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Looking For AMP and DAC Recommendations + User Help!

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

Hey again Head-Fi posters,

 

I'm sorry to be making multiple threads in such a short amount of time, but I'm trying to avoid confusion from the original post, and starting a new topic completely.

 

I've figured out which headphones I want, and they are on the way!  They are the Beyerdynamic 880 Premium (600 ohms).  I'm super excited! :D

 

Onto the point of my post!  I've been running in circles with AMP's and DAC's everywhere, and don't know where to look anymore.  A lot of you who posted in my other thread, or even tell others is to go for the Schiit Magni and Modi combo.  I however then do some research and reviews and contrary to how many of you make them sound so great; a lot of people end up returning them or leaving a poor review.  Second thoughts ensue.

 

Then I look at the Schiit Asgard 2.  Although it is more costly, it's within price range for me; but now I'm not sure if I should bump up my DAC to the Loki.  I do some information and review searching for those and they're more positive, but not as positive as much as I would've hoped.  Then I continue to wonder if there is a AMP and DAC built together, and if that would work better and be more affordable.  As you figure by now, I'm still learning a lot, and becoming overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas.  Of course however, I want to be within a fair budget for this equipment but don't want to sell myself short when the next model up would prove substantial improvements.

 

Lets say I finally figure out my amp and/or my dac, and have it all hooked up to the computer.  I'm curious how the setup will screw with a few things.  For example, if I plug in my headphones into my tower, my speakers go off and the music is fed through the headphones only.  When I go into my control panel, I can simply turn everything on at once too.  Anyway, I was curious what would happen when the usb in, and then put my headphones into the amp.  Would it mute the speakers still?

 

Thank you very much for those who took the time to read and/or respond to this thread.  I look forward to reading your replies! :)

post #2 of 43
When you plug in the DAC, the DAC becomes your sound card. It will be listed as another audio device in Windows. If you want to play sound through the speakers that are connected to the internal soundcard, then you need to tell Windows to use the internal sound card - or you need to unplug the USB device.

I don't know what to say about conflicting reviews and advice. Welcome to the Interwebz...

OK, I will say this. Have you ever noticed that user reviews tend to fall into two categories:

1) A user that has just purchased the item and really hasn't lived with it for very long - a few days or at most a couple of weeks. This person posts a very positive review.

2) A user that has had a problem and is p!ssed-off. They post a negative review & rant.

What's missing here? Well, what's missing are the vast majority of buyers. Those folks who bought the product and went on with their lives, not posting any sort of review at all. The first type of reviewer posted because they are happy & proud, and they want to brag and justify their purchase. The second had a problem and is looking to vent their frustration. However, it is wrong to assume that the percentage of negative reviews has any relation to the percentage of actual problem units. We really have no idea how many units have been sold. A 100 bad reviews might still only represent 0.01% of the total customers - we really don't know.

This is true for EVERY internet site with user reviews - not just head-fi. Have you ever read a negative user review about a product that you own and are happy with? From reading the review, you can tell the buyer was clueless and had no idea what he was buying or how to use it. I sure have - I read reviews like that all the time. Gee - if that happens on products that you *know* are good products, then you have to assume that is happens on ALL products - even ones where you have no personal knowledge. We all hope that the large population of the internet tends to balance these issues out - but I'm not sure it does. The silent majority of happy customers simply goes uncounted.


OK - now back to your questions. There are many good dac/amps and any one of them would work quite well for you. If you are worried about the quality of one Schiit product, then I don't see the wisdom of buying an even more expensive Schiit product.

The Asgard 2 is a much different product. Like the Magni, it's a discrete amp based on transistors not a chip opamp, however the Asard 2 is a Class A single-ended amp. One of the ramifications of this can be found in the specs:

Magni Power Output @ 300 ohms: 260 mW RMS
Asgard 2 Power Output @ 300 ohms: 380 mW RMS

Magni Power Consumption: 4 watts
Asgard 2 Power Consumption: 30 watts

Welcome to the land of Class A. A 46% increase in output power cost you 7.5X the power consumption. If you get an Asgard, make sure you give it plenty of breathing room and you should expect the case to be a bit on the warm side.

I'm not telling you not to buy the Asgard 2 - actually, since you have decided to buy 600 ohm 'phones, I'm thinking you need as powerful an amp as you can get. I just want to make sure you make your decision for the right reasons.
post #3 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yujiza View Post
 

I'm sorry to be making multiple threads in such a short amount of time, but I'm trying to avoid confusion from the original post, and starting a new topic completely.

I've figured out which headphones I want, and they are on the way!  They are the Beyerdynamic 880 Premium (600 ohms).  I'm super excited! :D

Thank you very much for those who took the time to read and/or respond to this thread.  I look forward to reading your replies! :)

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 external DAC/amp, $255+shipping.

It has no problem driving my DT880 premium 600-Ohm headphones.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm

post #4 of 43
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much for the replies, and the well explained post billybob.

 

I should mention I agree with you completely Billy.  I try my best to keep an open mind to people who can become unsatisfied about something because of an error/defect, or even if their standards are too high or very personalized.  Best example—people don't return to a store to tell an employee how great their product is, rather the opposite.  I can understand your question that if I had second thoughts about one product, why would I buy another?  I'll put some emphasis that I'm not worried about defects, DOA's, or what have you.  I seek quality for my buck and if spending that extra would really make the difference.  Mind the fact my lack of experience and living in Canada where shipping can be unforgiving (especially to "try" something).

 

Anyway; about the DAC thing you mentioned.  It becomes my sound card huh?  Personally would you say a DAC or Sound Card would be more common?  I mean, I figure a DAC would be more useful because if I ever get a new computer, I can simply move my DAC around.  However one can counter that argument by simply removing the Sound Card as well *scratches head*.

 

As much power as I can get?  Well, as much as I would love to pay $1500 for headphones with the best AMP/DAC available, Budget area is looking to remain around $350 or less for an AMP and DAC combo.  I am intrigued however what you would recommend me.

 

Also, if I for some reason decide to get the Asgard 2, would that mean I should possibly look to get the Loki instead of the Modi?  I notice there's a dial on the Loki, but none on the Modi.  I also notice there's an extra pair of RCA's on the back of the Loki's.  Does that mean I can plug my desktop speakers into there as well?

 

I'll also go further by asking that should I practice turning off the DAC and AMP when I'm done with my computer, or when I decide to only use my desktop speakers for a bit before I decide to wear my headphones for the time being?


Edited by Yujiza - 1/12/14 at 11:00pm
post #5 of 43
Most PC soundcards are not meant for audiophiles, they are meant for gaming or perhaps home theater. The have other functions like decoding multichannel dolby digital & DTS, providing special spatial effects for games,etc. A headphone DAC typically does one job - it converts a stereo PCM bitstream into stereo analog lineout signals. A DAC/amp simply combines a headphone amp output & volume control with the DAC.

I should have mentioned this before - I *think* the Loki is a piece of special kit. It is a "DSD" DAC. That isn't a dial on the front of the Loki - it's a button that engages & disengages the DSD decoding. The Loki does NOT decode normal PCM encoded bitstreams (ie your average everyday MP3 or FLAC file) - the file has to be encoded as a DSD file. The Loki is intended to be used in conjunction with a normal DAC. There's info about this in the Schiit Loki FAQ.

To be honest, I'm not very knowledgeable on specific desktop amps. I can tell you that at a recent head-fi meet I got to play with a Ray Samuels Darkstar amp. That sucker was a MONSTER - it drove the heck out of everything we hooked to it and never broke a sweat. It was specifically designed to power with ease the toughest to drive headphones on the planet. Now, of course, the Darkstar is a $3500 amp - 10x your budget, so that's really no help!

I think I might call Schiit and just ask them if they think the Molinar has the chops to properly drive 600 Ohm 'phones. From what I can tell from the specs, the Schiit products seem to have a higher output than the JDS Labs O2/ODAC - but there might be more to it than just the mWatts into 600 ohms. I suppose you could go a completely different direction with the amp:
http://www.amazon.com/Little-Dot-Headphone-Amplifier-AMPLIFIER/dp/B00CHIKIDM

As far as leaving them on - if it's a low power consumption solid state amp, I don't think it matters. If it's a tube amp, that's a different story - tubes do wear out over time.
post #6 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

Most PC soundcards are not meant for audiophiles, they are meant for gaming or perhaps home theater. The have other functions like decoding multichannel dolby digital & DTS, providing special spatial effects for games,etc. A headphone DAC typically does one job - it converts a stereo PCM bitstream into stereo analog lineout signals. A DAC/amp simply combines a headphone amp output & volume control with the DAC.

I should have mentioned this before - I *think* the Loki is a piece of special kit. It is a "DSD" DAC. That isn't a dial on the front of the Loki - it's a button that engages & disengages the DSD decoding. The Loki does NOT decode normal PCM encoded bitstreams (ie your average everyday MP3 or FLAC file) - the file has to be encoded as a DSD file. The Loki is intended to be used in conjunction with a normal DAC. There's info about this in the Schiit Loki FAQ.

To be honest, I'm not very knowledgeable on specific desktop amps. I can tell you that at a recent head-fi meet I got to play with a Ray Samuels Darkstar amp. That sucker was a MONSTER - it drove the heck out of everything we hooked to it and never broke a sweat. It was specifically designed to power with ease the toughest to drive headphones on the planet. Now, of course, the Darkstar is a $3500 amp - 10x your budget, so that's really no help!

I think I might call Schiit and just ask them if they think the Molinar has the chops to properly drive 600 Ohm 'phones. From what I can tell from the specs, the Schiit products seem to have a higher output than the JDS Labs O2/ODAC - but there might be more to it than just the mWatts into 600 ohms. I suppose you could go a completely different direction with the amp:
http://www.amazon.com/Little-Dot-Headphone-Amplifier-AMPLIFIER/dp/B00CHIKIDM

As far as leaving them on - if it's a low power consumption solid state amp, I don't think it matters. If it's a tube amp, that's a different story - tubes do wear out over time.

Thanks again for that awesome reply. smily_headphones1.gif

As far as tube amps, I'm kinda avoiding them. Not because I believe they're bad, or have to worry about replacing them; but because I don't think they'll suit my large varieties of music.

I was reading about DSD, and learned a lot. Ideally that sounds quite cool, but curious if it's really worth it? I mean, could I just put the Asgard 2 with a Modi and expect close to same results? Or is having my music uncoded and left up to the Asgard 2 do the rest for more natural/better sound?

I'm sorry for the endless streams of questions, and thanks for bearing with me. Generally when I invest in something like this, it makes me that more satisfied when I finally get it after I have come to a Strong conclusion.

I may follow your trend and call them myself. Schiit seem like they make solid products and their crude comments make it fun to read through their FAQ's and manuals lol. Just waiting for a day off where I can do this.

As far as the $3500 amp... If only. I could afford that if I really want, but can't justify it lol. :P. As far as the budget I created, I could stretch it a little. As I do more research, it seems more ideal to spend more money on an dac/amp over the headphones themselves. Does that seem right?
post #7 of 43
Not to me. I think the order of spend should be:

1. Headphones
2. Amp
3. DAC
4. Snakeoil (ie, cables and other doodads)

I order them like this because I think if you really want to change the sound you hear, the most change for your dollar comes from the headphones. Two $100 headphones can sound completely different, even to the most inexperienced listener. So can two $1000 headphones. The amp is critical to make sure you can drive the headphones you choose adequately. But once you have met the requirements of the headphones, the differences become much more subtle. There are differences - especially when you completely change technologies like tubes vs solid state - but I think that change is much less dramatic than when changing headphones - and certainly much less dramatic than my golden-eared head-fi brothers & sisters imply. The DAC is even MORE subtle - and I will claim that swapping a $100 DAC for a $1000 DAC may or may not be audible - and there is a good chance the audible differences aren't really due to the DAC - they might be due to the different output line-levels from the analog sections or the power supply. Other than clock timing of the digital signal, I just don't buy that there can be huge differences - and even with the clock, once it is good enough, I think there's little or nothing to gain from spending more on the DAC. The snakeoil - well, not this guy!

BTW, these views are my own - I don't pretend to have the golden ears of the *true* audiophiles - and at this point in my life I never will. These views are why I choose to help newbies rather than waving my manhood around in the Summit-Fi & equipment forums.

I do have an amp for you to look at - the Meier Audio Corda Jazz: http://www.head-fi.org/t/574391/review-of-meier-audio-corda-jazz
Meier Audio isn't talked about much in the forums anymore. He was very popular in the old days of head-fi, and the founder Jan Meier, used to be a regular poster here. I have one of his less expensive amps and it is a very nice unit - very well made and dead silent. Of course, he's in Germany and you can't just pop over to Amazon and have one by Tuesday.

Also, here's another choice that looks interesting - but I have no experience with this company:
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-161149-ifi-micro-ican-headphone-amp.aspx
Edited by billybob_jcv - 1/13/14 at 8:35am
post #8 of 43

As far as the Loki goes, there are two things to be aware of:

1) It only works with DSD files, which are fairly rare. There are some websites you can download them from, but there isn't much selection.
2) You need a regular DAC to plug it into (at least I think... I'm a little confused about this one)

For the vast majority of music (FLAC, WAC, ALAC, MP3, etc), you need a DAC like the Modi. It is not possible to leave your music "uncoded" -- a DAC is necessary to convert the digital file into something that will feed into an amp. If you just plugged the Asgard 2 into your laptop, then you would be using the DAC inside your laptop, which will not give you the same sound quality as a USB DAC. 

post #9 of 43
Thread Starter 

Billy; although you say you're not the golden ear as you say (lol), your input has been more than helpful.  I truly appreciate all the time taken with me in this thread. :)

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

As far as the Loki goes, there are two things to be aware of:

1) It only works with DSD files, which are fairly rare. There are some websites you can download them from, but there isn't much selection.
2) You need a regular DAC to plug it into (at least I think... I'm a little confused about this one)

For the vast majority of music (FLAC, WAC, ALAC, MP3, etc), you need a DAC like the Modi. It is not possible to leave your music "uncoded" -- a DAC is necessary to convert the digital file into something that will feed into an amp. If you just plugged the Asgard 2 into your laptop, then you would be using the DAC inside your laptop, which will not give you the same sound quality as a USB DAC.

 

Okay, so DSD isn't what I need.  Thanks for clearing that up!  However, from what you're saying; I would be more than sufficient to get the Asgard 2 combo'd with the Modi, or would I wish listing the Bifrost?

post #10 of 43

I haven't heard either the Modi or the Bifrost, but I think the Modi would be more than sufficient, with the Bifrost somewhere between barely noticeably better and obviously better. You can search for threads where people compare the two. I would make the decision mostly based on how much you are willing to spend, under the assumption that you might or might not hear any difference between the two. People have a way of exaggerating subtle differences here ;)


Edited by manbear - 1/13/14 at 12:26pm
post #11 of 43
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the suggestion Manbear! :D

 

I definitely did some review searching and am very pleased.  The gentleman I read gave a very detailed explanation between the two, but all in all it came down to me getting 90 to 95% of the quality with the Modi at 1/4 of the cost versus the Loki that's $100 more with a usb plug.

 

All items are all now ordered, and I'm extremely excited.  Beyond excited!  This is my (what you can consider) first audiophile headphone setup, and super stoked!

 

I go the following items:

 

- Beyerdynamic 880 Premium (600ohms)

- Schiit Asgard 2

- Schiit Modi

 

Some final questions, and clarification!

 

The hookup from my computer should look like this—let me know if I'm correct.  Computer to Modi.  Modi to Asgard 2, Asgard 2 to Beyer's (duh).

 

The next thing I'm curious about is what will happen to my desktop speakers when I plug this setup together.  Will I have to go into Control Panel and enable all my devices so my speakers will work when I decide to take the headphones off?  Or if I plug in the Asgard/Modi combo, but leave my headphones unplugged when I'm not using them—will that put my speakers back on until I plug the headphones in?

 

I'm sure it's one of those scenarios where I have to see for myself, but it's nice to know how cold the water is before I jump into it sometimes.

 

Thanks again all of you for your assistance, thumbs up for all! :)

post #12 of 43
The computer will see the DAC as another audio device - just like a sound card. You have to tell Windows which audio device to use. Unplugging the headphones will not switch to the internal sound card. Unplugging or powering off the DAC will.
post #13 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

The computer will see the DAC as another audio device - just like a sound card. You have to tell Windows which audio device to use. Unplugging the headphones will not switch to the internal sound card. Unplugging or powering off the DAC will.

 

Should I practice turning it off and on when I use it or not?

 

I read in the Asgard manual the machine gets quite hot.  Even if I turn the computer off, will the machine continue to stay hot?

post #14 of 43

It is possible to leave the soundcard as the default audio device, and to set your music player to use the DAC. For example, I use Foobar2000 and and I have it set to use my DAC in WASAPI mode. While I'm listening to music on Foobar, I can play a Youtube video and the sound will come out of my laptop speakers. That's not useful by itself, but it means that I don't have to reactivate my speakers once I'm done listening to music. 

post #15 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

It is possible to leave the soundcard as the default audio device, and to set your music player to use the DAC. For example, I use Foobar2000 and and I have it set to use my DAC in WASAPI mode. While I'm listening to music on Foobar, I can play a Youtube video and the sound will come out of my laptop speakers. That's not useful by itself, but it means that I don't have to reactivate my speakers once I'm done listening to music. 

 

I was thinking along the lines of enabling all devices, and simply turning down the volume for the speakers with the dial on them.  However that means my headphones will be going unless I turn that dial down.  Speaking of dials, will I find myself barely touching the volume dial on the Asgard, but rather than sound on the computer itself?

 

Also, what would you recommend to burn these headphones and equipment with?

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