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Best pc sound card for headphones recommended with amp

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi there, I'm new here and I'm about to enter audiophile stage now that I have the money for it.
Planning on getting Sennheiser HD555, Grado sr80 or even a used Grado sr225.
But I have Realtek ALC888 onboard audio.

So I'm looking for a good sound card, I'm very exited about the Chaintech AV-710, very cheap, but I have seen in this forums that this headphones sound better with amp, so I want to ask first, is this enough?

If not, what do you recommend?
I have heard that E-MU 0404 PCI and M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI have integrated amp.
post #2 of 25
The Chaintech is not praised for its quality as a soundcard I don't think, but rather as a cheap bit-perfect transport to an external DAC. If I were you I'd keep with the realtek, get an external dac instead of a soundcard and use the SPDIF out from your motherboard to connect them. I'm not 100% sure, but the ALC888 SPDIF out might be bit-perfect as I know my ALC889A is. Some external Dac's also have built in headphone amps and although they are not as good as dedicated amps, they provide a great way to start your journey.
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok, so witch external DAC's or external sound cards with DAC would you guys recommend?
I was planning on spend around $100 for the pci cards, I could pay a little more but nothing passing $200. Thanks!
post #4 of 25
Though it may not be what you're looking for I've very happy with my Creative X-Fi and the way it powers my headphones.
post #5 of 25
It looks like the Beresford DAC is one of the few within your budget that has an integrated headphone amp. Although it is not the best sounding DAC, the fact that it can be had for $200 NEW is great. And it is miles above most (if not all) unmodded internal soundcards in terms of noise floor. My friend had one, and it didn't sound bad at all, it has a warm soft sound. You can also check the F/S forums for a used DAC, although most do not come with headphone amps.

Oh, check if your motherboard does indeed have a SPDIF out connection at the back, since you will need a coaxial cable or optical cable to connect the computer to the DAC (unless you buy a USB DAC which can be more expensive, and lower quality if you have other USB devices connected). Sorry for the plug but I have a great beginner cable for sale (check the sig) for $40 if you decide you need it.
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok, let me put this more clear...
I have a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L motherboard with Realteck ALC888 codec, SPDIF out:
- 1x coaxial S/PDIF
- 1x optical S/PDIF
- 6x Audio jacks.

I want to buy some good cans, but seems that almost any headphones above $75 sound better amped, I'm thinking about Sennheiser HD555 but keeping Grado sr80 and used sr225 in mind too.
So the thing reduces to this, what do I need to get the best sound out of them?
They will be only used with my computer.
I thought E-MU 0404 PCI and M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI that have integrated amp were enough. I also have Logitech X-230 and X-540 speakers, that come with an integrated amp for headphones.
Please give me some advice.

(and I apologize for my bad english)
post #7 of 25
I would get the HeadRoom Total BitHead. It is right in the middle of your budget at $150 and skips your internal DAC which I highly recommend.
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Still considering Total BitHead, but for a shorter budget, what do you think about a Chaintech AV-710 with upgraded opamps?
post #9 of 25
The Chaintech AV-710 is pretty hard to find now. And as far as I know people only praise it for the bit-perfect digital output. So basically people that use the AV-710 only use the digital output to feed an external DAC.
post #10 of 25
I'm not familiar with the Chaintech AV-710, but a quick google search comes up with a few places that sell them. I just can't imagine a $25 soundcard being audiophile quality. Hopefully I am wrong, but since I haven't used this card I am sticking with my gut.
post #11 of 25

Personally, I think the Total Bithead is a good deal. Its a USB DAC and an amp.

HeadRoom Total BitHead @ HeadRoom - Right Between Your Ears
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
This $25 card is unique, take a look at:

I'm not really concerned about audio quality at the signal, I'm pretty sure it's great, I'm concerned about the impedance that headphones like the grado sr225, sennheiser hd595 may need.
post #13 of 25
You should worry about the qaulity of the audio signal.

If the signal is bad an amp or headphone wont help.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Take a look at it's DAC:
Wolfson Microelectronics plc: Product : DACs

Top notch stuff. Anyone with bad experience using this card?
post #15 of 25
I say get the chaintech, you're pretty enamored with it and there's really no way to go wrong with getting it, because if you find out it's not what you expected, you can use it as an optical SPDIF bit-perfect transport to an external DAC.
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