USB headphone amp to match AKG 701 Reference

rob tunnah

Novice Member
The headphone output from my ancient PC, both from the sound card and Creative Labs cheapo speaker system, is as bad as you'd expect. Dynamics and timing are particularly poor, but the main problem is that neither output is man enough to drive the AKG 701 headphones to a listenable volume.

I've noticed the appearance of well-received and inexpensive USB add-ons to remedy the problems associated with computer audio, but as yet haven't been able to audition one. Recommendations would be welcome, with a budget of about £300 which could perhaps be stretched a little.

Is this even the best route, or would I be better off retiring the bargain-basement speaker system for a more capable one with a far better headphone amp?
 

boris

Active Member
You could upgrade the soundcard, something like the Asus Xonar Essence STX will be able to handle the AKG's. This goes for around £150 or so. I used to own this and it handled a pair of Sennheiser HD700's (300ohm) just fine and a pair of powered monitors.

Alternatively, you could go for an outboard USB solution, something like the Arcam ir-DAC II (c£280), although my recommendation would be some Schiit, specifically the Schiit Modi Uber DAC and Magni Uber Headphone Amp. See here: Schiit Audio Europe. Schiit offers strong value for money (I own their higher-end DAC, the Gungnir Multibit and it is brilliant) for the performance you get.

The Magni can also act as a pre-amp for powered speakers - if you go this route I would suggest that you ditch the creative speakers and get some powered speakers at a later point.
 

rob tunnah

Novice Member
Thanks, Boris. I like the minimalistic look of the Schitt equipment and you've given me plenty of food for thought. I like the prices, too.:)
 

rob tunnah

Novice Member
Given that I rarely use the PC speakers, as the PC's in the same room as the TV - hence the use of headphones - would that change your recommendations in any way?
 

boris

Active Member
Only with regards to potentially considering the cheaper Schiit Fulla 2 for £110 which combines a dac/headamp. It's USB only input though.
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Cant say about the 701s but I bought a DragonFly red dac recently and the sound using AKG451s and AKG550s is excellent. You do use the computer interface for volume as opposed to a seperate box with vol switch. 169 pounds from the Little Audio company
 

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