If you don't want to upset your neighbors or family members, using high-quality headphones is a great solution. In the world of headphones, there are many different manufacturers whose products suit the different needs of consumers.
The starting point is that you already have good headphones with which you can use the headphone amplifier and DAC device. We cover a little what the different devices do and the focus is on connecting to the computer.
DAC and Headphone Amplifiers
DAC comes from the words digital-to-analogue-converter, in Finnish the device converts a digital signal to analog so that it can be played through headphones. The device can be thought of as a sound card in a computer, however, compared to a sound card, a separate high-quality DAC is on a completely different level. Quite a lot of people use the sound card that came with the motherboard, and motherboards that cost more than 200 euros for normal listening and games can offer a reasonable experience. However, for owners of high-quality headphones, the differences between an integrated and specialized solution are very noticeable.
The most important thing can be considered the anti-distortion of the DAC device, integrated sound cards suffer from the disturbances that other components on the motherboard produce. DAC devices are also built from higher quality parts and thought only for sound reproduction.
Today, DAC devices include a built-in headphone amplifier, however, the headphone amplifier can be purchased separately. Especially when listening with headphones, the headphone amplifier is at least as important as the DAC device. Buying a headphone amplifier usually comes into question when you already own a good DAC device without a headphone amplifier or have bought headphones with an impedance of more than 32 ohms.
Especially when connecting to a computer, the connections are usually S/PDIF and USB, both of which have their own advantages. S/PDIF was designed from the beginning for audio devices, while USB is a common computer connection.
Both connection methods have their own advantages and the best sound quality usually depends on the equipment used. The S/PDIF connection reproduces the signal "clean" which forces the DAC device to adapt to its signal, depending on the source this can be a good or bad thing.
The USB connection is the most popular connection in DAC devices and, especially with developments in asynchronous playback, it is the better and safer option for many. If there is an opportunity, you should try both connections with your own equipment and choose the one that sounds better. In the majority of devices, however, the differences are so small that you can't notice the difference except on a test bench, in this case USB is the simpler option.
How do you tell the difference?
The difference between high-quality devices is very easy to notice, whether it's listening to music or playing games. The easiest thing is to listen to your favorite song in good quality, a song uploaded via YouTube may not produce the desired result, but the differences are usually quite easy to notice.
Alternatively, you should try a computer game that has invested in sound design, good alternatives are for example Subnautica or Battlefield games with great sound design.
The best thing is to come and try different configurations in a store where you can try different headphone/dac/headphone amplifier combinations and then choose the one that suits you best.
You can visit Hifitalo's selectionfrom here.