I was raised by my dad listening to some of the best jazz guitarists in the world. Artists like Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Earl Klugh, and George Benson (to name a few) were some of the people I listened to while growing up. I remember back then when my Dad used to play one of their albums using a DIY tube amp and a pair of old Bose speakers. Fast forward in time, and here I am in my early 30’s listening to the same old music I was listening to when I was a kid. The only difference is I get to appreciate them more thanks to some of the technological advancements in audio and listening equipment.
In this post, I’m going to share some of the equipment I use when listening to music particularly headphones. If you have any questions with any of the equipment posted below, feel free to leave a comment ^^
My first introduction to headphones was way back in college when someone gifted me an $80 Sennheiser PX-100 collapsible headphones. I already felt “special” that time because you know, it’s Sennheiser ^^; I used it with my $60 Sony CD Walkman with tracks I downloaded via Limewire (I’m getting old ^^;)
IEMs (In Ear Monitors)
I only use IEM’s if I need something portable or if I’m listening while in bed. These are a bit different than your typical “earphones” because of the components used. What it means is you get high fidelity sound reproduction at a fraction of the size of regular headphones.
DACs & Amplifiers
This is what powers the headphones I shared above. Some of you might be asking – “headphones needs power? Isn’t it that you just need to plug it into your smartphone’s headphone jack and start listening?”. Well technically you’re right, but sometimes it gets a little bit complicated ^^;
Headphones have an “impedance” rating measured in ohms (Ω). In simple terms, each headphone I posted above has a power requirement for it to work optimally. Usually, a 32 ohms (Ω) and below headphones will work normally in your typical portable player or smartphone.
The problem is, some of my headphones above have an impedance of 300-600 ohms (Ω). You can still plug it directly to your smartphone or any portable player, but you won’t hear a thing even at max volume. The reason for this is simply because your smartphone/portable player can’t provide it with enough power – thus the need for an amplifier.
As for the DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter), you might not have realized, but every device that can output sound has some type of onboard DAC inside. These include your phone, computer, gaming console, etc. Without it, you won’t hear any sound. It’s called a “digital to analog” converter because a “digital signal” is something we cannot “hear.” By converting the signal to an “analog signal,” we can hear the music or audio coming out of our devices.
An outboard DAC (what I’m sharing here) is essential if you want to get the best sound quality. There are a lot of brands to choose from in case you want to set up your own.
What’s the use of all these listening equipment if you don’t have anything to listen to right? All of my high-quality music is stored in an external hard drive and use Audirvana as my music player. When on the go, I use my Astell & Kern AK70 + Chord Mojo combo (pictured above). I also have Spotify, but lately, I’ve been using Tidal‘s Hi-Fi plan. I directly compared it to Spotify Premium’s highest quality setting and Tidal’s quality without a doubt is a lot better. Tidal also have selected tracks labeled as Master in their app. These are master-quality recordings directly from the master source.
Spotify has a Hi-Fi plan in the works but there’s still no news about it.
I might share my stereo setup some other time. If you have any questions about anything I posted above, feel free to leave a comment ^^