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Headphone Amp / DAC for budding Audiophile.

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I've been meaning to move into the world of quality audio for a long time, and am finally in the process of taking the plunge.

 

Here is how my usage pans out currently:

 

50% Gaming

45% Audio

5% Movies / Shows

 

Sometimes these percentages vary in favour of music, but they're often pretty static. I've got an Auzentech Forte sound card, and am going to be purchasing an Asus Essence STX.

 

I've planned on buying a pair of Beyerdynamic DT770/600 and DT880/250 (possibly 600) as starting cans, and then returning one and getting a different set based on how I find each of these sets respectively.

 

What I'm needing helping with now is an amp / DAC to drive and enhance my cans. I'd also like some help getting features like Dolby Headphone / CMSS-3D out of my cards and through my equipment to my cans.

 

All audio I listen to are either 320kbps MP3's, or FLAC tracks, and I have a very wide range of listening tastes, but I tend to be listening to dubstep / DnB most of the time.

 

A huge thankyou in advance, for helping a newb, and for helping me kick start my experience into the Audiophile world! :)

post #2 of 22

What is your budget?

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by violinvirtuoso View Post

What is your budget?


Hey mate, thanks for reading. I'm looking to spend about $500US to begin with? If extending it a bit is worth it,  I will

post #4 of 22

I would look into the Yulong D100.

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by violinvirtuoso View Post

I would look into the Yulong D100.


Thanks for the great suggestion. I've gone and done some reading on it and it sounds like both the DAC and Amp are really good quality, and will be able to drive my DT770/600 without a hitch, so again, thanks alot man!

 

Also wondering if you know how to go about obtaining effects like Dolby Headphone and CMSS-3D / EAX from my soundcard > DAC > Amp, as it's something I definitely want to do. I've tried searching around for some answers but they seem pretty mislead or lacking information, so any specific pointing around you can do would really be benificial.

 

Thanks again!

post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prpnnightmare View Post

 

Thanks for the great suggestion. I've gone and done some reading on it and it sounds like both the DAC and Amp are really good quality, and will be able to drive my DT770/600 without a hitch, so again, thanks alot man!

 

Also wondering if you know how to go about obtaining effects like Dolby Headphone and CMSS-3D / EAX from my soundcard > DAC > Amp, as it's something I definitely want to do. I've tried searching around for some answers but they seem pretty mislead or lacking information, so any specific pointing around you can do would really be benificial.

 

Thanks again!


To use a DAC, you have to output digital from your sound card. This basically bypasses your sound card. Certain soundcards will still allow you to use effects, but most will not. It really depends on your sound card. Try contacting the manufacturer, and ask whether you can use the effects with a DAC.

 

EDIT: I reread through your original post. You realize that using a DAC will completely bypass your sound card, right? If you are using a DAC, an upgrade in sound card will make 0 difference in sound quality. The only reason you would get a different sound card would be for more outputs (which plenty of lower-end cards have).


Edited by violinvirtuoso - 9/4/10 at 9:27pm
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

I'm getting the cards for the Dolby Headphone and CMSS-3D more than anything. That's pretty much all I want out of them.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by violinvirtuoso View Post




To use a DAC, you have to output digital from your sound card. This basically bypasses your sound card. Certain soundcards will still allow you to use effects, but most will not. It really depends on your sound card. Try contacting the manufacturer, and ask whether you can use the effects with a DAC.

 

EDIT: I reread through your original post. You realize that using a DAC will completely bypass your sound card, right? If you are using a DAC, an upgrade in sound card will make 0 difference in sound quality. The only reason you would get a different sound card would be for more outputs (which plenty of lower-end cards have).

post #8 of 22

A soundcard is a DAC/Amp itself, why would you buy a separate one to bypass it?

 

A dedicated amp would be a better investment. Afaik, the STX has Dolby headphone included with its drivers.

post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riverback View Post

A soundcard is a DAC/Amp itself, why would you buy a separate one to bypass it?

 

A dedicated amp would be a better investment. Afaik, the STX has Dolby headphone included with its drivers.


Yeah, it does have Dolby Headphone, and the Auzen Forte has CMSS-3D / EAX.

 

So, you're suggesting ditch the DAC and just get a nice amp? The only reason I wanted a DAC/Amp combo WITH my soundcards was so that I could get the effects out of the soundcards, and feed them through the DAC / Amp, because I heard most DACs have superior sound quality  to most soundcards . I guess I've misunderstood the process..

post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 

EDIT: Woops, double post..

post #11 of 22

The STX on its own is pretty good value for the money considering you don't pay for the case work, or the main power supply.

You're pretty much paying for parts quality and the design which is one of the reasons that make it a good DAC/Amp

 

A dedicated amp would help bring out more from your headphones, especially if you want to climb higher on the ladder.

 

You'll end up with something like STX -> Dedicated Amp -> Headphones =

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riverback View Post

A soundcard is a DAC/Amp itself, why would you buy a separate one to bypass it?

 


Because not all DACs are created equally, and a dedicated DAC will far surpass that on most soundcards.

post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riverback View Post

The STX on its own is pretty good value for the money considering you don't pay for the case work, or the main power supply.

You're pretty much paying for parts quality and the design which is one of the reasons that make it a good DAC/Amp

 

A dedicated amp would help bring out more from your headphones, especially if you want to climb higher on the ladder.

 

You'll end up with something like STX -> Dedicated Amp -> Headphones =


I'll reply once to both quotes. See I've heard alot of audiophiles say exactly what Kingtz has said right here, that a DAC's audio quality will clean up most soundcards, which is why I wanted a DAC/ Amp combo, I am seriously only getting the sound cards for the effects they give me..

 

I'm quite confused right now. :(

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kingtz View Post




Because not all DACs are created equally, and a dedicated DAC will far surpass that on most soundcards.

post #14 of 22

DAC only accepts data, not audio signal or music.. u cant use ur stx and output to ur DAC.. it wont accept audio signal or process it further..

either ditch ur soundcard, use a DAC, or use ur soundcard.. then pair it with an amp from either one.

u cant use ur soundcard output to dac.. it just wont work.

 

since u want the 3d effect from ur soundcard.. dont bother with dac.

 

as to whether stx + 3d / eax is better than DAC without any special effect.. that's totally another comparison.

post #15 of 22

I have an Essence STX and Windows 7, and there are ways that you can still use the additional features of the card via SPDIF.

 

In general, if you set your default audio device in Windows to be the SPDIF passthrough, you don't get to use any features of the card aside from the increased number of voices it can mix in games, which is 127 if I recall the specs correctly.

If you set your audio output to the default speaker output, and use the Xonar control panel, all of the effects can be used and apply to the SPDIF output.  If you set the analog output to headphones which uses the 1/4" headphone jack for audio output, you can use Dolby Headphone via SPDIF with an external DAC.  If you set the analog output to 2 speakers in the Xonar control panel you can use Dolby Virtual Speaker.

 

So a summary:

1) If you use a direct SPDIF output via Windows you don't get the extra features of the card

2) If you are looking for bit perfect playback via SPDIF through something like ASIO or WASAPI in foobar you can't use the extra features in that instance

3) If you set Windows to use the speaker output you can use all of the additional features of the soundcard

4) You can change which feature set is applied to the SPDIF output by changing which analog output you set in the Xonar control panel

 

I hope this clears things up for you.

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