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USB Bus powered dac/amp for HE-500 Recommendations

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 



So, I recently started my headphone journey and picked up a bunch of headphones to try.  I haven't been quite happy with any of them, so I keep upping my headphone budget.  I never thought I'd fork out for a HE-500, but, in my desperate attempt to end my headphone journey, so I can use my time more effectively, I shelled out hoping to end my journey. 


I got an AC filter/distributor->dac->tube amp->tube preamp with power cords and wires hanging off my desk and shelf at the moment and think it might be potential hazard for when my baby is old enough to crawl and/or walk around. 


I also have an Audioengine D3, an USB bus powered DAC, that I use at work powering a set of JVC HAFXT90 which sounds really good.  If the D3 can power the HE-500 effectively, the problem solved, but I am very doubtful that it can.  It could barely power up the Beyer DT880 600ohm and the DT880's potential is hindered by the lesser amp/dac.


However, if I can get away with an USB bus powered DAC/Amp for the HE-500, I think my desktop will be infinitely cleaner and safer as the desktop will only consist of a Win8 tablet and the USB DAC.  But, what are some DACs are there that can both be powered by USB bus and still make the HE-500 sound good?


Probably a fruitless search but might be interesting.  Gimme some ideas.



post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 

I just remembered, I have a nuforce DA100 which is a "powerdac".  It's not bus powered but AC powered.  And, I can hook the HE-500 up to the DA100's speaker taps. 


So, instead of just one wire going into a bus powered dac, I'd have two wires, usb cord and power cable, going into the DA100.  Clean enough I suppose?  The speaker cable connection to headphone will be a bit messier though.  Have to custom order a cable for hooking it up this way though.


Before I order a cable to try this out, is there any reason why this setup won't work?  I read people are powering up their HE-500 with receivers and the Emotiva.  Not sure what spec I should be looking for to ensure the HE-500 can be used with such and such speaker amp. 

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Just to answer my own question, for some reasons, the DDA100 cannot power up the HE500.  The sound coming out of it sounds faint and echo-y.  DDA100 is a powerdac designed for the DAC to directly power the speakers.  Technically, I wonder why DDA's power is different than say the Emotiva's amp that is said to power the HE500 really well.


BTW, the HE500 is much easier to drive than I thought.  The Audioengine D3 provides satisfying volume at about 75%.  It sounds ok but not as good as the Audio Sector DAC thus far.  The HE500 is still burning in though.  Got maybe 48 hours on it so far.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

I am using foobar with jplay driver.  I updated to 5.2 version last night.  And, the Audioengine D3 is powering up the HE500 really really well now. 

post #5 of 10

I hope you get some good replies as this is -exactly- what I'm trying to decide on before I buy my HE-500's.  I'm looking to spend about $250-300 and my head is spinning with the choices.  I'm primarily interested in a DAC/AMP combo too, but I was looking at stuff like the iBasso DX50 as an option.  I just can't find anyone who's driving it with anything similar to the HE-X range.

post #6 of 10
post #7 of 10


Edited by seeteeyou - 11/4/14 at 9:24pm
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your feedback for a capable headphone amp with minimal space and cable requirements!  I will read up more about neco.

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

I just received a pair of Audeze LCD2.  Opened it up, hooked it up to the D3 and let it burn in for about 5 hours.  Listening to it now using the same dac/amp and the sound is quite good.  Very detailed, smooth, no sonic signature that sticks out.  Just clear/clarity.  Sound level at 60% is very satisfying.


Also ordered an ALO Pan Am with Gateway PSU.  I didn't want to get a two box affair as I wanted to de-clutter.  But, I keep reading about how the LCD2 synergizes with the LCD2, so I had to try it out for myself.  Also, really wanted to get a "real" headphone amp to make sure I am powering up the headphones I am "auditioning" adequately. 


Plus, I like the industrial design on the Pan Am.  Quite resembles my current speaker amp, Greatech muvac, and my previous amp, 47lab Gaincard. 


After "auditioning" numerous headphones, I found that the D3 is great for not only burning in headphones but these headphones do sound quite good even when during burn in phase when powered by the D3.  OTOH, they sound like crap with my main rig.  But, the headphones starts to sound better with the main rig after about 50 hours on them.


I do wish the Pan Am will make the headphones sound even better compared to my main rig. 

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

I am a lil under the weather so just lying in bed.  But, I just received a new pair of Audeze LCD2 a few days ago and want to give it a listen.  Too tired to sit at my desk where my stereo system is at, I plugged the LCD2 into the D3 dac which is then plugged into the Toshiba Encore and brought it to bed with me.  The sound is not bad.  Volume wise, I go up to 60%. 


Then, I removed the D3 and plugged the LCD2 directly into the Encore's headphone out.  The volume output is much lower compared to that of the D3's.  I have to jack it up to 100%.  I can go a bit louder, but the volume is just right for long term listening.  However, I am surprised at how well the LCD2 is performing while being plugged into the Encore without external dac or amp.


First the bad.  The volume is limited as already mentioned.  The sound isn't as stout/solid as compared to when the cans are connected to the D3.  The good.  The sound is rounder, organic, whole and whatever else adjective to describe that the electronics really doesn't distract from the music.  The sound is not analytical at all.  It's just right as it makes me wanna listen to whole albums and not jump track to track comparing sound quality per track.


Off memory, the sound is both airier, atmospheric, fast, detail more flesh and drums hits more "realistically" with the LCD2 connected to my main rig.  Musicality wise, the main rig is a smidge better.  Prat wise, I think the Encore sans external dac/amp might be a smidge better!


BTW, I am just using foobar as player.  I can't even use jplay because it requires at least 4gb ram and the Encore only has 2gbs of ram. 

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