Macbook Pro soundcard VS ...
Apr 27, 2015 at 4:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

bgentry

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I've asked about this twice in different ways in the Help forum and while I've gotten a few replies, I haven't gotten anything that's really helpful.  I appreciate those who replied to me, but I just don't think I have the right audience in that forum for my questions.  So here I am.  :)
 
This is really two questions, both about my Macbook Pro's sound card versus something external.
 
1.  Will an inexpensive DAC, like a Schiit Modi, make a noticeable improvement in sound?  If not the Modi, is there something in the same ball park price wise that might make a sonic difference?  I've tried to compare the output of my MBP versus an older SoundBlaster "Live" 24 USB, but I really couldn't tell a difference.  I couldn't fully A/B them because of the computer setup, but I could go back and forth with about a 30 - 45 second delay between them.  Again, couldn't really hear a difference.
 
2.  I'm using a cheap Yamaha mixing board as a headphone amplifier and general "sound control" device.  The whole board only sells for about $100, so the headphone section can't really be anything special.  That being said, it's headphone output can drive my headphones ear bleedingly loud.  That's no measure of quality, I'm just saying the output has a good bit of power.  The specs say 75mW at 40 Ohms, but it must be more because it really can get very loud.
 
Anyway, I've A/B'ed the output of the Mac directly versus the mixing board and again, I have a hard time hearing any differences.  Will a "real" headphone amp, like the Schiit Magni make a difference I can hear?
 
The Modi and Magni aren't super expensive, but I'd like to actually hear an improvement if I'm going to spend $200.  If I can't, maybe that money would be better spent on better headphones.  Or a better DAC and amp?
 
Thanks for reading.
 
Brian.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 5:27 PM Post #2 of 10

PurpleAngel

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Usually you want to spend more for your headphones, then for the DAC/amp.
What headphones do you have now?
What is your max budget for improving audio? (DAC & amp & headphones).
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 5:32 PM Post #3 of 10

bgentry

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While I don't necessarily agree that most of the money needs to go towards headphones I'm certainly open to the idea of new headphones.
 
I have a pair of SoundMagic HP150 and a pair of older Senn HD280pro.  I pretty much only use the HP150s now.
 
Budget is pretty small.  I'd like to keep it to around $200, but I could stretch it to $300.
 
Thanks,
 
Brian.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 6:42 PM Post #4 of 10

PurpleAngel

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  While I don't necessarily agree that most of the money needs to go towards headphones I'm certainly open to the idea of new headphones.
I have a pair of SoundMagic HP150 and a pair of older Senn HD280pro.  I pretty much only use the HP150s now.
Budget is pretty small.  I'd like to keep it to around $200, but I could stretch it to $300.

What is the make and model of the Yamaha?
 
My $27 FiiO E6 headphone amplifier could easily drive the 32-Ohm HP150, so you really do not need that powerful of a headphone amplifier.
 
Maybe try a FiiO E10K ($76) or Schiit Fulla ($79), both are USB DAC/amps.
Buy them from a place with a good return policy.
I would assume the E10K and Fulla have a better DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) chip then the Mac or Yamaha.
And the E10K and Fulla's headphone amplifier will have a low headphone output impedance (>1-Ohm), then the Mac or Yamaha.
The lower output impedance should help the headphones bring out the detail in the audio (as well as the DAC).
The E10K/Fulla amplifier should be able to drive 250-Ohm headphones, and the HP150 is only 32-Ohm
 
The E10K comes with a separate line-output, allowing you to maybe use the E10K's DAC with the Yamaha, but still plug the headphones into the E10K's headphone jack.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 7:43 PM Post #5 of 10

bgentry

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  What is the make and model of the Yamaha?

 
It's a Yamaha MG10/2.  Now discontinued, but you can see the basics here: http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-MG10-10-Mixing-Console/dp/B00D00J81Y 
 
It's analog only.  I'm feeding one of it's stereo channels with the output from the Mac.
 
I'm not real thrilled with one of the bus powered lower end DAC/Amp combos like the Fulla.  I'm sure it's decent, but I think I want a step up from that class, which is why I'm considering the Modi/Magni.  I'm open to other choices, including higher end DAC/Amp combos.
 
I'm also trying to look forward to changing headphones at some point, and I'd like to make sure I can drive medium difficult phones with the amp I choose.  Nothing crazy.  I'd just like to have around 1W/ch to be a little bit future proofed.  Unless that's misguided thinking.
 
Thanks,
 
Brian.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 8:35 PM Post #6 of 10

PurpleAngel

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  It's a Yamaha MG10/2.  Now discontinued, but you can see the basics here: http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-MG10-10-Mixing-Console/dp/B00D00J81Y 
It's analog only.  I'm feeding one of it's stereo channels with the output from the Mac.
I'm not real thrilled with one of the bus powered lower end DAC/Amp combos like the Fulla.  I'm sure it's decent, but I think I want a step up from that class, which is why I'm considering the Modi/Magni.  I'm open to other choices, including higher end DAC/Amp combos.
I'm also trying to look forward to changing headphones at some point, and I'd like to make sure I can drive medium difficult phones with the amp I choose.  Nothing crazy.  I'd just like to have around 1W/ch to be a little bit future proofed.  Unless that's misguided thinking.

 
I guess a Schiit stack (Modi/Magni) is what your looking for.
Might check eBay daily and find a good price on used.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 9:19 PM Post #7 of 10

bgentry

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Thanks for confirming that what I think I want is a good choice.  But, at the risk of repeating myself too many times...
 
Will I hear the difference between the Schiit Modi/Magni and my current MBP built-in + Yamaha mixer combo?
 
I'm also open to other suggestions on DAC/Amps and even combined units if anyone else has an opinion.
 
Thanks,
 
Brian.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 10:38 PM Post #8 of 10

PurpleAngel

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  Thanks for confirming that what I think I want is a good choice.  But, at the risk of repeating myself too many times...
Will I hear the difference between the Schiit Modi/Magni and my current MBP built-in + Yamaha mixer combo?
I'm also open to other suggestions on DAC/Amps and even combined units if anyone else has an opinion.

 
Each type of headphone would react (improve?) differently from changing sources (DAC/amp).
I'm guessing the HP150 being only 32-Ohm, SoundMagic seems to be gearing the HP150 for portable audio sources, like iPhone or smartphone or iPod, etc.
But of course still also selling to them for laptop and desktop use.
A Schiit stack comes with a better DAC chip and better quality headphone amplifier, then what you use now (MAC, Yamaha, Live 24).
I would be surprised if you did not notice an improvement in audio quality, getting a stack of Schiit.
And it would be a good long term invest with years of use.
Just do not want to be the one to offer any "promises" about audio improvement.
 
Try reading up and asking on this thread, better advice on the HP150, then what I could give.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/616201/soundmagic-hp100-hp150-review-and-impressions-thread
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 10:59 PM Post #9 of 10

bgentry

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Ok cool Purple.  I understand you not wanting to make any "guarantees".  I've posted in the thread you linked.  See if anyone there has anything to say on the matter.
 
Brian.
 

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