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Computer Headphone Setup $600

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

My x-fi forte soundcard just died so looking to upgrade my audio. Want to spend $600 maybe will stretch to 700. Do i look at a new pair of headphones + usb dac or a souncard? Any reccomendations on what to get? I mostly listen to vocal trance/progressive house and most of my stuff is 320kbps/flac.

post #2 of 17

Do you play games at all? 


If yes, Creative TiHD + Schiit Magni + HE-400

If no, Schiit Modi/Magni + HE-400


Other headphone choices are DT770/880/990, A900X, W1000X.

If you can get D600 for less than $400 consider that too.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks, i do play games but music is way more important so is the soundcard still neccessary?  Also i cant seem to find the schiit magni/modi in austraila. Any other reccomendations?





Edited by ClintonL - 2/22/13 at 5:09pm
post #4 of 17

For ALL sorts of gaming and wide variety of music i personally like the HT Omega Claro Halo soundcard (with built in headphone amp) and the Sennhiesers HD650.


HT Omega Claro Soundcard $200







I have been using this for 3 years and LOVE it.

post #5 of 17

Well you shouldn't need a new sound card unless you want to go that route. A USB DAC should replace the sound card and you'll be able to get all the normal sound you would from the computer via the the DAC: That means gaming, music, etc. 


I would recommend 

Schiit Modi (dac) - $99

Schiit Magni (amp) - $99

Mr.Speakers Mad Dog w/ Alpha pads. ($299)

(need a USB A Male to B Male cable to connect PC to the Modi: 5-10$) & (RCA interconnects. to connect Modi/Magni: 5-20$)


Cost after shipping (and tax if you're in CA) would be under $600 if you don't have to pay CA tax.


The Mad Dogs are a fantastic value for the sound you get. I used them for music and gaming, etc. 

They have a fairly specific sound signature that you can read all about here.




The newest version was just released about 2 weeks ago. Short story:

Very comfortable. Fantastic detail, response, and separation. The sound signature is flat-ish. Bass is not overbearing; Just enough and good quality. Highs are dark and roll off a little bit so if you are into a big sparkle with your cymbal crashes, you might have to get accustom to that (maybe people prefer it that way). The Mids are amazing -- Vocals/Guitar/etc are really amazing.


Work great in games. Its not an in your face slam, but a laid back detailed sound. So I find it good for hearing footsteps and not getting fatigued by over-emphasized game music/booms. If you want a movie like in your face sound when you play games, this probably won't be what you want.


Hope this helps. Good luck.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

i heard a xonar essence stx would be better than the schiit combo? 

post #7 of 17
Originally Posted by ClintonL View Post

i heard a xonar essence stx would be better than the schiit combo? 

I don't know about better, different yes. Maybe better depending on what you want your setup to look like/function. Price is better. Haven't heard one to compare. I can say that the schiit combo really does the job and looks sexy doing it. My only gripe stems from the bright white LEDs.
post #8 of 17

If you like the 3D surround DSP features such as Dolby Headphone or CMS3D (or whatever Creative equivalent for games), I'd stick with a sound card + amp.  I'm running a Titanium HD + Magni myself and I'm enjoying it a whole lot.  If the Magni isn't available to you, you might want to consider maybe the O2 Objective or a Fiio E9K.  Or you could skip the card + amp combo and go with the Asus STX or Creative Z series, both have amps built in.

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

I play games but dont really care for those features. Is there any decent amp+dac combo?



post #10 of 17
Originally Posted by ClintonL View Post

I play games but dont really care for those features. Is there any decent amp+dac combo?




You could get the O2 + ODAC combo(separate units or together in one), that has a mountain of positive feedback. As I suggested before the Magni/Modi combo is great (but separate units only).

I think what you need to decide is on what function these or the xonar will play in your setup. More specifically, do you want to use it to power speakers, or headphones? Which ones? This are questions you need to answer before looking at the amp/dac. Depending on the phones, you might not need a amp at all, or an amp could be a must.


There are plenty of other amp+dac combos depending on your price range, but a good pair of cans is going to net you a much bigger difference in sound. (e.g.) Spending $1000 on a Lyr+Bitfrost combo won't do you a lot of good, or be very cost effective if your listening with your $20 specials. 

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

Will just be powering headphones. Well atm i'm looking at the Hifiman he400. Would the essence be good enough to power it or should i look at the o2 amp/dac.



post #12 of 17

I got a HD 650 and Nuforce Icon HD (amp/DAC combo) recently and I'm loving it. ~ $650-$700 total.

I can't afford to make any other recommendations at this time smily_headphones1.gif

post #13 of 17

1. Schiit Magni/modi stack with Mad Dogs w/alpha pads

2.  Schiit Magni/modi stack with He-400 w/velour pads

3. 02 + Odac with the mad dogs or he-400


personally I think the schiit > 02 + Odac if you can get your hands on them, but the 02 + Odac great for their price too. 




Its hard to pick the Mad Dogs or He-400 as I own and love both. Mad Dogs are much more comfortable IMO and are much more neutral then the he-400 IMO. Also the Mad Dogs are closed and Isolate much better. The HE-400's sound is very nice. rich bass and sexy mids, but much less flat then the mad dogs. Then again EQ can fix these small things too.



Only get a soundcard if you want the 3d surround sound. Based on what you said, you did not want that so I would say 10)% go with a amp/dac stack.




post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help, was just hearing how the dac in the essence would be better than a similar external dac and the amp would be sufficient? So the schiit would sound better than the essence?



post #15 of 17
The amp from the sound card would probably lack the juice for an ortho
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