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PC/Portable complete audio upgrade for $500

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I ended up with around $500 of Amazon gift card balance after last Christmas and my birthday and I thought this was a good time to upgrade my audio experience. I have the following right now: a three year old Sennheiser HD 280 Pro closed headphones, a year old Klipsch Image S4 in-ear buds, and as main sources I have a new gaming PC with onboard audio (alc898) and an HTC One as my main portable music device. I also watch mobies on my PC so that's also important to me

 

I'm looking to upgrade my headphones (preferably open such as the Sennheiser HD 598), get a portable amp if needed/recommended (maybe a fiio e11) and an upgrade to my onboard audio as an external DAC or a sound card. I would prefer a sound card so I can use my front panel jack but if the external DAC is much better I could live with it

 

Now I don't have to spend the whole $500 so I'm open to saving some money on a good deal even if it means sacrificing a little bit of quality. Also, if possible, I'm looking for some closed headphones to use on the go, on planes, without much sound leak. Basically an upgrade to the Image S4/HD 280 Pro.

post #2 of 8

As you seem to be a PC gamer.

Creative Sound Blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, $95

 

Sennheiser HD558, $131.26 (same driver as the HD598, but different cup design)

 

JVC-HA-S500 headphones, $60, they fold up, so easy for traveling.

Should work decently with the HTC one, without an a portable headphone amplifier.

You could get the Fiio E11, but it's optional.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

The Sound Blaster Z seems like a good choice. I had the Xonar DX in mind but the drivers seem to be very unstable. The HD 558 seems good but should I see a big improvement if I look in the $250 - $300 range? And what about the ATH-M50 to replace my HD 280 Pro?

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by raul219 View Post
 

The Sound Blaster Z seems like a good choice. I had the Xonar DX in mind but the drivers seem to be very unstable. The HD 558 seems good but should I see a big improvement if I look in the $250 - $300 range? And what about the ATH-M50 to replace my HD 280 Pro?

The Z and DX use the same CS4398 DAC chip :) but the Sound Blaster Z also come with a decent headphone amplfier.

To some degree or another, all sound card brands have had driver problems, at one time or another.

For $250-$300, I would think you could get a better headphone then the HD558s, but as the Sound Blaster Z's headphone amplifier only seem to be decent (not award winning), try to get headphones around the 50-Ohm range, maybe the Philips X1/28 Fidelio?

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Ok I have decided that I'm going to get a Sound Blaster Z for my PC and a Fiio E11 for a portable amp. I'm still undecided weather to get the HD 558 or the M50s. Or maybe both since they would serve different purposes, one being open and the other closed. But the I would be spending $280 on headphones, and I wonder if I should just get one set of headphones for $250/300 instead of 2 $140. For example how much of an improvement would I see if I get something like the DT 880 Premium for $300?

post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by raul219 View Post
 

Ok I have decided that I'm going to get a Sound Blaster Z for my PC and a Fiio E11 for a portable amp. I'm still undecided weather to get the HD 558 or the M50s. Or maybe both since they would serve different purposes, one being open and the other closed. But the I would be spending $280 on headphones, and I wonder if I should just get one set of headphones for $250/300 instead of 2 $140. For example how much of an improvement would I see if I get something like the DT 880 Premium for $300?

I would think getting one good headphone for $280 would be a better choice.

 

DT 880 Premium 600-Ohm or DT880 Premium 32-Ohm?

The DT880 Premium 600-Ohm might be a little to demanding on the Z' headphone amplifier.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

DT 880 Premium 250 ohm. The 600 ohm I guess would need a more expensive amp. This one is $310 right now. What about the Sony MDR-MA900?. It's $200 and I've read reviews saying is basically kills the whole HD 5xx series. Some concerns about build quality though.

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by raul219 View Post
 

DT 880 Premium 250 ohm. The 600 ohm I guess would need a more expensive amp. This one is $310 right now. What about the Sony MDR-MA900?. It's $200 and I've read reviews saying is basically kills the whole HD 5xx series. Some concerns about build quality though.

The Premium version looks a little nicer on the outside and has slightly less grip, then the Pros.

So to me the DT880 Pro 250-Ohm would be a better value.

The Sony MDR-MA900 seem to have good reviews, but it's only 12-Ohm, so to me it appears like something better driven by portable audio, over sound cards, but it's better for you to ask about the MDR-MA900 on this thread, see what works well for driving the MDR-MA900.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/663121/sony-mdr-ma900-appreciation-thread

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