Good portable music. Are there any options out there?

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Good portable music. Are there any options out there?

Post by Linnofil » 2007-02-09 17:19

It’s a little bit quiet on the forum now, so I thought I should start a tread about portable music. In the 1980’ies the only portable sound was the cassette player, mostly the Walkman series from Sony. I myself had (and still have) the best one, A Sony Walkman WM-D6C. When recording from a good source (such as a good LP12) it’s still the best portable music you can have, IMHO. (Flat Response thought it was better than the Nakamichi Dragon!)

I have always hated the MP3 players of the modern era, crap! I actually don’t think it is the compression that is the biggest problem. Music in DVD-films can be really good, even though it's compressed. (I think it’s encoded with MP3 or?) But one day I stumbled upon a player that I didn’t want to turn off imidiately. It’s the most musical player I have heard for compressed music. It’s the Sandisk Sansa M250, 2 GB player. Good enough to use for hours, and can double as a cheap source in small simple systems. Better than most cheap CD players. Very cheap for a 2 Gb player (in Sweden) at about $90. The headphones are unfortunately not as good as the player itself. After some serious searching in a lot of shops, a friend of mine found a pair of good portable headphones in the AKG K24P. A portable and foldable “on ear” type, very similar to the inferior Koss Porta Pro that is still popular among some people. The K24P are sold for about $50 in Sweden. The AKG’s require a lot of burn in before it is really good. So put it on a tuner for about a week or two before using it. I had a pair of Sony MDR WM-20 headphones for 20 years that was better than the K24P. Unfortunately the broke down about a year ago. I also heard a more expensive Sony 15-20 years ago that was even better, I think it was called MDR-50. But sadly, they are no longer on the market. (Like the LP12…) My AKG 501 are better than the K24P, but not very portable! (And require lots of power to sound good.)

So my position when it comes to good portable music is: (For all tunedem’ers out there)
1: Sony Walkman WM-D6C with AKG K24P (Requires a good source, LP12, Unidisk etc.)
2: Sandisk Sansa M250 with AKG K24P (Requires a standard PC!)
3: I see no point in a #3 since #2 is so cheap!

Future:
Will we ever see a really good portable player from Linn or Lejonklou? The “Pocket Kivor Index” sounds good to me! An Asian product, modified by Linn or Lejonklou, with 40-80 Gb HD, made in Asia and sold for less than £700? Possible or not?

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-12 10:55

Thanks for the tips, Linnofil. I have thought a few days about the portable issue. A few years back I was tempted to release a portable headphone amp, but when I had a look at the market it was already flooded with different models so I concentrated on making the first MM-stage for the Exotik instead.

It seems as if the market is still (perhaps even more) flooded with portable equipment and Ipod accessories and the only reason I see to enter that field would be if the sound quality could be made remarkably good. Not just a little better, but a lot better.

I personally don't like much of what I hear when it comes to either headphones or portable players. I think I should start with your recommendation of a Sandisk and the AKG:s and see what I think of that. Have you heard anything, regardless of price, that sounds better than these (Linnofil or anyone else)? Apart from what you already mention above (yes, I agree the WM-D6C was fantastic). None of the expensive headphones I've heard have been more than "spectacular sounding" to my ears and it's usually a relief to take them off.

I will post part of your above post on the Absolute Bargains! topic, if it's ok with you.

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Post by per » 2007-02-12 11:58

I have very good expericences from the iAudio players from Cowon. I have a iAudio X5, and my brother has a T2. They both sound enjoyable on mp3 music, and even better when you load it with music in a lossless format. They both have the feature to play music files in the FLAC format.

http://www.cowonglobal.com/product/prod ... eature.php
http://www.cowonglobal.com/product/prod ... eature.php
http://flac.sourceforge.net/

Regarding earphones, I got the Etymotic Research 4P recommended. They are, by far margin, the best headphone I ever heard. It takes some time to discover exactly how the should be fitted into the ear, but when you get it right it feels like connecting the music directly to the consciousness.

http://www.etymotic.com/

I am however curious about the AKG headphone, for those occations you do not want to have an in-ear earphone.

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-12 13:07

More tips, thanks!

Per, could you please tell me which sounds the best: T2 or X5. Or do they sound exactly the same?

I have tried one pair of etymotics, but failed to understand what was so good with them. The sound was clean and bright, the music didn't seem to flow. Do they take a while to fully appreciate?

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Post by per » 2007-02-13 20:21

I have not done a direct comparision of the X5 and the T2. My brother lives in Stockholm, but when I get an opportunity to compare the two I will get back and comment.

It shouldn't take time to appriciate the Etymotic 4P earphone. They gives mig much musical pleasure traveling to and from work. However, it is of great importance to place them correct in the ear. An air-tight position must be accuired, otherwise the bass tones completely dissapears. I have never even tried the phones with a quality source like the Linn Ikemi or the turntable. (My preamplifier lacks a headphone stage :evil: ) But even with a portable music player the phones can give you a musical experience.

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Post by Linnofil » 2007-02-13 21:22

lejonklou wrote:Thanks for the tips, Linnofil. I have thought a few days about the portable issue. A few years back I was tempted to release a portable headphone amp, but when I had a look at the market it was already flooded with different models ... the only reason I see to enter that field would be if the sound quality could be made remarkably good. Not just a little better, but a lot better.
That would have been an interesting product! But I don't think it would have made you any money. High quality and portable is difficult to combine and get properly paid for. My Sandisk Sansa M250 (loaded with 2 Gb of 192 kbit/s WMA files) sounds even better if I run it through a good headphone amp. I have tested with my Linn Knekt Line Receiver and it is a significant improvement. (The Line Receiver headphone outlet sounds better via Knekt than the headphone outlet directly on my Linn Majik!)
lejonklou wrote:I personally don't like much of what I hear when it comes to either headphones or portable players. I think I should start with your recommendation of a Sandisk and the AKG:s and see what I think of that. Have you heard anything, regardless of price, that sounds better than these (Linnofil or anyone else)? Apart from what you already mention above (yes, I agree the WM-D6C was fantastic).
No, I haven't heard anything close to the Sandisk, regardless of price. I absolutely hated everything portable and compressed that I listned to. I have tried many different portable units without bothering to remember their names. (Ipods, Creative, Sony etc.) Friends and collegues have wanted me to listen to and evaluate their "great" new toys because they now I have an expensive hifisystem. Crap has been the constant reply. But the Sandisk is, for me, different. I stumbled over it when I bought a M230 (the 512 Mb Sansa) as a cheap recording device for my wife to record interviews with. I was very surprised when I enjoyed listening to music with it. I went back to the shop and bought a 2 Gb verision the same afternoon! I actually feel it is an (inferior, but still) alternative to the WM-D6C, since it's so much more portable, easier to "record" and very economical to run.
lejonklou wrote:None of the expensive headphones I've heard have been more than "spectacular sounding" to my ears and it's usually a relief to take them off.
Well, I agree partly. Headphones are never (in my experience) a match for speakers. When music is better in headphones that is usually a sign that there is some serious problems with your system. My AKG 501 is better than the AKG K24P, but as I said above, they also require more power to sound good. But I actually enjoy listening to music with the Sandisk M250/K24P combination. I can have it on for hours without wanting to turn it off. For me, the normal playtime for a portable player is less than 30 sec.
lejonklou wrote:I will post part of your above post on the Absolute Bargains! topic, if it's ok with you.
Yes, of course, it's your forum! I think it is a bargain, probably better than most (all?) new CD players costing 5 times as much. A bargain compared to 20 used LP's, if you have a top spec LP12? Well, you decide! I think it's the best source you can have in a dirt cheap system. Try a system with the Sandisk (at $90), A Creek 4040 ($100?) or Linn Intek ($250) and a pair of Linn 5110 ($150) . Surprisingly good, for almost no money at all.

I connected the Sandisk to the Linn Majik system at a Linn dealer. An empoyee at the dealer came in to the room and noticed the mixed music playing and said, this must be a CD-R you're playing...

Note: Some Sandisk players (like mine) can play uncompressed (WAV) music, some can't. (Same SW version!?) Uncompressed sounds better, but the difference is small. I think that's one of the real strengths of this player.

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Post by Music Lover » 2007-02-14 10:19

Linnofil wrote:No, I haven't heard anything close to the Sandisk, regardless of price. I absolutely hated everything portable and compressed that I listned to. I have tried many different portable units without bothering to remember their names. (Ipods, Creative, Sony etc.) .
Have you tried Ipod shuffle?
In a "OK, I should try the evil mp3 format" session, I spent a weekend visiting a few dealers and after HOURS of listening I had these two left that was decently OK.
Note, tested with their own "useless?" earplugs so I can’t rate their absolute performance - hence my question if you tried the shuffle...

(I had my laptop with me so I at least could upload same music during the test)
Imagine the confused staff. "yes I like to test it using my own music" :roll:
I also tried ipod earplugs on the scandisk but with roughly same result.
I wonder how they sound with GOOD headphone.
It's all about musical understanding!

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Post by monkeydevil » 2007-02-14 10:38

Linnofil wrote: Note: Some Sandisk players (like mine) can play uncompressed (WAV) music, some can't. (Same SW version!?) Uncompressed sounds better, but the difference is small. I think that's one of the real strengths of this player.
This is interesting. But I guess the quality of the conversion from .wav to .mp3 is essential as well? I for sure have heard both really crappy -mp3-files and some better sounding ones. This matter is also source first!

Has anyone some input on this matter, how to get the best .mp3's from your records?

PS. I can't beleive I am actually asking this, as I am passionately against compressed music (and downloading...). I love my Linn rig... I am asking since this is related to the topic, hope it is OK!
I actually bought a Sandisk to my wife for christmas (after Linnofil's recomendation on selleri.de), and she seems to be enjoying it a lot!

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-16 00:35

monkeydevil wrote:Has anyone some input on this matter, how to get the best .mp3's from your records?
Yes, I would really like to know this too. The differences I have heard between different compressed files has been quite big.

I very rarely use compressed music, but I sometimes get questions about this and it would be nice to have a recommendation to share.

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-16 00:39

Music Lover wrote:after HOURS of listening I had these two left that was decently OK
Do you mean Sandisk and Ipod Shuffle? And are you saying they were roughly on the same level of performance?

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Post by Music Lover » 2007-02-16 10:10

lejonklou wrote:
Music Lover wrote:after HOURS of listening I had these two left that was decently OK
Do you mean Sandisk and Ipod Shuffle? And are you saying they were roughly on the same level of performance?
Yes
Disclaimer -as I wrote, just used their own headsets. The result may be different with a good headphone.
It's all about musical understanding!

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Post by Linnofil » 2007-02-16 18:23

monkeydevil wrote:I guess the quality of the conversion from .wav to .mp3 is essential as well? I for sure have heard both really crappy -mp3-files and some better sounding ones. This matter is also source first!

Has anyone some input on this matter, how to get the best .mp3's from your records?
That would be a very interesting subject! I have tried a few options in the past, I could never convert a Naim CD to mp3 and make it better than the Naim mp3 files (downloaded from the Naim records site http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/) with 56 kbit/s, regardless of my own bitrate! I have no idea how they make them that good, from mastertape? That was my testfiles for all mp3 testing of PC and portable players. Personally I have got the best results with 192 kbit/s WMA files, made in Windows Media Player 9. I haven't found a good mp3 converter yet. I have also got some absolutely crappy mp3 files from friends and collegues, even with high bitrate. So source matters a lot, as always.
monkeydevil wrote:I actually bought a Sandisk to my wife for christmas (after Linnofil's recomendation on selleri.de), and she seems to be enjoying it a lot!
I'm glad she likes it! Try it with good headphones. Give her a pair of AKG K24P! (Only 269 SEK from www.cdon.com) Your wife is worth it!
Music Lover wrote:Have you tried Ipod shuffle?
No, sadly I haven't. Just some of the different generation HD Ipods.
Music Lover wrote:In a "OK, I should try the evil mp3 format" session, I spent a weekend visiting a few dealers and after HOURS of listening I had these two left that was decently OK.
Note, tested with their own "useless?" earplugs so I can’t rate their absolute performance - hence my question if you tried the shuffle...

(I had my laptop with me so I at least could upload same music during the test)
Imagine the confused staff. "yes I like to test it using my own music" :roll:
Using the same music (files) is absolutely essential for serious testing, just as you did. Interesting that you preferred the Sandisk Sansa and the Ipod Shuffle to anything else. I can't be to far off in my recomendation then. The Sandisk is cheaper with twice the memory! Did you test any of the other flash memmory Sandisks? Like the Sansa e260/e280?
Music Lover wrote:I also tried ipod earplugs on the scandisk but with roughly same result.
I wonder how they sound with GOOD headphone.
Try it with good headphones! Like well run in K24P's, you'll be amazed by the difference. Even bigger difference with a good headphone amplifier.

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Post by per » 2007-02-17 11:44

For CD extraction, I recommend the free software Exact Audio Copy:

http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/

It reads the CD sectors several times until 100% accurate result is aquired, and if not possible, it notifies.

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Post by vicdiaz » 2007-02-17 19:33

lejonklou wrote:Thanks for the tips, Linnofil. I have thought a few days about the portable issue. A few years back I was tempted to release a portable headphone amp, but when I had a look at the market it was already flooded with different models so I concentrated on making the first MM-stage for the Exotik instead.
What about an MC-stage module???
Vic
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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-17 22:33

Not sure I fully understand your question, Vic.

The reason I made the Hudik module was that Linn had promised a phono upgrade for the Exotik, but after 1,5 years it still wasn't available. I saw an opportunity, the Hudik MM was introduced in sept -05 and a year later Linn presented their MM/MC module (50% more expensive, but it sounds better).

Then they changed the preamp specifications and called it New Exotik with phono and +DA included, in order to prevent people like me from offering alternative modules. The Hudik MM is still built on order, but I don't get any orders for it these days as the module market is dead.

On the standalone front, however, I am working on a Slipsik MC. Just not 100% happy with it yet.

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-17 22:50

per wrote:For CD extraction, I recommend the free software Exact Audio Copy:
Thanks, per!

Linnofil: I would suspect that Naim makes their 56 kbit/s (man, that's low!) mp3:s from the master tapes and that is likely to be a lot better than using the 16 bit PCM track on the CD. Multiple conversions in the digital domain is something I have bad experiences with, both in sound and picture.

Ordered the AKG:s last night, will report what I think of them. Tried to find the 512k Sansa, as it appeared to be on sale here, but they were all gone. Not really interested in spending money on a 2 GB version as it might end up as a USB memory stick. :mrgreen: (Yes, I am sceptical!)

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Post by Linnofil » 2007-02-19 19:50

per wrote:For CD extraction, I recommend the free software Exact Audio Copy:
Interesting stuff. Have you compared this with other tools? The EAC doesn't convert CD/WAV to MP3, or? What is the best MP3 encoder? I have heard some recommend the LAME encoder, but how to download and use it?
lejonklou wrote:Linnofil: I would suspect that Naim makes their 56 kbit/s (man, that's low!) mp3:s from the master tapes and that is likely to be a lot better than using the 16 bit PCM track on the CD. Multiple conversions in the digital domain is something I have bad experiences with, both in sound and picture.
Has anyone downloaded MP3's music from Linn Records and compared it to making your own files from CD's? I wonder what tools and procedures they use? It would be interesting to:

1: Download a MP3 from Linn ( http://download.linnrecords.com/mp3/akd-222/3.mp3 ?)
2: Convert a Linn CD (with the same song as #1) to MP3 and WMA, with different encoders
3: Download a Studio Master quality version of song in #1 from Linn.
4: Download a CD quality version of song in #1 from Linn.
5: Convert the file from #3 to MP3 with different encoders

And then compare all the results from 1-5 with tunedem on the PC and on the Sandisk Sansa M2x0 or Ipod Shuffle (Except #3). It could be very interesting results.

A few years ago (Situation might be very different today.) I used these files to evaluate the present MP3 encoders and PC mediaplayers:
http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/mp3/cd057_tr8.mp3
http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/mp3/cd021_tr6.mp3
http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/mp3/cd002_tr7.mp3

I have these (Great! Highly recommended!) CD's from Naim. But I could not get my own files to sound as musically good (replayed on the same PC) as these Naim files, regardless of bitrate! That was one of the reasons for my lack of interest in compressed music. I realized that source first is very important even for MP3. And since I couldn't get good files, I had to give up. I should try and put these into my Sandisk and test against the 192 kbit/s WMA files. On the PC, my 192 kbit/s WMA file doesn't sound as good as the 56 kbit/s cd057_tr8.mp3 above (Tested on a laptop at work, files in RAM.)

This tune: http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/mp3/cd047_tr1.mp3 sounds almost interesting on the PC. At home it is a bit difficult. It is a good CD, but only when the system (Majik CD/M.Kontrol) is in really good shape. Wierd! There are some free higher bitrate (64-192) Naim tunes here: http://www.thenaimlabel.co.uk/new_releases.htm It's difficult to rate the quality since I don't have the CD's. But higher bitrate doesn't seem to equal higher musical value, at least not on my laptop PC.

Tip:
When replaying on a PC, try the same files on different harddrives (if avaliable), CD drive's (on a CD-R/DVD-R) and in RAM (attach file to email and replay from email). The difference is oftern big. RAM is usually the best option, especially on laptops. (My WD Raptor disk sounds best in my desktop at home, USB disks have been the badest.)
lejonklou wrote:Ordered the AKG:s last night, will report what I think of them.
It will be great to hear your opinion. Run them in well for about two weeks. I won't expect a report for a while. I hope you have a tuner! (I used SR-P4 that has a mix of music and conversations, that broadcast 24/7, good?)
lejonklou wrote:Tried to find the 512k Sansa, as it appeared to be on sale here, but they were all gone. Not really interested in spending money on a 2 GB version as it might end up as a USB memory stick. :mrgreen: (Yes, I am sceptical!)
Coward! :D 2 GB is only 649 SEK on Clas Ohlson. If you go for the 2 Gb M250 I will send you a DVD+R with my WMA files... What are your needs for a 512 Mb USB stick after you have bought the 2 Gb version to? :mrgreen:

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Post by per » 2007-02-20 23:40

Linnofil wrote:Interesting stuff. Have you compared this with other tools? The EAC doesn't convert CD/WAV to MP3, or? What is the best MP3 encoder? I have heard some recommend the LAME encoder, but how to download and use it?
I have not compared it to other cd-rippers judgeing by ear, but I will try to and get back with a report.

EAC can be configured with different encoders, and I think LAME is one of them. I have configured it to use the FLAC encoder. There is also a connection to FreeDB so record metadata is downloaded automatically. There are tutorials on the EAC webpage how to configure it with different encoders.

(I am considering buying a pair of AKG headphones just because I am curious, and sometimes i want a headphone not completely blocking environment sound out, like the Etymotic does.)

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-02-22 00:01

AKG K24P arrived today. Plugged them in and in a direct comparison with my well run-in Koss Porta Pro's (that I never use) the AKG's sound much more in tune. The Porta Pro's feel quite soggy and almost like they add a bit of wow&flutter to the music.

Very promising.

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Post by ThomasOK » 2007-03-08 00:03

Very interesting topic. I'm glad to see that there are some players that are considered musical. I'm afraid I ahven't played with this type of device much. I do still own a Sony WMD6C and I would agree it is better than a Nakamichi Dragon I compared it to back in the 80s. A couple of years ago I compared it to a Nak 680ZX and it outperformed that as well.

I just have a quick comment on EAC. Although it seems to be a good program, I have read posts elsewhere about CD burning that claim it is the only way to go. I have tried some of the suggestions - using EAC and then burning to an external CD recorder for the best sound - and it was not as good as just going digital out from my Ikemi into the CD recorder. Source first works here as well.

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Post by monkeydevil » 2007-03-08 08:16

ThomasOK wrote: I do still own a Sony WMD6C and I would agree it is better than a Nakamichi Dragon I compared it to back in the 80s. A couple of years ago I compared it to a Nak 680ZX and it outperformed that as well.
Interesting! So you mean that if I want the best playback device for my old cassettes, Nakamichi is not he way to go, but the Sony is?! I've heard so much positive feedback on Nakamichi's tape decks, especially the Dragon. But I've never heard it myself.

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Post by per » 2007-03-14 00:13

lejonklou wrote:AKG K24P arrived today. Plugged them in and in a direct comparison with my well run-in Koss Porta Pro's (that I never use) the AKG's sound much more in tune. The Porta Pro's feel quite soggy and almost like they add a bit of wow&flutter to the music.

Very promising.
Are there any furter comments or judgements on the AKG K24P? I am about to order one pair, or maybe two - my sister has her birthday soon.

Are they comfortable to wear? Will they remain in place during work-out? (No heavyweight boxing..!)

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Post by ThomasOK » 2007-03-14 01:48

monkeydevil wrote:
ThomasOK wrote: I do still own a Sony WMD6C and I would agree it is better than a Nakamichi Dragon I compared it to back in the 80s. A couple of years ago I compared it to a Nak 680ZX and it outperformed that as well.
Interesting! So you mean that if I want the best playback device for my old cassettes, Nakamichi is not he way to go, but the Sony is?! I've heard so much positive feedback on Nakamichi's tape decks, especially the Dragon. But I've never heard it myself.
Not any Sony, only the WM-D6C also known as the Pro-Walkman. It is a very good cassette unit and was manufactured for many years so they do pop up on eBay all the time. It is still in high demand as is shown by the unused one that sold on eBay recently for $690US. Since they sold for $400US when they were new that's a pretty decent increase. Clean units that are used should go for one half to one third of that price.

It is one of only three products I heard Julian Vereker, founder of Naim Audio, praise. When Naim were looking into making a cassette deck he stated that the WM-D6C was "very good". Since he once told me that the NAP250 was "the only decent amp in the world, period!" even though he also manufactured the NAP160 and NAP110, you can see he had rather high standards.

I haven't compared it to everything out there but it has outperformed many units including several Nakamichis. Admittedly the Dragon vs. WM-D6C comparison was close but I still found the Sony more tuneful. A Dragon in really good shape will set you back $800 to $1200US easy. So the Sony is definitely a good buy.

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Post by lejonklou » 2007-03-19 10:43

per wrote:Are there any furter comments or judgements on the AKG K24P?
I forgot to answer this question of yours, per. Apologies!

The K24P's sound a bit harder than the Porta Pro's, but they are more tuneful and enjoyable, in my opinion. Not sure which of the two will stay in place the longest during work-out, but I like the feel of the AKG's on my head better as well.

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mp3

Post by Lego » 2007-06-22 17:15

I received the sensa and K24p and boy do they sound good together.I used free rip which uses Lame and then tried EAC combined with Lame 3.97 not the latest but some say the best.I'm not sure which i prefer.Hey Linnofil have you compared wma9 with other encoders and what do you think the optimum kbs is or do you think one should just configure everything to max ie 320+ .A friend sold me his intek for 75GBP so i dug out my old linn kans which have been sleeping under my bed for the last 4 years took them into my hairdressers
and hooked them up to the sensa now the shop rocks big time!everyone seems happy at work now!!?? .I hooked the sensa up with linn blacks and a wee adapter from Maplins is there any other cable out there that might be more appropriate guys?
I know that tune

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