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Help needed - DAC or USB/SPDIF

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi all

I've been a member for some time, but this is my first post. I hope to get some advice.

I currently run an Acer laptop with 8Gb ram, i5 processor,NAND windows 7. My audio player is JRiver running WASAPI event out to a Hiface (Young driver) with a 6db attenuator, then onto a Dacmagic via a Van Den Hul coax cable. I then run into a SCHA amp using Sennheiser HD580's.

I run the PC as a music only server, and it's running pretty lean. I use ISone Pro which is fantastic. I'm pretty happy with the sound I'm getting but I keep wondering how much I can improve it. I live in a fairly isolated area, and it is difficult to test gear, so I'm planning to buy without auditioning. There are two products that I am considering; the Schiit Bifrost to replace my Dacmagic, and the Audiophilleo 2 to replace the Hiface.

I'll possibly get both, but only one for now. Based on my current gear, where would I see the most improvement? Any advice would be appreciated.
post #2 of 13

FWIW, I can't really see the Bifrost being an upgrade to the DacMagic. Different sound perhaps.

post #3 of 13

not sure I would spend the money on a Audiophileo 2 when you can get very close with a Halide Bridge for a lot less.  Perhaps one of the new Dacs like the Concero from Resonessence would solve both the dac and bridge issue.  Or perhaps one of the news Bel Canto dacs.


I may be getting a Concero to review for my blog and have heard it at RMAF and was impressed especially for the price.

post #4 of 13

You can tweak the sound characteristics of your system, but I wouldn't really anticipate much change it quality. Unless you are in love with the headphones sound I would consider trying a different pair before changing anything else.

post #5 of 13
Originally Posted by 65535 View Post

Unless you are in love with the headphones sound I would consider trying a different pair before changing anything else.

Agreed. Sounds like you are in need of a headphone upgrade biggrin.gif
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for the advice. So the consensus seems to be that the Dacmagic and the Schiit are much of a muchness, and that the Audeophilleo wouldn't yield results too different from my stock Hiface. I'm surprised, as the AP gets some big wraps.

I am fairly happy with my headphones, from what I can gather, they're very similar to the current HD600's. I haven't tried any others, I just bought this pair five or so years ago off the shelf. I'm not sure where the next step would be...maybe HD 800's?
post #7 of 13

One thing to keep in mind is that a bigger difference than sound quality is the different sound signature different headphones have. (let us be honest, having a completely subjective measure of quality just doesn't exist with audio)


I have a pair of HD650's and they are very pleasing to my ears. I also have a pair of T70's that I enjoy just as much that have a more revealing signature. Swapping out DAC's won't offer you much unless you go for models that employ filtering. Different amps certainly have different flavors, tube to solid state and different implementations of circuits can change how the signal sounds through your headphones.


For instance I'll give you an example of my signal chain.

MacBook Pro (iTunes 11.0.1)

Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 (Firewire 400) [88.2kHz sample rate]

Meier Audio Corda HA-2


I have a Matrix M-Stage DAC which I picked up cheap from Massdrop arriving tomorrow. The M-Stage has 2 filter settings that can be employed, and they change the sound signature slightly. The Cora has some settings too. For my HD650's I don't change the bass setting or treble on the Corda but I do use full crossfeed. For the T70's I increase bass by 1dB and keep treble even using the full crossfeed as well.


Your system is solid through the digital stage and even spending thousands on a DAC and transport shouldn't appreciably change the sound unless they do offer filters. Your amp appears to be powerful and quite nice, your headphones are the cheapest component near as I can tell.


My recommendation would be spend money on headphones (Amazon has good prices and a return policy that is stellar). Find a sound signature you like, no matter what anyone says is the ultimate sound this is a game about preference more than anything, the point of music is to enjoy it not to analyze it. Analyzing music is the job of  Mastering engineers, mixing engineers and recording engineers.

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm happy with the sound I'm getting at the moment, I'm just curious as to how much better I can get it. I've never thought that my headphones were the limiting link in my system, but as mentioned earlier, I've never auditioned others.

My Dad needsnanDAC in his system, and I'm considering giving him the Dacmagic. From what I've read in the posts above, it see,s as though I could expect no change in my system if I replaced the DM with something like the non upsampling Bifrost.
post #9 of 13

If your dad needs a DAC then you could buy the Bifrost and give him one of them once you've had time to listen to them both. Better is a bit of a fallacy, you might consider looking into DACs with adjustable filtering like Audio-GD DACs they can tweak the sound potentially giving you something you really love.


I wouldn't say don't buy something because if you want it and you can afford it why not? But keep in mind that you can make changes in other parts of your system too.

post #10 of 13

 the Schiit Bifrost to replace my Dacmagic, and the Audiophilleo 2 to replace the Hiface.

I'm a bit puzzled by this.

HiFace and Audiophilleo are both asynchrnous converters.

A lot of today's DACs including the Bitfrost have a build-in asynchronous USB input.

Technically this is a better solution as you eliminate an external clock and you save some money in the procces too

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

Update:  Thanks all for your advice.  I have updated my headphones now to the LCD-2's and this has made a big difference.  Hard to drive, not the most comfortable cans, but sweet sound.

post #12 of 13

Glad your enjoying them. They are a bit heavy but they do sound amazing. Other good players are also the HD800's and the Beyer T1's. If the comfort of my T70's is any indication of the comfort of the T1's they will feel almost like they aren't there. 


I think the LCD-2's are one of the best looking headphones out there and well made too.

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've had them for a week or so, and the comfort has increased a fair bit since I first tried them on.  I now find them comfortable for hours at a time.


I got the Schiit Bifrost, Audeophilleo, and LCD's in the same package.  I fired them up all at the same time, and the first thing that came to mind was "return policy".  So I let them run for a couple of days before trying again, and they now sound right.  I expect them to improve further.  The start of  "Music To Interrogate To" on Lalo Schiffrin's rerecording of his Bullit soundtack is jaw dropping - I never thought that bass could be so good on headphones.

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