Which output should I use to combine the x3 with an external amp like the e12? the line out or the headphone jack? which has best sound quality?
I ask because the gain of the line out is too high (for my low impedance cans), which forces me to use the e12 at low volume. Unfortunately, the e12 is terrible at low volume (all the gain goes in the left channel). Using the headphone jack as line out would allow me to reduce the gain on the x3 (via the volume control) before sending the signal to the e12. But then I would end up double amping the signal....
Other option: selling the E12 and bying the JDS LABS C5, which offers fantastic channel balance at low volume, in addition to being smaller than the E12. But, right now, I would rather keep the E12, if I can find a solution to my problem.
I apologize for the delay in my response, but I was running A/B tests with the FiiO X3 and E12.
The E12 indeed has a channel issue with lower volumes.
The FiiO X3's headphone out is a tiny bit worse than the line out. For one, the treble and higher mids attack less, making acoustic guitars sound a tad muddier (Rodrigo y Gabriela). Of course, I had to really switch back and forth to notice between the difference of the two ports.
Fortunately for you, the Line Out of any DAC will help out your E12. The E12 I would actually consider quite power hungry, and the Line Out of the X3 does deliver really loud volumes to just plug them in with headphones. The loud output of the X3 actually balanced out my E12 inbalance issue at low volumes.
Unfortunately for me, my E12 has a permanent imbalance issue. However it could just be me, but I feel uncomfortable using the E12 anymore.
Don't stress yourself too much about soundstage :P
Again I apologize if my replies are slow, but I'm doing the research for you. I don't mind at all because I love browsing the forums and sharing what I learned, and the HD 558's are a headphone I've always wanted to add to my collection because it's quite affordable.
The HD 558's what I've learned are fairly easy to drive. I think you've already tried unamped vs amped, if there wasn't much difference inbetween, it's a likely chance there's no need to get an amp for the 558's alone.
Although when I listened to the 558's at futureshop, they were quite a musical headphone and the soundstage was quite layered to my surprise. I don't know what they were running off, but I highly doubt futureshop would have a tube amplifier or something.
If you want larger soundstage, might want to invest in other headphones (unfortunately some of them need to be amped).
THAT'S NOT THE POINT THOUGH, SAVE YOUR MONEY! If you're unsatisfied, do the research and find out what you want next :P
Edited by Nec3 - 4/12/14 at 4:53pm