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DAC or AMP, which one?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hey Guys,

 

So I did it. I made my first baby step into the audiophile world by purchasing the Sennheiser HD439 several days ago. Obviously not the best headphone out there :p , but I figure it'll get me well on my way (I love it by the way). I feel like I'll work my way up to my true goal, which are the 598's and or the vmoda-LP2 (totally different sounds i know i know). 

 

I feel like my next bigger step would be purchasing a headphone amp OR dac that would last be into the 300-400 dollar headphone range.

 

 

The problem I have is deciding whether to start off with an amp or dac. I primarily listen to my music through my desktop and ipod touch. Now, apparently Ipods have good DAC's so no reason to mess around with that. Desktops I heard needed DAC's or so I thought. Apparently my onboard audio on the mobo (Realtek ALC 898) is actually a pretty good DAC. So good in fact that I don't need to buy another soundcard/DAC unless I spend 100+ dollars. This is all what I gather from forums anyway. I do notice a difference of sound from ipod and desktop, particularly in bass (thumpier and more present from desktop, maybe my onboard soundcard has a little amp action?).

 

My question to you guys is, do I just skip buying the DAC and go straight for the amp? Or is buying a DAC JUST FOR THE PC worth it? (remember I thought Ipod DAC were very good). This translates to, should I get the Fiio e10 or e11? 

 

 

 

Thanks for your help, and if anything I said above is erroneous, please feel free to call me out. Gotta learn somehow

post #2 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiSAuCE View Post

So I did it. I made my first baby step into the audiophile world by purchasing the Sennheiser HD439 several days ago. Obviously not the best headphone out there :p , but I figure it'll get me well on my way (I love it by the way). I feel like I'll work my way up to my true goal, which are the 598's and or the vmoda-LP2 (totally different sounds i know i know). 

I feel like my next bigger step would be purchasing a headphone amp OR dac that would last be into the 300-400 dollar headphone range.

The problem I have is deciding whether to start off with an amp or dac. I primarily listen to my music through my desktop and ipod touch. Now, apparently iPods have good DAC's so no reason to mess around with that. Desktops I heard needed DAC's or so I thought. Apparently my on board audio on the mobo (Realtek ALC 898) is actually a pretty good DAC. So good in fact that I don't need to buy another soundcard/DAC unless I spend 100+ dollars. This is all what I gather from forums anyway. I do notice a difference of sound from iPod and desktop, particularly in bass (thumpier and more present from desktop, maybe my on-board sound card has a little amp action?).

My question to you guys is, do I just skip buying the DAC and go straight for the amp? Or is buying a DAC JUST FOR THE PC worth it? (remember I thought iPod DAC were very good). This translates to, should I get the Fiio e10 or e11? 

It's $150 for an external DAC (HRT iStreamer) that works with iPhones and iPods, and it's not really a portable.

Maybe get the Fiio E11 with Fiio L cable for use with the iPod.

You can also plug the E11 into the line-out/headphone jack of the computer, see if it makes any difference.

Buy the Fiio E11 from a store/seller that has a customer friendly return policy, just in case the E11 does not make much of a difference.

post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiSAuCE View Post

 

My question to you guys is, do I just skip buying the DAC and go straight for the amp? Or is buying a DAC JUST FOR THE PC worth it? (remember I thought Ipod DAC were very good). This translates to, should I get the Fiio e10 or e11? 

 

Question for you.

If you've used the headphone with your iPod etc, do you feel its not loud enough? That the volume on the phone/ipod needs to be way high?

post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 

Using the headphones with the Ipod, I do realize that I need to turn the volume high, particularly in semi loud environments. If it is quiet or silent it's not that big of a problem

 

 

Using it with the PC is somewhat better in terms of loudness. I suspect the headphone out of my pc has a built in amplifier as opposed to the line out part of my motherboard. 

 

In fact, it was the loudness issue with my ipod and to a lesser extent laptop (i don't use headphones with laptop much) that has guided me toward purchasing an amp or amp/dac combo. However, because apparently my PC has a good DAC (Realtek ALC 898, latest codec) I'm leaning toward just purchasing an amp

post #5 of 24

Sounds like you need an amp. I like a DAC/amp combo, but good ones are pretty spendy. The DAC on my laptop is horrid, so a good DAC was almost necessary when using headphones on the computer. As stated before, you really only need an amp when you aren't getting the volume you want out of your cans. However, certain headphones like my Ultrasone Pro 900 just don't sound right without a decent amp. Sometimes the sound can suffer if your source is being "overdrawn" by your cans which can result in funky sounds.

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 

Any cheap amps you guys would recommend?

 

 

I've been looking at the PA2V2, E11, or jds labs cmoy

 

 

Also, it seems that my previous headset came with this cheap usb soundcard dongle that uses thx trustudio pro. These act as DAC and amp I guess, but I suspect those three above would be much better. 

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiSAuCE View Post

Any cheap amps you guys would recommend?

 

 

I've been looking at the PA2V2, E11, or jds labs cmoy

 

 

Also, it seems that my previous headset came with this cheap usb soundcard dongle that uses thx trustudio pro. These act as DAC and amp I guess, but I suspect those three above would be much better. 

 

I wouldn't jump to recommending amps just yet.

If you have to pump the volume to drown ambient noise, that means your listening environment is probably not suited for open type headphones. Do you use your HD439 outside or in a crowded environment? If yes, you probably need to use something else. Even an amp or DAC won't help. Keep the 439s for home use.

 

Sorry to spoil the fun, but you need to identify what the problem is, before solving it.

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

proton007

Nothing you said is incorrect. I think you may have misunderstood what I meant or I elaborated wrong. 

 

The reason why there is an isolation problem is because of loudness, that is, to reach the level of loudness I normally listen to, I have to increase the volume more. So loudness level at halfway on ipod with panasonic earbuds = loudness level at .75, maybe even .8 with these headphones. Once I reach an acceptable loudness level, the isolation is fine. A little lacking, but I suspect that's because of the cloth earpads (I ordered leather, but that's besides the point).

 

 

I also heard that a headphone amp improves sound quality provided a decent DAC, particularly bass. And an amp is a worthy investment anyway that can last you for a long time. I've noticed that the bass response is better on my pc than on ipod. I suspect there is some sort of amplification being performed on the front panel of my pc. This is why headphones from the front panel sound different than from the line out of the motherboard. At any rate I think I need an amp for my ipod to drive these properly at the very least. 

 

 

At any rate, it's not the isolation that's a problem, it's the loudness. 

post #9 of 24

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiSAuCE View Post

I've noticed that the bass response is better on my pc than on ipod. I suspect there is some sort of amplification being performed on the front panel of my pc. This is why headphones from the front panel sound different than from the line out of the motherboard. 

 

There is always an amp; if there were none, you wouldn't hear anything at all.

 

proton: I'm with you, I don't think OP needs an amp. But we might rule out isolation being an issue--the HD 439 is closed.

 

OP: do you have any EQ settings running on your PC, and your iPod?

post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

No EQ settings whatsoever. 

Perhaps my earbuds were just unusually loud.

post #11 of 24

Earbuds? I thought you were using your headphones?

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 

And I'm pretty set on getting an amp lol

 

I've heard numerous reports that getting one improves the sound of these headphones a lot. And if I can't tell the difference I can return it or keep it in case I need it later. 

post #13 of 24

Uh, okay man. I can see you got G.A.S.: gear acquisition syndrome. Just buy whatever amp catches your fancy =\

 

On the other hand, if you want to choose the right amp, you also have to be open to the possibility that you may not need an amp. At all. And that you can't just buy any amp for any headphone.

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

@eric: I'm not sure if you read above.

 

 

When comparing these to previous listening device (earbuds), I have to turn up the volume to get the same level. These are QUIETER than my earbuds. So either I need an amp to properly drive these, or my earbuds are just loud, or I just need to crank up volume on my devices. I don't like cranking volume up to 80percent to get what I want, but if that's the case...

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 

This brings it back to proton's original question, do i have to turn up the volume way high to get acceptable listening levels, no matter what level of ambient noise. The answer is YES

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