Do I need an AMP or DAC? What are the real benefits?
May 6, 2015 at 2:15 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

Jonkai

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Hello All,
I currently use Audio Technica ATM-M50s as my main headphones, although I'm planning on getting the Sony MDR-1A relatively soon. I listen to my music off of my computer (that has a sound card) and my phone. My music files are a mix of 320 kbps MP3 and FLAC. So my questions are: Would an AMP or DAC make my listening experience better? Would I benefit from combining them with my phone and/or laptop? Which would be more beneficial, an AMP or DAC, or both?
 
Thanks for any responses.
 
May 6, 2015 at 2:26 PM Post #2 of 8

Music Alchemist

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With those headphones, it's more likely that you wouldn't hear a difference. I compared a Schiit Magni 2 Uber amp and Modi 2 DAC to my laptop's headphone jacks and heard little to no difference except with harder to drive headphones. Upgrade your headphones to mid-range or high-end, then invest in an amp and DAC. That's my advice.
 
May 6, 2015 at 3:06 PM Post #3 of 8

PurpleAngel

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  I currently use Audio Technica ATM-M50s as my main headphones, although I'm planning on getting the Sony MDR-1A relatively soon.
I listen to my music off of my computer (that has a sound card) and my phone. My music files are a mix of 320 kbps MP3 and FLAC.
So my questions are: Would an AMP or DAC make my listening experience better?
Would I benefit from combining them with my phone and/or laptop? Which would be more beneficial, an AMP or DAC, or both?

 
So I'm assuming by computer sound card you mean the motherboard's on-board (built in) audio hardware?
You might try the FiiO E10K ($76) or Schiit Fulla ($79), both are USB-DAC-amps.
Or get the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card ($65-$85).
Otherwise can't see a good reason for spending anything more then $100 (maybe less) trying to improve the audio quality of the ATH-M50 headphones.
 
Or maybe it's better to sell off the ATH-M50 and get the Sony MDR-1A,
maybe try a low cost sound card, like the Asus Xonar DG ($20-$25).
 
May 6, 2015 at 3:48 PM Post #5 of 8

PurpleAngel

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  Thanks. I guess if it wouldn't make much difference for the ATH-M50 then would I need an amp once I move on to the MDR-1A?

 
I'm going to guess the MDR-1A plugged directly into the motherboard's on-board audio, will sound better the the ATH-M50 plugged into a $100 DAC/amp.
Maybe add the E10K or Fulla at a later date.
 
May 6, 2015 at 4:49 PM Post #6 of 8

Jonkai

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Maybe I should just save getting an AMP and DAC for when I upgrade from the MDR-1A down the road. Listening to my ATH-M50 through my laptop now, sounds like the motherboard is doing a pretty good job of driving them, even at lower volumes.
 
May 6, 2015 at 5:29 PM Post #7 of 8

BobMonkhouse

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Adding my .02
 
Your sound card has a certain tonality and sound characteristics. Adding a DAC and/or an amp will make a noticeable difference the way your headphones sound. Only you can decide if the changes are beneficial and worth it. The overall consensus is that external sound card or DAC+amp improves the quality of the sound. It's not suggested to add an amp only to your card line-out because of the double amping which won't improve the quality. So, the options are to try a DAC + amp pair, or to add an external sound card, which combines a DAC and an amp and comes with computer software similar to the internal card. Your real question is whether the addition of a DAC/amp will justify the spent money by improving the way your ATH-M50X sounds to a satisfying level.
 
May 6, 2015 at 5:37 PM Post #8 of 8

Music Alchemist

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Very few headphones actually need an amp. The best thing you can do is upgrade to the best headphones you can afford, then see whether an amp and DAC improve things. Try testing with and without for each. If you don't hear an improvement, there's no reason to keep them.
 

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