Originally Posted by dwthewhiteness
Thanks for your replies obobskivich; very helpful thus far. I've seen several posts telling people with similar headphones to get an amp and DAC combo, but so far I am inclined to think that even if the amp in the ZxR isn't strong enough, the DAC is perfectly fine and on-par with what I would be getting out of the Magni/Modi combo or Aune T1 or something similar. If I was to be getting anything, it would probably just be the amp because the ZxR's DAC is specficially designed to be good for games in addition to music (I doubt the Schiit DAC can say the same) and I am about 50/50 when it comes to gaming and music.
Welp, I'm gonna tell you that even at the $10,000 mark I'm not really sold on the whole "DACs make a really big difference and change the entire listening experience" thing - and let's not even start on "DACs by genre" or anything of the sort (the D/A on the Creative is no better or worse suited to a specific genre/type of media than the Magni; but what the Creative DOES have is a very sophisticated DSP that lets it do all sorts of nifty stuff with games and movies (things like surround simulation)).
I'd absolutely agree that if you get anything, just get an amp. The whole "anything inside your computer is evil, and you should be afraid of opening your computer" thing has been played out too long imho. Soundcards are generally a fantastic value in terms of the features/quality they offer, and unless you have a laptop I'd really suggest the soundcard route over a USB audio solution (just from a price/feature perspective more than anything else). Since you already have the thing, I'd leave well enough alone.
With my computer volume turned up to full I need to turn the volume dial on the ZxR's module to about 60-70% to find an adequate volume; that seems pretty high to me, especially when I consider that I plug my Apple earbuds into the module and they are still producing sound even when I turn the volume dial to 0. They can definitely get loud enough, but they could also get much louder I think with more power. My concern is that I might be missing out on a lot of detail of my audio (as I've seen people saying is possible) due to a potential "underpowering" issue, and the problem is that I have no way to know for sure unless I go out and buy an amp. That's why I wanted to check the math with someone here.
Relative volume dial positions mean nothing, because they aren't calibrated/pegged to any specific standard. Basically it's just the relationship between gain and sensitivity (which are both more or less arbitrary here). If they're getting loud enough to be listenable, that's basically what "amped" is going to do for you. Especially with a stable load. If you're hearing clipping that's a problem, and if you have everything turned up to 11 and can't hear anything clearly, that's also a problem, but otherwise it sounds like the amp is doing what it's supposed to be doing. However...
So as far as your recommendation goes, should I grab the Magni and see if that helps? Or I am just over-reacting and actually in a good spot?
If you're really that curious, and it's gonna bug you (and we've all been there), I'd say go ahead and try it out. Magni seems to be the "in" thing this month (which obviously means it's better than any other amplifier ever made
(in all seriousness, I have nothing against Schiit, and I'm just being ornery)), but there's a few other amplifiers around that price point like the Fiio E9 (I think it's called "E09K" now - the real kicker is if you go with this one, and find it to be dramatically different sounding
(it either means Creative screwed up, or God knows whats going on - they're built on the same chip)), and the less expensive of the HiFiMan amps ("EF2A" iirc). I think they should all be good for 1W/ch (which is beyond more than any sane person would ever need with any headphone ever made).
Basically, pick one that looks good, and go for it - if it does something for you, that's great, if it doesn't, that's what we have RMAs for. Either way, I wouldn't obsess about it.Edited by obobskivich - 3/23/13 at 11:02pm