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Buy new headphones or USB DAC first?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jezmoulton, Mar 21, 2013.
  1. jezmoulton
    Hi there,
    I listen to a lot of music from my computer at home. I have recently got a new HiFi (second hand Technics from ebay) and I have been using the Sennhesier HD 202's for a couple of yerars now. I use a very cheap "Creative X-Fi Go Pro!" USB soundcard, but I would like to make some further upgrades to my setup. Would I benefit more from getting the beautiful Fiio E10 or a pair of Grado SR80i's. The DAC can be used with both my current headphones and the HiFi, so I am thinking oif getting that one first.
    I am a student, so it would be a few months between buying the first item and the second.
    My setup: http://t.co/1Ma335Ucdr
  2. Greed
    I would it say, it sounds like you might be better off getting a decent DAC first before headphones. Especially if you have bought some new speakers for yourself, to enjoy them further a nice DAC will clean up your music. It really depends on how much time you spend with headphones vs speakers. If you tend to listen to your speakers more often, a DAC will suit you better. For me the most important part of the chain is your source, I believe in "Garbage in Garbage out". So a DAC is a great start I would say.
    Some recommendations for a good USB DAC on a budget:
    JDSLabs ODAC
    Schiit Modi
    FiiO's are great if you are wanting a more portable solution, but the dac section of the above units will most definitely outperform the dac in a FiiO E10 and the price is about the same especially if you don't mind going used. Good luck!
    jezmoulton likes this.
  3. jezmoulton
  4. jezmoulton
    I'm in the UK and the only DAC out of the two you suggested I could find was a second hand one on ebay for £80 (E10 is £60) with no picture. How much better is it for the money (I will be using RCA for the sound)
  5. Greed
    Oh, I'm sorry didn't know you were located in the UK. In that case, your alternative would be Epiphany Acoustics. They basically produce the same design amps and dacs as JDS Labs. Here is the link: http://epiphany-acoustics.co.uk/products-page/
    The clarity, soundstage, detail retrieval, etc would be much better than the FiiO E10. It is up to you to decide whether or not it is worth the extra money, but IMO it will be. Down the road you will not need to upgrade your DAC for a long while, so it will free up some extra cash for a nice desktop amp, or something else.
    jezmoulton likes this.
  6. jezmoulton
    Does the term "like all DAC's it requires an amplifier" mean I can't plug my headphones straight into it? It certainly looks pretty stunning for the price. Also is the Fiio just 16 bit and how can I use the 24bit of the JDS/Epiphany ?
  7. NA Blur
    Listed in order of what I think makes the biggest difference.
    Looking for sound quality improvement?
    1.) Better source material ( well recorded music )
    2.) Better headphone ( go from the Koss Porta Pro and end near the LCD-3 )
    3.) Better DAC ( especially if you do computer listening )
    4.) Better Amp ( some amps deliver less noise and a cleaner low end while extending the treble )
    5.) Lastly let your brain filter have time to understand the new sound signature
  8. Greed
    Typically when you a get DAC, it is inferred that an amp is needed. If you are willing to spend money on a DAC, then an amp is the next step. For the SR80i, you won't "need" in amp to drive them decently, your receiver will do that. Although the synergy between your receiver and headphones might not be good. It gets pretty technical when you are looking into synergy, but know that a dedicated headphone amp, will typically be better than a receivers amp section for headphones.

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