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Cheap USB DAC solution : Behringer UCA202 or FIIO products - mainly for Sennheiser HD-555 ( vs...

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hey people, I'm in a bit of a dilemma here. I recently purchased a near new pair of Sennheiser HD-555 - they are barely used, and have had the mod made on them ( I have opened both to check ), but I am not quite happy with how they sound. I would probably guess they haven't been used more than a few hours - by the looks of them so burn-in ( actually lack of ) might be an issue here also.

I'm no audio gear freak, so my equipment is not quite top-notch to use with the headphones to begin with so bare with me a bit.

 

Right now my "audio gear" means :

1) A home PC with a PCI Herculess Fortissimo IV ( chipset VIA Envy 24HT(Vinyl) and Wolfson WM8776 + Wolfson WM8766 DACs ) + Pioneer AV Receiver ( via analog 3mm to RCA ) to power up my home speakers and also use as a HP amp.

2) Dell Precision M6300 - with SigmaTel HD Audio CODEC

3) iPhone 4 - for portable use

 

I also own a few other headphones except the Senns 555:

a) Everglide S500 - Actually gaming headphoes ( I mostly never game ) - but they sound surprisingly good on music ( for their value )

b) AKG K181-DJ - a bit unconfortable to wear for hours but great sound

c) Brainwavz ProAlpha - mostly for the portable use - I simply love these little fellas.

 

Now, getting to my little issue, the Senn HD-555. Please excuse the non-audiophile terms :) I wasn't quite pleased with how they sound when I got them. First I tried them on my iphone 4 as I was on the road. I realized the phone kinda struggles to power them so I figured it comes down to that. I got home, plugged them in my Pioneer as I usually use the headphones anyway, and noticed the bass was kind of dull and some lack of highs and clarity compared to my AKGs which, by any standard sound better, at least on my setup. The bass on the AKGs is a lot punchier and they also sound a lot cleaner overall. If I pump up the volume, it seems that the Senns tend to distort on a punchier music ( such as tech / minimal ) compared to the AKGs that could keep up with whatever volume I throw at them until you feel your ears pop out :) The same thing happens if I use the iphone. While the iphone is not quite capable of driving either of the 2 headphones to their true potential of course, the sound on the AKGs does sound cleaner with better bass and especially crisper highs.

I know almost everyone loves the HD555/595 but I failed to be impressed and let's be honest the AKGs I put them up against, are not quite a top-end model or an audiophile oriented product.

The laptop's internal audio card is simply awful, a lot of noise plus overall really bad quality. If I ever get some new music on my laptop I have to first transfer it on the iphone so I can listen to it at an acceptable quality level. The quality difference between iphone output and laptop output simply cannot be described in words :) I also have a Dell Adapter with a coaxial optical output if needed to use an external DAC. I also have a coaxial and optical output on my PC.

 

The music I listen to varies from Electronic/Tech/Minimal to Jazz/Blues and Classic Rock.

 

However I have decided that the best option for me would be to get an external DAC/Amp ( USB ) to use with my headphones both at home and with my laptop which is usually used as a desktop anyway especially when some music listening comes into play. I would be interested in a cheap solution - under 100$. I truly hope that I will be a bit more happy with my Senns. I mean I want to like these headphones, they are very comfortable, I used them for hours and they are great and I hope the reason why I haven't loved them that much is the source I plug them into.

 

I have read very good things about the cheap Behringer UCA202 ( or 222 ) as a USB DAC solution.Maybe pair it up with a FIIO amp if needed but I have read that it does a great job on its own. Especially cause the Senns are 50 ohms so it shouldn't be a problem for the UCA202. I know is a very cheap product and everyone says you should not be fooled by it's low price tag but I would really like to know how it compares to other FIIO similar products in terms of SQ ( especially on the DAC part ) and if it's able to drive these Senns. I have also taken the FIIO E7 into consideration - but now that the FIIO E10 is almost available I might wait for that instead. Although the FIIO E7 is portable, I am more than pleased with the quality I get from my iPhone + ProAlphas without and amp so portability problem is pretty much solved the easy way :)

So to sum this huge pile of thread into a few questions :

1. How is the Behringer UCA202 compared to FIIO E7 in terms of sound quality?
2. If I got for the Behringer, would I also need an amp to drive the 555s ?
3. How is the E7 compared to E10 sound quality wise - should I wait for the E10 or go straight for the E7?

4. Why do some people pair the E7 with the E9 amp - why isn't the E7s amp enough.
5. Are there any better/cheaper solutions considering I also have coaxial digital output on both my PC and laptop ?
 

Thanks for "bearing" with me :P

post #2 of 11

Here is my short answer in regards to the Behringer UCA202 - Don't waste your time/money.

 

My unit produced a high pitch faint noise in the background all the time (recording and playback) and it does not have a very good HP amp section. I am assuming the Fiio products will be the better choice.

post #3 of 11

Yea the behringers head-amp isn't very good, The e7 has a good amp longs you only want to drive <150ohms , I think the E10 should be a bit more powerful.

post #4 of 11

Both the 202s and 222s have pretty great reviews on Amazon. Some people have complained about the hissing/background noise, but that may be a result of defective units because plenty others said that their units where whisper quiet.

 

If you're in the US, pick one up from Amazon and check it out. Worst case scenario - you'll be out $5 in return shipping costs if you don't like it. If the unit is defective, then Amazon won't even charge you the return shipping $$.

 

I sometimes feel bad for people buying stuff outside the US - quite often its so much more inconvenient and expensive!! redface.gif

post #5 of 11
The "defects" might not be real. The Behringer has a high output impedance (50 ohm). This may lead to issues like audible noise or a skewed frequency response with low impedance headphones.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I guess any of the FIIO DAC/Amp would actually be a better idea. I sure hope that it can revive my Senns 555 for me to actually enjoy them as most people seem to. Would the 96/24 support of the new E10 be a great improvement ? Or I should simply go for the E7 right now ? I mean I do listen to FLACs from time to time and I DO get the quality difference, but most of the time I get music in mp3 320 kbps to I can play it on my iphone since I am using it as my player in my car - which is a 2002 Audi A4 with Bose sound ( factory installed ). After working out a way to hook up the iphone to the car's amp system via a DMC mp3 player, but using just the aux in of it I couldn't help but notice a BIG difference in SQ compared to the car's original CD-Player. I can't believe an iPhone can bring so much improvement. The Audi's OEM BOSE sound system is absolutely mindblowing when mixed up with the iphone as a source ( DAC ). I have some really audiphile freak of friends and they are all very surprised about the SQ coming from a 9 year old car 's sound system. Although I am not very fund of BOSE as a brand in general, but the car came equipped with it and I gotta say I am very convinced, without any lack of modesty, that is one of the BEST sound solutions I have ever heard in a car and I have heard quite a few hi-end models from BMW, Benz, and other makers. The crisp clarity, separation and warmth are just unbelievable :))

 

Enough about the damn car, let's get back to the Senn HD 555 and a DAC/Amp :P

 

Also, one qiute important difference between E7 and E10 is that E7 does not have a line-out connector so I couldn't use it as a desktop DAC for a room amplifier/big speakers which could be a show-stopper. Yeah I could use the HP out but that would mean putting the signal through 2 amps so I don't know ... looks like is either the portability of the E7 or the usability of indoors or the E10 ... damn, and the E10 is not even available yet :D

post #7 of 11

The e7 has a line-out dock called the L7 , which is avaible seperatly.

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

damn it :) I was really planning on waiting for the E10 to be available ... and I actually think I will. In almost all reviews the E10 seems to have a slight better SQ compared to the E7 + 24/96 support. Plus, from the pictures online, it looks better than the E7 imo. I need the better quality at home and from my laptop rather than on the go where I find the ProAlphas to be VERY GOOD without an amp. I can always get the E11 if I really need an OnTheGo amp in the future.

 

Anybody has any idea on the ACTUAL availability of the E10 ? I live in Romania so most likely eBay will be my source.


Edited by C0rnholio - 10/7/11 at 8:00am
post #9 of 11

The E7 doesn't support 24/96, but the E10 does.

 

As for shipment date here is a update from fiio

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by feiao View Post

the first batch is under manufacturing , below is some E10 on the assembling line , and after QC test, packing, some E10 may shipped out in days

 

 


 

 

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

I am in the process of ordering a E10 :) Looks like a killer product. Is it just me or it ONLY works as a USB sound card (DAC) + amp - I mean no other inputs except USB ?

 

However, I am now in a bit of a dilemma. I use my LG LED TV to play movies from an external HDD - exact model is LG 37LE5300. Everything is absolutely incredible image wise, especially for the HD releases, but the sound quality on the TV's headphone out is simply DREADFUL. I like to watch movies with my headphones on as my wife goes to sleep way earlier than me :P My question for you guys : is there a product from FiiO maybe that can act as a DAC using the TV's optical out ? Or at least a very cheap optical DAC solution. I am not interested in state of the art sound quality for my movies but at least a way to get rid of the awful buzzes in my headphones !! I think my only sound output available is the optical one ( no coaxial ). Any thoughts ?

 

LE: seems like Fiio D3 does the job, but it doesn't have a headphone out so I would need to hook it up with an AMP but then again, the E10 doesn't have RCA in so I might just end up purchasing at least a E3 :)) This is sick !! Is there a single product that does it all ? :)

post #11 of 11

All I can think of is this, http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Sound-Blaster-System-SB1240/dp/B004275EO4/ref=sr_1_31?ie=UTF8&qid=1319666684&sr=8-31 , I'm not sure if it works standalone without a pc though, fiio d3 with fiio e6 is probley the best option though.

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