Recommend me a 300-400$ headphone amp/dac setup

Hello, this is my first time on this forum and my knowledge of audio equipment knowledge is close to 0, I have seen reviews and explanation but have not experienced them. Currently, I have ATH-M40x, and no dac/amp, I am running it from my desktop 3.5mm jack. I listen to rock music and I play video games I am interested in the whole soundstage thing but I dont require great imaging (as in I would not need it to hear the position of footsteps in competitive fps). What I am looking for is an immersive experience, not necessarily an accurate or analytical sound.
My first question is, would a dac improve the sound quality of the audio, the chip on my motherboard is a Realtek ALC887 chip.

Second, would around 300-400$ be enough to buy a headphone + dac and amp if necessary that would be a big upgrade from my current setup. The increase in audio quality should substantial enough to justify the 300-400 spent$, 300$ for a minor quality upgrade is not worth it for me. What I desire is a fun and immersive experience.
If 300$ is enough for a noticeable upgrade, what would you recommend. Also because of covid, I cannot have big audio bleeding caused by open back headphones. because others are sitting about 5 meters from my desk.

Thank you in advance for your help :slight_smile:

I’d spend the money on a better pair of headphone. Personally I think the M40x is not worthy of better setup nor does it benefit from one

But if you spend say 200USD on headphones and 200USD on DAC / amp yes it really would be a night and day difference

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Thanks for the answer, do you have anything to recommend that would not exceed my budget

You mention you need closed back but want big soundstage and immersive experience. They don’t go well together, at least not in this price range. Maybe sth like DT770 or T20RP? And save up money until you can afford to have the T20RP modded as Argon

I heard that some open back or semi open back headphones do not leak sound as much as others, unless you tell me they are all audible from 5 meters away. I do not put the sound very high about 10/100 on windows, but unless you tell me they are all audible from 5 m away it would need to be closed back. Also for the Beyerdynamic, should i go for the 32, 80 or 250 ohms. I have heard about modhouse but since I live in Canada the shipping would be expensive.

It really depends on how loud you listen and how loud the environment is, I think Bayer semi open or open would probably leak a bit less than say AKG, Sennheiser, Grado or Audio Technica. If you are planning to get an amp I would avoid the 32Ohm one

I dont know if it helps, but when I use lets the old airbuds and an ipod, i would not go above 30% of max volume. Also which beyer are good semi for soundstage and “fun” sound, and what amp/dac would you recommend

770 is closed, 880 is semi, and 990 is open. I would recommend Cavalli Liquid Spark DAC and amp for the bayers

Again thank you for your answer, sadly the liquid spark is not currently available for me to purchase, do you have any other alternatives, and can you also recommend me other semi-open headphones or open headphones that do not leak to much

Topping E30/L30, Schiit Modi/Magni, JDS Atom, iFi Zen would be the usual recommendations. Other headphones might stretch the budget a bit, maybe Shure 1540, Audioquest Nightowl, Audio-Technica A990z, used Denon D2000, Fostex T60RP, Monolith M1060C

Thanks I will look into these headphones

would fostex T50RP Mk III be good?

It is the same as T20 and T40. Again closed, open, semi open

Great and since the T50RPmk3 are 50 ohms, can i only buy a dac or do I need an amp to get the full capabilities of the headphones?

You need an amp, it is a planar so it is v hard to drive

would the iFi zen be enought to power it

Might be difficult

what about fiio k5 or topping DX3 pro, since i can get it on amazon here in canada i save more than 50$ on shipping compared to the amp + dac’s you mentionned

probably also difficult

Would you consider trying IEM’s? NOBODY would be able to hear them and there are some excellent models available in your price range. They are MUCH easier to drive than HP’s and would work very well with a more moderate AMP/DAC combo that you should be able to find in Canada.