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Would I benefit from buying a DAC with this setup?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Setup:

 

--2012 MacBook Pro from which I play high-quality MP3s (rarely lossless), mostly classical (lots of piano music, lots of orchestral music)

 

--Alesis M1Active 320 USB monitors that I connect to the MBP via USB and use as my main computer speakers

 

--The monitors have a headphone jack and their own on-board DAC (specs from the manual: 16 bit delta sigma, 44.1kHz or 48kHz sampling rate)

 

--I don't know anything about DAC specs, and I'm having trouble finding the specs for the MBP anyway

 

 

I'm not an audiophile, but I need new headphones -- and I'd like something decent. Thinking about purchasing the Sennheiser HD 558 or HD 598 (but am open to other recommendations, $200 max).

 

So here are my questions:

 

1. If I buy the 558s or the 598s (or something like them), would you recommend plugging them into the monitors rather than directly into the MBP?

 

2. If so, are the DAC specs of the monitors decent? Or would you still recommend purchasing a separate USB DAC for headphone listening?

 

3. Given the info I've provided, do you have any headphone recommendations or general advice on how to proceed here?

 

 

Many thanks from a noob.

post #2 of 16

Sennheiser HD558 headphones.

Fiio E10 ($75), USB-DAC-Amp.

Connect the FiiO E10 to the Mac using USB, connect the HD558 to the E10's headphone amplifier and connect the M1active speakers to the E10's line-out, using a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack to RCA (red/white) cable.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply.

 

I take it, then, that the E10 is superior to whatever's in my monitors, and that running a stereo cable from the E10 to the monitors would bypass the monitors' on-board DAC (so that the monitors act as passive speakers)?

 

That seems like a good solution, and I think I'll probably go for it -- one benefit I just thought of would be that the headphones wouldn't depend on the monitors' volume, so presumably I could just leave the monitors' volume at a suitable level for speaker-listening, and use the E10's knob to control both headphone and monitor levels while listening.

 

Which brings me to another question: what's the recommended way to deal with all those volume levels (laptop volume, E10 volume, monitor volume)? I presume that the laptop volume should be all the way up, but what about the E10 and the speakers?

 

Thanks again.

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

P.S. I see that you specified the RCA (red/white) input for the monitors, but the monitor actually also has a 1/8" input. Is there a reason not to simply use the latter?

post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaTheGreat View Post
 

P.S. I see that you specified the RCA (red/white) input for the monitors, but the monitor actually also has a 1/8" input. Is there a reason not to simply use the latter?


I did not even notice the 1/8" input on the monitors, but that should work fine also.

post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaTheGreat View Post
 

Thanks for the reply.

 

I take it, then, that the E10 is superior to whatever's in my monitors, and that running a stereo cable from the E10 to the monitors would bypass the monitors' on-board DAC (so that the monitors act as passive speakers)?

 

That seems like a good solution, and I think I'll probably go for it -- one benefit I just thought of would be that the headphones wouldn't depend on the monitors' volume, so presumably I could just leave the monitors' volume at a suitable level for speaker-listening, and use the E10's knob to control both headphone and monitor levels while listening.

 

Which brings me to another question: what's the recommended way to deal with all those volume levels (laptop volume, E10 volume, monitor volume)? I presume that the laptop volume should be all the way up, but what about the E10 and the speakers?

 

Thanks again.


Your monitors sell new for $80, I really doubt it's DAC chip is anything more then just barely decent.

Not sure if the E10's volume knob effects the line-out's volume level.

Usually it's considered better to set the source's (Macbook) volume as high as possible and use the volume control on the add-on device.

So you would use the E10's volume knob for controlling the headphone's volume.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Awesome, thanks for the solid advice. I think I'll pull the trigger on those 'phones and the E10.

 

And you're right—I read elsewhere that using the line-out renders the E10's volume knob useless, which I suppose is the point (i.e., digitally process signal from USB, send unboosted analog signal to monitors/speakers). This is all making sense to me now.

 

Is there any downside to using active studio monitors instead of normal passive speakers with this setup? The monitors will basically function like passive speakers anyway, right?

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SiennaTheGreat View Post
 

Awesome, thanks for the solid advice. I think I'll pull the trigger on those 'phones and the E10.

 

And you're right—I read elsewhere that using the line-out renders the E10's volume knob useless, which I suppose is the point (i.e., digitally process signal from USB, send unboosted analog signal to monitors/speakers). This is all making sense to me now.

 

Is there any downside to using active studio monitors instead of normal passive speakers with this setup? The monitors will basically function like passive speakers anyway, right?


Passive speakers means no built in amp and your still using the built in amp (active speakers).

Your just bypassing what is sure to be a very very low cost DAC chip.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

You're a boss.

post #10 of 16

Can you help me too PurpleAngel?

 

I was wondering if I need or if I will gain a noticeable difference in sound quality if I get a let's say FiiO E10 to my computer or is my onboard motherboard audio good enough? Thanks in advance

 

Here are the specs of my newly build computer.

 

Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC 
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 112 dB SNR stereo playback output (Line-out at rear) and 104 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- DTS Ultra PC II
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
- BD Audio Layer Content Protection

 

My current Headphone is a SENNHEISER HD 380 PRO.

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnvonmacz View Post
 

Can you help me too PurpleAngel?

I was wondering if I need or if I will gain a noticeable difference in sound quality if I get a let's say FiiO E10 to my computer or is my on-board motherboard audio good enough? Thanks in advance

Here are the specs of my newly build computer.

Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC 
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 112 dB SNR stereo playback output (Line-out at rear) and 104 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- DTS Ultra PC II
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
- BD Audio Layer Content Protection

My current Headphone is a SENNHEISER HD 380 PRO.

The Realtek ALC1150 is the latest audio chip-set from Realtek, not really sure if and how much the E10 would make a difference.

Personally I would be selling off the HD 380 Pros and put all cash into new headphones.

post #12 of 16
.
Edited by johnvonmacz - 10/30/13 at 1:31am
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

The Realtek ALC1150 is the latest audio chip-set from Realtek, not really sure if and how much the E10 would make a difference.
Personally I would be selling off the HD 380 Pros and put all cash into new headphones.

Thanks for your reply. I just got the 380 Pro a month ago and it's my first decent high end headphone. So far I like it. After burned in for 100+ hours, the sound is way better than my old Marley headphone. Anyway you seem pretty darn knowledgeable to this stuff and i commend you for that. What headphone you recommend in 200-250 range bnew? Thanks again PurpleAngel.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnvonmacz View Post


Thanks for your reply. I just got the 380 Pro a month ago and it's my first decent high end headphone. So far I like it. After burned in for 100+ hours, the sound is way better than my old Marley headphone. Anyway you seem pretty darn knowledgeable to this stuff and i commend you for that. What headphone you recommend in 200-250 range bnew? Thanks again PurpleAngel.


Lately I've been having an itch for the AKG K612 Pro (120-Ohm) headphones.

Not sure if your motherboard can drive 120-Ohm headphones.

What is the make and model of your motherboard?

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post


Lately I've been having an itch for the AKG K612 Pro (120-Ohm) headphones.
Not sure if your motherboard can drive 120-Ohm headphones.
What is the make and model of your motherboard?

It's ASUS Z87 Pro. I'm running the latest Haswell CPU's. I listen mostly to rnb hip hop. But i listen to classic and some rock as well
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