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Entry level computer audio for around $500

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi, I've come to the recent realisation that the audio quality that comes from on-board audio and cheap headphones is extremely lackluster and as a music and general entertainment lover this simply will not do. I would like a setup that provides the best possible audio quality for my price bracket (I could go up to around $700 if there is a product with a significant leap in quality) for primarily music but also movies and games. I have done some research over the past week and have come across the following products:

 

for a DAC / Amp

Schiit Magni/Modi stack  vs   ASUS Xonar Essence ST soundcard

 

and for headphones

philips fidelio x1    vs    sennheiser HD600

 

 

I am admittedly a novice when it comes to audio gear and any advice or suggestions would be appreciated

post #2 of 18

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 DAC/Amp ($235), with TCXO upgrade ($20), shipping around $35,

so around $300 total.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm

My 15.32 arrive 3 days ago, on Thursday.

 

 

AKG K612 Pro headphones, $200

http://www.amazon.com/AKG-K612-Reference-Studio-Headphones/dp/B00DMLI0LU

So far what I hear about this headphone is positive.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 DAC/Amp ($235), with TCXO upgrade ($20), shipping around $35,

so around $300 total.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm

My 15.32 arrive 3 days ago, on Thursday.

 

 

AKG K612 Pro headphones, $200

http://www.amazon.com/AKG-K612-Reference-Studio-Headphones/dp/B00DMLI0LU

So far what I hear about this headphone is positive.

 

I really like the look of that DAC/AMP, what headphones are you using with it? Any suggestions if I go up to my $700 limit? Thanks for your input.

post #4 of 18

Other good headphone for PC gaming/movies.

 

- Modded Fostex T50RP MKII (eg: Mad Dog)

- Beyerdynamic DT990

post #5 of 18

If you budget allows, consider buying HE 400

post #6 of 18

What music do you listen to? Have you thought about whether virtual surround is somehting for you? (like dolby headphone)

post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimmy McFlimmy View Post
 

 

I really like the look of that DAC/AMP, what headphones are you using with it? Any suggestions if I go up to my $700 limit? Thanks for your input.


Currently using my DT990 Premium 600-Ohm headphones.

Amazon will sometimes sell used ones for around $225.

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post
 

What music do you listen to? Have you thought about whether virtual surround is somehting for you? (like dolby headphone)

I listen to a lot of trip-hop, rock, alternative, electro and occasionally classical and pop. I have been underwhelmed by a lot of virtual surround headphones in the past and think it would be more satisfying and immersive if I focus on sound quality.

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post
 

Other good headphone for PC gaming/movies.

 

- Modded Fostex T50RP MKII (eg: Mad Dog)

- Beyerdynamic DT990

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 


Currently using my DT990 Premium 600-Ohm headphones.

Amazon will sometimes sell used ones for around $225.

 

Ok so I am leaning towards the DT990, from what I have read it is a bit unbalanced at first but improves a lot once it is burnt in and the NFB-15.32 should drive them well. Some people have compared them to the fidelio X1 which appears to be balanced despite the bass but it just seems to come down to personal preference. I would love to listen to both of these but unfortunately the one decent audio store where I live doesn't stock either of them.

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

There are so many mixed opinions out there on both the Audio-GD NFB-15.32 and the Beyerdynamic DT990. On the surface there are a lot of positive reviews but when you did a little deeper people are saying that the NFB-15.32 has some distortion and the DT990s have a tendency to be painfully bright unless properly matched. The audiophile world seems to be an astonishingly subjective one. I will keep looking but I have a feeling that I'm not going to be able to make a decision unless I actually try some of these for myself.

post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimmy McFlimmy View Post
 

There are so many mixed opinions out there on both the Audio-GD NFB-15.32 and the Beyerdynamic DT990. On the surface there are a lot of positive reviews but when you did a little deeper people are saying that the NFB-15.32 has some distortion and the DT990s have a tendency to be painfully bright unless properly matched. The audiophile world seems to be an astonishingly subjective one. I will keep looking but I have a feeling that I'm not going to be able to make a decision unless I actually try some of these for myself.

For you to realise this so soon is a rare thing. 

(if there was a competition for the least annoying newbie ever, you would probably win)

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimmy McFlimmy View Post
 

There are so many mixed opinions out there on both the Audio-GD NFB-15.32 and the Beyerdynamic DT990. On the surface there are a lot of positive reviews but when you did a little deeper people are saying that the NFB-15.32 has some distortion and the DT990s have a tendency to be painfully bright unless properly matched. The audiophile world seems to be an astonishingly subjective one. I will keep looking but I have a feeling that I'm not going to be able to make a decision unless I actually try some of these for myself.


You are probably right 'bout that. Did I mention schiit modi and vali? Worth looking into as well.

 

You know I am talking about virtual surround sound with stereo headphones, right? You can turn it on or off, most sound cards have such effects.

 

Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with the fidelio x1.

 

Have you stumbled upon MLE's gaming thread?

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimmy McFlimmy View Post
 

Ok so I am leaning towards the DT990, from what I have read it is a bit unbalanced at first but improves a lot once it is burnt in and the NFB-15.32 should drive them well. Some people have compared them to the Fidelio X1 which appears to be balanced despite the bass but it just seems to come down to personal preference. I would love to listen to both of these but unfortunately the one decent audio store where I live doesn't stock either of them.

The Philips X1/28 Fidelio headphones are only 30-Ohms, the the Schiit Magni ($99) would very easily drive them.

One option is to get an Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $65), comes with a CS4398 DAC chip :)

And you could plug the Magni into the Xonar sound card.

Technically the Schiit Modi should be a better DAC, but as it's USB, it can't work with a sound card, so you can't take advantage of a sound card's headphone surround sound features, while using USB.

post #14 of 18

+1 for mad dogs. It pairs well with the schiit stack.

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post
 


You are probably right 'bout that. Did I mention schiit modi and vali? Worth looking into as well.

 

You know I am talking about virtual surround sound with stereo headphones, right? You can turn it on or off, most sound cards have such effects.

 

Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with the fidelio x1.

 

Have you stumbled upon MLE's gaming thread?

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The Philips X1/28 Fidelio headphones are only 30-Ohms, the the Schiit Magni ($99) would very easily drive them.

One option is to get an Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $65), comes with a CS4398 DAC chip :)

And you could plug the Magni into the Xonar sound card.

Technically the Schiit Modi should be a better DAC, but as it's USB, it can't work with a sound card, so you can't take advantage of a sound card's headphone surround sound features, while using USB.

 

Thank you for your help, my ventures in to virtual surround have only been with a cheap Turtle Beach headset so I am wanting to try with a sound card and some decent headphones.

I'm going to buy a Xonar soundcard as well as Schiit DAC and AMP, I'll try both the soundcard and the Schiit DAC to find out which I prefer. I've ordered the fidelio x1s and will try some more balanced headphones like the mad dogs at a later date (when I get paid).

If this thread is still up in a couple of weeks I'll post my impressions. Thanks again everyone :)

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