Looking for Desktop PC audio build guide

Ching1202

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Hi all.
I'm planning to buy a DAC and a over-ear headphone.
Total budget would be around $500, so...$250each maybe?
My song list is quite long, from pop song to band (Linkin Park & Within Temptation) to classical piano. Also of course, movie (EXPLOSION!!!)
I'm not sure what kind of DAC would suit my need. I can try some headphones in shop so I don't have much concern about it. (Some advices would be appreciated too)
So..please give me some guide on the DAC and headphone:)
 

Blueberries

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Dec 3, 2014
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Depends on the quality of your PSU but the Essence STX II is actually really good and has really good front audio as well with RCA outputs.

Plus it fits right inside your case and you can use the HD Audio jacks on your case.

You can also go the ultra Hi-Fi route and install a dedicated PSU for your Soundcard. This has 250-400W output and they rate it at 94% efficiency so you can even replace your PSU with it if you don't use a video card. It uses a 4pin molex cable for DC input.

http://www.hd-plex.com/HDPLEX-250W-Hi-Fi-DC-ATX-Power-Supply-16V-24V-Wide-Range-Voltage-Input.html
 

Ching1202

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Asus STX II would be my first choice if I decide to buy a sound card. But it's bit troublesome to plug headphone into the back of my PC case (or use extended cable which i think may affect quality?)
I Just want to know if there is an external USB DAC can provide me better or at least similar performance than the ASUS internal card :)
 

Blueberries

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You don't have any headphone jacks in the front of your PC? These are pretty nice for your price range:

http://audioengineusa.com/Store/D1-24-Bit-DAC
 

Ching1202

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It seems good.
And i have one more question to ask. Does every dac or sound card support DTS HD audio? (which is bluray movie audio format, i believe)...Coz my friend said not all dac are able to output such format and would make the audio loosy.
 

ssddx

Glorious
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depends on what you're looking for in headphones... what kind of sound profile you want, open vs closed, bass levels desired, etc.

as suggested earlier, the dt770s arent a bad choice - i think the stx is a bit over the top though... i'd have just went with the Z or an internal soundcard like the DX (which has same dac as stx!) paired up with a nice external amplifier. [clarification... made here... check it out]

the dt990pro250 at around the $200 mark is a good set of cans as well. related to the 770. you can warm them up with a nice external amplifier from fiio or if you prefer a nice tube amp. you could use an external dac if you wish as well. they are a bit harder to drive than the 770s would be so i'd definitely suggest an external amplifier although some have fair luck with the Z or STX but you're not going to push them to their max.

a big factor is if you will be gaming on them and if you want/need virtual surround.

beyerdynamic headphones tend to be v-shaped sound signature emphasizing treble and bass. treble tends to be bright.

sennheiser headphones tend to be more laid back. the hd598 are not so bright, not as bassy and more neutral as well as more mellow and easy listening. the hd600 and better take this one step further.

akg cans tend towards very bright, good mids and very poor bass response. sometimes the harsh treble can be fatiguing. audiotechnica ad-series cans tend to be similar although not quite as bright with a larger soundstage.
 

Ching1202

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Thank you very much!!
This is what I'm trying to find. I guess Sennheiser and Beyerdynamics would be my target, base on your comment. I tried V-moda M100 before, which has V-shaped signature too. Its bass sound are perfect but it makes some sound blurry at the same time.

Are they hard to push with a ~$250DAC+amp? When i try those headphone in shop, i only plug it into my iphone. I hope it doesn't differ a lot when i buy a DAC afterwards.

Thanks so much for your help!
 

iam2thecrowe

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usb audio devices are susceptible to usb noise. An alternative to the xonar, the soundblaster Z which has better features/driver support for gaming along with a nice headphone amp. Cable extension shouldnt affect quality really if its a good quality cable.
 

Ching1202

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Gaming would not be my main factor when picking dac/sound card. I'm hoping for the best audio quality for lossless songs and bluray movie. Is sound card (Xonar or Z) a better choice for me even if I don't play games very often?
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
while true that usb devices can be susceptible to usb noise, its also true that external devices can have less noise than internals in some cases. this is why external dacs are popular. having an external amp would be nice (perhaps one with both optical and 3.5mm/rca outputs) since it would allow use with your phone (if you bought a portable model) or allow a volume knob you can turn with your fingers at minimum. strictly speaking a soundcard like a Z or STX is still an option if you like that option better.

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for strictly stereo audio.. music and similar i would say an external amplifier plus separate external dac... or perhaps a combination dac+amp unit would be a stellar choice.

if you're worried about usb noise, you could get a soundcard and export via optical to an amplifier or as an alternative use low-level (unamplified or low level amplified) 3.5mm outputs. optical would put a break in the line to eliminate any ground loop buzzing in case 3.5mm is how you want to connect. ground loop is an issue that some people experience but that many people do not (depends on how you have your devices plugged in to your house and how your outlets are wired)

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if you have a chance to test out the headphones in person that would be GREAT and is far better than us just telling you what to buy.

if it is a proper store they will have an amplifier connected to the headphones after any 3.5mm cable you have access to (is this the case or does the cable go right into the headphones?). if they are not amplified and you plug into the headphones directly then the headphones will sound better with an amp than they do on your phone. if they already have an amp in the store then they should sound similar.

your budget for both headphones and amplifiers is perfectly fine and you have many choices. in fact, your budget is even higher than you need (depending on your choices of course as cans like the hd600 can start to eat up budget quick).

try the dt990, dt880, dt770, hd598, hd600 in store if possible and let us know what you think about how they sound. this would be helpful.

remember... your choice of amplifier can affect the sound. if you used a clean sounding amplifier like the schiit magni (used often in a dac+amp external stack modi + magni) something like the dt990 then they will retain the harshness and cool nature to the highs while if you used an amplifier like the fiios (which are classified as warm-sounding) or tube amp (which generally have a warm signature... but also have a very particular way audio sounds out of them) which would bring down the harsh edge on bright treble and push the entire signature a little more towards bass tones. you can do similar with EQ of course, but amps have a somewhat different sound effect than EQ.

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let us know your thoughts on the headphones above when you've heard them in person (or the models you can find and listen to in person) as well as your preferences on if mobile is necessary and what your thoughts are on the possible powering configurations we listed.
 

Blueberries

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I don't play any games at all and a the STX II is my first option. Not because it's a sound-card but because of the performance and quality. 124dB SNR front / 117 dB SNR through 600ohm headphones if you want it is no joke.

I would use the Xonar drivers not the Asus drivers
 

Ching1202

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Oct 14, 2013
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Thank you all for helping me out.
Although I think beyerdynamic would be my first pick, i emd up getting a AKG K712pro for its great performance on music and concerts Bluray.

My current PC setup however can't demonstrate full potential of this headphone, comparing to those high-end Dac I tried in the store. So I'm wondering if I should buy a Creative E5 portable DAC+AMP, or get a ASUS STX II, or other option (like buying a audiophile type DAC for highest music quality)

Thanks
 

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