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Need to buy a DAC with amp

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I am a bit confused, hoping someone can help here. I will start with my requirements, most of my music are on the computer, so DAC is a must. Some of them are lossless, and I have some MP3 as well. I listen to all types of music. I also watch some movies through headphone so that I won’t disturb other people. I do not play any games.

 

Currently I am using the following devices,

Musiland MD11 with DT990 600ohm. I bought the MD11 thinking it was cheap and I liked their sound card before. However I don’t feel like that the MD11 produces enough power to drive the DT990, or maybe I am wrong.

 

Now I want to upgrade the amp, or maybe the headphone as well if the high impendence is too hard to drive. There are too many amps on the market; there is nothing everyone is happy with. I have basically narrow down the selection to the following two, if anything is better than these three at about the same price (or lower), please point out to me. Thanks.

 

YuLong D100 II, reviews have been good, but I have never used this brand before.

 

ASUS Xonar Essence One, I am using their sound card, not bad. And I am willing to change op-amps.

 

Audio-gd NFB 5.2, good reviews, but I am not sure about their drivers.

 

I can also buy another headphone to match the amp if required, I am thinking about hifiman HE-400.

 

If there are threads talking about what I need to work out, please also let me know. There are too many threads…

post #2 of 24

Hi Bob,

 

I've got the NFB-5.2 and although it's currently in for a warranty claim, I can't complain overall. The sound is good from the HPO and the DAC output via RCA seems to be really clean and well staged.

 

I'm not clear on what you're asking about re drivers. What is your concern about the Audio-gd drivers?

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

For example the musiland MD11 I currently have, the driver is close to useless, there is almost nothing you can modify. The normal sound card from ASUS or Creative will give you more options right? And the MD11 driver is not very stable for me. I thought it must because these companies are not good at software. I was afraid audio-gd might me the same. Have you used ASUS Xonar Essence One USB?

post #4 of 24

you could just not use usb then you wouldn't have to worry about drivers.  I'd recco the agb 5 or event he agd nfb-10se (now the 10.32 I think).  I have had about a 1/2 AGD toys now so I like them.
 

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedragon View Post

I am a bit confused, hoping someone can help here. I will start with my requirements, most of my music are on the computer, so DAC is a must. Some of them are lossless, and I have some MP3 as well. I listen to all types of music. I also watch some movies through headphone so that I won’t disturb other people. I do not play any games.

Currently I am using the following devices,

Musiland MD11 with DT990 600ohm. I bought the MD11 thinking it was cheap and I liked their sound card before. However I don’t feel like that the MD11 produces enough power to drive the DT990, or maybe I am wrong.

Now I want to upgrade the amp, or maybe the headphone as well if the high impendence is too hard to drive. There are too many amps on the market; there is nothing everyone is happy with. I have basically narrow down the selection to the following two, if anything is better than these three at about the same price (or lower), please point out to me. Thanks.

YuLong D100 II, reviews have been good, but I have never used this brand before.

ASUS Xonar Essence One, I am using their sound card, not bad. And I am willing to change op-amps.

Audio-gd NFB 5.2, good reviews, but I am not sure about their drivers.

I can also buy another headphone to match the amp if required, I am thinking about hifiman HE-400.

If there are threads talking about what I need to work out, please also let me know. There are too many threads…

What are you currently plugging the MD11 into? (details).

post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedragon View Post

For example the musiland MD11 I currently have, the driver is close to useless, there is almost nothing you can modify. The normal sound card from ASUS or Creative will give you more options right? And the MD11 driver is not very stable for me. I thought it must because these companies are not good at software. I was afraid audio-gd might me the same. Have you used ASUS Xonar Essence One USB?

I have the Creative X-Fi USB (the Digital Music Premium one) and it certainly has plenty of adjustable functions like "crystallizer", EAX effects, built in EQ, etc. In reality I don't use any of those features because they mess with the natural sound.

 

The Audio-gd driver provides a simple and easy control panel where you can adjust the sampling rate and bit-depth and you can adjust ASIO settings if you wish. Other than that, all control is handled by the player you use (i.e. Foobar, Winamp, MediaMonkey, etc.)

 

For me the less tinkering done by the DAC/amp the better.

 

Also, the Audio-gd works really nicely with any sound driver I've thrown at it except WASAPI where there were some clicks and pops created by the computer. ASIO, DirectSound, WaveOut, etc. all worked perfectly with ASIO being the definite preferred choice.

post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 

Currently the connection is: Win7 Computer USB Port--> MD11--> DT990

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

The problem is I use my computer for most of the music. I have Xi-Fi sound card for speakers and MIC, MD11 is there for headphone, so USB is my only option for now I guess, or otherwise I will have to switch inputs and change config for the sound card every time.

post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 

I am sure Audio-gd is very good in terms of sound quality and power to drive headphone, how does it compare with ASUS One? Will it be a big upgrade from my MD11? Or should I stick with MD11 and buy a pair of headphone which is easy to drive (Hifiman HE-400)? 

post #10 of 24

An Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $50), CS4398 DAC chip.

 

a single tube amplifier, $50-$100,(eBay) will improve the sound of your DT990s

Or a Little Dot MKIII tube amplifer , $255.

Or O2 head amp. ($155)

 

All in one, NFB-12.1 DAC, $220 + shipping.

post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. It seems like Audio-gd NFB 5.2 is a bit better than the 12.1 and it is still within the price range I am after. I guess I should go for the NFB 5.2 and see how it goes with DT990 then.

post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedragon View Post

I am sure Audio-gd is very good in terms of sound quality and power to drive headphone, how does it compare with ASUS One? Will it be a big upgrade from my MD11? Or should I stick with MD11 and buy a pair of headphone which is easy to drive (Hifiman HE-400)? 

From what I've read, almost anything will be an upgrade from the MD11. I'm not saying that to be harsh or critical, but it sounds like a poorly produced product in general, whereas the others we're discussing are all solid performers with good reputations.

 

The Asus looks great, but I'm not sure it's going to have the grunt you need. It produces 1V rms, which translates to 3mW into 300 ohms (if my maths are correct). The NFB-5.2 produces 300mW into 300 ohms so a massive difference. I believe the Asus is USB powered, yes? If so power will always be limited by that, but it does give you portability which is why I love my X-Fi USB.

 

My suggestion would definitely be the Audio-gd (or similar mains-powered device) if you don't need portability. Otherwise the Asus looks awesome and would be a great portable option! So much so, I'm thinking about upgrading my X-Fi now!

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

Asus requires external power (http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essence_One/).

 

The thing I like the most about Asus was the ability to swap opamp easily, they actually have a guide for you to download to swap... and also I can get it from a local store instead of have it shipped over.

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedragon View Post

Asus requires external power (http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essence_One/).

 

The thing I like the most about Asus was the ability to swap opamp easily, they actually have a guide for you to download to swap... and also I can get it from a local store instead of have it shipped over.

 

Wow! My error - sorry! And I have clearly been multi-tasking too much because I made another error in relation to the power. The Asus HPO gives 7V rms, not 1V as I think I said earlier. I'm still not sure how it will go on power-hungry cans, but it's not as light on as I suggested.

 

It's certainly a great looking unit, but I think the power figures are a bit low which would concern me for flexibility to use any headphones you might like to use in the future. It would be awesome for IEMs and low-impedance cans, but Senns, high-end Beyers, etc. will struggle I think.

 

I'm basing this on the maths that 7V rms (the HPO rating of the Asus) equates to 7mW at 1000 ohms. Many of the best cans are 250-300 ohms. If you divide 7mW by 0.3, you get 23.33mW. Given that I have my NFB-5.2 volume at 50% to drive my 300 ohm HD650s, I can only assume that this equates to significantly more than 23.33mW as max power output from the NFB-5.2 is 300mW into 300ohms.

 

I think that means you will not be enjoying the best possible quality from high impedance cans straight out of the Asus, but it looks sweet for a compact PC amp/DAC combo for low-moderate impedance headphones. Also, really nice to have such simple OPA rolling ability and you can always use those RCA / balanced outputs to drive a separate high power amplifier later if you decide on some power-hungry cans.

 

It sounds like you're already sold on the Asus and it looks like a really nice choice. Please let me know if you get it because I'd be interested in buying one for myself.


Edited by Loquah - 9/16/12 at 11:59pm
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the long feedback. I am not completely sold to Asus, If the quality of sound are the same for both then I will go for Asus. Just that my feeling tells me Audio-gd will sound better, and it seems like they are more professional in headphone amp, it will be much better if I can get it easier... by the way my DT990 is 600ohm version.

 

They cost about the same in Australia as well,

Asus: $399 down the street from my office

Audio-gd: $410 delivered to my door

 

On top of everything I don't know if I should buy a pair of Hifiman HE-400, it should be better than DT990 in every way based on people's comments.

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