You know that the E17's DAC feature can't be used with phones, right? But the amp is good, get a nice line-out signal from your phone into the E17 and you should see improvement
It has occurred to me that the different surround "positions" for the DSS2 may be a real benefit, in light of recent conversations reiterating how HTRFs vary from person to person. Also, I saw more recent comments on a listen between the DSS & DSS2, they said the DSS was more "echoey" and possibly better suited for movies, while the tighter positioning accuracy and smaller sense of soundstage sounded more natural and was preferred for action games (like FPS, I assume). Silent Cinema echoes a bit too, but I found I preferred the THX TSP because it doesn't echo, relatively, and not every environment is going to create an echo or sound distant. Also, for me, back-to-front pans sounded more realistic (eg chopper cutscene or space dogfight mission in Reach). It's nice to have a choice, but I feel like the Recon3D in THX TSP mode satisfies my tastes.
Love how you go from saying you're gonna be tight on money and selling off your HiFiman HE400 and E17 amp, to flipping an E9k and buying an expensive new amp, DAC, and smartphone. I know it isn't like how it sounds, that your new purchases are long-term and will save you money from buying a succession of inferior items, it just sounds funny when you ignore the reasons. Anyway, testing out new equipment is what has made this guide and thread so great! I just think these companies ought to pay YOU to increase exposure to their products, donuts you agree?
Did you make those BF2 videos with X-FI? I like the channel-less full surround processing offered by the X-Fi in theory, but I had a hard time getting a good sense of how the positioning works from the short BF2 clips. I think the CoD2 multiplayer video would be a better example for me, as there is more context with everything panning around rather than just a sound emitting from one position. The beginning of the BF2 video, with the tones playing from the different speaker positions, actually hurts my ears... Too much treble out of my iPad/E5 on my Q701s! Could you help me find the CoD2 video? Perhaps I should try to figure out how I could make a surround-enabled video through THX TSP!
Also, it doesn't really make me feel better knowing you are in a similar position as me regarding money. We both obviously have a lot of skills and potential value, and I think you also should be paid for what you do!
Off Topic: just got offered a job, $10.50/hr plus bonuses for selling featured items, 40 hrs a week, full benefits including dental, paid vacation days, 401k, at FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's). Sound good?