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DAC/amp or combo advice needed

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

I've been looking for some time now to replace my soundcard which died months ago now.  I figured it was the perfect excuse for me to look into getting a dac/amp or combo of a dac and amp.  Currently I'm using the M50's and I know they don't need amping, but I'd like to get a better dac than what my onboard audio offers(plus I'm going through a plug on my speakers since the cord is too short), and with that I'd need some sort of amp.  I also want something that will last me for when I get headphones that will need more amping in the future.

 

So far the NFB-12 was my top choice, but from what Kingwa told me the NFB-15.32 is the 12.  "The NFB15.32 is the NFB12.1 and NFB15.1 but upgrade the USB32.  The NFB15.32 have better power design than the NFB12.1.  So over all , sound is detail than NFB12.1 ."  Is what he told me after I asked about the 12 no longer being under their product list, and how the 15 compared.  So what I got from that is that it is the 12 but with a more powerful amp section(or cleaner amp section?).

 

Also other than that there has been the recent release of the Magni and Modi by Schiit Audio, which also looks like a decent deal, though I haven't read much on them yet(being released so recently).

 

My price range is $200-300, so any thoughts on the above and possible other choices would be appreciated.

post #2 of 38

Magni/Modi - I haven't heard a the Schiit stack, but it is getting solid first impressions.  It is on the bottom of your price range, but it seems it will scale up well if you decide to upgrade your cans.  It won't be the last amp/DAC you will ever need, but plenty of power for a while,

http://www.head-fi.org/t/640774/this-schiit-is-bananas-99-schiit-magni-amp-and-99-modi-dac/615

 

 

O2/ODAC - Again a combo I haven't heard, but it is another popular choice in the price range.  It seems to be losing its place as the "Flavor of the Month" since the little Schiits came around.  The schiits are cheaper and IMHO look Much nicer.

 

 

Short and sweet comparison between the two:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/642401/comparison-and-review-o2-odac-vs-magni-modi 

 

Fiio E17 - Its a little less expensive than your budget, but the leftover could go to upgrading your cans.  The M50 is where I started my audio journey, and you are just hitting the tip of the iceberg.  They sound great with the E17, and it is portable (The O2 says it is, but is MUCH more clumsy size wise).  This will likely not scale up with new cans as well as the other two, but if the M50 is your endgame it will do just fine as a DAC/amp

 

Hope this helps!  Also, Go Badgers, Go Pack!  I grew up in Madison. beerchug.gif

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

I did see that comparison post, found it pretty funny.  I have definitely seen multiple posts about those that you listed, and generally it's been positive.  Thanks for the info.

 

If anyone else can help with other combinations or info that might be helpful it would be appreciated.
 

post #4 of 38

By the way, sorry to derail the train but I was checking out your profile and saw you are in to disk golf.  I worked at Token Creek and maintained the Valarta-Ast course there for several years.  Just got to play the new 9 last summer when I was home.  I spent my teenage years on hole 7 at Elver, and used to be a regular staple at leagues at Heighstand in college.  Good luck with your audio quest and I hope you get more replies!

post #5 of 38

I haven't tried the Magni/Modi nor the O2/ODAC, but I've owned the Audioengine D1 which is an excellent little DAC & headphone amp, which also has RCA outs for speakers. Worth having a look at.

post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 

Don't mean to continue to derail my thread, but I have to say those new 9 holes at Vallarta-Ast are a nice change of pace.  I've only been to Elver once, and most of whats around here is really wooded courses, so to have those very open holes were pretty fun and interesting.

 

Also thanks for the suggestion Spittis.  I'm currently sort of leaning towards the schiit stack, though in the past I've heard kind of split opinions on audio through USB.  I don't have any experience myself as I've always gone for headsets/phones with 3.5mm jacks, so I don't know if it's worth making a fuss over or not.
 


Edited by MooTaters - 7/18/13 at 5:38pm
post #7 of 38

As Pelli mentioned above, the Fiio E17 is a great little DAC/Amp combo and drives the M50's and other <300 Ohm headphones very well.  I'd recommend this over the other and save some cash for a future headphone upgrade wink.gif

 

If you are looking to purchase a more powerful DAC/Amp combo...

Users on the forum have noted that the Magni amp in that Schiit stack has a volume dial that ramps up very quickly.  This would be a detriment on the easy to drive M50's as, when the volume dial is very low, there is some channel imbalance.  I'd go with something that has variable gain settings like the Audio-gd 15.32 (WM8741 DAC) you mentioned or the 11.32 (ES9018 DAC).  The drivers for the newer USB32 modules are great. 

post #8 of 38
Thread Starter 

Well, I took the plunge and ordered the NFB-15.32...now comes the impatient waiting.

post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by MooTaters View Post

Well, I took the plunge and ordered the NFB-15.32...now comes the impatient waiting.

Congrats, that's a great device.  First order of business when you receive an Audio-gd unit with the USB32 component is to verify the installed FW chip!  It looks as though all units shipped after Jan. 1st will have the newer FW chip, FW #4, installed from the factory; you should not have to change anything.  This FW allows for ASIO output and the newer 1.22 drivers.  More information can be found here:  http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/dac/USB32/USB32EN.htm

 

We expect a full review upon receipt of the unit smily_headphones1.gif

post #10 of 38

Glad you found something that worked!

post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AuxNuke View Post

Congrats, that's a great device.  First order of business when you receive an Audio-gd unit with the USB32 component is to verify the installed FW chip!  It looks as though all units shipped after Jan. 1st will have the newer FW chip, FW #4, installed from the factory; you should not have to change anything.  This FW allows for ASIO output and the newer 1.22 drivers.  More information can be found here:  http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/dac/USB32/USB32EN.htm

 

We expect a full review upon receipt of the unit smily_headphones1.gif


I'll do my best, but it will probably be more like an overview or something as I don't have much experience.  Plus all I've had in the past was my x-fi soundcard until it kicked the bucket, and it's been months since that happened so not much to compare it to.

post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 

***EDIT: It seems it's already installed(somewhat suspected) that was just the older version/spare).  Have to thank Kingwa for the speedy reply, now to install everything! bigsmile_face.gif

 

 

So, I just received it, and am a bit confused on the FW chip.  I did receive a little chip which looks like it's the new FW chip.  I don't see the black one inside the case like their site shows, though it looks like that green one off to the left in the picture below might be what they mean(but I don't see any directional indicator).  I took a couple pictures so if anyone could help that would be great.

 

Edit:  I can see the little circle on the chip itself, but since it's on it's own PCB I'm just not sure if that would be enough.

 

Link of images(better quality):

Image 1

Image 2

 


Edited by MooTaters - 7/29/13 at 7:45pm
post #13 of 38

So, how are those first impressions?  smily_headphones1.gif
 

post #14 of 38
Thread Starter 

Good, though to be honest, I definitely know why they say the m50's don't do much with amping.  I toyed around with some of the digital filters which were cool, not a hugely noticeable difference though between them.  I believe it makes music a fair amount  more clear, specifically because I was able to listen to one of my favorites, Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd, louder than usual.  That may not sound like much, but with loud or conflicting audio I get a fuzzy distortion in my left ear which can be rather obnoxious, and while listening this didn't happen...so I don't know if that's just a fluke or maybe something to do with cleaner audio being better for my ear(at very least it keeps my volume in check and made me value my hearing a lot more).

 

When I first got it I didn't notice the Sample rate and bit depth options in the software(it was on 44.1k and 16 bit at default), but it was interesting having the oversampling on 8x with filter 1 during that time as it almost created a live concert audio-like sound.  It wasn't quite like the fake surround sound I've heard from my old sound card and a USB adapter for an old headset of mine, which made things sound hollow if that makes sense.  It was more like everything just felt cleaned up, specifically the highs, but also like a slight addition to sound stage.

 

The only thing I think I need to do now is look into what else I can do to foobar to possibly improve sound.  I did everything suggested by audio-gd on their USB 32 site(set it to 32bit also), so now I'm just looking into what other settings I should change.

 

Note: Just in case anyone was wondering these are the newer white box M50's.

 

Edit:  I think it has cleared up some of my music from Ozric Tentacles, as their music tends to have a lot going on I think it has helped out with that.


Edited by MooTaters - 1/10/13 at 9:58pm
post #15 of 38

I agree with the clarity; I found the DAC on the 15.32 to be very detailed.  I also agree with the amping on the M50's; mine sound almost as good running from a Galaxy Note 2 compared to the EF-5 with a Fullmusic tube.  One of the least amp picky cans I have heard.  You mentioned in your first post that you were looking a amp that would suit your future headphone purchases as well; the 15.32 should foot the bill.

Regarding getting the best sound out of Foobar:  If you are using USB, are you using the 1.22 drivers?  Do you have the ASIO 2.1.2 plugin installed and have selected the output device as "ASIO: VIA DirectKS ASIO" ?

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