I never thought I would be saying (or wanting) to do this, but this web site has opened my eyes to the idea of building my own "Head-Fi listening station" using my laptop as the source.
I have an Asus model X54C that I recently purchased. It is running Windows 7 for the operating system.
Right now it is completely stock, and has a Realtek High Definition audio card built in.
For connectivity, it has one USB 2.0, and one USB 3.0 slot. It also has an HDMI output, and of course the analog input and output of the Realtek audio card.
I use Media Monkey and itunes software for playback, but I only use itunes to sync my ipods, so I actually don't really use it to listen, if that makes sense. Media Monkey is my main listening software.
Almost all of my music has been ripped to my drive using Windows Media Player as WMA lossless files. Some are MP3s though, or even lossy WMA files, that I was too lazy to re-rip to my drive after I decided to go lossless (I used to not know there was such a big difference in the sound quality).
What I would like to do with this is send a bit for bit digital signal to an external DAC, and from there to a headphone amplifier. Alternately, I would also not be opposed to sending a bit for bit digital signal to a DAC/headphone amp combo.
I figure doing this would give me the most flexibility in the long run, in case I want to try different amps or DACs in the future.
Portability is not a concern for me at all. For that, I will just use my ipod and portable headphones.
Right now I have Skullcandy Supreme Sound Aviator, and Grado SR80i headphones and I am currently saving for Sennheiser HD650 headphones.
My number one goal is sound quality.
I do not have a large amount of funds to work with, but I am willing to save up (within reason) and buy a great product, rather than buy the lowest cost option on the market and suffer from quality issues.
I assume that if you can send a true bit for bit digital signal out of the computer of some way, then cost doesn't have such a large impact (if any) on the sound quality. If my line of thinking is correct, I would think the DAC and amplifier I choose to connect to (whatever it is I need) will ultimately determine the sound quality of the setup. Please educate me if I am mistaken.
Any and all input will be greatly appreciated.
EDIT: I am thinking that optical (toslink) or digital coax out would be my preferred choices, with digital coax being my number one preference, to help reduce jitter, if that's even applicable in this situation.
Edited by painted klown - 5/27/12 at 9:36am