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Buying HD 650, trying to figure out how to power it

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Seems like a common topic, but everyone is looking for something different when it comes to amps for these headphones, myself included.  In my case, the $360 expense* for the headphones themselves is the reason why I didn't buy them years ago.  The simple fact that I pretty much must complement them with an amp of some kind is almost a deal breaker for my poor finances.

 

*(Somebody mentioned in the "seeking advice" thread that these headphones can be had for under $300.  I'd love to know where!)

 

I already tried researching this.  What I came up with:

 

http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E7-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B003E6K1VK/

FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier

 

Pros: Fits my budget.  Heavily associated with the HD650 on Amazon - people seem to like it.  No major flaws noted.  Bypasses the use of a DAC in the PC itself.

Cons: 16bit 48Khz cap.  This means that the noise floor is unavoidably high, which would seem to defeat the main points behind both the use of a USB DAC and the use of high-quality headphones.  Also, I can't pin down this device's latency, which is a problem with all USB DACs.  I plan to game with whatever I end up buying, so latency is a no-no.

 

http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC2-HP-Black-Headphone-24bit/dp/B00442KO0Q/

Nuforce Icon uDAC2-HP Headphone Amp and USB DAC

 

Pros: Fits my budget.  Mentioned in the same breath with the FiiO E7, though regarded as better, if less flexible.  Bypasses the use of a DAC in the PC itself.  24bit 96KHz.

Cons: Tons of people have complained about a high-frequency whine produced by this device, and I suspect that it is an inherent, universal flaw.  This basically means I won't be buying this.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Xonar-Essence-24-bit-192KHz-Interface/dp/B002UVME88/

Xonar Essence ST

 

Pros: I could stretch my budget to make this fit if I had to, but it would slay me.  In this thread: http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18211138, one fellow gushes over the combination of this card and the HD650, and later on, somebody who can afford the HD800 and other expensive hardware offers his opinion that a proper headphone amp probably would not give any real improvement over said combination.  That carries a lot of weight with me.  Also, since it is a soundcard, I could expect effectively no latency, which means it easily beats any USB solution.

Cons: It's a soundcard, and I have never experienced a soundcard or other internal DAC solution which didn't let internal noises bleed into the audio (for example, power fluctuations associated with drive activity).

 

http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Streamer-II-Resolution/dp/tech-data/B0038O4UFQ/

HRT Music Streamer II High Resolution USB D/A Converter

Pros: Fits my budget, sort of.  24bit 96KHz.  Asynchronous USB mode (for the win).

Cons: Latency unknown.  Not much discussion about this product.  I only discovered it ten minutes ago myself.

 

That's about all I've been able to round up in the last couple of days.  Whatever I buy, it will be used on a desktop PC, so it doesn't need to be portable.  As mentioned before, latency is a significant concern as I will be doing a lot of gaming, plus latency just plain bugs me.  I basically just need to know if anyone can make some suggestions based on the trend of the contenders I've submitted.  If there are any points I forgot to clear up, please ask.  Thanks!

 

post #2 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asterra View Post

Seems like a common topic, but everyone is looking for something different when it comes to amps for these headphones, myself included.  In my case, the $360 expense* for the headphones themselves is the reason why I didn't buy them years ago.  The simple fact that I pretty much must complement them with an amp of some kind is almost a deal breaker for my poor finances.

 

*(Somebody mentioned in the "seeking advice" thread that these headphones can be had for under $300.  I'd love to know where!)

 

I already tried researching this.  What I came up with:

 

http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E7-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B003E6K1VK/

FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier

 

Pros: Fits my budget.  Heavily associated with the HD650 on Amazon - people seem to like it.  No major flaws noted.  Bypasses the use of a DAC in the PC itself.

Cons: 16bit 48Khz cap.  This means that the noise floor is unavoidably high, which would seem to defeat the main points behind both the use of a USB DAC and the use of high-quality headphones.  Also, I can't pin down this device's latency, which is a problem with all USB DACs.  I plan to game with whatever I end up buying, so latency is a no-no.

 

http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC2-HP-Black-Headphone-24bit/dp/B00442KO0Q/

Nuforce Icon uDAC2-HP Headphone Amp and USB DAC

 

Pros: Fits my budget.  Mentioned in the same breath with the FiiO E7, though regarded as better, if less flexible.  Bypasses the use of a DAC in the PC itself.  24bit 96KHz.

Cons: Tons of people have complained about a high-frequency whine produced by this device, and I suspect that it is an inherent, universal flaw.  This basically means I won't be buying this.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Xonar-Essence-24-bit-192KHz-Interface/dp/B002UVME88/

Xonar Essence ST

 

Pros: I could stretch my budget to make this fit if I had to, but it would slay me.  In this thread: http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18211138, one fellow gushes over the combination of this card and the HD650, and later on, somebody who can afford the HD800 and other expensive hardware offers his opinion that a proper headphone amp probably would not give any real improvement over said combination.  That carries a lot of weight with me.  Also, since it is a soundcard, I could expect effectively no latency, which means it easily beats any USB solution.

Cons: It's a soundcard, and I have never experienced a soundcard or other internal DAC solution which didn't let internal noises bleed into the audio (for example, power fluctuations associated with drive activity).

 

http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Streamer-II-Resolution/dp/tech-data/B0038O4UFQ/

HRT Music Streamer II High Resolution USB D/A Converter

Pros: Fits my budget, sort of.  24bit 96KHz.  Asynchronous USB mode (for the win).

Cons: Latency unknown.  Not much discussion about this product.  I only discovered it ten minutes ago myself.

 

That's about all I've been able to round up in the last couple of days.  Whatever I buy, it will be used on a desktop PC, so it doesn't need to be portable.  As mentioned before, latency is a significant concern as I will be doing a lot of gaming, plus latency just plain bugs me.  I basically just need to know if anyone can make some suggestions based on the trend of the contenders I've submitted.  If there are any points I forgot to clear up, please ask.  Thanks!

 




My vote goes to the HRT Streamer II + an E9 or any old, decent amplifier you can get your hands on.

 

Failing that, get the NuForce Icon - it won't make them sing to a 100% of what they are capable of

but at least you're sorting out the DAC and amp in one swoop.

 

The HD 650 really does justify the cost of a quality amp eg, SPL Auditor, Violectric V90/V100,

Burson 160 (not a real fan of the last one because it is dark sounding in the first place)

post #3 of 21

I can attest to the quality of the ASUS sound card. It's not much different from what I have, just uses a PCI slot and has jitter reduction. It'll also drive the HD650 easily. It's well shielded, no noise or interference. It performs very well with high impedance headphones, not as good but still fantastic with low impedance headphones. It'll perform great with the HD650.

 

That said, even it would be overkill as far as a DAC goes, but it doesn't hurt to be safe. Just call it "future-proof".

 

Quote:
This means that the noise floor is unavoidably high, which would seem to defeat the main points behind both the use of a USB DAC and the use of high-quality headphones.

 

16 bit noise floor only matters if you listen over 96dB. Do you? Don't, you're going to kill your hearing. The E7 only has -91dB noise anyway, so more than 16 bits wouldn't matter.

 

The uDAC-2 is definitely not better than the E7. It can manage more power into 300 ohms, but that's one of its few advantages. It has worse overall distortion (THD and IMD), bad channel balance, and a noise floor that's barely better than the E7 despite 24 bit support (-94dB. I can send you a comparison chart if you want, can't link it). The Essence ST will absolutely trounce it in every way except output impedance, which doesn't matter with the HD650.

 

You're planning to game with this? Definitely get the sound card then. It's not made for gaming, but Dolby Headphone is better than nothing.

post #4 of 21

If you want to get the HD650 for <$300, www.uniquesquared.com has them for 339 or so, subtract 10% with QCF274FG (valid until midnight i believe), and use the rewards points you get from signing up for the website for an additional $6 off or so.

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by allyl View Post

If you want to get the HD650 for <$300, www.uniquesquared.com has them for 339 or so, subtract 10% with QCF274FG (valid until midnight i believe), and use the rewards points you get from signing up for the website for an additional $6 off or so.


Is that new? The one in their eBay store is Refurbished. And are they are authorized dealer?

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

This forum is fantastic.  Thanks, folks.

 

Yeah, I gotta admit I was leaning towards the soundcard.  My quibbles were my certainty (now quashed) that it would let other noises leak in, and the fact that I could not take the headphones to a buddy's place to show them off, without doing some annoying hardware swapping.

 

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

I had actually been taking a closer look at the E7 as well, as I found a compellingly thorough analysis of its capabilities in a blog.  The stickler point was that it only gives 16mW to headphones like the HD650.  One would need to combine it with the E9 to give respectable (usable) power, and this unfortunately would seem to result in a redundant double-amplification, as the E7's amp is presumably non-defeatable.  What a shame the E9 does not have a DAC built in.

 

post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asterra View Post

This forum is fantastic.  Thanks, folks.

 

Yeah, I gotta admit I was leaning towards the soundcard.  My quibbles were my certainty (now quashed) that it would let other noises leak in, and the fact that I could not take the headphones to a buddy's place to show them off, without doing some annoying hardware swapping.

 


That is what drove me over the edge to get my outboard USB DAC over my Auzentech Bravura/ASUS Essence ST.

 

I loved the fact that I'm just a USB connection away from turning any PC, tablet, notebook or laptop into a fine music server.

 

But its true what they say ~ it takes a very decent DAC to edge out the bang for your buck value of the Auzentech/ASUS product.

 

post #9 of 21

You misunderstand the purpose of the E7 in the E7+E9 combo. The E7 would function solely as a DAC, and you won't get any double amping. The E7 will send an unamped line-out signal to the E9.

 

As such, I don't see much point in buying the whole setup right out. You can get a cheaper DAC to feed the E9 if you really wanted to set things up like that. I see the E7+E9 setup as an upgrade path. A newbie buys the E7 first, then at a later date and with a tougher headphone he buys the E9. Alternatively, the E7 could be used as a portable amp and a desktop DAC, but I don't see much point in portable amps.

 

The card's no slouch, though, and as far as I know can output as much power as the E9. Paired with better noise and distortion (for the most part anyway) and a better DAC than the E7, it's still a better choice if you've got the slot for it.

 

16mW, by the way, will drive the HD650 to nearly 110dB. Subtracting desired headroom of 10 or 20dB for peaks and quiet recordings, you're still at 90dB total. It might not be optimal in every situation, but it's plenty. Despite popular belief, the HD650 is actually pretty easy to drive. It's quite sensitive.

 

I think its reputation as a tough headphone is because of its wild impedance curve. Despite the high impedance, some tube amps with high output impedance could severely color it. As such, it "mates" well with certain amps depending on user preference. Most amps have low enough output impedance that it won't color anything, but going from one to a high impedance amp could make a world of difference (for the worst "objectively"). Though if that's the case, I'm surprised the HD595/8 doesn't have the same reputation, or even worse because of its 50 ohm impedance. Maybe it's not expensive enough biggrin.gif


Edited by Head Injury - 9/30/11 at 6:51pm
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 

Yeah.  The convenience factor of the USB solution has me very interested in knowing for sure whether or not there would be any strong negative aspects to using the E7/E9 combo, and whether or not there would truly be a big audible difference between said combo and the soundcard.

 

Good eye on that $339 HD650.  It really does look like they're selling the same product on both their Ebay and non-Ebay stores, only failing to mention it's not new-in-box on the store where they aren't necessarily legally mandated to. ;p

 

post #11 of 21

There won't be much of an audible difference between the E9 and the sound card, except for gaming when Dolby Headphone is used.

post #12 of 21

What about the audinst hud-mx1? I hear it has a powerful head-amp

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 

Wow, you answered my curiosity before I could post it.  And you directly answered my question which I just fired off to FiiO, regarding the possibility of the E7 simply passing the signal through non-amplified.

 

As far as using a cheaper DAC to feed the E9, I can't help but feel like I'd be throwing a wrench into the works.  The thorough rundown of the E7 I mentioned earlier made it clear that the reason it's a good solution is because of the almost inexplicably high-quality parts, including, as it happens, "an audiophile-grade Wolfson DAC".  Facts like these inspire a lot of trust in what the designers seem to have had in mind.

 

post #14 of 21

Check the review, on the same site, of the UCA202. $30, great DAC, not so great amp because of its absurd 43 ohm output impedance. The E7 is more versatile, as a portable or low impedance amp.

 

If you like the idea of the E7+E9 combo, I'd suggest you buy the E7 alone for now, and get the E9 if you feel you're not amping the HD650 enough.

post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head Injury View Post

There won't be much of an audible difference between the E9 and the sound card, except for gaming when Dolby Headphone is used.


Hmm.  So it comes down to.. The convenience of portability vs. the availability of Dolby Headphone.

 

...

 

I just checked and it seems my motherboard (Gigabyte EX58-UD5) has Dolby Headphone built-in (well, available in an update).  That sure complicates things.  Decisions, decisions.  At least now I know it's going to be one of these two solutions.  Three hours ago I was blind.

 

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