DAC or sound card recommendation?

Snowy

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Hi all,
Finally going to be replacing my headphones with some Sennheiser 599. Given the ohms of 50, I'm thinking a DAC might not be a bad idea. Any general recommendations? I think I would probably prefer an external DAC as it will make transferring my headset between my gaming PC and my laptop easier (i.e. keeping the headset plugged in the dac and just switching the usb between machines) but I am open to a PCI sound card as well.

I presume any DAC will be at least on par with my onboard sound, but I wouldn't mind spending a little money to upgrade. I know Creative Sound Blaster has been in the game for decades, so I am tempted to grab a Sound Blaster X3 since it's a known brand to me.

Open to suggestions and thanks!
 

AntiQuark

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Holo Spring level 1, 2nd hand. Cheapest way, if you can find one!
I had a level 2 and 3 from new, they are wonderful.
Wide 3D soundfield, extremely detailed/dynamic yet laid back.

I compared the level 3 to an AE5 and it was a complete no contest.
They hammer PC sound quality.

Using Sennhesier HD650 + Meze Empyrean headphones and Bottlehead Mainline amp.
Also with 3 way, Transmission line bass + Ribbon speakers and Emotiva XPA-2 amp.
 

LazyGamer

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Hi all,
Finally going to be replacing my headphones with some Sennheiser 599. Given the ohms of 50, I'm thinking a DAC might not be a bad idea. Any general recommendations? I think I would probably prefer an external DAC as it will make transferring my headset between my gaming PC and my laptop easier (i.e. keeping the headset plugged in the dac and just switching the usb between machines) but I am open to a PCI sound card as well.

I presume any DAC will be at least on par with my onboard sound, but I wouldn't mind spending a little money to upgrade. I know Creative Sound Blaster has been in the game for decades, so I am tempted to grab a Sound Blaster X3 since it's a known brand to me.

Open to suggestions and thanks!
DAC --> the part that makes digital audio analog. This is the easy part.
Amp --> actually needs to match your headphones.

Now, 50Ohm Sennheiser's will run on just about anything. 50Ohm dynamic drivers (that is, say, not planar) are generally extremely efficient as well, so there's little point in adding a lot of power. You're not going to use it without going deaf or destroying your headphones, whichever happens first :).

Note that impedance is only one part of the equation of how much power headphones need; you also need the SPL. I assume that there's some math involved, but basically, you can have headphones that have a low impedance, like the aforementioned planars, that still need far more power than high-impedance dynamics because they're so inefficient. That's not all planars of course, but they tend to be the worst offenders.


So, to answer your question, I'll ask another: do you plan on using a microphone? Do you need a mic input? If that's the case, Schiit has products that are basically perfect, and I absolutely would recommend going external for a number of reasons to include convenience.

And while I wouldn't put too much hate on Creative, they don't really do much that's better than cheaper alternatives except add features and software. Those can be useful, but while Creative has gotten better at drivers, their software game is still a bit dodgy, and generally you don't need it.
 

Auer

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I got no horse in this race - you can schitt talk them all you like

I was probably too harsh.

Schiit had some early products that were over hyped and under delivered.
So first impressions and all that on my part.
 

LazyGamer

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I was probably too harsh.

Schiit had some early products that were over hyped and under delivered.
So first impressions and all that on my part.
I was gonna say, I agree versus their first releases, but their current lineup really stands fast next to alternatives. Their little USB-powered all-in-one really takes the cake.
 

Snowy

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Thanks everyone for your replies. I decided to get the Schiit Fulla to pair with the Sennheiser headphones. I went with the Schiit due to its price, fairly favorable reviews, and its mic connection. I will update everyone on how I like it once it arrives.
 

Snowy

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So, my headphones came in on Friday, and I had the chance to listen to some music and play some games over the weekend with my onboard audio.
First impressions on the headphones:
They seem very well balanced. Low, mid, high all seem very appropriate right out of the box. Additionally, when it comes to audio quality, they are much better than my Samson SR850 I've been using for the past 10 years. You can easily hear subtle differences in music that weren't apparent with the Samson's (at any time of reasonable volume). Game quality, of course you have higher fidelity sound, but I have yet to notice a significantly better sound stage than with the Samson's. I always thought the SR850's were decent at identifying where enemies are and the Sennheiser 599's appear to be just as good.

The Schiit Fulla 3 came today. I haven't played any games yet (will update in a few hours), but the audio quality is better than onboard. The same new subtle differences I noticed when I first tried the 599's are simply more pronounced with the Fulla. And I love the volume knob and how quiet the headphones can get while still maintaining the detail.

Off to listen to some more music and play some games...
 

Zarathustra

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Jun 19, 2019
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I just upgraded from a Schiit Modi Multibit, to a Schiit Bifrost 2.

I like the fact that I can run balanced cables from my DAC to my first gen Schiit Jotunheim amp, but in general the sound is very very close between the two.

Having spent the last couple of hours switching back and forth between the two and trying to compensate for the volume difference (which is difficult) I have come to the following conclusion:

The Bifrost 2 has slightly better mids. This results in the sound being somewhat fuller and richer sounding, but it is subtle.

Honestly, not worth the the extra $450 ($249 vs $699). This is more indicative of just how amazing of a deal the Modi Multibit is than anything derogative about the Bifrost. That's one of the things I love about this company. They think nothing of undercutting their own products. If they can bring out a better product cheaper, they say "screw it" and do just that. And they will manufacture it in the U.S.

These days they are the go-to brand for desktop headphone DAC's and amp's but that wasn't always the case. I bought my first Asgard amp from them back in 2011 when they were still operating out of a garage. (Order # 572). Back when the customer service email was answered by cofounder and amp engineer Jason Stoddard himself.

They sure have come a long way and for good reason.

So the Bifrost 2 wasn't the biggest upgrade for me, but I'm still going to keep it - despite my 30day no questions asked return policy - for the balanced outputs and for the fact that their new USB interface is well isolated, so I no longer feel like I need to use optical out, and can probably ditch my old Titanium HD and free up a PCIe slot.
 
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