Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › USB Sound Card for Laptop - Help?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

USB Sound Card for Laptop - Help? - Page 3

post #31 of 49

Hehe, I'm glad to hear it was indeed the phones that were the limiting factor, not so much for the phones but for finding out what was the issue on your setup.

 

I certainly wouldn't recommend the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, with the DT770 Pro 80 being better phones, but then again the DT990 Pro will improve further on that.

 

Have you considered taking a second look at the X-Fi HD USB, and optionally the Xonar U3 dongle, now that you have higher end gear?

 

Well, it seems there just might be more life on that breath the hobby is, so brace yourself ;)

post #32 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

Hehe, I'm glad to hear it was indeed the phones that were the limiting factor, not so much for the phones but for finding out what was the issue on your setup.

 

I certainly wouldn't recommend the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, with the DT770 Pro 80 being better phones, but then again the DT990 Pro will improve further on that.

 

Have you considered taking a second look at the X-Fi HD USB, and optionally the Xonar U3 dongle, now that you have higher end gear?

 

Well, it seems there just might be more life on that breath the hobby is, so brace yourself ;)


Actually, it looks like they accepted my offer! Just sent payment, so I'm getting the DT990 Pro/250 for $159 shipped. Better headphones for $60 less, can't beat that! Unfortunately the estimated arrival date is next Tuesday, so I have a ways to go (another thing I hate about ordering online, I'm too damn impatient). I will probably keep the 770's in the mean time until I get them.

 

As for the DAC, I've been tossing the idea around. The only thing that's holding me back is my Denon...I mean it definitely gets louder, but again I still just don't see a huge difference in SQ over the onboard laptop. It's the weirdest thing, and if I hadn't heard it for myself, I wouldn't believe it. I wish I could find some specs on the headphone section of this Denon, but I can't find anything. I can't believe that a $500 (in its day) AV receiver would have the same quality DAC as found on a laptop's onboard audio. Also, the Denon got louder than either the X-Fi or U3, which leads me to believe either one would still be lacking in output, especially considering the DT 990 Pro/250 are high-ohm low sensitivity.

 

I probably want to start with an amp, preferably something portable, and then may upgrade to an external DAC second. Doing it this way may then reveal the DAC's true potential.

 

Any further suggestions or input?

post #33 of 49

If you don't want to spend much for the time being, look into the PA2V2 (good driving power, 100+ hours battery charges) or Fiio E11 (less driving power than the PA2V2, battery charges last little over 10 hours and can't be used while charging), Headstage Arrow or c421. All those amps are portable. Later on, I definitely recommend you getting a proper DAC.

 

How were you connecting your Denon AV receiver to the laptop?

post #34 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

If you don't want to spend much for the time being, look into the PA2V2 (good driving power, 100+ hours battery charges) or Fiio E11 (less driving power than the PA2V2, battery charges last little over 10 hours and can't be used while charging), Headstage Arrow or c421. All those amps are portable. Later on, I definitely recommend you getting a proper DAC.

 

How were you connecting your Denon AV receiver to the laptop?


Thanks, I'll look into those. Based on reviews, I'm leaning more towards the E11 vs the PA2V2...which would you recommend? The other 2 are a bit more than I want to spend. For that kind of money, I'd rather save up a bit more and get something like the ODAC + O2 combo and leave the portability up to a cheaper solution, as I do plan on listening way more at home than I do out and about.

 

Also, I think I've found the solution to my problem. The biggest thing between all these DACs is that they are also amps, and while the DACs have changed, the amps have also changed, making it difficult to distinguish the differences between them when having to mess with volume too. So, I hooked up the HDMI out of my laptop to the Denon and plugged in the headphones. I then used an RCA-->3.5mm cable I got from MonoPrice a while back (the premium one, super thick and looks to be good quality) to hook up the laptop's onboard headphone out to the front analog in of the Denon. This way the only difference is the individual DACs themselves. As I have been doing for all previous tests, I put the Denon in "Pure Direct" mode which cuts off all other inputs/outputs, turns off the display, and turns off any additional processing, just unmodified pure amplification for whatever you're driving, speakers or headphones. I also adjusted the front analog's source level while playing some music to setup the gain. I wound up with 0dB on the HDMI input and +4dB on the analog input. I used Foobar2000 + wasapi for both the laptop out and the HDMI out. I left all volume controls alone after this point and played from both sources, and the volume was now the same, the only differences being the laptop DAC and the Denon DAC.

 

I can now tell a clearly audible difference between the two. The Denon is much clearer, no audible distortion, and the bass seems to be much tighter and punchier. It was an overall better experience. The onboard still wasn't bad, but there was some audible distortion and the bass sounded a bit more muddy and everything else wasn't nearly as clear. It was still pretty good sound, though, I must say. If someone weren't listening for it, they probably wouldn't notice and would just be happy with the sound overall, as these headphones do sound very good.


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/14/12 at 5:57pm
post #35 of 49

I easily recommend the PA2V2 over the E11. The PA2V2 has better driving power, holds 10 times more charge and can be used while charging. The only positive point for E11 is entirely subjective, which is the smaller/slimmer form factor, which can be explained since the E11 is a rather new product with aspirations to be paired with similar form factor devices, while the PA2V2 is one of the oldest headphone amps around, but I do think it stands on its own quite well. Also, Gary (the PA2V2 creator) provides the best customer support I've ever had in my life, which is something every single person who dealt with him can confirm.

post #36 of 49
Thread Starter 

Actually I think I'm going to build an O2 diy style. Probably won't cost much more than the PA2V2 and will be much more fun than just opening a box. How does it stack up to the PA2V2, and does it pair nicely with the DT990 Pro/250? (Judging by everyone else's impressions, I think I know the answer to this, but your input as been ever so valuable so far!)

 

I am an ATM repair tech (and the company's operations manager) and repair electronics on a regular basis, including fine pitch surface mount. I have access to plenty of soldering and troubleshooting gear, including a microscope, oscilloscope, true RMS meters, and a hot air reflow station...just no experience in power supplies or amplifiers. But this seems pretty straight forward (easy through-hole) and well documented.

post #37 of 49

Well, you did mention prefering portable amps, which is why I recommended those. Desktop amps tend to be quite more capable, with quite good products like O2, Fiio E9 and Schiit Asgard.

 

Overall, O2 is a neutral sounding amp, which means it won't exacerbate any underlying gear signature, meaning it will mainly help drive headphones better. It's a very good all rounder amp for its price point.

post #38 of 49
Thread Starter 

Well, I decided to go with the E17 for now. I figured I'd get a good portable DAC with a decent amp first, and then if I need more I can get an amp later on. Since the E17 itself is portable, I figured I'd go with a desktop amp, like the Fiio E9 or build an O2. I plan on listening more at home than out and about anyway.

 

The DT990's should be coming in today, and I will get the E17 tomorrow.

post #39 of 49
Thread Starter 

Got the DT990 pro 250. Out of the box, the bass was disappointing (compared to the DT770 pro 80). It seemed less controlled, loose and boomy, not nearly as punchy, tight and detailed as the DT770 pro/80, and didn't seem to extend as well. I had already returned the DT770, so I didn't have them to compare directly, but it was certainly not what I expected. However, I let them burn-in for a couple days and they seem to be much better. I still like the bass of the DT770's better, and I do seem to prefer the isolation of the closed headphones as well (not to mention the straight cord...the coiled cord on the DT990 is a PITA and will be replaced ASAP). But the soundstage and instrument separation seems to be better with the DT990's, and with a little EQ the bass really woke up after burn-in, though still a little on the loose side. Plus, I'm running them off an E17, so more power could be better and just what they need to "wake them up" as all the reviews I have read have had them hooked up to decent amps. With a 1kHz sine wave @ 0dB I measured 2.95V at the output with volume set to 50/60 on 12dB gain with no audible distortion. Assuming 250-ohm impedance (which varies wildly with music obviously) that comes out to ~35mW. That's not 100% accurate since I didn't measure the current draw to get the actual impedance at which that power was put out (didn't have anything handy at the time), but it is about in line with what I've read. I'm thinking of getting an E9 (or E09K) to pair with the E17 to wake these puppies up. I was thinking O2 as well, but I do like the docking capabilities of the E9. It has a higher output impedance but that won't be a problem with the 250-ohms headphones, and anything that would be affected by the 10-ohm output impedance would run easily on the E17 anyway. My 64-ohm JVC HA-RX900's get stupid loud (they're 106dB/1mW sensitivity too, so easy to drive) running on the E17, and has really woken them up quite nicely (still no competition for the DT990's though).

 

As for the E17, just my luck, and the exact reason I don't like to buy online for electronics, the one I got was a dud. It would turn on with USB plugged in, but would not power on with USB unplugged. I let it sit and "charge" for about an hour, and same thing. As soon as the USB cable was unplugged, the unit would turn off. Whenever I turned off USB charging in the menu it would instantly shut off as well. The red power LED was flickering really bad and the display had some flicker as well. The battery indicator showed it was full. But with USB the unit did work, and quite well at that. Not wanting to go through the hassle of returning, swapping, etc etc, 1-2 week resolution ordeal (and since there was no "warranty void" stickers covering things up), I decided to open it up. I probed the battery leads and got ~0.7V with USB unplugged and 4.13V with USB plugged in, but as soon as I unplugged the USB cable the voltage plummeted to 0.7V. Obviously it wasn't holding a charge. I checked continuity of the positive and negative pads on the PCB (negative to chassis ground and positive to a large cap sitting in front of the dock connector), and sure enough there was no problem there. I desoldered the battery and plugged in the USB cable with no battery at all, and same symptoms including the full battery indicator. Obviously the battery was DOA (which I've seen quite a bit, so not really Fiio's fault, though it should have never passed QC). I went up to my local Batteries Plus and picked up a similar size lithium-ion polymer battery pack rated @ 3.6V 1300mAh, the stock one was 3.7V 1500mAh (googling the part# returned no results, Chinese or otherwise). I soldered it in, and it powered right up. The battery indicator now worked, along with a nice bright red LED around the power button, and the screen flicker disappeared. I let it charge up, and everything is working great, although being 1300mAh will make the battery not last as long, but it shouldn't be too bad. I tried searching on Mouser, Digi-Key, Google, etc etc, but it's difficult to find a battery of those same dimensions and capacity (or larger capacity), as anything larger simply won't fit. The battery is as big as it's gonna get, especially the thickness. There is barely enough room for what's there. There was some double-sided foam tape securing the original battery so it didn't move around, so I replicated that with some double-sided foam gasket tape I had laying around, worked fine. But the battery was an extra $21 expense I had not accounted for. I could have sent it back to Amazon no problem, but me being the impatient (and technically inclined) person that I am, I decided not to wait.

 

The amp/DAC itself is running great, and is a definite improvement over my Denon receiver and laptop's onboard audio. The soundstage is wider, and the mids/highs are clearer, though the Denon seems to have more bass but it's a bit boomier and not as controlled sounding compared to the E17. The E17 gets louder than the Denon AVR-1712 headphone out, and stays clearer at those higher levels as well. It drives the DT990's pretty well (though there's room for improvement) but it drives my 64-ohm RX900's to ear shattering levels! When connected to my LG G2x Android smartphone, the sound is much louder and is much better. More bass, clearer overall sound, and a definite overall improvement. I'm happy with the E17 and will definitely keep it. I just hope nothing else goes wrong with it.


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/23/12 at 12:25am
post #40 of 49

You can indeed get a Fiio E9K (the regular E9 dock only works with the E7), and you won't have any impedance related issues when using the combo with your DT990, that providing better driving power than the E17 alone.

 

Sorry to hear about the dead battery, though.

 

And bass impact will always be better on closed headphones, but I don't think you'll find it missing on the DT990, despite its open nature, not to mention they do take EQing nicely, as long as you're rational while doing so.

post #41 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

You can indeed get a Fiio E9K (the regular E9 dock only works with the E7), and you won't have any impedance related issues when using the combo with your DT990, that providing better driving power than the E17 alone.

 

Sorry to hear about the dead battery, though.

 

And bass impact will always be better on closed headphones, but I don't think you'll find it missing on the DT990, despite its open nature, not to mention they do take EQing nicely, as long as you're rational while doing so.


Thanks for the tip on the E9, I didn't realize the E17 wouldn't work with it. Too bad, as it's $20 cheaper, but from reading it seems they fixed some quirks with the original anyway with the E9K. I'm still going back and forth between the E9K and O2. I've priced it out, and the price is pretty much the same. I've read the O2 is the better amp, but from looking at nwavguy's own side-by-side comparison, the E9/E9K doesn't look to be that far off (and would be a simpler and faster purchase), not to mention the docking capabilities with the E17 and other connectivity...and I wouldn't have to get that line-out adapter either, which is another $10 added to the cost. I'm really thinking E9K.

 

I'm just glad it was just the battery and not an actual component on the PCB. That would have warranted a return. I just wish I could have found a higher capacity battery, then it would have been an upgrade rather than a fix. But the only >1500mAh battery I could (easily) find was about 2mm too thick. Too bad as it was 2000mAh and would have added a considerable amount of time to battery life.

 

I read that review on the "Sonic Differences between the DT-series" or whatever it was called, and he made it sound like the DT990's would have substantially more bass, stating that the DT770's bass was about 1/4 of the DT990's. Obviously that's not the case. The bass on the DT990 isn't bad, I guess I just got hyped up thinking it would be a huge difference and was disappointed. The DT990's bass is still very good, and I think it could be better with some amplification. With the $60 cheaper price tag and the better soundstage and separation, I will still be keeping the DT990's. But that damn coiled cord has got to go! lol

 

So far this $50 "USB sound card" project has turned into $450 if I get the amp. So much for not getting carried away with another hobby lol. I do appreciate all your guidance along the way, it's been a big help!


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/23/12 at 1:20am
post #42 of 49
Thread Starter 

Oops, double post.

post #43 of 49
post #44 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post


Thanks for the tip on the E9, I didn't realize the E17 wouldn't work with it. Too bad, as it's $20 cheaper, but from reading it seems they fixed some quirks with the original anyway with the E9K. I'm still going back and forth between the E9K and O2. I've priced it out, and the price is pretty much the same. I've read the O2 is the better amp, but from looking at nwavguy's own side-by-side comparison, the E9/E9K doesn't look to be that far off (and would be a simpler and faster purchase), not to mention the docking capabilities with the E17 and other connectivity...and I wouldn't have to get that line-out adapter either, which is another $10 added to the cost. I'm really thinking E9K.

 

I'm just glad it was just the battery and not an actual component on the PCB. That would have warranted a return. I just wish I could have found a higher capacity battery, then it would have been an upgrade rather than a fix. But the only >1500mAh battery I could (easily) find was about 2mm too thick. Too bad as it was 2000mAh and would have added a considerable amount of time to battery life.

 

I read that review on the "Sonic Differences between the DT-series" or whatever it was called, and he made it sound like the DT990's would have substantially more bass, stating that the DT770's bass was about 1/4 of the DT990's. Obviously that's not the case. The bass on the DT990 isn't bad, I guess I just got hyped up thinking it would be a huge difference and was disappointed. The DT990's bass is still very good, and I think it could be better with some amplification. With the $60 cheaper price tag and the better soundstage and separation, I will still be keeping the DT990's. But that damn coiled cord has got to go! lol

 

So far this $50 "USB sound card" project has turned into $450 if I get the amp. So much for not getting carried away with another hobby lol. I do appreciate all your guidance along the way, it's been a big help!

 

The O2 is technically the better amp, but it's not that much of a difference, considering the gear you're using.

 

About the battery, you could make a plastic cover of your own, being taller and having more room for a higher capacity battery.

 

As a general rule, open headphones tend to have less bass than closed headphones, and on most cases there isn't any situation like the DT770 having 1/4 of the bass the DT990 have. Expectations can be quite troublesome, something I went through as well with the Ultrasone Pro 900, expecting meteoric bass, and while it's both very impactful and high quality, it didn't demolish the walls around me ;)

 

The important part is that you're enjoying yourself along the way.

post #45 of 49
Thread Starter 

Just ordered the E9K, will be here tomorrow.

 

This has been a long and confusing road, more so than any other hobby I've dabbled in. But I think it's all coming together, and will be worth it in the end. And this is all still "entry level" stuff lol. I'm hoping after I get this E9K maybe I can just sit back and enjoy what I have for a bit lol.


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/23/12 at 11:36am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › USB Sound Card for Laptop - Help?