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post #16 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post

Verdict: don't bother with DAC on iDevices. Probably won't notice and is only useful for laptops. Next time, get a decent sound card.

A DAC might not even be required for recent laptops (take the test with foobar2000 and the ABX component). An amp is more likely to help (my laptop isn't loud enough for me).
post #17 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post
I do have money to spend but I also want to spend it effectively because I get annoyed when I feel like something was useless or pointless. I've spent quite a lot of money these last couple of months on audio equipment and $70 for a DAC isn't much. But not only do I feel like I will get no performance, more importantly it creates clutter. Like I said, this kind of started with all the E17s being discussed around here. It costs more than twice that of the E11 with an inferior amp and I had to wonder if it was a huge difference to have a DAC. 

So now I know, my DAC in the iPod is actually better than my Laptops so I definitely don't need a DAC for mobile music enjoyment. 
I am not so worried about my laptop because I can still use my iPod at any time. Mobile listening and feasible travel gear is all I am interested in since I travel between NA and Southeast Asia a lot.

Foobar's AB function actually sounds pretty fun. I wonder if I will be able to tell with these new earphones... that I don't like. 

Verdict: don't bother with DAC on iDevices. Probably won't notice and is only useful for laptops. Next time, get a decent sound card.

Btw, since people are saying they often can't tell the diff between FLAC and 320kbps, does that mean the "dramatic difference" in vinyl is also somewhat of a myth?


Desktop and laptop computers have electric noise inside of them which can affect an analog audio signal.

Using an external USB DAC takes the audio signal outside of the computer still in a digital form.

So using an external DAC might give you a cleaner signal to feed into the E11.

 

 

post #18 of 45


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post

Btw, since people are saying they often can't tell the diff between FLAC and 320kbps, does that mean the "dramatic difference" in vinyl is also somewhat of a myth?



A lot of blood has been shed on vinyl vs digital/cd. Better not discuss it here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_recording_vs._digital_recording

post #19 of 45

ARG I massively disagree, I hear Audible and impressive differences using a proper DAC.

 

I firmly believe in the concept of an amp only amplifying a crap source if the source is crap. I own the ASUS Xonar Essence STX, which is a great Soundcard with the best part being its DAC, compared to any phone (apple and otherwise) and receiver it has more clarity (and this is using AKG K242HD and Denon D2000.)

 

Its tricky with DACs because good ones are perfectly neutral (the STX is not) and hence leave all the colouration and SS modifying to the amp, also why personally I would stick with Solid State for the DAC, and depending on preference use Tubes for the amp, which are known to play with the sound.

 

Hell this is one of the many reasons I HATE car sound, but it has many other flaws. There are good options from Shiit, AudioGD, and Yulong (I recently put in a bid for the D100.)

 

 

 

post #20 of 45

In the DAC departement, you will have to sink a lot of money for a relative performance bump. If you only have 150$ for a DAC, don't buy it. You will upgrade down the line and your money will be waste with each incremental update.

Finding the right balance of money spent on each component should be relating to its importance in the chain, in order of importance:

Headphones>Amp>Files quality>Digital source>DAC>headphone cable>line cables>digital cables>power cable.

PS: putting more money on the amp is a good idea, in order to upgrade later for a better HP, while having more quality than enough with current HP.

PS²: beware of the Schiit high powered amp they can blow your hearing and your HP.

 


Edited by telecaster - 4/13/12 at 5:31am
post #21 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by telecaster View Post

In the DAC departement, you will have to sink a lot of money for a relative performance bump. If you only have 150$ for a DAC, don't buy it. You will upgrade down the line and your money will be waste with each incremental update.

Finding the right balance of money spent on each component should be relating to its importance in the chain, in order of importance:

Headphones>Amp>Files quality>Digital source>DAC>headphone cable>line cables>digital cables>power cable.



I dont know, I half agree, It depends on the level of the DACs you already have, recievers are fine, iphone is ok, PC onboard soundcards are not good enough, and my Asus P6T deluxe had the best onboard of all, so laptops will be worse.

 

Also incremental updates in a DAC is a waste of money, I agree.

 

And what do you mean by digital source?

 

This is it in my opinion how it should look, taking into account factors such as the limiting component and the quality of non dedicated components.

 

Headphones > Files quality(upto 256kb) > DAC (not necessarily an external one) > Amp > Files quality(above 256kb) > Cables...

 

 

I would note that with high powered cans the amps importance increases but it will still be limited by the DAC, just not as much as by the amp.

post #22 of 45
Thread Starter 

So WiR3D and Telecaster both agree that I shouldn't be spending much on the DAC for my needs basically but just swapped DAC importance in the chain from a difference of interpretation of the issue. 

Basically, external DAC = not efficient use of money when I can just play out of my iPod. Great to know and answers my question most directly. I don't have any crazy cans yet so I will hold off on DACs for awhile. Good to know that Cables are also not worth their cost. I see people spend quite a lot on re-cabling too and UM3x alternative cables here are like $100+ and $200+ on ebay e.O

 

Another question I have is that I am considering getting the Littledot MK III after seeing reviews of it. Since it is not a portable amp, does that mean the sub $200 amp will actually be significantly better in quality than my $300 headstage? I heard they can even power the HD650 pretty well. Will the difference of going to a tube amp give me a fairly big difference compared to regular amps?

post #23 of 45

When thinking about it I agree that the DAC is more important than the digital source. It can be a SBtouch, a laptop or a ipod digital out or any digital player with digital output. The DAC will provide the analogue sound thus is more important. Still it is a difficult task to judge how much you will like to sink into this. For me the 300€ I used in my HD650 is so much worth it, it is ridiculous. I recommend these HP to any living sould on earth!

Then I spent 600€ on my tube amp (including purchasing NOS tubes) because I plan to upgrade my headphone in some time when funds allow but seeing the terrific music I hear through the HD650 this time will be in a long one. Also I already have a good DAC, and frankly it is important, but 150$ will get you nowhere and should not be the priority. But still it is a big part of the sound as well as the files you listen in the first place.

very good

I would advise you to build the Crack Bottlehead, it got rave review and is cheap. Or you can try La Figaro 336C it seems like best buy amp to drive HD650. I heard some bad stories about little dot and I don't like PCB :

InsideMKII.jpg

 

 

La figaro is much more sound and repair friendly while also being more beautiful and I would bet sounds better too:

5.jpg

 

Best bang for the buck to get high class sound would be 336+HD650, the DAC/digital source is something to think more deeply, you might come up with a cheap solution! For me Squeezebox touch is pretty good with its built in DAC, though it doesn't win against my meridian DAC, still very good already standalone. My 2 cents.

 

 

Update: I wired my ipod classic 80gb directly to my setup (339+HD650) playing 256kbps files and frankly it doesn't do any wonder, it sounded kind of crap compared to SBtouch playing FLAC and even more crappy compared to SBtouch through Meridian 561 DAC playing flac)

Although with my setup playing MP3 through SBtouch alone was Ok, while MP3 through SBtouch+561 was good, still this is minor difference and you would need to know what to look for to hear differences. SBtouch alone is harsh, unbalanced, lacking bass, flappy bass control, blurred overall imaging, compared to 561.

 

So in conclusion my above ranking would be, (considering any crappy link in those will be you limiting barrier for good sound) :

 

Headphones>Amp>DAC>files quality>digital player> don't bother upgrading those ones: (headphone cable>line cables>digital cables>power cable).


Edited by telecaster - 4/13/12 at 7:04pm
post #24 of 45
Thread Starter 

I just did an ABX test with my UM3x out of my laptop and I could not tell the difference between FLAC and 192kbps, which I attribute to a poor ability to discern subtleties. But maybe its because of the poor DAC as well? 

 

Here was my post on DACs, Amps and Files after about 4+ hours of tests.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/605378/new-owner-of-um3x-did-i-buy-the-wrong-earphones/15#post_8304189

 

I think I appreciate the differences more now than before regarding DACs and Amps but the file format just stumped me completely (like it has in the past too since I do have FLAC + 320kbps files that I could never tell the difference between).

 

I think I still prioritize amps because it seems their differences are the most dramatic and able to influence good sound for what you are spending. I think I will try to buy a DAC sometime if only for educational purposes.

 

That La Figaro amp actually looks pretty sexy in comparison. Name is not very sexy though >.> 

I see people debating on whether the 332 or 336 is better though. I was able to try an HD650 at the local store but, no surprise, I was not able to drive it to any decent volume with the E11. 

 

I will give it another shot once my Headstage Arrow comes in and if it sounds nice, I will try to find it second hand, sell my HD598 and maybe pick up the Figaro amps. 

 

Also, I would love to get a better DAP but the problem has been size. I like my stuff small and portable (and most preferably not ugly like the Sanza). Any suggestions for sexy, small DAPs that have a decent storage size? I'm thinking the point would be that it already comes with a great DAC inside.


Edited by DNZGamer - 4/13/12 at 7:44pm
post #25 of 45

I agree with both of you :) Nicely said telecaster.

 

Basically ipod is fine, your laptop DAC is not... hence the file quality issue, try the same with your ipod, the results wont be the same, unless its a fluke and that song just handles low quality easy.

 

Also spending a low amount on a dac to get an improvement above the ipod wont work, but i am quite sure of the fiio products will solve the issues for your laptop.


Edited by WiR3D - 4/14/12 at 3:07am
post #26 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post

I just did an ABX test with my UM3x out of my laptop and I could not tell the difference between FLAC and 192kbps, which I attribute to a poor ability to discern subtleties. But maybe its because of the poor DAC as well? 

 

Also, I would love to get a better DAP but the problem has been size. I like my stuff small and portable (and most preferably not ugly like the Sanza). Any suggestions for sexy, small DAPs that have a decent storage size? I'm thinking the point would be that it already comes with a great DAC inside.



Well, after reading your test, I tried out some on my own. Just my laptop,  320kbps CBR vs FLAC, my score was 8/10 both times.

I tried it on some new songs so that I focused on the sound. I think it can be hard to abx songs with very few prominent frequencies, and easier for those with a lot of different frequencies.

And I also felt a slight difference of amp/no amp with my laptop. Haven't experienced this with my iPod. So laptop audio is crap after all.

 

If you want cool looking audio players with good audio quality, Cowon is pretty good.


Edited by proton007 - 4/14/12 at 3:54am
post #27 of 45
Quote:
I think I still prioritize amps because it seems their differences are the most dramatic and able to influence good sound for what you are spending. I think I will try to buy a DAC sometime if only for educational purposes.

 

That La Figaro amp actually looks pretty sexy in comparison. Name is not very sexy though >.> 

I see people debating on whether the 332 or 336 is better though. I was able to try an HD650 at the local store but, no surprise, I was not able to drive it to any decent volume with the E11. 

 

Yup the amp is mandatory to have a real good sound with good HP like the HD650. A Sonos or a squeezebox (the first being the first choice because of ease of setup and use) is IMHO the best buy for a digital source/DAC/decent amp.

 

I don't work for that brand but I like the good value it offers, my 339 is giving such a great joy, I never thought I could achieve this sound with headphones! My experience is that I dislike every solid state HP amp I tried, that tube amp is so musical, and I am exposed to pretty good loudspeaker gear every day! I would have been in the US I think I might have bought the Woo WA2 for over a grand, it's pretty much expensive but even if it's not better, it's not chinese. But now I have the 339 I don't think the WA2 is worth 500$ more based only on tube design!

From what I have gathered on head fi threads La Figaro name comes from the Mozart opera "Les Noces de Figaro". But Le Figaro is a french newspaper and trademarked, so the guy took "La" instead even if its feminine article. He said that this opera is based on the contrast. Contrast between classes (the rich and the servant) constrat in the music, in the livret and pretty much everything is based on black and white contrast, dynamics, musical phrases and themes.. Very interesting and I agree with him. Considering the troubled times Mozart was living in. His music is so calm and perfectly harmonized while you could die from hunger down the street depending on your social class.

He also said the design black and white is based on this opera, frankly I like the guy mentality!

post #28 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post

I just did an ABX test with my UM3x out of my laptop and I could not tell the difference between FLAC and 192kbps, which I attribute to a poor ability to discern subtleties. But maybe its because of the poor DAC as well? 

 

Here was my post on DACs, Amps and Files after about 4+ hours of tests.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/605378/new-owner-of-um3x-did-i-buy-the-wrong-earphones/15#post_8304189

 

I think I appreciate the differences more now than before regarding DACs and Amps but the file format just stumped me completely (like it has in the past too since I do have FLAC + 320kbps files that I could never tell the difference between).

 

I think I still prioritize amps because it seems their differences are the most dramatic and able to influence good sound for what you are spending. I think I will try to buy a DAC sometime if only for educational purposes.

 

That La Figaro amp actually looks pretty sexy in comparison. Name is not very sexy though >.> 

I see people debating on whether the 332 or 336 is better though. I was able to try an HD650 at the local store but, no surprise, I was not able to drive it to any decent volume with the E11. 

 

I will give it another shot once my Headstage Arrow comes in and if it sounds nice, I will try to find it second hand, sell my HD598 and maybe pick up the Figaro amps. 

 

Also, I would love to get a better DAP but the problem has been size. I like my stuff small and portable (and most preferably not ugly like the Sanza). Any suggestions for sexy, small DAPs that have a decent storage size? I'm thinking the point would be that it already comes with a great DAC inside.


 

I think DAC is at least as important as amp. Amp will just amplify every flaws if your DAC is crappy,and similarly DAC will just produce rubbish analog to feed your amp/headphone if you file is low bit/poorly recorded. While the music quality you hear is still limited by how good/resolving your headphone is. For you nano, i think a good amp will help more in having a low output impedance for a more better damping factor rather than providing extra power and better quality amplification. Unless you are using power-hungry or very resolving cans aka poisons. =)
Anyways, if you are looking at constant upgrading of you headphone inventory, IMO it's still good to have a powerful and transparent amp. So that you won't be worry about not able to power your new cans.

In my point of view, the law of diminish return still applies to everything in the chain (not so for music file depending on how you get your file). But still it's much easier to get a obvious increment of performance(or just a change of sound signature) by changing HP. I'm not so much a cable guy though.

 

DAP? Itouch for decent bling factor (quite sexy for me) and very good sound for me (especially if you can couple an decent amp using LOD), while cowon,nationite and sansa are very common here as well.

post #29 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that answer. I know that DACs are important as in, you need a decent one to have a good foundation. My question is more of the hierarchy of what deserves the most money and what will carry that money the furthest. So far from what I've been reading, it seems like the pattern goes from most to least money:

 

Headphone > Amp > DAC > File  > Cables > end?

 

As for changing my DAP, since I always carry my amp and soon I will have an amp that lasts up to 80 hours, I don't think the quality of on board amps really matters for me. I would consider something like the Sansa Clip+ (almost as small) or Rocoo P (shiny!) if it has a significantly better DAC. I am a huge fan of the form factor of the Nano. Very tiny and has 16 gigs with easy to find LOD cables that bypasses the amps and has about 20+ hours of playtime. I was quite disappointed in my search for a better DAP because everything was either huge, had poor battery life (like half or less), had low storage, was ugly or all of the above. I've tried looking for DAC comparisons within these DAPs but they all end up being just general comparisons and some amp comparisons.

post #30 of 45

Depending on your setup, the file can make a huge difference. I have a fairly modest setup (E17+AKG Q701) but I can discernibly hear a difference between 320 MP3 and lossless, for example (which, honestly, should not be interpreted as something to brag about...sometimes ignorance is bliss ;).


I did some testing when my E17 (DAC+amp) arrived earlier this week, comparing it versus my Logitech Z2300 speakers (which have an amp only). The Z2300/sound-card combination was definitely muddier sounding than when plugging the Q701s into the E17. For instance, I picked the muddiest, busiest, most cacophonous song of which I could think ("Moanin" by Charles Mingus), and I did not think that the Q701s were properly able to render the separation between all the instruments without the help of the E17. With the E17, the timbre of the instruments is a lot clearer, even more piercing. Without the E17, the sound of any given instrument is more bland/flat, and the sounds tend to run into one another/overlap each other.

 

(A little bit about me, I typically play flacs from Foobar on my laptop... I have just filled my iPhone up with low bitrate MP3s because it holds <14gb.)


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DNZGamer View Post

Thanks for that answer. I know that DACs are important as in, you need a decent one to have a good foundation. My question is more of the hierarchy of what deserves the most money and what will carry that money the furthest. So far from what I've been reading, it seems like the pattern goes from most to least money:

 

Headphone > Amp > DAC > File  > Cables > end?

 

As for changing my DAP, since I always carry my amp and soon I will have an amp that lasts up to 80 hours, I don't think the quality of on board amps really matters for me. I would consider something like the Sansa Clip+ (almost as small) or Rocoo P (shiny!) if it has a significantly better DAC. I am a huge fan of the form factor of the Nano. Very tiny and has 16 gigs with easy to find LOD cables that bypasses the amps and has about 20+ hours of playtime. I was quite disappointed in my search for a better DAP because everything was either huge, had poor battery life (like half or less), had low storage, was ugly or all of the above. I've tried looking for DAC comparisons within these DAPs but they all end up being just general comparisons and some amp comparisons.



 


Edited by wilky61 - 4/15/12 at 2:48am
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