A Newbie With a Few Questions...
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little birdie

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I have a pair of E3s and Grado sr225s that I use with my IPod, Portable Cd player, and through my headphone jack on my computer. I have a homemade Altoids case amp with a cool bassboost circuit in there to power both of these phones. Now that I have all this nice stuff, I need to learn how to utilize it best. So here are my questions... if anyone at all can help me out I would be forever indebted.

Do I need a quality cable to maximize the performance of my Altoid amp? If so, any suggestions on a good one?

Would it help if I had a DAC to convert my sound to digital for any of these sources? How much would an upgraded soundcard help when listening to music from my computer? Would the BitHead be a cheaper alternative to a good soundcard?
 
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bangraman

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Hi.
Your wallet looks quite safe so far at least by rabid Head-Fi standards. Let's see what happens after the DAC



First question: What amp actually is it inside the Altoids?
 
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JeffL

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A CMOY can't take a digital signal so a DAC wouldn't help too much. You'd probably want a better amp before going for a DAC anyway. Or better sources.

If you're using your PCDP with a line-out to power the amp, the cable is going to be fairly short, and while a good shielded cable is never a bad thing, a high-end cable probably isn't going to yield much improvement as compared to say, a new source, or a DAC.
 
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bangraman

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In which case the only thing I would suggest for now is a non-crappy cable for the amp and source. There is absolutely no need to go overboard. You can get Head-Fi members JMT and Tigger for example to make you some useful cables at reasonable cost.


JMT: http://www.jmtaudio.com/ (Products Page, Interconnects)
Tigger: http://www.headsave.com/vibe.html (go to the bottom of the page)


Computer audio? It depends on how bad things are sounding right now.
 
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little birdie

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What about playing music from my laptop... is the headphone jack sufficient or do you guys think a bithead or soundcard would make a great improvement?
 
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oneeyedhobbit

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An external soundcard or bithead would be a huge improvement. Internal laptop sound cards are pretty craptacular--all kinds of background noise and hiss.

Look in the computers-as-source forum, they'll hook you up with a good soundcard.
 
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sbulack

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I use a portable cmoy (recently upgraded to a Headsave portable Go-Vibe) at work from the headphone jack of my work-issue computer with only a SoundMax chip on the motherboard behind it. A rather modest source. I find that a good cable to connect this source to my amp very much improves the quality of sound that I get from my headphones. I use a CPU Series Copper 0.5 Meter Mini-to-Mini from www.headphile.com which runs $35 (including shipping), with 15 day return policy. If you're not going to use the cable near computer equipment (and don't need the cable shielded) you'll likely want the Standard Series cable (it's quite a bit thinner). On the modest source I mentioned above, not to mention portable CD players, the Headphile cable increases the sound quality I get out of the headphones enough to make it well worth the cost of the cable. You'll really need to let the cable season for about 100 hours of use (unattended use is fine) to hear what you're going to get from it. If, after you've seasoned it, you don't think the increased sound quality justifies the cost, return it in as new condition within the 15 days for a full refund. I didn't return mine. I'm still enjoying it.

It seems you may be looking to upgrade your sound card. As a starting point, what sound card do you currently have?

You mentioned a BitHead. Are you happy with your amp or looking to upgrade it? What makes the BitHead a good deal is that it contains both Soundcard and amp. If you're only looking for a soundcard then why pay for the amp that you already have and are happy with? So, in terms of your amp, sticking with it, or looking to upgrade?

It seems you may be looking for a DAC. A DAC is a Digital to Analog converter. To use a DAC, you need a Digital Audio source, which the DAC converts to Analog Audio, which you can route through your amp and listen to from your headphones. So, what digital audio sources do you currently have to use with a DAC? Do these sources provide Coaxial Digital Outputs or Optical Digital Outputs? Maybe both? Take an inventory and get back to us. Are you looking for a sound card with a digital output so that you can use it with the DAC? Or does your current sound card have a digital output (Coax or Optical?) and you are considering a DAC to improve sound quality from it instead of a sound card upgrade?

In terms of your whole package: cable, amp, sound card, DAC. What's your budget? There's no sense us looking into or suggesting combinations of units that you're just going to throw out because they clearly go beyond what you have any intention of spending. We're not trying to pry into your finances. But you're asking for our time and help, so give us the parameters within which we're realistically working, so we can limit our efforts to those that have half a chance of being useful.

If you answer these questions, we'll be able to answer your original questions better. We don't know your level of knowledge, so if you don't understand any of these questions, just say so. We'll explain. If you already know all of this stuff, then we just need the info to help you better.
 
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little birdie

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Thanks sbulack... your post was very helpful.

I'm pretty new at this high end audio stuff so bear with me.

I think a new cable is the next logical step for me and my wallet agrees. I'm currently using a $10 radioshack cord that's falling apart on me so instead of just replacing it with another radioshack cord, I'll give the headphile cord a shot.

I think a soundcard purchase may be in the works too. I don't think a BitHead is necessary considering I'm happy with my CMoy... I just suggested it as possibly a more cost effective alternative to a soundcard. I just don't know much about soundcards. How much does a decent one run for (Sub-$500)? Where do they connect? PC card slot? USB?

As far as the DAC goes, I'm a bit confused on the difference between digital sound and analog sound... I've always just thought that if it's information traveling through a wire then it's digital. I guess I'm wrong though, could someone clear up the difference for me?

I'd like to keep my purchases somewhere in the $600-700 range... I'm a college student so the pockets aren't too deep and I'm also looking to get a decent integrated reciever and start working on getting a sorround sound system going. Any help is appreciated.
 
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