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Old 01-16-2013, 07:47 PM   #1
lundrog
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Default Headphone amp / dac , for gaming rig.

I ordered a pair of Polk UltraFocus 8000 Active Noise Canceling Headphones. http://www.polkaudio.com/products/ultrafocus8000 I want to match a headphone amp with them, so I get optimal sound when gaming. I play games like battle field 3, etc.

I have a asrock extreme 4 motherboard. http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Z77%2...Specifications

I have a little room in my case, but not alot, thats why I was thinking amp/dac

This is a loud case, hence the noise canceling...

Picture of my case. http://photography.rogerlund.net/Oth...41%20PM-XL.jpg

Thoughts?

Last edited by lundrog; 01-16-2013 at 08:04 PM.
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:55 PM   #2
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They appear to be pretty normal headphones, don't look like they require anything special in terms of powering them.

I'm a pretty big fan of Schiit, I like their warranty, I like the quality of their products, and I like that they are made in the USA.

They have plenty of good options, pick your price point and order.

www.schiit.com

* Your mobo link doesn't work, assuming it is the Z77 it looks like you have SPDIF, i'd use that if you can swing the price for say the Bifrost. otherwise slap a Magni/Modi combo and call it a day.

I also just looked at your case pic... you have 7 SSDs so I'm going to assume you have too much money, if you need 'higher end' options respond and I'll provide some.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:03 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Maleficus View Post
They appear to be pretty normal headphones, don't look like they require anything special in terms of powering them.

I'm a pretty big fan of Schiit, I like their warranty, I like the quality of their products, and I like that they are made in the USA.

They have plenty of good options, pick your price point and order.

www.schiit.com

* Your mobo link doesn't work, assuming it is the Z77 it looks like you have SPDIF, i'd use that if you can swing the price for say the Bifrost. otherwise slap a Magni/Modi combo and call it a day.

I also just looked at your case pic... you have 7 SSDs so I'm going to assume you have too much money, if you need 'higher end' options respond and I'll provide some.
I'll look at anything in the 200-400 ish range, per dac / amp.

I see the Magni/Modi only analog, wouldn't i be better off with a digital / optical input?

EDIT: fixed motherboard link, and yes the z77 extreme 4.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:22 PM   #4
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eh, i'm having a brainfart type of night, but don't noise cancelling headphones already have an amp built into them? using a better external amp isn't gonna improve anything.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:30 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by uhohs View Post
eh, i'm having a brainfart type of night, but don't noise cancelling headphones already have an amp built into them? using a better external amp isn't gonna improve anything.
I see that.

Would I be better off getting a dac from Thoughts on Schiit or JDS Labs /epiphany-acoustics etc?

Kinda was thinking I would want optical / digital input, but then your looking 4x cost, and does it even matter?
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:45 PM   #6
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uhohs: They do but it doesn't necessarily impact the signal they're being fed and many you can turn that off. Of course that defeats the point of the noise-cancelling. Frankly, if isolation is a need I'd have said put all the money toward a good custom IEM. It'll offer stellar sound quality and stellar isolation without the noise cancelling stuff. Any good noise cancelling is going to defeat the point of a good quality DAC/amp. There are some headphones that do a better job of isolation without an active circuit.

One of those is a DAC and the other is an amp. I'm not much of a Schiit fan myself but they seem to make ok products and hopefully ones that won't damage/kill your headphones (I believe they added a protection circuit in their newer stuff). That amp seems awfully powerful for your needs. I'm a bit leery of these new mega-output amps as there's often little room left for volume control so just about anything above off can get too loud. Especially with headphones with high sensitivity and low impedance. Some amps also demonstrate channel balance issues low on their volume controls. I can't speak to that specific amp but something you might check out.

There's a lot of products that will offer what you're looking for and you're not going to find a consensus on what to buy. Some might have issues, plenty haven't had much testing, and there's all manner of info to sort through.

Of course there's the Objective 2/ODAC combo. Its closer to $300 but has been pretty well tested. JDS Labs you can buy separate or all in one. Its not the most feature packed either and I'm not the fondest of aesthetics and input/outputs myself.
I know there's quite a following for Audio-GD stuff.
iBasso had some interesting stuff.
Ditto to Fiio. Their E17 is popular and their stuff is ok and has generally tested decently.
ASUS I believe has a DAC/amp too.
There's a bunch of others I can't even remember (Yulong comes to mind, they seem to be a big "knockoff" brand that makes compelling products for the price).
There's also some good pro-audio gear that would fit in your price range (Cambridge DACMagic comes to mind, a bunch of others too).
Surely Headamp has something. They (well he really) always struck me as someone that knew what they were doing, made some nice stuff, and only problems that arose is when he got swamped with sales.

Sorry I know I probably am just giving you info overload. There's frankly too many DAC/amps in the $100-400 range. There's quite a few pretty decent ones, just have to figure out what exactly you want. Personally, I've started to lean more towards ones that can provide some testing results and have a history of good customer service should any issue arise.

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Old 01-16-2013, 11:52 PM   #7
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Right , I can start the process of searching . I guess the big question is with a headphone like this, would I be better off with a sound card?

Since it is really the DAC that im looking for over the amp?


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Old 01-17-2013, 01:00 AM   #8
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Um, well sound cards function as amps as well. I'm not sure about the output impedance of most of them (its not a common spec that gets listed) so you might be better of with an amp that you know that spec for. Those Polk's are pretty low impedance and getting an amp that has a very low output impedance will prevent impedance mismatch issues (which can lead to changes in frequency response).

So it just depends what features you're looking for. I like my X-Fi Titanium HD, and there's a few other good headphones, but an external DAC/amp might work better (I prefer an analog volume knob versus managing the volume in Windows).
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:31 AM   #9
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How does the Audioengine D1 compare?
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Old 01-17-2013, 03:35 PM   #10
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Headamps do nothing for active noise cancelling headphones. You are better off spending the money on better headphones or going a whole different route.

This is a solid setup for PC with 7.1 support:

Astro Mixamp Pro
Audio Technica AD700
Mic of your choice

Read this:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-...surround-sound

Last edited by gus6464; 01-17-2013 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:32 PM   #11
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ODAC + O2 (combo unit from JDS Labs), Leckerton Audio UHA-6S MkII, Schiit Magni + Modi...

Those are probably your best options, but I don't think you really need anything for the headphones you got.

TBH, if you're actually looking for truly good, accurate sound in that price range, check out the Mad Dog from Mr. Speakers (silly name, but whatever). They're a well modded Fostex T50RP (very popular). Pair that with one of the amp/DACs I mentioned, and you'll be good to go. I think noise cancelling is a waste in most situations. Having a decent pair of closed headphones is good enough, IMO. Plus, you'll get much better sound quality, which I think is more complementary to gaming (soundstage and imaging especially) than noise cancelling.
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Old 01-18-2013, 05:09 PM   #12
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Why does everyone keep recommending amps when an active NC headphone does not gain anything from an amp? By definition an active can already contains an amp.
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Old 01-19-2013, 03:16 AM   #13
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I would thought that DAC's are for audiophile music listening and not specialists in 3D positioning etc.
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Old 01-19-2013, 09:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biostud View Post
I would thought that DAC's are for audiophile music listening and not specialists in 3D positioning etc.
Audio is audio. While the DAC plays a comparatively smaller role in overall sound quality, any improvement in sound quality could directly translate to better sound staging and imaging.
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Old 01-26-2013, 10:50 PM   #15
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I ended up going with a Asus Xonar Essence STX
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:30 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
Why does everyone keep recommending amps when an active NC headphone does not gain anything from an amp? By definition an active can already contains an amp.
Quite a few have passive modes that bypass that. I just noticed these don't.

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I ended up going with a Asus Xonar Essence STX
Thanks for the update.
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Old 01-29-2013, 07:53 AM   #17
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Quote:
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I ended up going with a Asus Xonar Essence STX
Excellent choice my friend. I have the STX coupled with AKG Q701 headphones and the combo is pure win! Night and day compared to my old Siberia/integrated soundcard combo :;D
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:29 AM   #18
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Excellent choice my friend. I have the STX coupled with AKG Q701 headphones and the combo is pure win! Night and day compared to my old Siberia/integrated soundcard combo :;D
But his cans do not have a passive bypass so the touted feature of the of STX (amp) is not being used at all. $200 could have bought a 7.1 headphone processor and he could have gotten a lot more out of his gaming.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:43 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
But his cans do not have a passive bypass so the touted feature of the of STX (amp) is not being used at all. $200 could have bought a 7.1 headphone processor and he could have gotten a lot more out of his gaming.
Ouch, I missed that part.

He'll still make use of the much superior DAC though, should still make a good difference compared to his old integrated setup.
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:37 AM   #20
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Alright, i'm looking at returning the STX. I bought a new motherboard, a Asus P8Z77 WS. I am putting in four Video cards in SLI. Therefore, I will not have any pcie slots to put the card in.

So, I am looking at options again.

For the record, you can REALLY hear the difference without the sound card. The headphones drivers vibrate on your ears with the Xonar STX, I'm talking about base so loud it moves the headphones. without it, even having volume at 100% with loudness on, and bass boost enabled; you can barely hear the base.,
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