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A/V Any audio freaks around? Could use some headphone/amp advice

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by NuTech, 25 Jan 2010.

  1. NuTech

    NuTech New Member

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    I've been planning on getting new PC speakers for a while now, but it's only just dawned on me that I use my headphones far more often than my speakers. This is mostly due to a lot of background noise (thanks London...) and not wanting to piss off my housemates.

    So I've decided to take the money I was going to spend on speakers and instead buy a reasonably good headphones and a amp/DAC.

    While my motherboard has relatively high quality audio out, the headphone jack suffers from far too much interference from the NIC and DVI outputs.

    Am I right in assuming that using the optical out instead will completely negate that problem?

    At the moment I'm considering the iBasso D10 Cobra paired with Sennheiser HD600. Total comes to around £400 (I wanted to spend under £500).

    Are these two products well matched in terms of quality and range? Is there anything better for the money or should I be spending a little bit more for better matched products?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Krikkit

    Krikkit All glory to the hypnotoad! Super Moderator

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    What soundcard are you using? Using the optical out won't completely eliminate interference from within the computer, but it will help quite a bit.

    Instead of optical, have you thought about using S/PDIF? Iirc that's also a digital interface, but you won't need the (presumably) cost-increasing optical stage.

    A couple of posts about DAC's have popped up in GD, I'll have a look for them (if I can remember where they were).

    [edit]Posts here. :)
     
    Last edited: 25 Jan 2010
  3. NuTech

    NuTech New Member

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    Using my motherboard's audio (ASUS P5W DH) which has coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs.
     
  4. Krikkit

    Krikkit All glory to the hypnotoad! Super Moderator

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    Wouldn't you be better spending at least some of your budget on a dedicated sound card? I'm not an expert in this field but my experiences with onboard audio have been pretty crappy.
     
  5. Hugo

    Hugo Ex-TrustedReviews Staff

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    Have you considered using a USB DAC/AMP? We're all big fans of the iBasso D2 Boa at TrustedReviews. It's got a bloody fantastic DAC, a lovely warm sound and the built quality is impeccable.

    As Krikkit says, no PC soundcard is going to give you great audio reproduction listening to music; they're designed for games and movies.

    Also, if you're planning on spending £300+ on a set of headphones you really need to go to a shop and trial some different sets because personal preference matters. I prefer the Grado 325i sound signature to that of the Sennheiser HD650's for example, but you might find the former too clinical and prefer the warmer less 'accurate' tone of the latter. Also, be sure to take your own music with you to test with because what your listening to matters as much as what you're using to listen to it.

    edit: just FYI - I do know what I'm talking about, honest.
     
  6. NuTech

    NuTech New Member

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    Well I assumed (wrongly??) that by using a pure digital output, the soundcard becomes redundant as all of the digital to analogue processing will take place on the DAC.

    If it isn't obvious, I know very little about audio hardware, so I'm all ears to any suggestions (terrible pun, I know).
     
  7. Hugo

    Hugo Ex-TrustedReviews Staff

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    It depends on the setup. The digital output could either be sending a decoded bitstream, which is simply played by an amp, or it could be passing over the compressed data, to be decoded by an external DAC. BUT AFAIK no onboard audio will set you do the latter - i.e. you need a USB DAC. Someone who knows better please feel free to correct me here.
     
  8. Jasio

    Jasio Made in Canada

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    Motherboard -> Dedicated Sound card -> Optical Cable -> Amplifier/Receiver (or dedicated headphone amp) -> Headphone. Uncompressed bitstream; let the receivers processing deal with the effects.
     
  9. NuTech

    NuTech New Member

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    That D2 is ****ing perfect Hugo, problem solved. Cheers.

    As for the headphones, I'll probably have another listen after work tomorrow but I'm pretty sure about the Sennheisers as I've been using the brand for years and I think my ears have become 'acclimatised' to them (is that even possible?).

    On a totally random side note, anyone else noticed that high-end audio gear looks so damn awesome? I'm talking about the switches, knobs, bells and whistles. It's like they're all from a time long forgotten. More stuff needs to be made like that.
     
  10. Mikeyfly300

    Mikeyfly300 Modder and lapping specialest

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    Check this out it is old as he
    l but LOUD 1967 still works lol
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Hugo

    Hugo Ex-TrustedReviews Staff

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    No problemo, we live to serve. It's entirely possible to get hooked on a particular brand's sound. I have an affinity for Grado headphones and Shure earphones myself. And yes, high end audio equipment looks awesome.
     
  12. Pappy_Lazaru

    Pappy_Lazaru Bish bash bosh!

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    Im a big fan of the Grado´s too...very warm and because they are an open design, they are good with regards to listener fatigue.

    Its also worth considering some of the in-ear options out there too...I got some M-Audio IE 30s which are great..exceptional bass for the size!
     
  13. bigkingfun

    bigkingfun Tinkering addict

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    I disagree.

    I have the Xonar Essence ST, which I bought mainly for listening to music.
    I consider myself to be somewhat audiophile, and I really like this card. It was a major upgrade from the onboard of a Asus P5Q-PRO board.
    Coupled with a NAD amp and 4 B&O speakers it can certainly fill my 24m2 apartment :lol

    I have not tried the iBasso though, so cannot compare the two.
     
  14. Hugo

    Hugo Ex-TrustedReviews Staff

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    Okay, looking at the specs that soundcard does seem like it might be an exception. 117dB SNR ( on the headphone output) is pretty damn good and the DACs are actually half decent (according to a bit of Google-ing).
     
  15. NuTech

    NuTech New Member

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    Hey guys, thanks again for the advice. Back with a little update/question.

    I'm about to put in an order for the iBasso D2 but would like to use an extended USB cable with it (4/5 meters). Can USB be negatively effected by long cables and if so is it all digitally restored by the specification or am I going to notice a quality loss?

    Odd question I know, but I would quite like the DAC to reach my sofa where I do a lot of reading.

    Would I just be better off extending the headphone cable or is that more susceptible to interference?
     
  16. Hugo

    Hugo Ex-TrustedReviews Staff

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    Extend the USB cable, not the headphone cable. A digital signal won't degrade over a distance (it will either transmit, or not) whereas longer headphone cable is bad for numerous reasons.
     

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