$110. Sound Card and/or Amp?
Mar 15, 2006 at 11:28 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

zancxia

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First, let me say that I am sorry. I'm sure this kind of question is probably asked often. I have done several searches though, and I don't know if I can find answers tailored to my situation, so.....

I just got my set of DT880s last week, and I have been enjoying them. Still... I've been running them from an old, unreliable receiver, amping my IBM Laptop's SoundMax card, and the SQ could be better (I'm pretty sure).

I've been thinking about getting a sound card and (maybe custom) headphone amp to consume my $110. Can someone suggest a good combination?

The sound card can be USB, Firewire, or PCMCIA. I've seen recommendations for the Echo Indigo saying that it should be able to drive the DT880 nicely. It seems a wee little bit out of my price range (about $150 shipped). Are there any other sound cards with similar performance that cost a little less?

Again, I'd really appreciate it.

P.S. Yes, I do have than just $110, but I can't go too much higher. I'm going to be buying an external HD soon, so I can save all my music in FLAC (or some other lossless format). I also have some other expenditures.
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Mar 16, 2006 at 2:37 AM Post #3 of 15

zancxia

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I've heard that the bithead and the DT880 don't get along too well. 4 AAA seems kind of "light" for their impedance?

Thank you for the suggestion though.
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Mar 16, 2006 at 3:20 AM Post #4 of 15

zancxia

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By the way... aud1ophile and I are not in cahoots. It is kind of weird... he replied to a message I sent him (a reply to a question he had) the other day saying that he wouldn't buy the DT880 because he'd have to buy a "$100 amp." Now he's looking for one that costs $110... maybe he changed his mind.
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I just originally allocated my money $80 and $30 (sound card & amp)... so...
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 3:46 AM Post #5 of 15

episiarch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by zancxia
I've heard that the bithead and the DT880 don't get along too well. 4 AAA seems kind of "light" for their impedance?


Depends which DT880 -- there's a new 32-ohm, and an older 250-ohm. For the 250-ohm, yes, you'd want more voltage. You might want an amp with more than a 9v supply, in fact, and to get that within your budget you're looking at DIY or used, as far as I know.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 4:10 AM Post #6 of 15

courierdriver

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My old audiophile teachings, are coming back to haunt me. My suggestion is: start be upgrading your source, which in your case, seems to be your comp's soundcard.

To be honest, I haven't heard alot of soundcards, or been able to compare them; but about 2 years ago, I upgraded the soundcard that came as standard equipment with my comp; with a Creative Labs Audigy ZS-2 (roughly, about $100-US, then...now, probably about $75 if you catch a deal). I was amazed at how much better my Logitech Z-2200 2.1 channel computer speaker system sounded, by upgrading my soundcard.

Now, I listen to music on my comp, primarily with my headphones. Yes, my cans sound better with an amp between the soundcard and 'phones...but the card makes the most difference. If you want to amp later...a PA2V2 is only about $60 (plus about $10-$20 for a pack of highly recommended NIMH AA-rechargebles), and will bring out the best from your soundcard.

Generally, the rule-of-thumb is: BEGIN with the best SOURCE you can afford. If your signal ain't clean...an amp will only amplify an already lousy source.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 4:27 AM Post #7 of 15

zancxia

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Thanks for the advice you two. I'd have to say that the sound card in my laptop isn't that bad.... but that is definitely relative. I'm not sure what "good" would sound like. I know I will need a new sound card though. I guess I'm just trying to find a sound card that has a decent amp for my needs. If not, I'll have to go the two-step route.

By the way, I messed up a few posts ago.... I meant $80 for the amp, $30 for the sound card. I was thinking of a custom cmoy, with greater power caps. I'll probably have to realistically bump this up to a $120 budget. Maybe $70, $50... or I could just save $30 and put that into an Echo Indigo...

Dunno. Just trying to make the best use of my money. Maybe I should just sell my DT880, and get a new 32 ohm version.
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I do have the 250 currently.

Regardless, I guess I would need a good source... so that would probably come out in the wash.

courierdriver, have you ever had the opportunity to drive high impedance headphones with your Audigy?
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 4:54 AM Post #8 of 15

episiarch

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My $30 Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro is indeed a very solid improvement over my laptop's built-in sound. If that's along the lines you were thinking, then I think it's a worthwhile investment.

And even though I have a Micro DAC now, the TBAAM does still get used, because it is so small and self-contained. When I'm at a coffeeshop with my laptop, for example, and just want something to drive E4's decently, and don't need or want to deploy a whole big DAC+amp rig.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 5:34 AM Post #9 of 15

courierdriver

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Quote:

courierdriver, have you ever had the opportunity to drive high impedance headphones with your Audigy?


__________________________________________________ _______________

Not really...highest was with a set of Koss Pro 4AAT (at 250-ohms, with 95-db sensitivity) that I borrowed. I used both my Windows Media player v.10, and the Creative Media Player, run through the Audigy ZS2. I liked the sound better (with the Koss cans, at least) with the Creative software. Bass was tighter, and better-defined; mids and trebel seemed to have more detail. Used this way, the Koss Pro4AAT's really sounded great. Using the Windows Media v.10, the sound was bass-heavy, and detail-obscured. No probs driving these cans to really loud levels, tho. Sound was always clean, without distortion. I suspect it would also fair well with many Senns, and AKG cans.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 2:37 PM Post #10 of 15

zancxia

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Hmmm... that does sound interesting... The Beyers are 250 Ω with 96 dB sensitivity. Very similar to the Koss you borrowed. I might look into that.

Yeah, episiarch. That's kind of what I originally had in mind. Interesting product.

I guess I need to figure out some options.

Would the TBAAM + Amp give me better sound than a Audigy ZS2?... hmmm....
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 2:46 PM Post #11 of 15

episiarch

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I don't know about the Audigy. I find the TBAAM (amped with one of a couple different Pimetas I have) has much better sound quality than the built-in sound on either my Dell laptop or my generic office PC of a year ago, but it is an audible notch below the line-out of an iPod G4 amped the same way.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 2:11 AM Post #12 of 15

zancxia

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Quote:

Originally Posted by episiarch
I don't know about the Audigy. I find the TBAAM (amped with one of a couple different Pimetas I have) has much better sound quality than the built-in sound on either my Dell laptop or my generic office PC of a year ago, but it is an audible notch below the line-out of an iPod G4 amped the same way.


Aren't the iPods, expect for the Shuffle and G5, considered a little sub-par as far as SQ goes? That is what I have heard anyway...
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 5:25 AM Post #13 of 15

episiarch

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It depends what your notion of "par" is. I think they're pretty good, amped.

But do you really want to talk about a "par" level of SQ on a $110 budget, on a board where people are routinely comparing $200 cables? The point is, a TBAAM is $30 well spent. If you want better-than-iPod sound, I'm pretty sure you'll spend more than that.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 7:52 AM Post #14 of 15

fewtch

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The DT880 are nice headphones and deserve good supporting gear. Can you stretch your budget and get a nice (used) home Pimeta? Or maybe even a Rockhopper portable (search for "Rockhopper Pimeta" on eBay) for $100.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 12:11 PM Post #15 of 15

zancxia

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I'll definitely consider it. I just think I need a source upgrade too. Just trying to work them both into a budget. I have been eyeing that "Destkop Pimeta" in the FS forum... it is just a bit outside my budget, and I don't want to throw out a low-ball offer. And, yes, the Beyers are definitely worth spending a little extra on. I'm just trying to fit a few things into the limited money I have (headphone amp, sound card, external HD, RAM, and a watch--if I'm lucky).


episiarch, I definitely understand what you are saying. "Par" is definitely relative here. I guess I meant that it was below par compared to other portable mp3 players. The TBAAM was built strictly for sound, while the iPod was made for much more. I was hoping that they would be, at least, about the same. I was just curious really...
 

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