Intro to me-
Long time audio lover but first "real" audiophile grade headphones here. A little back ground of my listening devices life span. Well I started out with some Beats Studio when they first came out (not good quality I know now, dont worry). Then I had some Phillips earbuds (model doesnt matter cause they sucked but were suppose to be their top of the line), then I moved up to some Shure SE215s and I think they are amazing for the price and I love them! I also have some good sounding but cheap Koss earbuds as my back up pair. Now I have finally bought a pair of my dream cans, the Q701s. I opted for the Q instead of the K because of the cheaper price and detachable cable. Not a huge collection or amazing that I own but I have had a chance to listen to other great entry audiophile cans, the Grado SR80i, Audio-Technica ATH-M50, Sennheiser HD 598, to name a few. I will say I dont know what is the best sound but I do believe I have heard enough quality drivers to know what kind of sound I like.
So lets get started-
I like warm sound with smooth mids and highs (I am not a fan of most Sennheisers cause they have such a crisp high is seems harsh to me).
I love bass but I respect true bass, so it doesnt have to rattle my head off as long as it still gets the point across.
I listen to trance, electro, rock, classic rock, and related genres.
I use the 701s on my computer 98% of the time.
So whats the issue?-
Well, as must of know you need to have something to drive your cans to get the best sound. But I dont know which point to start at, Amp or sound card.
What I looked at for my options-
So my computer can run the headphones but it is turned up all the way to 100 and the headphones are about 65-70% of what I want, and lower volumes lose all detail.
My options for the sound cards I like is one currently http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Blaster-Beamforming-Microphone-SB1500/dp/B009ISU33E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1387857462&sr=8-2&keywords=creative+sound+blaster+z Creative Sound Blaster Z
So that is an easy choice, but the choice is if I should go with that sound card first over an amp? I do want to be able to take the headphones to friends to have them listen to the cans with a respectable presentation.
I know I want a tube amp and it can not be more then $200. I love the way the look and I know they can produce great sound.
A Decent DAC is a plus but I dont think It is a requirement, (But if it has a DAC it just bypasses a sound card right?)
I did most of my research here with Skylab's thread http://www.head-fi.org/t/402585/review-summary-a-ranking-of-32-tube-and-tube-hybrid-headphone-amps
I have narrowed my choices down to these amps-
HiFiMan EF2 (worried about that gain at higher volumes)
So what are your suggestions? Recapping my question is two part, should I go with a soundcard first or an amp, and what amp would be best given what I am looking for?
Ill post a pic of my setup when I am allowed to post pictures. I can also provide links to any of the amps if you want.