A good sound setup doesn’t have to cost $1500. There are plenty of equipment out there that will give you excellent sound quality without killing your food budget. Forum member garyk was bitten by the audio bug after upgrading from stock earbuds with his Zen Stone Plus and has been gradually improving his rig ever since.
- Rig includes
- Player: Samsung P3 [$150-300]
- Headphone Amp: FiiO E5 [$18]
- Headphones: Sennheiser HD485 [$80]
For a while now I have been using a simple Zen stone plus with the included buds. Then one day I bought a pair of PX-100′s, needless to say I was very impressed. From there I decided to upgrade even further. The Samsung P3 itself was more of an impulse buy. I had actually considered buying an itouch before deciding on the P3 and I’m very glad I changed my mind. After checking out some reviews I took a chance and bought it and I’m not disappointed. I love the control the P3 gives you over your music. The customisable equaliser and DNSe settings are something I have never had or used before and after a little tweaking my music sounds amazing. That you can set it to UMS mode is also a bonus as I am not a big fan of MTP. I’d never had a touch screen device before so had nothing to compare it to but the P3 responds pretty fast and the interface appears nice and smooth. The screen itself is nice and bright and looks very sharp. I have read 6 books on it so far and it makes an amazing ebook reader, which has saved me a lot of money as I was looking to buy one of those to. I’d say my only regret was getting the 8gb model and not 16 or 32. Once you start using it you just want to keep putting more and more on it.
After getting the P3 i needed some new headphones to go with it. I liked my PX-100′s so decided to stick with Sennheiser. I didn’t have a big budget and ended up getting the HD-205′s first but they were extremely tight on my head and I just didn’t like the closed back. After checking a lot of reviews I settled on a the HD-485′s. They are larger than the 205′s and a lot more comfortable. I have worn them for hours on end with no discomfort. I also really like the soft fabric padding as opposed to the leatherette style. The sound is the best I have ever heard from anything I have owned, but then that’s subjective. To me they sound very clear and warm with nice deep bass. They do leak sound quite a bit but then what do you expect from open backs. It’s not something that bothers me and I much prefer the more open sound. Personally i think they are a good compliment to the P3.
For going out and about I decided on the CX-350 Street II. I had read a lot of good things about the 300′s, but in this case I just prefered the look of the 350′s. Having had good results with Sennheiser so far I took a little chance on them. Not having heard the 300′s before I have no way of comparing them but i really like my 350′s. They have pretty decent bass and are very comfortable to wear. They also isolate outside sounds very well.
After looking around the forums for a while I decided to try an amp. I wasn’t sure if I really needed one as the P3 seems to drive my headphones ok, but I was curious to see what difference it would make to the sound if any. I had heard good things about the FiiO E5 and I couldn’t justify the more expensive amps so decided to give it a try. It does definitely increase volume and the bass boost certainly does its job if and when it’s needed. Spotting any other difference in sound is a little more difficult though, at least for me. Apart from the change in volume I sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between using the amp with bass boost off or just not using the amp at all with the HD-485′s I am still glad I got it though and do think its a great little amp for the price. It would be interesting to try a better amp sometime. I’m sure at some point I will be upgrading everything yet again and spending yet more money I don’t have, all because I bought some PX-100′s a while back. Some would say ignorance is bliss but I think its more than worth it now.
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