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Welshsox
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Best travel package

Hi

As part of my job I have to make frequent worldwide flights. As anyone who does this regularly will tell you its far from glamourous and is very wearing on the body and mind.

Anyways things are good at the moment and im looking to treat myself to the best reasonable travel package. Im thinking classic IPOD, Bithead amp and either a good earphone or a good closed headphone. Obviously I cant use a good open headphone because of the noise polution, im not overly concerned about noise cancelling but if I do end up with noise cancelling id liek a talk through feature.

Budget will be $1000 - $1500

Anyone tried any really good combos ?

Thanks

Alan

jazzfan
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Re: Best travel package

Hi Alan,

I must say that you are on the right track, however, I would like to offer a few suggestions that you might find useful.

Using an iPod as the source is definitely the way to go. However, do not use the standard headphone out jack of the iPod since this output uses the iPod's internal headphone amp, which is not quite as nice sounding or as noise free as using what is called a "line out dock". A line out dock plugs into the bottom of an iPod (in the same place as the cable which connects an iPod to a computer's USB port) and retrieves the line out single from the iPod. The other end of most line out docks (or line out cables) is a 1/8" stereo mini-jack and this plugs into the "line in" connection of one's headphone amp.

As far as headphone amps go I would recommend the "Tomahawk" portable amp from Ray Samuels Audio. This little amp is one of the smallest portable headphone amps made and was specifically designed to work with in ear monitors. The bast part about this amp is that it runs for many, many hours on standard batteries (I'm not sure exactly what size batteries, either AA or AAA). The Headroom amps do not have very good battery life and this can be a problem when on long plane flights.

As for which IEM to use, you should look into the Shures, the Westones and the Ultimate Ears lines of IEMs. Al are very highly rated and worth listening to before spending money on something like the Bose noise canceling headphones.

You should also be aware that using a portable headphone amp and a good pair of IEMs will most likely mean that any music which you have on your iPod which is at a low bitrate (128kpbs or less) may not sound all that good.

Here's a picture of the Tomahawk amp with a line out dock, an iPod and a pair of IEMs:

Elk
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Re: Best travel package

That interconnect must weigh more than the iPod.

+1 on Ray Samuels' stuff. I like the sound a lot more than Headroom's.

You probably were already thinking lossless as source, but I learned the hard way:

I ripped a large amount of albums - classical, jazz, rock, all sorts of music - for my portable player. I used the highest bit rate MP3's (LAME) and some WMA.

First long flight. All was well and I was happy...until I learned to hear the artifacts of lossy compression. ARGH!!!!!!! I was stuck with this until I returned home.

Don't make this mistake before a long flight/trip.

dcstep
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Re: Best travel package

I use the Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pros driven straight out of my iPhone. You could get a Classic iPod instead. The UEs are very easy to drive and don't require a separate amp. When I drive them with my Woo Audio single-end, class-A, WA6 tube amp, they're incrementally better, but no amp is fine for travel. Generally when travelling, I've got enough crap to carry and would only carry an amp if my IEMs really needed it.

If you have any trouble with IEM fit, try the Comply T400 foamie tips that conform to your ear canals and are very comfortable on long trips.

Record your music using a LossLess format. Don't be tempted by the noise cancelling phones, since they'll cancel some of the music and rob it of its impact. The UE IEMs give about 26dB of isolation, which is plenty.

Dave

jazzfan
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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
Record your music using a LossLess format. Don't be tempted by the noise canceling phones, since they'll cancel some of the music and rob it of its impact. The UE IEMs give about 26dB of isolation, which is plenty.

Very well stated. Most IEMs will give you plenty of isolation which is far better for quality music listening then the somewhat flat and muted sound of just about every noise canceling headphone that I've heard to date.

As for using a lossless format, I agree in principle since I use high bit rate mp3s in my iPod because the only lossless format the iPod natively supports is Apple lossless and Apple lossless allows for DRM. I don't/won't use any audio codec that supports DRM as part of a self imposed boycott of all things DRM. My lossless codec of choice is FLAC. And I usually don't mind the sound of the mp3 files when played on my iPod but then I don't listen to my iPod all that much these days.

The DRM boycott is also why I use mp3 rather than the slightly better sounding Apple lossy format since the Apple codec supports DRM.

linden518
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Re: Best travel package

I use Sennheiser PXC-450 for outdoor listening. It has great noise-canceling, beats the pants off the Bose cans. Has that typical warm Sennheiser sound. When noise-canceling is off, its sonic characteristics greatly resemble the HD650. I do a lot of listening in the subways, etc., and the noise-canceling is pretty great. It doesn't kill off all ambient sound, but just enough for you to be engrossed in the music you're listening to. Sometimes, I find the air-tight seals to be unnerving & would rather have some ambient noise filtering in from outside. For me, it's perfect for my needs. Very portable. Folds up like Houdini into this neat black, flat case. If you don't want to go IEM, they're probably the choice closed cans for travel purposes.

There's no way I would have paid $450 for them... got them as gifts. So it's not a bargain by any means. But if that doesn't hurt your wallet, I think you should give it a shot. They're the closest you can get to proper in-home head cans with the noise-canceling function.

Welshsox
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Re: Best travel package

Thanks for the info.

It definetly seems that classic ipod with lossless recording is the way to go.

Nobody though seems impressed with the idea of old fashioned closed headphones, are these basically dead ?

The Roy samuals amp looks like a great product, that cable does look like work of art though !!!

Thanks

Alan

linden518
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Re: Best travel package

No, I actually prefer closed phones with portable/outdoor listening (Senn PXC-450), and open cans for in-home use (AKG-701). IEMs definitely have the edge in ultimate portability, sound isolation, etc. And those state-of-the-art IEMs like Atrios, Shures, Ultimate Ears sound just amazing.

That said, I must say I much prefer the presentation of the music out of the closed cans better than the IEMs. Don't know why. It sounds very believable & natural to me, not implying that IEMs don't sound natural, but on the good closed cans, even more so. I used to use Audio Technica ATH-CK7s, which are excellent IEMs for the price, IMO, but I never could get comfortable w/ IEMs like I do w/ open or closed cans. IEMs will always feel intrusive to me no matter how great they sound, and I now primarily use them when I go to the gym (which is - in these days after the birth of my 2nd daughter - never.)

Sennheiser PXC-450s are pretty big, but if you can carry off the urban geek-chic/audiophile look, you'll look fine with them on. Kind of stylish in a weird way. I live in Manhattan, right across the street from Columbia Univ., and walking around, I see people, both old and young, migrating more & more to the closed cans. It's a weird phenomenon, I guess. I don't know if other New Yorkers in this forum have noticed this trend...

I am also looking to upgrade on mp3 player, as I'm still using the 4G iPod, which is the worst DAP ever. (BTW: I don't use portable amp with my Senns... although I do have to jack the volume up to get satisfactory sound, I don't find them too lacking w/o amp. I do almost no critical listening through portable gear, so I'm not too anal about SQ in portable set-up: portability is the key for me, & the amp & the interconnect kind of get in the way, at least for me.) Apple Lossless is great, but why stick w/ their proprietary? You'd have a LOT more choices in players if you don't go Lossless; basically, w/ Apple Lossless, you'd be stuck with iPods. If you go FLAC, you'll have way more options to choose from, and some of them you might prefer over iPod in SQ... I wouldn't doubt it if you do. One player, Sony A818 or something, sounded MUCH better than the top of the line iPod, but alas, it doesn't do FLAC, so I might have to go WAV... There are these clunky Kenwood import players that people rave about over at Head-Fi, and their schtick is that they have amps built in or something. But they're pretty expensive.

dcstep
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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
Thanks for the info.

It definetly seems that classic ipod with lossless recording is the way to go.

Nobody though seems impressed with the idea of old fashioned closed headphones, are these basically dead ?

The Roy samuals amp looks like a great product, that cable does look like work of art though !!!

No Alan, I don't think closed cans are dead. Very few people are using full-sized cans for travel. There are some pretty nice folding models, but, unfortunately, most are noise cancelling with a detrimental impact on SQ.

If you're a casual listener, then noise cancelling compacts are a very valid way to go. If your serious listener, I presumed so given you budget, then you'll want either IEMs or full-sized closed cans.

I've only listened to Bose and Audio Technica noise cancelling HP. Has anyone here found some NC HP that rival the high end HPs and IEMs.

Dave

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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
I've only listened to Bose and Audio Technica noise cancelling HP. Has anyone here found some NC HP that rival the high end HPs and IEMs.

Dave - I use Sennheiser PXC-450 NC HP. Frankly, I think they're way overpriced ($450)... I wouldn't have thought to buy them for myself; got them as Xmas gift. First of all: much better noise-canceling than Bose or AT. Second of all: I only use the noise-canceling in NYC subway trains & in noisy cafes while writing, and run the PXC-450s passive most of the times w/ NC bypassed, turned off - in passive, w/ NC off, the Senns really shine. Plus unlike some of the NC HPs which shut down when batteries run out (annoying!), the Senns just go into passive mode by default. Brilliant. Music through PXC-450s sounds MUCH better running passive than through NC, no comparison. The bass opens up, soundstage deepens exponentially. Running passive, Sennheiser PXC-450s become full-fledged closed cans. I don't own Senn HD650s, but from my memory of listening to them, the PXC-450s sound remarkably similar to the HD650s. (I think the PXC-450s recently got 5-stars from one of those Brit mags, Hi-Fi Choice or Hi-Fi News or something, and the reviewer directly compared the PXC-450s w/ his HD650s, and he said they do sound remarkably alike, although HD650s had slightly better resolution, especially in the treble...)

I do have AKG-701s, and I did an extensive A-B-A-B with the Senn PXC-450s, running both through the Leben CS600. Senns REALLY sound impressive through the Leben, but the AKG-701s have them beat, no contest. In imaging, soundstaging, clarity. The Senns had more of a bass impact, but the AKGs had better bass definition, more believable in the context of the music. All this may be my bias, though, as I believe that good open cans will sound "better" than good closed cans generally.

All in all, the Senn PXC-450s running passive are legitimate closed headphones. And they are full-sized, & huge, completely circumaural. Really plush & comfortable, snug fit. The fact that they have a pretty sweet NC function sweetens the cake, and I also appreciate how they collapse so easily and neatly into that tiny black case. I just slide them into my skinny messenger bag when I'm not using them, barely notice that I have them with me. (BTW, Welsh, the Senns come with those airplane adaptor thingies? So you don't have to use those ghetto-headphones that the airlines provide you to watch movies, etc.)

Still, it's hard for me to recommend them to friends. $450 is a lot of dough. Especially considering that AKG-701s can be purchased new for ~$230 or something, that $450 is definitely not the smart money. But it's a niche product which fulfills its niche in a class-leading way. PXC-450s are the best NC HPs out there, bar none, IMO. And running passive, they rival the sound of the best closed cans. That's pretty impressive, and especially if you're a frequent traveller or city commuter, these are really sweet. Although I prefer the sound out of my AKG-701s, since I do most of my home listening anyway through my speakers, I don't find myself listening to AKGs too much. But I have the Senns on a LOT, as I study outside & commute around the NYC. I love these cans, they're perfect for my portable/outdoor needs.

Considering how big they are, they're actually purty stylish, at least in my opinion. I notice these people checking out the Senns as I run down into the subway station, but then again, they might be thinking "who's that doofus with the dorky headphones?"

jazzfan
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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
Considering how big they are, they're actually purty stylish, at least in my opinion. I notice these people checking out the Senns as I run down into the subway station, but then again, they might be thinking "who's that doofus with the dorky headphones?"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

linden518
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Re: Best travel package

Elk
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Re: Best travel package

Welshsox
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Re: Best travel package

Just want to enforce the context of the thread.

Im specifically looking for great headphones for 10-24 hour flights. Anyone who regularly does flights like Chicago-LA-Tokyo-Singapore will understand where im coming from !!

I just find that IEM's for this length of time just seem to sound very tiring, this may well be a result of the units ( my last ones were Shure E4c's ) but i still feel that closed headphones would sound more natural. As im stuck on a plane I really dont care if I look a complete pratt as long as they sound good !!! The size/shape is also unimportant as i travel very light with minimum hand luggage ( laptop, ticket, passport ).

Given the above parameters would the consus be the AKG's ? I was thinking that maybe Beyer made some good units or are they out of existance

Thanks

Alan

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Re: Best travel package

No, no, no... you shouldn't get the AKGs, because they're open cans. It's likely that you'll piss everyone off in the plane b/c the sound seeps out and people will be able to hear what you're listening to. And I agree IEMs might be a bit uncomfortable to listen to for a long stretch of a flight. I haven't heard Beyers, but I hear good things about some models. Also about Ultrasones, especially about their bass response. I've personally had good results with Audio Technica, and would recommend that you try their ATH-A700. Audio Technica cans are usually very clear w/ wide soundstaging, well-defined bass. Obviously, you'd get better sound w/ ATH-1000 or something, but they're open, but ATH-A700 are closed. The best of all is their value: $130 or so. These are quality cans, oxygen-free copper wiring, etc.

Given your parameters, that you're traveling a LOT on planes, I do think the active noise canceling closed cans will be best for you. They will kill that airplane engine noise, which I find to be very fatiguing not only on the ears but on one's soul. I just get wearied by that drone. With closed cans w/o NC, you'll definitely hear that drone, but NC cans will cut that shiet out. If the Senn PXC-450s seem like a rip-off (which they are) there's also PXC-350, which retail for $300. Not exactly chump change, I know. Haven't heard them personally but I'd imagine they'd sound similar to PXC-450. As for PXC-450s, they sound as good or better than most closed cans, and have the best NC. But you should really find a place where you can audition some of these...

dcstep
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Re: Best travel package


Quote:

Im specifically looking for great headphones for 10-24 hour flights. Anyone who regularly does flights like Chicago-LA-Tokyo-Singapore will understand where im coming from !!

I just find that IEM's for this length of time just seem to sound very tiring, this may well be a result of the units ( my last ones were Shure E4c's ) but i still feel that closed headphones would sound more natural.

Alan, I think it's the quality of the IEMs that you've used. See my comparison of the AKG 701s to the Audio Technica W5000s to the Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pros. The UEs had the best SQ.

ANY cans for that long risk physically hurting your ears. Even full sized cans will often compress parts of your ear, leading to discomfort. I wouldn't use any IEM now without combining them with the Comply foamie tips.

Dave

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Re: Best travel package


Quote:

Given your parameters, that you're traveling a LOT on planes, I do think the active noise canceling closed cans will be best for you. They will kill that airplane engine noise, which I find to be very fatiguing not only on the ears but on one's soul. I just get wearied by that drone. With closed cans w/o NC, you'll definitely hear that drone, but NC cans will cut that shiet out. ..

Agreed; however, you must consider the reduced audio SQ of the noise cancellation process. This is a big reason that I prefer high-end IEMs, which give you superior isolation without sacrificing SQ. Bad SQ is fatiguing.

Dave

linden518
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Re: Best travel package

That's true. The IEMs don't sacrifice SQ at all and I see that as a HUGE plus for the high-end IEMs. But there are always the trade-offs. For me, I just can't keep the IEMs in my ears for more than an hour, or two at most. I find them a lot less comfortable than circumaurals for long listening. I may be more peculiar about this than some others, b/c some of my friends have the IEMs on all day, no problem.

As for SQ, my Senns' SQ is much better running passive, no doubt. But in trains & loud places, I do find myself using NC, and the SQ is not too bad. Sure the reviewers are going to criticize based on absolute terms, and will inevitably say NC sucks, but in the real world application, the NC is really a blessing. I think in planes, one can toggle back & forth between NC and passive, as this is really easy to do w/ Senns without taking the cans off. When the airplane engine noise & ambient noise get fatiguing, the NC will come in REAL handy, and the music will sound passably good. And just as easily, one can switch NC off if fatigue is less of an issue and get the full SQ running passive. Honestly, I find the SQ with NC on good enough on the Senns to have it on whenever I'm in commute or in a loud place.

dcstep - maybe you have some tips for Welsh on finding really comfortable tips that might make some IEMs more comfortable? IEMs will eliminate the noise concern altogether, more simply, and as you say the SQ won't vary... I'm sure you have a lot of mod suggestions...

dcstep
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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
That's true. The IEMs don't sacrifice SQ at all and I see that as a HUGE plus for the high-end IEMs. But there are always the trade-offs. For me, I just can't keep the IEMs in my ears for more than an hour, or two at most. I find them a lot less comfortable than circumaurals for long listening. I may be more peculiar about this than some others, b/c some of my friends have the IEMs on all day, no problem.

As for SQ, my Senns' SQ is much better running passive, no doubt. But in trains & loud places, I do find myself using NC, and the SQ is not too bad. Sure the reviewers are going to criticize based on absolute terms, and will inevitably say NC sucks, but in the real world application, the NC is really a blessing. I think in planes, one can toggle back & forth between NC and passive, as this is really easy to do w/ Senns without taking the cans off. When the airplane engine noise & ambient noise get fatiguing, the NC will come in REAL handy, and the music will sound passably good. And just as easily, one can switch NC off if fatigue is less of an issue and get the full SQ running passive. Honestly, I find the SQ with NC on good enough on the Senns to have it on whenever I'm in commute or in a loud place.

dcstep - maybe you have some tips for Welsh on finding really comfortable tips that might make some IEMs more comfortable? IEMs will eliminate the noise concern altogether, more simply, and as you say the SQ won't vary... I'm sure you have a lot of mod suggestions...

Many good points, that's why there are so many possibilities. There are several personal choices here, such as ultimate SQ vs. NC, etc. I think that it's good that our Welsh friend is getting lots of feedback from several points of view.

As for IEM comfort, I highly recommend the Comply foamy tips. I'd previously used UE's smallest silicon tip with decent comfort, but they tended to slip loose and they got itchy an hour or two into a flight. OTOH, the Comply tips give me a secure fit with close to total isolation (I have to pull them out if anyone speaks to me and I never hear the gibberish the crew is spouting -- I check the eyes of the other passengers for panic) and the never get itchy. Of course, the SQ is just incredible, even without an amp.

Dave

linden518
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Re: Best travel package

Dave, have you tried Atrios? I'm curious about them... am thinking about getting a pair after reading MF's short write-up on them.

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Re: Best travel package


Quote:
Dave, have you tried Atrios? I'm curious about them... am thinking about getting a pair after reading MF's short write-up on them.

No I haven't. I saw that blurb and did a brief search at Head-fi and didn't find anything useful.

Dave

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