Best DAC/AMP for dt880 edition 250ohm

Well, I think the title says it all.

I am planning to get the DT880 Edition 250ohm and the feedback is that I will need a DAC/AMP because modern motherboards just can’t drive such cans (or so it’s a common belief)

HC released this video today, will a Schiit FULLA 3 or a Sound Blaster X3 be able to drive those cans?

what is your opinion about this video comparing a DAC/AMP with a high-end mobo onboard audio?

It makes me wonder if I really need a DAC/AMP if I have a high-end mobo. I haven’t seen/read a proper convincing argument for the need of a DAC/AMP vs a high-end mobo.

there is no ‘belief’ about it…mobo audio cannot drive anything with high impedance very well, so that would include the 250 ohm model(s), let alone anything 600 ohm.

heck, my HD599se are about 2x the impedance of my NHC, which is just 50 ohms and I need to move the dial an extra 33% higher on the volume to get equivalent sound levels on my NHC!

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I would actually want more than a Fulla 3 for 880-250 :grimacing:

Igorslab is very respected in the PC community, I just came across this The realtek 1220 chip is what comes with the high-end mobos and it can drive up to 600ohms cans. Hell, Dimitry is driving the HD 800 from a high end mobo.

That’s cool. If 30mW at 32 ohms is sufficient for you.

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This isn’t a belief its fact. Just because the headphone gets loud does not mean properly driven… those who are uneducated ignore this fact and state otherwise which is unfortunate as a lot of misinformation gets passed around in this hobby

X3 can power 600 ohms just not to the best full sound and fulla struggles with those over 250 ohms… its not the best choice for beyers as they use older drivers that require more juice unlike something like sennheiser

Amp and dac will almost always out perform on board audio…

If you have a 1220a codec it will drive these beyers but won’t sound the best. I would not recommend anything less

Lol no… no it cannot this is false information. As someone who owns 1220A the step higher of this codec… this codec claims it can drive 600 ohms but cannot drive the 600 ohm beyers…

Can absolutely guarantee it’s not only not fully powered but the signature is quite different… hd800 is a picky one and needs good equipment to sound it’s best…

Something to note: these companies will make claims on what their product can drive… but ohm amount isn’t the whole thing you should look at… you need to know how many watts per channel that board puts out at 600 ohms otherwise known as the sensitivity… soundblaster does this alot and it’s quite irritating… their products that claim to push 300 ohms cannot even push the 32 ohm tygr 300r

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@lrjshabaz 30mW at 32 ohm is the budget/mid range ALC1200 in case you didn’t read the article. The high-end codec ALC1220 has a rating of 2.1Vrms at 600 ohms.

Are there any measurements of this fact @Falenkor? I haven’t seen a single measurement of this fact, When people are blind-tested, like in the video I just added in the first post, they just fail at noticing any difference. They are just guessing. The guy used a pair of HD650.

Realtek provides schematics of their electronics at least. So if you know some electronics you know their claims are backed at least in a theoretical level.

I totally agree there is a lot of misinformation and ignorance in this hobby (as in any other hobby for that matter, I’ve seen a lot of that too in my hobby). For example, 1220A/1220-VB are just rebranding of the same 1220 codec that mobo manufacturers sell you as a “custom” 1220, it is exactly the same 1220 codec, it isn’t a revised/new codec.

The one thing I agree can make a difference it’s signal interference if the chipset isn’t properly shielded inside the mobo (which they are these days in high-end mobos).

Lol I forgot to put quotes on that… that was meant to be sarcasm on my part on the 1220a being the “upgrade”. Marketing bs.

Considering measurements really don’t tell you much, no. Going strictly off measures for concrete factual data isn’t smart imo. Though when it comes to this I definitely am speaking from experience. Coming from on board to amp I orginally thought the same that it’s all placebo or bs. Amps and dacs do a lot to that signal more than just clean it up… the amps special characteristics also do not show up on its measurements either yet something such as liquid spark is blatantly a warm sounding amp that relaxes treble.

Theoretically yes you just gotta dig through all that to get anything you need to know… it is quite annoying though to see oh it powers 600 ohms… the hell it does, just as an example here the dt 880 at 600 ohm not only is rather quiet but it loses almost half of its clarity and quite alot of bass impact this coming off my own 1220a codec. Can it still be used? Sure it still gets up there on volume but it sounds pretty awful in comparison. I had these same bad issues with pickier headphones, focal clear comes to mind, where without the amp and dac it sounds dreadful… I’m pretty sure theres a long drawn out reason more than likely having to do with the drivers or something that will explain why headphones scale and synergize with some equipment while others sound bad but I’m not in a spot to claim I fully understand it. Then again I have met some who cannot hear the differences in equipment

Yea that’s another concern… annoying feedback or buzzing is troublesome

Aside from the amount of different electric signal inside you pc that could be interfering with the signal you want to convert to an analog signal, this alone will be enough for me to go for an external DAC if I was doing critical listening, but I just to gaming, so no extremely worry about it.

Now, when it comes to the amount of power needed to drive a given headphone, I tried several calculators and I made my own calculations (I am not an electrical engineer but I do work with electronic equipment and digital signals, with geophones measuring seismic waves to be more specific) and I found those calculators to be very accurate at a theoretical level. for the DT 880 Edition 250 Ohm, 0.79 Vrms is enough to drive them at 100dB (which more than loud enough). The ALC1220 can deliver 2.1Vrms at 600ohm, so from a purely electrical point of view, a high-end mobo can drive a DT 880 250 Ohm with plenty of headroom

@Falenkor I totally agree with you here, there must be something else other than pure electronics and well fundamented physics (voltage/current/resistivity) that influence the sound that we don’t fully understand.

@Falenkor I have been doing more research. There is one thing an onboard audio amp is not the best.
That is the output impedance of the amp. It is really well explained in this video, and the change in sound is totally measurable.

You can see the output power is more than enough to drive a DT 880 250 Ohm. Now, the output impedance of an ALC1220 is pretty high. It will certainly change the way a given headphone sounds for sure (for better or for worse).

All I need is 1 calculations:
P = V * (V/R)
With numbers (600 Ohm for example):
P = 12V * (12V/600Ω) = 240mW

So even before losses in the chip, you are looking at a maximum of 0.24W
The word there, is “insufficient”

@MazeFrame excellent. That is the max theoretical power (240mW) you get from your 12V in your PC when you connect your 600 Ohm headphones. Simple Ohm’s law, I love it.

My question to you is, how is 240 mW “insufficient” when the sensitivity of the DT 880 600 ohm is 96 dB/mW. I can drive those cans at 96dB with 1 mW out of my 240 mW power budget.

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You can, but it will sound pretty bad, when sensitivity is measured, it’s measured with a single test tone for pure volume, this is completely unrealistic when it comes to actual music or most audio, unless you are listening to a test tone. This does not account for any dynamic range or leeway in the signal, which is all too present when it comes to music, so yes while you might not be taking that much power, there can be a very large range of power draw depending on what you are listening to, and limiting yourself to 1mw would be terrible in sound (thankfully manufactures do not make amps like this lol). You also have to consider that impedance is nominal, it can increase or decrease depending on the frequency that’s being played and is different for each headphone, so you can’t expect to always be in a specific range, which can affect how the amplifier preforms. So basically treat impedance and sensitivity as a rough estimate for how difficult sometimes is to drive, as that measurement is only there for raw volume for a single tone, they never promised it would ever sound good if you only have it limited to the rated power lol

To actually contribute, it’s more about the quality of the power than it is the quantity, as most aren’t buying higher end dac amps for the power, but moreso the improved quality of power. There is a certain threshold where you do just need more raw power for something to sound good, but it all depends on the can of course. In your case, I would just go for the cans you are after, try them on your motherboard and see how it goes. Then grab a nice dac amp and see what changes, and if you don’t find it worthwhile, send it back. Some things are just something you only learn with first hand experience

I should also note that past a certain threshold, a high quality amp does not equal high measurements, they can become relatively independent from sound quality once you pass a pretty low threshold

Like @M0N said, sensitivity is measured at a single frequency. When a lot is going on frequency wise, you just throw that power out the window.

The 240mW is before losses, and depending on amp topology, you may loose 80% of that.

Yes, sensitivity is measured at a given reference frequency, typically at 1kHz based on what I’ve seen. I agree the sensitivity and even the resistivity of headphones can be frequency-dependent, apparently this is almost always the case with the dynamic drivers.

Granted, so power requirements can change per frequency as the power requirements will change with any change in sensitivity/resistivity at any given frequency. I think with a 240mW of power budget at 600ohm, there is plenty of headroom to account for any change in resistivity/sensitivity at any given frequency in this example. That covers your first point.

On the second point, I think that is a sensible approach, that is what I have been doing since I decided to get a decent set of cans for my gaming. I was totally ignorant about what a good sound is. I am still very ignorant but less so. I had my cloud alphas for years, and to me, they got the job done. I then tried DT770, MH751, SHP9500, and I just ordered a pair of DT 880 Edition 250 Ohm.

As to the “quality of the watts”, there is this good video about it

You will never get that from a motherboard, as maze says, expect like 20% of that or less. I mean for amps I’ve had and heard, I’ve heard amps that sound pretty excellent with less than 80-100mw for the 880 600, but going lower might end up giving you distortion, lack of impact, and not enough control over the drivers, but it all depends. I will say I have never heard a motherboard drive the 880 600 to an extent where it was close to enjoyable, no matter how high end the board was

Yes it’s all about the care and attention that’s put into the amp, ideally a designer would give about equal priority to making sure things sound good, and also look at least decent on paper to find an appropriate balance, as the final result is what matters the most, if it looks great on paper but sounds terrible (example might be a topping L30), what’s the point lol? And then you get into topics like synergy and stuff like that

@MazeFrame I answered the first point just above.

On your second point about the power loss, this is given by the difference between the amp output impedance and the loaded impedance (the headphone impedance). This is really the key point when it comes down to onboard audio in mobos, as the amp output impedance is very high in those, which is pretty bad for the final sound.

The point is that you are right, even if at a theoretical level I can generate more than enough power, that doesn’t mean it’s going to sound good just because it works on paper.