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DAC for my PC desktop (headphones and active monitor too)

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi all,
my setup is M-Audio BX8-D2 and Superlux HD681 Evo connected to the Asus Xonar D1 of my desktop PC.

All is pretty good except the volume of my headphones, i need more of this (Xonar D1 has not headphones amplifier).

Initially i thought to buy an economic headphones amplifier like cmoy or fiio e11...but now i'm oriented to a solution "all-in-one" DAC+headphones amplifier that i would use like "new soundcard".

I thought to a Xonar U7 (but very very similar to my D1...) .... Fiio E10, Fiio E07K & iBasso D-Zero. I'm very undecided.


1) portabillity is not important: i listen only at my home
2) i would prefer that my new DAC was an upgrade compared to my Xonar D1

3) budget under 100...€ or $, you'll chose...

HELP!!!

post #2 of 16

E07K wiring options might not allow for both headphones and the line-out adapter for the active speakers to be simultaneously connected. The adapter goes into the dock connector which is right next to the earphone output. D-Zero would probably allow both 3.5mm plugs to be in there simultaneously, and just require pulling out the headphone if you're using the speakers, but think carefully about how this will go on your desk because it looks messy. You can't use an angled plug on the speaker's because that will block the volume knob, and it might be difficult to use if it's facing away from you. Wire management looks real messy with it still (I used mine with just active speakers, so it faced away from me, and I used a short Monoprice USB cable out the side of my laptop).

 

E10 has a lineout at the rear and a headphone output in front, but a USB-powered headphone amp+DAC isn't likely to be more powerful than wherever your headphones are plugged into right now. Also, like the other two, all it will have is a lineout, not a preamp output, so if you have to change the volume on your speakers, you'd still have to reach over to the speaker cabinet.

 

Search for "audio interface" here and you're going to see all sorts of threads looking for a device that can do all these properly and with better wire management. I think the cheapest is around $120, but I'm not sure how powerful the headphone amp on that is and if that might be enough for you. For a less professional-oriented product, something like the AudioGD NFB12 or NFB11 would work.

post #3 of 16

Fiio E10 is probably your best bet.

 

Later edit:

In terms of power it will be fine driving even more demanding headphones than the 681 EVO.

It has 2 gain settings (low and high). At it's maximum it will pump 150mW in 32 ohm, which is considerably more than what most usb powered dacs  do or your soundcard, for that mater, and plenty for just about any entry-mid level headphone.

In terms of sound quality alone it will probably do noticeably better than soundcard + external amp.

Also it will give you the option to sell your soundcard and attenuate a large part of your investment.


Edited by Bobby S - 3/12/14 at 4:38am
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thank you both.

 

I forgot to say that my headphones are plugged in ONLY when i use them (and i use them less compared to active monitors).

 

So no problem about wiring.

 

...so your advice is Fiio E10...

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

E10 has a lineout at the rear and a headphone output in front, but a USB-powered headphone amp+DAC isn't likely to be more powerful than wherever your headphones are plugged into right now. Also, like the other two, all it will have is a lineout, not a preamp output, so if you have to change the volume on your speakers, you'd still have to reach over to the speaker cabinet.

 

I have a Fostex volume control for my speakers, so no problem if e10 is only lineout.

 

And i'll plug the headphones only when i'll need.

 

My doubts are when you say "e10 isn't likely to be more powerful than Asus Xonar D1 non-amplified Headphones out" !!! THIS could be a problem...

post #6 of 16

It is not.

The Xonar D1's output power is roughly 10 mW, compared to the specified ">150mW" on the Fiio E10.

So you get well beyond a 10x power increase with the E10, vs. asus D1.

 

The limiting factor on D1's output is it's high impedance, of around 100 ohm, which is not ideal for driving headphones.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

ok, thank you bobby...:beerchug:..now the only problem is to buy fiio e10, it's discontinued product..i'll search on ebay...

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by done75 View Post
 

My doubts are when you say "e10 isn't likely to be more powerful than Asus Xonar D1 non-amplified Headphones out" !!! THIS could be a problem...

 

BobbyS clarified the technical specs of the E10, so it should be good enough for those headphones. However if you are planning on getting other headphones in the near future, best to save the $70 or so on the E10 and just get something like the AudioGD NFB11 or NFB12. You don't have to get them now, just save the money (you will notice I don't welcome new members with "sorry about your wallet!" and at the same time I don't wet my pants at the thought of five-figure headphones either).

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

TY protege...but i think to buy a fiio...it's pretty sure enough for me....

 

only a question: fiio e10 or fiio e07k? e07k is newer and has the same functions and specs i think (no opt out but i don't care about it)...the e07k too has a LINE OUT, right? 

 

PS. sorry, i found the anwer: with the fiio L7 (11€) i will have LINE OUT.


Edited by done75 - 3/12/14 at 6:34am
post #10 of 16

I don't think E07k is necessarily a better choice.

Firstly it's a portable dac/amp and comes with more features and functionality for that type of use.

Secondly the E10 sports a slightly better amplifier section (according to Fiio) and a better USB receiver chip. Power figures do look better on the E07k though.

So the sound quality advantage is probably on the E10's side. But I don't think the differences are that big.

post #11 of 16
The Xonar D1 has an excellent DAC for the price even though, as you point out, it does not have a headphone amp. Switching to the E10 or e07k probably isn't going to give you noticeably better SQ from the DAC; you only gain a headphone amp. If you use the Dolby Headphone feature with your sound card for gaming or watching movies, that will no longer be available to you with a USB DAC. Plus the line out gain on the E10 is not quite up to the standard spec; you might get a decrease in SQ with your speakers (not sure).

Since you don't seem to mind switching cables to connect your stuff, look into the Schiit Magni headphone amp. Lots of love for it on Head-fi. I've heard that Schiit's international shipping is fairly reasonable. It's a better headphone amp (no DAC) than with any of the other options you are considering, and it will even work very well with much more expensive, hard to drive headphones should you ever want to upgrade.
post #12 of 16
The nuforce offerings are nice for a casual setup and quite affordable for the quality.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SP00N View Post

The nuforce offerings are nice for a casual setup and quite affordable for the quality.

 

Which ones? I tried the HDP at a local hi-fi store (which means it's quiet enough inside), and at my listening level, there was a considerable boost and distortion in the upper bass. My headphones were making that "thwack! thwack! th-th-th-th-thwack!" sound you would normally only hear from a car midwoofer that is cut too low when you're trying to put the bass upfront or boost too much at 70hz to 150hz. This is very rare in home audio standmounts even in 5" speakers, very likely because the cabinet helps control the drivers, and that you normally don't have an EQ to fess with the response. When I used it as a preamp feeding a 300watt Plinius driving Polk Audio RTi towers, there was a considerable bump in the bass (it was not staging the bass drum rearward enough and were a bit too loud in some tracks, toms were a little too loud; but we didn't play around with the toe-in)  but the distortion was totally gone.

 

What I can conclude from that is there's a bump in the DAC's response, and either the amp or the power supply isn't providing enough current to compensate. That the DAC isn't flat isn't entirely surprising but we're not allowed to discuss the precedent.

post #14 of 16
Hmm, I still own an iDo and have had some other nuforce units in the past. I haven't experienced anything like that. Sounds more like an actual fault somewhere in the setup, maybe a defective unit. I also listen at modest levels, perhaps it clips badly under a substantial load and I've never pushed it there. I've used it primarily with AKG K series headphones with acceptable but not mind blowing results while working. (An amusing aside, I used to have an actual setup with a DAC and Stax system but it was too engaging for a work setup so I moved it into the bedroom)
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by done75 View Post
 

TY protege...but i think to buy a fiio...it's pretty sure enough for me....

only a question: fiio e10 or fiio e07k? e07k is newer and has the same functions and specs i think (no opt out but i don't care about it)...the e07k too has a LINE OUT, right? 

PS. sorry, i found the anwer: with the fiio L7 (11€) i will have LINE OUT.

Sell off the Xonar D1 and buy a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card, same DAC chip (CS4398) as the D1 but the SB-Z also has a headphone amplifier, maybe not as good as the Schiit Magni or O2, but still decent for the price.

Plus the SB-Z has separate outputs for the headphones and the speakers.

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