Originally Posted by Mamza
So recently I spent time with a friend that had some crazy record playing business that had the best audio quality I've ever heard on anything in my life. Call me a born again virgin. Now I'm interested in getting into the scene myself because I love music and know there's a better way. I don't have the money for any top of the line business or for an actual speaker setup, so I figured I'd look into headphones.
Personally I'm a fan of closed-back, over-ear headphones. I have about $200-250 to work with, but I know essentially nothing about audio other than I like it. Looking around so far I've seen a few more basic models mentioned frequently--the ATH M50X and the Bayerdynamic DT770 Pro. I presently listen to mostly crappy quality (pandora), but am looking into getting a separate hard drive for flac files specifically.
I listen to rock, downtempo, classical, and sort of anything else other than country so long as it's "good." What I'm wondering is whether I should get something that requires an amp (no research completed yet), or if something independent would work best. My plan is to mainly use it with my computer (onboard sound presently, but that can change easily), but also to be able to use with my phone or godawful work computer. My inner nerd wants the best of the best, but being rational I'm thinking of getting something on the lower high quality side (so I won't have to upgrade) to break me into the business. Would the models mentioned be good for that? If so, which is better for my needs? If not, what would work better?
Let me know if any extra info will help. Thanks!
1. Headphone efficiency. You can get a headphone that's relatively easy to drive, that way you can make do with a simple and relatively inexpensive portable DAC-HPamp, like Ibasso's D-Zero ($100) and D42 Mamba ($200), or sometimes just with your phone (which phone does well depends, of course, but variances are not as wide nowadays as they all tend to use DAC+HPamp chips with hardly any difference in output power and distortion levels.
2. Easily transportable. You can then leave a cable plugged into a USB port in the back of your computer at home and at work, transporting both headphone and portable DAC-HPamp (and perhaps the portable HDD for work) between both places and just hooking up the other end to the DAC-HPamp. Here's a what I use around the house: primarily for my laptop when I'm working in my home office (or I might bring the DAC-Hpamp with me), but in the photo I used it with my Android (as there was no space for the laptop) while I worked on my gaming PC (testing intake fans for noise and how well they can feed the rad in the exhaust with the case door over the intake fans closed). If I had a desktop computer at work instead of using my own laptop, I'd just leave a cable hooked up and bring the DAC-HPamp home everyday.
3. Surround Sound simulation - SPDIF vs USB. Note however that if you intend to use the same DAC-HPamp for gaming and specifically with virtual surround simulation, such a signal from the DSP (even the one on the motherboard) will not travel over USB. If you do intend to use it as such at home, best get one that has SPDIF (optical or coaxial, depending on what your motherboard or soundcard has) input, as normally such a processed signal can be sent out through this type of digital transfer. One example is the Ibasso D12, which has both types of SPDIF as well as USB (for your office computer). As for whether you should go for a soundcard, I'd say check your motherboard first before buying - it might have Dolby Headphone from the manufacturer, or alternately, a (typically) "red" motherboard from MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, or even ASRock will have Creative EAX in the on-board sound DSP (not to mention a more powerful headphone amplifier than what you can find on other motherboards), and the microATX and some ATX versions might actually cost around the same price as a soundcard (at least before you factor in buying a new OS disk if you use Windows instead of Linux). As an alternative to both, if you have a DAC-HPamp that has SPDIF input anyway, you can use one of those USB drive-sized external USB soundcards if they have SPDIF output. These have the DSP chip in them, so they can interface with the computer via USB and their DSP can apply Dolby Headphone on the in-game audio, and send the sound out of the combo earphone/SPDIF output going to your DAC-HPamp. I use the Xonar U3, which has the SPDIF output, although I just hook up my IEMs directly into that.
Edited by ProtegeManiac - 7/30/14 at 1:11am