I'm still waiting for my HD6xx to be shipped. My plan was to try it out with my current non-existent gear and continue from there. I have a gaming grade motherboard (MSI Z170A GAMING M5) with a lot of buzz words trying explaining how they put effort into making it sound great. Compared to what I previously have experienced from on-board sound chips it really is pretty good. There is no noise and it sounds pretty good on my Sennheiser CX3.00 and Superlux 668b. The next step up is to try out the HD6xx. The motherboard says it can drive headphones that have up to 600 ohms, so it should "work", obviously working and sounding great are two different things, but my plan was to start from there.
I started reading about dac/amps, Schiit is mentioned a lot. Thought about the Fulla2, but quickly dismissed it, it is an entry level thing and famous Schiit stack is supposedly a lot better suited for the HD6xx. With that much of room for improvement I was easily persuaded to not even consider the entry level headphone dac/amp. It would not satisfy my curiosity and I would end up trying something else out anyway, so I decided to bite the bullet and find something that costs more, possibly saving me some money from not having to upgrade. ;)
Magni3 plus Modi2 is mentioned a lot, I thought about just getting a Magni3 because people often also say that the DAC is not as important as many people think, and considering the fact that I think my motherboard is doing pretty well. But then again, I'm curious, what IF the DAC is important, and this on-board DAC isn't as good as I think it is. And once you consider the stack, you get to the point where you consider the Jotunheim, at least I did.
"Luckily" for me, I'm in EU and Schiit's EU distributeurs don't have any of the interesting equipment on stock and they don't know when they will be. I generally prefer to buy locally because in case support or repairs are needed, it is easier to get when it's closer. So it was either buy directly from the US or wait.
And while waiting, I kept reading more and watching more videos and somehow came across the NFB 11.
Doesn't have the balanced output, but do I really need it? I'm already upgrading to more expensive headphones, a dac, an amp .... does it really also need to be balanced? Not only does that cost more, I would also have to buy cables for it. Aside from that I've read that the DACs in the Jot aren't all that great, while the NFB has a really good one.
I drew the line there. I went from "Let's try out the Superlux 668b with aftermarket pads for 50 bucks and see what the fuss is about" to spending 250 (EU shipping and taxes) on headphones and considering another 400 bucks on an amp, just in less than a year time. :)
So I ended up buying a NFB 11.28 from an EU distributeur. Instead of emailing China and sending money that way and wait for weeks while it gets shipped and goes through customs, I paid a bit extra and got it within a few days. The NFB 11.28 comes with the Amanero combo 384 chip which used to be a paid upgrade. Most video reviews are older and mention both problems with installing drivers and having the option to get the different chip. Anyway, here comes the whole reason why I started ranting.... the NFB 11.28 I received was very very easy to use and the drivers were almost impossible to be easier to install. Links to the drivers are on the Audio GD website, but also on the distributeur's and they have also e-mailed me the links as well. I plugged in the NFB 11, downloaded a zip file with the drivers, inside was just a simple setup.exe file. It installed the drivers and the NFB 11 was immediately recognized and it works. If the NFB 11 is switched on, sound goes through the NFB, if I switch off the dac/amp sound automatically switches over to the onboard headphone/speakers outputs.
So anyway, it might have been an issue before, but with the NFB 11.28 the drivers are extremely easy to install and it should not be an argument to use to convince people to consider other dac/amps instead.
As far was my experiences with the NFB 11, if anyone cares, I was nervous whether or not I would hear any difference at all, but I can hear the difference and it sounds better than the on-board sound. That is not to say that the on-board sound is terrible, because it isn't.
I have also tried connecting the pc to the NFB with an optical cable, so using the on-board DAC but also the amp on the NFB. The differences were a lot smaller, I would have a hard time telling them apart in a blind test.
This also probably means that the improvement in sound is most likely to mostly come from the amp part of the NFB.
I would say that a well implemented on-board sound chip can sound good, but with the NFB 11, I can hear things that the weren't there before. I would almost have to conclude that people with a really good on-board solution, do not necessarily need a separate dac. (please don't shoot me)
But, so far these experiences are only with the Superlux 668b and the Sennheiser CX3.00. I'm still waiting for my HD6xx and I'm curious to find out how much different it will all sound.