I decided to take the leap into an ‘audiophile grade’ setup, I’ve gone relatively cheap as an initial step with some DT990 Pro’s & an SMSL M3 Mini Dac/Amp. My previous headphones are HyperX Cloud Alpha’s, I’m quite underwhelmed as there seems to be barely any difference between them and the new setup.
I received the headphones yesterday, and the dac/amp today. I spent some time yesterday playing around with the 990’s without the M3, expecting them to sound meh which they did. I had high hopes for the M3’ arrival today but I’m far from blown away, there is a noticeable difference between with M3 & without mostly in terms of volume.
Quality wise I’m struggling to spot any difference between my old HyperX Cloud Alpha’s and the new setup - Am I doing something wrong?
Any help/guidance is very much appreciated.
Edit Some info re my setup:
Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro WiFi Mobo
Cloud Alpha’s were plugged into front 3.5mm ports
Set of speakers plugged into back 3.5mm line out
SMSL M3 plugged in via rear USB 3.0 & Coax (I’ve been playing around with both, currently using USB)
Mine are the standard Cloud Alpha’s not the S so I can’t comment on the linked video. I didn’t get on with my pair too well, I prefer open/semi-open backed headphones and found the soundstage to be poor in comparison to previous headphones I’ve used
No experience with the M3 so I can’t really say much about it. But the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s are very nice for a gaming headset. I was surprised by the quality when I demoed them. Only thing I can bash them for is the small adjustments available, not very keen on larger heads. But as far as sound quality goes they’re pretty damn good.
I’d much rather take them over any other “gaming” headset, this includes the all the 3-400$+ SteelSeries and Razer bullshit that’s out on the market, and let’s not forget the latest blunders with Logitech’s new wireless headsets.
I haven’t listened to Beyerdynamic for a couple of years, so my memory isn’t the most up to date on these. But given my most recent demo of the Cloud Alpha’s, I’d say the Alpha’s are better. They at least gave me a much better impression than my faint memory of the DT990’s. But that might just be my bias against overall gaming headphone quality and these being a nice surprise.
This works fine and powers the 600 ohm beyers. Speaking from experience 990 is very different from the alphas and in terms of sound quality the alpha doesnt hold a candle to the 990 let alone soundstage and imaging(open back as well).
You don’t seem to be using enough power on your current 990s which sounds like the problem here, and you mention trying ampless which is a no go in 90% of use cases from headphones that are much more demanding.
I am not sure on what your budget exactly is. Particularly in regard to shipping, import fees, and taxes. But from the way you describe your issues it I don’t believe you are getting enough power to your cans. If you can get them a JDS labs atom would provide enough juice, but it is very much on the budget end of things. https://jdslabs.com/product/atom-amp/
Thank you both for the replies, I was just about to close this thread down as I had opened a new post questioning G6 vs Fiio K5 Pro, to prevent spamming the category I’ve closed it and will continue the conversation in here.
I’m in UK and really struggling to source any of the commonly recommended hardware; JDS, Schitt, Liquid Spark, DAC X6, Topping etc etc.
My choices have been narrowed down to the SoundBlasterX G6 (£130) & Fiio K5 Pro (£150). Usage is very close with gaming taking the slight edge say 55% Gaming to 45% Music. Because of this the gaming features of the G6 have piqued my interest, but they aren’t a definite winner. I’m also fairly impartial to the mic in as I plan on buying a usb mic, but if that doesn’t work out it’d be reassuring having the port for a modmic. Portability being a selling point to the G6 isn’t a factor in my decision as it’ll stay sat on my desk.
I’d like something that’s got enough headroom to power my current 990 250 Ohms’ and any future headphone upgrades without the need for hardware changes and priced around the £150 mark (available in the UK with short lead time)
Edit some other options available to me, that I don’t think beat the two main choices:
Fiio E10k - £60
Fiio K3 - £95
iFi ZEN DAC - £130
SoundBlaster X3 - £130
Zen dac is good for later on since it’s part of the stack of zen can, which is the amp for the stack, but most of their power is in that balanced port. I’m not a fan of k5 really or many of fiios products for that matter and g6 has a pretty nice dac in it… you can get a better amp later if you want for k5 or g6 and just use them as dedicated dac. They keep their extras as a dac as well so that’s always nice. Both will drive the 250 ohm and I’m pretty sure zen dac does too unbalanced. G6 tho I’m certain drives the 600 ohm variants
Zen imo has better sound than the other two and is a warmer sounding amp
Yeah, the SMSL M3 is hardly worth the investment, as it’s not that much better than on-board chips, especially vs. modern motherboards. You must’ve read some very old revies or forum threads to end up getting that one.
If you mean the FiiO K5 Pro DAC/amp combo (not stack), I’d get that one in a heartbeat. FiiO is a specialized audio company, Creative is not. And I haven’t had any issues with the sound of FiiO products until now (vs. expectations for the price category I was going for).
The ZenDAC may be good for quality but won’t be future-proof for power. The K5 Pro is much more likely to have you covered for all your headphones going forward. It depends a lot on what you’re planning to upgrade to though - newer headphones have been moving more toward lower impedances and higher sensitivities, so anything that can power an old-school 250-ohm Beyer will have you covered pretty much “forever” if all you’re going to touch are newer models. But if you start getting curious about 600-ohm Beyers or T50RP mods, or some crazy HiFiMan HE-400/500, even the K5 might not be quite enough.
When I decided I wanted one solid desktop DAC/amp to put an end to these worries I went for a second-hand iFi Micro iDSD (silver, old version) for about 270 EUR, but that was also because of its impedance matching switch, which will allow me to use any low-impedance high-sensitivity headphones without pushing up the noise floor to audible levels (for example the much-recommended JDS Atom is not quite the best with high-sensitivity IEMs and does not have any kind of impedance matching, so it would not be future-proof in this regard).
After owning a Soundblaster X7 in the past, I will always recommend against Creative products due to them being heavily reliant on their software. The gaming features are highly overrated imo and aren’t worth being tied in with their software.