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Advice for configuring setup with Computer, Headphones, Stereo Amp, and DAC

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hi all.


I've been reading your forum and it's great. I tried to post earlier, but I think I have a better understanding of what I'm after, so I'm going to try this again.


I'm interested in adding a DAC to my setup, where I play 320 and FLAC files from my computer. My initial thought was to consider running a JDS Labs ODAC directly from my comp to my headphones, but I realize now that this is not a good idea.


I would optionally run the DAC from the comp through my stereo amp, but this presents an inconvenience with volume control, and would also require a headphone extension cable for the cans.


So I wonder if there are any suggestions. I was hoping to keep this under $200. I'm have KEF M500s, and the sound card in my new computer is just not cutting it.


My second thought was to go with something like a Fiio E17. But then I'm not sure how this would work if I connected the comp to my stereo amp through the Amp/DAC.


Thanks for your input.

post #2 of 25

Do you currently have a dedicated headphones amplifier. I am not talking about headphone out of a stereo amplifier. Problem is pretty much all of headphone outs of stereo amplifiers are really, really bad that you'd rather want to connect your headphone right out of your computer.


If you do not have a dedicated headphone amplifier and want to keep 200 budget, you have to buy a DAC+amp combo like those from Fiio.


I highly recommend you to get Schiit Modi+Magni combo tho. While it will go overbudget by like 40 bucks, you won't have to worry about DAC/amp for a long time.

post #3 of 25

How is the modi+magni $40 over budget?

It's $198 + shipping, so unless shipping is that expensive, I dont see it.

post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. My stereo amp is a NAD C326BEE. Part of my thinking is that by running the DAC through the NAD, I could switch between headphones and speakers.


But no. I don't currently have a headphone amp.


At the moment, using my headphones is the priority. But just for the sake of argument, is it a bad idea to connect the computer to the NAD amp through an amp/DAC?

post #5 of 25
TubeMagic D1 Plus. In addition to a DAC and headphone amp, has a built in pre-amp so you can plug up your speakers.

For less money, there is the Audioengine D1 that also has a pre-amp, but the TubeMagic should be better.

Otherwise, the headphone amp in your NAD probably is pretty good. Go for the ODAC.
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the Maverick suggestion. I will have to look into that.

post #7 of 25
With the Maverick, the tube amp sound is just in the pre amp out with the volume control (it is not part of the headphone amp). It also has a separate line out (no volume control). So you could try either one with your NAD and see if you like the tube sound.
post #8 of 25
I was going to post this to your other thread, and thought it better you keep the discussion in one place:

I *think* the Dragonfly has a line out setting (not sure). I hated the E17 for desktop use with line out to speakers and with headphones because (a) you have to attach the line out via the bottom with an adapter, so then you have three cables coming out/going into the E17 from different directions and (b) the E17 only had line out. I prefer units that let me control the headphone volume and the speaker volume from the same piece. If you aren't using the NAD amplifier for anything else (no other source inputs), you could run the Tube Magic pre-amp out to the main-in on the back of the NAD and bypass the NAD pre-amp all together. But regardless, the E17 has to be laid flat down with those three cables spidering out from different directions. Not so space saver friendly as it seems if you want everything hooked up at once.

Your NAD also has a tape out. So you could start with a separate DAC, and then if you still want a better headphone amp, run the tape out to a headphone amp.
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 

This is helpful. Thanks. I agree that the Maverick looks like a versatile unit.


One issue is that I have KEF M500s, which use 2.5.mm/3.5mm ends. The cable is short, so either I would need a custom cable or a 2.5mm to 3,5mm female to female coupler. I'm not sure such a thing even exists, and how much it would degrade the sound.


Another thought was to connect the ODAC to the NAD and do what you're suggesting. My understanding is that ODAC has a 24bit USB interface, which would allow me to control volume with the computer software.


Since my priority is the headphones, though, it might also just be smarter to get that figured out first, and then figure out how to handle music from the computer to the NAD later.

post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks. This is helpful. (I just typed a response, but it didn't seem to go through, so I am going to try again.)


One issue for me is running my KEF M500s from the NAD. These headphones use 2.5mm to 3.5mm connections, so I would either need a custom cable or an appropriate female to female connector, and I don't know how easy that would be to find, so say nothing of what it might do to the signal.


I agree that the Maverick looks versatile. Another thought, which would involve running the headphones through the NAD wold be to get the standalone ODAC. It's my understanding that the 24-bit input would allow me to control the volume from the computer without significant loss. But again, I have the issue with the cable.


It may be that I'm trying to do too many things, and should just concentrate first on getting my headphones set up.

post #11 of 25
I'd go with the ODAC since you could always add a headphone amp later if you feel you need one. The ODAC will also be nice for your speakers, too.

This picture of the Kef's look like they have everything you need to plug them into your receiver:
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 

Ha! Yeah. They sort of give you two of everything. But the cable is really short, and they don't offer longer ones, so either I need a custom cable or I would need an extension. (Last I looked for a longer 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable, I ran out of luck.)


So, in a way, I'm back to where to I started. Only now, if I understand correctly, I can run the comp to the NAD through the ODAC, and use the computer to control the volume.


If that works, then finding a solution to the headphone cable makes sense.

post #13 of 25
Yes. You can control the volume with the computer using the ODAC.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 

This is great. Thanks so much for the help.


I used to run my previous headphones through the NAD amp, but I started to notice a decline in sound quality--either with the better cans, or as a result of the long cable that I used to connect the comp to the amp. 


If I can get my cable situation figured out, I think the ODAC will be the best solution, since I can use it to run both my speakers and my phones. :gs1000smile:

post #15 of 25
I doubt a long cable will make a difference unless you are talking about 20 feet across the room. If you want a custom extension cable that is heavy duty, try Blue Jeans Cable. They can make almost anything.
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