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Help me choose! What is the most value for money?

Poll Results: Which Action?

  • 100% (1)
    1. Buy an external DAC
  • 0% (0)
    2. Buy Fiio X3 + E12 Amp
  • 0% (0)
    3. Buy better headphones
  • 0% (0)
    4. None of the above
1 Total Vote  
post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have a budget of ~$300 and was wondering whether I should buy a portable DAC/Amp Combo or not for the biggest sound improvement. I mainly listen to music at school while studying. My current set up is

ALAC iTune -> Macbook Pro -> Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro 80 / ATH-M50



1. Buy Portable DAC/Amp Combo - AudioEngine D1 ($170, optical in), or NuForce uDAC-2 ($100)

2. Buy Fiio X3 media player + Fiio E12 headphone amp (~$330)

3. Buy Fostex t50RP headphones and modify! or sell your headphones and buy a better one!

4. None of the above (Please make a suggestion)


Which action should I take? If the answer is 1, which DAC/Amp combo do you recommend? I want my DAC to have RCA outputs for future upgrade possibility for at home use. Thanks!

post #2 of 7

My first advice is to invest insome well recorded music.  Keep your ear out and dig around here at Head-Fi for some good recommendations.


What type of music do you listen to the most if any?


My tastes in music change as I learn more about what sounds more technically correct and as my gear becomes technically better.


I often stop by and look at the What are You Listening to Right Now Thread:







Here are a couple of tracks I suggest listening to with your current gear.


Benni Chawes



Klaus Peter-Hahn / JS Bach



Without getting into well recorded music it is going to be hard to see how good your current gear sounds.


DAC Option:  To tell if a DAC will improve your listening experience first see if you can hear hiss, noise, bleep-bloops, or other noise in the background of your music or more importantly with your music off, but gear turned on and up to normal volumes.  A DAC really improves the electronically noisy environment that is inside almost every PC, but to see if a DAC will help try to hear any noise.  A good system will be dead quiet with the volume at full both on the player / PC and amp.


Amp Option:  An amp does a few things most obviously give more output voltage.  If your current headphone get loud enough there is a good chance an amp is not going to give you the wow factor you might be expecting.  An amp can also better control the drivers and voice coils by delivering more current / voltage and having a lower output impedance.  This typically improve the bass response of a headphone.


Headphone Option:  The ATH-M50 is a great headphone for both its price and functionality, but it does have its limits.  It is one of the better closed headphone because it sounds pretty neutral, delivers good low end thump while keeping everything else in check.  It is not my favorite headphone for hi-fi listening because it sounds pretty lifeless at times and because it is closed the bass is not very realistic.


If you look into the headphone option the other options become important because many headphone require more voltage and current than a PC may deliver.  There are many reasons to "upgrade", first and foremost should be sound quality improvement.


Take a look at HeadRoom's PC listening section:



Head over to InnerFidelity.com and dig around Tyll's Wall of Fame:



You may also want to look at the $200 and under amp shoot out here:



This amp measurement post is also interested:


Edited by NA Blur - 12/6/13 at 1:52pm
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your input and HDTracks.com looks like an awesome website. Based on your input, I think I will invest my money in an external DAC and some 24bit/96KHz Albums. My Macbook Pro is quiet with DT-770 pro but I hear some hisses with more sensitive IEM (1964-T). It can also drive my DT-770 Pro and ATH-M50 loud enough so I won't need an amp immediately unless I buy power hungry headphones like HE-400 or HE-500 headphones in the future.


I listen to wide range of music - anywhere from Classic Rock, Blues Rock, Alternative, Pop, to Hip hop/Rap. I have a question though. Is there noticeable difference between 24/96KHz and 24/192KHz DAC? Also should I avoid connecting DAC with an USB cable if I have another like an optical Toslink connection available?

post #4 of 7
Well, if you are listening to music while you studying, I wouldn't upgrade for that use--no reason to interrupt your studying more wink.gif

Upgrade for when you are able to listen to the music more carefully smily_headphones1.gif
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Well I need to take a break from studying too ya know! :D yeah actually study hall is not really quiet and far from ideal. I would love to be able to use open headphones but can't at the moment.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

I bought an entry-level DAC (Audioengine D1) and WOW what a difference it makes! :) On macbook pro, I couldn't hear the difference between 16/44.1 and 24/96. I was a skeptic at first because I thought CD-quality sounds good enough compared to mp3 and I thought 24/196 is an overkill. WRONG!


I listened to Hotel California and high hat and crash cymbal sounds really smooth like butter in my ears. I thought it was a remastered version of the same song. I guess to test more thoroughly I would have to make 16/44.1KHZ FLAC from 24/192KHz source file. There is more separation between instruments and the same song sounds more dynamic, detailed, and musical. Even CD-quality FLAC files sounds more musical than my Macbook pro and God forbid my iPod Touch 2G. I can't believe what a big difference it makes.


Great suggestion, NA Blur! :beyersmile: I am going to collect more HD audio files and get an amp and better headphones in the future but I'm happy with the result I got for $170 dollars.

post #7 of 7

A DAC can make a huge difference with PC listening.  I am glad you have a positive result and are enjoying music more.

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