Hi, I' m quite new to audiophile equipment so I would really appreciate your help. Recently I bought Sennheiser HD 598 headphones, however the source of music is an integrated dell laptop sound card. When I bought the headphones I wanted to buy them together with Fiio E17, but now I consider to skip E17 and buy M-Audio M-Track instead. Senn's 598' s have quite low impedance so there' s no great need of a new amp, just DAC? I would really appreciate your help with my oncoming purchase :)
Help me choose between a new usb soundcard vs Amp +DAC for Senn HD 598
First of all, very nice choice for a pair of cans.
Senn 598s are considered one of the absolute best pair of cans for that price point: 200USD / 120GBP
And if you have a dedicated/standalone DAC, you do, regardless of the impedance, need a headphone amplifier regardless of whatever standalone/dedicated DAC you buy. Yes, it's true to can connect your headphone directly to the DAC and you WILL hear sound, but it will be so quiet and might not even sound right with no amplification.
One DAC and amp that I, and a lot of other people as well, recommend is the Schiit Magni DAC and the Schiit Modi amp. You'll often hear it referred to as the Magni/Modi or Magni+Modi combo.
This combo is very highly regraded both in these forums and in-general and will drive your 598's very nicely. It's a solid-state amplifier so your music will be fairly bright, depending on your setup, but no worry, you wont regret it.
I can guarantee the Magni and Modi will be about 1,000X better than your on-board (integrated) DAC and amp on your laptop.
The only thing is that the DAC is fairly limited to what it can do. It has a USB in and that's all. No connecting digital optical or digital coaxial from your TV, DVD/Blu-ray player, Xbox, PS, etc. Generally, you can only connect your computer. But you say your already listening to music from your computer so it should be fine.
Here's the manufacturer's website page for the Magni amp
and the Modi DAC
The combo goes for about 200USD / 120GBP. You can either buy it from the manufacturer's website, or a place like Amazon.
You will need a USB A to B, aka printer, cable though. The combo does not ship with one, and there's is overpriced on the basis that is of uber quality. However you can buy a Mediabridge one, one of the best, high quality cable manufactures, from Amazon.
Here's a link for the Mediabridge USB A to B cable on Amazon, just take a look at the reviews!:
Plus you will need RCA cables. Now, unlike the USB cable, I do recommend that you but theirs. It is of very, very high quality, and is the perfect length to connect the DAC to the amp. It's ~ 20USD/33GBP, so a little steep, but worth it both for the convenience and the quality.
And that's all you'll need! The DAC will work with just about any Windows or Mac computer with no driver installation.
Sorry for the long-winded response, I just like to be thorough!
Let me know if you need anymore help, advice, or suggestions!
Edited by Joshua277456 - 4/2/14 at 3:27pm
Thanks for the thorough answer, you've been really helpful, but it seems to be bit over my budget.Unfortunately here in UK they sell them only through official distributor http://www.electromod.co.uk/ who thinks 1USD=1GBP and I have to pay for delivery on top.
It' s strange that if I ship them from USA it' s still cheaper even with shipping and customs fee. Maybe you have a suggestions for a cheaper alternative?
Thanks for your thorough reply, it has been really helpful. But this combo is bit over my budget. Unfortunately in UK schiit sells their products only through their official distributor electromod who thinks 1GBP=1USD + I have to pay delivery on top. Though it's still cheaper to ship them from USA I am looking for a bit cheaper alternative.
I'm considering E17 as it is small portable combo of dac and amp. I know it' s subjective, but is the difference worth paying approximately 60 pounds more?
Edited by conquistadorr - 4/2/14 at 5:48pm
They just came out with a new version. So you could maybe find the old version on special or the new version which is improved.
The ODAC/O2 is considered comparable in SQ to the Modi/Magni--in fact, people fight over which is better (LOL). I own the ODAC and a Schiit Asgard 2, so I like both brands
I used to own the E17. I would definitely take the O2/ODAC over the E17. Better sound quality. You can ask in the Dragonfly thread I linked to above as to how it compares to the E17.
To be completely honest, I think it's definitely worth saving up for.
Go a little while longer listening music through your laptop, and you will be absolutely amazed at the difference in sound quality when, and if, you finally do buy the Schiit combo.
The Magni+Modi is a very very good combo and will drive all kinds of high-end headphones properly. The Sennheiser HD 650s aren't even a problem for the Magni+Modi. It's really one of the best, if not the best, solid-state solution for ~200USD. It's so powerful you can even upgrade your headphones in the future. I wouldn't go anything above about 300ohms impedance though because at that point you're going to want to look at OTL tube amplifiers which are $$$.
Schiit makes 99.9% of their components in the USA and it was founded by some German guys, so yeah. You really can't go wrong. I think the only things that are made in China are things like the wall adapter. Somewhere in the About/FAQ section on the manufacturer's website it mentions that they have to make some things in China to save money and sell their products somewhat well under what they're actually worth.
The capacitors, chips, PCB, etc are all made in the USA I believe.
If you look at the specs I took from the Schiit website for the amp
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 2Hz-200KHz, -3dB
Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1.2W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 1.0W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 260mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 130mW RMS per channel
THD: Less than 0.005%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
IMD: Less than 0.007%, CCIF
SNR: Greater than 100db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS
Crosstalk: -70dB, 20 Hz-20KHz
Output Impedance: Less than 0.1 ohms
Gain: 5 (14db)
Topology: Fully discrete FET/bipolar, Class AB, DC coupled throughout
Protection: Standard failsafe DC power input and muting relay
Power Supply: “Wall wart” style 16VAC transformer, regulated +/- 15V rails
Power Consumption: 4W
Size: 5 x 3.5 x 1.25”
Weight: 1 lb
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 1.0W RMS per channel
That's a whole freaking watt for 50ohms impedance cans. That's enough to make your ears bleed.
Trust me you'll be plenty satisfied with the Schiit combo if you do save up your money.
Why does he need to spend more money on that when he could get the equivalent of the O2/ODAC for less? The Modi/Magni is no better on paper than the ODAC/O2.
I don't blame you. I sold me E17 because I wasn't using it. But if I wanted a portable DAC/amp to go with my laptop, I'd order the Dragonfly and give it a try over the E17. If it is as good as all the user testimonials would lead one to believe, that's a lot better for carrying around with your laptop
Come back and let us know how it sounds!