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I'm in! Darned Z Reviews are emptying my wallet! I was happy with the HiFi Man 4xxx's, but now they are crying for a sibling.
If you're willing to spend another $150 to get better headphone sound, just EQ* your 4XX (at no cost), get a FiiO Q1 mkII (the best DAC/amp under $100), and a 2.5mm balanced cable.
* Using a system-wide sound modification program called Equalizer APO and the frequency response graph (on the main page) as a reference, I created an EQ profile for the HE-4XX that lowers its mid-bass through the upper-mids. Activating this profile, removes the haze in the headphones' sound, creates a wider (perceived) sound-stage, and generally increases the transparency/realism of the sound.
Once installed, click on the green "+" and select 'Graphic Equalizer with variable bands'. Then copy-paste the following into the (pencil and paper) 'Edit text' bar:
GraphicEQ: 47 0; 50 -1; 53 -1.7; 57 -2.4; 62 -3; 67 -3.4; 73 -3.8; 80 -4; 120 -4; 500 -3; 1200 -2; 2000 -1
Using the columns on the right side of the window (or within 'Edit text'), the frequencies/levels can be adjusted to taste. To deactivate the profile, click on the white 'profile active' button, and it will turn black.
Thanks for the tips! I have been thinking about getting a DAC/AMP and was confused by all the choices.
Happy to help. One final thing... While the standard headphone jack (3.5mm) of the FiiO unit will give you enough volume on louder songs, the balanced-out will really allow your 4XX shine. And if you do spring for the balanced cable, make sure it is HifiMan HE-series compatible... with dual 2.5mm connectors, terminating to a 2.5mm balanced jack.
Once your upgrades are complete, I'd be interested to hear your impressions.
Will do - I recently switched my IEM's to balanced cables and it made a tremendous difference (using my new Hiby R3 which has a balanced headphone jack). Any recommendations on where the find the cables? (I got some great cables for my IEM's from Amazon).
Just out of curiosity, what makes you say the Fiio Q1 is better then something then say the E10k?
The Hiby R3 is an impressive little unit. Compared to its standard headphone-out, its balanced-out offers double the power and 18 dB better channel separation. That certainly is a massive improvement worth pursuing. I found these cables:
Choose the version that has dual 2.5mm connectors and a 2.5mm termination. First though, make sure your 4XX has 2.5mm connectors. (On Head-Fi, someone reported that theirs had 3.5mm connectors, like some of their newer model headphones.)
The FiiO Q1 mkII's advantages over the FiiO E10k: analog line in, portable (battery-powered), 2.5mm balanced connection, DSD and up to 384 kHz-compatible. It's safe to predict that the Q1 mkII sounds better, as well. The E10k's only advantage: coaxial digital out.