes to "rip/copy" the music from the CD. It will be saved in the format you chose. Once you get into this it is beyond easy. trust me, there are readers in their 60's and older around here who can do this blindfolded in their sleep. Just ask the right questions and you'll get answers. You may need to start doing some of this stuff like ripping music in order to generate the right questions to ask. Don't worry about asking something stupid. I could care less if someone asks what CD stands for or if they ask for an explanation of jitter. If you need to know then you need to know. How else are you going to learn if you don't questions?


Again, welcome to the site. I can't wait for you to get started as well!


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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Hey Chris,


I need to commend you for having such a great forum, it's not common to find one that offers prompt and polite responses much less from the founder himself!


As for the setup I've decided on, I think I will go with the AKG 701K's and the HeadRoom Total BitHead. Additionally I've started building up a list of .m4a files so I can be ready when the equipment has arrived. I'm sure ill be back with more questions in the future.


Thanks again,




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