Old school analog audiophile needing a digital upgrade. Help an old man across the street.
Dec 5, 2014 at 1:04 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

u-hear-that

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I have nice home stereo equipment for the home but the wife STILL prefers I use headphones.  I use cd or turntable as source.  I primarily use my Headroom cosmic reference headphone amp.  This amp has analog imput only.  I want to start using a laptop as source as well as take my music to the car.  I also have pretty nice aftermarket gear for my car.  I use it when the wife is not with me.  I do have a AKG 701 wired to be balance with xlr connectors.  I am trying to avoid mistakes,
or the need to upgrade for a while.  I hear computers are noisy.  Suggestions on laptop requirement, soundcard, DAC, and stuff I just need to know.  Thanks for any assistance.
 
Dec 5, 2014 at 3:16 PM Post #2 of 15
Do you have a computer now?
Windows person or Mac?
Budget?

Don't worry about soundcard, get a good USB DAC.
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 3:27 AM Post #3 of 15
What KT66 said.   The main part in every computer setup is the DAC because it bypasses the poor pc signal paths (analog and digital), making your pc a TRANSPORT only to output the 1's and 0's out to the dac for ideal conversion to analog.   depending on your budget, you can find very nice performing USB DAC's in around 50 - 60 $.     The other parts you already have (HP's,amp etc') so you're already set.
It doesn't matter what pc you have, as long as it has properly working usb ports.  you can look at my sig for an example of nice , cheap, "bang for the buck" pc setup. I have a relatively cheap and basic Fujitsu laptop.
Then,you plug the dac to the analog input in your amp ..  enjoy :)
 
just don't forget to use WASAPI or ASIO plugins with your audio playing application to get direct connection between it and the USB DAC driver.  this way you also bypass the windows internal digital mixer and get bitperfect output.
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 12:05 PM Post #4 of 15
Sounds like it's all about a usb-dac. I have an older hp g72 laptop that still seems capable. I am wondering how to best spend between $500 to $1000 for the best improvement in sound quality. I expect that $$$$ spent equals better sound. Just looking for a reasonable noticable improvement over using my laptop headphone out split to rca into my Headroom amp. I think it's time to research (obsessively) usb-dac. Thanks so much for any input. Maybe this stuff isn't going to be so scary.
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 12:05 PM Post #5 of 15
Sounds like it's all about a usb-dac. I have an older hp g72 laptop that still seems capable. I am wondering how to best spend between $500 to $1000 for the best improvement in sound quality. I expect that $$$$ spent equals better sound. Just looking for a reasonable noticable improvement over using my laptop headphone out split to rca into my Headroom amp. I think it's time to research (obsessively) usb-dac. Thanks so much for any input. Maybe this stuff isn't going to be so scary.
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 12:14 PM Post #6 of 15
I can thoroughly recommend the Audiolab MDAC.
 
Dec 6, 2014 at 2:41 PM Post #7 of 15
+1 for the above recommendations. I don't have much to add, except empathy, in that I'm also forced to use headphones to please my better half and to keep peace in the house. It's all good though, because I truly love this headphone audio hobby - and everything I've learned here at Head-Fi has been an enjoyable plus!
 
I'd say most computers aren't as noisy as they used to be; even so, my headphones cancel out any fan noise that might be present. I haven't had to spend a fortune, either, to enjoy remarkable sound.
 
Good luck with your upgrade and your journey into the wonderful world of computer-sourced audio!
 
Dec 8, 2014 at 3:12 PM Post #8 of 15
Thanks for the info.  The Audiolab M-DAC seems like the magic trick.  I love the balanced o utput capabilities.  Looks like the flexibility to handle anything.  The M dac even hits  a pricepoint I can live with.  I love a bargain.  Maybe I can find one used.   I look forward to seeing you around this site.  I have so much to learn about computer as source.  It all sounds fun.  I've been a member for almost 8 years.  I'm more of a silent member.
 
Dec 8, 2014 at 8:55 PM Post #9 of 15
Not sure if this is important to you, but I notice the M-DAC is limited to a max input of 24/96 via USB:
 

 
Dec 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM Post #10 of 15
If you must have 24/192 then you can have it via optical or coaxial.
I've had my Mdac 18 months now and it's just perfect, a really clever little box.
It makes red book 16/44 sound glorious.
 
Dec 19, 2014 at 12:55 AM Post #11 of 15
I do not have optical or coaxial on my HP computer. I'm not so familiar using files for source.  Still playing catch up on flac,lossless, and the whole 16,24,32 bit stuff. plan on streaming premium spotify.  I'm hear most music is recorded 16/96. Is there much reason to reach above that?  I have also looked at the Audio-gd but apparently driver problems that would leave me frustrated and cursing.  Is the Audiolab M-DAC also sometimes difficult to operate or cause bugs and gremlins in it's operation?  Looking for capable and easy to use.  Thanks again for the assistance.
 
Dec 21, 2014 at 4:09 PM Post #13 of 15
Sounds like it's all about a usb-dac. I have an older hp g72 laptop that still seems capable. I am wondering how to best spend between $500 to $1000 for the best improvement in sound quality. I expect that $$$$ spent equals better sound. Just looking for a reasonable noticable improvement over using my laptop headphone out split to rca into my Headroom amp. I think it's time to research (obsessively) usb-dac. Thanks so much for any input. Maybe this stuff isn't going to be so scary.


Consider Schiit Audio's Magni-2/Modi-2 amp/DAC combination
 
http://schiit.com/products/magni-2
http://schiit.com/products/modi-2
 
After you've stopped laughing at the toilet jokes
I'm getting Fulla Schiit, I beg your pardon, I'm getting a Schiit Fulla, a tiny amp/DAC
My aging ears need all the help they can get (At a reasonable price)
 
Made in the USA, no middle men, buying direct from the manufacturer, very well thought of in these forums
 
Quelch
 
Dec 22, 2014 at 6:19 AM Post #14 of 15
Just adding my 0.02. All of the suggestions here for DAC's are all excellent, i would add the ODAC to the mix although it might be a bit too "flat" (neutral) sounding coming from analog. If you enjoyed the warmer analog sound (assuming you had warm gear) I'd say disregard that suggestion then.
 
Yes, there is "lots" (maybe hundreds of albums) available for download above 16/44. If you feel you are missing out later on adding a optical connector is about $20 (usb to optical, super easy to use).
 
M-Dac and Odac and modi2 should all be plug and play on windows with no drivers required except in the case of the Modi 2 (uber i think) that has support for much higher resolution over usb, but you must use the installer from schiit before you can switch on the higher resolution support. It works just fine with lower resolution content on easy mode though.
 
Correction: The Modi 2 seems to support 24/192 in expert mode (simple driver install) where as the uber ditches basic/easy mode for extra connectivity so it always needs the extra driver on windows.
 
Dec 22, 2014 at 8:47 AM Post #15 of 15
I've been looking for a used Yulong D18 DAC because of its very slightly warm presentation.  No USB input on that one though.
Schiit and iFI are also on my watch list.  Possibly Audio-GD.
 

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