DAC and Headphone suggestions for son's PC

painter24

Well-known member
May 31, 2021
77
52
620
Hi guys,

I would be grateful for suggestions for my son's music habit, and his PC.

He is permanently glued to to his PC (gamer and Comp Science student), and wants better music playback quality. He currently uses his gaming headset, which isn't great for this purpose, straight from his PC via Qobuz (I set up the family subscription, and his own account).

His birthday is coming up (17), so I wanted to get him a basic starter set up with DAC and headphones (he's not interested in a desktop speaker set-up, doesn't want speakers 🤔)

I was thinking of one of the AudioQuest Dragonfly DACs, or may one of the cheaper ifi DACs. Suggestions welcome, especially if anyone listens to music direct from PCs

As for headphones; I don't know where to start. I've never been in to or interested in headphones or head-fi and have no idea what I'm doing in this regard. Please could you suggest a budget pair of HPs that would be compatible with the intended set-up.

Budget wise, looking at around £200 all in. My son loves his music, but is not interested in HiFi; he just wants improved playback from what he has at the moment.

He has perculiar tastes for a soon to be 17yr old; Black Sabbath (I did give him this, I was a fan in my youth), King Crimson, Blue Oyster Cult. I was playing Herbie Hancock one afternoon when he came downstairs, "wow, what's that dad?"- he's now a fan 😎😁. Anyway, giving him his own access to Qobuz has been great; he's become a music sponge, hence the idea to improve his listening quality

Thanks guys, any suggestions welcome, especially on the headphone front, I am truly clueless 😩
 

suburbansky

Well-known member
Mar 15, 2022
67
13
45
I cannot compare any products, but I do have a small FiiO DAC hooked onto my PC and run them with Beyer stereo headphones. This works very well for me, has cost about as much as you are looking to pay, and I'm definitely a bit of a FiiO fan - but I'm not saying that this the last word on the subject, not even for me. Audioquest may be better but I never heard any of them.
 
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doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
210
125
10,970
Don’t waste money on a DAC at this stage, unless the audio on the pc motherboard is very basic. Just get better headphones. Based on my experience of owning a Zen DAC V2 and a Chord Mojo 2 unless you go up to headphones costing £700 plus you will really struggle to notice a difference. The key benefit is the amp, in something like the Zen DAC V2, which will get harder to drive headphones to a good level. At this stage however I’d also probably avoid that type (harder to drive) and just get something he could also use with a phone. A key point to consider is closed vs open back. Open back will leak sound where closed back is more isolating. I’d imagine he’d probably want closed back as you both probably won’t want to hear what he’s listening to.

Not heard them but the AKG 371 (£120 on Amazon) are very well regarded by many audiophiles. The Sennheiser HD560s (£169) is also well regarded, if perhaps a bit neutral for rock. It’s also open back, but worth trying if you can, as a comparison. I’d suggest you look at online reviews and avoid WHF as they have a very very limited set of headphone reviews when you consider what’s out there. Way too much Sony, Bose and similar on WHF. Their current best list has four Sony is the first seven.

Ideally if you’re in the UK go to somewhere like Richer Sounds and try some. You can then try a DAC/amp at the same time to see if you notice a difference.
 
Last edited:

doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
210
125
10,970
Maybe it's the poor quality of my computer's inbuilt no-name soundcard... But I definitely hear a difference using my FiiO DAC! The one I own cost the equivalent of about £60 but is no longer available, it appears. Quite sure there's a follow-up model, though.

Good point. I have a pretty good motherboard with better audio. I updated my comment.
 

thekenc

Active member
Mar 17, 2022
9
7
25
You might also look at schiit DACs or Topping. Getting a listen is most important. I am also a fan of Sennheiser headphones and ear buds but don't have any specific models to suggest. My headphones are gaming headphones that I also use for work.
 

painter24

Well-known member
May 31, 2021
77
52
620
Thanks for all suggestions. I'm leaning toward an ifi DAC/HP amp, still not sure about headphones, will check out the suggestions.

Thanks guys👍
 

twinkletoes

Well-known member
Nov 16, 2021
92
61
120
Tbh the dragonfly is a really good shout it’s an excellent dac /head phone amp full stop so good I use one with a 3k sugden amp from time to time and I’m not left wanting over my chord qutest. Also works with any phone. As I’m sure he’s not permanently attached to his pc.

df red with a set of focal listen pros would be what I’d give some serious thought over.
 

Gray

Well-known member
The Sennheiser HD560s (£169) is also well regarded
Very well regarded by me, after trying various (often much more expensive) models from different brands.
With a 10% first order discount from Sennheiser Direct, for £152, probably my biggest audio bargain.

ifi audio have just brought out the 'air' range, £99 versions of their already top value products.
If you can find a £99 version of the Zen DAC to pair with the 560S, you'll be doing your son a favour. A bit above your budget maybe, but have a listen and you might soon find yourself interested in headphones, hearing things in your music that you've never noticed before 👍
 

camcroft

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
547
240
19,270
Very well regarded by me, after trying various (often much more expensive) models from different brands.
With a 10% first order discount from Sennheiser Direct, for £152, probably my biggest audio bargain.

ifi audio have just brought out the 'air' range, £99 versions of their already top value products.
If you can find a £99 version of the Zen DAC to pair with the 560S, you'll be doing your son a favour. A bit above your budget maybe, but have a listen and you might soon find yourself interested in headphones, hearing things in your music that you've never noticed before 👍
Being a fanboy I tested the Zen Air Dac and it's good for the price.
 
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Symples

Well-known member
Aug 12, 2021
27
13
45
Hi guys,

I would be grateful for suggestions for my son's music habit, and his PC.

He is permanently glued to to his PC (gamer and Comp Science student), and wants better music playback quality. He currently uses his gaming headset, which isn't great for this purpose, straight from his PC via Qobuz (I set up the family subscription, and his own account).

His birthday is coming up (17), so I wanted to get him a basic starter set up with DAC and headphones (he's not interested in a desktop speaker set-up, doesn't want speakers 🤔)

I was thinking of one of the AudioQuest Dragonfly DACs, or may one of the cheaper ifi DACs. Suggestions welcome, especially if anyone listens to music direct from PCs

As for headphones; I don't know where to start. I've never been in to or interested in headphones or head-fi and have no idea what I'm doing in this regard. Please could you suggest a budget pair of HPs that would be compatible with the intended set-up.

Budget wise, looking at around £200 all in. My son loves his music, but is not interested in HiFi; he just wants improved playback from what he has at the moment.

He has perculiar tastes for a soon to be 17yr old; Black Sabbath (I did give him this, I was a fan in my youth), King Crimson, Blue Oyster Cult. I was playing Herbie Hancock one afternoon when he came downstairs, "wow, what's that dad?"- he's now a fan 😎😁. Anyway, giving him his own access to Qobuz has been great; he's become a music sponge, hence the idea to improve his listening quality

Thanks guys, any suggestions welcome, especially on the headphone front, I am truly clueless 😩
Hello,
I was going to suggest a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic XS, but this seem to be discontinued (I picked mine up for £40) and most certainly improved the sound from my laptop.

There is also the Cyrus Soundkey (I use this with my phone, but I have tried with my laptop and it works just fine)

As for headphones. You've got me there. But I would also recommend 'closed back' type.

But as others have said. Checkout the sound quality from your son's PC. I may well surprise you and then you'll just need headphones.
 
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painter24

Well-known member
May 31, 2021
77
52
620
Thanks again. As has been suggested, but I didn't actually think to check for myself was how Qobuz sounds through my son's gaming headset, just to use as a benchmark. I'll check and work from there.

He did complain that it doesn't sound "very good" and he has no interest in my hobby. "Dad, I'm not bothered to the extent you are, but I would like it to sound better" 😁

I may start with the headphones straight in to his PC and work from there. As has been suggested, that maybe all it takes
 

leemccann1

Well-known member
Sep 2, 2020
31
11
545
Does he need to use his pc as a source? If he has a phone then have you considered a good quality wireless headphone using qobuz? Sony / b&w would have something in the £200 range that should sound better than a wired headset into a pc headphone output. Wherever you are using a wired headphone into something you are relying on the dac from the source, in this case the pc which is unlikely to be great.
 

treesey

Well-known member
May 18, 2015
139
37
18,620
(if you haven't bought something by now ) How about a 2nd-hand pair of wireless Master & Dynamic MW60s? They have their own internal DAC which you use when bluetoothing to them, or just plug them into something and this bypasses it's DAC.

Very comfy for wearing over extended periods.

If he doesn't like them, you get to keep them. They are, amazing. Well I was amazed at the sound quality when I borrowed a pair. Immediately bought my own.

ETA they seem today to be available at less than 200 GBP new.
 
Last edited:

amormusic

Well-known member
Feb 24, 2016
391
278
11,270
I own lots of headphones, from cheapies up to very expensive Sennheiser IE800S flagship in-ears. My suggestion for headphones in budget would be a pair of Audio Technica ATH MSR7B over ears, which are also closed back style and therefore won't leak out sound.

I recently had some Oppo PM3 over ear planar magentics (which are incredibly well reviewed), however sold these on for £250 and kept my pair of the Audio Technica's as they are better. In my opinion you will not find a better pair for the cash. They are now discontinued, but there's an open box pair for £135 on eBay.

I've also compared them to the Audio Technica ATH M50X but prefer these and gave my mum the M50's.

As for DAC, yep, pick up a dragonfly. Then sorted.
 

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