HiFi on the Go - Dream or Reality?

I'm an audiophile who travels a fair bit. I've been looking to build a portable audio system that allows me to enjoy some of the SQ I have at home. I've no illusion that something that fits in my carry on will give me the full Lampi/dTZ/Kharma experience I have at home but I'm trying to get part of the way there.

A few years back, I purchased an Astell&Kern DAP and would borrow a pair of Focal Utopia from my main system when traveling. I was happy with the sound but the Utopia proved to be too big to carry around. Trying to avoid lossy Bluetooth and tiny earbud DACs, I purchased Audio 64 U18t IEMs. Out of the box, they sound bright to my ears. I've been playing them on a loop in case there is such a thing as burn in for IEMs and crossing my fingers.

I listen mainly to country music, female vocals and progressive rock

I'm keen to get opinions on whether the search for hifi on the go is a fool's errand or if there is a path I haven't found yet. 

Many thanks





I would add a streamer like WiiM Pro to a Schiit DAC/Headphones amp with wired headphones.

Which Astell&Kern did you get? Based on your other gear, I'd guess one of the higher end models. There are just so many IEM's, I'd recommend seeing if you can try out various brands and models on a trial basis to see what works best for you, if any. 

Country music, female vocals, and prog rock - that's an interesting combination of preferred genres! 

I have been a traveling audiophile for decades. Over that time I have tried all the evolving technology, head amps, DACs, in-ear, over ear etc. I own an Astell & Kern SP2000 with add on amp and Focal Utopia. Also UltraSonde Edition 8… which are easily driven by an iPhone.

I travelled extensively and typically would find most of the time listening in airports, planes and noisy venues along the way. In all of these places the “audiophile” part of the experience is completely compromised by the noise. The noise floor is so high that the high end is nearly completely gone and the midrange is highly compromised.


Then on a whim while in Tokyo one weekend I picked up a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort headphones. They completely changed my life. They are made for noisy environments. The noise cancellation and the tonal balance is made to sound very pleasing and fun in noisy conditions. They are comfortable and wireless. I put them on when I enter the airport and take them off when I arrive at my destination. Often just leaving on the noise cancellation and not listening to anything. it simplified my travel sooo much and made the experience so much better.

Not lugging a case with all my wires and batteries or the A&K brick is wonderful.

Have a look at my headphone system under my userID. Now that is where to listen to headphones… where the noise floor is 30db.

I get along famously with My Sennheiser M4 over the ear Bluetooth phones. I use a Now discontinued LG V40 phone as a source. Given that my 76 yo damaged ears suffer from tinnitus and loss of anything above 6 to 8khz, This combo is great for my needs. Noise cancellation has really improved significantly over the years and as ghdprentice points out, ambient noise ruins any attempt at hi fidelity in a travel environment.

I usually utilize the Bluetooth AptX for listening when I walk. If I want highest possible fidelity, I purchased aTempotec Sonata HD Pro DAC/Amp that's capable of 24/192 resolution with wired phones. With above said ears, I don't really detect much difference. The Sennheiser smartphone app also allows for sonic tweaking so there is also that. 



Thanks @ghdprentice and impressive systems. I had SF Strads and sold them a few years back. I miss them and was wondering if you had a chance to audition the Strads G2 or Amati G5. Perhaps a topic for a different forum. 

You make a valid point about airports and planes being far from ideal environments for an audiophile experience. I wish I had chosen my words more carefully as I did not mean to use "on the go" quite this literally. My trips, as yours since you mentioned Japan, involve multiple hotel stays where I would rate the environment as good enough. 

That being said, I've gotten my Bose NC 700 HP out of the closet and I'll give them another "go" 




I have been listening to Lilium. If I were to upgrade… well, I go up. I have not heard the new Strads yet. But heard good things about them.


On hotels. Yes, you have to make a choice based on time of travel vs hotel time. Most of my travel was far away. I have spent years in hotels… but over the last couple decades there were lots of dinners out, or work. So, the convenience / fun sound of the Quiet Comfort were so worth it for me. Also, I can connect to my iPad and watch a movie, and wonder around the room.


I use my A&K / Focal for vacations where I stay in one place (like vacation for two of three weeks). Interestingly I have decided that the A&K / Focal is so sterile a sound that I am going to look into a portable tube amp… in comparison to my main and headphone systems it sounds terrible… yeah, detailed with good bass, but without natural / musical warmth. 

Bowers & Wilkens PX8 Wireless (with wired option) Noise Cancelling Headphones! Great sounding with Bluetooth 5.2, and built like a tank, the quality is obvious from the moment you pick them up, very comfortable to wear, too.

I looked into the Focal Bathy’s noise cancelling headphones with a DAC chip. They retail for $700.00 which isn’t unreasonable but I found out that the drivers cost Focal around $20.00. That’s also when I was told about how high the mark up is on headphones. Seeing if my source is right, I’m too obstinate to purchase the Bathy’s regardless of the overall sonic benefits. Right now I have Cardas earbuds and the Cayin RU7 DAC to iPhone for my gym workouts and I have to accept the fact that measuring my portable audio with my reference audio is simply an incomparable comparison.