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Portable amp/DAC for Senneheiser HD 280 Pros

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm sort of new to audio gear.  I have a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pros that I've had for several years, and I like them a lot.  Lately I've been looking (not very seriously, for money reasons) at some higher end headphones.  I don't think I'm ready to drop $300 on, e.g., HD 600s (that's just a random example, I don't know if/how much these are better than my HD 280 Pros).  But as I've been reading things about higher end headphones, I keep seeing amps and DACs mentioned left and right.

 

I have a Droid and a netbook (Asus Eee PC 1000).  Would a portable amp (/DAC?/both?) make a significant difference with my HD 280 Pros?  And my desktop has an Asus P8Z68-V LE motherboard (onboard audio provided by the Realtek ALC892 chipset).  Would an amp (/etc.) make a big difference there?

 

I've seen frequent recommendations for the Headroom Total Bithead (~$150), the NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (~$130), and the FiiO E7 USB DAC/amplifier (<$100).  The Total Bithead and the E7 seem to both be DAC/amps, but the NuForce seems to be a DAC only (no amp).  Is that correct?  Is the Total Bithead worth the extra money over the E7?  I think I could make my budget roughly $150 if it's really worth that extra money.

 

Also, these are just three items I've seen frequently recommended/rate highly on Amazon.  Are there other devices I should be considering?

 

I suppose I should also ask, are the HD 280 Pros worth buying an amp/DAC for, or is my money better spent upgrading the headphones themselves?

 

Thanks for the help.

post #2 of 9

I have the 280s and to answer your question they don't shine until they are amped. These cans are maligned because their very neutral sound signature doesn't give a bass thump or anything else startling from an MP3 player. However, add something as simple and cheap as the Fiio E5 and these cans come to life!

 

I have HD580s and they also shine when amped but these are open phones where the 280s are closed back. At the moment I am listening to the 280s via my E9/E7 combo and they sound so clean and clear. I also have the uDAC2 (it is a DAC amp) and it will easily drive your 280s but I don't know if your droid will provide power for them - no worries via your 'puter however. The uDAC needs power from a USB to work as it doesn't have a battery

 

I think that the E7 would be a great solution. You can use it as a portable amp and also use it as a DAC via your netbook. The E7 punches well above its weight and simply puts the Bithead into the shade and costs a lot less. You can add the E9 later if you want to.

 

Bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with the HD280s - just find a way to drive them and you have an excellent set of closed back cans

 

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

It's good to know that the cheapest option is a decent one, but now I'm confused about a few new things.  I thought that if I don't have a separate DAC, then the conversion is happening inside the computer (via the onboard audio chipset).  If I buy the E7, I would be connecting the headphone output of the netbook to the input of the E7, right?  So won't the audio signal already have been converted (and amplified, for that matter) inside the netbook before it gets to the E7?

 

Also, does the Droid/netbook need to power the E7?  I thought it was battery powered.  If the Droid did need to power it, it has a mini-USB port (for charging).  Would that be able to power the E7?

 

And finally, I don't understand the purpose of the E9 if I get the E7.  The E7 already has an amp.  Is the E9 just a more powerful amp?

post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by andye View Post

It's good to know that the cheapest option is a decent one, but now I'm confused about a few new things.  I thought that if I don't have a separate DAC, then the conversion is happening inside the computer (via the onboard audio chipset).  If I buy the E7, I would be connecting the headphone output of the netbook to the input of the E7, right?  So won't the audio signal already have been converted (and amplified, for that matter) inside the netbook before it gets to the E7?

 

Also, does the Droid/netbook need to power the E7?  I thought it was battery powered.  If the Droid did need to power it, it has a mini-USB port (for charging).  Would that be able to power the E7?

 

And finally, I don't understand the purpose of the E9 if I get the E7.  The E7 already has an amp.  Is the E9 just a more powerful amp?


No, the E7 will bypass your computer's dac and use its own. The E7 is usb-powered so while connected to a computer, it will charge. As for the E9, it will allow you to bypass the E7's weaker amp and use its own more powerful one.

 

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the quick reply.  I think I'll purchase the E7 first, and maybe the E9 down the road if I need it.

 

Thanks for the help.

post #6 of 9

Did you end up picking up said amps?

 

I'm going to buy the E9/E7 combo this week and have the 280's.  I've ordered some Brainwavz M1's and I'm guessing the clean signal from the amp/dac combo will sound good through those as well.  Much better than my static filled onboard sound card, that's for sure!

post #7 of 9

Did you end up getting the amp?

 

I just bought some HD280's for PC gaming after returning 3 "gaming" sets.  These sound so much better in music and movies and I don't miss the fake surround from the other sets much.

 

Problem is they are quiet..even turned up..need an amp.  Preferably I want to buy some locally are there any equivalent ones sold in stores like Best buy or audio stores that are like the E5, E7, E9?

 

Right now with the storms ordering overseas would be a disaster.

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Sorry, pioneer76, for missing your post.  I was subscribed to this thread, but Gmail didn't mark the emails as priority.  It was just dumb luck I saw the email for NewYears1978's post.

 

I did end up getting the E7, and I liked it quite a bit with the HD 280s.  But the HD 280s got a bit damaged over the summer (the padding started falling apart on the ear cups and the headband), and I decided that was a reasonable excuse for an upgrade.  Now I'm using AKG K702 headphones with the E7, and they sound even better than the HD 280s.

 

I'm quite happy with the E7 (especially for the price), but it's also been over a year.  I assume something new has come out (or perhaps prices on existing products changed) so that the E7 may not be the best bang for your buck anymore.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by andye View Post

Sorry, pioneer76, for missing your post.  I was subscribed to this thread, but Gmail didn't mark the emails as priority.  It was just dumb luck I saw the email for NewYears1978's post.

 

I did end up getting the E7, and I liked it quite a bit with the HD 280s.  But the HD 280s got a bit damaged over the summer (the padding started falling apart on the ear cups and the headband), and I decided that was a reasonable excuse for an upgrade.  Now I'm using AKG K702 headphones with the E7, and they sound even better than the HD 280s.

 

I'm quite happy with the E7 (especially for the price), but it's also been over a year.  I assume something new has come out (or perhaps prices on existing products changed) so that the E7 may not be the best bang for your buck anymore.


Yes, the E7 has been replaced by the E17 i believe, which is a very good dac/amp for the price.

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