Digital Optical + DAC or analogue headphone-out from TV

Feb 16, 2018
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I have a Sony TV that has analogue headphone-out (3.5mm) and also has a digital optical audio out. I want to connect the TV to my headphones amp, and then to my headphones to watch movies at their best possible quality.

Would there be any benefit in using the optical out + a DAC before hooking in to the amp, or would the quality be the same by just going straight from the headphones out to the amp (thus relying on the TV's inbuilt DAC)?

I guess this is another way of asking whether the inbuilt DAC in the Sony TV is so bad that it would detract discernibly from the final result?

Thank you everyone!
 
Feb 18, 2018
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There is advantages to use the optical than the audio built into the tv. One is electrical isolation and second, better quality conversion. If you can avoid an unbalanced connection, do it (which you can via optical). This is coming from someone who ran professional sound off and on for the past 30 years btw....
 
You usually want a line level signal as an input to a headphone amp. Some Sony TV have a hybrid headphone/line level output. There would be a menu setting to change the headphone out to line level if yours does.
If yours doesn't then there may be more of an advantage to using the optical audio output than just the quality of the DAC since your headphone amp won't be bypassing the headphone amp in the TV.
Whether the DAC will make enough of a difference would depend on the quality of the source and of the headphones. On standard TV and cable it probably won't be a lot. Streaming sources and discs would benefit more.
 
Feb 16, 2018
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Thank you very much for your reply!

You are quite right...my TV does have a hybrid audio out/headphone out and I have selected "audio out" (I have selected "fixed" output in the sub-menu, there is also the option to select "variable", which allows the volume to be changed using the TV remote...but I suspect that this option employs the TV's inbuilt amp, which would leading to double-amping once I've hooked into my external amp).

If I understand you correctly, there would be no real advantage to using the optical out + external DAC compared to using the audio out (fixed) setting from the hybrid audio/headphone jack, as both of these options effectively achieve the goal of bypassing the TV's internal amp. Is this correct?

The two potential reasons I thought that the optical output might be superior is that:
(a) an external DAC might be superior to the (presumably) cheap inbuilt DAC in the TV; and
(b) the fibre digital cable out of the optical might potentially avoiding any ground loop (or other signal noise issues) that might occur over an analogue cable. Do any of these ideas make sense?

Just to add some detail to my viewing habits...I will be mostly watching high quality streamed content that carries DolbyDigital+ and my own local files that carry HD audio formats including DTS- HDMA and Dolby TrueHD (which will, of course be converted down to 2 channel analogue before it gets to the headphone amp).

Thank you again for your thoughts...they are much appreciated!
 
Feb 18, 2018
17
0
70
3
There is advantages to use the optical than the audio built into the tv. One is electrical isolation and second, better quality conversion. If you can avoid an unbalanced connection, do it (which you can via optical). This is coming from someone who ran professional sound off and on for the past 30 years btw....
 
Feb 16, 2018
3
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10
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Thank you very much for your reply, superdavebear!

I guess I'll have to invest in a little DAC and see how I go. Cheers!
 
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