Setup Recommendations

Hey guys, I'm looking for suggestions to improve my audio setup. I like bang-for the buck equipment and am not yet ready to go for super expensive equipment, as I've only really become and audiophile in the past year. Here's my current setup:
Macbook pro with Wav files -> SoundBlaster E3 ->Sennheiser HD 598cs or HiVi M10 (E3 has splitter)
Audio Technica LP 60 -> HiVi M10
FiiO x3-II -> Sennheiser HD 598cs or Bose QC25s

I like the splitter aspect of the E3 as it lets me play to headphones or speakers without having to replug stuff, though I could probably add a splitter to a different setup. Overall I'm just looking for suggestions for how to improve my listening experience (what are the weakest links in my setup) if I wanted to improve it to the next level. Cheers!

Jul 8, 2017
@ElectronicVices @Azamonde @TiffanyPoodleslide The cans and fulla2 came today and I owe you all a big thank you. They are blowing me and my family away. We all started dancing when first listening to them together. Songs I've known for years sound new and fresh. Thanks for the great recommendations!
A community member
Jul 8, 2017
Really happy to hear bud you will enjoy them for a long time to come. Enjoy the music pal :)
Hey the Schiit Fulla has a "close out" model over at Schiit for 59 bux. It's just about the different finish and being a previous model. I think it would be a DANGED good buy for you, it's a very NICE dac/amp,(I have the Fulla 2 at 99 bux), you can see how the Schiit audio style works for you. If it was me, I'd snap that up. I SWEAR I have no fiscal interest in Schiit Audio, whatsoever :-)
Well, the primary reason that I recommend the Fulla is that it SOUNDS wonderful. It's a multi-talented DAC/amp that can serve your needs for some time to come, powerful enough to bring nice to a broad range of cans. Yet it also plays nice with IEMs. And it's a nice, comfortably priced introduction to the Schiit family of components. Yes, a LOT of nice. I spent 3 hours yesterday quite happily listening to my Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla's(2nd gen), on this handy little dac/amp, and it doesn't lack in production. Might need to dial up the volume for the higher demand cans, but it provides a lovely experience through-and-through, another simple proof that you don't need to spend a bajillion dollars on decent equipment. The build quality of all Schiit is EXCELLENT, kind of sturdy like a tank, yet always aesthetically pleasing. It's very easy to set up and run, and it doesn't occupy a massive footprint to do what you want. I see this as being a little workhorse that can grace your end table as you play on your iPhone, or park on your worktop as a permanent rig component with your computer. Take it on the road. If you look at what Schiit puts up on their site, you can see what it can do and how. Read the FAQs. Aside from the's honest, and tells you that they aren't into up-selling cables and accessories, when they very well could, given the propensity that many "audiophiles" tend to have for buying way higher than the human ear can appreciate... I will say this; do visit the Fulla 2 page. I think the extra $40 might be worth it just for the updated "guts" and the somewhat nicer build- I bet you will be glad that you popped for the upgraded version, absolutely!
it's even a little bit prettier.......
Jul 6, 2017
Thanks for the recommendation, I went for the fulla 2. Reading the FAQs and specs it seemed to make a lot of sense. Thanks for the help.
You could try out the Schiit Audio line of products. Very highly regarded in the audiophile community. Starting at 99 bux for more portable solid state dacs,dac/amps like the Fulla, the Modi, The Magni, ALL of which produce excellent quality sound, and then, as you graduate your desires, move up to the more mid- higher cost gear including some lovely sounding tube amps, like the Lyr, and the Valhalla, and the Mjolnir.
I am very very happy using a Magni/Modi on my somewhat confined computer desktop,(where I spend MUCH time working with images as an art photographer), when I want to lay back and listen in my leizure, I am using a Valhalla with a BiFrost DAC. The computer desktop gear plays my streaming stuff from my Mac, the bigger tube-amp gear runs either from the computer or the high res SACD player.
You also can't go wrong with WOO audio....but you start getting quite pricey,(worth it, as I can attest, owning many of Woo's very fine tube gear), and it starts to get very addictive/costly, what with tube rolling and cable upgrades and which amp for which headphones and things that hook you into years-long discussions over at HeadFi......LOL
As for headphones; I would say, upgrade according to your musical preferences. Different KINDS of headphones do different things to the music, and not all lines of cans carry the same sound across their range. For instance; I too have Senns, I am into the 600's. I chose them over the "higher end" Senns, because I like how much more transparent they sound when playing classical music than do the 650's on up. The higher end Senns get more bass-y,(in a nice way, don't get me wrong), where the 600's are considered by many to be the more honest across the frequency range, with more power and a bit less veiled than the also quite nice 598's.
Grado cans have different sound sigs per set as well, and Grado aficionados will tell you that we have a different set of Grados for each type of music we listen to. I like my 325 metal backs for electronic music,(where sparkle and clarity shine), my RS1s for stringed instrument classical and acoustic....and I had another set of 325's modded with open wooden cups for a very lively, yet less "sparkling", somewhat more mellowed highs range.
And I RUN to my Beyerdynamic T1 teslas for anything where accuracy and speed and a very precise, nearly clinical presentation with a HUGE stage is desired. They may be my faves overall, simply because MY TASTE in how I hear music tends to appreciate a presentation that is clinical and accurate with MUCH clarity... and I replace the organic and warm that they may lack by using tube amps,(like Woo), to drive my T1's, when I am schmoozed back on my recliner, floating on a sound sea of dark polished wood cello a'la Truls Mørk...
I think starting with a line of products that offers a great range in choices, at high quality, and won't break you at the start is a good way to go, giving you a chance to explore just what you are looking for to produce a sound that YOU LIKE to hear. I think the reason I suggest sticking with a line of products from a single manufacturer, starting out, is that there DOES tend to be consistency in SS,(albeit some fundamental changes across the range, like the Senns dealie), and, when you are talking componants, like amps and dacs and stuff, they tend to play well together. so your whole rig will sing nicely, without too much tweaking and modding and tryingtofindtherightconnectorforthisohdamn!
Visit HeadFi. You can learn SO MUCH about EVERYTHING audio over there. We have threads and reviews for almost EVERY sound production device ever created, forums for DIY'ers, sections for REALLY EXPENSIVE gear, and a For Sale forum, where you may find upgrade gear that you want for less money than you worried about spending. Lots of folks over on HeadFi have already been upgrading for YEARS, and we often are happy to offer our previous, usually very nicely maintained, "lesser" gear at fair and decent prices there.
LONG reply, I know. But I was once where you are. And I was glad other folks took the time to reply to me, help me out. ;)
p.s. I personally don't like anything noise-cancelling, so Bose is typically out for me. My speakers tend to be old Brits, like Celestions, or older build Polk Audio. cheers!
A community member
Jul 3, 2017
I would always upgrade headphone more often than the amp/dac I would only upgrade amp if I needed more power or dac if it was much better than what I have, The biggest difference will always be the headphones. Maybe look at some open headphones it depends on the music you listen to some headphones I would say do better for certain genres of music. I think a great step up for you might be something like the hifiman he400S everyone seems to like them I have the he500 and for value I personally don't think it can be beat tbh.
I've found planar soundstages to be just a tad smaller than their dynamic cousins but I think the clarity, speed and precise imaging more than make up for the slightly reduced soundstage. If the 400i are anything like the 500's (and their FR graphs are very similar) you will be very pleased as a replacement all-rounder. If the 500 didn't weigh just south of a metric ton it would probably be on my head far more than my other 20+ pairs.
Jul 7, 2017
I look forward to trying them out. Thanks for the help!