Best upgrade to my system for $100-$200
Nov 6, 2008 at 11:33 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 28

blynch1

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I currently am running SR225s straight off a notebook creative x-fi sound card. I listen primarily from my desk, so mobility is not necessary. These are the upgrade options I am considering:

1) DAC/Amp combo: total bithead, the zero by Tianyun, wait for nuforce icon, or something else.
2)Amp or DAC only: I don't know which one is more important or what model to get.
3) Return SR225s and pay about $100 more for D2000s and keep running off the sound card
4) Nothing. Hold out for a $400 Amp or $400 DAC. (not planning on putting up this kind of money to drive $200 cans right now)
5) Buy a cheap portable amp: Fiio e3 or PAVA2 or other
6) Other: open for suggestions

I would like a better sound stage, maybe a bit more bass output, and less listening fatigue. I listen to thrash and progressive metal. Please let me know what the best upgrade option I have is and what it will do for my sound.

Connected to my home theater receiver the SR225s sound much better than off my computer, so if you could compare expected sound quality by upgrading X with that of my receiver(Pioneer VSX 816) that would give me some idea of how much the sound quality will improve.
 
Nov 6, 2008 at 11:48 PM Post #2 of 28

Happy Camper

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You could feed digital to your receiver from your computer. Use the dac on the receiver. If you want to, get a dedicated amp and feed it from your receiver. Get yourself a decent amp instead of the cheapest and you will have it for a long time. Listen to a tube amp somewhere and you will get a feel of why so many people like tubes.

Welcome to head fi.
 
Nov 6, 2008 at 11:51 PM Post #3 of 28

blynch1

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I'd do that camper, but my receiver resides in my living room and my computer setup is in a different room. So, I would have to by another receiver if I wanted to run the headphones off a receiver, which is an option but I'm assuming a dedicated DAC would be better/more cost effective.

What is the lowest price you can spend on a decent tube amp (suggestions would be nice), and does it even make sense to spend that much money to run my reasonably inexpensive SR225s?
 
Nov 7, 2008 at 4:36 AM Post #8 of 28

blynch1

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I was actually looking at the little dot earlier today. Seems it can be had around $200.
Will my sound card suffice for now to feed a decent DAC (Little Dot MK III, lunch box, or other), or is my source quality going to hold the amp back from being worth the upgrade?
 
Nov 7, 2008 at 8:18 AM Post #10 of 28

blynch1

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Thanks for the suggestions. The I+ looks interesting. It is about $80 less than the MKIII(120 vs. 200 on ebay after live cash back), but what would be the pros and cons of these 2 amps? Also the lunchbox 2 runs 235, so a little pricier, but how does it rate compared to these?

I think the pico is too far out of my price range, but I'd love to have the $600 amp+dac model.

--I am strongly considering getting one of these amps, but my main concern is if I will get a considerable benefit without upgrading my source.
 
Nov 8, 2008 at 4:14 PM Post #12 of 28

Happy Camper

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A source upgrade will almost certainly improve the sound. If you are going to use the computer as a source, an outboard DAC will improve quite a bit. I found that out by replacing my 12 yr old dac with a new one and a nice cdp at a meet.

That said, an amp helps my ipod sound pretty good. If the signal is there, an amp will pull it out and present it to the hp. The hp out on the computer compared to an amp fed from the rcas is pretty crude.

The Lunchbox has had good reviews from folk that have much more expensive gear so has a reference to measure it by.

The Little Dots have a large following here. I suspect it's more about the cost vs the SQ but I can't speak from experience. You are at the point the vast majority of us have been. Without a place to sample them, you have to get something and try it. If you use the F/S forum or E-bay, type in the amp of interest and see how much they cost used and new. It could save you the initial hit vs the cost of a new one.

Did you check out some of our sponsors? Firestone audio has gear in your range. A few do.

As far as a philosophy, I chose #4 and saved for a better amp. I wanted a good all-arounder that I could use on any hp. The Grado lines don't need an amp to sound good but all benefit from one. An amp shouldn't make the signal sound anything other than what it is. There's a saying here that an amp should act as a wire with gain. It shouldn't color the signal unless that is what you like. Then an amp that will let you tube/opamp roll to suit would be best. I use different gain tubes on each of my hps.

If you type in your budget in the search function of the amp forum, you will see what other amps to consider.

I'm listening to Supertramp on my RS-1s and amp and it sounds right.
 
Nov 8, 2008 at 4:42 PM Post #13 of 28

blynch1

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Well then it seems I'd be better off buying a dac first since the grados drive ok w/out an amp and I'm guessing the dac on my sound card is not too hot (although it does sound at least as good as the ipod). I'm reading up on the fubar II, zero, and other usb dacs now I guess.
 
Nov 8, 2008 at 9:49 PM Post #15 of 28

compuryan

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The problem with only getting a DAC is that they usually don't have a headphone-out. When I first started out at head-fi I first bought a EC Lunchbox amp. When I had a little more money I bought a modded Lite DAC-AH.

You'll hear people say "garbage in, garbage out" so you must upgrade your source first, but that is kinda hard when you get a nice $200 DAC that you can't plug your headphones into. Now, some do exist (for example, my benchmark dac1 has a built in headphone amp) but its not good to limit yourself to those options, it might not be the best value.
 

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