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Recommendation for a desktop amp

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi Headfi!

Long time lurker, first time poster! Pretty much a newbie to the world of headphones and audiophiles in general so looking for a recommendation for a desktop amp from someone with better knowledge then I!

What I have: Audio Technica a900x headphones, just on board Realtek HD Audio (just the on board audio)

What I listen to: FLAC almost exclusively for music. Mostly hip hop, but I also listen to other genres from reggae to r&b to rock to electronic and anything really that I think sounds good. I also watch movies often at my desktop and play some games (gaming is to a minimum though so it would be my last priority).

Budget: I'd like to keep it within the $100 range, if it is great bang for the buck I don't mind going over a bit but I'd definitely not want to go over $150.

The headphones currently sound great to me on the computer, but of course I don't mind spending a bit so that they sound even better. I feel like these headphones are pretty balanced but they benefit from a slight boost on the low end. I currently have a Fiio E6 which I think does benefit them but I mostly use it for portable use with my phone and another set of cans. 

I've read a couple of threads posted comparing amps and the Fiio E10 seems to stick out as having a great price vs performance ratio, it also has a simple bass boost EQ which I liked on the Fiio E6. 

I'm also open to the suggestion of a dedicated sound card, but I'd rather not tinker with the computer, an amp is just more appealing to me right now. 


http://www.headphonebar.com/categories/Headphone-Amps-%26-Desktop-Audio/

I shop here regularly, so any suggestions from what is available here is definitely a plus, but anything in general is welcome.

Thanks in advance :)

post #2 of 12

In all honesty, the audio engine D1 dac/amp combo would be your best bet. 

 

Keep in mind that you need a DAC AND amp. Since the audio engine is a combo for 170 it is pretty good. The Fiio stuff isn't the greatest stuff in the world. It is kind of one of the niche products, and if you aren't a part of that niche, don't bother. 

 

The other thing you can do is look at building your own for cheap, and getting a dac. http://www.jdslabs.com/storecat.php?fetchcat=3

 

These people will actually sell you the parts and guide you on how to assemble the whole thing for a whole lot less than if you were to buy it as a whole. 

 

The only other thing you COULD do is get the schiit Magni for 100 as an amp. And then later down the road you can get the schiit Modi as your dac when you have some money in your pocket. 

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

So how exactly would the Audioengine D1 work for me? It is a DAC/AMP combo? I listen to FLAC music through Foobar2k. Is it a plug and play type situation? Like I said, I'm very new to this so I'm not 100% clear on how DAC's work or why they are needed.

post #4 of 12

Ah ok, sorry I didn't explain it better. 

 

First I should say that every digital thing that plays music has a dac in it. DAC stands for digital to analog converter, and it does just that. It takes a digital signal and turns it into a analog sound wave that can then be sent to an amp. 

 

Normally, on board dacs (like on your mobo) are really inefficient and can introduce audio interference. Something like the audio engine D1 will take that digital input and convert it into clean and clear analog sound. This is why you want to take a dedicated and CLEAN digital audio connector (like toslink AKA optical cable) and run it to a dedicated DAC.  

 

You can not afford a dedicated dac, but to be honest, the dac/amp in question is not much different from a dedicated DAC and amp, so don't worry. 

 

From the DAC it then goes to the amp, and in this case it would be the amp portion of the D1. 

 

So in essence you will be replacing your crappy on board audio dac that will make your music sound horrible, with a good dac that will make your music sound nice and clean. 

post #5 of 12

External DACs usually do not come with any headphone surround sound, so it's just plain 2-channel stereo audio.

If you connect an external DAC with a S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) input, you should still be able to use the on-board audios features.

USB DACs usually bypass some of the on-board sound card's audio features, which is not a problem if all you want is 2-channel audio.

 

The Asus Xonar DG (PCI) sound card ($25), comes with a basic headphone amplifier and Dolby Headphone 5.1 surround sound.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the detailed explanation Tjj226 Angel, I may just save up a bit of money then and either look at the D1 or a dedicated combo. 

PurpleAngel, my computer does not currently have a S/PDIF input, all it has is the headphone jack and HDMI. 5.1 is something I want for sure.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

 

The Fiio stuff isn't the greatest stuff in the world. It is kind of one of the niche products, and if you aren't a part of that niche, don't bother. 

 

The Fiio E10 still seems like a more affordable solution to me as opposed to what I am using. Perhaps Fiio products are not the higher end of audio performance, but keep in mind I'm just looking at starter gear here as well. The audioengine D1 looks like a nice product, but I won't be able to get it for much less then $200, where as the E10 will cost me less then $100.

Would the Fiio E10 be an upgrade to what I have now?

post #8 of 12
Depending on which computer you have, the 3.5mm jack could also be an optical input too.
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post

Thanks for the detailed explanation Tjj226 Angel, I may just save up a bit of money then and either look at the D1 or a dedicated combo. 

PurpleAngel, my computer does not currently have a S/PDIF input, all it has is the headphone jack and HDMI. 5.1 is something I want for sure.

I'm assuming you mean your computer does not have a S/PDIF output

What is the make and model of your motherboard (or computer)?

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have a Gateway computer, the motherboard in CPU Z says it is a Gateway IPISB-VR

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post

Thanks for the detailed explanation Tjj226 Angel, I may just save up a bit of money then and either look at the D1 or a dedicated combo. 

PurpleAngel, my computer does not currently have a S/PDIF input, all it has is the headphone jack and HDMI. 5.1 is something I want for sure.

 

Actually you don't want to touch 5.1 with a 50 foot pole. The ONLY reason you would want that sound card is for the toslink out since it will probably be a cleaner source than your mobo or you want to get 5.1 speakers sometime in the future. 

 

Here is the problem. First off you wont get surround sound music or surround sound gaming because your headphones are 2.1 and music is recorded in 2.1. For games, you need the dolby crap.  Enabling dolby on a 2.1 set of headphones will distort the living crap out of your audio. 

 

That being said, it DOES work with 5.1 speakers and certain gaming headset like the razer tiamat which is a TRUE 7.1 headset. 

 

Like I said before though, the toslink out would be nice for the audio engine D1, AND it would be something to hold you over until the D1. 

 

On a separate note, if you are looking for dedicated dac and amp, for 30 bucks more you can get the Schiit magni (amp) and modi (dac) for 200 bucks. The modi uses USB and NOT toslink, so if you want to go that way, then don't even look twice at the sound card. 

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

 

Actually you don't want to touch 5.1 with a 50 foot pole. The ONLY reason you would want that sound card is for the toslink out since it will probably be a cleaner source than your mobo or you want to get 5.1 speakers sometime in the future. 

 

Here is the problem. First off you wont get surround sound music or surround sound gaming because your headphones are 2.1 and music is recorded in 2.1. For games, you need the dolby crap.  Enabling dolby on a 2.1 set of headphones will distort the living crap out of your audio. 

 

That being said, it DOES work with 5.1 speakers and certain gaming headset like the razer tiamat which is a TRUE 7.1 headset. 

 

Like I said before though, the toslink out would be nice for the audio engine D1, AND it would be something to hold you over until the D1. 

 

On a separate note, if you are looking for dedicated dac and amp, for 30 bucks more you can get the Schiit magni (amp) and modi (dac) for 200 bucks. The modi uses USB and NOT toslink, so if you want to go that way, then don't even look twice at the sound card. 

 

Thanks for all the advice, appreciate it! I'm not worried about surround sound music or gaming, 2.1 is fine for that.

I watch movies through these headphones with VLC media player though, and switching from 2.1 to 5.1 gives much better results to untrained ears. The sound remains clear and it feels like the sound stage gets a lot bigger.

I'm still deciding what I want to do, the Schiit products sound interesting, I'm just not sure if I want to spend $200 on it. I could spend $100 on a Fiio e17 for less performance, but also gain portability. The Fiio products may not be high end but they seem to come with unanimous positive reviews. If I had a more expensive pair of cans I'd be willing to spend more on the dac/amp, as is I am just not quite sure.

Really appreciate the advice though, thanks again :)

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