got some spare time today, listened to different amp settings and started opamp rolling... let me share my experience...
honeymoon is over but i´m still very pleased with my purchase... i was very wavering if i should buy the TitaniumHD at 50% of the zXrs Price or if I should get me the brand new Toy... i´ve never heard the TiHD, but from what i´ve read it´s also i first class card.. obvious, that the TiHD would be the smarter buy.
well, looks like i´m not this smart...
there was a time when i bought pretty much every audio opamp i could get my greedy hands on because it thought i would build THE diy amp, so i guess it would be a crime not to try them in the new card.. since installed opamps are generic as generic could be...
the zXr uses JRC 2114D for the L/R and LME 49710NA for I/V ... i swapped them for AD797B (L/R) and AD797A (I/V) ... they are among ( if not THE ) my favorite opamps for pretty every audio application... i had these lying around, so i cramed them into the card..
the effect was, as expected, very refining... but the first thing i´ve noticed, was that the stock setting produces allot more power then the 797 setup.. for the Senn PC360, i reached pleasant (loud) levels with 25% power stock, now i need to put the zXr slider to about 60% (32/300Ohm setting) to reach the "same" level. On the beneficial perspective, it took away alot of the harshness in the highs and gave more body to the lows. imo the 797 got a nice balance of detail and liquidity... there was a tiny bit of fatigue... that´s now gone. The improved detail combined with my critical attitude spoiled the soundblaster effects for me.. once you get used to the unaltered sound of this card, the effects get kind of of poor (still the bomb in games).
before i bring in the "big guns" i tried to compare the integrated amp with something more similar in nature.. my beloved ibasso which amps mostly my ipad ( LT1028CN8 I/V / BUF634 / AudioGD Earth ). It produces more volume than the zXr but is on the same level in authority concerns (K701). AudioGD Earth matches beautifuly with the Ultrasone Pro900 ( less low, more high ) when connected to the ipads lineout but i soon feel a tad of fatigue when connected to the zXr. to much detail i guess, i prefer the more mellow sound of the soundcard at this point... though i liked both, that´s for sure...
When i connected my Matrix M-Stage ( 627 Class A ) to the soundcard, i started with the AKG K701 and new what would happen... every note i´ve heard several times before this day, sounded more refined and complete. The zXr handles the PC360 / Pro900 / IEMs so well, that i wouldn´t declare a external amp as necessary... but you would need one if you plan to use phones known for requiring a *real* amp.
in a nutshell... i think that the zXr is exactly what i´ve wanted... i play alot of games to cool down and wanted that my computer sounds just as neat as my other stuff, without to much effort and external things ( i like it clean and tidy )... The opamp swap is definitely (positive) audible but not a must have because it sounds great stock... combined with the Sennheiser PC360 i´m very happy connected directly to the card.
so happy it doesn´t glow..
Thanks a lot for your review neopac!
Glad to see you have also tried some opamp rolling on these.
I think this might help some people with their decision.
Awesome pictures as well and nice rig you got there too! :)