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please help noob. best path to quality home audio on a budget

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Somebody please help a noob with suggestions on the best path for high quality sound from my existing computer.

i have a headphone amplifier to start with. i dont think it's anything special but then again i haven't gotten to hear it from a proper line out yet.

cd quality flac mostly.

i currently have windows 7 desktop (core 2 duo e7300) dell pc with integrated soundmax high
definition audio.

it has only hdmi and a 3.5 line out. no s/pdif. and i have nothing that receives hdmi either. so it's usb or new sound card pretty much

I guess i havent read up too much on my current setup and peoples impressions of it. But im just guessing right off the bat that it is run off the mill consumer level stuff

So i guess my question is whats the best usb dac for under $200 that would be the most likely improvement. or where's the best place to start for the MOST LIKELY or at least "get my foot in the door" improvement with limited funds. Also (this may be a silly question i dont know). would my modest spending limit be better off just getting a cowon or a colorfly player or even an ipod.

With regards ONLY to sound quality. Whats the best way to spend $200 not counting an amplifier as i have one to start with. But i do intend to improve on that as well. So a dac/amp combo is very viable option. But it would be best if it at least has a proper line out so i can run other amps. or would it?
post #2 of 26
Odac
post #3 of 26

Agree with above.

post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
ok one more thing... whats the best way to get clean sound through the usb connection.

ive been reading about some dacs being sensitive to interference associated with being usb powered.

whats the solution to this problem. some kind of separate usb power station. i remember reading something but i forget.

so much reading. my feeble brain is getting a workout.
post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rock&rollfrenchfries View Post

Somebody please help a noob with suggestions on the best path for high quality sound from my existing computer.
i have a headphone amplifier to start with. i dont think it's anything special but then again i haven't gotten to hear it from a proper line out yet.
cd quality flac mostly.
i currently have windows 7 desktop (core 2 duo e7300) dell pc with integrated soundmax high
definition audio.
it has only hdmi and a 3.5 line out. no s/pdif. and i have nothing that receives hdmi either. so it's usb or new sound card pretty much
I guess i havent read up too much on my current setup and peoples impressions of it. But im just guessing right off the bat that it is run off the mill consumer level stuff
So i guess my question is whats the best usb dac for under $200 that would be the most likely improvement. or where's the best place to start for the MOST LIKELY or at least "get my foot in the door" improvement with limited funds. Also (this may be a silly question i dont know). would my modest spending limit be better off just getting a cowon or a colorfly player or even an ipod.
With regards ONLY to sound quality. Whats the best way to spend $200 not counting an amplifier as i have one to start with. But i do intend to improve on that as well. So a dac/amp combo is very viable option. But it would be best if it at least has a proper line out so i can run other amps. or would it?

What make and model headphone amplifier is it?

What headphones do you have or are planning on getting?

Is this setup for music? gaming? movies?

post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rock&rollfrenchfries View Post

ok one more thing... whats the best way to get clean sound through the usb connection.

ive been reading about some dacs being sensitive to interference associated with being usb powered.

whats the solution to this problem. some kind of separate usb power station. i remember reading something but i forget.

so much reading. my feeble brain is getting a workout.


Any usb approved cable will do. You can get something with a ferrite bead to remove interference. The USB cable just transfers digital data, it won't affect the audio signal unless there's data corruption.

A good cable comes for < $5 : http://www.monoprice.com/products/subdepartment.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10303

post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

What make and model headphone amplifier is it?
What headphones do you have or are planning on getting?
Is this setup for music? gaming? movies?

It is the penguinamp caffeine ultra and I listen to music mostly of the flac persuasion in 16 bit 44.1khz while sometimes playing games or watching movies. I currently only have a modest collection of iems. Those include Hippo VBs (which i hate, decent bass but shrill on the highs and totally nil on the mids. weird dry shrill sibilant sound), Able planet s1050a clear harmony "radius twf21 knockoffs" (best ive ever had i think, good extension great separation, not really overdone anywhere. just a hint of sibilance i think), Atrio X's (not mg5 atrios just the atrio x) not much depth, kinda boomy but balanced and up front overall i dont mind them. And I have some reo's on the way. But aside from that i fully and wholeheartedly intend to get some full on uhh... bigger headphones. So that i can make benefit for better hearings of my music.

FWIW i currently have a samsung galaxy 2 7.0 using neutron which doesn't sound bad by any means but im basically wondering how much better a good dac+amp will be for both the iems i have now and whatever bigger sets i may get up to 300 ohms and such.

Im definitely learning the difference between bass quality and quantity. and i value both. but im realizing that too much can get intrusive and that clean sibilance free treble extension and imaging and soundstage and all that gobbledygook are equally important. natural and accurate is what i think i'm craving lately. but all it takes is different amps and phones to change all that right? the first step is the signal.

At first i was looking at portable media players like the s:flo 2 (which i can't find, including the nanite version) and trying to decide from various other portable audio players, but now im really wondering what's the absolute best sound quality for my dollar, disregarding all else but sound quality per dollar absolute best place to start.
Edited by rock&rollfrenchfries - 1/21/13 at 11:20pm
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rock&rollfrenchfries View Post

penguinamp caffeine ultra .
music above all.
most of the movies i watch are ripped wink.gif
i currently only have a modest collection of iems.
hippo vbs (which i hate, decent bass but shrill on the highs and totally nil on the mids. weird dry shrill sibilant sound),
able planet s1050a clear harmony "radius twf21 knockoffs" (best ive ever had i think, good extension great separation, not really overdone anywhere. just a hint of sibilance i think),
atrio x's (not mg5 atrios just the atrio xs) not much depth, kinda boomy but balanced and up front overall i dont mind them.
and some reo's on the way.
r.i.p to my se420s. pitt bull ate em. they mightve been the best thing ive had but ive never really listened on anything other than a sansa fuze. i do remember not liking rolled off treble. i guess if it's sibilance rather than no treble i choose a touch of sibilance
but am definitely planning on getting started with big cans for home use.

i currently have an samsung galaxy 2 7.0 using neutron which doesn't sound bad by any means but im basically wondering how much better a good dac+amp will be for both the iems i have now and whatever bigger sets i may get up to 300 ohms and such.

im definitely learning the difference between bass quality and quantity. and i value both. but im realizing that too much can get intrusive and that clean sibilance free treble extension and imaging and soundstage and all that gobbledygook are equally important.

natural and accurate is what i think i'm craving lately. but all it takes is different amps and phones to change all that right? the first step is the signal.

at first i was looking at portable media players like the s:flo 2 (which i can't find, including the nanite version) and trying to decide from various other portable audio players. but now im really wondering what's the absolute best sound quality for my dollar. disregarding all else but sound quality per dollar absolute best place to start.

I stopped after the first sentence.

If you want help, you need to make an effort to capitalize and use paragraphing if you want people to read what you write.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Fixed ^^
post #10 of 26

well, if you really want a dac.. Odac.


But, I think your money might be better spent on a nicer headphone, to be honest.

post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrislangley4253 View Post

well, if you really want a dac.. Odac.


But, I think your money might be better spent on a nicer headphone, to be honest.


Thats also right. Maybe both ODAC & Headphones?

post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rock&rollfrenchfries View Post


It is the penguinamp caffeine ultra and I listen to music mostly of the flac persuasion in 16 bit 44.1khz while sometimes playing games or watching movies. I currently only have a modest collection of iems. Those include Hippo VBs (which i hate, decent bass but shrill on the highs and totally nil on the mids. weird dry shrill sibilant sound), Able planet s1050a clear harmony "radius twf21 knockoffs" (best ive ever had i think, good extension great separation, not really overdone anywhere. just a hint of sibilance i think), Atrio X's (not mg5 atrios just the atrio x) not much depth, kinda boomy but balanced and up front overall i dont mind them. And I have some reo's on the way. But aside from that i fully and wholeheartedly intend to get some full on uhh... bigger headphones. So that i can make benefit for better hearings of my music.

FWIW i currently have a samsung galaxy 2 7.0 using neutron which doesn't sound bad by any means but im basically wondering how much better a good dac+amp will be for both the iems i have now and whatever bigger sets i may get up to 300 ohms and such.

Im definitely learning the difference between bass quality and quantity. and i value both. but im realizing that too much can get intrusive and that clean sibilance free treble extension and imaging and soundstage and all that gobbledygook are equally important. natural and accurate is what i think i'm craving lately. but all it takes is different amps and phones to change all that right? the first step is the signal.

At first i was looking at portable media players like the s:flo 2 (which i can't find, including the nanite version) and trying to decide from various other portable audio players, but now im really wondering what's the absolute best sound quality for my dollar, disregarding all else but sound quality per dollar absolute best place to start.

An Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card, $70, should improve the audio quality of your computer.

You would need to use your Caffeine Ultra plugged into the Xonar, to drive the headphones.

With the Samsang Galaxy 2, you have the option of using the Caffeine Ultra, otherwise I do not know of anything to improve the audio quality of the Galaxy.

post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Yes i am going to get better headphones.. I want to get my source right first. The iems are not some permanent thing that i am stuck with forever. But at this point i want to know that im driving my headphones and iems properly. And when i upgrade my headphones next time i want to know that i'm driving them properly.

The day i purchase some beyerdynamic something or others or ATH whatchamacallits, something tells me im not going to be too thrilled about plugging them into my samsung galaxy. Also im having to at least share the galaxy for now. So im looking for something that will surely be better for audio quality. And i can still take the samsung with me if i go somewhere.

Both the headphones and the amp i will upgrade... First things first and thats the best signal i can get to the amp for the money. i suppose 24 bit capabilities would be a plus as well.

So what's actually better without regard to price. One of the xonar sound cards or an odac?
Edited by rock&rollfrenchfries - 1/22/13 at 4:32am
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rock&rollfrenchfries View Post

Yes i am going to get better headphones.. I want to get my source right first. The iems are not some permanent thing that i am stuck with forever. But at this point i want to know that im driving my headphones and iems properly. And when i upgrade my headphones next time i want to know that i'm driving them properly.

The day i purchase some beyerdynamic something or others or ATH whatchamacallits, something tells me im not going to be too thrilled about plugging them into my samsung galaxy. Also im having to at least share the galaxy for now. So im looking for something that will surely be better for audio quality. And i can still take the samsung with me if i go somewhere.

Both the headphones and the amp i will upgrade... First things first and thats the best signal i can get to the amp for the money. i suppose 24 bit capabilities would be a plus as well.

So what's actually better without regard to price. One of the xonar sound cards or an odac?

I would assume the ODAC offers better audio quality then the Xonar DX/D1.

post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

I would assume the ODAC offers better audio quality then the Xonar DX/D1.

 

It is about the same if both devices are performing optimally. If using an internal sound card is not a problem, the Xonar is better value for the money (the ODAC is relatively expensive because of its small scale production), the main advantage of the ODAC is that it is external.

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