I'm thinking of building a headphone setup for my lappy by the end of the year and I've pretty much decided that this will include a pair of Alessandro MS2s. Now I'm up to thinking about upgrading the onboard soundcard (I'd buy an Asus STX in a heartbeat but I'm using a laptop so soundcards are out of the picture).
I've got quite a tight budget because I want to make the whole setup around $500. So around $200 for a combo amp and DAC for use with MS2s, but I could possibly go up to about $450, though I don't want to. So what do you think I should do?
I've looked at the Fiio E7, Hifi Man EF2A and Matrix cube.
The EF2A fits right into the budget between the two others, so how much better than the Fiio and worse than the Matrix will it be?
I've heard that it is quite bright (which I don't want - I'd prefer a warmer amp to make the Alessandros a tad less harsh and bring out their punchy bass characteristics) and this can be down to the tubes. Would replacment ones warm up the unit's sound? And where could I get replacement tubes that fit in Australia?
So, which of those options would you say is best for my needs? And are there any better alternatives?
Thank you very much,