I have a 2005 Compaq laptop with SoundMAX Audio utilizing an audio chip made by Analog Devices. Anything I play on the laptop sounds great, be it MP3s, youtube videos, pandora, CDs, or DVDs. Then I bought a fast new Asus laptop 2 years ago but it sounded shockingly cheap compared to my Compaq. So I bought an external USB sound card (Creative SB X-Fi) and hooked it up to the Asus. It improved the bass but didn't come remotely close to the sound quality of the Compaq. Any improvement it did, it did it in the 'wrong department' and not what I was looking for.
It was then that I researched deeper and learnt about DACs and DSPs. I also learnt that the Compaq sounded so great because it had a chip in it made by Analog Devices (AD). Now since it was real hard to find out which devices had AD chips in them, I did some research and started saving money for the HRT Music Streamer II+ figuring that a $280 DAC should sound at least as good as my 2005 laptop.
So I got the MS II+ DAC a week ago and I am quite impressed with how clear and good the sound is but it does NOT match the audio experience from my Compaq. Here are the things that I can report-
The music playing on SoundMAX audio in my Compaq is vigorous and very 'fun'. Depending on the music, it feels as if the music is playing in 3D (This is not the same thing as using CMSS-3D in Creative X-Fi cards). I can listen to music for hours and hours on the Compaq without getting tired.
The music playing on MS II+ too is very vigorous but it lacks in the 'fun' department (I use same headphones and play same youtube music videos on both computers). The MS II+ is significantly superior to Creative's USB card and the improvement happened 'in the right direction' (for a lack of better phrase) to catch up with my Compaq's SoundMAX audio, but it fails to reach the 3D-ness of my Compaq! I would say SoundMAX is some 30% more fun to listen to (because of its 3D-ness) than the MS II+! Anyone who has had experience with SoundMax Audio and AD chips probably knows exactly what I am talking about!
I am still a novice in this field so I will really appreciate if someone can help me figure out what it is that I need to do. As I said the MS II+ made the improvement in the correct direction, but how do I make it match, if not exceed, the performance of SoundMAX audio? Do I need a pre-amplifier? A headphone amplifier? I greatly appreciate whoever can help me here. Thanks in advance.