I'm looking for some advice on my setup. I am very passionate about high quality music and wish I had more of a budget to accommodate that, but I need to make do with what I can! So far I'm running a MUSE mini DAC (click for eBay page) temporarily since I wanted to get my new system hooked up to my computer. It's time for a bit of an upgrade.
I'm a big user and lover of cans and I do quite enjoy my Sennheiser HD558s (50 ohm / 112 dB), but I know they can do better. I have pretty well decided on the cMOY headphone amp from BSG if I go the separate route, but of course am open to other suggestions. I also do have and use speakers regularly. My buddy is getting a new setup and he will be getting my MUSE mini DAC, so I'll be needing a replacement. Currently, I'm running my HD558s directly from the MUSE mini DAC's headphone port. It works surprisingly with 0 hiss at all volumes (windows and foobar2000 maxed). It's decently clear and the bass has some good control especially vs. the on-board sound. This lack of hiss is crucial lol.
Computer - USB output
Sherwood AI-1110 Integrated Amp (2x50W from the late 80s, runs beautifully but the headphone jack sucks a bit lol) - RCA input from DAC
Polk Audio S4s - soon to be given to the same buddy as the DAC, I'm getting a pair of Paradigm 5SEs to replace these
Sennheiser HD558 cans, 50 ohms and 112 dB - fed by cMOY headphone amp (maybe)
Bottom line and questions:
I need the DAC to have 1 RCA out and 1 Line/Headphone out, nothing else like optical/coax is required. RCA will go to my Sherwood and the line out would feed to the BSG cMOY of course. I'd like it to support 24-bit/96KHz through the USB preferably,
- Would it be more worth my while to use a headphone amp built into a DAC? I would think a dedicated headphone amp would/should improve quality, especially if it's a decent enough one, but I'm not quite sure.
- If I were to go for the BSG cMOY, would it be recommended/"required" (sound quality standards) to find a DAC that has an unamplified headphone output? If it were to be amplified, how would that affect the sound quality? I believe my current simple MUSE mini DAC does NOT have an opamp or anything for the headphone port, correct me if I'm wrong. 99% of them I can find have amps built in otherwise.
My maximum budget between the two (or for a hybrid) including shipping is $150. The BSG cMOY amp would be ~$75 including shipping so that's half already if I go separate. Unfortunately I know I won't have many "serious" options, but I know I can do better than what I have now!
I've come across the following 2 for DAC options so far (all eBay links, I'm in Canada FYI):
- Mini CM6631A CS4398 24-bit 192KHz
- HIFI NEW Version DAC Decoder TE7022 CS4398 24bit/96KHz
The main difference seems to be the CM6631A vs the TE7022 chip. The former seems to have a few more features, but seemingly none that would be of any use in my application (I'll have no use for 192KHz). Otherwise they both use a CS4398 and OPA2132. They are also both ~$63 shipped which plays nicely with my budget (if I end up going the separate route of course). I don't have experience with different chips for DACs so what do you guys think, have you heard either or both of these?
Basically I'd like to know if spending the entire $150 budget on a DAC/headphone amp combo would be worth it, but still give me very good quality as the BSG cMOY seemingly would. I'm concerned with making the decision that would not result in better quality. But if the DAC is $75 would it make enough of a difference TO the BSG cMOY to get the improvement, or is that not a factor due to what the BSG cMOY is built for?
Thank you all in advance for taking the time to read and reply, I hope to get this going as soon as I can, I have the itch now and my buddy is using a 3.5mm to RCA cable right now, so he wants my DAC lol.
Edited by hv6478 - 5/26/13 at 11:17am