USB Soundcard for headphones?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by generik, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. generik macrumors 601

    generik

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Minitrue
    #1
    Hi,

    I am thinking of getting an external soundcard (probably better than the onboard solutions) so I can connect my HD650 to my Mac and enjoy my iTune tracks

    Knew Apple lossless would come in handy someday :D

    Does anyone know of any high fidelity usb/FW sound cards that can actually serve as a worthy source for a worthy headphone?
     
  2. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #2
    There are lots about, best to stay away from the 'audiophile' products because they're usually a rip.

    Look at pro audio soundcards. Luckily there are lots of really good USB (or Firewire) pro soundcards out there. How much are you looking to spend, and how portable do you need it?
     
  3. generik thread starter macrumors 601

    generik

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Minitrue
    #3
    It doesn't have to be real portable, but I do need it to be somewhat decent. Really sick of.. normal soundcards that can't seem to drive my headphones well enough :eek:
     
  4. jazzmo macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    #4
    You might want to head on over to http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/ . With cans like those you need a good source and an amp. Personally I use my APX line out to drive my Xin SM3v6 to a set of DT880s. Go over to head-fi, they will help.
     
  5. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    LaLaLand, CA
    #5
    Good place to buy is here. I can't tell you how good any of them are because I just use the built in one on my iMac with big ass speakers. The M-Audio ones are supposed to be pretty popular and their Mac support is decent.
     
  6. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #6
    There's the Focusrite Saffire LE. I have the version with the DSP but identical otherwise (the 'full' Saffire). The LE is $300, Firewire interface and the headphone stage certainly has the juice and general quality to power the HD650 properly. You also get an excellent general-purpose audio interface for noodling in Garageband should you ever feel the need.

    Problem with audiophile gear is that it's very hit & miss and also poor value given the actual improvements. For $300, you can stick an amp like the Xin Supermacro (one of the better ones around) on the iMac which is slightly better amp-wise than something built into the Saffire. Then you still need to find something to improve the audio onboard the Mac. Something like the Saffire will do both in one hit to a very decent level.

    If you want to go upscale from that, take a look at the Fireface 400. RME are well known for their converter implementations. The headphone out of my Fireface 800 (the bigger brother to the 400) is exceptionally good ~ so much so I no longer feel any need to use the $3000 Headroom Max audiophile amp. If the 400 is anything close to the 800 and according to RME it is, it will be the near-ideal match for the HD650.
     
  7. generik thread starter macrumors 601

    generik

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Minitrue
    #7
    Wow, the Fireface 400 is really quite expensive! :eek:
     
  8. jazzmo macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    #8
    A dedicated amp is more than just slightly better than one integrated with a source, especially with high impedance cans. The Supermacro lets you change opamps and buffers letting you control the sound. I wouldn't attach it to a computer line out either as there is way too much noise. If you want the best sound from your HD650s your going to want a dedicated source, and a method of amplification.
     
  9. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #9
    Pro soundcards are designed to drive high-impedance phones. Most of them will also drive low impedance ones just as well.

    Computers have EQ.

    As I said after you've got your amp and you've picked out a DAC/Soundcard to drive it, you're barely better (if at all) than the onboard headphone out on something like a Saffire, and the combo would probably have cost you more. The main difference tends to be a more open sound due to very high-quality pots used on higher-end amps - but you won't see them on <$300 amps.
     

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