Tag Archives: Denon

Choosing a new portable digital audio player (DAP) and Lasik Surgery

As people who read my blog know, and who watch my youtube, I’m a semi-audiophile, and I’m a musician. I care alot more about audio than most people do. I don’t care that much about having super high resolutions on my displays, and I think 1080p is fine for me. I still export a lot of my youtube vids in 720p still because of the space requirements of FHD. I can’t fathom making any 4K videos. I’ve always thought the display technology (IPS, IGZO, OLED etc) was more important than the resolution.

Anyways, I’m in the market for a new digital audio player (DAP). Most people just use their phones to play music these days, but I long for the days when I had a Creative Zen Vision M and people had their iPods and stuff to play music… what happened to those days? Those players were dedicated audio players, and they have discrete DACs to play music with. I feel because I play FLACs and lossless files a lot, I am best served getting a stand alone audio player.

Note that I already have a Soundblaster E5 DAC/Amp but thats more for home use… the device is kind of bulky to carry around in my pocket.
I’ve also upgraded to a pair of Denon MM400s over my Sennheiser Momentums for home use, and Fender FXA6 over my Master&Dynamic ME03s for portable use.

I’ve been using my Sony Xperia Z3C as my audio player up until now, and that is actually better than most phones due to high res / flac capabilities, but I’m about to retire that phone soon as its getting some technical issues.

So I’ve been shopping around with DAPs as there is a lot ranging from $100 – $1k+ and I’ve been looking for one around the $500~ mark. Here’s my considerations.

Shure SHA900 – is a portable DAC/Amp, but is not a player in itself. Its probably the best portable Amp out there, but its really expensive ($1k) and I would have to carry an extra device in my pocket.
Astell&Kern – have a strong lineup of dedicated audio players which sound great and are nicely designed, but most of them have a steep price, and I prefer having an Android interface so I can access my music apps. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
Onkyo DAP-X1 – is pretty nice, runs Android lollipop and has dual DACs/Amps and a balanced out and 2 microSD slots, but a bit expensive considering I don’t even use balanced headphones. (DAC: 2 ESS Sabre ES9018K2M)
Sony Walkman ZX2 – is now much cheaper online due to its age, but its still a good one to think about. Sony has always been renowned for its products and I am a acknowledged Sony fan, but to nitpick a little here – the Android OS version Jellybean is kind of outdated and it lacks some features the other DAPs have like having a DAC, and for the price, there could be better.
Colorfly C4 – looks hands down the coolest DAP I’ve ever seen, complete with built in RCA inputs and switchable SRC, but is a bit bulky and the controls while very retro, don’t look the easiest to use. Runs its own OS as well. (DAC: Cirrus Logic CS4398 the exact same one as my Soundblaster E5)
Acoustic Research M2 – looks great, slim, runs Android, etc but price point is a bit high, and only available in Europe it seems. There are cheaper players with the same specs. (DAC: Burr-Brown PCM1794A)
Hifiman HM802S – having a balanced out is nice, as well as a retro clickwheel and has a modular amplifier card that can be replaced. However the bulk and lack of Android means this suffers from the same issue as the Colorfly C4. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
FiiO x7 – FiiO has always been a brand for good value, affordable yet good quality. And I was really drawn to this player. It’s got everything the expandable storage, good price, slimness, running Android lollipop, and swappable amp modules. (DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018S)
Pioneer XDP-100R – this is basically the Onkyo DAP with one less DAC and amp chip and no balanced out and as a result its slightly cheaper. I like this one a lot too, it runs Android lollipop, slim enough, has a speaker surprisingly, and has 2 microSD slots for expansion. (DAC: ES9018K2M)

In the end, I was deciding between the FiiO x7 and the Pioneer XDP and the Pioneer won by a hair. The speaker and 2 microSD slots made the difference. You never know, I might need to show my friend some youtube videos and the speaker comes in handy. They are both at the perfect price points since I don’t use balanced headphones.

Pioneer XDP-100

Anyways, can’t go wrong with any of these, they all have microSD for expansion, some form of DAC to make the music sound a lot better, and support for high res formats like DSD, DXD, PCM, MQA etc although I really only care about FLAC. I think MQA has a good future but it needs more support and if it was widely available I’d use that more.

And.. in other news I got Lasik Surgery in Korea!
My time in Korea is becoming short and I wanted to do surgery here since Korea is world class in experienced surgeons and most Koreans get it done more than other Asians. Maybe 90% of Korean girls wear contacts or did Lasik. Plus, its cheaper, only $1500 for me compared to $3k/$4k/$5k in USA/Canada.
I highly recommend this site Dream Eye Center the staff can speak English, its located in Gangnam, and the doctors and staff are very professional and helpful. Alot of Kpop stars did it there too so you know that have good credentials.

I was a bit nervous at first, but it was ok.. there was no pain, but it was slightly disturbing because I can see the blade come down and cut a flap in my cornea, and theres a suction cup placed on my eye and that was slightly painful for a second. That was about it… and now my vision is a bit blurry especially in my left eye, and I have to use 3 different eye drops a day. But it will get better within a week I heard. Anyways, through the miracle of technology I don’t need glasses anymore after wearing them for 10 years!

Videos:



I’m an “audiophile”… and no one needs ultra HD displays

I play music for a hobby; I am a musician part time. As of now I have about 270 guitar/piano videos on my Youtube (which you can check on the media page on the side). So yeah, I care about audio alot and audio tone. The irony is that I care about audio more than I care about video. Mainstream consumers are the opposite. They love their 4K super high resolution displays and stuff, but for me, video quality has always been secondary to audio quality.

I remember when HD first came out (720p / 1080p) I couldn’t see much of a difference between that and 480p DVD quality videos. But maybe my eyes are just used to 240p/480p VHS/VCD/DVDs. All my computer resolutions have been 720p (that is, 1366×768) and lower, until this year. That’s right! It took me until 2015 to get a computer with a full HD resolution! so yeah no 4K for me for a while. I also don’t like 4K because I would have to redownload all my movies and tv shows and anime in 4K which takes up a ton of space. I would prefer just a FHD OLED display instead.

Now we have smartphones rocking 4K resolution. Which is absolutely ridiculous because 4K is questionable even on a flat screen TV. At the distance we sit from the TV I doubt many people notice the difference in resolution. Having super high resolution also impacts another big factor in battery life. I like my stuff with good battery life thats why I chose a regular 720p laptop which gets me 20 hours of battery life (thanks to the dual batteries in the Thinkpad X240!) and a regular 720p phone as well, the Sony Xperia Z3C which gets me 2 days of battery life. For my 17 inch gaming laptop I “only” have a full HD resolution. Having Ultra HD 3200×1800 resolution on a laptop will both kill the battery life and alot of windows apps don’t scale well beyond FHD anyways.

Anyways for me audio quality has always been more important, thats why I own tube amps and a record player and 180gram vinyl LPs. I listen to FLACs (lossless) whenever possible (My Sony Xperia Z3C has a built in walkman and support for high res and lossless audio), and have owned countless pairs of headphones and earphones. The irony is the average consumer doesn’t really care about audio that much. They are happy listening to their lossy MP3s, listening on their Mac or PC with a terrible built in DAC, or using cheap quality iPod or Beats headphones.

Let me take a head count here. How many of you have heard of these audio companies: Bose, Sennheiser, Fender, Marshall, IK Multimedia, Apogee, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Shure, Etymotic, Ultimate Ears, JBL, Altec Lansing, Cambridge Audio, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Klipsch, Onkyo, Dynaudio, Denon, Pioneer, Philips, Creative Labs, Monster, Beats, Hifiman, Woo Audio, Linn Audio, Meridian Audio, Apple, Audioquest, Focusrite, M-Audio, SRS Labs, Jays, Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Wave Audio, Grado Labs, Audeze, THX, Grain Audio, Audioengine, Master & Dynamic, Audio Technica, Skullcandy, Sony, Samsung, LG, Harmon Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins, Bang and Olufsen, Infinity, Sol Republic, Yamaha.

I even know most of the various amp, effects, and guitar pickup makers: Fender, ESP, Gibson, Jackson, Ibanez, Dean Martin, Epiphone, G&L, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Kramer, Vox, Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Dr Z, Two Rock, Victoria Amps, Tone King, Line 6, Digitech, Orange, Crate, Boss, Behringer, BBE, Korg, Roland, Maxon, Dunlop, MXR, Way Huge, Xotic, Lovepedals, Keeley, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, Lace, Lindy Fralin, Bill Lawrence, TV Jones, Fishman, Electro Harmonix, Visual Sound, Teese, Fulltone, Analog Man, I could go on and on….

That’s a wide range of audio companies, from mainstream to boutique, from headphone makers to DSP and effects makers. But anyways you get my point; I know all these companies because I care alot about audio. I even made an article about the best portable bluetooth speakers, and the Best over ear headphones.

Here’s the audio gear I currently use:

Guitar equipment:
Swart Atomic Jr (Tube Amp)
Fender 60s Strat relic w/ handwound Alnico III/V single coil pickups
Martin OMJM acoustic guitar
Boho Moonshine guitar
Boss Looper
Digitech Trio
Lovepedals Dover drive
RambleFX Plexi Drive
Xotic compressor
Xotic booster
Maxon TBO9
Seymour Duncan 805
Keeley magnetic echo
Keeley Oxblood
BBE Wah

Audio recording equipment:
Shure MV88 iphone mic
Shure MV51 computer mic
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface
IK Multimedia iRig 2
MXL 770 Condenser Mic
Shure SM58 Dynamic mic
Behringer XENYX502 Mixer

Listening equipment:
Philips Fidelio X2 open back headphones/monitors
Sennheiser Momentum closed back headphones
Master & Dynamic ME03 Earphones
Bose Quietcomfort 25 Noise-cancelling headphones
Creative Soundblaster E5 USB DAC/Amp
Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 bluetooth speaker
Audio Technica LP60 Turntable
Creative T4W Speakers (for connecting to anything including record players)
Klipsch R10B Soundbar

Not a bad setup. Unlike some people, I don’t have particular brand devotion to anything. Some people like to have all their equipment the same brand, but I actually embrace diversity of brands. I like experiencing difference. My TV is Panasonic. My phone is Sony and Apple. My tablet is Apple and Nvidia. My computer is Asus and Lenovo. My keyboard is Aorus. My mouse is Logitech. My microphones are Shure. My speakers are Creative and Klipsch. My headphones are Sennheiser, Philips, and Bose. My camera is Nikon and Canon. So yeah I am not a ‘fanboy’ of anything although you could say the closest I come to that is Sony. I have a Sony phone, Sony camera, Sony UMPC, Sony PS4 and Sony PS Vita. But even then.. I like to diversify.