Good Idea?: Audio Interface Balanced Line Outs to Separate Headphone Amp With Line Level Inputs.
Jul 29, 2020 at 5:25 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


New Head-Fier
Jan 8, 2011
Hello everyone,

I am a home music producer. I compose, produce and mix music as a hobby. I am not a professional but it’s safe to say that I am proficient in what I do. I ask help from my fellow audiophiles to give me advice if I have some concepts wrong and if my “semi-pro” audio setup can be homogenized with some decent Hifi gear to give me the best of both worlds. In short, I was hoping to have a decent all-in-one setup that can be used for my music hobby and at the same time, be used for leisurely listening to music.

I think the converters of my audio interface sound clean and decent but I want a better experience because the headphone amp of my audio interface sounds warm or muffled in a non-flattering, lacking kind of way, even with the SHP9500. I’ve heard most people in many forums describing the headphone amp of most prosumer audio interfaces as “dry” and I agree with them. Could it be the 10 Ohm rating and I have 32 Ohm headphones?

So, I’m looking for a separate headphone amp with line level inputs, strictly under $150. (maybe $200 if I’m patient enough). What I plan to do is use the balanced line outputs of my audio interface and hook it up to a separate headphone amp with balanced line level inputs. This is in the hopes of getting a better sound from a dedicated headphone amp with the decent AD converters of my interface.

My basic setup:

Audio Interface
• M-audio 2x2m hooked up to a PC using a shielded USB cable. (It has 10 ohm output impedance in the headphone amp). I use Foobar2000 playing FLAC and MP3.

• For music production I use my M40x.
• For listening to music and sometimes as an extra reference I use the Philips SHP9500 (I plan to get a HD 58X, HD 6XX or HD 660s in the future).
• For general mundane purposes (piano practice, tracking), I use my Oneodio Pro 10g Dj as it’s very up front with the bass frequencies making it easy to follow the beat.

My Questions:

-Do you guys think this is “viable” option?

-Do you think getting a separate headphone amp and using the line outputs of my interface will yield a considerably better experience?

-I’ve been recently looking at the SMSL SAP II PRO and the SMSL SAP-1. Are these good options for what I plan to do? (I’m not sure if these have line level inputs).

-Or is this a stupid idea and should I just get something else entirely for music listening?

-If it is stupid, then I’m eyeing the FX Audio DAC-X6. Is this decent enough?

I'm not looking for an endgame or a 100% experience, I'm just hoping I can make my current setup better or turn it into something decent. Sorry for the long post. All comments and suggestions are welcome. Cheers.
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