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Advice for relatively cheap DAC/amp/both for Shure srh840 for a laptop?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Now that I have good headphones (Shure srh840), and I can notice the difference between a CD on a stereo and a 320 kbps mp3 made from the same CD, I have a few questions as far as using my laptop is concerned.

 

1. Would I get better sound out of my laptop with a DAC/amp/both with WAV lossless files (or the CD itself) than with either this stereo (http://www.amazon.com/Sony-CMT-HP7-CMTHP7-Executive-Microsystem/dp/B00009L1RI) or a Bose, both of which my parents have?

 

2. If so, what do you recommend?  I've looked around this forum and it seems a "budget" suggestion is the Schiit Magni and Modi.  However, I have no intention of spending that much money (the $140 for the headphones was a stretch to begin with).  I'd really say my budget is under $100, though I might be able to stretch that a little.  I've also looked at the Fiio e07k.  Would this be able to get me better sound quality than the stereos I mentioned?  If so, how much better?  I don't really want to spend around $90 for a very slight improvement over the systems I already have. 

 

If it matters, I have a Dell Latitude E6500 laptop (had it since 2009).  I have not upgraded the sound card in any way, if that is even possible, and I have no intention of doing so.  Again, if it matters, most of what I will listen to is a wide range of rock and some metal.  I'm clearly new to this and clueless, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbenrfan99 View Post

Now that I have good headphones (Shure srh840), and I can notice the difference between a CD on a stereo and a 320 kbps mp3 made from the same CD, I have a few questions as far as using my laptop is concerned.

 

I have the same pair, they're really great :)

I kind of doubt you can tell the difference between 320kbps and lossless, though. Have you tried a double blind test?

The results might surprise you (i haven't done any ear training, so i can't even tell 128kbps from lossless), and it might save you some money in the future, too.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

What I meant is that I could tell the difference between 320 kbps on my Coby MP3 player and the CD itself on the Sony stereo.

post #4 of 17
Yeah. That's the Coby mp3 player that is the problem, not the mp3s. smily_headphones1.gif

Hard for anyone to predict (1) in your original post unless they have heard the items you are talking about.

You could start with a headphone amp. And then if it's not giving you the sound you want, get a DAC to go with it. If you can swing a little more on your budget, the Fiio E17 is a nice portable amp that has a DAC built in. Here's a review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/587912/fiio-e17-alpen-first-impression-final-thought#post_8013926
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Is the e17 better than the e07k in any way other than offering the spdif input (which I do not need)?  Would the e07k be my the best option in my budget?

post #6 of 17
The E17 has better SQ, but if you don't need the optical input and have to stay in your budget, then the E07k would seem the better option for you smily_headphones1.gif
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info. so far.  It really has been helpful.  I have 2 more questions.

 

1. Perhaps too quickly and without enough research, I purchased the e11.  I can't tell much of a difference with and without it, other than the bass boost option (which I like).  I could sell it on Amazon, but would the e07k be noticeably better, especially with laptop audio?

 

2. Is there a better DAC/amp under $100 than the e07k?  Or possibly just DAC, and I could continue using the e11?  Portability is preferred, but not essential.

post #8 of 17
The E11 amp should be a little better than the amp in the e07k. Seems like the best thing to do is to try a DAC with it. I'm not sure what the best portable DAC option is for $100, but the Modi is supposed to kick ass smily_headphones1.gif
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

Any recommendations for a cheap DAC (without amp) with only USB in?

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

On second thought, I might want to use it with my PS3 in the future, so I would like one with both USB and optical inputs.  What is my best option for either a) a cheap DAC to use with my e11, or b) a cheap DAC/amp (and sell my e11)?  I really would like to spend under $100, but I also would like a noticeable improvement in sound quality with my srh840s.

post #11 of 17
Scroll down to the ranking section in the Sub $200 Portable Amps Shootout: http://www.head-fi.org/t/620775/the-sub-200-portable-amps-shootout-12-10-amps-compared#post_8575762

The E11 is considered by many people to be one of the best portable amps you can get for under $100. If you get a combined DAC/amp for $100, you might end up with an inferior headphone amp. Your best bet is to get a DAC only and try it with the E11. Then if that's not good enough for you, you know you need to save for a better amp.
post #12 of 17

Well, purely for a cheap USB DAC you might want to get the Hifimediy Sabre DAC, which is a great bang for buck performer. It works fairly well with the E11 although obviously the E11 has one big drawback for laptop usage and that's that it can't work while being charged. On the other hand, I know that the srh840 isn't particularly hard to drive, so the Hifimediy should drive it properly on its own for those times that you need to charge the E11

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

I may have it narrowed down to 3 DACs, each in a somewhat different price range.

 

1. HiFiMan HM-101 ($27 on Amazon-used)

2. Hifimediy Sabre ($49 including shipping-new)

3. Schiit Modi ($111 including shipping-new)

 

The fact that the HiFiMan HM-101 is used does not bother me.  Since I will not have any music above CD quality (16 bit, 44.1 kHz), should I just get the HM-101, which does not support 24 bit?  Is there any reason for me to spend almost double to get the Sabre or 4 times as much to get the Modi?

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbenrfan99 View Post

I may have it narrowed down to 3 DACs, each in a somewhat different price range.

 

1. HiFiMan HM-101 ($27 on Amazon-used)

2. Hifimediy Sabre ($49 including shipping-new)

3. Schiit Modi ($111 including shipping-new)

 

The fact that the HiFiMan HM-101 is used does not bother me.  Since I will not have any music above CD quality (16 bit, 44.1 kHz), should I just get the HM-101, which does not support 24 bit?  Is there any reason for me to spend almost double to get the Sabre or 4 times as much to get the Modi?

IMO just get the Hifimediy, which has ES9023 chip like in the ODAC and is quite superior to the PCM2702 in the HM-101. If you want to go cheaper you can get the ELE DAC which is using the PCM2704 chip, although there are issues with some units having the channels reversed etc. The Modi is pretty much made as a desktop DAC - it's big and while superior hence the price it won't be a good solution to use with a laptop you carry around. On the other hand, the Hifimediy is as big as a tic tac box and has the USB cable built-in, so you won't have to worry about lengthy cables for it. Honestly, as far as small, cheap and good sounding laptop DAC I'd suggest either the ELE or the Hifimediy and as I have both of them I think $50 is a fair price for the later and is what I would go for. I wouldn't bother with the HM-101, especially getting a used one.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot.  It really helps that you actually have the Hifimediy Sabre.  I think I'll go with that option.  Plus, the reviews on Amazon for the HM-101 weren't great, and I don't want to spend over $100 for the Modi, even if it is better.

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