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Ben Gramain

Carrying soundcards + notebooks togther?

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I guess its a 'transportable' question than portable, but was wondering how some of you (if you do) carry a decent USB outboard adapter / soundcard with a notebook without having to effectively set out your stall each time you fish it out. Maybe even a proper docking arrangement?

Just looking for ideas. I occasionally carry e.g. the Babyface for site recordings but also more rarely for listening on the (semi) move - and while the Babyface comes with a pouch, I was wondering if there was a more elegant way to quickly snap on a quality audio outboard to a notebook that doesn't result in a jumble of cables or having to juggle many boxes, even if just for listening purposes.

Edited by Ben Gramain

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A custom laptop chassis? How much money are we talking about? Velcro?

Just... something more elegant than fishing individual stuff out, having to find somewhere to balance it especially if you have only your lap to balance stuff on, spaghetti junction of cables, etc. I guess a simple way to put it is as close to plugging in a headphone directly into the laptop as possible in terms of general usage.

I have once thought (not very hard I have to say) about a chassis or some sort, but I use different notebooks, so... sigh

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I have been thinking about this myself, and the only problem I have with a nice pair of efficient, easily driven phones (VTG's or Sony MDR-V6/-7506's), and my M-Audio Transport and the HeadAmp Pico Slim is...cooling. The Sony Vaio is notorious for running hot, so I really should probably whip out everything every time.

Alright, and the USB connector -- it'd be nice if they had right-angle USB connectors. I know they do, but I haven't bothered to go out of my way to obtain one yet.

So I do.

I just pull it out when I need it.
Do you now? (gives Dan the knowing smirk and the eyebrow wiggle)

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Perhaps a personal assistant is what you need?

I still have one, but I think she would draw the line at following me around with a tray.

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I just pull it out when I need it.

My motto from 13. :)

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The Apogee Duet (and maybe 2), had a nice custom case the helped with messy cords. For me the unwieldily line seems to be crossed when you go from a one-box solution to two and associated cable(s).

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The Apogee Duet (and maybe 2), had a nice custom case the helped with messy cords. For me the unwieldily line seems to be crossed when you go from a one-box solution to two and associated cable(s).

Yeah, so does the Babyface. And yeah on the later point as well. I guess unless I decide to whip up something really fancy there's no 'aha' solution really, is there?

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JH13s sound spectacular right out of my macbook, no special devices required.

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^ This. Transducers are probably the largest source of distortion in any replay chain. Yet we seem quite happy to ignore this and obsess about differences below the threshold of audibility upstream in the chain. :)

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JH13s sound spectacular right out of my macbook, no special devices required.

If we're talking a recent unibody, I'd be pretty surprised you couldn't hear the interference. TBH the sound from my regular daily, the Lenovo, isn't bad but there is the odd squeap. Dunno. Perhaps I'd be better off popping the Fiio in the bag and some velcro, or looking at one of the better mini dacamps again.

Edited by Ben Gramain

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it's a macbook air, and I hear no interference.

Ah. It's been ages since I headphone'd an Air - the Pro's defo have it tho, which is kind of ironic.

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If I am going to be in one place for more than a few hours, I'll hook up the Pico DAC. Other than that I'll just listen out of a Clip+ or iRiver H120 as either sounds better than the headphone output of my laptop.

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If I am going to be in one place for more than a few hours, I'll hook up the Pico DAC. Other than that I'll just listen out of a Clip+ or iRiver H120 as either sounds better than the headphone output of my laptop.

Yeah - I had this attached going for a while

post-155-0-63192700-1303557236_thumb.jpg

but ended up abandoning the Pico as it was really getting no use in that configuration. I'd usually carry a decent outboard interface for recording only - only occasionally do I get a jonesing for listening through an outboard on the move. But when I do I was wondering if there was an elegant solution to hold everything in one lump.

I bought the Fiio as a disposable standby last year in case I wanted something similar - but it has yet to get any appreciable use.

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I bought the Fiio as a disposable standby last year in case I wanted something similar - but it has yet to get any appreciable use.

I've tested the FiiO E5, and amazingly, it measures impressively well for $20 and the size of a book of matches. If you just need more output, or a lower impedance source, (i.e. your notbook's headphone jack otherwise sounds good) it works well and takes up almost no space.

I also am in the process of writing up my FiiO E7 DAC review. The build quality is downright Apple-like and it uses a Wolfson DAC and Analog Devices op amp. The measurements were very impressive. It probably outperforms a lot of "boutique" USB DACs--it certainly blows away the NuForce uDAC-2. I think it's a great choice for use with a laptop but it is another box to carry around. But then so is the Babyface.

A lot of the high cost of the Babyface is for recording, USB 2.0 R&D, the low latency drivers, extensive I/O, and the software/firmware bundle--non of which are needed for listening to headphones on a laptop. The headphone output of the FiiO E7 outperforms every pro-sound interface's headphone jack I've ever measured and it wouldn't surprise me if it trounces the Babyface. The pro products are designed for recording first and the headphone jack is secondary. There are also lots of complaints about the necessary proprietary RME drivers in their forums. The FiiO E7 is driver free and just works.

I've been measuring PC, laptops and Mac headphone jacks and hope to summarize my findings in a future article. The short answer is the measurements vary widely even from one generation to the next of the same product. So just because one generation of Macbook Pro had an awesome headphone output doesn't mean the previous or next one will.

As others have said, the headphones make a huge difference. Balanced armature IEM's are usually very efficient so power isn't a problem but they don't like higher output impedances which many laptops have. And really power hungry high impedance full size cans need more output than a lot of portable amps/DACs can manage.

The E7 review should be up in a few days.

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Call me crazy, but my "transportable" PC audio set up consists of:

Laptop --> Halide Bridge --> Coax in - HifiMan HM-801 --> HeadAmp Pico Slim --> JH13's.

But that's only if I'm watching movies on my Laptop, otherwise, I just use SD Cards in my HiFiMan.

-Ed

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You guys should check out the new Sony walkman with a S-master MX digital amp technology. I found the headphone out of my Sony NWZ-A867 (Japan Version) with an on-board digital amp to be quite superb with my JH13pro. The sound quality difference b/w the headphone out vs. amping it with the maxed out Larocco Pocket Ref is quite slim. It is more or less a side step than anything else.

http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&partNumber=NWZA865BLK

Edited by purk

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