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Thread: Headphones and Amps and DACs... Oh My!

  1. #151
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    401 Post(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jinsai View Post
    oooh, @Leviathant , you got a Big Six? I was really thinking about getting that.
    I had milked my M-Audio Projectmix IO for as long as I could, because I couldn't find anything quite like it, and certainly not for the price point. But it was Firewire, the drivers hadn't been updated since AVID bought M-Audio in 2004. It was honestly impressive that a Windows 10 machine, nearly 20 years later, could still operate the hardware. During the pandemic, I picked up a Focusrite SaffirePro 40 as an inexpensive expander for the ProjectMix. There was a notable improvement in sound quality... so I picked a second one up, and got rid of the ProjectMix. I'd been making do with 8 ins and 4 outs for a very long time, and suddenly I had 16 ins and 16 outs, appearing as a single unit. There was also a hot-rodded Sound Workshop 1280b that I was using as a set of 8 console channels for EQ and color. I hooked it all up through my patch bays so I could route outputs to inputs and all kinds of goodness, but like the ProjectMix, these were Firewire devices, getting the software running on Windows required some weird hacks. It was incredible bang for the buck, but I was still operating on a short runway.

    Last year, I did some big upgrades, in the name of simplification and modernization. B&H had a pretty fantastic deal on an M1 Max Macbook Pro (64gb of RAM!), and before the price drop here in the US made all things more or less equal, I was able to pick up the Big Six for about $2600 by importing from Thomann. And at the last half of the year, I got an Apple Studio Display.

    So, just looking at audio and video, I went from a Dell Desktop with dual Firewire cables into two Saffire Pro 40s and a 12-channel outboard console, with all the cable snakes between them (including a snake from the console to the optional 8 VU meter attachment), power cable for the PC, weird dual DVI cable to the monitor with its own power cable to...

    110v Power -> Apple Studio Display --USB--> M1 Macbook --USB--> SSL Big Six (the patch bay is where we finally start to break out into separate cables)

    I think I've got 15 inputs running on the Big Six (it's such a weird name for the device). The hybrid workflow is just killer - you can route DAW channels back out through the console channels, good for running VST instruments through outboard FX, or re-amping stuff you've recorded. I could do that with the PreSonus stuff but it required two extra 8-channel 1/4" snakes and manually patching stuff - it's just a button press on the Big Six. The preamps, EQ, channel comps & bus comp are great, too, and it's portable enough that if I ever was in a situation where I wanted a nice multitrack recording somewhere, I could very easily drag it with me.

    It's just incredible value for the money.

  2. #152
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Los Angeles
    557 Post(s)
    @Leviathant Yeah... I have a patchbay that I use primarily to route all my synths to the desk interface. I opted to get an SSL 12 instead of the Big Six and to save some money (I've been spending an ungodly amount lately... just got a new Mac Studio and had to update about a billion licenses during the installapalooza). I was going to use my Apogee Firewire Ensemble to give me another 8 channels (w/ 4 Apogee Pres) via ADAT... But that didn't work out like planned. First, I need an old Mac running an old version of OSX to turn the firewire device into Standalone mode to pass along the ADAT signal to my SSL 12, BUT that still caps the sample rate at 48k, and I was working at 96. Also, this gives me fewer DC coupled outs, which I could use to send CV to my modular via Ableton's CV Tools. Realistically I'm limited to 4 usable tracks of output, which is enough to route a signal through external hardware, and send 2 CV signals, and 4 inputs without the Ensemble working (which is currently does not)... which is kind of a bummer, because my setup allows for 10 converted lines of simultaneous ins from my modular, which currently is just wasted.

    TL;DR, I probably should have just opted for the big six but needed to save money... and it all works, so I can't complain, even if the true potential is locked away there and it nags at me in an OCD kinda way. Maybe someday I'll put the SSL 12 on eBay.

  3. #153
    Join Date
    May 2012
    233 Post(s)
    Purchased another amp to try out. I just want something that is desk-sized and strong enough to push my headphones. I tried out the FiiO BTR15 Headphone Amp because I saw people recommending it specifically for the DAP that I have, the NW-ZX507. The headphones I have are the Sony MDR-1AM2 because they have a balanced input for the ZX's balanced output.

    That's also what interested me in the BTR15, it had both balanced and regular headphone outputs. I was really excited for the unit but it only took about an hour to be disappointed by it. You see, it has three settings: Car, Bluetooth, and Phone. The one I was interested in is the Phone, because that has a cable connection from the DAP to the amp and will transfer at full bit rates, important for the DSD/DSF and the 24/192 files that are on the player. It would only actually connect 1 out of 10 times and even then it could lose that connection. It's literally a cable but there was a handshake somewhere that was dropping and the amp wouldn't work at all, it would act like it wasn't hooked up to anything. I tried to make do with the BT connection but much like the last amp I couldn't tell myself that the 96k BT connection was as good as the cabled.

    It also does not help that FiiO is mainly a Chinese company and their UI and accompanying manual were poor at letting you know what you're actually doing. For example, I could leave it plugged in for hours and it wouldn't go past 80% charged until I reset the unit and it would be at 100%.

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