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which upgrade first?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm deciding between a couple options to upgrade my entry level computer setup:

 

I have grado sr80s currently powered by window's "high definition audio driver" or whatever it's called - basically the onboard soundcard from my ~7 year old asus motherboard.  I also have ****ty 2.1 logitech speakers but mostly listen to rock / prog rock and some electronic through the grados, I might upgrade the speakers at some point, but more focused on being selfish with cans so might upgrade those sooner haha.  I play SC2 and occasionally other games but mainly starcraft. and my focus is the music (between 192 and 320 bitrate mp3 mostly).

 

Will I benefit from an amp/dac upgrade?  I had it narrowed down to a couple options, please help me decide or recommend a smarter alternative:

 

asus essence stx - i've heard great things about this sound card. will they work well with low impedance cans like grados?

 

hifiman ef2a - also, a dac/amp combo i've heard good reviews about, and at a tempting pricepoint.  obviously won't have any of the gaming features of the internal soundcard, but will it sound better than the asus stx?

 

little dot i+ / fiio or similar dac - i've read reviews describing how well the  LD i+ plays with grados, but what about a dac? most expensive option so am i right in assuming it will sound the best?

 

This also went into computer audio forums, sorry not sure where it belongs.

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 9

schit m&m stack will run you around $200 and should be better than the xonar essence for similar price (probably even better than odac/o2 combo unless you need battery for portability). it is a very popular entry level amp/dac combo and you can find a lot of information and praise about it.

post #3 of 9

Creative Labs Sound blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, $95, plus any tax & shipping.

It will be an improvement over on-board audio.

post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Creative Labs Sound blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, $95, plus any tax & shipping.

It will be an improvement over on-board audio.

 

i dont think that card has headphone amp built in? not that it would matter with sr80 but if OP decides to upgrade to harder to drive phones later it could be an issue.

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jd007 View Post
 

 

I don't think that card has headphone amp built in? not that it would matter with sr80 but if OP decides to upgrade to harder to drive phones later it could be an issue.

The SB-Z (Sound Blaster Z) does come with a built in headphone amplifier, not as good as the Essence STX's, but the Grado SR80 are around 32-Ohms, so do not need much of an amplifier.

If he does upgrade in the future, there are lots of good options for headphones in the 25-Ohm to 62-Ohm range.

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The SB-Z (Sound Blaster Z) does come with a built in headphone amplifier, not as good as the Essence STX's, but the Grado SR80 are around 32-Ohms, so do not need much of an amplifier.

If he does upgrade in the future, there are lots of good options for headphones in the 25-Ohm to 62-Ohm range.

 

ya ur right it does so then even 300ohm cans should be good with that.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

sound blaster z 

vs

essence stx

vs

magni/modi combo

 

not really sure what to pick here.  I'm leaning towards the sound cards because they're cheaper and fit nicely in my tower with no clutter on the desk.  Is the essence stx worth the extra ~$60?  

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Keopele19 View Post
 

sound blaster z 

vs

essence stx

vs

magni/modi combo

 

not really sure what to pick here.  I'm leaning towards the sound cards because they're cheaper and fit nicely in my tower with no clutter on the desk.  Is the Essence STX worth the extra ~$60?  

The STX & Z have separate headphone and line-out (speaker) outputs, with the Modi you would have to switch connects when changing from headphone to speaker or back to headphone.

If you were planning on get headphones that are 250-Ohm to 600-Ohm, the Magni & STX would work, but would recommend against the Z (or ZX).

The STX (Dolby) and Z (Studio Pro) can do headphone surround sound, the Magni/modi can not.

If you wanted the "cleanest" audio signal, then get the Magni/Modi.

 

You could go for a hybrid, get the Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $60), as it has the same Headphone Surround Sound (Dolby) as the STX, and get the Schiit Magni ($99).

With the Xonar DX/D1 you get the same DAC chip (CS4398) as the SB-Z.

The Magni is the most desirable headphone amplifier (compared to STX & Z), works with headphones from 16-Ohm to 600-Ohm and you get a volume knob at your finger tips.

Also the Magni can work with a lot more stuff then just the computer.

You would not have a separate output for the !@#$y speakers, but with the nice headphone setup, you no longer want to use the speakers anyway, I've used my Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 speakers for maybe one day in the past two years.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The STX & Z have separate headphone and line-out (speaker) outputs, with the Modi you would have to switch connects when changing from headphone to speaker or back to headphone.

If you were planning on get headphones that are 250-Ohm to 600-Ohm, the Magni & STX would work, but would recommend against the Z (or ZX).

The STX (Dolby) and Z (Studio Pro) can do headphone surround sound, the Magni/modi can not.

If you wanted the "cleanest" audio signal, then get the Magni/Modi.

 

You could go for a hybrid, get the Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $60), as it has the same Headphone Surround Sound (Dolby) as the STX, and get the Schiit Magni ($99).

With the Xonar DX/D1 you get the same DAC chip (CS4398) as the SB-Z.

The Magni is the most desirable headphone amplifier (compared to STX & Z), works with headphones from 16-Ohm to 600-Ohm and you get a volume knob at your finger tips.

Also the Magni can work with a lot more stuff then just the computer.

You would not have a separate output for the !@#$y speakers, but with the nice headphone setup, you no longer want to use the speakers anyway, I've used my Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 speakers for maybe one day in the past two years.

 

switching connects is not rly a problem, you can just get a RCA splitter.

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