Audio Portable set up on a budget


red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
It seems like people are loosing / already lost interest in quality audio. However, if someone is still interested, followings are my humble suggestions:
DAP :
FiiO M3 Pro ( no wireless audio) a fantastic cheap option for wired usage.
It's small but has a very decent amp, I could easily drive HD6XX with impressive results. All IEM and most portable cans can be driven easily without any external amp.
If wireless is needed Hidizs AP80 Pro ( over FiiO MY) I don't own it, but tried for a week or so ( little colder and typical analytical ? slightly thin sounding compared to M3)
If you have the Xiaomi K20 Pro/ K20 and only use iem, you don't need a DAP, trust me on this. It's fantastic!!
IEM:
All you need is either a BLON bl03 or Tin T2. I'm pretty sure no big brand iem under 500 USD comes close.
If you don't have time for tip rolling and don't have spare eartips, spend few bucks more and get the T2.
But if you're like me with boxes full of eartips, get the bl03 and find a tip that fits the short stem of bl03. If you can find a good fit, it will blow your mind.
Avoid KZ/ TRN and similar, simply not worth it when you have BLON/ T2 ( I know people in YouTube are liking Moondrop's offerings, but I have tried their most popular offering and gave them away after a week, they are not bad, but certainly overpriced)
On ear headphones:
Only one option for me, Sennheiser HD25. Period.
Over ear open back:
Sennheiser HD598 ( can be found well below 100 bucks, of course there are many more expensive options, but the return is miniscule for portable use)
Closed back:
AT M40X ( much better than M50X) Meze audio 99 classic ( expensive, bassy but pleasant sounding) or Neo ( slightly cheaper with very similar sound signature)
I wouldn't waste a lot of money on closed back headphones.

I am not listing my favourite open back headphones or large DAC/amps as they are not even transportable.
Now my least favourite topic:
Wireless audio:
Only 2 options for me ( though I've spent thousands on BTNC cans and popular ones are rubbish)
1. Get the fiio BTR3K and use your wired headphones with it ( I am still waiting for mine to arrive)
2. If only music/ movies- pxc550 II
If primarily for phone calls and some entertainment- QC35.
EVERYTHING ELSE IS SMOKING SH&T (1000XM4/3 are the absolute worst , ANC is perfect, almost spooky, sound and mic- comparable to the headphones given in business class flights)
Please feel free to troll and discuss.
 

xkcd0137

Active Member
Disciple
Thanks for starting this topic. I have a pair of Tin T2s. I had Soundmagic E10c and Beyerdynamics Byron before these and loved both. I have never used a DAP before. What are its advantages?

Second, I was thinking of getting TRN BT3S or BT20S to make my Tin T2 wireless. BT3S, though in budget is not the best for audio quality but BT20S has some rave reviews and they are most portable too. But I have not bought them yet as they are a bit expensive and will check them out during 11/11 sale.

Third, I am looking for some good cheap TWS for the time being. After searching head-fi.org and scarbir.com, I have shortlisted -
1) Edifier X3 - ₹2000 on Flipkart/Amazon
2) Soundcore Liberty 2 (non-Pro) - ₹3500 for BB sale on Flipkart

There are a few good options on Aliexpress too like - Fiil T1X Pro, Haylou T19 etc but Aliexpress is not shipping most of the items right now and I don't want to take risk either.
 

red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
No idea about the TWS. I've only used the Apple earbuds and the pros. Typical wireless audio, which I just can't tolerate.
 

rdst_1

Well-Known Member
Veteran
If one doesn't want to buy dedicated DAP like me, best option right now is to go for E1DA DAC/AMPs. There are 2 models - 9038s for balanced cables and 9038D for normal cables. Trust me, these have enough power to drive even the most demanding cans. Only available through Aliexpress. I bought mine in Jan 2020 and use it with my HD650 and my phone.
The latest versions of these also come with an app which allows you to change the hardware characteristics according to one's wishes.
They also have a super supportive discord channel and a huge fan following as well.

For BT, again if one wants some audiophile options then the Radsone ES100 has some very rave reviews on Headfi. Don't buy simple BT cables, like I did for my KZ earphones as they don't have a good dac and ruin the sound quality of the otherwise impressive IEMs.
 

Nitendra Singh

Active Member
Disciple
Thanks for this info,

Recently I bought Fiio F9pro I know it's an old model but read in some review someone mentioned it sounds like AT MSR7.
I am Audio technica Fan, so I bought It and yes it has almost similar Audio technica sound signature.
Other option I considered was ATH-E40 but Fiio offered many accessories and it's better build quality , value for money. It sound's to my liking , so really happy about it.

Tried those sony abn100s / xm3's / momentums but bluetooth sucks, moreover this ANC further makes it sound artificial like vaccuum.
so like red dragon I also don't use bluetooth , bought Fiio BTR5 along with F9pro so use it only when wireless is really essential.
tried Fiio f9 pro with Fiio BTR5 in balanced mode it sounds very good. Though LDAC but still it's bluetooth connection.


@xkcd0137 instead of TRN you could also try Fiio's uBTR , BTR3 or BTR5 if budget allows and similar products available from Shanling.
these are feature rich with almost all wireless codecs like aptx , aptx HD, ldac etc and latest bluetooth version 5. Also a built it amp which further enhances listening experiece and can drive some over ear headphones too.
so you can plug in any iems of your choice. if you never tried anything like this, just try it now.
If ultra mobility is essential then TWS , I never used TWS but soundcore liberty sounds better atleast on paper and reviews.
 

xkcd0137

Active Member
Disciple
@xkcd0137 instead of TRN you could also try Fiio's uBTR , BTR3 or BTR5 if budget allows and similar products available from Shanling.
these are feature rich with almost all wireless codecs like aptx , aptx HD, ldac etc and latest bluetooth version 5. Also a built it amp which further enhances listening experiece and can drive some over ear headphones too.
so you can plug in any iems of your choice. if you never tried anything like this, just try it now.
If ultra mobility is essential then TWS , I never used TWS but soundcore liberty sounds better atleast on paper and reviews.

Thanks for the suggest. BTR5 looks like a good option. I could've bought it earlier but since I have left my job so budget has been restrained. I'll look into it during next sale.

I am talking about this -
Fiio has a similar product known as Fiio UTWS1, which is a rebranded TRN only.

I'll also wait sometime before investing ₹3000+ on any bluetooth audio device as the industry is transitioning from Qualcomm CSR8675 to Qualcomm's newer silicon (QCC 3020) which is obviously much more efficient.
 

Nitendra Singh

Active Member
Disciple
yes BT20s pro verison is better with charging case and QCC3020.
but swappable earpiece connectors are sold separately and no APTX HD, LDAC or APTx-LL
Still I think it's value for money for the asking price.
 

red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
If one doesn't want to buy dedicated DAP like me, best option right now is to go for E1DA DAC/AMPs. There are 2 models - 9038s for balanced cables and 9038D for normal cables. Trust me, these have enough power to drive even the most demanding cans. Only available through Aliexpress. I bought mine in Jan 2020 and use it with my HD650 and my phone.
The latest versions of these also come with an app which allows you to change the hardware characteristics according to one's wishes.
Do these dongle DAC/ amps have independent volume control? How is the battery drain from the phone?
These two are my main concerns with this type of devices. Only the Monolith I know of comes with the dedicated volume control.
Of course I know that you're supposed to control the volume from your smartphone however as a digital transport only, the smart phone's volume should be maxed out and the external DAC/ Amp should only deal with the volume output.
I've never used the devices you mentioned, those must be good, but many of the similar dongle DAC amps have a low hum audible with highly sensitive iems.
 
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mach9

Das Layzeemeister
Adept
@red dragon slightly OT but what headset would you recommend for primarily PC use (wired) but wouldn't mind using it equally for TV + travel. Basically a do it all. Not particularly inclined to gaming - but definitely music and clarity sufficient for audio source from the PC/Phone/TV.

My music preferences are heavily mixed - except classical/jazz/psytrance stuff - everything else is good to go - although predominantly progressive/euphoric/deep house/melodic/90's rock etc.

I think that's the worst possible combination you can get :p

my current daily driver is the rather mainstream Sony MDR XB55AP in ears and I really am looking to go over ear. I've never owned or fancied specific brands particularly to feel free to recommend multiple choices if you can.

Just that I want to be sure where I'm putting my money if I need to be spending upwards of 5k-10k by the looks of where most of these retail these days.

Thanks in advance!
 

rdst_1

Well-Known Member
Veteran
Do these dongle DAC/ amps have independent volume control? How is the battery drain from the phone?
These two are my main concerns with this type of devices. Only the Monolith I know of comes with the dedicated volume control.
Of course I know that you're supposed to control the volume from your smartphone however as a digital transport only, the smart phone's volume should be maxed out and the external DAC/ Amp should only deal with the volume output.
I've never used the devices you mentioned, those must be good, but many of the similar dongle DAC amps have a low hum audible with highly sensitive iems.
The earlier versions didn't have that but the latest Gen 3 9038s and the newly launched 9038d, both have H/W volume control but without buttons. You just tap on them to increase or decrease volume. They also have a special mode built for sensitive IEMs apart from other modes. Just check out their website which I have linked above.
They also have a very nice portable desktop version by the name of PowerDAC V2 as well. The guy behind these has worked for many major ChiFi brands and this venture just started out when he wanted to build something for himself and him being in China was able to go from prototype stage to production very quickly. This DAC/HPA puts out 1W of power at 16ohm in the balanced version while weighing only 10g. Puts out 37mW at 300ohms for my HD650 and only cost me $80 when I bought them. Prices have increased a bit though due to changes in hardware and features and the pandemic as well, but still costs less than $100 IIRC. It does suck on the battery but with phones coming with 5000/6000 mAh batteries and supporting cards upto 512GB, I feel they are a better portable solution than a mid-fi DAP, because one has to carry one less device and also because the software experience is better on a phone than an Android based player.
 

red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
@red dragon slightly OT but what headset would you recommend for primarily PC use (wired) but wouldn't mind using it equally for TV + travel. Basically a do it all. Not particularly inclined to gaming - but definitely music and clarity sufficient for audio source from the PC/Phone/TV.

My music preferences are heavily mixed - except classical/jazz/psytrance stuff - everything else is good to go - although predominantly progressive/euphoric/deep house/melodic/90's rock etc.

I think that's the worst possible combination you can get :p

my current daily driver is the rather mainstream Sony MDR XB55AP in ears and I really am looking to go over ear. I've never owned or fancied specific brands particularly to feel free to recommend multiple choices if you can.

Just that I want to be sure where I'm putting my money if I need to be spending upwards of 5k-10k by the looks of where most of these retail these days.

Thanks in advance!
For travel you need a closed back. I've never watched television with headphones, but obviously for that you need a large coiled cable.
For your usage would suggest M40x, decent sounding, with a lot of bass ( psy trance should sound great) comes with a coiled and straight cable.
Another option can be the Beyer DT 770, sounds fantastic, superbly built, but the cable is non removable, and it's slightly expensive.
If you want to go on-ear, HD25 is available at 10k in Amazon India.
Now this is by far my most favourite of the three. It is not very comfortable, looks old, made out of plastic entirely ( high quality plastic) but each and every part is removable.
One of the rare headphones which is super fun sounding without being V shaped ( somewhat W shaped probably, I'm not too keen on FRCs) scales very well with amps. but works pretty good from mobile phones also.
This sound quality is not for everyone. They are like inexpensive Grado with a lot of mid and sub bass ( very fast and layered bass) don't get disheartened by inexpensive Grado ( all the Grados sound same, the higher you go, the highs get tamer with some bass added in)
This is the reason why I respect Grado and Etymotic. They don't change their sound signature with price. Even Ety kids sound exactly same like ER4 except the kids have slightly rolled off highs and significantly reduced maximum volume ( to protect the hearing capabilities of a kid)
If you ever go to Grado or Ety route, you will be able to appreciate the gradual changes as you go higher and higher.
Sorry for confusing you even more!!
Will try to make things simpler,
M40 is the safest bet ( crowd pleasers)
DT770 has the best sound for most people.
HD25 some people just love the very detailed sound in a small soundstage ( that's why so popular in broadcasting studios, vocals are super clear with abundant bass and sharp highs) they sound worst with badly recorded/ encoded music.
 

cloudval

Member
Disciple
need openback alternative to beyerdynamic 770. budget alternative-samson sr850?
purpose - gaming & music. i love to close my eyes when i listen to music to fully immerse myself. i think i listen to almost every genre, not rock tho. into distorting sound too like this cyberpunk 2077 song type.
i dont want to spend more than 10k on DAC/Amp combo(for now), but suggest me anyway where you think performance shouldnt be compromised. budget for headphone is 10k.
i am on a salary of mere 25k, so not that high end :D price in india isn't merciful too.
i plan to buy a speaker system(20-30k) before buying headphone tough. Got my eyes on Logitech Z906 for speakers. searching on olx for almost everything to reduce cost. Can wait for price drop of HD598/other openear headphone.
 

red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
Get the HD598 if possible. I love them. Never heard Samson SR850 myself, but they are usually highly praised in the community. They are possibly somewhat treble happy ( personally I like that sound signature) Philips SHP9500 is another option. But they are not easy to find here.
 

Scramjet

Well-Known Member
Disciple
Any experience with Bluetooth speakers?
I'm in my hometown for the next 3 months or so, but couldn't bring my current BT speakers as it's a bit heavy.
 

xkcd0137

Active Member
Disciple
Any experience with Bluetooth speakers?
I'm in my hometown for the next 3 months or so, but couldn't bring my current BT speakers as it's a bit heavy.

I am using Tribit xSound go, got one for ₹2400. Pretty good compared to the competition, which is bad, but should've cost ₹2k.

If you can up your budget, Soundcore Motion+ (₹7k on Flipkart) has the best reviews all around. Check oluv's youtube channel.
 

Nitendra Singh

Active Member
Disciple
Not exactly budget portable a bit OT but,
I am too looking for an openback headphone. I never tried openback , may be once which I don't remember now.
Right now I am using one of my favourite Audio technica ATH-A700x closed back, Should I buy similar openback like ATH-AD700x / ATH-AD900x or AD1000x.
These are also old models but the reason I like audio technica is neutral or sometimes a bit bright sound signature.
I am ok with slightly V or U kind of sound, thought it's not the best for me but don't like extra bass, bassy or elevated mid bass and warm or extra smoothened sound.
I listen to many genres including electronic, pop, rock, new age, synthpop, synthwave, classic rock, jazz, soft rock , new wave and more..
Gamers claim ATH-A700x (closed back) has very good positional sound and soundstage for a closed back and I do agree.
so should I expect a noticeable difference between ATH-A700x (closed back) vs Similar ATH-AD700x (openback) in terms of soundstage ?
if so, then how much approx % ?

Never tried any item from this brand - beyerdynamic, so I am also considering DT880 or DT990 premium. Then again 880 or 990 ?, I think 880 is balanced whereas 990 is V as reviewers say so.
AKG K712 pro is also in my wishlist.

Other thing I wanna do is to try a balanced headphone which is something new for me, So just wondering how many models come with built in or swappable balanced cable.
I know of these only - HD660s, DT1990, sundara / he400i 2020 version or some other hifiman models. All other high end stuff goes above 60k.
Don't know about DT1990 but sennheiser 600 series adds warmth which is not for me, hifiman 's got some issues with build quality as per reviews.
No idea about sennheiser HD500 series openback models , don't know if they can be used balanced.
cable can be purchased seperately but need something balanced to plug-in.

Purpose of these open back is for watching movies and listening music.
my budget right now is 15k to 25k but may be extended a bit.
please do suggest something as per my requirements.

have a nice day!
 

Scramjet

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I am using Tribit xSound go, got one for ₹2400. Pretty good compared to the competition, which is bad, but should've cost ₹2k.

If you can up your budget, Soundcore Motion+ (₹7k on Flipkart) has the best reviews all around. Check oluv's youtube channel.
Doesn't make sense to spend 7k for something that I'm only going to use while I'm in my hometown. I'll check out the Tribit one. Thanks.
 

xkcd0137

Active Member
Disciple
Doesn't make sense to spend 7k for something that I'm only going to use while I'm in my hometown. I'll check out the Tribit one. Thanks.
Check for sale prices too. You can also look at the Tribit Maxsound (4k), its bit better than xSound Go. Also xSound Go was updated very recently with TypeC port and bump in speakers too, ask the seller SZSTDirect-IN if he has them in stock. You can also check LG XBOOM LK72B/BE - I have not used this one but LG speakers are usually okay.
 

red dragon

Justiceforall
Veteran
Not exactly budget portable a bit OT but,
I am too looking for an openback headphone. I never tried openback , may be once which I don't remember now.
Right now I am using one of my favourite Audio technica ATH-A700x closed back, Should I buy similar openback like ATH-AD700x / ATH-AD900x or AD1000x.
These are also old models but the reason I like audio technica is neutral or sometimes a bit bright sound signature.
I am ok with slightly V or U kind of sound, thought it's not the best for me but don't like extra bass, bassy or elevated mid bass and warm or extra smoothened sound.
I listen to many genres including electronic, pop, rock, new age, synthpop, synthwave, classic rock, jazz, soft rock , new wave and more..
Gamers claim ATH-A700x (closed back) has very good positional sound and soundstage for a closed back and I do agree.
so should I expect a noticeable difference between ATH-A700x (closed back) vs Similar ATH-AD700x (openback) in terms of soundstage ?
if so, then how much approx % ?

Never tried any item from this brand - beyerdynamic, so I am also considering DT880 or DT990 premium. Then again 880 or 990 ?, I think 880 is balanced whereas 990 is V as reviewers say so.
AKG K712 pro is also in my wishlist.

Other thing I wanna do is to try a balanced headphone which is something new for me, So just wondering how many models come with built in or swappable balanced cable.
I know of these only - HD660s, DT1990, sundara / he400i 2020 version or some other hifiman models. All other high end stuff goes above 60k.
Don't know about DT1990 but sennheiser 600 series adds warmth which is not for me, hifiman 's got some issues with build quality as per reviews.
No idea about sennheiser HD500 series openback models , don't know if they can be used balanced.
cable can be purchased seperately but need something balanced to plug-in.

Purpose of these open back is for watching movies and listening music.
my budget right now is 15k to 25k but may be extended a bit.
please do suggest something as per my requirements.

have a nice day!
Sundara or DT880. Can you find Sennheiser HD560S online anywhere?
Balanced is a highly debatable topic, if you have 4.4mm balanced out in any amp/ DAP, try to go that route.
2.5mm balanced out gave a me a lot of headache earlier due to the thin fragile connection and my balanced cables were very heavy.
I've decided not to go balanced anymore ( unless powering up is an issue) except some more power, could never appreciate the improvement in sound quality.
Balanced IEM is a different story though.
I've very limited experience with open back 700X, some love it, for me, it lacked the low end severely ( even lesser than AKG K702)
712 is a good option, try to get a made in Slovakia model. I don't have any of them anymore though.
 

Nitendra Singh

Active Member
Disciple
Thanks, I'll look for DT880 600 ohm.
712 are now china made only, hard to find slovakia model.
There's a 4 pin balanced XLR out available on my new amp Aune X7s , so I was just thinking of giving it a try.
I know it's just more amplification power nothing much. I am selling this X7s amp as it added a hint of warmth , not to my liking though 7-8/10 people may like it.
May be I trained myself for a sharp sound and It may take some time for a change :)

yes I noticed difference in balanced mode for iems, though bluetooth but when connected fiio f9 pro in balanced mode on BTR5 it sounds better.
 

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