So I am relatively new to Head-fi and I've been working on putting together a nice rig for music, now that I have my gaming rig down. I don't have the means or desire to get into the really expensive stuff, I but I do want the best sound I can get for my money. Given that, I've been looking for a nice DAC in the $100-200 price range to add to my setup to improve the sound.
The problem is, I tried with a well-regarded DAC (the Schiit Modi) and heard ALMOST no improvement over my Sound Blaster Omni. I mean there was something there, but I had to strain to hear it. When I got my new headphones, new sound card, new amp, and switched to FLAC's... all of those provided a noticeable improvement in sound right away. Some were more subtle than others, but they were all worth the time/money spent. I was pretty shocked at how little difference I heard from the $100 DAC.
My friend @Evshrug got a Schiit Bifrost Uber and he is saying he hears the same minimal improvements I heard from the Modi. Not too surprising given what I've read about how similar they sound, but that's a $400+ device -- frankly, I was expecting more.
So my question is really this: am I wasting my time trying to add a DAC to my system looking for a noticeable sound improvement if I don't want to spend $500+? Is there any DAC in the $200 range that will provide me a noticeable improvement in sound without having to strain? Is the DAC in my sound card good enough that I have to really jump up in price to get an improvement? Or do I just have wooden ears?
Oh, one more thing I've been considering is selling off my amp and buying a higher end DAC with a built-in amp, like the Yulong D100 or Audio-GD 15.32. I wonder if the combination of the good DAC and okay amp will best an okay DAC and good amp for approximately the same price.