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Newbie: Struggling with the right Setup

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I've been browsing the forums a lot lately as my interest in audio continues to grow and, despite my best efforts, I can't seem to figure out what would be best for me.

 

What I want is to get a high quality listening experience in BOTH:

Music (played through my laptop with on-board poor quality sound card), and

Gaming on my Xbox 360 through my television (which does NOT have analog output or a headphone jack, only digital audio out)

 

Here's what I have:

Sennheiser HD598

 

Right now, I can not even use my headphones with my Xbox or TV. So, not only do I need to be able to convert the digital sound for use with the headphones, but I also have concerns about the quality.

 

I currently have my Xbox 360 plugged via HDMI (audio and video) into my TV. If I buy a portable amp such as the Fiio E17 and run a toslink cable from my TV to the amp and then plug my headphones into the amp, how much sound quality will I be sacrificing? In particular, do I lose a lot of sound quality by running the sound through the TV rather than directly from the Xbox to the amp (which I don't even think is possible, if it is, please enlighten me!)

 

If I were to buy this amp I could then simply take it from its position connected to the TV and hook it up to my laptop when I wanted to get better sound on it, correct?

 

Is there a better solution to my situation here? Price is definitely a concern - I have considered buying the Fii0 D03K for the digital to analog conversion, but then I wouldn't get the benefit of improved sound, right?

 

As you might be able to tell I'm pretty lost here and any help or recommendations is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by branteraudio View Post

Hi all,

 

I've been browsing the forums a lot lately as my interest in audio continues to grow and, despite my best efforts, I can't seem to figure out what would be best for me.

 

What I want is to get a high quality listening experience in BOTH:

Music (played through my laptop with on-board poor quality sound card), and

Gaming on my Xbox 360 through my television (which does NOT have analog output or a headphone jack, only digital audio out)

 

Here's what I have:

Sennheiser HD598

 

Right now, I can not even use my headphones with my Xbox or TV. So, not only do I need to be able to convert the digital sound for use with the headphones, but I also have concerns about the quality.

 

I currently have my Xbox 360 plugged via HDMI (audio and video) into my TV. If I buy a portable amp such as the Fiio E17 and run a toslink cable from my TV to the amp and then plug my headphones into the amp, how much sound quality will I be sacrificing? In particular, do I lose a lot of sound quality by running the sound through the TV rather than directly from the Xbox to the amp (which I don't even think is possible, if it is, please enlighten me!)

 

If I were to buy this amp I could then simply take it from its position connected to the TV and hook it up to my laptop when I wanted to get better sound on it, correct?

 

Is there a better solution to my situation here? Price is definitely a concern - I have considered buying the Fii0 D03K for the digital to analog conversion, but then I wouldn't get the benefit of improved sound, right?

 

As you might be able to tell I'm pretty lost here and any help or recommendations is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

Yeah, skip the amp and turn up the volume. The effect is exactly the same.


Edited by newphones - 4/1/13 at 10:02pm
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by branteraudio View Post

Hi all,

 

I've been browsing the forums a lot lately as my interest in audio continues to grow and, despite my best efforts, I can't seem to figure out what would be best for me.

 

What I want is to get a high quality listening experience in BOTH:

Music (played through my laptop with on-board poor quality sound card), and

Gaming on my Xbox 360 through my television (which does NOT have analog output or a headphone jack, only digital audio out)

 

Here's what I have:

Sennheiser HD598

 

Right now, I can not even use my headphones with my Xbox or TV. So, not only do I need to be able to convert the digital sound for use with the headphones, but I also have concerns about the quality.

 

I currently have my Xbox 360 plugged via HDMI (audio and video) into my TV. If I buy a portable amp such as the Fiio E17 and run a toslink cable from my TV to the amp and then plug my headphones into the amp, how much sound quality will I be sacrificing? In particular, do I lose a lot of sound quality by running the sound through the TV rather than directly from the Xbox to the amp (which I don't even think is possible, if it is, please enlighten me!)

 

If I were to buy this amp I could then simply take it from its position connected to the TV and hook it up to my laptop when I wanted to get better sound on it, correct?

 

Is there a better solution to my situation here? Price is definitely a concern - I have considered buying the Fii0 D03K for the digital to analog conversion, but then I wouldn't get the benefit of improved sound, right?

 

As you might be able to tell I'm pretty lost here and any help or recommendations is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

The D03K does not have a built in headphone amplifier/volume control, so you would have to buy one to pair with it (reducing the cost savings between this and the E17).

 

I think the E17 offers the most and best versatility for you- use the USB for connectivity to your laptop, then the digital audio input for your XBox. If the outputs on your XBox are "hot"/live at the same time, you might be able to have the HDMI to the TV and then have the digital connection to the E17 at the same time...

 

Some TVs place restrictions on the source of the sound that it can feed through its digital output, so if you can provide the make/model of your TV or check your owner's manual, you should be able to find out if the HDMI feed from your XBox can be rerouted back out through the digital output.

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thrand1 View Post

 

The D03K does not have a built in headphone amplifier/volume control, so you would have to buy one to pair with it (reducing the cost savings between this and the E17).

 

I think the E17 offers the most and best versatility for you- use the USB for connectivity to your laptop, then the digital audio input for your XBox. If the outputs on your XBox are "hot"/live at the same time, you might be able to have the HDMI to the TV and then have the digital connection to the E17 at the same time...

 

Some TVs place restrictions on the source of the sound that it can feed through its digital output, so if you can provide the make/model of your TV or check your owner's manual, you should be able to find out if the HDMI feed from your XBox can be rerouted back out through the digital output.

 

Thank you very much for your reply. My TV Make/Model is the : Toshiba 40E210 (linked here)

Is anyone able to tell me based on the TV's description whether or not I could run digital audio out from the TV with HDMI audio/video input coming from my Xbox 360 as source sound?

For what it's worth, I do not care if I can not get sound to come from my TV's speakers while I have the headphones plugged in.

 

I believe with this adapter I would be able to run HDMI from the Xbox to the TV while running sound from the Xbox through the toslink or RCA outputs to an amp. However, I have some concerns about how much quality sacrifice I'd be making by throwing a $5 cord into the mix.

 

Finally, thrand1 (or others), what sort of benefit in audio quality do you think the E17 would provide me with while using the Sennheiser HD598? This question applies to both use through laptop USB and through whatever set up I have to go through my 360.

 

Tl;dr: What set up would provide me with the best combination of audio quality, price savings, and versatility?

 

I'm already loving this forum so thank you to those who have responded.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by newphones View Post

 

Yeah, skip the amp and turn up the volume. The effect is exactly the same.


Hi newphones and thanks for your response. Can you offer a bit of explanation behind your answer? Are you saying the HD598's do not benefit from an amp at all? Or, that the E17 isn't good enough to notice any benefit?

 

If I do not go the amp route I would need to either purchase a DAC (if running through my TV) or the Xbox 360 audio converter mentioned in my previous post and then an RCA to headphone adapter (much cheaper, but if I'm spending this kind of $ on headphones I don't want cheap sound with it.)

post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by newphones View Post

 

Yeah, skip the amp and turn up the volume. The effect is exactly the same.

 

What an absurd statement this is... please know what you are talking about before advising someone else.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by branteraudio View Post

Hi all,

 

I've been browsing the forums a lot lately as my interest in audio continues to grow and, despite my best efforts, I can't seem to figure out what would be best for me.

 

What I want is to get a high quality listening experience in BOTH:

Music (played through my laptop with on-board poor quality sound card), and

Gaming on my Xbox 360 through my television (which does NOT have analog output or a headphone jack, only digital audio out)

 

Here's what I have:

Sennheiser HD598

 

Right now, I can not even use my headphones with my Xbox or TV. So, not only do I need to be able to convert the digital sound for use with the headphones, but I also have concerns about the quality.

 

I currently have my Xbox 360 plugged via HDMI (audio and video) into my TV. If I buy a portable amp such as the Fiio E17 and run a toslink cable from my TV to the amp and then plug my headphones into the amp, how much sound quality will I be sacrificing? In particular, do I lose a lot of sound quality by running the sound through the TV rather than directly from the Xbox to the amp (which I don't even think is possible, if it is, please enlighten me!)

 

If I were to buy this amp I could then simply take it from its position connected to the TV and hook it up to my laptop when I wanted to get better sound on it, correct?

 

Is there a better solution to my situation here? Price is definitely a concern - I have considered buying the Fii0 D03K for the digital to analog conversion, but then I wouldn't get the benefit of improved sound, right?

 

As you might be able to tell I'm pretty lost here and any help or recommendations is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

You will get much better sound quality if you have an amp coupled with the HD598. Although the HD598 aren't hard to drive, you will hear a significant difference in refinement, impact, and clarity. An E17 will power them sufficiently, and you actually won't benefit a ton more from a desktop amp, but it will get a bit better. If you want a budget desktop amp look into Schiit Magni or JDS Labs O2.


Edited by Greed - 4/2/13 at 8:52am
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by branteraudio View Post

 

Thank you very much for your reply. My TV Make/Model is the : Toshiba 40E210 (linked here)

Is anyone able to tell me based on the TV's description whether or not I could run digital audio out from the TV with HDMI audio/video input coming from my Xbox 360 as source sound?

For what it's worth, I do not care if I can not get sound to come from my TV's speakers while I have the headphones plugged in.

 

I believe with this adapter I would be able to run HDMI from the Xbox to the TV while running sound from the Xbox through the toslink or RCA outputs to an amp. However, I have some concerns about how much quality sacrifice I'd be making by throwing a $5 cord into the mix.

 

Finally, thrand1 (or others), what sort of benefit in audio quality do you think the E17 would provide me with while using the Sennheiser HD598? This question applies to both use through laptop USB and through whatever set up I have to go through my 360.

 

Tl;dr: What set up would provide me with the best combination of audio quality, price savings, and versatility?

 

I'm already loving this forum so thank you to those who have responded.

 

The Toshiba user manual isn't very forthcoming about the capabilities of its digital output, unfortunately. So this might have to fall under the "just try and see category" :) Go to this link for the user manual.

 

A few considerations to make for your setup:

-- I don't think the adapter you listed should have any harmful effects on the sound since you'll just be repeating a digital signal, and it might be easier/less messy to configure than having to configure your TV as well. In other words, no quality sacrifice unless that adapter is seriously broken.

-- In order to use the optical input on the E17, you'll want to configure your XBox and/or TV to output PCM sound, not Dolby Digital, in order for it to be compatible with the Fiio. Again, don't expect any quality sacrifice- PCM and its Dolby Digital counterpart are essentially the same thing. You might have to configure the XBox to output 2 channel sound as well, but I don't own one so I'm not sure if that is even an option.

-- I can't offer any conclusive statements about the benefit in audio quality...I'm sure others can provide more insight...but the digital to analog converter in the E17 may be better quality than the one in use in your laptop. The E17 may also provide a less noisy environment for this conversion to take place so there may be a "blacker background"/less background hiss. If the output impedance of your laptop is high enough, it could potentially alter the frequency response of the sound through your headphones, and the E17 may help correct that so you are getting a "less altered" sound. The E17 may also provide more power, but that is likely not an issue with your headphones. Overall, the E17, by isolating the environment where the decoding process takes place, may provide elevated performance, and it is very versatile with its suite of inputs and outputs.

 

Sorry I can't offer more definitive statements on some of the above, but I own none of these devices, haha. I think the E17 is a great tool with many uses in your setups, and would be a fantastic bang for your buck purchase.

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thrand1 View Post

 

The Toshiba user manual isn't very forthcoming about the capabilities of its digital output, unfortunately. So this might have to fall under the "just try and see category" :) Go to this link for the user manual.

 

A few considerations to make for your setup:

-- I don't think the adapter you listed should have any harmful effects on the sound since you'll just be repeating a digital signal, and it might be easier/less messy to configure than having to configure your TV as well. In other words, no quality sacrifice unless that adapter is seriously broken.

-- In order to use the optical input on the E17, you'll want to configure your XBox and/or TV to output PCM sound, not Dolby Digital, in order for it to be compatible with the Fiio. Again, don't expect any quality sacrifice- PCM and its Dolby Digital counterpart are essentially the same thing. You might have to configure the XBox to output 2 channel sound as well, but I don't own one so I'm not sure if that is even an option.

-- I can't offer any conclusive statements about the benefit in audio quality...I'm sure others can provide more insight...but the digital to analog converter in the E17 may be better quality than the one in use in your laptop. The E17 may also provide a less noisy environment for this conversion to take place so there may be a "blacker background"/less background hiss. If the output impedance of your laptop is high enough, it could potentially alter the frequency response of the sound through your headphones, and the E17 may help correct that so you are getting a "less altered" sound. The E17 may also provide more power, but that is likely not an issue with your headphones. Overall, the E17, by isolating the environment where the decoding process takes place, may provide elevated performance, and it is very versatile with its suite of inputs and outputs.

 

Sorry I can't offer more definitive statements on some of the above, but I own none of these devices, haha. I think the E17 is a great tool with many uses in your setups, and would be a fantastic bang for your buck purchase.


Thank you very much for this response, it is extremely helpful.

 

I do know that my TV can toggle between Dolby & PCM output.

On my Xbox 360 I see options for:

- Digital Stereo

- Dolby Digital 5.1 OR

- Dolby Digital with WMA Pro.

 

According to xbox.com, Digital Stereo = PCM (16-bit, 48 kilohertz).

 

So it sounds like either option would work and that's great, it will depend on what I want I guess.

 

Glad I figured that out!

 

Now the second part of my issue is whether to amp or just convert. Actually, the adapter for the Xbox would allow me to plug a male RCA to female headphone out converter into it and use my headphones directly without conversion. However, if I do this or just use a DAC then I get zero volume control, so I'd have to buy a volume control extension for my headphones.

 

 

Can anyone offer further advice on either of the following:

Is getting an amp worth it given my headphones (Sennheiser HD598) and my demands (music listening on a business designed laptop with original on board sound card, not FLAC but mostly 256kbps MP3s or higher, and gaming on an Xbox 360)?

 

And, will an volume control extension like this one be likely to cause audio degradation? Or, is there another option for adjusting volume given that the Xbox does not have a Master Volume option and neither do these headphones?

 

And just for fun I'll throw in another potential scenario:

I own a 10 year old Aiwa 3 way speaker system, which is excellent for its purpose which is mostly blasting bass boosted music in my apartment, less so for movies/gaming. I'd need a DAC to run sound from anything digital to it, but it does have a headphone jack. If I ran sound from the 360 to it and then plugged my headphones into it, I would have volume control via the stereo volume...Does the stereo system provide any benefits in the form of an amp or is that unlikely?

 

It all seems a bit silly, having so many adapters and cords all attached together, but I guess one does what they have to...

 

Thank you in advance.

post #9 of 18

A properly designed and manufactured amp can't do anything besides increase volume equally across the board. In effect, it raises the volume. You can get the same effect by turning up the volume without buying and using an amp. Simple.

 

PS: some amps have bass boost or color the signal in some way. Again, you can use an equalizer and get the same effect.

 

Most people who post on head fi are equipment and shopping addicts, or are leaning in that direction. If someone claims that a piece of equipment improves sound quality, demand evidence. 99.9999% of the time, they won't be able to do so.
 

post #10 of 18

Thank you for your overwhelming evidence that amps "improve" sound quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, you DON'T HAVE A SINGLE SHRED OF EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER! Surprise, surprise. :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greed View Post

 

What an absurd statement this is... please know what you are talking about before advising someone else.

 

 

 

You will get much better sound quality if you have an amp coupled with the HD598. Although the HD598 aren't hard to drive, you will hear a significant difference in refinement, impact, and clarity. An E17 will power them sufficiently, and you actually won't benefit a ton more from a desktop amp, but it will get a bit better. If you want a budget desktop amp look into Schiit Magni or JDS Labs O2.

post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by newphones View Post

Thank you for your overwhelming evidence that amps "improve" sound quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, you DON'T HAVE A SINGLE SHRED OF EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER! Surprise, surprise. :)

 

Huh? You waited a whole 1 minute before you decide to be a troll, speaks for what kind of person you are. I don't have to prove anything, this entire forum is filled with members and information about what you barking for. If your thoughts were true, then tell me why there are some different kinds of amps? Why is implementation different on amps? Why do people spend thousands of dollars on high-end amps if they all sound the same? Using your logic, there would be no market for audiophiles. Audiophilia would be a scam, a joke. Good luck proving your "theory", much less convincing anyone here to think the same way you do.

post #12 of 18
External amps are about more than just more volume. As a general rule it takes 10x the power to double volume. The advantages of an external amp are
1. More headroom. This gives you more power to drive a wide dynamic range and also to drive cans with wide impedance curves
2. Better damping factor
3. Higher peak voltage.
4. Less distortion at listening volume. This goes hand in hand with the headroom and really only becomes important if you are driving your internal amp near its max or it has inherently high distortion
5. Less design compromises. Because it doesn't have to compete with a screen, DAC, CPU, buttons, etc for space and batter power it can he designed much better with fewer tradeoffs . For example the ipod amp uses undersized capacitors to meet its size, power and price requirements. As such it has massive subbass rolloff. In an external purpose built amp these problems can be addressed
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by thoughtcriminal View Post

External amps are about more than just more volume. As a general rule it takes 10x the power to double volume. The advantages of an external amp are
1. More headroom. This gives you more power to drive a wide dynamic range and also to drive cans with wide impedance curves
2. Better damping factor
3. Higher peak voltage.
4. Less distortion at listening volume. This goes hand in hand with the headroom and really only becomes important if you are driving your internal amp near its max or it has inherently high distortion
5. Less design compromises. Because it doesn't have to compete with a screen, DAC, CPU, buttons, etc for space and batter power it can he designed much better with fewer tradeoffs . For example the ipod amp uses undersized capacitors to meet its size, power and price requirements. As such it has massive subbass rolloff. In an external purpose built amp these problems can be addressed

An iphone or macbook has far more power than I will ever need. As I have stated before, I can easily drive any pair of headphones I own to 50 dBA by setting the computer's volume just a hair above zero.

 

I don't notice distortion with any headphones I use. If you insist on driving your headphones to 90+ dBA, that's simply a sign of a lack of intelligence. No one needs to listen at those volumes unless they are deaf. And if they are hearing impaired and listening at 90+ dBA, they are damaging their hearing even further.

 

On my iphone, I listen at a volume between 2 and 4. Again, this gets my headphones to 50 dBA or higher. I can get up to 60+ dBA with just a couple of clicks more. This volume is more than sufficient to enjoy music.

 

Buying an amp for headphones is like smashing a gnat with a meteor the diameter of a city block.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by newphones View Post

An iphone or macbook has far more power than I will ever need. As I have stated before, I can easily drive any pair of headphones I own to 50 dBA by setting the computer's volume just a hair above zero.

I don't notice distortion with any headphones I use. If you insist on driving your headphones to 90+ dBA, that's simply a sign of a lack of intelligence. No one needs to listen at those volumes unless they are deaf. And if they are hearing impaired and listening at 90+ dBA, they are damaging their hearing even further.

On my iphone, I listen at a volume between 2 and 4. Again, this gets my headphones to 50 dBA or higher. I can get up to 60+ dBA with just a couple of clicks more. This volume is more than sufficient to enjoy music.

Buying an amp for headphones is like smashing a gnat with a meteor the diameter of a city block.
Please reread as I clearly stated that using an external amp isnt all about loudness.
And the iPhone 4 has one of the worst internal amps I've had the displeasure of listening too. Bass rolloff begins right below the kick, high output impedance causes massive upper bass bloom and bleed. Seriously, you would benefit a lot from an external amp to fix its failings

I'll state it again; power isn't everything. Design is.
Edited by thoughtcriminal - 4/3/13 at 8:52pm
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

I appreciate both sides of the argument and while I am sure that there are benefits to be had from an amp, I may test things out without one because the cost is rather high (looking at approx $140 for an E17 if I want both purposes served (DAC from SPDIF input as well as amp).

 

Are there any lower cost amps that would serve my purpose well? (there is the added benefit of having volume control if I get an amp to be considered too)

I am looking for something that will provide with me solid quality and can convert an optical (SPDIF) input, with volume control.
 

if I decide not to get an amp FOR NOW, which of these options is likely to produce better sound?

 

Use an RCA male to headphone female adapter to get sound from my Xbox 360 to my headphones or use the digital output from my Xbox 360 and use a DAC like the Fii0 D3 (D03k) to convert the sound for use with the headphones?

Is there a benefit of keeping the sound digital?

 

The non amped set up would cost about $40 in total.

 

Thanks for your help.

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