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Best Setup for All-Around use: DAC/Amp or Soundcard for HD600?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

I currently have the Asus Xonar D1 -> HD555 setup, but is looking to upgrade the cans to HD600's

being a newbie to the audiophile world can be pretty intimidating, so I need some advice on the best setup that would get the most out of my new cans :P


I do gaming/movie/music on my PC. I want good quality music while preserving the 3D positional effects my soundcard provides when gaming. What do you guys think is the best next step in improving my sound system?


1. Get an amp (pa2v2?) to go soundcard -> amp -> hd600


2. Get an external USB DAC/Amp (uDAC/FiiO E7?) -> hd600

(I hear this has better SQ for music since you have a dedicated DAC, but I wont be able to get EAX effects and what not, and I'd be wasting my soundcard)


3. Get something like the Zero DAC/Amp and go soundcard -> optical out to Zero -> hd600

(does this even preserve EAX? i've seen some people go this setup, but i dont know if the functionality of the sound card will still work...)


And if you havent figured it out by now, my budget is under $150... sorry not much to work with i know :P

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

hmmm bump?

post #3 of 6

I think your analysis is pretty good already, it's a choice between preserving your existing sound card or trying for better sound quality with an external DAC. I think your key is to find out if the Xonar's optical output preserves the EAX and other effects that you want.



post #4 of 6

I have a Xonar DX and I used to own the hd555 as well before I upgraded to the hd600. I think the Xonar DX can drive the hd600 just fine. I used to use a pimeta amp from the Xonar and after some comparisons I liked the sound coming straight from the Xonar. I found the bass to be tighter and the highs a bit more pronounced. Buying an external dac in your price range probably won't give you much benefit. The dac in the Xonar DX is a Cirrus Logic CS4398, also used in the Zhaolu Dac ($215). Of course it's wrong to simply compare dac chips, but it gives you a rough reference. I think in your case (and mine) it would be better to save that $150 until you can buy a better dac or dac/amp combo.

As for EAX, my opinion is that it's highly overrated, and Dolby Headphone sounds awful with the hd600, it completely destroys the bass.

post #5 of 6

I doubt there's a $150 dac/amp that beats a decent soundcard, something like a PA2v2 is going to help a bit but not that much. Save up for something powerful instead.

post #6 of 6

The Asus STX (~$200) has a solid headphone amp built in along with a very good DAC. For $200, it's a great buy and it's what I use with my HD650 right now. I'm looking to upgrade (always), but for the past year and a half, I've been really happy with the STX, it's a tremendous value for the money. It's a little more than you want to spend, but I think it'll be better for you in the end. 

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