The second post of the day is for my new shiny things. In the never-ending quest for even nicer sound (I've now officially spent way more money on this than is remotely reasonable, but then I do spend several hours a day sitting here listening to my headphones, and you can't take it with you...) I bought a new external DAC and headphone amplifier from Firestone. The DAC is their Spitfire model, the amp their Cute Beyond. If you don't know what a DAC is, well, it's basically an external soundcard. DAC stands for Digital to Analog Converter - all sound stored on computers and digital formats like CDs is digital, but your ears only understand analog and the sound that comes out of speakers is analog, so something in the middle has to convert the digital file to the analog sound, and that's what soundcards (and CD players, and home theater receivers) do. $250 might seem a rather steep price to pay for a soundcard in a little metal box that can't do any kind of special effects and just plays stereo music, but it does it really, really well. My previous setup - the Chaintech AV710 soundcard feeding a cheaper amp, the Twinstarr Black, basically an Apheared design, which is cheap but well-suited to my headphones - wasn't bad on a budget, but this setup is certainly noticeably better (and for four times the price it had better be). I'm happy with it so far; if you've got $420 burning a hole in your pocket and you want a couple of cute little boxes you can plug into any cheap soundcard with a digital output and instantly get extremely high quality sound through a good pair of headphones, you could do a lot worse than buy this.


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