Setups, headphones, amps & wish list.

What follows are some lists of gear I use to enjoy my music. Keep in mind that I change my setups to test new stuff.

Home “Hi-Fi” setup: Swissonic CDMP 1 V2.0 CD Player -> Lake People G103-S Headphone Amp -> Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium / Grado SR80i

Computer setup: Laptop/Desktop -> Creative Labs E5 DAC/Headphone Amp -> Grado SR80i / Superlux HD330 / Shure SRH440 (If I need noise isolation)

Commute setup: Sony Walkman NWZ-E580 Player -> Knowledge Zenith ZST Pro or Knowledge Zenith IE8 (I might use portable amplification to test new earphones)

Travel setup: Sony Walkman NWZ-E580 Player -> M-Audio Bass Traveler Headphone Amp ->  AKG K518 / Superlux HD330

IMG_20170223_165203
KZ ZST Pro

On the shelf right now:
Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium (250 Ohms)
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
Grado SR80i (With new pads)
Shure SRH440 (With new headband)
Superlux HD330 (With Beyerdynamic parts)
AKG K518
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ED2 Special Edition
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ATE S
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ZST Pro
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ED12
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ZS3
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ATR
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) IE80

Amplification:
Lake People G103-S
Creative Labs E5
ART HeadAMP4
Creative Labs E1
M-Audio Bass Traveler

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Creative E5 DAC

Wish list:
Nothing at this time, yes I know it’s amazing.

On the way:
Nothing at this time.

Updated: 12 April 2017
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro arrived and is on the shelf right now.

Audiophile hype is necessary.

treesinlisbonIf you are a stressed commuter, the tree in the photo will make you curse specially in rainy days. Not only it hides the time of arrival panel but also the incoming bus.
Now let’s say there’s an car accident and the same tree saves the lives of the commuters, will they still hate the placement of the tree after such event? Perspective is a curious thing and it can be applied to everything.

The audiophile hobby these days is flooded by hype products but some of them can actually bring more music enthusiasts to the hobby, and that is a great thing at least for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate hype specially when it brings bullshit to the table (Yes, Sony! I’m looking at your SD audiophile cards), but hype also makes big players in the Hi-Fi industry move their asses and actually make good use of their engineering teams. Sadly it also makes some products more expensive, for instance you now pay more for entry price turntables because of the vinyl hype.

I wrote about hype before the Pono player was released. Pono the High-Resolution player gain massive traction from artists that really noticed the difference of High-Rez audio inside a car. On the good side because of it, companies from all around the world jumped on the bandwagon and now everybody can purchase better audio players.

The Beats headphone hype also gave a breath of fresh air to the on-the-go music market, companies like Sony, Sennheiser, AKG and other big players had to up their design, quality and advertising to face the competition of star athletes turned audiophiles. Yes, because everyone knows soccer players know how good headphones should sound.
Hype, gonna love it! Jokes aside, finally headphones started to be viewed as an amazing way to hear music even by high-end magazines.

The hype behind the portable digital to analogue converters (DACs) and headphone amplifiers also made companies like Creative Labs release solid gear for a decent price.
As the owner of the Creative Labs Sound blaster E1 and soon the E5 I can only be grateful of the hype behind this kind of gear. When the big players come to the market everyone wins! Niche audiophile companies might suffer but the consumer wins.

Hype for all that matters is a necessary evil if the hobby wants new blood in the ranks.

Consumerism gone bad.

In 2012 Charles Duhigg  wrote an amazing article in the NYT called “How Companies Learn Your Secrets“. The article is still fresh after all these years and depicts a consumer society gone bad.

Sadly these days consumer data is the new gold for corporations, social networks, search engines, online markets and other corporations will go to great lengths to acquire information about us.

Users are not forced to use said services and I understand that corporations need to make a living from selling services and goods, what I dislike is the fact most users and consumers think they can easily control what they share with corporations.

The fact some corporations have enough data to predict with confidence a pregnancy is enough to make me wonder what other things they can predict.

Ebay the Chinatown of the world.

chinatownDon’t get me wrong from the title because I love China, it has a beautiful culture, amazing views outside the urban areas, and pretty badass Ebay shops.

The Chinese I know are very hard workers, they take their work and income very seriously and thus Ebay is the perfect window to sell stuff to a compulsive consumer world.
People might complain about the time it takes to receive stuff from Shanghai and give bad reviews when they don’t receive their goods but they’ll keep coming back for more cheap stuff, let’s be sincere everybody loves free shipping.

I don’t like all made in China products, some have poor quality and very little user safety, but if you know what to buy and find a decent Ebay store, Chinese clones are amazing ways to save money. Sure I don’t enjoy all imitations but in some cases they actually improve the design of some products from the feedback they receive from customers.
I dare to say some factories in China are more open source than some GNU/Linux operating systems.

Some stuff I won’t buy from Chinese Ebay stores, mostly anything that is a intimation of a known brand or pirated media goods. Those I will never buy on Ebay!
One thing is to buy a multi-tool card imitation, or a cheap USB dust cover, the other is buying a clone of a swiss brand watch. Besides the massive headaches one might get because of legal issues of importing stuff like that, the quality of complex cheap goods is never a good one.

Ebay these days is in fact a Chinatown with all the good and bad things that brings.

One thing most American and European consumers don’t understand is the fact cheap stuff will often be made of cheap materials, be it of Chinese, Portuguese or American origin. Plus cheap stuff comes at a high social price but that’s a boring detail because free shipping is so nice isn’t it?

Ebay is an amazing tool, if consumers know what they want to buy, if sellers are actually serious, if you don’t have bad luck when receiving your parcels and if your country doesn’t have draconian import laws, in Portugal anything above 22€ (Product + Shipping) will be taxed and most people don’t try going around it because papers will be requested and the legal outcome will not be pretty. To be sincere I wouldn’t spend more than 20€ in one parcel from China anyway, the risk of losing money would be too high.

Be it in a true Chinatown or a online one be careful with your purchases, always use paypal and never ever go for any other type of payment especially if the seller requests it.
Remember there always be bad sellers, best way is to report them to Ebay and be safe.

Audiophile power conditioners.

voltsGiving 5oo€ for a audiophile power conditioner sounds crazy but depending on the tech inside it might actually help prolong the lifetime of your Hi-Fi gear. Yes, I actually wrote that and I’m not joking.
Archimago’s blog has a great objective test and review about a power conditioner from a very reputable brand called Belkin.
Belkin unlike some audiophile brands actually has some pretty amazing engineering behind their surge protectors and power conditioners.

Sadly its not always the case with audiophile brands, often selling their so called filters and cheap surge protectors inside glamorized power strips.
Anyone with a little knowledge about electricity will notice the ripoff on the components and so called tech. I had the sad vision of a so called power conditioner selling for 5oo€ that had a very minimalist construction, so minimal that my Lidl brand surge protector power strip might have more engineering inside.

Audiophiles will buy that kind of gear and expect better sound because the power line is being filtered, but the gear in question is so basic any DIY enthusiast can actually build something similar from way less money and do a better job at filtering and surge protection. I won’t point fingers at bad brands because I don’t want any legal problems but I advise anyone who really needs a solid power conditioner to search for reputable brands like Belkin or APC.

I also advise anyone who doesn’t have a surge protector to buy one for their sensitive gear, I might actually save the day, specially during thunderstorms.