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Help me decide how to upgrade my sound quality (sub 350 DAC)

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by adgame, Feb 21, 2014.
  1. adgame
    Hey I've got beyerdynamic dt990 pro 250ohm that I recently bought. (I also got some bookshelf speaker [ESM-4] for when I want to work freely in my room)
    I'm currently running it from my integraded sound card of my motherboard (asrock z87 extreme4, id like to keep the driver from that since I can use my speaker and I dont feed on my microphone)) to a 3.5mm adapter to RCA cable that run through my kenwood oldschool amp (KA6100)(it is big).
    I've been hearing noise from the amp when my main monitor goes to a white color and a different one when the monitor reproduce black or anyother color. basicly I get interferance for the monitor like if the video card was coilwhinning.
    So I've been looking into DAC for the past 2 months or so.
    My choice nearly stopped to a maverick D1 plus (275$ with shipping and exchage rate) since it has optical and USB, an integraded tube amp (never heard headphone from a tube amp and I am kind of currious) plus that fact that it goes 24bit/192khz in optical and 24bit/96Khz via USB

    I don't know how I would run it, if i use the tube amp for my phone, or tube preout to my kenwood amp to my headphone. ( That is something to check once I got my DAC)
    Like any aware buyer, I just looked into kijiji for deal and found TEAC UD-H01 DAC for 345$ (taxe in) new.
    or a Cambridge Audio DacMagic for 250 used
    or Cambridge Audio DacMagic100 for roughly 230$

    At the first glance, the TEAC look way higher end(32bit...) then the other one...
    I don't have a budget since I plan to keep a DAC for the rest of my life (student, 20years old), and from a future perspective, everything is going digital, and it is like a good buy.
    As always, I want the best bang for my money (with a higher quality of course, otherwise my motherboard's soundcard does it for free...)

    I am not an audiophile like most of user in this forum, but I appreciate well reproduced sound
    I listen to anything: Movies, Game, Metal, Rock, to classic and popular, I want my device to be versatile.

  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    For what your willing to budget ($300+) for upgrading to an external DAC, you might be better off upgrading from the DT990 Pro 250-Ohm headphones.
    Or just spend $75 for a Creative Labs SB-Z (Sound Blaster Z) sound card, comes with a CS4398 DAC chip and a decent headphone amplifier.
  3. adgame
    So basicly, I should get a soundcard and that would be better then a external DAC?

    I dont need the amp that is included with the soundcard, I've got a kenwood KA-6100  that drives like hell (a bit too loud too :wink: )
  4. Crazy Sam
    If you're looking for just a pure + simple usb dac I've had luck with the hrt-ms2 from High Resolution Technologies, some california company i think. I had the same problem you have, as in interference from an in-case source, when I picked up that unit. One thing to keep in mind is that a dedicated dac is going to sound great coming from an on-motherboard solution, even a lower-end one, as long as it is favorably reviewed and quality. I've seen the $350 hrt-ms2+ reviewed favorably, and if it is actually $150 better than the one I listen to everyday it should do well.

    HRT is pretty weird about keeping these things simple, so its just a single asynch USB and RCA outs with some indicator lights. IF that works for you, that would be my recommendation. Consider that it lacks an optical input and balanced outputs, so that could be an issue later on if you have a specific need. Otherwise, the HRT dacs put out great sound for what they cost imo. Its up to you to decide if u want the full feature set, as in 800 different input and output options, or if you want what is going to be a simple plug-in.
  5. slinky
    Are you getting the noise just when your running the outboard amp it may be your interconnects. I have a set up where I run a minjack straight into a small t-class amp on my desk from an iMac (this for the wife who would not use the speakers if she had to turn the dac on as well) and a separate dac set up. I was getting a crazy buzz at low volumes but I made a mini jack to mini jack connector out of good quaility mic cable and the noise went away.

    Basiaclly I would think a separate dac away from the computers electrical noise would work better than the current set up. You don't have to spend too much either look at something like the basic schitt dacs or an aune t1 for Tube rolling fun.
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I just think for $150 headphones (DT990), there are wiser ways to spend money then on a $300 external DAC.
    (Yes you can get a nice DAC for $300).
    I own the DT990 Pro 250-Ohm headphones, and in general they are good headphones for a lot of uses.
    The DT990 Premium 600-Ohm have better bass control.
  7. adgame
    Now that's the kind of answer that I was looking for...
    You really think that a sound blaster z could be beneficial for me (I got alc1150 on board sound, look like a nice one for on board though)
    Always consider that I have a kenwood KA-6100 amp.
  8. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The ALC1150 is about the best on-board audio you can get built into a motherboard.
    With on-board audio, the manufacturer is going to go for whatever is cheapest to build into a motherboard, that still does the job.
    But chances are an add-on DAC would provide better audio quality.
    Hifiman Sabre U2 USB DAC, $57+shipping.
    Schiit Modi USB DAC, $99+tax/shipping
    ODAC USB DAC, $150+tax/shipping
    USB bypasses the sound card, which is fine if your just into music and are ok with no headphone surround sound for gaming and movies, just get basic stereo audio.
    A Asus Xonar DX/D1 sound card, used $60, comes with a fairly good CS4398 DAC chip and Dolby Headphone surround sound.
    If you wanted to upgrade headphones.
    Currently DT990 Premium 600-Ohm is selling used on Amazon for $241+tax.
    Guess you could sell of the DT990 Pros for around $130?
    DT990 600-Ohm are not a hugh upgrade, but the bass is more controlled.
  9. adgame
    I've read many thread since your post, and I have to admit, a sound card is not a bad idea since I'm not that much looking for the improvement in sound quality but for the interference that I got with my on board at the moment. Plus I've started messing with virtual sourround and it can be a nice addin... (with on board, i feel some down point with virtual surround)
    Since the main purpose is to eliminate the intereference, I was looking at the soundcard with emi shield...

    There is the sound blaster Z at 120$+taxe (for the retail version since the OEM doesnt have the shield)
    I found a Xonar essence stc for 180$ from a local seller ( he says its new, but openned...)

    I've also read many good review about the Sound blaster Titanium-HD, that I found for only 100$ used which look like a great deal to me...

    Since I would have a sound card with a nice DAC, I would plug it analog to my kenwood amp directly.

    Looking foward your opinion
  10. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Yes, connect the sound card to the Kenwood using an analog audio cable.
  11. adgame
    Yeah, but which sound card would fit me the best considering the price I can have
    titanium HD or soundblaster Z
  12. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Technically the Ti-HD should sound better, but does not drive headphones as well as the SB-Z.
    Adding an external headphone amplifier to the Ti-HD (like the Schiit Magni, $99) makes a great combo
    But the external headphone amplifier would connect to the same RCA jacks as the speakers would use.
    The Ti-HD is still decent for headphones on it's own.

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