Originally Posted by tehsprayer
Should I be looking at getting an amp and dac for the future or just an amp or just a dac? I dont listen to music very loudly. It would be nice to get a dac/amp combo to save money such as the e17 but I want the best bang for my buck and is able to drive DT 990s without breaking the bank.
Most if not all of the reasonably priced DAC/Amp combos cannot satisfactorily drive high impedance cans as they cannot deliver sufficient peak to peak voltage.
Words of truth right there...
Best bang for the buck is a hard choice sometimes... If you need portability the the E12 will work nicely for you or wait for the E18 down the road, if you just want a desktop unit then the E09K or the Schiit Modi will drive the 250 Ohm cans well.
I had the Audioengine D1 DAC/Amp as my first choice. ($159 from CanadaComputers)
I even emailed Audioengine and asked them specifically if the D1 would drive 250 Ohm headphones, they replied with "Many of our users have reported satisfactory results with high impedance headphones". Well when it arrived I connected up the DT880's and had to turn the volume control to 90% to get a decent level of sound, which was NOT loud by any means. Within 15 minutes it was packed up and back in the box with an RMA to B&H to be exchanged for the E09K.
I always use a motorbike analogy to explain amps... You can get around fine on a 250cc bike, here there and everywhere around town nicely. Then you take it up on the highway, the bike will reach highway speeds with the throttle almost maxed out and little to spare. (This is the E17 driving 250 Ohm headphones). Now lets switch the bike over to a 650cc you still get great performance around town and when you take it up on the highway you can get up to speed with still half the throttle left in reserve. (This is the E12 / E09K / Modi with 250 Ohm headphones).
The issue is if all your music is well mastered to decent levels then the E17 will provide all you need, but the first poorly mastered track that has low levels there will not be any reserve left in the E17 to allow you to turn up the volume. If you have not heard the DT990's they are an open can, in a quiet environment they are great but if you have to drown out the tv, talking, or any other noises you will want to turn them up some and that might just not be available.
If I was getting gear again for the first time with 250 Ohm headphones, I would look into the Audio-gd NFB-15.32 which gets great reviews around here, has a 32bit 384k DAC and all the inputs. A decent amplifier that will drive most headphones and you can use it as a standalone DAC only if you get a better amp down the road. $235 from China with a little shipping and duty will probably land it for less than $300 on your door.
These are the choices that I would recommend.