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Soundcard (TiHD) vs External DAC?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hey all,

As per my thread here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/703040/dac-amp-upgrade-from-xfitihd-mstage-closed-cans-to-pair-with-he400s

I
'm pondering a few things about my setup, particularly in terms of my soundcard (TiHD) and how good a DAC it is.

My current setup: PC -> Creative X-Fi Ti HD -> Matrix MStage HPA1 -> HE-400s
Listening to: EDM (House/Trance/DnB/Dub) + Movies and a bit of gaming

Do you guys think it's worth looking into an external DAC to replace the TiHD? How much of a difference would it make (if at all?), and at what point would it be worth it? IE how much would I realistically have to spend to see much of an improvement over the TiHD?

I'm looking at upgrading my entire setup, given the announcement of the HE560s, probably looking at spending ~$1000-1500 on DAC+Amp+Headphones, so if i'll have to spend a lot on an external DAC to see much of a difference, I may as well look at getting a better amp or something.

Thoughts?

Thanks guys and girls :)

post #2 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subatomic View Post
 

Hey all,

As per my thread here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/703040/dac-amp-upgrade-from-xfitihd-mstage-closed-cans-to-pair-with-he400s

I
'm pondering a few things about my setup, particularly in terms of my soundcard (TiHD) and how good a DAC it is.

My current setup: PC -> Creative X-Fi Ti HD -> Matrix MStage HPA1 -> HE-400s
Listening to: EDM (House/Trance/DnB/Dub) + Movies and a bit of gaming

Do you guys think it's worth looking into an external DAC to replace the TiHD? How much of a difference would it make (if at all?), and at what point would it be worth it? IE how much would I realistically have to spend to see much of an improvement over the TiHD?

I'm looking at upgrading my entire setup, given the announcement of the HE560s, probably looking at spending ~$1000-1500 on DAC+Amp+Headphones, so if i'll have to spend a lot on an external DAC to see much of a difference, I may as well look at getting a better amp or something.

Thoughts?

Thanks guys and girls :)

The Dac on the Ti HD is a wolfson, so it has a pretty good DAC built in it. I recently just upgraded to a Audio GD NFB-15.32 which is a amp/DAC combo and find the sound quality to be better than my Ti HD and magni combo. but i still use my Ti HD for games as i love my CM3DSS positional audio i just run the toslink cable from the card to the amp.

post #3 of 11

As for headphone recommendations, you COULD try the SoundMAGIC HP100 or the Mad Dogs 3.2 for something that should at least keep up in SQ with the HE400s.

post #4 of 11

As Honky says.. it's your choice, but I bet there won't be a huge difference either way. With an external DAC connected via optical (I am assuming you game), it's all so simple, however the gear you have is very good to start with. Everybody gets this:

 

Upgraditis: A terminal condition, the main symptom of which presents as the insatiable desire to upgrade. A word originally coined by Isaac Sibson, and now increasingly prevalent in internet based discussions.

 

I went for SBZ > optical to an Audio_gd and it's really really good. (Also switch to USB for quality stuff). The SBZ, on it's own is 80% as good (??), but then again it's amp section isn't exactly comparable, even for super easy to drive headphones as I have. It just sounds better though. DACs these days are all very good unless you count laptops, onboard or smartphones.

 

Looking at your budget you've got plenty leeway. I'd wait for recommendations from users well after those headphones come out, rather than being an early adopter. I really like the look of those HE560's. Drool.

post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subatomic View Post
 

As per my thread here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/703040/dac-amp-upgrade-from-xfitihd-mstage-closed-cans-to-pair-with-he400s
I
'm pondering a few things about my setup, particularly in terms of my sound card (TiHD) and how good a DAC it is.
My current setup: PC -> Creative X-Fi Ti HD -> Matrix MStage HPA1 -> HE-400s
Listening to: EDM (House/Trance/DnB/Dub) + Movies and a bit of gaming
Do you guys think it's worth looking into an external DAC to replace the TiHD? How much of a difference would it make (if at all?), and at what point would it be worth it? IE how much would I realistically have to spend to see much of an improvement over the TiHD?
I'm looking at upgrading my entire setup, given the announcement of the HE560s, probably looking at spending ~$1000-1500 on DAC+Amp+Headphones, so if i'll have to spend a lot on an external DAC to see much of a difference, I may as well look at getting a better amp or something.

At a minimum, I would say to get the Audio-GD NFB-11.32 external DAC/Amp, $340+shipping.

You can connect it the the Ti-HD using S/PDIF optical, so as to still be able to use the Ti-HD's CMSS-3D headphone surround sound.

I'm guessing you would notice a slight increase in audio quality, plus you would no longer get any electrical noise in the audio, which is generated inside the computer case, if you had any in the first place.

post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaLX View Post
Upgraditis: A terminal condition, the main symptom of which presents as the insatiable desire to upgrade. A word originally coined by Isaac Sibson, and now increasingly prevalent in internet based discussions.

I think we need possible side effects on this one:

 

- will leave your wallet empty.

- Highly addictive.

- lack of sleep. (wondering when the new equipment will arrive)

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkytime View Post
 

I think we need possible side effects on this one:

 

- will leave your wallet empty.

- Highly addictive.

- lack of sleep. (wondering when the new equipment will arrive)

Add divorce if not treated :D

post #8 of 11

lol @ the repsonses!! Sub.. if you've got the itch then go for it. It'll be an improvement no matter what, and you'll have new gear to toy with.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkytime View Post
 

The Dac on the Ti HD is a wolfson, so it has a pretty good DAC built in it. I recently just upgraded to a Audio GD NFB-15.32 which is a amp/DAC combo and find the sound quality to be better than my Ti HD and magni combo. but i still use my Ti HD for games as i love my CM3DSS positional audio i just run the toslink cable from the card to the amp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaLX View Post
 

As Honky says.. it's your choice, but I bet there won't be a huge difference either way. With an external DAC connected via optical (I am assuming you game), it's all so simple, however the gear you have is very good to start with. Everybody gets this:

 

 

I went for SBZ > optical to an Audio_gd and it's really really good. (Also switch to USB for quality stuff). The SBZ, on it's own is 80% as good (??), but then again it's amp section isn't exactly comparable, even for super easy to drive headphones as I have. It just sounds better though. DACs these days are all very good unless you count laptops, onboard or smartphones.

 

Looking at your budget you've got plenty leeway. I'd wait for recommendations from users well after those headphones come out, rather than being an early adopter. I really like the look of those HE560's. Drool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

At a minimum, I would say to get the Audio-GD NFB-11.32 external DAC/Amp, $340+shipping.

You can connect it the the Ti-HD using S/PDIF optical, so as to still be able to use the Ti-HD's CMSS-3D headphone surround sound.

I'm guessing you would notice a slight increase in audio quality, plus you would no longer get any electrical noise in the audio, which is generated inside the computer case, if you had any in the first place.


Hrm ok, thanks for the input guys :)

Sounds like a lot of recommendations for the AudioGD stuff, might be worth a look. I would probably be going for seperate DAC and Amps if I upgraded anyways, though.

I'm not getting any electrical noise/coil whine/whatever from my current setup (probably because of how well cable managed everything is inside), so that's not really my concern. Plus I havent really found myself using CMSS or any other gaming technologies either, I probably end up gaming maybe 2-3% of the time, I rarely get time any more these days.

Not really sure what way to go, to be honest. I've been doing a bit of reading and it seems that the general consensus seems to be the dacs are pretty similar in the higher end cards (stx/tihd) to dacs, and the only real reason to upgrade is electrical noise? and it seems like you'd have to spend a lot more on a lower volume produced, niche dac, to get any better performance (due to other costs involved like being lower volume, external casings/power supplies etc etc).

Hrm.....


 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Suopermanni View Post
 

As for headphone recommendations, you COULD try the SoundMAGIC HP100 or the Mad Dogs 3.2 for something that should at least keep up in SQ with the HE400s.

Fair enough, will have a look at those, cheers :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkytime View Post
 

I think we need possible side effects on this one:

 

- will leave your wallet empty.

- Highly addictive.

- lack of sleep. (wondering when the new equipment will arrive)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post
 

Add divorce if not treated :D

Heh, aint that right. Luckily my girlfriend doesn't know how much I spend on audio gear :p

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaLX View Post
 

lol @ the repsonses!! Sub.. if you've got the itch then go for it. It'll be an improvement no matter what, and you'll have new gear to toy with.

:) I was thinking that a new amp will probably make more of a difference, especially if I end up going for an HE560, which probably needs more power than the 400s.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Anyone else got any comments? Still not sure what way to go re the DAC/Amp, but now I'm seriously considering buying a pair of Mad Dogs haha :p

post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subatomic View Post
 

Anyone else got any comments? Still not sure what way to go re the DAC/Amp, but now I'm seriously considering buying a pair of Mad Dogs haha :p

I'm thinking it would be best to keep the Ti-HD and maybe look into changing the amplifier, maybe a tube? or hybrid?

Try asking on this thread if they know of an amplifier that works better with the HE-400.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/604583/hifiman-he-400-impressions-and-discussion-thread

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