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16.01.10 | My Audio Setup (As Per January 2010)
Filed under: Music — Tags: , , — Dr. Ivan @ 02:55 — Comments (1)

To kick-start 2010 I decided to do a brief overview and review of peripherals I use for listening to music. Interested? Then read on!

Introduction

I am one of those people who listen to music constantly – during study, when working out and on the train. This basically amounts to approximately 15 hour music listening during weekends and perhaps half that the rest of the week. If you take a look at my last.fm profile, I have, at the time of writing, roughly 82.5 thousands played songs since New Year 2009. This amounts to an average of 214 songs a day – meaning around 12 hours of music each and every day for the past year or so. And, yes, I do scrobble all songs I play to Last.fm.

This inexorably leads to the question about preferred equipment. Now, I do not consider myself audiophile despite the excessive amounts of music I listen to – at least I am not too well versed when it comes to tube amplifiers, opamp rolling and the likes. However, I do like high quality sound – perhaps a trait economy-wise not easily combined with being a full-time student. Therefore I will present to you below a short overview of what equipment and software I use, with the main focus being the hardware. In comparison to the high-end systems, this setup will not cost you an arm and a leg.

So, without further ado, here are peripherals I consider crucial:

DAC/Amp: iBasso D2+ Boa

This is an adorable little DAC/amp with a size of a credit card and only about 1.5cm thick. It is considered to be a budget choice (at a price of “only” $169) among the audiophile elite and is targeted mainly at those who need a DAC/amp combination on the go. However, I find it very handy also at home and am currently using it as my primary DAC for my computer. It is able to function as DAC only, amplifier only as well as a DAC+amp combo. It has a USB interface and uses a Wolfston-based DAC (same chipset as iPods use).

Sound quality is of course superior to any built-in sound card – noticeable even to the least audio-savvy. Already having speakers that produce a rather clean and tight-sounding bass, iBasso clearly separates it even further making it punchier although without over-exaggerating the effect. All the crackling present at some of the more challenging music passages are now played extremely accurate without any distortion. Overall I am very happy with this piece of equipment – and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in buying a new DAC or a portable amplifier! Check out the iBasso website here.

Speakers: Audioengine A2

I acquired these beautiful speakers some time during last year’s summer holidays for approximately 150$ and after 7 months of listening I basically do not have any complaints about them. They are small, stylish and deliver a powerful but neutral sound. The A2 model has a built-in amp – which might be a good or a bad thing, depending on how “audiophilic” you are. For my use, they are just about perfect.

Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

This is my newest acquisition replacing my previous expensive disappointment (Sennheiser eH250). Being twice as costly ($170) I expected them to be better in every way – and, in short, they are. Having done some research on the Internet two main aspects about these cans appeared to be quite clear: The public opinion was that low frequencies were rather exaggerated (therefore perhaps making these perfect for movies and gaming) and that they had a tendency to grip quite tightly around the ears. I can safely say that neither of these are true for me. After a burn-in of approximately 200 hours I am still unable to hear that bass is over-the-top as claimed. In fact, my opinion is that they are very balanced and can be compared in neutrality to my Audioengines. When it comes to comfort, it’s top-notch, although perhaps slightly warm. Again, I disagree that they exert too much physical pressure on your head and ears – it seems to be quite the opposite for me, they are a bit loose and move quite a lot when I am walking about. The latter is not a major concern for me as long as they don’t fall off.

Main Music Player: Computer

Not much to say hear. Spending quite a lot of my time behind the screen it is hardly surprising that this is my primary playback device. Besides, possibilities are endless for mixing, queuing and shuffling – something which is much harder to achieve with CD-s and vinyls. My collection is entirely in FLAC format (ripped from original CDs) and player of choice is Amarok 1.4.10 (rant about Amarok 1.4.x versus 2.x is for another time ;-) ). For a listing of my collection, feel free to visit my collection page.

Main Portable Player: iPod 5.5 gen / 80GB

I love this player. However – it cannot play FLAC files by default and I therefore use alternative firmware, namely Rockbox. Not only does it support FLAC and a variety of other file formats, but it also includes games, applications and makes it possible to use your iPod as a drag-and-drop storage device – thus circumventing any need for iTunes (a HUGE plus in my opinion). Battery time is good enough (around 12h) and the hard drive is rather spacious.

Conclusion

So, there you are – this is my setup. Suggestions and comments are most welcome!

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