Headphone amp/DAC + sound card for surround sound.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by Kol12, Aug 14, 2017.
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  1. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It says it doesn't support 5.1 output, only 2.0 output, via optical output. That's why he specifically mentioned "receiver" and "multi-channel inputs."

    Dolby Headphone or any other surround sound simulation is a 2.0 channel signal. The key word is simulation. If it was a true 5.1 signal then even if it manages to get out of a soundcard and play through a stereo headphone system you'll hear Front Left and Front Right with no Surround Left, Surround Right, Center, nor Sub (a stereo DAC will not even begin to decode a 5.1 signal - that's like trying to talk to somebody in a totally incomprehensible version of a language he knows, like a 2017 American talking to some 10th C Saxon King in England).

    The 5.1 signal that goes into the soundcard is reprocessed into a 2ch signal for surround sound virtualization. Unlike regular downmixing on most HT receivers virtual surround adds reverb since it's not just plain downmixing, it's virtualizing space, it's just that hardware limitations - not simply due to two physical channels, but that they're smack outside the listener's ears - can't allow simulating for the exact same soundscape (speakers 5ft from you in real physical surround won't sound like gunshots are coming from 100yards away either).
  2. Kol12
    This review says the Sound BlasterX AE-5 supports up to 5.1-channel analog audio output for speakers https://hothardware.com/reviews/sou...g-sound-card-for-headphone-aficionados?page=2 So does he mean you can't get a digital 5.1 output from the soundcard?

    So will the AE-5 definitely send a surround sound virtualization 2ch signal over the optical output to DAC/HP amp? Have you heard yet whether this is also possible via the analog line out on the AE-5? Soundblaster call it a 3.5mm headphone output, is it a headphone line out only or is it basically just a line out? Is this the line out I would use to a DAC if surround sound virtualization is possible over analog? Also the optical out on this card is Toslink so does that mean I would need a DAC/HP amp with a Toslink input or is Toslink compatible with Coaxial inputs also?
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Most likely no 5.1 surround signal out of the optical output.

    It should still send it out because virtualized surround is a 2.0 signal with reverb and 5-way Crossfeed added. If it was true 5.1 then the device on the receiving end needs to have a six channel DAC feeding six physical amplification channels.

    I think I mentioned earlier in this thread that you need to double check with Creative if it does that.

    It has five analogue ports with separate Headphone Output and Front Left/Front Right Output.

    Headphone output to drive headphones, for sure virtual surround goes out of that.

    FL/FR output if it can use virtual surround through that, hooked up to a headphone amp.

    You need optical input or an optical to coaxial converter. However with the prices of a DAC-HPamp that has coax but no optical, plus the converter, you might end up near the price of a Modi2 Uber+Magni2 Uber anyway.
  4. Kol12
    This is true 5.1 surround your referring to?

    Is this how most receivers/receiver DAC's work for their 5.1 output? How do receivers receive a 5.1 digital source?

    You did but I haven't contacted them yet.

    Got it.

    If virtual surround can be output off the FL/FR does that become an analog signal to the DAC/HP amp and does that matter?

    Didn't you say earlier to avoid the use of an optical to coaxial converter as it is another DAC in the pipeline? Do you know anything about the FireStone Audio Fubar HD? It has analog, optical and coaxial inputs...

    I think the SoundBlaster AE-5 should still be a good buy offering what I would imagine a huge improvement over my current onboard sound until I am in a position to upgrade even further. If the virtual surround can be output off the analog outs that definitely allows a lot more options for DAC's.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Yes. 5.1 digital tht needs to be decoded by a six channel DAC and then out through six physical channels.

    A source/transport that can output 5.1 via optical (or HDMI1.3 and newer) outputs a 5.1 digital audio signal (if HDMI it's in the same cable as video but on separate wires inside that cable).

    r receives digital 5.1 signal.

    Receiver runs the six channel signal through DSP.

    DSP sends the signal through a six-channel DAC (or three stereo DACs, whichever the case may be).

    Six channels of analogue signal leaves the six DAC channels and goes into six channels of amplification.

    It's the same thing upstream, the problem with the AE5 is that 5.1 digital output is disabled for some reason. Downstream is where the differences lie - ie HT receivers have at least six channels for DACs with five channels for amplification, with the sixth amplifier - it the ".1" - mounted on the powered subwoofer (or a separate rack mounted amp driving a passive subwoofer).

    5.1 signal runs through DSP chip. Becomes 2ch signal but with virtual surround, ie, for two physical channels, but instead of plain downmixing, it adds reverb effects to simulate distance/depth.

    That signal, still in digital, runs through a DAC. Digital to Analogue Converter churns out an analogue 2ch signal.

    That 2ch signal either goes into the output stage on the headphone output or, if it's not disabled, can be sent out via FL/FR, ie stereo output.

    You won't need a DAC if you're using the analogue ouput because you don't need to Convert from Digital to Analogue if you'r already outputting Analogue.

    I said avoid the clutter on Page 1 and then on Page 3 (what you quoted) I said,
    To rephrase: You can use it, but apart from the additional clutter of an optical to coax converter, the cost of a coax input only DAC-HPamp plus an optical to coax converter together might be too close to the cost of just getting a DAC-HPamp that has optical input. You need to slow down a little bit and understand the sentence.

    Haven't tried it nor read reviews on it, but if it has optical input, barring specs on the headphone amp power output just try to stick with reasonably easier to drive headphones.

    If you're sending out an analogue signal from the soundcard you do not need a DAC to work with it, because you can not run an analogue signal through a Digital to Analogue Converter. If you have another digital source to hook up then that's an option, but make sure you actually have enough inputs for these.
  6. Kol12
    Why would 5.1 digital out be disabled on the AE-5 and what exactly does the soundcard need to be able to do a digital 5.1 out? What is the big deal or advantage to a 5.1 digital out vs getting a 5.1 output via the soundcards analog outs to a 5.1 receiver/speakers?

    What do you mean about sticking with reasonably easier to drive headphones?

    I emailed Creative in regards to whether the surround sound virtualization/DSP can be output off the FL/FR analog outs to an external amplifier. Below is my question an their reply. It seems to imply that the DSP can be output over the line out port in stereo but possibly still a bit vague, what's your take?

    Customer Enquiry

    I have an enquiry about the SoundBlaster AE-5. Can you tell me if the cards DSP surround sound virtualization can be output from the cards Front L/R outputs to an external amplifier? Or are the Front L/R outputs only for pure 2 channel stereo output to an amplifier for say music only? I should ask whether the cards DSP virtualization can be output from the cards optical out to an external amplifier as well?

    "Thank you for contacting Creative Labs and for your interest in our products.

    As to your request, the effects offered by the dedicated software (Sound Blaster Connect) through its Acoustic Engine tab include the possibility to increase the surround characteristics of the audio output.

    The software will also let users decide whether to have such effects (DSP) applied only to the Line-Out Front port (Stereo) or to all three (5.1). For the latter, please note that the connection to a 5.1 speaker system will be required."

    Edit: It definitely seems to suggest a stereo DSP signal can be output from the FL/FR output...
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  7. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It depends on the DSP chip's capabilities or the software that controls it. In some cases there is Sony (as in Sony BMG, as in Sony behind Mariah Carey, not Sony the hardware manufacturer) forcing Sony and other manufacturers to disable certain outputs because they're paranoid about copyright. No, it doesn't make sense, don't try to, point is, to Mariah Carey's ex-husband Tony, it does, because he's old and crusty and like old japanese buisnessmen (ie where Sony the parent corp HQ is) who still use fax machines in the age of email, don't want to move on with technology.

    Digital keeps the signal less susceptible to noise and losses over a longer signal path.

    HT receivers barely even have analogue 5.1 inputs, and if they do, they have to run any analogue inputs through an ADC, because their processor - ie, a DSP chip - works in digital (Digital Signal Processor), and then run it through the receiver's own DACs. So sending a signal to the receiver via digital has that other factor in keeping the signal path simpler.

    One other thing HT receivers barely have nowadays: SPDIF inputs. They've been slowly disappearing from lower tier HT receivers since HDMI1.3 included conductors for digital audio, and has higher bandwidth than SPDIF to boot (ie SACD surround can't even work with SPDIF properly; at best, regular 5.1 works on DVD video and equivalent resolution audio), which is also why graphics cards have audio drivers if you looked at everything that's on the discs they come with or what's on AMD's or NVidia's driver pages. People using HTPCs are likely to use HDMI anyway, and those using them desktop for nearfield speakers and headphones tend to use the digital output for 2.0 audio, with analogue 5.1 for those who use multimedia speakers.

    96dB/1mW sensitiivity or higher, preferably low impedance. Used to be Id say get 300ohms even if that means more voltage is required, but the AE1 doesn't have a problem with low impedance headphones since it has a low output impedance on the headphone output.

    Note that 96dB/1mW does not litereally mean that it hits 96dB as soon as the volume setting is not zero. Gain isn't factored in there yet, on top of which, output power is logarithmic, not linear, so the higher you want to go, the more power you have to put in for every 3dB increment in increase in actual output in decibels.

    I'd take that to mean all DSP effects can go out of the analogue outputs, you just manually select. I think his note on using 5.1 is more of "if you apply EQ to a 5.1 signal you need 5.1 speakers to hear the effects on all 5.1 speakers."
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  8. Kol12
    So is the lack of a digital surround output usually more of a copyright issue as you mention rather than a cost issue? Or could it be Creative thought it likely people won't use a digital surround output to a HT receiver? It seems kind of backward for this day in age...

    "HT receivers barely even have analogue 5.1 inputs"

    That's why I think Creative's approach appears backwards having no digital 5.1 out... So the only chance in running a real 5.1 output from the AE-5 would be from the analogue outs to a receiver it seems... I agree, I have looked at some of the HT receivers and it appears analogue inputs are being dropped... I guess Creative's intention for the analogue outs is more "Computer 5.1 speakers" vs HT bookshelf speakers or HT receivers etc. I would likely be interested in running a surround DSP signal through bookshelf speakers myself.

    Headphones I have are 60 ohm, what should I expect?

    I kind of gathered that to. So I guess a pure amplifier only could be an option but the question is would a DAC/HP amp with an optical connection still be superior to AE-5's DAC with analogue outputs to an amplifier only? I'm not sure how the Sabre32 Ultra Class DAC compares to other DAC's but I understand it is pretty decent and used in several HT receivers...
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Very likely all of those contributed to that decision, although the copyright issue would be the last one. And then there's the HD bandwidth issue.

    How is it backwards on Creative's part? Like I told you in my previous post, the main problem is that lower tier HT receivers are starting to phase out SPDIF inputs because they are using HDMI. SPDIF can't even handle DSD and BluRay audio, unlike HDMI and even freaking USB 2.0. If anything, having 5.1 digital output is what's backward. The main reason the soundcard still has SPDIF to begin with is because 2ch equipment (barring DSD) still use SPDIF inputs for receiving PCM audio signals, and that's one way to get virtual surround to a DAC-HPamp, for those who prefer to use a headphone that needs more power anyway.

    And one reason why they don't do HDMI on these is because:
    1) The graphics card and motherboard have HDMI. Anyone using a gaming rig to hook up to the main theater run by an HT receiver is going to use the graphics card, and since that main HT rig uses speakers, the DSP on the soundcard is virtually pointless as the only thing it does better is run Dolby Headphone or some other kind of surround simulation for headphones on PC games.

    2) Most users who need to send out a 2.0 virtual surround signal, again, will be using a stereo - ie, 2ch - DAC-HPamp with it. And those still use SPDIF, since PCM (much less 2ch) aren't obsolete in terms of bandwidth.

    3) Even if they squeeze in HDMI, it can't come at the cost of the other more commonly used outputs for most PC gamers, ie, they play on a desk. So what's really needed are headphone out+mic in, analogue 5.1 to multimedia speakers, or SPDIF digital output to a 2ch DAC-HPamp(-Preamp) driving a headphone (and occasionally, nearfield speakers on the desk). Look at that card's rear. Where do you put HDMI? You make it a 2slot soundcard and gamers won't buy it when it can get in the way of graphics cards for SLI/X-Fire, PCI-E SSDs, or where it can even fit. Some ATX and some mATX motherboards have the first or only graphics card second from top, then it blocks two slots - where does the soundcard go then, especially in an mATX boards that have four slots (two in the center for the graphics card) and not all mATX cases have a fifth slot so now you can't even just ensure it can go into the bottom slot.

    No. Unless you get an older higher tier receiver. Just like SPDIF, lower tier receivers that have been coming out the past few years have been getting rid of the 5.1 analogue input.

    What Creative had in mind for the 5.1 analogue output are multimedia speakers. You know, like the 5.1 sets sold by Creative, Logitech, Edifier, Altec Lansing, etc. Very few people use HT receivers much less a full on HT set up nowadays - income, housing markets, and convenience have all contributed to people preferring smaller flats with shared walls near work instead of a suburban home with a long commute to the downtown area where they likely work. This is the same reason why the headphone audio market has been rising since 2000 and speakers are declining, or at least not growing anymore (and will decline later once the older baby boomers who have the large suburban homes start getting shipped off into retirement homes), save for nearfield speakers like studio monitors (which is more convenient to use for those serious about audio and use a computer as a source, which is also why preamp outputs have almost become standard for headphone amplifiers).

    What you started out looking for in this thread is a DAC-HPamp...do you have that PC in the living room to utilize an actual HT system to play on? And do you even have a high refresh rate HDTV in that living room? Because if you're playing in the living room you might as well just play only the games that come out on consoles instead of their PC versions. Even if you get wireless PC peripherals the slow refresh rate of HDTVs and the simulated refresh rates they can do on movies do not work well on games, much less on a PC game where you'd invest on a GTX 1080 to run 4K on that HDTV only for the slow refresh rate to cause tearing. HDTVs don't even have GSync.

    OK. Now I know why you're so concerned about speakers and surround. Here's the deal though: Dolby Headphone does NOT work well on speakers. Part of what makes Dolby Headphone work is that it feeds the sound across both channels at varying gain levels (then adds reverb effects to make them seem more distant than just inside the head), and that's because when you wear a headphone, left ear can only hear left driver and right ear can only hear right driver, without intervention through Crossfeed or Dolby Headphone. On speakers both ears hear both speakers operating in a room. This is what Crossfeed simulates, and essentially one half of what Virtual Surround does - the difference is the latter works off of a 6ch signal and adds reverb to aritificially, psychoacoustically, create some perceptible depth to the source of sounds that gets past some of the physical realities of having the transducers smack outside each ear isolated from each other.

    Even if the virtual surround program isn't called Dolby Headphone it still works basically the same way. Bottom line: even if you wire it up to work, it will not work properly.

    If what you need is to have two speakers for listening with the headphones off you can just hook them up to the analogue FL-FR output on the soundcard or use a DAC-HPamp-Preamp to feed a preamp signal to the speakers. Do not use Dolby Headphone with speakers either way.

    AE-5 have a very low output impedance so there's none of the more severe EQ effects that you get using a low impedance headphone with a high output impedance headphone output.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the individual DAC chip. I have a Meier Cantate.2 and its DAC board uses a PCM2702 - a combo DAC and USB receiver chip - and it sounds better than a bunch of CDPs with dual Wofson DACs.

    And using optical from the soundcard to a DAC-HPamp-Preamp isn't about superior sound quality per se. The reality is that if you'll have headphones and speakers you might want to drive the headphone with a headphone amp, and using a DAC with it apart from the soundcard means you shorted the analogue signal path (shorter if it's a combo DAC-HPamp), and if you're using speakers, using the preamp output from the HPamp-Preamp or DAC-Hpamp-Preamp allows an easy to reach analogue volume control as well as conveinent switching. Instead of going into Sound Properties to switch to speakers, you just pull the headphone out of the HPamp-Preamp or the DAC-HPamp-Preamp, and it automatically switches over into preamp output for the speakers. AudioGD even has an output selector on the front panel, so it's not necessary to pull the headphones out.
  10. Kol12
    This all makes sense. I guess I don't really know enough about 5.1 digital outputs and in what scenarios/equipment setups it would be beneficial, whether it is old tech now with HDMI taking place etc. So are 5.1 outputs being phased out also? I really need some history!

    So basically this card is no good for digital or analogue 5.1 out to HT receiver? I am not overly concerned as I am more interested in headphones and near field speakers.

    Yeah I guess multimedia speakers were/are always the intention for gaming sound cards...

    No this intended for the computer only not a living room setup.

    Of course, so the Soundblaster BlasterX Acoustic Engine on the AE-5 is basically Dolby Headphone right? So what happens when you run Dolby Headphone through stereo speakers? The intention of near field speakers would be audio/music reproduction and also gaming but I am not sure what to expect from stereo speakers for gaming...

    I guess the first step is to get the AE-5 which will give me my surround headphone gaming and a decent DAC and then I can look more seriously at external DAC/amps.

    When it comes to studio/near field speakers what are differences advantages or disadvantages over active vs speakers that need separate amplification?

    Thanks for all the help so far, learning lot's!
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  11. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Why would you think that? Games and movies are on 5.1 audio (games rarely have 7.1), and HDMI1.3 and up uses 5.1 and 7.1 digital output. Playstation4 and XBox One output 5.1 via HDMI or SPDIF optical.

    You can use an older receiver, but since you're not even going to run an actual 5.1 set up, then why are you so concerned about sending out a 5.1 signal to only two speakers? You're not only not using this in a living room, you don't have a Center, Surround Left, Surround Right, and Subwoofer. You just have Front Left and Front Right.

    Practically, yes.

    Just for a start, you will end up with a narrower soundstage.

    I wouldn't bother with stereo speakers for gaming. They can't help positioning vs virtual surround on a headphone, they will broadcast the potty mouths (yours and the people you play with) all over the house, they'll have an even harder time projecting sounds that even psychoacoustically will seem to be coming from the rear unless you have severe reflections (in which case they will screw up music), etc.

    Unless you're looking at using very hard to drive headphones or matching the kind of THD+N levels on reference systems using Meier and Violectric components for example, or Creative is lying about the specs, you're not likely to hear much of an improvement over the AE-5.

    Nearfield speakers are designed for use nearfield. They're desgined for use at around 1m from your head, if not closer.

    Standmount passive speakers are measured for sensitivity at 1m but apart from that are designed for use at more than that distance.

    Response can vary with distance so it's safer to use a speaker designed for how far you're sitting from them.

    Powered speakers also come with amplifiers built in and nearly all of them are for nearfield use. Active monitors come with separate amplifier circuits for the tweeters and midwoofers, so you can adjust the gain to tweak the balance just by turning a knob. To do something similar on a passive speaker you need to take out the passive crossover and tweak the settings on the high pass.

    Absent a preamp output from a DAC-HPamp or HPamp you can use the analogue FL/FR output on the AE-1 and then use Windows control temporarily, or use the Schiit Sys passive preamp if you're not getting a DAC-HPamp anymore.

    Passive speakers designed for listening at over 1m distance on the other hand can have more drivers since sitting farther diminishes variances in distance from your head to each driver. at 2m+ distance your head will be equidistant to the drivers on these even if they have several bass drivers, or even a subwoofer on the floor between them. One reason they tend to not come with amps is because you can get an amp as you require based on what the speaker needs to play in a given room size. If you have large speakers in a large room you can get a giant 150watt per channel dual monobloc amplifier like Secondo. If you have standmounts with a 6in to 7in midwoofer in a fairly you can get a very clean, low power output amp like the First Watt, which produces only 15watts per channel but operates in full Class A at very, very, very low noise levels. With Class A topology though it needs a lot of heatsinks, so it's even larger and heavier than amps like the Secondo.

    Active speakers take a lot of the guesswork out. And they come with a lot of power that you won't fall short using them at close distance. My friend uses his KRK Rokit 6 for listening at his computer then hauls them out to play in the roofdeck if we're partying there.
  12. Kol12
    I meant are they phasing digital 5.1 out over SPDIF or has it never been very common on gaming soundcards?

    More just curious really and wondered why the guy in the review was complaining about the AE-5 not having a digital 5.1 output...

    Very true, best stick to stereo speakers for music.

    Are powered/active nearfield speakers generally best for computer music? Would there be any advantage to having a DAC/HP amp with pre-out driving powered speakers instead? Why would I want something like the Schiit Sys passive preamp and not a DAC/HP amp?
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  13. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Some older 5.1 multimedia speakers had a multichannel DAC with SPDIF input. That didn't last long likely because of costs - PC gamers weren't as obsessive about sound quality (and in the end these were still small speakers with two that you had to put on stand s behind the chair that can easily get knocked over, or at least that was the reason my brother and I stopped using them) to pay for the more expensive DAC-equipped speaker sets and very very very few had room for an HT set up. And even today graphics cards would need a higher refresh rate than HDTVs, which is why apart from beign used as servers for locally stored movies, living room PCs are still rare.

    Maybe he can actually use it. Maybe he has them in the living room and doesn't care about 144hz. Maybe he's planning on buying the new high refresh rate HDTVs and has a higher tier A/V processor (see, go back to my posts - I've been pointing out that it's the low tier receivers that are phasing out SPDIF) that still takes audio from SPDIF, this way he doesn't screw around with the usually problematic audio drivers from AMD and NVidia. Or he's got a slightly larger room dedicated only for the PC so he can use serious A/V audio hardware with a 32in 144hz curved ultrawide monitor. Maybe he has one of those racing sim cages and instead of Gran Turismo with PS4 graphic he's running GTX 1080Ti in SLi with three curved monitors suspended on a bucket seat, and he wants sound coming out of 6in midwoofer standmounts around that (ie his chair isn't for work nor on wheels t o knock anything over) so even without driving out of his garage he'll still hear the glorious sound of an Italian V12 through proper speakers.

    It's not that it's absolutely impossible, the problem is that doing it this way is very expensive as to be less economical.

    No, they're not best for "computer" music, they're meant for "nearfield listening." You can listen to "computer music" in a dedicated audio/HT room with the computer as a server and I'd tell you the studio monitors aren't the best if you're sitting 2.5m away or farther. Same way you can sit on a desk on use a DAP and I'd tell you to use active monitors. It's about how far you're sitting and how much space you have, not what the source device is or the format the music is in.

    1. A DAC-HPamp-Preamp unit with a HPamp circuit that has a lot of clean power can drive practically anything but electrostats. If you're planning on using a wide variety of headphones, or even just high impedance headphones, this is a better choice for driving headphones than the crappy for the size and money you get out of the headphone driver circuits on speaker integrated amplifiers/receivers.

    2. The passive speakers you can use with those receivers are not designed primarily for nearfield. Not that they all would suck at that, but why have a huge, heavy box (and in the case of HT receivers, some have a fan inside to generate noise that can be audible if that receiver is that close to you) driving speakers you still have to gamble on being good for that when you can get something purpose built and will save space, if not necessarily on cable runs (each studio monitor piece has each own amp, and therefore its own power cable).

    I already explained that. if you want to save money and just get the AE-5 and a headphone it can easily drive that if you got a DAC-HPamp-Preamp you'll just come back here foaming at the mouth that you were cajoled into spending on an AudioGD or Schiit that doesn't sound any different from the AE-5, then might as well use the Schiit so you can control the volume on the speakers conveniently rather than scrolling to the lower right to click an icon to bring up a bar that you need to move or click on or hitting hot keys or moving two gain knobs (one on the back of each monitor).
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  14. Kol12
    I should have been slightly more specific but what I meant by computer music is listening to music close to you when at a computer.

    Is that what you meant about deciding not to get a dedicated DAC/HP amp, using the headphone driver circuits on speaker integrated amplifiers instead? What do you recommend for nearfield speakers? Are active studio monitors still most commonly used? Instead of using passive speakers with a HT receiver couldn't you run them off of a DAC/HP amp with a pre amp? But you are saying not many passive speakers are designed for nearfield... I guess most people would use active studio monitors purely for that and still have a DAC/HP amp for headphone listening?

    I thought the idea was that an external DAC/HP amp was going to be superior to the AE-5 for DAC and amplification/HP amplification and we just wanted the AE-5 for surround virtualization? I think what your saying is that the AE-5 is already on par with some DAC/HP amps and that the addition of a DAC/HP amp to AE-5 would have to be quite a high end one to notice the difference is that right?
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Well I still covered that up there.

    I actually said the opposite of that. Using an integrated amp and passive speakers are the worst option for you for the following reasons:

    1. The speakers aren't specifically designed for nearfield use

    2. The speaker integrated amps tend to have crappy headphone amplifiers for the money you pay for and the size you deal with. Unless you're just going to use an HD600 or HD650 for night listening with a baby in another room, and your primary listening is on speakers sitting farther out, do not go with integrated amps and passive speakers.

    You really need to slow down and read what I write. Not only did I write the opposite, what I was saying was that the alternative to the DAC-HPamp to save you money was to use the AE-5 on its own, not to blow the money on the integrated amplifier and passive speakers, which would only be cheap if you get them used and local pick up (shipping on a 12lb amplifier with all the packing material will just double the price you pay for on eBay). Just hook up an easy to drive headphone on the AE-5 headphone output, then hook up the Schiit Sys between the soundcard's FL+FR output and the nearfield speakers so you still have an easy to reach volume control for both speakers right there on the desk.

    KRK Rokit 5, Rokit 6 if you want something that warms the top end and midrange a bit, slams hard in the low end

    JBL LSR305 if you want something more honest (if the highs are too bright, you can always lower the tweeter channels' gain)

    You can look into Master-Slave speakers designed for home audio where one speaker has all the amp circuits in it and you just run a speaker cable from that to the Slave. Like HiVi and some Edifiers, or Audioengine's A5 and A2.

    The preamp can run a power amp like a NAD 214 to drive the speakers but now you have even ore clutter on your desk for speakers that aren't even designed for nearfield use. Why do you want to do things the hard way just to get farther from easier optimal results?

    You can have either nearfield speakers or a larger room with speakers designed to operate in that environment, and either way you can use headphones. It's just that in your case you're sitting nearfield.

    Dude...I already lost count of how many times I explained this. Yes, it's superior. But do you actually need it to be that superior? Do you have more money to blow? Or are you going to spread your cash too thin instead of spending more where it matters, ie the headphones and speakers, when you can get a headphone that the AE-5 can easily drive and speakers can be controlled by a $50 Schiit Sys?

    If you're not rushing to get everything now I'd tell you to get some better headphones even if they need an amp, get a DAC-HPamp later, then get the speakers last. If you can wait, then do this. But it sounds like that's not the case so I offered a compromise alternative strategy on how to go about getting it all in sooner.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
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