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Audio Setup for ATH-M50

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi all.

Before I begin, I know this is a seriously over-asked question, and if I'm breaking any rules I apologise in advance, but I'm finding myself drowning in a lot of information after spending around six hours reading up on all this. Still, if anyone has the patience to help me out, I'd be really grateful.

 

So, a few months back, I purchased the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, and am really happy with the purchase. Overall, I think it was $150 well spent. Now, I'm looking to trim into shape the rest of my audio setup, or really lack thereof. As of current, my listening is provided by a pair of cheap desktop speakers (Harman Kardon HP 5187, they came with the computer, so enough said), plugged into the aux-out of my computer, which, audio-wise, is simply listed as having "Realtek High Definition Audio" (if it helps, the motherboard is the Intel DG41RQ, but I still can't find any additional info. Either way, it's a cheap board, so i.e. cheap audio?). When I use the M50s, I plug them into the headphone jack on the side of the desktop speakers. From there, my first question: would I get better results by plugging my headphones directly into the back of the PC, as opposed to through the desktop speakers? Sorry if that's an obvious/stupid question.

Anyway, my current portable media player is the Samsung Galaxy S II, a great phone, but a terrible music player. From both personal experience and on the authority of a number of audio engineers/audiophiles, I can tell you, the sound coming from this device is rubbish. Just, no. Which leads to my second question: if I were to use an external DAC, if I understand it correctly, would this would bypass the phone's sound processing, and so it wouldn't be the same crap signal, right? Or would I be wasting my time with using a DAC on a device with a terrible output like the GSII?

Next up, I know it's generally said that the ATH-M50s don't/won't benefit much from an amp, but how about an amp/DAC combo like the FiiO E17? I was considering either the E7 or the E17, but from what I've heard, the E7 isn't too great, and the upgrade to the E17 is worth the extra $40 or so. So my third question: Considering everything, for $150, would the FiiO E17 be a worthy investment?

Finally, my last question: in considering a separate PMP, I've heard the Sansa Clip+ is a purchase you can't really go wrong with. Any thoughts on this?



I really do apologise for the essay, and I hope someone could help me out. If not, I understand.

Thanks for your time.


Edited by LDJ6915 - 6/24/12 at 5:48am
post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDJ6915 View Post
Before I begin, I know this is a seriously over-asked question, and if I'm breaking any rules I apologise in advance, but I'm finding myself drowning in a lot of information after spending around six hours reading up on all this. Still, if anyone has the patience to help me out, I'd be really grateful.

So, a few months back, I purchased the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, and am really happy with the purchase. Overall, I think it was $150 well spent. Now, I'm looking to trim into shape the rest of my audio setup, or really lack thereof. As of current, my listening is provided by a pair of cheap desktop speakers (Harman Kardon HP 5187, they came with the computer, so enough said), plugged into the aux-out of my computer, which, audio-wise, is simply listed as having "Realtek High Definition Audio" (if it helps, the motherboard is the Intel DG41RQ, but I still can't find any additional info. Either way, it's a cheap board, so i.e. cheap audio?). When I use the M50s, I plug them into the headphone jack on the side of the desktop speakers. From there, my first question: would I get better results by plugging my headphones directly into the back of the PC, as opposed to through the desktop speakers? Sorry if that's an obvious/stupid question.
Anyway, my current portable media player is the Samsung Galaxy S II, a great phone, but a terrible music player. From both personal experience and on the authority of a number of audio engineers/audiophiles, I can tell you, the sound coming from this device is rubbish. Just, no. Which leads to my second question: if I were to use an external DAC, if I understand it correctly, would this would bypass the phone's sound processing, and so it wouldn't be the same crap signal, right? Or would I be wasting my time with using a DAC on a device with a terrible output like the GSII?
Next up, I know it's generally said that the ATH-M50s don't/won't benefit much from an amp, but how about an amp/DAC combo like the FiiO E17? I was considering either the E7 or the E17, but from what I've heard, the E7 isn't too great, and the upgrade to the E17 is worth the extra $40 or so. So my third question: Considering everything, for $150, would the FiiO E17 be a worthy investment?
Finally, my last question: in considering a separate PMP, I've heard the Sansa Clip+ is a purchase you can't really go wrong with. Any thoughts on this?

Headphones plugged into speakers or computer's headphone jack is not going to bring out the best in headphones.

Adding the Asus Xonar DG or DGX sound card will improve the sound as chances are the DG(X) comes with a better DAC (Digital to analog converter) chip then your motherboard.

With the Samsung Galaxy S II, it's easiest just to try using an add-on external headphone amplifier to improve the sound.

Some people are able to bypass a cell phones internal DAC, have no idea on how they do it.

The Fiio E17 would be about as much as you would want to spend ($150) trying to upgrade the sound of the ATH-M50s

The Fiio would work fine plugged into your computer.

But chances are you will not be able to use the E17's DAC with the cell phone

I recommend the Xonar DG(X) with Fiio E11 combo (cheaper).

You can always plug the E11 into the Xonar DSG(X) for slightly better audio quality.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Headphones plugged into speakers or computer's headphone jack is not going to bring out the best in headphones.

Adding the Asus Xonar DG or DGX sound card will improve the sound as chances are the DG(X) comes with a better DAC (Digital to analog converter) chip then your motherboard.

With the Samsung Galaxy S II, it's easiest just to try using an add-on external headphone amplifier to improve the sound.

Some people are able to bypass a cell phones internal DAC, have no idea on how they do it.

The Fiio E17 would be about as much as you would want to spend ($150) trying to upgrade the sound of the ATH-M50s

The Fiio would work fine plugged into your computer.

But chances are you will not be able to use the E17's DAC with the cell phone

I recommend the Xonar DG(X) with Fiio E11 combo (cheaper).

You can always plug the E11 into the Xonar DSG(X) for slightly better audio quality.

Thanks for the reply. I had been considering looking at external soundcards as opposed to a PCI one, for the sake of portability if/when I get a laptop down the road in the future, but at <$50, it looks like the DGX is a great option, thanks for the recommendation! With the decision between the E11 or the E17, I think I might still stick with the E17, simply because from what I understand, the M50s don't benefit much from amplification, at least compared to how much they do from using a good DAC. So for the sake of an extra $60 or so, I might go the E17 route for now, unless something else comes up.

I know how I'll be able to get the Galaxy S II to work with the E17, which is just a mini-USB male to male connector, which I can either buy or make myself. Going off the number of reports from other people, it shouldn't be too hard. Either way, my primary listening is done on my PC, so it wouldn't be money wasted if it didn't work with the phone anyway.

Thanks for your time and help.

post #4 of 7

Don't worry too much about getting an external sound card for a laptop. Chances are a new laptop will have an optical output which you can hook the e17 up to, and personally I find I have more success with optical out than usb.

 

I use the e17 with my laptop and also with a sansa clip+ (rockboxed). And no, you can't really go wrong with the clip, especially with the e17, it's a great combo.

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karl H View Post

Don't worry too much about getting an external sound card for a laptop. Chances are a new laptop will have an optical output which you can hook the e17 up to, and personally I find I have more success with optical out than usb.

 

I use the e17 with my laptop and also with a sansa clip+ (rockboxed). And no, you can't really go wrong with the clip, especially with the e17, it's a great combo.

Thanks for the +1 on the Sansa Clip+, I'm all but sold on it now, will probably make my purchase this time tomorrow.
So if I understand you correctly, you're saying go with the PCI soundcard for the desktop, because it'll be pointless to use an external one if I'm using optical out on a laptop? If so, I think I very well might just do that, thank you :)

post #6 of 7

I use an Asus Xonar DS soundcard in my desktop. I have my external (mains) DAC connected to the optical output of the Asus. The soundcard wasn't expensive, and was bought primarily for the optical out. The soundcard's DAC was of no consequence, as I use an external one anyway. If you're planning on E17 use, then there's no reason why you couldn't use the optical input on that, and use it an as external DAC for your desktop if you wanted. There's always the option of upgrading to a non-portable DAC and amp at a later stage.

 

When I bought my laptop, I looked for one with an optical out so that I could use an external non-USB DAC. Whether you use USB or optical is down to personal choice, and is a subject worthy of hours of debate on it's own (try a Google search for USB vs Toslink vs Coaxial if you are interested, but you'll struggle to find a definitive answer). I found optical was superior (for me) as I was getting too much noise through USB.

 

The beauty of the E17 is that it allows you to use any of those options, so you can use your own ears to decide which you prefer, if any.

 

I do rate the Sansa Clip+ with the free Rockbox firmware. It's simple to load onto the player. I bought the 4Gb player and a 16Gb microSD card, and I think the total cost was about £30. For that I have a simple yet versatile lossless player with 20Gb of storage, true gapless playback, a crossfeed function that actually works, and a 5-band parametric EQ etc etc.... It's a no-brainer in my view. Sounds great with the E17 too.

post #7 of 7
What is the result, is it better? What have you purchased?
Edited by ronaldmoko - 8/23/14 at 1:11am
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