Recently, I replaced the headphones I've had for a long time with some new ones. I've used Beyerdynamic DT 770 for years (now discontinued). On a flight last year, someone leaned the chair back in front of me suddenly, the cable got caught, and the jack bent really bad. They cut in out a lot. I realize I could just replace the jack, but I thought it was a good excuse to go nuts.
My whole setup with new headphones, case, DAC, preamp, and cables was a little under $400 (half for the headphones and half for all of the toys). You could definitely just get the headphones for $200.
If you're looking for something on the cheap, I recommend a pair of Sony MDR7506. Standard issue studio headphones. Can't go wrong for only $70.
I ended up getting a pair of Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro since I liked my DT 770s so much. So far I'm a big fan. They only run $200. I didn't want to go overboard. My friend Bryn Jackson recommended PSB M4U, V-MODA M-100, and Master & Dynamic MH40 as well. They are all really solid choices, but I wanted to stick with Beyerdynamic and stay a bit on the cheaper side.
You can also customize them:
I ordered replacement cushions directly from Beyerdynamic. They have all kinds of things you can change. Definitely check it out.
I also picked up a hard case to protect my new investment.
Ended up getting Slappa HardBody PRO Headphone Case for only $30. Not bad. It's a bit bulky but it should fit nicely in a backpack. It's a little too big to fit comfortably in a messager bag unfortunately.
Next is the DAC (digital-to-analog converter). This takes the digital audio from your computer (via USB) and converts it to analog audio that your headphones can actuall produce. Your computer, phone, etc. has one of these built in since it has a headphone jack. Most stock ones are pretty low quality for audio nerds.
I ended up getting a FiiO E10K (also a recommendation from Bryn) which I'm super happy with. It sounds really great. Especially for being only $70. It's also powered by USB which is really nice.
Finally, I got a tube headphone amp. I'm a big fan of tubes. They make everything sound warm and full. My friend, Sam McDonald, recommended the one he had.
I've been really happy with the Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Tube Multi-Hybrid Headphone Amplifier. My only complaints are the knob is a little close to the headphone jack and the input is on the side instead of the back, but those are just minor nitpicks. There's also a power cable you need to plug into the wall. That's expected for a tube preamp though. It sounds really good. Especially for only $70.
Setting It Up
The only other thing I got was a fancy 1/8" to RCA cable for $9.
- Connect the FiiO with the included USB cable to your computer
- Plug in the 1/8" end of the 1/8" to RCA cable into the line out on the back of the FiiO
- Set the gain switch on the back of the FiiO to "L"
- Plug in the preamp's power
- Plug the RCA end of the 1/8" to RCA cable into the preamp on the right side
- Turn the volume on the preamp all the way down and connect your headphones
- Turn the preamp on with the switch on the back and turn the FiiO on with the dial on the front. Since we're using the line out of the FiiO, the volume knob won't do anything so we can control it with the preamp instead.
That's it! You can experiement with the bass switch on the front of the FiiO. For my setup, I've enjoyed having it on most of the time.
Easy enough! Let me know if you try this out on Twitter!