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New DAC or Headphones for step into hifi

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Hey I have been on this forum for a while now, not posting just learning, and finally feel its time to post my own question. I want to make the first leap into the real hifi but only have $400 currently available, i know thats not enough for what a lot of people consider "real" hifi but for a starving college student I'm doing the best i can. My question is should I purchase headphones, I'm stuck between the beyerdynamic DT 880 or Denon AH-D5000, first or a DAC. I currently own a pair of Eytomotic Er-4s's but am not sure if buying a DAC will pump better sound out of them then just buying one of the above listed headphones and using my bithead from headroom. So I leave the question up to you, should I stick with my Ety's and buy a new DAC or some new headphones? For either opinion could you please list some DAC's that would work or headphones that you find particularly sonically astounding that I could find for a street price of 400.


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Hi colinharding - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I'm not so sure a DAC is going to work for you if that is all you purchase. Will the Bithead output a digital signal or accept an analog signal? If you only get a DAC you may need a headphone amp as well. Let's discuss this one.


Also, the ER4 earphones are very revealing. I used to have a pair until I got my Ultimate Ears ue11 Pros. You will notice a large difference with different headphones, but a difference is not always better or worse.


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Hi Colin


I would recommend the Stax SRS 2020II earspeakers for superb hi-fi reproduction. If you are US located they should be within your budget.






BM DAC1/HDR --> ATC SCM 100ASL[br]BM DAC1--> Genelec 8020/Beyer T70[br]Apogee Duet2 --> Stax 007T/404[br]Apogee Duet2 --> Genelec 6010A/Beyer DT1350[br]

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It all depends... I mean for starters, do you like the sound of your Etys? They have a very particular sound, and if it's one you appreciate, then you're best to stick with them. The biggest change you are likely to notice in a new pair of headphones (within budget & in terms of sound) is the way that sound is presented or focussed, rather than a difference in 'quality' of sound. So if the Etys sound right, don't change them...


If you do stick with your Etymotics, then a $400 DAC could provide a substantial improvement, but possibly not the 'sonically astounding' improvement you are looking for. My experience with DACs is that the difference isn't usually night and day, more like shades of evening. The difference you hear is more likely to be along the lines of smoother or clearer sound, but with Etys being as clinical or revealing as I find them, that change can be a welcome one!


If you decide to change headphones, my advice is to consider a few models outside of those you mention. I have owned and tested a few Beyerdynamics, and generally found them to be Bass heavy AND sibilant! (This was especially true of the DT990s in my case, which I recently sold - the bass was amazing, but far from realistic or balanced, and the sibilance was distracting to say the least). Perhaps I'm hearing things differently to many others who love Beyers... but the point is, try before you buy. If nothing else (and I may be way off here), I get the impression that you haven't listened to much (if any) of the gear you are considering purchasing.


You will save a great deal of money and frustration by checking out and auditioning as much as possible before buying. Reviews and forums are excellent, but what you hear and appreciate from your gear can be vastly different to others. I have found this to be especially true of 'lower end gear' - if you pick the right $400 DAC for your ears, you might find it hard to beat at twice the price or more!


I found the Musiland DA10 pretty impressive for the price (should leave you a bit over that could go towards an amp?) and though I don't have personal experience with them, some of the City Pulse models might suit you. You could also look at some of the portable options like iBasso. Their new models with amp and DAC are very impressive for the price, and some (like the D2 Boa) give the option of op-amp rolling to tailor the sound. Hard to beat for the price IMO...


Above all - audition yourself, and don't forget to buy secondhand; some HUGE bargains to be had out there!




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