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Got new HD 800's for approx $900 so couldn't resist buying them, but need a bit of help with the...

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone, so i managed to snag a brand new pair from a local e-tailer here in my country at a great discount for approx $920 or so. I was not planning to get these as i had HD 598's paired with my Xonar Essence STX sound card and was happy with the sound they were putting out. However, i couldn't pass a deal like this up, so now here i am with a brand new pair of HD 800's but sadly only a Xonar Essence STX card to go with it. I have read up on some threads and see people not recommending this matching at all. Just for my understanding though, when people say the amp on the card is no good, why does Asus say it is capable of driving headphones upto 600 ohm of impedence? The HD 800 is 300 so technically shouldn't the amp on the STX suffice? I am just trying to educate myself a little more with regards to all this :P and am completely open to any suggestions of what to get next. Please keep in mind though that this ended up being an impulse purchase, one that wasn't planned as i have no idea when i will see a deal like this again. Due to this, i had no money kept aside to upgrade all the parts together, and am running a bit low as far as my funds are concerned.

 

I could maybe squeeze out another $700-$800 or so in the coming months to put towards a solid dac/amp combo, and so far it may be possible to get the Asus Xonar Essence One Muses Edition as it is available here and will carry local warranty, unlike almost any other high end amp/dac mentioned on this site. I am still ok with ordering something from the US and having a friend bring it back for me, but should something go wrong it would be a hassle to ship it internationally and then deal with the potentially long wait. So basically to summarize my questions are :

 

1) Why exactly is the STX's amp considered poor when they say 600 ohm impedence capabilities are there in it?

 

2) If i do have to get an amp/dac, should i just go with the Muses edition or something else of a similar price? Or should i keep my current setup and keep saving maybe for another year and go with a $1500 dac/amp perhaps like the HDVD 800 if i find one used or something else that is recommended? I would ideally like a SS Amp over a tube amp as i have heard it will last a longer time and requires no maintenance.

 

3) Should i just sell my HD 800's and keep my old combo of HD 598's with the STX and call it a day, pocketing some money for getting them at a bargain price? (ideally do not want to go down this path as if i sell them i don't know if i will end up spending so much money on them again in the future, unless ofcourse another crazy deal pops up)

 

Thank you in advance for your valuable input :)

post #2 of 10

Try them and see for your self.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
No place around that will let me audition them sadly. I just have to go by reviews and input from knowledgeable people.

Sent from my GT-I9500
post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

No place around that will let me audition them sadly. I just have to go by reviews and input from knowledgeable people.

Sent from my GT-I9500

You said you have the HD800s and the STX, I meant just try them and see what you think.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Ah, thought you meant the essence one muses :P. They sound good on the stx but I have no idea how good they can potentially sound I'm basing this opinion comparing my HD 598 with them. It's definitely not a night and day difference for sure, but they are better. Primarily with imaging and soundstage I can detect improvements, but have no clue what percentage of them i am fully utilizing with my setup

Sent from my GT-I9500
post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

Ah, thought you meant the essence one muses :P. They sound good on the stx but I have no idea how good they can potentially sound I'm basing this opinion comparing my HD 598 with them. It's definitely not a night and day difference for sure, but they are better. Primarily with imaging and soundstage I can detect improvements, but have no clue what percentage of them i am fully utilizing with my setup

Sent from my GT-I9500

 

That sounds wrong, you will need a better amp then. Impedance of dynamic headphones are not constant, the 300ohms of the HD800 is probably measured on 1 kHz while it can vary to as much as 600 ohms in 100 Hz.

 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD800.pdf

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

 

1) Why exactly is the STX's amp considered poor when they say 600 ohm impedence capabilities are there in it?

 

Not that I'm saying the STX's amp is actually "poor" (as I haven't heard it), but sometimes there's a difference between a manufacturer saying "it can" and how good it really is compared to others that have the same claimed spec. If anything, remember that a dedicated amplifier (whether there's a DAC in the same unit or not) tends to have a bigger power supply instead of sharing the computer's, and in amps that is very critical. However, do take note of two other things that affect evaluation of "actual" use performance. First, if whatever power the STX delivers into that 300ohm load gets it to your listening level without audible distortion and does so with proper dynamics and speed, then you don't really need another amp. Of course, if you've never heard a really good amp, you might not know how much better that could be, but really that will come down to whether you would hungrily just get another amp that doesn't perform that much better, or the exact opposite and you would totally dismiss the possibility of any benefits. Second, when other people recommend something else as being a better match, it doesn't always mean that the other amp provides the adequate voltage and current; for some it adds coloration to the headphone, at which point you'd have to ask why thy didn't just get another headphone that has that "warm" sound they want instead of making a neutral headphone warm using a colored amplifier or just use a more intensive EQ program. I can see why one would do that for example with IEMs, since fit is of absolute priority there, hence one can make some compromises with the sound and try to compensate with other gear upstream, but not so much with headphones.

 

So really you should wait and try out the HD800 with your system first, and note well your observations before spending on anything else.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

 

2) If i do have to get an amp/dac, should i just go with the Muses edition or something else of a similar price? Or should i keep my current setup and keep saving maybe for another year and go with a $1500 dac/amp perhaps like the HDVD 800 if i find one used or something else that is recommended? I would ideally like a SS Amp over a tube amp as i have heard it will last a longer time and requires no maintenance.

 

While I wouldn't necessarily agree that you'd need $1,500, I'd say hold off on the amp purchase first. It's critical that you listen to it a lot first and note your observations, after that we can sort out whether there's a good chance that a separate amp(-DAC) will have notable improvements, or whether you should just get another headphone. Basically, we should look into which one is the real problem for your preferences.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

 

3) Should i just sell my HD 800's and keep my old combo of HD 598's with the STX and call it a day, pocketing some money for getting them at a bargain price? (ideally do not want to go down this path as if i sell them i don't know if i will end up spending so much money on them again in the future, unless ofcourse another crazy deal pops up)

 

Speaking of deals, Meier audio is on sale right now. If you can spend $1200 or so, the DACCORD and Classic combo are going for just over $1,000 shipping included. EU prices are down too but of course still higher because of the VAT. On the bright side, hey, you know that's going to the government and it's fixed, and you don't have todeal with red tape and corrupt Customs agents (every time I claim an item I have a camera hanging on my shoulder, if not my neck, with the red video light running).


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 3/6/14 at 7:07am
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

@ProtegeManiac Thank you for your valuable input! So currently with the STX and the HD 800 i can hear my music perfectly fine even without changing the gain level in the software, though i do have to turn my volume slider in winamp a fair bit higher than what it used to be on my HD 598. However if increase the gain to the second (middle) notch, the song does come slightly more to life but it just feels like the volume has gone up, so i have to turn the slider in winamp down again and it's fine. I can't seem to hear any distortion either, hence the confusion regarding the amp on the STX. I guess i really need to find something else just to try and get an idea of what a different amp does with the HD 800. I have a friend with an ibasso mamba d4 or something like that, and he is coming over in two days to let me try his amp out to see if it sounds any better than the STX. In the meanwhile i am going to try and listen to all my favorite songs and try and gauge how they sound with my current pairing so when i do actually get a chance to try another amp i can tell the difference and see if it makes it worth spending the extra money on. 

 

Sadly for me spending another $1200 at this moment is out of the question, i will have to be able to make do with at most $800 or so for now. I'm willing to be patient and make sure though that whatever i get will be worth the $ and be a definite improvement over my current card. Based on what i've read here there definitely will be a big improvement, i've seen people say the setup i have is like a car without petrol, and its like my card is having to push the headphones instead of them running along smoothly as intended. It's just because i have never used a high end amp/dac before i have no point of reference really aside from my current setup. I will update this post on Saturday or Sunday after extensive listening and then trying out my friends amp. I think his amp is also an inexpensive one, but atleast it might give me an idea as to what changes could potentially be heard in my music.

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post
 

@ProtegeManiac Thank you for your valuable input! So currently with the STX and the HD 800 i can hear my music perfectly fine even without changing the gain level in the software, though i do have to turn my volume slider in winamp a fair bit higher than what it used to be on my HD 598. However if increase the gain to the second (middle) notch, the song does come slightly more to life but it just feels like the volume has gone up, so i have to turn the slider in winamp down again and it's fine. I can't seem to hear any distortion either, hence the confusion regarding the amp on the STX. I guess i really need to find something else just to try and get an idea of what a different amp does with the HD 800. I have a friend with an ibasso mamba d4 or something like that, and he is coming over in two days to let me try his amp out to see if it sounds any better than the STX. In the meanwhile i am going to try and listen to all my favorite songs and try and gauge how they sound with my current pairing so when i do actually get a chance to try another amp i can tell the difference and see if it makes it worth spending the extra money on. 

 

 

I haven't used WinAmp ever since MediaMonkey and Foobar, so I'm not sure how its volume slider works, but are you using both that one and the Windows volume control? When it gets louder and livelier and is too loud for you I'd doubt a separate amp would be livelier at a lower setting than that. Usually it will just be a matter of more detail and how much more/less bass. In any case it's good if you can try out the portable amp-DAC, but do remember it's a portable using a 7v or so battery with a circuit that tries to get the most voltage and current out of that, so it might not be representative of what you can hear if the HD800 is powered by something like the Schiit Asgard or Gilmore Lite.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjaveri View Post

 

Sadly for me spending another $1200 at this moment is out of the question, i will have to be able to make do with at most $800 or so for now. I'm willing to be patient and make sure though that whatever i get will be worth the $ and be a definite improvement over my current card. Based on what i've read here there definitely will be a big improvement, i've seen people say the setup i have is like a car without petrol, and its like my card is having to push the headphones instead of them running along smoothly as intended. It's just because i have never used a high end amp/dac before i have no point of reference really aside from my current setup. I will update this post on Saturday or Sunday after extensive listening and then trying out my friends amp. I think his amp is also an inexpensive one, but atleast it might give me an idea as to what changes could potentially be heard in my music.

 

If you're not averse to buying used, try to see if you can snag a good deal on some amps here. There's a Burson HA-160DS there, and if your soundcard or motherboard has coaxial SPDIF output, you can use that instead of USB.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/707677/burson-ha-160ds

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

 

I haven't used WinAmp ever since MediaMonkey and Foobar, so I'm not sure how its volume slider works, but are you using both that one and the Windows volume control? When it gets louder and livelier and is too loud for you I'd doubt a separate amp would be livelier at a lower setting than that. Usually it will just be a matter of more detail and how much more/less bass. In any case it's good if you can try out the portable amp-DAC, but do remember it's a portable using a 7v or so battery with a circuit that tries to get the most voltage and current out of that, so it might not be representative of what you can hear if the HD800 is powered by something like the Schiit Asgard or Gilmore Lite.

 

 

If you're not averse to buying used, try to see if you can snag a good deal on some amps here. There's a Burson HA-160DS there, and if your soundcard or motherboard has coaxial SPDIF output, you can use that instead of USB.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/707677/burson-ha-160ds

 

My volume is always maxed out in windows, i just adjust the volume on winamp. The gain settings are from the Asus Xonar Essence Software however, and have 3 levels in them. The first says normal gain, 0db for <64 ohms. The second says high gain +12db for 64 to 300 ohms, and the last one is extra high gain +18db for 300 to 600 ohms. The sound is way too loud for me when i have extra high gain set, i have been using the second setting with low volume on winamp currently. Its similar to a higher volume on winamp at the normal gain 0db setting as well i feel. Yeah loudness definitely isn't an issue at all for me, it's just if i will be able to hear a lot more detail from the headphones with a better amp is all i guess. Will update you on how the ibasso mamba sounds once i hear it. 

 

I checked out that burson audio listing, and would definitely be ok with a well maintained used amp but for that listing in particular its only being sold in the US, so would be slightly more of a hassle to get it back here versus something the seller is willing to ship internationally. I could always request a friend or family member who is travelling there to bring it back for me, but for that i would have to wait till they are leaving so i know what exact hotel address it needs to be shipped to.

 

My STX card  does have digital output, so i can use that if needed as well instead of USB. Currently though i have that output going into my a/v receiver where my home theatre speakers are connected, so i would have to keep unplugging that. Would prefer a USB connection for the convenience i suppose, assuming there is no degradation in sound quality by using USB.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Got new HD 800's for approx $900 so couldn't resist buying them, but need a bit of help with the amp/dac