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Macbook to headphones audio improvement

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I'm sure similar things have been asked before, but I really would greatly appreciate the input. Thanks in advance everyone.


My biggest question is will a DAC/Amp combo to put between my macbook and headphones (HFI-780) make a noticeable improvement to the audio sound quality. I know it will improve it, but will it improve it a lot?



Macbook-->DAC-->Amp-->Ultrasone HFI-780 Headphones

(or MB-->DAC/Amp combo-->HP)


So my options are:

1)gamma-1 lite DAC (it's gamma1, just USB only)+PIMETA (build it myself): I'll only get 16bit/48kHz since it's usb only. (probably around 150$ total)--also, I've never built anything before circuitry-wise, so PIMETA would be first project, although I here it's not too difficult, but I have no soldering experience, so is this doable? Also, could use a Little Dot Micro+ Amp. Or


2)Zero DAC/AMP combo: I'll get 24bit/192kHz capabilites. Seems really well regarded, plus upgradable, but no usb input--will the digital out from my macbook mini jack sound as good as a USB connection? (150$) Or


3) DAC/AMP combo such as iBasso D2 Boa($180), Hotaudio DAC Destroyer($80) or Hifidiy Mini USB DAC (link: USB DAC+Headphone Amplifier(PCM2707+DIR9001+PCM1793) - eBay (item 300297634142 end time Mar-31-09 21:02:24 PDT)


-->What do you think is the best option?

-->What will have the best audio quality to feed into a pair of headphones?

-->As it worth it to save the 80$ and get a DAC Destroyer for 80$?

(will the DAC destroyer even improve the audio anywhere even close to the other options?)


-->And lastly, is it important to get the 24/192 capabilities? As of now I only listen to audio from iTunes, rhapsody online radio, or pandora, all of which I think are 16/48... so do I even need the 24/192 ability? what else is in 24/192 other than DVD audio?




Side note:

I'm a college student, so budget is pretty tight. Price is important: (Cost-to-performance ratio)


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If the Ultrasones are pretty efficient and low impedance, it won't make a dramatic difference. The sonics inside a Mac laptop are pretty good, much better than most PCs. Probably as good as most of the inexpensive DAC/Amps you're considering. I plug my Senns - inefficient, high impedance - into an amp to get the headroom and control they need. I plug my Audio Technicas - efficient, low impedance - directly into my iBook G4 and they sound great. I would definitely pass on the 24/192. A waste with your program material. For anything else, I'd only order with a liberal return policy, then I'd do a lot of comparing to the straight MacBook over the return policy period. If the Ultrasones are efficient enough to be driven well by the Mac, I'll bet you'll end up returning the DAC/amp.




I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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I've found the 'The sonics inside a Mac laptop' to be pretty average when specifically considering the headphone out. I presume that's what you are suggesting here... no other options with headphones with a stock Mac laptop. Don;t get me wrong - audio can sound amazing from a Mac laptop (or many others for that matter), but the headphone out is as average as any other manufacturer in my experience; there's noise (my biggest complaint), distortion, a lack of dynamic range, and possibly other things I have forgotten to mention. Having said this - it is MY EXPERIENCE, and cms5423, it may not be yours - so if you're happy with what you hear - just enjoy it!!!


BEST thing you can do is try before buying! Even if you can't try exactly what you would most like, at least try SOMETHING similar to hear if there is a bit of a difference: only your ears can decide.


Based on your situation cms5423, I would suggest to go stick with 16/44.1 as a priority. Higher res is great, but considering your listening habits as described, it's not worth bothering with right now.


I would also suggest (presuming you will buy something), you should buy second hand. Based on your building the Pimeta I'm sure you're familiar with Head-Fi and Head-case.


I have not heard all of the products you listed, but have heard many of the iBasso models (including the D2) and have always been impressed with their price vs performance. This isn't to say the will suit the Ultrasones of course... that's up to you!


Again: try a few things - can't stress it enough. Also listen to some well known tracks with your current setup, and be honest with yourself about what you would like to improve. Is there background noise? Do you want more bass? More definition? Better clarity?


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I'm not sure we really disagree all that much. The headphone out of my old iBook G4 is quiet, and I don't hear any limitation of dynamic range with appropriate phones, but it doesn't have the clarity I get from amps. Pretty average? Depends on what you're comparing it to, I suppose, but the OP isn't considering any amps that are likely to rise much above average, and I'm not sure, but I believe his Ultrasones are pretty efficient. The "upgrade" could be a wash. But it's worth listening to.




I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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