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Best DAC/AMP Combo For HiFiMAN HE-400 Coming From Xonar Essence STX?

Poll Results: External Sound Card/DAC/AMP Brands/Models That You Recommend Over A Quality Internal Sound Card?

 
  • 54% (6)
    Schiit
  • 18% (2)
    Fiio
  • 0% (0)
    ODAC
  • 18% (2)
    ASUS
  • 9% (1)
    Other (Please Describe)
11 Total Votes  
post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Greetings, brothers and sisters of Head-fi.org!

 

     HeadAmp here inquiring about a new purchase for my desktop HTPC.  I am looking to free up the lone PCIe slot on my HTPC's motherboard (ASRock B85M-ITX) by replacing my ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCIe sound card with a significant external solution that can effectively drive my HiFiMAN HE-400 planar headphones.  This rig is used mainly to drive various music mixes such as rock, metal, dubstep, trapstep, dance, trance, electronica, hip-hop, rap, funk, fusion, etc.  All the modern music that you can think of!  I prefer my rig's sound to have some "OOMPH" to it, so an emphasis on bass and power with as pristine sound quality as possible is important.  I am looking to spend no more than I need to, but, am willing to spend up to $500 or so.  Any recommendations are appreciated!  Thank you.

post #2 of 10

Do you only use the current setup for just music?

 

If you get an external DAC with a S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) input, you could connect the external DAC amp to the motherboard's S/PDIF and still be able to use the motherboard's on-board audio features.

A USB DAC will bypass any on-board audio features, leaving basic 2-channel audio, no headphone surround sound.

 

Try reading all 873 pages of this thread and you will get a good understanding of what amplifiers work well with the HE-400

http://www.head-fi.org/t/604583/hifiman-he-400-impressions-and-discussion-thread

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Mainly music. Other medium include Twitch.tv, Netflix, YouTube, BluRay movies, and the occasional gaming session (FPS, RTS, and fighting games). Will using my motherboard's on-board audio features be a step down in quality from the Xonar Essence STX?
post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadAmp View Post

I prefer my rig's sound to have some "OOMPH" to it, so an emphasis on bass and power with as pristine sound quality as possible is important.  

The STX has a good DAC and fairly good headphone amp. A better, higher quality amp and DAC should provide more accurate sound, not color it. That being said, if you are listening to the STX near full volume and/or using bass EQ boost with EDM and other bass heavy music, I think it possibly could be reaching its limits on bass; a more powerful amp might help to improve the bass quality, and certainly would allow you to turn it up louder biggrin.gif

I used to own the STX. Upgraded to the O2/ODAC, and then recently replaced the O2 with the Schiit Asgard 2 (I wanted the pre-amp out capability for my speakers). I am enjoying the ODAC/Asgard 2 combo smily_headphones1.gif
post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadAmp View Post

Mainly music. Other medium include Twitch.tv, Netflix, YouTube, BluRay movies, and the occasional gaming session (FPS, RTS, and fighting games). Will using my motherboard's on-board audio features be a step down in quality from the Xonar Essence STX?

Can't say for sure how much it will affect audio features removing STX and using the on-board Realtek ALC892 chipset.

For $30 you can get Cyberlink Power DVD 11 Ultra software, off eBay, with that your can watch your Blu-rays in full Dolby True-HD and DTS Master Audio.

And your not a big gamer, so you might not really notice a difference using Realtek for gaming.

Also one of the advantages of an external DAC is it's not affected by any electrical noise that might be inside the computer case.

You can also at a later date get an Xonar DX or D1, used $60, same audio processor (CMI8788) as the STX and plug an external DAC (with an optical input) into the DX or D1.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input thus far, guys. What do you think about external sound cards for strictly headphone use?
post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadAmp View Post

Thanks for the input thus far, guys. What do you think about external sound cards for strictly headphone use?

If music is your main priority, a separate external dac/amp is the way to go smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadAmp View Post
 

Greetings, brothers and sisters of Head-fi.org!

 

     HeadAmp here inquiring about a new purchase for my desktop HTPC.  I am looking to free up the lone PCIe slot on my HTPC's motherboard (ASRock B85M-ITX) by replacing my ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCIe sound card with a significant external solution that can effectively drive my HiFiMAN HE-400 planar headphones.  This rig is used mainly to drive various music mixes such as rock, metal, dubstep, trapstep, dance, trance, electronica, hip-hop, rap, funk, fusion, etc.  All the modern music that you can think of!  I prefer my rig's sound to have some "OOMPH" to it, so an emphasis on bass and power with as pristine sound quality as possible is important.  I am looking to spend no more than I need to, but, am willing to spend up to $500 or so.  Any recommendations are appreciated!  Thank you.

 

Heya,

 

Based on your description, look to the Matrix M-Stage for your amplifier. As for a DAC, if you are ok with USB only, the HRT Music Streamer II would be a good option.

 

Very best,

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Think I'm going to wait for the ASUS STU to finally show up at NewEgg or Amazon, unless you all can recommend something better?
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Here's an example of the bangin' bass effect that I absolutely love from my HE-400 + Xonar Essence STX combo (WARNING EXTREMELY WELL-BALANCED BASS!!):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckiYYBHcyFY (hits at about 16-17 seconds in)

Looks like the STU most certainly is a good option to go with the HE-400:

"The STU also did quite well with the HiFiMAN HE-400. Despite a lower impedance, planar headphones seem far less affected in the way their dynamic counterparts can be. The HE-400 sounded clean, dynamic, full bodied, and was lots of fun, especially with rock and metal. The Asus had plenty of drive and bass extension was impressive. Once again, a combination I can highly recommend."

Source
Edited by HeadAmp - 9/30/13 at 9:09pm
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