Audio Upgrade – Fubar III & AKG K240 Studio
Recently just thought about upgrading my audio gears. But let me say this first: I’m not an audiophile. Nor do I have golden ears. Just want a good improvement within the affordable budget.
Before I thought about using my Sony portable CD player (D-NE900), but its battery was half dead and I heard some additional electrical noise when using AC power. 😦 Playing CD in my PC’s player would make the fans become noisier. 😦 Plus, I had to take some CDs with me from time to time. Therefore, I started to listen the flac image (ripped from CDs via EAC) using foobar 2000 (PS: I prefer a flac image + cue file over the individual tracks for the ease of organization).
The speakers for PC are just the low-end Altec Langsing AVS200. I chose this pair because of its size (very important) and reasonable sound at this price tag. Of course, it cannot match up the audio system I have at home.
Using a pair of decent headphones, like my Grado SR60, directly with PC is also not a good idea, for it could pick up the noise from PC as well.
So, I have lived with the sound from AVS200 and the stock PC sound card for a while until recently. I realized that I have spent more time in listening music via PC at work than my home audio system or Grado SR60. How could I let myself be satisfied with such a poor sound?
When thinking whether I should get a music player with better audio quality and support for flac, I should think about improving my listening with PC/NB (especially I also watch DVDs in my MacBookPro). The answer for this is to get a USB DAC.
Since I have Grado SR60 (dynamic open-air, supra-aural) for a while, I thought, why not upgrade the headphones as well? Not that Grado SR60 is not good; in fact, it’s probably the best you can get at this price for a decent full-size headphones. But this time I would like to have ones producing different kind of sound, more roomy than focusing*.
I actually had done a lot of homework before going to an audio store.
Candidates for headphones:
- AKG: K240 MK II, K271 MK II, 601, or even 701 or 702 if I lose my senses
- Sennheiser: HD-555 or even HD-595
- DENON: AH-D1001K
Candidates for USB DAC (with extra features)
- Firestone: Fubar II or III (+ headphone amp)
- Travagan: Green (+ headphone & speaker amp) or White (+ headphone amp)
Travagan’s Green will be shipped with a pair of 2″ mini full-range speakers. I first thought that these can replace AVS200. I was also inclined to get K601 at first. But things changed when I was in the shop. I bought the discontinued AKG K240 Studio (semi-open, circumaural) instead and got Fubar III, not Travagan’s Green.
The store owner praised K240S over the updated MK II. I compared K240S with Grado SR80 and Sennheiser HD-555, and I did like K240S more, though I didn’t check with K601 or K701. I was afraid that my hearing couldn’t match with these high-end headphones.
As for USB DAC, I didn’t test the products, even though I took some music files with me. I guess, I got influenced by the shop’s opinions (well, I was too easy). Besides, I also considered whether I would need these mini speakers if now I have two pairs of excellent headphones. Not mention the sound from speakers would leak out when listening at work. Although Fubar II is cheaper and can be used with my Cute Beyond (Firestone’s; older version), I like Fubar III’s compact size.
Now I just have to run these two for a while to fully open them up.
Last night, I was so excited, especially the new headphones, that I listened to them until very late. 🙂
Here is my old Grado SR60 — pretty plain.
* I can’t express this feeling well. This headphone guide gives a better explanation. See the part of “Supra-aural Sound vs. Circumaural Sound”
No one is right or wrong! Some people love headphones because they offer great detail and a supra-aural Grado headphone shines in this area. And, some people prefer the sound of a good, larger circumaural headphone because to them it sounds more natural. Which you would prefer probably would depend on your tastes in music!
Although the author favors Grado’s products, he also gives an objective account on AKG’s & Sennheiser’s.