I am planning on getting some 600 ohm headphones (probably the dt880 or 990), mainly for computer use, and am planning on buying a new soundcard, and desktop amp. I don't want to 'waste' the headphones so I want to drive them properly and well(enough). I watch movies, play games, listen to music, and sometimes connect to speakers so a usb DAC is not preferred.
I've been looking at a few sound cards, namely the HT | Omega Claro Halo, Creative ZxR, Asus Xonar Essence ST, which all have dedicated headphone amps. I've seen conflicting reports about whether their amps can drive 600 ohm headphones. Some say they do, some say they dont (especially the zxr), and some say they do, but not well.
So I've also looked into some of the cheaper desktop amps, namely the fiio e9k, Schiit Magni, and Objective2 amps, which seem to be able to drive the 600 ohm headphones decently.
Now, my question is, is there any benefit of having both the integrated amp as well as the desktop amp?(I don't really need big volume, just don't want it to be so low that I lose quality) If not, why buy ($200)xonar essence ST + amp over ($90) xonar dx + amp? I've been doing a lot of browsing and it seems most people are buying the cards with integrated amps, even if they are buying desktop amps.
Also, if indeed the essence st is better than the xonar dx because of reasons other than the headphone amp, is there another card that is as good(or better), just without the headphone amp?
conversely, anyone think just the soundcard with integrated is the way to go?
in the end, I just want the best but most cost-efficient option:
soundcard with dedicated amp
soundcard with dedicated amp + desktop amp
soundcard without amp + desktop amp
any specific soundcard/amp combos you may recommend are appreciated as well :)
Edited by hpfalcon - 6/9/13 at 3:17pm