Aug 21, 201853 views

What external amp/dac should I get to get the best audio quality out of a PC?

I'm just curious for if I ever were to buy a PC and have to power good headphones

Not sure if you knew this or not, but any DAC is basically an external sound card. Best is a matter of opinion mixed with measurements... You also didn't mention what type of headphones you want to power, or even if you're after a combo unit, or a multi-unit stack.
That being said, I've heard tell the Benchmark DAC-3 is pretty insanely good. If you aren't into buying a cheap car, then perhaps check out the Audio-GD NFB-28.38 (which uses the ESS SabreDAC 9038PRO iirc), because that's a pretty great DAC/Amp.
If you're looking for a Resister Ladder Dac instead of a Delta-Sigma, then perhaps you want the R2R-11 from Audio-GD or the Massdrop Airist R2R.
Schiit Audio also makes some pretty great (hearsay) Multibit DACs, like the Bifrost Multibit, and the Gungnir(?) Multibit. Their Delta-sigma DACs are decent too tho.
It really depends on the sound you're looking for, and your budget. Even then, there's always more, better quality cables, USB Isolators if you're going via USB, higher quality Coax/Optical if you're going SPDIF...
And that's not even talking about amplifiers.
But insofar as as recommendation based on what I've used, which is admittedly entry level stuff...
A JDS Labs OL DAC + O2 Amp from Massdrop, or JDS Labs would be a fine start. I've used the Massdrop X Grace SDAC+O2 Combo and the SDAC and OL DAC measure similarly.
An SMSL M6 offers a decent dac and headphone amp, pre-outs OR line-outs depending on your setup, and remote operation. That's all pretty sweet imo.
I've seen lots of recommendations for the Audio-GD NFB-11 and R2R-11 though as well for starter products.
Anyways, sorry about the info dump, but I hope that helps you somewhat. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them and I'll answer what I can.
Chord Hugo TT 2 :)