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Do I need a DAC, AMP, or both?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've recently made the jump from a surround sound gaming headset to an audiophile headset. Long story short I was looking for better sound quality as my gaming headset had several small speakers in the headset to simulate surround sound. While it did this very well it just never sounded right to me. After getting the audiophile headphones it was like night and day difference. The sound was so much more crisp and natural sounding I will never touch another gaming headset. But, there is one downfall to the headphones and that it's they don't get overly loud in games.

The Headphones are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO 250 ohm. Right now I'm just using my sound card to run them. It does the job of creating virtual surround sound for my gaming and I couldn't live without that. But, as mentioned games aren't overly loud. I'm assuming since these headphones are 250 ohm I will need an amplifier to fix this problem?

Also, I've heard that a DAC can make the digital audio that is being sent from my PC to my headphones and turn it into analog? Making the sound cleaner? While I'm not unhappy with the sound quality of my headphones I was originally amazed by the sound quality over a gaming headset. So if I can make them sound even better I'm all for that. In which case is a DAC also worth looking into?

I'm looking for recommendations on whether I need a DAC, AMP, or both. I mostly play games with my PC and am looking to take full advantage of the headphones I got. I'm hoping to keep the price range of both the DAC and AMP at under $200 each. If possible. . .and perhaps if there are DAC/AMP combos so I didn't have to buy two separate units. Or maybe I only need one or the other?
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post #2 of 8
You're currently using the DAC on the sound card and whatever it has as an output stage for the amp. That's what's converting the audio data into an electric (voltage) signal. If you got a different DAC, you would be completely bypassing the sound card and its processing / drivers (unless some workarounds or maybe using optical output of the sound card), so you don't want that.

Yes, Beyer DT 990 250 Pro has middling sensitivity and high impedance, which means relatively low volume out of sources for a given level. If you want a higher volume, get a dedicated amplifier that is more powerful than whatever it is you're currently using.

If you're in the big can camp for the foreseeable future and not really interested in IEMs, just get a Schiit Magni or FiiO E09K or whatever.
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

You're currently using the DAC on the sound card and whatever it has as an output stage for the amp. That's what's converting the audio data into an electric (voltage) signal. If you got a different DAC, you would be completely bypassing the sound card and its processing / drivers (unless some workarounds or maybe using optical output of the sound card), so you don't want that.

Yes, Beyer DT 990 250 Pro has middling sensitivity and high impedance, which means relatively low volume out of sources for a given level. If you want a higher volume, get a dedicated amplifier that is more powerful than whatever it is you're currently using.

If you're in the big can camp for the foreseeable future and not really interested in IEMs, just get a Schiit Magni or FiiO E09K or whatever.

First off love the Prinny avatar Dood. Love those guys.

I took a look at the two amplifiers you mentioned. I noticed they have rca inputs ((usb and rca on the FiiO)). Now my question is what would be the best way to hook them up to my sound card? Would getting a rca to 3.5mm jack cable be good or should I use something else?
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post #4 of 8
By the way, so you're not confused, the USB on the FiiO is a passthrough for the proprietary dock up top for one of their USB DACs. It's not relevant to what you're considering.

You would use an RCA to 3.5mm adapter or cable, yes. You can find them cheap at say Monoprice, Amazon, eBay, etc. It's just an L signal, R signal, and ground, no matter if it's terminated in RCA or 3.5mm TRS.

Also, for what it's worth, I own neither of those two products, and many people on this subforum would recommend Schiit over FiiO in general, just so you know. I wouldn't particularly agree or disagree, but I don't really agree with all the reasoning thrown around.

There are plenty of other options, but you may as well get something in something of a "desktop" form factor-ish because that's easier to handle ergonomically and all.
Edited by mikeaj - 3/3/14 at 5:19pm
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

By the way, so you're not confused, the USB on the FiiO is a passthrough for the proprietary dock up top for one of their USB DACs. It's not relevant to what you're considering.

You would use an RCA to 3.5mm adapter or cable, yes. You can find them cheap at say Monoprice, Amazon, eBay, etc. It's just an L signal, R signal, and ground, no matter if it's terminated in RCA or 3.5mm TRS.

Also, for what it's worth, I own neither of those two products, and many people on this subforum would recommend Schiit over FiiO in general, just so you know. I wouldn't particularly agree or disagree, but I don't really agree with all the reasoning thrown around.

There are plenty of other options, but you may as well get something in something of a "desktop" form factor-ish because that's easier to handle ergonomically and all.

Thanks for clearing up about the USB for the FiiO. That would be more useful if I was using it for a laptop or without a sound card. Good to know.

I'm so used to everything that's pc based to just having 3.5 connectors standard that the RCA connectors just throw me off. Laugh if you will. Lol.

I'm going to do some more research on the two and keep an eye out for any others. But, what is it you've seen people say you don't agree with? Sounds like how some people that are biased to one brand or another.
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post #6 of 8
Err, it's kind of too large an issue for a thread like this and kind of a derail. It's about audio in general.

Though one related aspect is that Schiit is designed and manufactured / assembled in the US, while FiiO's a Chinese operation—though one with a decent history, good specs and build quality for the price, and no half-rate knockoff factor.

Generally there aren't desktop amps in that price range. There are cheaper eBay amps of various shady quality, though some might be fine, but nothing from the larger brands. There are also portable amps, some of which have enough power and many of which that don't. Though for the portable amps, they're just kind of... relatively thin usually, so they can be somewhat of a hassle to use at a desk from being too low to the surface and/or having inputs and outputs in funny places.
post #7 of 8
Schiit magni is going to be a similar price to comparable FiiO products, and is superior in build quality and design imo. Most FiiO stuff is really targeted at the portable consumer market.
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post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

Err, it's kind of too large an issue for a thread like this and kind of a derail. It's about audio in general.

Though one related aspect is that Schiit is designed and manufactured / assembled in the US, while FiiO's a Chinese operation—though one with a decent history, good specs and build quality for the price, and no half-rate knockoff factor.

Generally there aren't desktop amps in that price range. There are cheaper eBay amps of various shady quality, though some might be fine, but nothing from the larger brands. There are also portable amps, some of which have enough power and many of which that don't. Though for the portable amps, they're just kind of... relatively thin usually, so they can be somewhat of a hassle to use at a desk from being too low to the surface and/or having inputs and outputs in funny places.

I'll keep that in mind. I do prefer Local companies over ones that are overseas.

I would go for a more expensive amp, but I've never owned one before. So I definitely want one that won't break the bank. If I'm still using headphones by the time I build my next PC I might upgrade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

Schiit magni is going to be a similar price to comparable FiiO products, and is superior in build quality and design imo. Most FiiO stuff is really targeted at the portable consumer market.

Have you used either of those units? Would like to hear some personal feedback if you have. smile.gif
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