DAC Decision To Be Made - Tough One!
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ShaggyRS6

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I actually originally posted in the Soundblaster X7 thread but wanted to post this here to a wider audience.

In short, I had an issue with the X7 that I fixed this evening which actually gives me a decision to make, but more on that later!

I spent some time with the X7 this evening, and to be honest, after reading reviews of "i'm blown away" and other likewise comments from some reviewers, personally I am a bit underwhelmed! I'm certainly not blown away! I think the issue for me is I really wanted something to stand out from a music perspective. Yes the X7 has all the bells and whistles for the gamer, and whilst I do game, movies and music is what I do the most! I'm no audiophile expert, but I like good sound and whilst (to my ear) there is a slight improvement over my X-Fi Fatality card, it's not not like light years ahead in my opinion!

So now I am stuck with a decision to make"

1. Keep it, I needed something new that was supported anyway, my old X-Fi Fatality card is more than a few years old.

2. Do I send it back and get something like the Schiit Lyr 3 which by all accounts is meant to be amazing. Now that wont give me surround sound in games, but I don't think I am looking for that!

I posted on Reddit, and before the forum mods tore my post down for being in the wrong category I did manage to get some good advice and feedback.

Suggestions were as follows:


I spent a good part of the day annoying the hell of some poor Schiit (why did they have to name it that) technician asking all kinds of questions. One thing that stood out is that he actually tried to sell me the stack, which is significantly cheaper that the Lyr 3. It was me who talked myself into maybe spending the extra. In fact I might get his number and get his personal opinions on this decision I need to make,

Like I said, I am no expert like you guys, I'm just trying to make the right decision for me and hopefully you might be able to provide some guidance. My opinion right now is that the only thing I loose my going the Schiit way is as an on off gamer I loose surround sound. But that's not a real big deal for me, I don't spend an awful lot of time on FPS games etc. What I gain is a great DAC system that will last and enable me to grow my equipment.

For reference I use speakers as my first weapon of choice when comes listening to music and movies. I have the JBL LS305 Monitors. As far as headphones go they are nowhere near reference quality and I use them from time to time. I have the Sennheiser HD 598's.

Any guidance you have would be appreciated!
 
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Fotopaul

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Well to me it sounds like you want a DAC primarily, and not really a DSP/Virtual surround headphone amp.

So in that sense, the X7 might not be right for you, since it's a little "jack of all trades" master of none.

Now it should be noted that I received my unit yesterday and while I'm perfectly happy with it for my purposes (solely gaming and some Netflix on my xbox one X) I can attest to that it's not an overwhelming DAC amplifier for music.

Comparing it to both my UDA-1 and Zoom TAC-2 (both of which are connected to the same computer) it does not stand out, especially not to the Sony UDA-1

Im sure however that it can be made to sound more "musical" with OP-AMP rolling and some EQ tweaks to match your speakers/headphones. But would it be worth it? I think not.

For playing mainly music the X7 would not be my choice. A dedicated DAC would be, and while I owned a pile of different DAC's over the year it's hard to give a concrete suggestion as to what to buy as it so dependant on taste and output. (what kind of headphones and speakers you're gonna use it with)

But considering the speakers you got, which have a reasonable stereo soundstage (more so then hi-fi speakers) you might want to get a DAC that is not too analytical and a little on the warmer side.

Seems like you already got some good suggestions, the only thing I would add is that if you intend to get a DAC that you will control mainly with physical knobs, get something that makes you smile when you touch it.

The Soundblaster X7 makes me cringe when I touch it.. :) The UDA-1 with it's smooth and well-damped volume knob is a whole other matter!

Regarding being overwhelmed or not, I think most people who had listened to a pair of decent studio monitors with a decent audio interface will have a hard time to be really overwhelmed with the X7 sheer musicality.
 
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ShaggyRS6

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So I still have not made decision on this. Its driving me nuts to be honest. I played around with the X7 a little more, this time using Deezer Hi-Fi. It does come alive a lot more with Hi-Bit rate FLAC files I will definitely say that. My HD 598's sound good, but I want more, and as you know this whole Audiophile thing is a money pit :) I am still in two minds of returning the X7 or ibvesting that money in better headphones with a higher impedance.

Or do I just ditch the X7 and go for a Schiit solution. I think the issue there is I will still probably have the same issues with the headphones?

Any inspiration you can give me would be great!
 
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Fotopaul

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I think it all boils down to how you intend to utilize the X7.

Will you take advantage of all the connectivity, the mic for phone calls, the ability to drive smaller bookshelf speakers etc?

If not, I think you can more for your money elsewhere if listening to music is your sole purpose for the DAC.

The cans are good, but of course, there are plenty of upgrades to be had, and if you get a dedicated DAC/headphone amp you most likely want to take advantage of your new stuff with a pair of "better" headphones.. :)

For me, the X7 grows on me more and more every day, but I do use almost all connections, and gaming is my primary purpose with it and at that it works extremely well.
 
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ShaggyRS6

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I actually got a pair of HD600's and I am trying to give the X7 a good go before I send it back. Do you or anyone else have any recommendations for profile settings for headphones for music?
 
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Nice!

I haven't really tested it enough with HR music, to be honest, but the little I tested (with my Philips X2HR) have been to forgo all processing and using direct mode. Have no personal experience with the HD600 so can't be specific, but would start with a flat EQ if your not happy with the direct mode and adjust from there. Compared to my X2HR i think the HD600 would shine with it's lively mids and detailed highs, the bass might be a little light depending on your choice of music.

Look forward to hear your experience with this combo!
 
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ShaggyRS6

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Ok so some further thoughts on my setup after spendings good amount of time playing around with settings. Of course, the settings I am using are for me and I believe it makes sense that whatever settings folks use are all subjective because everyone’s idea of that “perfect sound” is going to be based on their own listening requirements. Right?

The X7 has grown on me. Its not perfect, nowhere near perfect, but for me, at this time it is serving a purpose and serving it well. Basically it is giving me a more superior audio experience than my old PC sound card for all of the music or audio genres I listen too which are:

  • Music
  • Video/Movie
  • Gaming
Pretty much what the X7 is all about right? Right.. :) I will say that this is not the end of my journey, its just the start, I am not going to start playing around with other DAC’s or Headphone AMP’s until I move house in September as I want to set a space up in my new house thats more tuned to listening to music. So expect more from me once that happens.

What I will say that has made a huge difference is cancelling my Spotify account and subscribing to the Deezer Hi-Fi service. WOW, WOW, WOW - This is how music should be listened too. Hi bit rate loseless music. It’s incredible!

Now onto the Sennheiser 650’s - I have the 598’s as well and I will say there is a noticeable difference with the 600’s. I had to play around with my settings on the X7 and I will share with you what those are once I have them perfected for me. The 650’s make that X7 shine, music is awesome as is are movies! You hear every little detail. I am a bass head and too be honest there are working fine for me from a bass perspective! And to be able to get these from Amazon right now for $287? You mad not too!

So that’s where I am right now!
 
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it all comes back down to priorities: the first and foremost is getting the best recording of the music, then you should review your gears.
some nice dacs and headphone are even more unforgiving on poorly recorded songs
 
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ShaggyRS6

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Yes, I agree Kildras, I think you are very right. The first step is quality recordings. That then gives you a benchmark. So I think for now I am happy, down the road, and when I get settled into my new house I can start thinking of the next steps!
 
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Fotopaul

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Sounds like the X7 has charmed you! :)

I just love my X7 more and more, today I received the EMU XM7 and initially, I'm blown away how well these cheap speakers perform!



Now the placement is not optimal for serious music sessions and I haven't burned them in yet, but for games and movies, they almost make we want to stay in my office watch movies instead of the living room.. :)

I have a quite a big FLAC library and a Roon so I know how much difference HR music does. But I never really tried Deezer, so thanks for mentioning it, looks to be a nice addition to the family's Spotify account.
 
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ShaggyRS6

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Looking great. I have a question, my Sennheiser HD 600 have an impedance of 300 ohms. If I change the X7 to 600 ohms will that break the headphones. I mean I don't plan on turning the volume way up, just at times i feel the volume is not high enough for me on 300 ohms.
 
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