Question What should I be pairing with audiophile headphones?

Yeldur

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I'm looking to upgrade from my current set of headphones, but the two I've tried so far haven't worked amazingly on my system, in fact, they were actually quite quiet, a lot moreso than my current set (Philips Fidelio X2) - I was able to turn up the volume on these headphones to make it similar to that of my X2's but I in all honesty don't know why that difference exists. My system has an EVGA NU Soundcard inside; should I be looking at something else to pair with the headphones?

The two pairs I've tried so far are:

  1. AKG K712 Pro
  2. HiFiman Ananda
Both didn't really work for me, but part of it comes down to the "loudness" of the headphones, it felt like they were almost "underpowered" which surprised me as I expected the opposite. Do I need to buy an AMP first because my soundcard isn't powerful enough for those headphones?
 
I have the AKG 712 Pro’s and came to the conclusion that my ASUS Phoebus soundcard was not getting the most from them especially in the low end. This soundcard is supposed to drive headphones up to 600 ohm so should have no problem driving the 62 ohm 712’s. I picked up a secondhand Schiit Asgard 3 with multibit DAC and it transformed the experience, much better and far more enjoyable.

I have since bought an iFi XDSD for portability. It’s very good in its own way and still much better than the soundcard but it’s no replacement for the Asgard 3.
 

Yeldur

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I have the AKG 712 Pro’s and came to the conclusion that my ASUS Phoebus soundcard was not getting the most from them especially in the low end. This soundcard is supposed to drive headphones up to 600 ohm so should have no problem driving the 62 ohm 712’s. I picked up a secondhand Schiit Asgard 3 with multibit DAC and it transformed the experience, much better and far more enjoyable.

I have since bought an iFi XDSD for portability. It’s very good in its own way and still much better than the soundcard but it’s no replacement for the Asgard 3.
Thanks for that, I might look into getting a DAC in that case, see if that improves.
 

hang-the-9

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Thanks for that, I might look into getting a DAC in that case, see if that improves.
A decent DAC/AMP combo would be good for a decently prices setup. iFi Zen DAC is a good product in that range but it seems to have jumped in price by like $50 so not sure if at that price it's still worth it but this place seems to have it at the old price, for he V1 https://www.headamp.com/products/ifi-zen-dac I don't think the V2 is worth that much extra cost.
 

Yeldur

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A decent DAC/AMP combo would be good for a decently prices setup. iFi Zen DAC is a good product in that range but it seems to have jumped in price by like $50 so not sure if at that price it's still worth it but this place seems to have it at the old price, for he V1 https://www.headamp.com/products/ifi-zen-dac I don't think the V2 is worth that much extra cost.
I'll have a search around for it at a similar price, it doesn't look like that site ships to the UK unfortunately, if I can't find it at a similar price as that, any other recommendations you might have?
 

hang-the-9

Titan
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I'll have a search around for it at a similar price, it doesn't look like that site ships to the UK unfortunately, if I can't find it at a similar price as that, any other recommendations you might have?
I use an FX Audio DAC 6, it's actually almost half the price of the iFi and sounds fine. I have not compared it much with others, probably you would need some pretty special headphones to be able to tell much difference though. There are some headphones that just run better on specific amps and DACs.

FiiO makes a good range of reasonably priced devices also. I can't think of one that would be bad to get, really it's based on the capabilities you want, many of them are made for portable use, some larger for desk use.
The Q3 is pretty interesting, good specs but it's as much for portable use as anything else so the design is slimmer. K3 also for more desk use, I think both are USB C devices. K5 is also an option but it's harder to find.
 
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Yeldur

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I use an FX Audio DAC 6, it's actually almost half the price of the iFi and sounds fine. I have not compared it much with others, probably you would need some pretty special headphones to be able to tell much difference though. There are some headphones that just run better on specific amps and DACs.

FiiO makes a good range of reasonably priced devices also. I can't think of one that would be bad to get, really it's based on the capabilities you want, many of them are made for portable use, some larger for desk use.
The Q3 is pretty interesting, good specs but it's as much for portable use as anything else so the design is slimmer. K3 also for more desk use, I think both are USB C devices. K5 is also an option but it's harder to find.
Gotcha, I'd definitely be looking for desk, I don't really have any use for a Portable DAC as I have a separate set of headphones for outdoor use that are closed back/noise cancelling. I definitely like open back but outside it would be a bit of a tough one hahahahaha.

I'll take a look into FX Audio DAC 6, do you think it would struggle at all with running some of the more powerful headphones? I'm sort of looking around the range of the HiFiMan Ananda or similar but am not sure if there's like a "cutoff" point at which a DAC might struggle to handle certain types of headphones or something.

As a point of query, with a DAC, the purpose is to convert audio but doesn't specifically drive the audio on its own, have I got that right? If so, is that where my computer comes into play in that the soundcard drives the audio and the DAC converts that into something the headphone can use?
 

deesider

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As a point of query, with a DAC, the purpose is to convert audio but doesn't specifically drive the audio on its own, have I got that right? If so, is that where my computer comes into play in that the soundcard drives the audio and the DAC converts that into something the headphone can use?
That's an interesting question and one that is not easy to find a definitive answer to. The audio stream will initially be generated by the CPU by decoding a CD, DVD or from audio files within software. The operating system sends the audio stream to the sound device. The sound device, such as the onboard audio on the motherboard or a separate soundcard, then converts that digital audio stream to the Toslink protocol and sends it though the optical cable. The DAC receives the digital audio stream and converts it into an analogue signal - which is basically just an electric current with a voltage that goes up and down to correspond to the audio stream, which directly powers the drivers in the headphones to produce sound.

There doesn't seem to be any reason that the sound device should need to do anything to the audio stream it receives other than pass it along as a Toslink signal, but since the sound device has it's own drivers and (usually pointless) software, it clearly can change the audio stream. On some forums people suggest that the audio received from the Toslink output on the motherboard can sound different to that received from the Toslink output on a separate soundcard. It's difficult to assess that sort of anecdotal evidence though, since even a small change in volume can be perceived as a change in sound quality.
 

Yeldur

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That's an interesting question and one that is not easy to find a definitive answer to. The audio stream will initially be generated by the CPU by decoding a CD, DVD or from audio files within software. The operating system sends the audio stream to the sound device. The sound device, such as the onboard audio on the motherboard or a separate soundcard, then converts that digital audio stream to the Toslink protocol and sends it though the optical cable. The DAC receives the digital audio stream and converts it into an analogue signal - which is basically just an electric current with a voltage that goes up and down to correspond to the audio stream, which directly powers the drivers in the headphones to produce sound.

There doesn't seem to be any reason that the sound device should need to do anything to the audio stream it receives other than pass it along as a Toslink signal, but since the sound device has it's own drivers and (usually pointless) software, it clearly can change the audio stream. On some forums people suggest that the audio received from the Toslink output on the motherboard can sound different to that received from the Toslink output on a separate soundcard. It's difficult to assess that sort of anecdotal evidence though, since even a small change in volume can be perceived as a change in sound quality.
Interesting, thank you for the response, that's very informative ;o
 

hang-the-9

Titan
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Gotcha, I'd definitely be looking for desk, I don't really have any use for a Portable DAC as I have a separate set of headphones for outdoor use that are closed back/noise cancelling. I definitely like open back but outside it would be a bit of a tough one hahahahaha.

I'll take a look into FX Audio DAC 6, do you think it would struggle at all with running some of the more powerful headphones? I'm sort of looking around the range of the HiFiMan Ananda or similar but am not sure if there's like a "cutoff" point at which a DAC might struggle to handle certain types of headphones or something.

As a point of query, with a DAC, the purpose is to convert audio but doesn't specifically drive the audio on its own, have I got that right? If so, is that where my computer comes into play in that the soundcard drives the audio and the DAC converts that into something the headphone can use?
Not sure what you mean by "drive the audio", if you mean provide power to the speakers or headphones, the no it does not. You need more than just a pure signal with audio information to actually hear the sound from it when connecting a headphone to the output.

The FX Audio actually has a "hidden" high output option, but it's not what I would call a strong power amp.
 

Yeldur

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Not sure what you mean by "drive the audio", if you mean provide power to the speakers or headphones, the no it does not. You need more than just a pure signal with audio information to actually hear the sound from it when connecting a headphone to the output.

The FX Audio actually has a "hidden" high output option, but it's not what I would call a strong power amp.
Oh no I know they don't power them, I mean drive them as in drive the audio to the headphones

With regards to the FX Audio, do you think it would struggle at all on something like the HiFiMan Ananda? I get it's sorta difficult to speculate, if it helps, what headphones do you use on it? I can always do comparisons on my end to see if they're similar to the headphones I'm looking at etc etc

I don't need boombox level, I just want something that isn't going to struggle to provide as high a level of audio as the Fidelio X2's
 

hang-the-9

Titan
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Oh no I know they don't power them, I mean drive them as in drive the audio to the headphones

With regards to the FX Audio, do you think it would struggle at all on something like the HiFiMan Ananda? I get it's sorta difficult to speculate, if it helps, what headphones do you use on it? I can always do comparisons on my end to see if they're similar to the headphones I'm looking at etc etc

I don't need boombox level, I just want something that isn't going to struggle to provide as high a level of audio as the Fidelio X2's
Ananda are billed as being easy to run, they are only 25 ohm cans and have a pretty high sensitivity. You can run them on motherboard audio power.
 

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