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Need help choosing (external DAC/ internal soundcard) for my needs

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hello people of head-fi. I'm new here as I have recently gotten addicted to the audio world, until earlier this year I've had only ever used earbuds to listen to my music and when I got my ath-m50 headphones, it turned my world upside down. So here I am now trying to upgrade my rig a little trying to get a bit more from my cans while also setting up for a very likely future upgrade to feed my new addiction. My problem is that I'm having a hard time picking the right product for my needs and I was hoping people here could help me. I am thorn up between getting a soundcard for my pc (x-fi titanium hd / asus xonar essence) or a nice external dac/amp (e17). I'm not locked on these choices and am open to suggestions. My budget is +/- 300$ (lower is welcomed, I'm trying to be as cost-effective as possible)

 

My headphones : ATH-M50

 

What I listen to : electronic, hiphop, rap, rock, some pop, mostly.

 

My habits : lots of gaming (tf2,cs, sc2, d3, ++)  lots of music, some movies 

 

What I use to listen to music : my ipod, my hp touchpad and my pc.

 

While the portability of external DAC seems to be the logical choice in my case, I've learned from my many hours of research on these forums that my cans don't benifit all that much from amping. I'm sorry if these type of questions come up a lot on the forums, I did spend the past 3-4 days lurking and searching the forums but considering my limited knowledge of the audio world and that there is so many variables to take into consideration when choosing that I feel a bit lost. I'm not sure exactly if my topic belongs in the right section, so again, my apologies if it isn't the case and thank you for your help.


Edited by Orcom - 9/25/12 at 2:56pm
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orcom View Post

Hello people of head-fi. I'm new here as I have recently gotten addicted to the audio world, until earlier this year I've had only ever used earbuds to listen to my music and when I got my ath-m50 headphones, it turned my world upside down. So here I am now trying to upgrade my rig a little trying to get a bit more from my cans while also setting up for a very likely future upgrade to feed my new addiction. My problem is that I'm having a hard time picking the right product for my needs and I was hoping people here could help me. I am thorn up between getting a sound card for my pc (X-fi titanium HD / Asus Xonar Essence) or a nice external dac/amp (e17). I'm not locked on these choices and am open to suggestions. My budget is +/- 300$ (lower is welcomed, I'm trying to be as cost-effective as possible)

 

My headphones : ATH-M50

 

What I listen to : electronic, hiphop, rap, rock, some pop, mostly.

 

My habits : lots of gaming (tf2,cs, sc2, d3, ++)  lots of music, some movies 

 

What I use to listen to music : my ipod, my hp touchpad and my pc.

 

While the portability of external DAC seems to be the logical choice in my case, I've learned from my many hours of research on these forums that my cans don't benefit all that much from amping. I'm sorry if these type of questions come up a lot on the forums, I did spend the past 3-4 days lurking and searching the forums but considering my limited knowledge of the audio world and that there is so many variables to take into consideration when choosing that I feel a bit lost. I'm not sure exactly if my topic belongs in the right section, so again, my apologies if it isn't the case and thank you for your help.

A device needs to have digital audio output to be able to hook an external DAC up to it.

As far as I can tell, the HP Touchpad does do have a digital audio output and it's $150 (HRT iStreamer) for one that works with the iPod (& iPhone).

So not really sure how much using a portable headphone amplifier (like the Fiio E11) would improve the audio quality with the ATH-M50, for use with the iPod and HP Touchpad.

For your PC just get the Asus Xonar DG sound card, $20-$30, should be better then using your motherboard's built in audio.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 9/25/12 at 10:52pm
post #3 of 15

Lots of gaming? Get a sound card. X-Fi Titanium HD in particular if you're into CS 1.6, but Source games do benefit a bit more than they would with other sound cards once you set "snd_legacy_surround 1" in the console and point ALchemy to their installation directories.

 

If you're doing most of that gaming on the laptop and not the desktop, though, that complicates things. I suppose you could get a Xonar U3 for the laptop along with the X-Fi Titanium HD for your desktop-or, if you'd prefer, the basic X-Fi Titanium for $40-50 and an external DAC with S/PDIF input.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help, btw, I went through the whole thread of your pc gaming audio guide and it answered a lot of my questions, I'm not sure how I skipped it in the first place. All my gaming is done from desktop (cs:go, tf2, torchlight2, diablo 3, guild wars 2... too many games not enough time). Anyways, so far I'm leaning towards the Titanium HD atm after all the information you provided me with as well as all the valuable information I gathered from your guide. I was just wondering if : considering that ath-m50 have low impedance and I came across someone mentioning in one the various topic about the soundcard that the titanium hd headphone jack had high impedance which if I'm not mistaken wouldn't be optimal with my phones. So I was wondering if it would be better to get something like the basic X-Fi Titanium (or whatever else with the same technology) + a DAC/AMP like the e17 that has very low impedance. Do you feel like it would be more optimal or am I missing something.

 

 

Thank you for your help and if anyone else wants to share their experience with similar setup it would be very much welcome.


Edited by Orcom - 9/29/12 at 4:55am
post #5 of 15

If you're going to be using an external S/PDIF DAC anyway (and the FiiO E17 does have S/PDIF input), then you're already bypassing the most expensive aspect of the Titanium HD. Might as well save yourself some money and get the baseline X-Fi Titanium.

 

Just make sure you use this driver pack specifically.

 

I use the Titanium HD, but mainly because I think it sounds fine as a DAC, and I'm using an external amp anyway. (Can't drive Stax or other electrostatics out of any sound card in existence.)

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

If you're going to be using an external S/PDIF DAC anyway (and the FiiO E17 does have S/PDIF input), then you're already bypassing the most expensive aspect of the Titanium HD. Might as well save yourself some money and get the baseline X-Fi Titanium.

 

Just make sure you use this driver pack specifically.

 

I use the Titanium HD, but mainly because I think it sounds fine as a DAC, and I'm using an external amp anyway. (Can't drive Stax or other electrostatics out of any sound card in existence.)

As the E17 has a really low impedance (1-Ohm), I'm guessing it will make his headphones sound better.

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
As the E17 has a really low impedance (1-Ohm), I'm guessing it will make his headphones sound better.

 

I figured that if you were recommending the E17 for the amp and not the DAC, you'd suggest an Objective2 instead. Isn't the output impedance on that one closer to zero?

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

 

I figured that if you were recommending the E17 for the amp and not the DAC, you'd suggest an Objective2 instead. Isn't the output impedance on that one closer to zero?

I can't recall the exact Ohm rating of the O2, maybe close to 0, but I figure to just say 1-Ohm, as it's close enough.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

I've been looking at the O2 now that you mention it and it makes actually more sense than getting the e17 because I won't be needing the DAC at all (unless I went for a cheaper x-fi card) and I suppose the amp from the O2 is much better than the one that the e17 is using correct? I'm aware it may or may not make a huge difference on the M50's but I'm looking to get as much as  I can from them as well as having some room for future upgrades. If were to upgrade from the m50 in the future, the O2 would be able to drive pretty much whatever I throw at it right? (in the ~400$ range, anything higher than that is a bit outside of my wallet's league)

 

So right now I'm looking at :

 

- Titanium HD

- Objective 2 

 

Probably going to order these this week, unless I'm wrong on my previous assumptions or  if someone advises otherwise.  Thanks for the help! much appreciated.


Edited by Orcom - 9/30/12 at 5:35am
post #10 of 15

Sounds good.

 

The Objective2 may not be critical for the ATH-M50, but it'll come in handy if you opt for the HE-400 later on!

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

Sounds good.

 

The Objective2 may not be critical for the ATH-M50, but it'll come in handy if you opt for the HE-400 later on!

 

Looks good!

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orcom View Post

So right now I'm looking at :

- Titanium HD

- Objective 2 

Probably going to order these this week, unless I'm wrong on my previous assumptions or  if someone advises otherwise.  Thanks for the help! much appreciated.

Why wait a week when you can order it now?

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

By this week, I meant monday. No shipping on weekends :  (

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

If you're going to be using an external S/PDIF DAC anyway (and the FiiO E17 does have S/PDIF input), then you're already bypassing the most expensive aspect of the Titanium HD. Might as well save yourself some money and get the baseline X-Fi Titanium.

 

Just make sure you use this driver pack specifically.

 

I use the Titanium HD, but mainly because I think it sounds fine as a DAC, and I'm using an external amp anyway. (Can't drive Stax or other electrostatics out of any sound card in existence.)

What is the advantage to using this driver pack? I have an X-Fi Titanium I don't think I've ever downloaded a driver manually. (It may have updated to one automatically once, I'm not sure.)

post #15 of 15

I have tried audioengine d1, but my personal experience is that external dac does not make too much difference if your computer DAC is already good. Some people also claim they can't distinguish between the pc dac, $100 dac and even $1000 dac. If you have high end system (which exclude 90% of the headphone and speaker in market), I think you should give it try. For ATH M50, it performs quite well on my computer without any amp/dac. I plug it in my d1, but I can't tell too much difference. I am wondering if I should return it. 

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