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Improving Sound Quality With $150

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello. I have the M-Audio BX5 monitors as well as the ATH-AD700 headphones. They connect to my Macbook Air using the standard 3.5mm jack and I'd like to do whatever's possible to improve their quality. The budget is 150 USD.

 

I was thinking of investing $110 on a DAC such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and maybe an inexpensive external sound card. Or would investing in a higher quality sound card be a better choice?

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 10
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an external sound card, only with preamp and other features for recording and mixing music. I'm not sure how a second external sound card would benefit you. On a PC, you can only use one at a time (guessing the same is true for MAC).

Probably want to look for a DAC/headphone amp unit that also has a line out, something like the iBasso D-Zero, although I don't know if that's your best choice for the money. You also have to decide if you want something portable or merely for desktop use.

Also check the features on your Macbook. Some of them have optical out via the headphone jack. It uses a little mini optical connection. If you have that, then your options are USB or optical.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

The iBasso it too expensive. I don't need it to be portable, it will be used only at home.

And my Mac doesn't have an optical out, only the Pros have it.

I found this, but I'm not familiar with the brand and not sure if it'd be any good.

 

Do you think that using the $150 for a sound card better than the Scarlett would be a wiser choice than combining a sound card with a DAC/Headphone Amp? If so, which sound card would you recommend?

post #4 of 10
That iBasso D-Zero is $109 plus shipping. You said your budget was $150????

An external sound card is, minimally, a DAC with line out connections. It's mainly just a difference in naming for marketing purposes. You have headphones, so you need a headphone amp, too. That iBasso IS effectively an external sound card with DAC and headphone amp. It has a plug for auxiliary out for your speakers, and a place to plug in your headphones. You could alternatively choose to buy a separate DAC and headphone amp, and then split the signal from the DAC to go to your speakers and the headphone amp. Finding a combined unit that also has a line out/auxiliary out for your speakers would seem more convenient.

So that ART headphone amplifier is just a headphone amp. It still needs a separate DAC to convert the digital to analog. And people here on head-fi don't talk about buying those ART units.

Research some on the portable amp and the dedicated source forums. There you'll find people discussing all kinds of components for what you are trying to do.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

That iBasso D-Zero is $109 plus shipping. You said your budget was $150????

 

Ah, I misunderstood and thought you meant buying both the Scarlett and the iBasso.

 

In that case, I don't think I want both a DAC and a Headphone Amp, separately. If there's one unit that can do it all, I'd rather use it.

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shonor6 View Post

Ah, I misunderstood and thought you meant buying both the Scarlett and the iBasso.

In that case, I don't think I want both a DAC and a Headphone Amp, separately. If there's one unit that can do it all, I'd rather use it.

It definitely would be easier. smily_headphones1.gif

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier (doah!). I have the FiiO E17. It is a portable DAC/headphone amp. And I forgot that you can buy a small adapter to use the line out, and then it has a switch on the side to choose between headphone amp output or line out. Here is the 362 page thread on head-fi about it (lol) where you can read and ask questions.

The E17 is very small, smaller than a small mobile phone, so the adapter would not make it too big for portability:



I bet if you ask in that thread, they will recommend the E17 + adapter as the best choice for your budget.
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the ignorance, but wouldn't a DAC/Amp that uses 1/4" leads, rather than 1/8" ones, produce a better sound quality? Or is this statement only theoretically true, but noticeable only with high end gear?

 

And thanks for the help, every letter is important to me as I'm trying to drink from this endless pool of knowledge. atsmile.gif

post #8 of 10
Nope. Won't make a difference.

Glad to help smily_headphones1.gif
post #9 of 10

At $110 the iBasso D-Zero IS a DAC/AMP integrated unit. Probably the best unit you can get in that budget.

post #10 of 10

If you can hold off on until the money is right, the Matrix mini-i would be perfect for you. It is a balanced DAC with a really nice built-in headphone amplifier.

 

Destroysall

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