View Full Version : If you had to choose 1 to complement the SB2: DAC or Amp

2005-09-04, 11:50
I'm planning on getting a SB2 and assembling a headphone rig. I'm looking at the Beyer Dynamic DT990 headphones as they seem to be at a nice price/performance point.

I can afford another 200ish at the moment and would like to know how I should spend it.

The Headroom Micro DAC and Amp seem to be the leading products at this price range (each about 150). Which one should I get?


If I get the DAC I would wire it to the digital out of the SB2 with coax and then plug the headphones to the output of the DAC? I'd adjust the volume with the SB2's volume control?

If I get the amp I run coax to the analogue out of the SB2 and plug the headphones into the amp?

I have a nervous feeling that the DAC will not allow a headphone to plug directly into it....?

I have read about the headphone amp on the SB2 not being that good although the Burr-Brown DAC is rated quite highly. I am also interested in purchasing a speaker rig in the future and could use the DAC for that too.

What should I upgrade i.e. what would you do in my place :-)

Thanks for any advice.

2005-09-05, 16:57
What I'd do is go on the forsale forum of Head-fi and pick myself up some used DT880s or 990s (most people do not recommend the 990s, because they use the cheaper 770 driver, etc. I personally do not like them much but to each his own, I personal run Grado SR-325is).

You can get a used headphone amp, or you can make your own headphone amp for not too much. You can make a headphone amp for 100 dollars or so that would blow the socks off the 300 dollar micoamp, IMO. I just made one with a regulated power supply for around 60 dollars.

You can not run headphones off of the MicroDAC's output. I believe that it would result in ruining the MicroDAC with a much lower impedance load than it would like (which IIRC is in the 10k ohm range).

2005-09-06, 05:10
Thanks for the info bjackson. I'll certainly drop the DT990 and focus on the DT880 (or a better equiv?). I was going with open back because of pain in my ears from my Beyer Galactic headphones which sit on my ear causing ear ache after 6 - 7 hours. The closed back design also causes uncomfortable heat build up within after 5+ hours of use which I had hoped an open back design would not have?

Anyways, not to make this into a headphone thread... Where can I find a good website showing me how to make a headphone amp? I'm guessing I buy the parts from an electronics supplier and solder it all together on a generic board of some sort?
[EDIT: Having looked at the "Selling" section of the head-fi forum I have decided I can buy my kit from there.]

You didn't recommend whether I should go with an AMP or a DAC :-) Which would offer the best performance increase to compliment a SB2 headphone rig at this price level?

Thanks again.

2005-09-06, 07:01
FWIW, I used a M-Audio 2696 SuperDAC with my SB1 for a year and found it to provide a worthwhile improvement but, having upgraded to a SB2, I find that the internal DAC is better than the M-Audio. I suspect that, for 200, you'll struggle to find something better than the SB2 Burr-Browns.

However, I am using my SB2 with a WNA Head-Amp Mk2, the kit for which is available for around 160 (excluding case - most people use an anodised case from Maplin at around 10) and is astonishingly good for the money (IMHO it would be good for three times the money). I use it with Sennheiser HD-650s and Grado SR-80s and it drive both with ease and grace. Details on page 17 of the catalogue which you can download at http://www.wnaudio.com . There's a very informative (but long) thread on the DIY forum at Head-Fi.

2005-09-06, 07:13
Thanks Fifer. With a set of 130+ headphones should I notice the difference in sound between the standard SB2 headphone socket and the sound output from a standalone 150ish headphone amp?

Does an amp have THAT much of an impact on sound quality?

2005-09-06, 08:26
I think most people would. I certainly noticed the difference between the SB1 headphone output and a decent headphone amp with my 80 Grados (I was using a Musical Fidelity X-Can V2 back then - the WNA is miles better). I haven't really tried the SB2 headphone output but I'd be surprised is even Slim Devices could match the performance of a 200 headphone amp on top of all the other miracles they've achieved with the 190 SB2.