Thank you tdockweiler and fcpchop88 for the feedback!
Sorry guys, for taking so long to reply. My vacations are over and I’m back in the salt mines, with little or no time for posting forum messages.
Measurements indicate the BitHead DAC section has actual 14 bit performance (Stereophile), whereas the Fiio E10 has actual 16 bit performance... when set to 24 bit! (according to a banned source I cannot quote here). This means the DAC units of both devices perform below their capacities, but the E10 technically outperforms the Total Bithead. I do not know to what extent this difference can be perceived by the human ear. It may make no difference at all.
I gotta tell you guys what’s been happening at work these last few days.
So far I had been listening to music from YouTube. Not really music videos, but video files with ripped CDs in them, showing only the CD cover as a video image. You must have seen them. Lately, they have been uploaded in various formats, from low rez to FULL HD, which affects sound quality accordingly. So, when listening to such CD based music videos on YouTube, I simply had the clear impression that the onboard soundcard in my PC was utter crap. The high end of the sound spectrum was so harsh and edgy, it literally hurt my ears, at low volume levels!
A month ago, I’ve decided to bring all my CD’s in a portable hard disk, ripped to a lossless format. To my total surprise, the sound quality leaped a great deal! I suddenly thought “wait, this soundcard ain’t so bad!”. Then I looked it up on the internet, and it turns out that this PC I’ve got at work may indeed have reasonable onboard audio. I don’t know exactly which DAC I’ve got here, but I know it’s an Audio Devices DAC within the AD198x range. It’s probably 16 bit, but no matter, it sounds quite good playing lossless files!
Here’s a link on this Audio Devices soundcard, and a quote from it:
“When the 20-bit DACs on Analog Devices' newest codecs are compared to $99 PCI Sound Cards, using industry standard audio tests on an Audio Precision System 2, the analog performance meets or exceeds that of the PCI sound card. The DAC performance of the AD1981A AC'97 codec also approaches the performance found in the same $99 PCI Sound Card.”
The highs sound a bit recessed, but the Philips Downtown cans could be blamed for this. The mids are clear enough. It’s the bass that sounds worse. The bass sounds very weak and distant, so I’ve increased it using Real Player’s equalizer. That’s when the bass starts sounding distorted and strangely metallic, as if some electronic noise infected it. The stronger the bass, the higher is the metallic noise. I cannot blame the Downtowns for this, as I had already noticed this with the earplugs I previously used. It’s not a lossy file thing either, for it is clearly audible with lossless files. So, it must be a limitation of the Audio Devices onboard soundcard.
At work I need to reduce fatigue as much as possible, and there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that crossfeed helps reduce fatigue. I suspect crossfeed could make a difference for me. However, I also like clarity, though I am not a detail freak. Some claim the Total Bithead lacks clarity. I also fear having to spend money on batteries just to make the Total Bithead sound better, as some claim it sounds underpowered on USB. There are too many variables in this decision. I know a simple listening test would clear the issue and then I could decide this in a minute. Unfortunately, I cannot compare them myself unless I buy both units.
I'm enjoying music here through the Audio Devices soundcard built into the Dell PC motherboard. I will make a decision soon, and I have a feeling it will probably be a Total Bithead.