On my eventual checklist of things is a dedicated headphone amp and possibly a DAC (I'm using the Claro Plus as a DAC with a Marantz 2215b receiver for now and have been quite pleased with this setup). I'm curious though, because I hear a lot of people recommending DACs and many of them are of course USB based. The thing no one ever discloses is what kind of sound card or anything they're using on their PC and I'd think this is really important to deciding this. So given the Claro Plus is a quite nice little sound card, is it really getting into that "splitting hairs" area to use an outboard DAC with this kind of setup or is there a serious appreciable benefit?
I love the Claro Plus as the versatility options are exactly what I needed. I'm using the digital coax out to drive a Sony ES receiver and I'm using DTS encoding with great result. When I want to use headphones, I simply switch the output to analog and power on the Marantz (Usually with my HD595's - I haven't done a lot of listening around but this setup sounds pretty nice to me). I'm not sure when I see recommendations for using all these DACs if most people are perhaps using laptops where the sound card isn't an option, or if using an outboard DAC is just an alternative with more variety than using a sound card.
What do you all think on this matter? I'm more curious than anything, as it is I see the headphone DACs and think they look real nice but am just left wondering if I'd even need that with my sound card. For that matter, I wonder if my Marantz is not sufficient enough for my headphones anyway as I have the room for it and do not need a particularly compact headphone amplifier (I do have a pair of AKG K340 electrostats, but they're shelved at the moment as I'm so indecisive on what to do with them so I haven't even tried them on this setup).