Hello everybody, this is my first post here and I'm fairly excited to be a part of a community dealing with technology I know nothing about. I've been looking around this website for a little while and now that I have a few questions that I can't very easily find the answers to I figured I might as well make an account and actually stop lurking.
After having accrued enough money to upgrade my audio I decided that it would be best to defer to the experts, you all. I am somewhat new to the audiophile world and have some questions regarding an upgrade. I am currently using Sennheiser PC350's with a Asus Xonar STX soundcard. I figured that since I could notice a huge improvement over my previous $80 headset that now I have some more money an even better setup would be in order. While I do use my headset for gaming I also like to listen to music, and so it would be nice (especially having ripped my entire library as .wav a while ago) to get the most, or at least more, out of my music.
The budget I am working under is about $1000. That is the upper limit and I would definitely like to fit within that. I have been looking around already at equipment, mostly on this site and comparing prices on amazon, and this is where the questions come in.
What exactly is the general setup for a higher end system? From what I gathered with high impedance headphones one would need a dac and then an amp after that and would either use some sort of coaxial/spdif or usb output to the dac, and connect their headset to the amp, and similarly the output from the dac to the amp. Am I missing anything here? (From a purely physics point of view I don't think so, you take the raw digital data from the spdif or usb I guess and convert that to analog and then take that analog wave form and boost it from it's small, possibly millivolt, amplitude signal to something useful for driving a speaker)
In addition to this while looking for a dedicated dac and amp I've run into this issue of what is more important? Is it best to get similar quality? Or if I am within a budget is a high quality dac more important than a high quality amp? And of course there is the question of vacuum tubes. For a novice audiophile is the difference between vacuum tubes and solid state really noticeable and worth sinking a little more money into?
This is also only half of the problem, I also am looking for new headphones and I think the same question applies. Should I spend more on the headphone side of the rig or more on the dac/amp? Is this also just a matter of buying similar quality components so as to not bottleneck anything?
Any answers to these questions as well as any recommendations on products that you like that fit within this budget and need would be very much appreciated, thanks in advance!