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Topic: DAC and Amplifier - Headphones. (Read 12858 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Well i have been reading around, and the result i have come to seems to be that a Soundcard isn´t really suggested.
But using a soundcard with Digital Output to a DAC and Amp seems to be the way to go?

If so, i was wondering, where should i look, i don´t really have any idea about DAC and Amps.

Can they be used for High Grade Microphones aswell, or is that Separate?

Thank:)

DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #1
Well i have been reading around, and the result i have come to seems to be that a Soundcard isn´t really suggested.


Audio myths often based on the myth that you can't create clean sound inside a computer.

Reality is that some of the cleanest audio to ever come out of a computer has come from the analog outputs of soundcards inside computers.

Quote
Can they be used for High Grade Microphones as well, or is that Separate?


For other reasons mic mixers and mic preamps are usually external.

  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #2
So you are saying that a High End Soundcard will give me the "best" DAC + Amp that i may need for Headphones?
  • Last Edit: 02 March, 2013, 10:32:40 AM by db1989

DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #3
The best is always elusive. Most of us are very happy with something that is truly very, very good.

I'm saying don't discount a solution because it is an internal sound card.

For me,  my best solution for listening for pleasure is a portable digital player.
  • Last Edit: 02 March, 2013, 10:32:53 AM by db1989

  • skamp
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #4
PC soundcards are usually plagued with high output impedance, unsuitable for headphones.
See my profile for measurements, tools and recommendations.

  • db1989
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #5
The best is always elusive. Most of us are very happy with something that is truly very, very good.
IOW, most decent soundcards and the DACs therein will be more than good enough; you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds, by any means. High-end products claiming to be “the best” often are simply lying or are at least referring to slight theoretical increases in quality that would never be audible to a human anyway.

  • xnor
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #6
I do not see how measured improvements are "theoretical".  Just because these differences are not audible under normal circumstances doesn't mean they're not there.
  • Last Edit: 02 March, 2013, 11:49:35 AM by xnor
"I hear it when I see it."

  • db1989
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  • Global Moderator
DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #7
Well, that’s what I meant by “theoretical”, but perhaps it’s not the right word. I don’t mean that extra quality that may or may not be audible isn’t good, but it isn’t always worth the premium that some people expect buyers to pay for it.

  • slenpree
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #8
interesting discussion. I remember posting on this forum over 4 years ago, when I first joined, a statement along the lines of - "the line-out on my laptop seems to give the best sound quality". At the time, I didn't realise how much controversy this statement would later cause.

I agree with the general concessions so far, in that the best is usually just very very good to your ears.

I've gone through many headphone amps, from tube, to hybrid, and solid state. I still keep a battery powered solid state one around but mostly to act as an external volume control / extension lead for my headphones. Predominantly, I still listen via the built-in line-out port of a laptop or digital music player and to me this sounds very very good.

Jonny

  • Nessuno
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #9
PC soundcards are usually plagued with high output impedance, unsuitable for headphones.

And they sometime get noise leaking from other internal components. Anyway whort a listen before go buying something else.
... I live by long distance.

  • Nessuno
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #10
I do not see how measured improvements are "theoretical".  Just because these differences are not audible under normal circumstances doesn't mean they're not there.

Just nitpicking, but "theoretical increase in quality" is correct IMO, when quality is defined with reference to listening: a real improvement in measurable quantity becomes a theoretical one in quality, if results as not perceivable by a listener.
  • Last Edit: 02 March, 2013, 12:39:22 PM by Nessuno
... I live by long distance.

  • saratoga
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #11
Its not really possible to give a good answer to the questions without know the headphones.

DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #12
What exasperate me, is all the talk about "synergy" between headphones and source.
As if we were talking of different wines, and you have to find the right source with right attributes
for your headphone (lot of literature regarding how good are each source, it's mind blowing).
Oh , and I  often read that some headphones "scale up", with better sources (often it means, more expensive).
I've just read  a recommendation at headfi for the DNA  stratus to use with the hd800.
Only ... 2300$, for a tube amp that probably colors the sound.



  • xnor
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #13
These are myths which some audiophiles use to feed their delusions and justify purchasing crappy stuff for loads of money to show off or whatever..

It's the same nonsense with:
- you need ultra high gain for a headphone amp to sound good
Reality: lowest possible gain that does the job is usually best

- if you have to set the volume above 10 o'clock the amp doesn't have enough power
Reality: usable volume control range should go from roughly 10 to 2 o'clock

...
  • Last Edit: 02 March, 2013, 07:25:21 PM by xnor
"I hear it when I see it."

  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #14
Its not really possible to give a good answer to the questions without know the headphones.


My Headphones are HD280 Pro.

And well, about the internal noise thing from other components. That´s why i was considering DAC and an Amplifier.
But i currently can´t hear noise from internal components.

I know that one PC i had, had some terrible noise from components if i used the Front Panel. I could here specific noise when i did stuff, like moving the mouse and stuff like that.


  • Rollin
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #15
Audiotrak Prodigy Cube probably can be what you want: DAC + Headphone amp + Microphone input

  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #16
Audiotrak Prodigy Cube probably can be what you want: DAC + Headphone amp + Microphone input


I would prefer it to use, well not USB. Optical or HDMI would be nice (probably optical though.).

And with Microphone, i think i will go with that later, a separate Mic Pre-Amp.

So well, it´s just for Headphones, which should narrow it down i guess.

Maybe you guys can say what you are using, to give me a hint what to look for:)?

  • probedb
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #17
I do not see how measured improvements are "theoretical".  Just because these differences are not audible under normal circumstances doesn't mean they're not there.


But measured improvements mean nothing if I can't hear them. As far as my ears/brain are concerned in this situation there is no improvement.

DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #18
Its not really possible to give a good answer to the questions without know the headphones.


My Headphones are HD280 Pro.

And well, about the internal noise thing from other components. That´s why i was considering DAC and an Amplifier.


There's no reason other than competence issues that would require that the DAC and the headphone amp has to be in separate boxes. In fact, putting them in separate boxes can create interfacing problems.

Quote
But i currently can´t hear noise from internal components.


Good and no surprise.

Quote
I know that one PC i had, had some terrible noise from components if i used the Front Panel. I could here specific noise when i did stuff, like moving the mouse and stuff like that.


The noises you heard may not have actually been electrical noise of the kind we've been talking about. It could be bus contention problems. I've had that problem as well, but on occasions I've corrected it by non-electrical means.

DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #19
I do not see how measured improvements are "theoretical".  Just because these differences are not audible under normal circumstances doesn't mean they're not there.


But measured improvements mean nothing if I can't hear them. As far as my ears/brain are concerned in this situation there is no improvement.


I presume you mean to say: "But measured improvements mean nothing to me if I can't hear them."

The counterpoint is that distortion and noise can build up gradually in an audio system, and so performance that exceeds the limit of hearing can be justified for each comonent on the ground that the better performance is required so that the entire ensemble of components performs without audible problems.

This gets us into discussion what the weakest links are, which is often a profitable discussion.
  • Last Edit: 04 March, 2013, 11:21:17 AM by Arnold B. Krueger

  • saratoga
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #20
Its not really possible to give a good answer to the questions without know the headphones.


My Headphones are HD280 Pro.

And well, about the internal noise thing from other components. That´s why i was considering DAC and an Amplifier.
But i currently can´t hear noise from internal components.


Those aren't very hard to drive headphones, and a highend amp is kind of overkill for them.  Do you hear noise with the onboard?  If not, I probably wouldn't bother.  A quality amp might be better then an average on board sound card with these headphones, but you'll probably have to work to notice the difference. 

That said, the fiio stuff is cheap and some of it quite good. 

  • probedb
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #21
I presume you mean to say: "But measured improvements mean nothing to me if I can't hear them."

The counterpoint is that distortion and noise can build up gradually in an audio system, and so performance that exceeds the limit of hearing can be justified for each comonent on the ground that the better performance is required so that the entire ensemble of components performs without audible problems.

This gets us into discussion what the weakest links are, which is often a profitable discussion.


Yep, that's really what I was meaning, if there is a measured improvement in the overall system but I can't hear it then it doesn't matter to me.

  • DVDdoug
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #22
Quote
Can they be used for High Grade Microphones aswell, or is that Separate?
The mic input on a regular soundcard is the wrong interface for a good studio/performance microphone.    The input is high-impedance unbalanced (2-wire), and often the soundcard's preamp is poor quality (i.e. noisy).

Good microphones are low-impedance balanced (3-wire) with XLR Connectors.  In addition, studio condenser microphones need 48V phantom power (provided by the preamp/interface). 

Here is one example of a USB interface with micrphone inputs. 

Or. you can get a "studio quality" USB microphone .    These are economical and convenient, but you can't generally record from more than one "device" at a time, so if you want to record stereo or multitrack this is not the best solution (although you can find stereo USB mics).

The line-input on many regular soundcards is often adequate.  So, another solution is to use a preamp or mixer (with mic inputs) and connect the line-output from the preamp/mixer to line-in on your souncard.  (Most laptops don't have a line-input).

  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #23
Yes, that´s what i will be buying later some time. A Studio Microphone and a Amp with the XLR, as that´s the way to go.
But that does not have much to do with Headphone Amps, which is why i ended up asking for what you people use for that:)

I currently use an USB microphone, it works very good, but it got noise from the DAC, so it´s not "Studio" quality, i don´t really think any USB is that though.
  • Last Edit: 05 March, 2013, 08:18:03 AM by db1989

  • zerowalker
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DAC and Amplifier - Headphones.
Reply #24
Okay ended up ordering O2 Headphone Ampifier.
It seemed to be liked, and price worthy.

I will probably get it early next week:)