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A few questions about a DAC purchase

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by danimeisteR, Jul 31, 2018.
  1. danimeisteR
    Hi guys,
    I recently purchased 2 headphones: the Massdrop Hifiman HE4xx and the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (250 ohm).
    I also got the O2 amp from Massdrop.
    My soundcard is the Asus Xonar DX and I work on Windows 10 x64 Pro.

    Now the questions:
    1. What standalone DAC under 250$ would you get for listening to music and playing computer games that would pair well with those components?
    2. I don't know how a DAC works in terms of connectivity. As far as I know, the DAC is connected to the PC via USB, and my question is: should I disable my PC soundcard? Will the DAC ignore the soundcard? Would the DAC benefit if I have the soundcard enabled?

    Thanks in advance..
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
  2. danimeisteR
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    If you get a DAC, you'll need an amplifier to drive the headphone, whether built into the same chassis and board as the DAC or they're both separate boxes.

    For that price point though the only one that will work with the soundcard and drive your HE4XX well is the Schiit Modi2 Uber and Magni3.

    You could save a little bit more, use the Xonar DX for now, and then just get the AudioGD NFB-11 later.

    If you connect via USB you'll bypass the DX. Windows will have to select between USB output and the DX. No need to remove the DX but if you can do without it for music but not for games then it's entirely possible to just keep the DX in there but you'll then have to manually switch between USB output and DX.

    If you use the optical SPDIF output of the DX into a DAC or DAC-HPamp that has the same kind of input then the only thing you'll have to manually disable are gaming audio features, and usually the default "Music" or "HiFi" setting on a soundcard audio suite automatically disables those (unless you edited the profile).
  4. danimeisteR
    I said I already have an amp, the O2 from Massdrop.

    Is the AduiGD really worth the price difference? Would I feel the difference between the AudioGD and a Magni 2, taking into account that I have 2 quite "cheap" headphones?

    What do you mean by "if you can do without it for music but not for games"?

    I got lost here (I'm a newbie). All I can tell you is that I have everything set by default on my Xonar DX panel (no games or music profile enabled).

    Thanks for the answer.
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Oh yeah, forgot that part when I started typing. You might as well just skip the DAC though since you're not upgrading that amp anyway and it works with the soundcard.

    Price isn't the determining factor for whether you should probably use or upgrade an amp or not. HE4XX has a fairly lower sensitivity at 93dB/1mW. Also if you're going to go by price the HE400 that it's based on used to be $399 and a few people kind of hate how Fang doesn't let his gear last on the market like, I don't know, Sennheiser maybe (HD600 is already pushing towards 20years).

    Meaning you might use the soundcard for its DAC for music, but with games, you actually use its DSP features. Like Virtual Surround.

    I don't know what the default is but generally there's a Game, Movie, and Music/HiFi profile on some soundcards. The last one typically has all DSP effects switched off unless you enable some and save it for that profile. Assuming your DX has the same panel as for example my U3 the default is Game Mode or something, but even then virtual surround IIRC is off by default. It just lets you have quick presets rather than switch off DSP features or switch out DSP settings one by one. I have most virtualization at the highest levels on Movies, minimum on Games, zero DSP running for HiFi (though I barely use my desktop rig for listening to music).
  6. danimeisteR
    Thanks, that was really helpful.
  7. danimeisteR
    Do you think a Magni 2 or a JDS ODAC would be an improvement over the Xonar DX or I shouldn't even bother?

    And if so, which one would be better, the Schiit Magni 2 or the JDS ODAC?
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  8. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    I'd just stick with the soundcard and the O2. Past the O2 unless you're using a lower sensitivity headphone the differences will be even smaller. Even if the HE4XX is still technically rather low sensitivity it's a good enough amp that while I'm going to bet I might be able to hear a difference if I were to use, say, an Asgard, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between the O2 and the Magni2.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  9. danimeisteR
    Great, so I will just get the AudioGD when I feel money burning in my pocket. :wink:
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    By that point some newer headphone might be out with smoother response and higher sensitivity, like the replacement for the HE400S, and that might be an option over replacing the O2.

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