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Upgrading PC Audio Rig on $300 Budget

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I've recently decided that I'm in need of some headphone-related upgrades. I am currently running an Audio-Technica ATH-A500 from my desktop's onboard sound. I love the A500, and it has served me faithfully since it was recommended to me by Head-Fiers 6 years ago... but I crave more. I have been reading Head-Fi a lot over the past week, and have decided that I want the following from this upgrade:


  • The ability to play games with the best variety of stereo -> 5.1 conversion (from my reading it seemed the general consensus that DH was the best compared to CMSS and whatever else)
  • An external amp (preferably Schiit, I love the aesthetics)
  • Better overall SQ (duh)


Here is my current rig and my thoughts on my upgrade possibilities (in no particular order).


Current Rig:

  • Audio-Technica ATH-A500
  • X58 mobo with Realtek ALC889 onboard sound
  • Yamaha HTR-5830 A/V receiver (not currently used)


Upgrade Possibilities:

  1. Asus Xonar DX + Asgard 2 (use DX's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  2. Asus Xonar DX + Magni (use DX's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  1. Yamaha HTR-5830 (already owned) + Asgard 2 (use 5830's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  2. Yamaha HTR-5830 (already owned) + Magni (use 5830's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  3. Asus Xonar DX + Modi + Magni (use DX only for DH)
  4. Asus Xonar Essence STX + Magni (use STX's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  5. Creative X-FI card + Asgard 2 (use X-Fi's DAC until I can afford an external one)
  6. Creative X-Fi card + Modi + Magni (use X-Fi only for CMSS)



My budget for sound card/DAC/amp is about $300 (it's a gift). For a while I was looking at the Xonar Essence STX, but I plan to eventually move to a separate external DAC (Bifrost?) so I figured the STX would be a waste since at that point I would just be using it for it's digital output. From my understanding, the STX and DX should have the exact same digital output with regards to Dolby Headphone, and the DX is far more cost effective (~$60 used).


I'm also planning on buying some new headphones out my own pocket, and I'm 95% decided on the HE-400. I love bass and I want to try orthos with minimal capital investment, so I thought the HE-400 would be a great fit. Other cans I've considered are the DT-990 (250 or 600ohm), ATH-AD900X, HD600, HD650, K701, and Q701. I listen to a huge variety of music, but the majority is EDM, pop, and rock/alt.


So now that I've laid all that out, here are some specific questions I have:

  1. Should I currently be using my HTR-5830 headphone out as opposed to my onboard sound? Not sure how the DAC quality compares...
  2. When I get a new sound card, should I use it as the DAC or should I use my HTR-5830?
  3. I'm assuming the HTR-5830 has it's own headphone amp. Is there any harm in taking that amped output and then sending it through a Magni/Asgard?
  4. The HTR-5830 supports "Silent Cinema" which seems to be Yamaha's answer to Dolby Headphone. From what I read here it seems like it's a pretty decent equivalent, but I'm very interested in hearing more opinions (this could potentially negate my need for a sound card)
  5. Is Asgard 2 worth the upgrade over Magni for driving the HE-400?


Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for any help/advice! dt880smile.png

Edited by Highnoon - 3/4/13 at 10:34am
post #2 of 5

The sound card will be probably as good as any low-budget DAC you decide to buy. It IS a DAC, it's just one that is installed into your computer and not external. If all you're planning to do is use it on your computer then this is probably the best route. I would just get a soundcard that has the dobly headphone or a virtual surround, and see how it sounds with your headphones. If you buy one with a headphone amp like the soundblaster or the STX you may not need another headphone amp at all. This is depending on what headphones you end up with. The amp on the soundcard you buy may not be strong enough for a couple of the choices you have in mind. Either way you could send it to a magni and it's a pretty safe bet it will have enough power for any of those cans, especially if its going from one headphone amp to another. You may want to find a soundcard with a line out for that purpose.


post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. The reason I was leaning towards the DX over the STX is that I was under the impression that pretty much any external amp (Magni, Asgard2, etc.) would be a better amp than what is included on the STX. Is that true?

post #4 of 5

I honestly do not know, i havn't read much about the amp on the STX. I do know that the magni is pretty well regarded for the price, and that it's a pretty strong amp. I would think that your plan of a buying a soundcard without an amp, so that you can use an external one, is a pretty safe bet. Buying a external DAC however is probably a waste, since you'll already have a soundcard.

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

I have read a lot of similar things on the Magni concerning it's performance for price. Like I said I think I'll start with sound card (Xonar DX) + amp and then eventually maybe add an external DAC. I'm still not sure if I should get the Magni or Asgard 2 for the amp though. It seems to me that if I ever plan on adding some high impedance headphones to my lineup, the Asgard 2 will be a better choice. Anyone have opinions on Magni vs Asgard 2 for high impedance headphones?


I guess another option I have is to avoid that Schiit and get an Audinst HUD-MX2, ODAC, or one of the many other combo DAC/amps in the ~$200 range. really like the Schiit products, but if there is another option which would result in considerably better SQ I'm open to suggestions.

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