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Amp or DAC?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

So this January I bought myself a pair of ATH-M50's and have been thoroughly impressed with them. However, I am looking to upgrade my kit, and am wondering whether I should buy an amp or a DAC?

 

Or if its feasible, both. I've been looking at the O2 for an amp, or the Fiio E17 an an amp/DAC combo. I have a 300$ budget, so I am wondering what everyone thinks will pair best with my M50s.

 

Thanks guys!

post #2 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

So this January I bought myself a pair of ATH-M50's and have been thoroughly impressed with them. However, I am looking to upgrade my kit, and am wondering whether I should buy an amp or a DAC?

 

Or if its feasible, both. I've been looking at the O2 for an amp, or the Fiio E17 an an amp/DAC combo. I have a 300$ budget, so I am wondering what everyone thinks will pair best with my M50s.

 

Thanks guys!

 

The ODAC+O2 (DAC+amplifier) combo is ~US$300. I think it sounds great.

post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

So this January I bought myself a pair of ATH-M50's and have been thoroughly impressed with them. However, I am looking to upgrade my kit, and am wondering whether I should buy an amp or a DAC?

 

Or if its feasible, both. I've been looking at the O2 for an amp, or the Fiio E17 an an amp/DAC combo. I have a 300$ budget, so I am wondering what everyone thinks will pair best with my M50s.

 

Thanks guys!

I would think for your budget, the Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII would probably be the best bang for the buck you could buy.

post #4 of 18

In my opinion you shouldn't spend more than twice the cost of your headphones on an amp and/or DAC in this case. You are not going to hear much (if any) improvement, assuming your source right now is decent (e.g. an iPod is very decent). You would do much better using that $300 on new headphones. There are some great headphones for under $300 that will sound plenty better than the ATH-M50's with an amp+DAC. 

 

I was once in a similar situation when I had the Sennheiser hd595's. I bought a $300 desktop amp and soundcard but heard no difference. I sold them and bought an hd600 and have enjoyed them for 6 years and counting.

 

That being said, the Leckerton and O2+ODAC are good choices. You should get something whose amp has an output impedance below about 5 ohms. A  CEntrance DACport LX and a FiiO E5 would also be good -- you aren't going to need something with huge voltage swings because of the low impedance and good sensitivity of the ATH-M50.


Edited by Eisenhower - 11/20/12 at 2:23pm
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input guys! I just thought about it though, I don't really do much active listening on the go, because its usually too noisy to appreciate the benefits of higher quality audio. So I was wondering if it would be a better idea to get a desktop amp. For price/performance, what would you think would be of greater benefit?

 

Also, as a side question. Would running an amp/DAC through the headphone jack on my laptop create more noise than running it through USB? Or would they be the same?

post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

Thanks for the input guys! I just thought about it though, I don't really do much active listening on the go, because its usually too noisy to appreciate the benefits of higher quality audio. So I was wondering if it would be a better idea to get a desktop amp. For price/performance, what would you think would be of greater benefit?

 

Also, as a side question. Would running an amp/DAC through the headphone jack on my laptop create more noise than running it through USB? Or would they be the same?

 

What are your plans for the future?

 

If you're immune to upgrade-itis, I don't think you can do better than the ODAC+O2 (or HeadStreamer II + O2 at about the same price.)

 

If you're constantly buying more equipment, maybe $300 in headphones will do you better.

 

If you just want to see what can happen, the Behringer UCA-202 (or -222) + FiiO E5 combo will set you back ~$50. That's how I started before I was infected with the more-more-more disease. FiiO makes some other good performers for less money, although they don't seem to outperform the ones I've mentioned. (My experience is limited to the E5, however.)

 

An external DAC and amp, if you don't buy some lesser parts, won't sound worse than your laptop's headphone jack. It's easy to believe it will be better, at least in theory, but will you hear a difference? If it's different, will it be better? I noticed a distinct improvement, especially with the ODAC+O2 combo.

 

(Note: You can't attach a DAC to an analog output such as a headphone jack.)

 

I certainly could have lived with the sound from my computers which I found surprisingly good (with the Beyerdynamic DT 990 and Sennheiser HD 650.) Did I need to spend another $300 for equipment? No, but now I don't want to go back. Motto: Never listen to anything which might sound better than what I already have.


Edited by HamilcarBarca - 11/20/12 at 7:41pm
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

Thanks for the input guys! I just thought about it though, I don't really do much active listening on the go, because its usually too noisy to appreciate the benefits of higher quality audio. So I was wondering if it would be a better idea to get a desktop amp. For price/performance, what would you think would be of greater benefit?

 

Also, as a side question. Would running an amp/DAC through the headphone jack on my laptop create more noise than running it through USB? Or would they be the same?

For headphones like the ATH-M50, I would say spend $68 for the Fiio E10, USB-DAC-headphone amplifier.

Both the E10's DAC and amp should be better then whatever is in your laptop.

I'm assuming this is for music listening, 2-channel stereo audio.

 

Save the leftover cash for your next headphone upgrade.

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

So far, I'm getting the "upgrade you headphones" consensus. So I will definitely get a more inexpensive DAC/amp and save up for better phones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

For headphones like the ATH-M50, I would say spend $68 for the Fiio E10, USB-DAC-headphone amplifier.

Both the E10's DAC and amp should be better then whatever is in your laptop.

I'm assuming this is for music listening, 2-channel stereo audio.

 

Save the leftover cash for your next headphone upgrade.

Would you recommend the E17 over the E10? and why?

 

 

 

Thanks so far guys. If I choose this route though, what would you recommend as a good DAC before upgrading my headphones?

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

So far, I'm getting the "upgrade you headphones" consensus. So I will definitely get a more inexpensive DAC/amp and save up for better phones.

Would you recommend the E17 over the E10? and why?

 

Thanks so far guys. If I choose this route though, what would you recommend as a good DAC before upgrading my headphones?

Sound quality wise, the E10 and E17 should be close for driving the ATH-M50.

 

The advantage of the E17 is you can use it like a desktop amp or use as a portable amp because of it's built in battery.

The E17 comes with a line-in, so you can bypass the built in DAC and use it as an amplifier only.

Also the E17 has S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) input, so if you plug into the S/PDIF connection on a computer, chances are you can take advantage of the computer's audio features (like 5.1 or 7.1 headphone surround sound),

over that of USB (2-channel stereo only).

post #10 of 18

Personally, id buy the ODAC/O2 Amplifier combo. It'll probably be the last amplifier and dac you will ever need. Remember that these were both designed to be able to be unidentifiable against $1000 amplifiers and DAC's. I honestly don't see how anybody could possibly say that there is any higher value.

 

Will that take up all your money? Sure. But why spend $50-150 for a mediocre dac/amp, $300 for new headphones, and then $300 for a new dac/amp. When you can just buy a proper dac/amp in the first place and save a lot of money?

 

Thats just me though, i tend to think of audio equipment as a long-term investment.

post #11 of 18

I would think the ODAC/O2 would make the ATH-M50 sound as good as they could ever get.

but hold off and get the e10 for now and wait for a good price on a used ODAC/O2.

post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the input guys! I'm just a little torn now :S

 

I'm leaning towards the O2/ODAC because I already have a decent pair of headphones that I don't plan on upgrading for a couple years (student :S)

 

However, would there be a noticeable difference using FLAC, foobar, and my M50s between the ODAC and the E10? Because if there would only be a hair of a difference, I might just invest in the E10 which I could later use as a portable DAC for roadtrips once I get the O2/ODAC.
 

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

Thanks so much for the input guys! I'm just a little torn now :S

 

I'm leaning towards the O2/ODAC because I already have a decent pair of headphones that I don't plan on upgrading for a couple years (student :S)

 

However, would there be a noticeable difference using FLAC, foobar, and my M50s between the ODAC and the E10? Because if there would only be a hair of a difference, I might just invest in the E10 which I could later use as a portable DAC for roadtrips once I get the O2/ODAC.
 

 

You'd be wasting your money if you buy the O2/ODAC for the ATH-m50. Sorry, those headphones aren't good enough to show the difference between the O2/ODAC and a FiiO amp/dac.

I know I've already said this, but you'd be much better off buying better headphones and a FiiO e5 or something.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sraigux View Post

I'm leaning towards the O2/ODAC because I already have a decent pair of headphones that I don't plan on upgrading for a couple years (student :S)

 

However, would there be a noticeable difference using FLAC, foobar, and my M50s between the ODAC and the E10? Because if there would only be a hair of a difference, I might just invest in the E10 which I could later use as a portable DAC for roadtrips once I get the O2/ODAC.

 

The O2 (sans ODAC) is available as a portable, but the E17 (partly because it's mass produced) looks like a better design and form-factor for portability.

 

Would there be a noticeable difference? The difference between the E5 and the O2 isn't stunning or earth-shattering; when I'm just listening to music, and not looking for differences, the E5 is more than satisfying. The E17 should outperform the E5, and there's no real reason to believe you wouldn't be satisfied.

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

Ya, I will probably get the E10, that way, when I buy new headphones and a new amp, I'll have 2 sets to compare with, which I hope will expand my options. (If not, I can always share my experience with my friends).

 

Thanks for everything guys!
 

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