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DAC + AMP? Soundcard + AMP? or other combo?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone.

 

Need some advice here.

 

At the moment, my PC has a mobo (no soundcard) with a TOSLINK SPDIF out.

And I'm using the E17 as both DAC + AMP combo (using the Toslink) to listen to my music.

It's serving me well so far but I'm thinking of possible combinations to improve upon the SQ and soundstage for my FLAC and MP3 music.

 

I'm thinking of the following options,

 

Motherboard --> DAC via Toslink --> AMP --> Headphones (FA-011, HFI-780, Senn HD 598 and potentially a Signature Pro at the end of the year)

or

Soundcard (either TiHD or STX) --> AMP --> Headphones

or

Soundcard --> DAC --> AMP --> Headphones

 

Thanks for any advice!

 

PS: Another reason I'm looking at dedicated amps and DACs is because E17 has a battery and it being connected to the USB as a supply permanently will probably destroy it's battery life in the long run.

post #2 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by harryyeo View Post

At the moment, my PC has a mobo (no sound card) with a TOSLINK SPDIF out.

And I'm using the E17 as both DAC + AMP combo (using the Toslink) to listen to my music.

It's serving me well so far but I'm thinking of possible combinations to improve upon the SQ and soundstage for my FLAC and MP3 music.

I'm thinking of the following options,

Motherboard --> DAC via Toslink --> AMP --> Headphones (FA-011, HFI-780, Senn HD 598 and potentially a Signature Pro at the end of the year)

or

Soundcard (either TiHD or STX) --> AMP --> Headphones

or

Soundcard --> DAC --> AMP --> Headphones

E17 has a battery and it being connected to the USB as a supply permanently will probably destroy it's battery life in the long run.

The Fiio E17 has a slight advantage over all sound card for low Ohm headphones (under 80-Ohms), because the E17 has a lower impedance.

The Asus Xonar Essence STX is a nice all in one package ($174), can even spend an extra $60 for nice op-amps (LME49990).

As good as any sound card built-in headphone amplifier as you can get for a sound card

 

The TiHD is also a good all around sound card (Die Hard Gamer's first choice), but it's headphone jack has high impedance.

But you can plug any external headphone amplifier you want to TiHD RCA outputs

 

The Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $50) comes with a decent DAC, Dolby Headphone surround sound , Toslink output.

But does a less the desirable headphone amplification, so you can get a nice external headphone amplifier to plug into it.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 7/17/12 at 7:29am
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestions.

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

The Fiio E17 has a slight advantage over all sound card for low Ohm headphones (under 80-Ohms), because the E17 has a lower impedance.

The Asus Xonar Essence STX is a nice all in one package ($174), can even spend an extra $60 for nice op-amps (LME49990).

As good as any sound card built-in headphone amplifier as you can get for a sound card

 

The TiHD is also a good all around sound card (Die Hard Gamer's first choice), but it's headphone jack has high impedance.

But you can plug any external headphone amplifier you want to TiHD RCA outputs

 

The Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $50) comes with a decent DAC, Dolby Headphone surround sound , Toslink output.

But does a less the desirable headphone amplification, so you can get a nice external headphone amplifier to plug into it.

 

 

Let's suppose that I'll be getting a TiHD, which external desktop amp within a budget of 300 USD  would be recommended?

I'm looking at the Schiit Asgard at the moment, any others would be nice?

post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by harryyeo View Post

Let's suppose that I'll be getting a TiHD, which external desktop amp within a budget of 300 USD  would be recommended?

I'm looking at the Schiit Asgard at the moment, any others would be nice?

Depending on your budget, if you go for the STX, you may not need an amp at all. Still, there's always the possibility for adding an amp later, it has a line out as well.

So, the cheapest way to get your headphones powered by an amp will be the STX right now.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

Depending on your budget, if you go for the STX, you may not need an amp at all. Still, there's always the possibility for adding an amp later, it has a line out as well.

So, the cheapest way to get your headphones powered by an amp will be the STX right now.

 

Yeah. I understand that STX would be the cheapest way to amp my headphones.

 

Just throwing an idea out there for an alternative setup for a die hard gamer, that would prefer to go for the TiHD instead.

 

EDIT: And after reading abit more about the TiHD, I realised that if there is something inserted into the headphone jack, the card actually auto cuts off other analog output.

Which sucks big time for me as I use both speakers and headphones at the same time.

So the plan to use the RCA output for headphones amping while my BXR1220 speakers are connected to the headphone jack is scrapped.

STX it is for me.


Edited by harryyeo - 7/19/12 at 3:32am
post #7 of 12

I am in the same boat and was about to pull the trigger to the stx but I wanted good dolby headphone processing, which the line outs do not have. Since I also game, I need positional audio. My headphones have a 50 ohm impedance so it's right at the margin of what the stx can drive. 

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by bwanaaa View Post

I am in the same boat and was about to pull the trigger to the stx but I wanted good Dolby Headphone processing, which the line outs do not have. Since I also game, I need positional audio. My headphones have a 50 ohm impedance so it's right at the margin of what the STX can drive. 

I use 50-Ohm and 42-Ohm headphones on my STX, they sound fine.

Currently using my 42-Ohm A900X on my STX (listening to Jason Derlo, Whatcha Say).

post #9 of 12

This helped me get my system working. Thanks for the info guys!


Edited by KCxSmacker - 9/6/12 at 8:53pm
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by bwanaaa View Post

I am in the same boat and was about to pull the trigger to the stx but I wanted good dolby headphone processing, which the line outs do not have. Since I also game, I need positional audio. My headphones have a 50 ohm impedance so it's right at the margin of what the stx can drive. 

 

A possible solution is to get one of the "home theater" Xonar cards (D1, DX, D2, or D2X), which only have line outputs, an external headphone amplifier, and a splitter so that you can drive both the headphones and the speakers at the same time. The cheapest good amplifier I can recommend is the FiiO E11, but it has an annoying limitation: you need to regularly recharge batteries even if you only use it at home, and while the batteries are charged, it cannot be used; another choice is the E9, which is very similar to the built-in amplifier on the Xonar STX (with the same issues related to low impedance headphones); you may also consider the O2 (Objective2), it costs about $150 pre-assembled, but is overall better than the other amplifiers mentioned.

 

Alternatively, if you can use digital S/PDIF input with your speakers, then the STX is fine, as it does allow for using Dolby Headphone on the digital output.

post #11 of 12

tnx. i decided to go w the stx. so far the sennheisers are ok.

post #12 of 12

Remember the STX has 3 levels of gain as well... I use the high gain mode on my HE-400's despite them being 35 Ohm impedance. They work fantastic with it.

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