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Amp + DAC vs Sound Card for AKG K701

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Firstly I'm not sure where this post is suppose to go so if its in the wrong place I apologize.


So I've begun to start my dive into better audio and I've chosen my first set of what I would consider "real" headphones. I've chosen to go with the AKG K701's. I've read many reviews and it seems that people either love or hate these headphones due to their ability to pick out extreme detail it seems, which is why I chose them (I'm a gamer first and foremost and these seem to be the way to go.) However, what I cannot decide on it the route to go as far has an amp, amp+dac, or a sound card. I just built a gaming rig and have been itching to throw a sound card in but if I don't need it for what I intend to use it for then why waste money. Since I'm going to be mostly gaming ,(if I want to listen to music I'd get a dedicated pair of headphones for it), I want to be able to pick apart every detail of the game from footsteps to the faintest pin drop. The reason for the sound card would be for the Dolby headphone option to enhance the audio. But before I continue to ramble here are the components:



Schiit Magni (if I just go with an amp and no DAC)


Schiit Lyr (basically made around the K701 and would be willing to spend more if I were to go amp+dac combo)




Schiit Bifrost (again only if I were to go amp+dac. If I'm going to do something I'm going to do it right the first time and not upgrade for a while)



Sound Card

Asus Xonar Essence STX (I've read some reviews saying it can handle the K701's and some say otherwise)



Now here is what I know based on my limited audio knowledge:

It seems pretty much everyone is in agreement that the K701's need an amp to get the most out of them. I really like the Schiit amps from what I've read and their price point etc.


What I don't know:

What would be the best option for gaming. Would the benefit of the sound card be better than just the on board audio out to an amp or an amp and DAC. Or would the sound card not be enough for the K701's and I would go from the sound card to the amp and no DAC (since the sound card has a DAC). If so then would I get the benefit of the sound card using RCA out to the amp since it only has RCA in or do I need to go out from the sound card using digital coaxial or optical to receive the sound card's benefits?


Lots of questions I know but as I stated I don't know much about audio period, I would just like to get the best out of what I want and what I intend to use it for. As I see it these options are possible:


Sound Card>K701


On board audio>Amp (Magni)>K701


On board audio>DAC (Bifrost)>Amp (Lyr)>K701


Sound card>Amp (Magni)>K701


I wouldn't think I need to go sound card>DAC>Amp>K701 since the sound card acts as a DAC. Again, zero knowledge.



In conclusion, I need help. I know this is a long winded request for help with tons of questions but any help is good help. I like to do a lot of research before I buy a product and I like to know the in's and out's, pros and cons, and I'm looking forward to the responses.

post #2 of 4

If you do a lot of PC gaming and music listening then an external DAC is a must.  This is because you want to separate the DAC and amp from the internal workings of the PC especially the noisy power sources.  For most people going from an internal soundcard/on-board audio to an external DAC is pretty darn ear opening.  An external DAC, say a USB DAC, will have lower noise, remain dead quiet, and have lower jitter than most internal DAC units.  This greatly improves PC listening, besides new headphones and source music, remains my highest recommendation for PC listeners.


There is no need to invest in super expensive gear especially if you do not plan on testing gear against other gear.  I think the O2+ODAC combo is an excellent buy not only because it was designed to measure well, but it sounds awesome for the price.  The combo is powered by an AC adapter, has a DAC built in as well as a very respectable headphone amp.  The unit, for the price, measures better than just about anything else out there.  So much so that so far nobody has posted better results to date.


The combo can be found here:



It runs $295 including the AC adapter.


I recommend this because it is a superb low cost option that easily competes with my more expensive Grace Design m903.


In regards to the other amps / DACs you have listed I have not personally heard them, but I do give anything this challenge.  Can anyone post tests results proving that any of the other amps/DAC units listed in this post outperform the O2+ODAC?

From what I have read and heard the Schiit products are very respectable and well made.  I just cannot imagine a tube amp outperforming the O2+ODAC in any other than output power.  The AKG K701 can easily be driven to extremely deafening levels with the O2+ODAC so I see no reason to go to an amp with a bigger footprint, higher noise, and possibly more expensive.


I will say that will some headphones tube amps do add a particular coloring that can make headphones like the HD-600, HD-650, HD-800, and HE-500 sound more fun.


Take a look around, do your research, and be sure to decide what is best for you.


I hope you enjoy whatever you decide upon.  If you do feel that the AKG K701 is a tad bright ( treble heavy ) know that after 10 hours of use or more the treble will soften a tad.

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. After combing through more reviews today I did come across the O2. I also have read about the K701's treble and burn in. I will definitely check out the O2+ODAC some more.However, would I gain any benefit using the Xonar Essence along with the O2+ODAC for the Xonar's Dolby Headphone and virtual surround sound for the purpose of gaming?

post #4 of 4

I do not think there is any need to get the Xonar if you decide on an external solution.  The sense of space is typically generated by having an open headphone, treble cues, and the quickness of the headphone.  The AKG K701 will be great for gaming although I prefer a sealed headphone like the Denon AH-D2000.  The quieter I can make it the easier it is to hear footsteps, etc

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