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Need Advice: Audio Technica ATH-A900X - Creative ZxR built-in Amp, or Schiit Magni Amplifier?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by aelemar, Jan 12, 2015.
  1. Aelemar
    Hey guys, I need a bit of advice on the title of this thread. I just purchased the ATH-A900x from Audio Technica, and I have the Creative ZxR sound card installed on my PC. I use the headphone out for the headphones, but I would be very interested in (possibly) getting more sound quality if possible: 
     
    I have researched that the ZxR has an output impedance on the amplifier of 10 Ohms. The recommendation is for the headphones impedance to be at least 8 times more than the output impedance of the amplifier, which in this case, the headphones have an impedance of 42 Ohms only. 
     
    This is the reason why I am considering, instead of using the headphone out, purchase the Schiit Magni, and use the headphones through the ZxR's RCA ports 
     
    Basically: ZxR > RCA Out > Schiit Magni > Headphones
     
    I would also like to keep the surround effects and other features. I intend to keep using the ZxRs DAC which I have read is quite decent for the price range. 
     
    Any thoughts? Do you guys think that the Schiit Magni with its sub-ohm output impedance will be better to drive these cans? (The Magni has 0.2 Ohms)
     
    Do you think I'll see any improvement in sound quality? 
     
    Thank you so much! 
     
  2. xeizo
    I don't think it will be any better, different maybe but not better, more of an sidegrade. AFAIK so does the ZXR have the same HP-amp as my own Essence ST and it drives 32Ohm full-sized cans very well. So well that the resulting SQ rivals my 600Ohm HD600.
     
    So, unless ZXR is inferior to Essence ST - which I don't believe, don't waste your money :) 
     
  3. Aelemar
     I was curious about the Magni, but the headphones don't sound bad at all with the ZxR (on the contrary). 
    It might be my imagination, but these seem to sound even better than my Q701 which I had previously, even though these are new and the Q701s had about two years with me. 
     
    I am curious about the OPamps as well, I would like to make switch some of them on the ZxR, preferably to increase the SQ further. Any suggestions as to which ones I should replace and which amps would be great for it? 
     
    Thank you! 
     
  4. xeizo
     
    Your card already has about the best OP-amps there is, of course you could change sound signature by changing OP-amps, but why change if it already sounds good? The standard OP-amps are at least guaranteed to stay within specs, while changing OP potentially could cause some problem.
     
    But if you are adventurous, it's fun doing it. On my own card I changed the I/V OP-amps to LM4562NA(which your card already has). They are responsible for feeding the HP-amp from TI. Original OP in I/V on my card was JRC2114DD. On the line out-buffer I started with another LM4562A but it sounded a little boring, while correct, then I tried dual LME49990, it was better but still too polite. Lastly I decided to try one of the JRC2114DD:s left over from the I/V on the line out-buffer. That did the trick. Much more lively and exciting sound over line-out! I got inspired by the Soundblaster Z using  JRC2114 on line out as the Z sounds quite rock 'n roll  :)  So, there you have it, I'm very happy with the Essence ST in it's current state and feel no need to change anything more.
     
  5. Aelemar
    Hmm, well, my card does not have any LM4562NA (which I know to be really good Opamps). 
     
    On my front channels, I have the LME49710NA as line outputs/front line outputs. (Which are supposedly fairly equivalent to the LM4562NA)
     
    The JRC2114 are being used as Current to Voltage converters. 
     
    Which of these Opamps directly affects headphone output? I was consiering replacing the LME49710NA with LME49710HAs instead. Not sure what I could do for the 2114s, though. 
     
    Haha, fun facts, a few friends of mine usually like to criticize me for "caring so much about my PC audio", since according to them "you just need some speakers, all that matters in games are graphics!". 
     
    Lol... My response to this is simple. Ask them "what's your favorite song?" then let them listen to it at 320kbps, and watch their eyes widen as they say "Holy ****, I haven't heard this song before..."
     
  6. xeizo
     
    It's only the current to voltage OP:s that affects HP-out, so you have JRC2114 as default? I had forgot that, but then I don't have a ZXR :wink:  
     
    Well, why not do the same as me and start with trying LM4562NA as I/V, it sounds very good here and both cards have the same HP-out chip(if I remember correctly). Specs wise so is LM4562NA right there at the top crowd of OP-amps, and I was told recent Linn-equipment uses them alot(very expensive HiFi-gear). Of course nothing of that is any gurantee it will be audio nirvana for you.
     
    edit. 320kbps? Oh, it gets worse over time, 24/192 FLAC from original masters is the current juice  :wink:
     
  7. Aelemar
    Oooh going to have to try that stuff, haha. I bet it sounds amazing lol. 
     
    I am curious as to what setting to put my Frequency Crossover for bass on sound card. It says "set it to the lowest frequency your headphones support" which in my case its 5Hz. Sound card supports only down to 10Hz, so... Should I set it at that frequency? 
     
    I can definitely see a marked difference in the bass between 10Hz and the 80Hz that the card has as default. 
     
    And I will definitely look into those opamps. So the JRCs are the ones responsible for the heaphone output? 
     
    THank you for all your help! 
     
  8. xeizo
    Yes, the JRC:s affects HP-out(in fact I/V affects all sound output as it converts the DAC-chip output to a usable format, while the buffer-OP only is there for the line-out)
     
    If you listen through headphones you shouldn't have to use any bass management at all, just shut down all and every effect you can find in the Creative control applet and choose "stereo direct". It will bypass the DSP and run the card as a straight DAC. If you do that you will also notice that suddenly you have 24/192 as an option in the Windows Sound Applet. Choose 24/192.
     
    Listening through foobar2000 choose WASAPI, Creative event driven, as sound output under foobar2000 audio settings. Now it will sound VERY clean  :)
     
    edit. I might add that for myself I use Linux and DeadBeef-player configured for ALSA hardware direct output.
     
  9. Aelemar
    Oh, I did not know any of that. Hmm, so disable all enhancements (for music at least), and just use good old stereo? 
     
    For gaming, I definitely want to keep SBX Studio on, for the surround effects. 
     
    Music gets a nice surround effect to it with SBX on as well, apparently. 
     
    What's your take on surround virtualization for music? 
     
    So basically, even if I was to use SBX Surround for music (I mostly do gaming, so I have that setting on almost all the time), I should uncheck "bass" from the control panel?
     
    These are going to be my 2nd pair of ATH-A900X - just got them today. My first pair had a strange, super light crackling noise on the left channel when running certain music, and the bass distorted (vibrated) quite a bit even on super low bass settings. Only the left channel - the right one was perfectly fine, which is what led me to conclude that those headphones were faulty. 
     
    I get to go home today and test the new ones. I am using a combination of different music genres to break the headphones in (burn in), dubstep, dub reggae, rock, symphonic rock, and even some classical.
     
  10. xeizo
     
    Yes, gaming is one thing, use all the effects you find appropriate for the game in question. But for music through headphones you want things as straight and uncoloured as possible, sound managing in the driver just distorts the sound in various ways. If you want a more "speaker-like" experience from your headphones you can instead experiment with various plugins in foobar2000, like b2bs(Bauer to Stereophonic).
     
    edit. sorry you had broken headphones, I hope the new ones are fine! About "break-in", I really don't think headphones needs much break-in, it's more like that it is you or rather your brain who adjusts your hearing to your new sound source. Psychological stuff(and necessary in the wild to be able to "read" information under various circumstances).
     
  11. Aelemar
    Well, I have done some reading, and I think I am going to do the following: 
     
    Replace the buffer Opamps with the LME49710HA versions
     
    Replace the I/V Opamps (HP-out Opamps) with the LME49720HA versions. They are dual Opamps, and apprently superior to the LM4562/LME49720NA versions. 
     
    Only catch is they are metal Opamps, and need a DIP8 adapter in order to work. 
     
    Unless I can find some already pre-adapted, hehe. 
     
    What do you think? 
     
  12. xeizo
     
    It's for fun, f you feel like, go for it!
     
    (or wait for a reply from someone who has already tested some OP:amps on your card, or read through the long Z, ZX, ZXR-thread here)
     
    p.s. don't forget to report your findings, if you do the swap.
     
  13. Aelemar
    Hey! Well, I got home and tried the headphones, and wow.... The others were definitely faulty. The volume on these is much higher than those (connecting the headphones directly to the cards headphone output, I can't push Windows volume past 10-20% without it being uncomfortable). On the other headphones I could do 30-40% easily to reach the same volume. 
     
    No distortion, no crackling, just audio perfection as of now. 
     
    I have decided to connect the headphones to the ZxRs ACM unit. Basically, I set windows volume to 100% and control the volume entirely through the ACM knob. 
     
    On the ACM I have to put the knob from the 7 o'clock position to the 2pm position or so to reach the same level I would get on Windows @ 10-20%, which I wonder if that sounds right, since Windows volume is maxed... 
     
    Hmm, the ACM does allow me to have more control over the volume though. Do you think I should be concerned about having to turn the knob so much when on Windows I barely have to raise the volume? 
     
    Lastly, by the way: I set the sound to Stereo direct for music, and decided to try "Hotel California" from the Eagles in 24bit/192 FLAC. The only thing I can say to that is... 
     
     
    EARGASM!!!
     
    Interestingly enough, I listened to the same song after in 320kbps, and it sounded like ****. >.>
     
    Lol, I'm no audiophile, but I studied music and played the piano for more than 8 years, so I naturally have an ear for noticing even the slightest things (like when an instrument is slightly out of tune, lol). 
    Or when music sounds like crap XD
    Or when headphones have an almost imperceptible distortion/crackling to them >.> 
     

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