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Old 06-24-2012, 08:49 AM
LDJ LDJ is offline
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Red face Audio Setup for ATH-M50

Hi all.

Before I begin, I know this is a seriously over-asked question, and if I'm breaking any rules I apologise in advance, but I'm finding myself drowning in a lot of information after spending around six hours reading up on all this. Still, if anyone has the patience to help me out, I'd be really grateful.

So, a few months back, I purchased the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, and am really happy with the purchase. Overall, I think it was $150 well spent. Now, I'm looking to trim into shape the rest of my audio setup, or really lack thereof. As of current, my listening is provided by a pair of cheap desktop speakers (Harman Kardon HP 5187, they came with the computer, so enough said), plugged into the aux-out of my computer, which, audio-wise, is simply listed as having "Realtek High Definition Audio" (if it helps, the motherboard is the Intel DG41RQ, but I still can't find any additional info. Either way, it's a cheap board, so i.e. cheap audio?). When I use the M50s, I plug them into the headphone jack on the side of the desktop speakers. From there, my first question: would I get better results by plugging my headphones directly into the back of the PC, as opposed to through the desktop speakers? Sorry if that's an obvious/stupid question.

Anyway, my current portable media player is the Samsung Galaxy S II, a great phone, but a terrible music player. From both personal experience and on the authority of a number of audio engineers/audiophiles, I can tell you, the sound coming from this device is rubbish. Just, no. Which leads to my second question: if I were to use an external DAC, if I understand it correctly, would this would bypass the phone's sound processing, and so it wouldn't be the same crap signal, right? Or would I be wasting my time with using a DAC on a device with a terrible output like the GSII?

Next up, I know it's generally said that the ATH-M50s don't/won't benefit much from an amp, but how about an amp/DAC combo like the FiiO E17? I was considering either the E7 or the E17, but from what I've heard, the E7 isn't too great, and the upgrade to the E17 is worth the extra $40 or so. So my third question: Considering everything, for $150, would the FiiO E17 be a worthy investment?

Finally, my last question: in considering a separate PMP, I've heard the Sansa Clip+ is a purchase you can't really go wrong with. Any thoughts on this?


I really do apologise for the essay, and I hope someone could help me out. If not, I understand.

Thanks for your time.
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  #2  
Old 06-24-2012, 10:01 AM
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I don't listen to audio from my PC. It seemed like a black hole for my money so I use my portable players exclusively. I am a dirty junky and I don't need a higher end version of audio smack. As i understand it though, you cant bypass the internals of your phone unless you can get a line out. Anything through the headphone plug will still be the same stuff but louder after the amp. For the portable player, yeah the clip products are great. There are other great products out there as well though, depending on your needs.

As a sidebar, it is disappointing what Samsung did to the s II. I have an original galaxy captivate and its a fine player. Sounds like they went back to more like it with the S III though. Went back to the wolfson dac at least.

Last edited by IDvsEGO; 06-24-2012 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 06-24-2012, 11:14 AM
LDJ LDJ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IDvsEGO View Post
I don't listen to audio from my PC. It seemed like a black hole for my money so I use my portable players exclusively. I am a dirty junky and I don't need a higher end version of audio smack. As i understand it though, you cant bypass the internals of your phone unless you can get a line out. Anything through the headphone plug will still be the same stuff but louder after the amp. For the portable player, yeah the clip products are great. There are other great products out there as well though, depending on your needs.

As a sidebar, it is disappointing what Samsung did to the s II. I have an original galaxy captivate and its a fine player. Sounds like they went back to more like it with the S III though. Went back to the wolfson dac at least.
Hey, thanks for the reply
Yeah, Samsung truly trashed the audio on the S II. They original Galaxy S was actually quite decent, especially after the Voodoo modification, so it was a real letdown.

Thanks for the +1 on the Clip, I'll definitely have to keep an eye on it over the next few days before I make my purchase.

If I understand how the USB DAC I'm looking at (FiiO E17) works, I plug it into the mini-USB port of the S II, and then plug the headphones into the DAC? I know for a fact that the Galaxy S II is one of only a rare few Android devices that currently support external DACs, so fingers crossed that because I'm bypassing the audio-out line, none of the crappy internal audio needs to be dealt with
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Old 06-24-2012, 11:22 AM
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Marvin the Martian Marvin the Martian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDJ View Post

If I understand how the USB DAC I'm looking at (FiiO E17) works, I plug it into the mini-USB port of the S II, and then plug the headphones into the DAC? I know for a fact that the Galaxy S II is one of only a rare few Android devices that currently support external DACs, so fingers crossed that because I'm bypassing the audio-out line, none of the crappy internal audio needs to be dealt with
The E17 can be only a DAC or an amplifier at one time.....not both. So if you did get a line-out signal from the phone, and ran it into the DAC of the E17, then you'd need to run that line-out signal from the DAC into yet another amp which you'd then plug your headphones into.

If the phone really sounds that bad to you, I'd recommend just getting another device to play your music and using the phone for everything else it does well.
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Old 06-24-2012, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
If the phone really sounds that bad to you, I'd recommend just getting another device to play your music and using the phone for everything else it does well.
that is probably the cheapest, cleanest way to do it honestly.
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Old 06-24-2012, 03:05 PM
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I too am a Clip fan but don't use the OF, rockbox only and it's a great bang for the buck player. It seems like all your questions have been answered, but rather than the E17 I'd be looking at the E10 here. It's cheaper, it has a volume potentiometer and it's a DAC/Amp.
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Old 06-24-2012, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalkGood View Post
I too am a Clip fan but don't use the OF, rockbox only and it's a great bang for the buck player. It seems like all your questions have been answered, but rather than the E17 I'd be looking at the E10 here. It's cheaper, it has a volume potentiometer and it's a DAC/Amp.
E10 is not portable though.....and the OP is talking about potentially using with a phone, which suggests on-the-go use to me.
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
E10 is not portable though
I was responding to his “my first question: would I get better results by plugging my headphones directly into the back of the PC, as opposed to through the desktop speakers?” As the E10 would bypass his onboard sound card and sound much better, but yes it's not designed to be portable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
... the OP is talking about potentially using with a phone, which suggests on-the-go use to me.
I wouldn't waste my money or time trying to amp a phone and since it doesn't do line-out I added my vote to the Clip. If a portable amp is needed, I wouldn't recommend the dim-witted E17 with its always on OLED screen ...

Edit: "So my third question: Considering everything, for $150, would the FiiO E17 be a worthy investment?" I'd pass on that amp based on my statement above and for a lot less the Clip should satisfy your sound needs rather than amping a phone.
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Last edited by WalkGood; 06-24-2012 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 06-24-2012, 05:58 PM
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As for the questions about your speakers and PC sound card. Yes the RealTec is a cheap sound card, but unless you are hearing hiss or having any specific issues with it, it should do fine.

When you plug your headphones into the port on your speakers, then you are essentially just using a headphone cord extension. The speakers don't effect it in anyway, unless they are adding some noise(which might be possible).

If you want to upgrade, then you could get something like the Turtle Beach Micro Advantage on the cheap side. Or get something like the FocusRite Scarlett 2i2 or the Echo AudioFire 2

I personally own both the Turtle Beach and the Echo, the Echo definitely sound better, but it can be a hassle to get working correctly. I am yet to test the Scarlett but I've heard good things about it.
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Old 06-24-2012, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDJ View Post
which, audio-wise, is simply listed as having "Realtek High Definition Audio" (if it helps, the motherboard is the Intel DG41RQ, but I still can't find any additional info. Either way, it's a cheap board, so i.e. cheap audio?) When I use the M50s, I plug them into the headphone jack on the side of the desktop speakers. From there, my first question: would I get better results by plugging my headphones directly into the back of the PC, as opposed to through the desktop speakers?
Those newer generations of Realtek HD chips are actually pretty good and should drive your M50 fine. With that you shouldn't need any dedicated sound card, since the Realtek has low hiss, low distortion, linear frequency response, and decent crosstalk. It also impedance-matches its output to your phones, which is more than most other DAC/amps do.

I don't know if those cheapo speakers simply feed you the same signal as you get out of the Realtek, or if they mess with it in a negative way (I suppose they mess with it, since the Realtek matches the impedance of the attached device). Best you simply test both with your own ears, if the M50 sound noticeably better out of the Realtek, compared to the speakers' headphone-out.

(Here's some RMAA results of the Realtek HD in my Asus netbook - perfectly fine, except with multi-armature IEMs, due to high output impedance: http://rmaa.elektrokrishna.com/index...&search_mode=f - results with Ubuntu might differ from Windows, of course.)
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Old 06-24-2012, 06:38 PM
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Those newer generations of Realtek HD chips are actually pretty good and should drive your M50 fine.
When did they start doing all of this? I'm just curious as to what time frame they upgraded their quality. Though I'm generally using a notebook which has tighter components and results in more noise.
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  #12  
Old 06-24-2012, 06:48 PM
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I don't know, but the ALC 26x Realtek HD chip in my netbook is perfectly fine with any dynamic driver IEMs or full sized headphones. Of course a lot depends on proper implementation too, but there's not even a difference to hear when running on battery (good) or plugged into AC (usually worse sound).

And yeah, a Realtek (non-HD) chip in an older laptop I had back in 2004 or so sounded like garbage, basically unusable with any headphones.
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