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Taking the Next Step: DAC

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hey guys,

I'm relatively new to this, but I've been enjoying the sound improvements made by better stuff. My main headphones are Sennheiser HD600 powered by a Schiit Magni (and I have a Valhalla on the way). My current source is my sound card (ASUS Xonar DSX), and I am 99% certain that I will eventually get a proper DAC, but that begs the question: what sort of DAC should I get?

Now to be clear, I am not currently in the market for a DAC partly because my current setup sounds pretty good (and partly because my wife would not approve of another big purchase right now). So I'm mainly asking for recommendations on the next logical step. If I were to stick to Schiit gear, the obvious candidates are Modi and Bitfrost (probably Uberfrost w/ USB). I have a feeling that I won't be hearing too much difference between the DSX and Modi, so I'm probably on track for something like a Bitfrost.

So what do you think? Is that the right direction? Should I explore new headphones and/or amps before I invest in a DAC? Let me know your thoughts, and thanks in advance smily_headphones1.gif

-Jawes

PS
My PC is a gaming PC. I listen to music often, but that's why it was built in the first place.
post #2 of 13

Headphones will make the biggest difference in sound quality by far - close to 95% or more.

 

After you get your ideal headphones, then you can look into an appropriate amp and DAC.

post #3 of 13
I don't know much about the DSX. The DX/D1 and DG/DGX tend to get recommended here (don't know why).

Internal sound cards can sometimes add a bit of noise. So going to the Modi could be an improvement even if the improvement in DAC is not that much. Also, I wouldn't expect a big jump going from the Modi to the Bifrost either. The goal of a DAC is (should be) to provide an accurate, transparent reproduction during the digital to audio conversion. Arguably, the Modi would be pretty close to that point already.

So I'd say give the Modi a try. If you aren't happy then, well, your best best is to try different headphones as vkalia pointed out.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply, cel4145.

I really doubt that the DSX (or any PCI sound card) is significantly noisier than something like the Modi. Integrated audio chipsets are pretty capable, but PCI sound cards allow for some extra isolation and dedicated components to avoid that (which is why gamers use them to begin with).

And again, I'm not running out to buy anything. I was just looking for thoughts on which direction to go in when I actually do get a DAC. That might be six months from now, or it might be two years from now. I'll be sampling headphones (and amps and DACs) as I can between now and then. The idea is that when I do take this step, it will make sense rather than just buying a DAC to say I own a DAC.
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by superjawes View Post

I really doubt that the DSX (or any PCI sound card) is significantly noisier than something like the Modi. Integrated audio chipsets are pretty capable, but PCI sound cards allow for some extra isolation and dedicated components to avoid that (which is why gamers use them to begin with).

Yeah. I know about that. I have a Xonar DX in one computer in the house, and I used to own a Xonar STX on another computer, and now use external DACs with both wink.gif
post #6 of 13

If you're gaming on the PC, I highly recommend you get a DAC with optical-in and avoid the USB ones.  You want to use your soundcard as a DSP to process virtual surround.  It will then send the virtual surround signal (a stereo digital signal) via optical to the DAC to be spiffed up, etc.

 

This is my plan and I think it's a good one.  If I had the money, I'd get a Bifrost Uber (not Bitfrost, btw) without the USB upgrade.  I've heard that it's right at that price-performance sweet spot.

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 

If you're gaming on the PC, I highly recommend you get a DAC with optical-in and avoid the USB ones.  You want to use your soundcard as a DSP to process virtual surround.  It will then send the virtual surround signal (a stereo digital signal) via optical to the DAC to be spiffed up, etc.

 

This is my plan and I think it's a good one.  If I had the money, I'd get a Bifrost Uber (not Bitfrost, btw) without the USB upgrade.  I've heard that it's right at that price-performance sweet spot.


+1 on the Bifrost, I know a lot of people say it isn't a significant improvement over the Modi, but it sure was on MY system, huge improvement. Having said that however, I will also say in spite of the fact I have a pretty good soundcard, the Modi was noticeably better, quieter and more detail with less noise. A "blacker" background as they say.

post #8 of 13
Call me crazy, but I've never noticed a big difference from DAC to DAC. DAC vs a computer's line out? Sure.

I'm going to get the Bifrost Über w/o USB and call it a day. And mark my words: I will never buy a DAC more expensive than that. I'd rather save that for a better amp, headphones, and cables made out if magic fairy dust smily_headphones1.gif /sarcasm
post #9 of 13

I've owned about 6 different dacs over the past 5 years. Ranging from a cheap Maverick ($200) to M2Tech Young ($1600). Nothing has ever sounded as good as the Young but you could get still get great results from something much cheaper like the Micromega MyDac. I think the better system you have around the dac the more you will notice. 

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by sealykojac View Post

I've owned about 6 different dacs over the past 5 years. Ranging from a cheap Maverick ($200) to M2Tech Young ($1600). Nothing has ever sounded as good as the Young but you could get still get great results from something much cheaper like the Micromega MyDac. I think the better system you have around the dac the more you will notice. 
Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the Maverick Tube DAC? It's one of the cheaper ones I've found with optical in that isn't a Fiio E17.
post #11 of 13
I used it with the digital coax input and thought it sounded great. We did a dac comparison with a buddy that had a ps audio digilink 3 and it was pretty close in sound but beaten by the ps. It was definately better than the Peachtree dacit in my opinion.
post #12 of 13
I think the TubeMagic D1 is better than the E17. Plus I like the volume dial vs. the digital volume on the E17. Then if you happen to be planning on using the line out on the E17 for speakers, too, it's just sort of a PIA configuration with the cables spidering out of it from multiple directions, and it needs to lie flat.
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jchandler3 View Post

Call me crazy, but I've never noticed a big difference from DAC to DAC. DAC vs a computer's line out? Sure.

 

You just havenot had a chance to listen to a bad DAC, or in my case, CDPs. The Cambridge 351C put the bass drum in front of the vocals when I use headphones, and speaker reviews only say that it has a "2D soundstage." By contrast the PCM2702 DAC in my amp (no really as in it's essentially just the PCM2702 with its output wired to the amp's circuit) had a relatively natural and 3D-enough soundstage.

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