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upgrade headphones first, or go ahead and get dac/amp stack?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

I'm relatively new to the audiophile thing, but have been using head-fi for reviews and to learn. As a result of that process I upgraded from cheap headphone to the Audio Technica ATH-M50 when a good deal came up. It was a pretty noticeable change, but not quite as much as I was hoping for. More reading ensued.

 

Directly connecting the phones to my computers is obviously a serious weakpoint. My budget is fairly low, but the Schiit Magni+Modi stack is doable. From what I've read this will make a fairly big difference in the sound I'm getting. The M50 is a 38 ohm phone, so it should get a lot of power from the Magni. My music is all iTunes, so I won't expect miracles, but the Modi should be a big step up in quality compared to the basic output of a generic sound card in a laptop/desktop. 

 

My question for you experts is whether the M50 is good enough to really benefit from the Magni+Modi stack, or whether I'd be better off saving up for better phones first? Is there a set of phones in the $200-$300 range that would sound better direct off the laptop than the M50 would connected to the Magni+Modi?

 

Music style probably influences your answer to a degree. Mine is all over the map, but leans toward heavy electronic sounds mixed with real instruments. Lindsey Stirling is a favorite. I love bass, but am past the point of accepting it at the expense of the mids and highs. My craving nowadays is more for punch than rumble, and I love the sharp contrasting sounds in Celldweller's "Soundtrack for the Voices in My Head Vol 2". Similar to how my Yamaha receiver isn't strong enough to really fill out my Def Tech StudioMonitor 350 speakers, I feel like the M50 phones just aren't getting enough power to fill out what I'm listening to. 

 

Unfortunately I can't get new cans and the stack. Thoughts, recommendations?

 

-Daniel

post #2 of 36
You don't need an amp at all for the M50. A DAC or soundcard upgrade will make a difference. Look at the very inexpensive Dragonfly for a DAC/amp combo that won't break the bank and might make a noticeable upgrade in sound quality as opposed to being directly plugged in. The M50 sounds okay for the sound signature you're looking for. My headphone recommendations that would fit the bill, the Senn HD 600 and the Fostex TH-600, are a bit more pricey and require the amping you mentioned to sound their best.
post #3 of 36

I do recommond you either go with the Fiio E17, which would be a nice intro amp dac and then with the E 17 grab your self a headphone along the lines of the ATH A900x or UE 6000, both of which would be upgrades to the M50 and the E17 would enhance the new headphones as well

 

Or you can go with the Schiit Stack, which should also make a very nice upgrade. If you go with the Schiit stack you can then start to save up for headphones such as the Mr Speakers Mad Dog, the Shure 1540, the W1000x or open headphones like the HE 400

 

Those headphones would be an upgrade to the A900x and UE 6000, and most defiantly the M50.

 

I really depends on what you want! I think the E17 and A900x or UE 6000 would be a very immediate upgrade for you, how ever the Schiit Stack would be nice as well. The E17 would be limited to driving headphones that perform on the level of M50 UE 6000 and the A900x, meaning it would be a nice upgrade now but if you wanted to upgrade again the E17 would be the first thing to upgrade. 

post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies, great food for thought.

 

HideousPride, do I have the ohm thing backward? Is it high ohm phones (600) that need an amp to be heard well? 

 

Mshenay, thanks for the recommendations. I'd be hesitant to drop a hundred on the E17 knowing it would have to be replaced in the future when the Schiit stack is only two hundred. That said, the A900X look interesting. How much of an upgrade would those be from the M50? Would the A900X require a dac/amp to perform well?

post #5 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnalbach View Post
 

Thanks for the replies, great food for thought.

 

HideousPride, do I have the ohm thing backward? Is it high ohm phones (600) that need an amp to be heard well? 

 

Mshenay, thanks for the recommendations. I'd be hesitant to drop a hundred on the E17 knowing it would have to be replaced in the future when the Schiit stack is only two hundred. That said, the A900X look interesting. How much of an upgrade would those be from the M50? Would the A900X require a dac/amp to perform well?

the A900x does not need an amp but get's better with one.

 

If I where you I'd go with the Schiit Stack and sell your M50 and buy the A900x! I got an OPen Box [which was very much like new] for $98 on eBay. Pretty sure you can sell your M50 for at least half of that! 

post #6 of 36

@OP, you can be enlightened more about the requirement/necessity of an amp in the following posts,

http://www.head-fi.org/t/688743/had-a-beyer-dt990-2005-600-for-a-few-years-whats-next#post_9953057

http://www.head-fi.org/t/680240/would-a-fiio-e17-be-good-enough-for-a-he-4#post_9775764

http://www.head-fi.org/t/692992/how-do-you-know-if-amping-is-required#post_10028668

 

 

Instead of E17, you can also go for E10 (One or two guys went through this route E10 and M50, they told me that they are happy with that set up). After awhile, you can buy modi/magni or Audio GD 15.32 and also headphone upgrade, when you have the budget for both upgrades.


Edited by rubinstein - 12/20/13 at 11:56am
post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by rubinstein View Post
 

@OP, you can be enlightened more about the requirement/necessity of an amp in the following posts,

http://www.head-fi.org/t/688743/had-a-beyer-dt990-2005-600-for-a-few-years-whats-next#post_9953057

http://www.head-fi.org/t/680240/would-a-fiio-e17-be-good-enough-for-a-he-4#post_9775764

http://www.head-fi.org/t/692992/how-do-you-know-if-amping-is-required#post_10028668

 

 

Instead of E17, you can also go for E10 (One or two guys went through this route E10 and M50, they told me that they are happy with that set up). After awhile, you can buy modi/magni or Audio GD 15.32 and also headphone upgrade, when you have the budget for both upgrades.

That is a good idea as well

with the next step upgrade. The choice of AUdio GD 15.32 or Schiit Stack depends on what you plan to do in teh future. The Schiit units are seperate, the audio GD unit is a combo. So for example if you get the Schiit gear, your free to upgrade your amp independant of the dac, where as with Audio GD it would be better to save up for the next AUdio GD combo

 

OR what you could do is if your curious, get a tube! I find having both a tube amplifier and a solid state is nice when you own... 3 headphones <.< although each of mine ran me like... well >.> *cough* *cough* $500 *cough* *cough* a peice q.q

 

SO for now, to get the best BANG out yo DOLLA. Go with an E10, next get yo self an A900x, then grab an Audio GD 15.32. The Audio GD amps have a smidge  more power on tap over the Schiit but they are also MUCH BIGGER... so honestly... neither one is better than the other... just looking at the specs on paper. I went with Audio GD, so if size isn't an issue I'd highly recommend the Audio GD. How ever if size is a factor the Schiit Stack is MUCh smaller [and prettier honestly] than the Audio GD :3

 

Either way welcome to head fi sorry about your wallet :D 

post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnalbach View Post
 

Thanks for the replies, great food for thought.

 

HideousPride, do I have the ohm thing backward? Is it high ohm phones (600) that need an amp to be heard well? 

 

Mshenay, thanks for the recommendations. I'd be hesitant to drop a hundred on the E17 knowing it would have to be replaced in the future when the Schiit stack is only two hundred. That said, the A900X look interesting. How much of an upgrade would those be from the M50? Would the A900X require a dac/amp to perform well?

The Asus Xonar DG sound card is decent and low budget, $27

 

Audio Technica ATH-A900X :)

Used ones are selling for $150 or less on eBay.

 

Get the Hifiman Velour ear pads, $10 plus shipping.

post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The Asus Xonar DG sound card is decent and low budget, $27

 

Audio Technica ATH-A900X :)

Used ones are selling for $150 or less on eBay.

 

Get the Hifiman Velour ear pads, $10 plus shipping.

And be paitent on that A900X I got one for exactly $98 with shipping :3

post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnalbach View Post

Thanks for the replies, great food for thought.



 



HideousPride, do I have the ohm thing backward? Is it high ohm phones (600) that need an amp to be heard well? 



 



Mshenay, thanks for the recommendations. I'd be hesitant to drop a hundred on the E17 knowing it would have to be replaced in the future when the Schiit stack is only two hundred. That said, the A900X look interesting. How much of an upgrade would those be from the M50? Would the A900X require a dac/amp to perform well?


 



Correct, high impedance headphones are generally more difficult to drive. On another note, the A900X is a tough recommendation for me having tried it. The wing tips feel somewhat alien, and it's certainly not suited to those with small heads. YMMV, wasn't for me at all though. My routine recommendation would be the Senn 598. My actual upgrade route years ago was M50->598, and the 598 is one of the headphones I've kept to this day even having cycled through all of the top of the line headphones.
post #11 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by HideousPride View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnalbach View Post
 

Thanks for the replies, great food for thought.

 

 

 

HideousPride, do I have the ohm thing backward? Is it high ohm phones (600) that need an amp to be heard well? 

 

 

 

Mshenay, thanks for the recommendations. I'd be hesitant to drop a hundred on the E17 knowing it would have to be replaced in the future when the Schiit stack is only two hundred. That said, the A900X look interesting. How much of an upgrade would those be from the M50? Would the A900X require a dac/amp to perform well?

 



Correct, high impedance headphones are generally more difficult to drive. On another note, the A900X is a tough recommendation for me having tried it. The wing tips feel somewhat alien, and it's certainly not suited to those with small heads. YMMV, wasn't for me at all though. My routine recommendation would be the Senn 598. My actual upgrade route years ago was M50->598, and the 598 is one of the headphones I've kept to this day even having cycled through all of the top of the line headphones.

Ahh yea, I actually like the Audio Technica Wing System, the UE 6000 is another good option, I'm recommending headphones with a simmilar but slighty more balanced sound signiture to the M50

 

The A900x has a very modest and pleasing bass hump as teh M50 does, but it has a more open sound in general and has much more balance overall 

 

but yea the wings might get to you. I Did return my A900x through eBay and got a full refund so returns are not out of the question. Non the less a good point he makes! 

post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The Asus Xonar DG sound card is decent and low budget, $27

 

I believe that OP is using laptop and this solution is not feasible for him.

post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 

This is great feedback, guys. It's really enjoying to watch you bounce stuff off each other. 

 

I am using a combination of a desktop and laptops, so an internal sound card is not ideal as it would only effect the desktop. That said, I'm not opposed to throwing a Xonar in "for good measure". The external dac/amp is more appealing though from the standpoint that it can be connected to anything else. 

 

This morning I had the Schiit stack in my cart ready to check out, then decided to consult you guys with my first post here. Have to say that I've gotten a lot to think about today from your replies. The upgrade paths you've provided have made me pause and think about where I am now, where I'm going, and how many stops along the way there should be. I've looked at most of the different items you guys have recommended, and wish I could audition some of it in person to get a better feel for how much of a difference each level of gear represents.

 

As many people here likely experience, I find myself wondering what my wife's "red alert" number is. :wink_face: 

The "sorry about your wallet" comment was not wasted.:beerchug:

post #14 of 36
You made a very good comment in demoing before you buy. If you happen to live in/near a big city in the US, there's likely local meets planned in the gathering part of the forum. I've had an opportunity to listen to most every high end product due to the kindness of forum members in my area.

Definitely recommend going if you ever have a chance, as it can clear up a lot of questions and make your endgame goal more understandable.
post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnalbach View Post
 

This is great feedback, guys. It's really enjoying to watch you bounce stuff off each other. 

 

I am using a combination of a desktop and laptops, so an internal sound card is not ideal as it would only effect the desktop. That said, I'm not opposed to throwing a Xonar in "for good measure". The external dac/amp is more appealing though from the standpoint that it can be connected to anything else. 

 

This morning I had the Schiit stack in my cart ready to check out, then decided to consult you guys with my first post here. Have to say that I've gotten a lot to think about today from your replies. The upgrade paths you've provided have made me pause and think about where I am now, where I'm going, and how many stops along the way there should be. I've looked at most of the different items you guys have recommended, and wish I could audition some of it in person to get a better feel for how much of a difference each level of gear represents.

 

As many people here likely experience, I find myself wondering what my wife's "red alert" number is. :wink_face: 

The "sorry about your wallet" comment was not wasted.:beerchug:

FiiO E10 ($75) USB-DAC-Amp could be used by both desktop and laptop.

There are some mixed feelings on the A900X wing system, I had mixed feeling myself, at first.

But there are ways of making the wings function better, also the Hifiman Velour ear pads help hold the cups in place, over the stock leather pads.

I own around 20 headphones (a few are disassembled) the A900X are about my favorite music headphone.

 

Get some earring for your wife, give them to her right after you show her the headphones.

Tell her you got "ear presents" for both of you.

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