My question is, if I got something like a E10K, Schiit fulla 4, etec a different Dac/amp around the $100 area would I notice any different in sound quality or would it just be a waste of money compared to what I’m currently running?
Likely to notice a good amount of difference… just nothing really drastic.
However, if your going to do an amp and dac, I do encourage using an appropriate budget… since your able to use the 58x as is right now I would encourage bringing your budget up to around $150-$200 and investing towards and entry level… This way you really don’t have to consider going any further in your setup(less your really after sound quality) and you can use pretty much whatever headphone(up to around $500 ish maybe a bit more… just depends on the set of cans some get picky).
Can also just get an amp and use the computer as the dac or the dongle…
Used entry levels range anywhere from $140-$150 for the stack… and $200 brand new this goes for schiit, jds, topping, ifi is a bit more going up to around 250 I believe? cause zen stack, monoprice, and probably some others
There’s a member here selling exactly the sort of entry level setup that would get you started:
I don’t have a dog in this fight, it’s not my stuff, and I’ve never owned the Atom stack, so I can’t talk about its sound from first hand experience. That said, the Atom stack has a pretty good reputation in this and several similar communities for its performance at this price bracket. Competes head to head with the Schiit magni/ modi stack, Zen Dac which has an integrated amp, and other similar products. If you really want to upgrade from the dongle you’re currently using, an entry level stack is the next logical step. A used entry stack like this is a fantastic price to performance place to start.
The reason people keep recommending separate dac and amp is basically as so;
Any device for getting the digital audio signal from your computer to play as sound in your headphones needs to solve two problems.
1: Convert the ones and zeros to a spectrum of layered signals of varying strength and width. This is the DAC.
2: Provide that now analog signal at an appropriate power level to a speaker (in this case a small one contained in the ear cup) such that the speaker will have adequate power, but not enough to cause damage. This is the job of an amp.
The more jobs you ask a single device to do, the more difficult it gets to make that device really good at any one of those jobs. Not that its impossible - there do exist great integrated dac/ amps. Just that it is more difficult, and often more expensive. You tend to get electrical interference showing up as noise when they are housed in the same box. This can be stamped out with good engineering, but this often means a less perfect and more expensive end result. With seperate dac and amp, you’re asking for a different device to do each of the two critical jobs alone. Especially at the lower price points this /tends/ to be better.