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DragonDaddyBear
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DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:08 am

I'm looking at getting a true headphone amp. The SD-DAC63057 from Syba just isn't doing it for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a great little device (super handy to have that microphone input!), but I'm ready to upgrade.

I'd like something that is versatile. Something that can function as a DAC, and amp, or both is on the list of requirements. I have VModa Crossfade 2's right now but I would like the ability to swap gain if I get something that's harder to drive.

I've been eyeballing the Objective DAC+Amp combo for a while. I was really upset when I missed the Massdrop on it the other week, but maybe that's for the better. I've found a Topping D30 combo suite on Amazon as well that looks appealing. I'm trying to keep it under $300 if possible but I'm all about value. If something costs more and will be that last one of something I ever own then I usually go up the pricing ladder. What sucks is it's really hard to try this kind of stuff out. So I'm in need of help. What would you all suggest I look at?
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:21 am

I've had a very good experience with my AudioQuest Dragonfly Red driving a set of Oppo PM-3 closed-back planar magnetic cans. They've got a 26 ohm impedance, so need some current. I have no issues driving them as loudly as I care to.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:37 am

How is the noise on that? One thing I've noticed is with USB-powered DAC's is they seem to have a quiet background hiss.

I should also note that portability is not something I'm concerned about. These are going on the desk at work, hooked up to my Dex dock.

Edit: It looks like there are USB "isolation" devices out there. I found something by iFi that allows you to filter and/or power with a separate low-noise power supply. Oh my, quality 5V power supplies are spendy, like $50 the iFi one. I'm guessing they are a completely different design than the $5 special that comes with the typical device.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:04 am

If I had to guess, the low noise supplies probably use an "old school" analog regulator as the final (or only) stage to eliminate the inevitable transients from switching supplies. Inefficient, but at the low power levels we're talking about for USB devices not really an issue.

And they charge $50 because they can... it's a niche product. Probably about $5 worth of actual components.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:05 am

I don't notice any hiss, mainly because I'm usually listening fairly loudly. AQ also makes a USB filter; theirs is called the JitterBug. The nervosa magazines appear to like the thing.

I used to use an older Dragonfly 1.2 to drive an iFi Micro iCan on my desk. I still have the iCan, but find myself more often just sticking with the DF Red. The DF 1.2 went to my home office where it replaced the Xonar as the source for the Audioengine 2.1 setup on my desk.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:11 am

just brew it! wrote:
If I had to guess, the low noise supplies probably use an "old school" analog regulator as the final (or only) stage to eliminate the inevitable transients from switching supplies. Inefficient, but at the low power levels we're talking about for USB devices not really an issue.

And they charge $50 because they can... it's a niche product. Probably about $5 worth of actual components.

Yeah, I was looking at that thinking that even if they added some crazy filtering there is no way it's worth $50. It doesn't look like the huge, old-school bricks that were linear filters. That's one thing I hate about high-end audio. There is just so much hyperbole and snake oil. That's why I'm asking here. I wish there was a true, objective testing site out there. Reviews are great but everyone has different ears and hears different ranges at different levels, so subjective listening from others is only of so much value.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:47 am

I've not personally tried an O2 (nor ODAC), but I've only heard good things. I've been running Schiit's Magni/Modi Uber setup for a few years, which is no longer available because they revised the 3rd generation to include everything the Ubers had. Magni has your gain switch and preamp outputs that you can send to speakers (if you want). Modi accepts USB, coax, and optical inputs that you can switch between. $99 each plus cables should be well under your $300 budget.

I suppose that is technically a 2-piece system instead of an all-in-one, but they stack easily, and you can always upgrade parts separately. You could also drop down to a Fulla for a $99 all-in-one, but I have no experience with that.

The other thing I would consider is what headphones you'll be using in the future. V-MODA's stuff is great, but they don't have anything that requires a strong output. In fact, my go-to work headphones are the Crossfade 2 Wireless, driven by my iPhone. Just saying, there's not much more to get out of those drivers, and the drivers are the most important part of any audio setup.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:05 am

2-piece setups are fine by me. I could have been more clear, I do have the wireless version of the Crossfade 2 Wireless (in Rose Gold so I have AptX). Even the Bluetooth quality isn't that bad. They really are a great headphone. I love the versatility. I use the boom mic with the Syba DAC for remote sessions at work. It's WAY more comfortable than the standard ear piece setup they have for the phones.

I've done some blind listening with a friend with DAC's and it can be easy to tell DAC from phone depending on the source file (we were using FLAC's from CD's). So that's a small part of it. I mean, I know I won't tell a huge difference between the current Syba and whatever I get but it's not just about the DAC. I would like a quality headphone and I don't want to limit myself because I don't have the means to drive them.

Honestly, the primary driver is I want to treat myself after finally paying off some debt with something I don't need but want. I'm feeling really lazy and I'm tired of swapping the USB on the Syba from the Dex dock to the laptop dock. First world problems, ya know?

Edit: I see "multi-bit DAC" listed as an option. Doing some reading it looks interesting. Way out of my price range, but interesting. Maybe worth breaking my splurge into different purchases if it's worth it.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:01 am

https://www.schiit.com/products/jotunheim

IMO, this covers all you need. It might be a little bit out of your range, but IMO it's worth it. A powerful enough AMP to power anything you can throw at it (look at the power ratings), and the option for either an AK4490 DAC phase or their Multibit DAC phase. Which, btw, Schiit can modify if you get it and don't love it. Send it back and they upgrade/downgrade your device depending on a few criteria.

IMO the "Balanced DAC" (this is the AK4490 verison) is a great option for you. You get the flexibility in a single device to drive balanced headphones, single ended headphones, pre-amp out to powered speakers, USB/XLR input and a few more cool options. Take a peek.

Plus, the people at Schitt are just good people. Helpful, smart, and generally very nice.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:32 pm

DancinJack wrote:
https://www.schiit.com/products/jotunheim

IMO, this covers all you need. It might be a little bit out of your range, but IMO it's worth it. A powerful enough AMP to power anything you can throw at it (look at the power ratings), and the option for either an AK4490 DAC phase or their Multibit DAC phase. Which, btw, Schiit can modify if you get it and don't love it. Send it back and they upgrade/downgrade your device depending on a few criteria.

IMO the "Balanced DAC" (this is the AK4490 verison) is a great option for you. You get the flexibility in a single device to drive balanced headphones, single ended headphones, pre-amp out to powered speakers, USB/XLR input and a few more cool options. Take a peek.

Plus, the people at Schitt are just good people. Helpful, smart, and generally very nice.

Seconded, if budget permits. Schitt makes great stuff. They've been really disruptive in the audio market for putting out gear that's built very well and punches way above it's price.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to the Schiit Yggdrasil (https://www.schiit.com/products/yggdrasil) in my stereo and I believe it outperformed my Luxman DA-06, a DAC that costs twice as much.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:05 pm

I wish there was a true, objective testing site out there.


There is, and it sucks. Hard.

Schiit isn't magic, but Jason and Mike have a sensible approach.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:41 pm

Shiiit this stuff is expensive. Is there a big difference between a DAC and USB headset for gaming? I'm still running a Siberia v3 headset from years ago. Gonna be in the market to upgrade soon...
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:14 pm

hkuspc40 wrote:
Shiiit this stuff is expensive. Is there a big difference between a DAC and USB headset for gaming? I'm still running a Siberia v3 headset from years ago. Gonna be in the market to upgrade soon...

A USB headset has a DAC built in, but the quality is going to vary greatly with the cost of the headphones. Actually, any device which plays digital music has a DAC in it somewhere. A stand alone DAC is used for analog headphones (or a stereo, receiver, etc.) that use an RCA or XLR connector. The quality if a DAC has a pretty large impact on how things are going to sound. Cheap DAC's are going to be less resolving and may sound thin or tinny and muddy. A quality DAC will have better resolution, lower distortion, and likely a more full sound. You'll be able to hear instruments in music separately as opposed to mixed in with each other.

As far as gaming goes, many gaming headphones try and simulate surround sound in software and this requires you to use their built in DAC (as if you had a choice anyway). Unless you're trying to pull double duty by using your gaming headphones to enjoy music you shouldn't need to worry too much about using a USB gaming headset as long as the headset sounds fine. If all you care about is stereo audio and you want the best absolute sound quality then getting analog headphones and using a separate DAC + headphone amp is going to be the only route to go. There are many great choices for affordable standalone USB DACs capable of powering headphones these days such as the Audioquest Dragonfly models which don't have a volume knob and require you to set volume digitally using your device (like the Windows volume slider). These are suitable for headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-M50x which don't require a ton of power to drive. If you have higher end headphones with a low sensitivity and high input impedance then you'll probably want something a little larger that has a volume knob on it and higher output. The Schiit Jotunheim, for example, will have enough power to drive any headphones you could throw at them while an Audioquest Dragonfly Black may struggle to drive headphones like Sennheiser HD600's that have a high impedance of 300 ohms. That's not to say that you need to spend $400 on a DAC/headphone amp to power 300 ohm headphones as there are certainly much more affordable models from other manufacturers that are fully capable.

If you are genuinely interested in getting recommendations on headphones and DACs/headphone amps then you should look start doing some googling for what kind of power you'll need in a headphone amp and reading reviews on headphone gear. https://www.head-fi.org/ is a great resource.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:36 pm

That is awesome, thanks!
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:27 pm

Z has a decent list here of DAC-Amp combos:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Zeos/comments/ ... mp_combos/
He has tested a butt load of audio tech but I can only take his review videos in small doses.

I personally own the Fostex HP-A3. All it needs is the USB connection for power and I like the handy switch between headphones or RCA pre-out. That way I can easily switch it to go through another tube amp for example if I want to push harder headphones. By itself it powers typical headphones 30-80 Ohms no problem.

I'm also using the SMSL-AD18 in another setup with speakers since it adds bluetooth and full size speaker amp capability for a desktop combination.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:24 pm

-I'd personally focus more (..a LOT more) on the amplifier portion. In that respect I'd probably do a 6sn7 "Aikido" design like this:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/DIY-PCB-Board- ... 2938164938

-it will likely improve the result of the current DAC so much that you probably wouldn't care about replacing it..
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:30 pm

Start with a lower DAC, like an Modi3 (or whatever you prefer). Concentrate on the amp is good advice. If staying inexpensive is important, I can recommend the SMSL SA-98e (Parts Express or Amazon; I got the full-rated power brick standard from PE) as a good-sounding well-built cheap amp. Add those two pieces up, and you're under $250 US. Or substitute in your favorite headphone amp.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:00 am

Thanks for the advice everyone. I have to be honest and say that Schiit Joutenheim is really appealing. It could be the last DAC or headphone amp I would every need. Multibit is awesome and balanced is great for sound boards. But at $600 it's will outside of my range. I couldn't get a lesser over knowing I'm close to "perfect."

So it's back to reality. I was not considering an amp because my head set really doesn't need it. But it sounds like that's a good way to go? If I'm limiting my budget to just that I'm thinking I'd like to get something with balanced inputs if at all possible. I assume they have little practical benefit in such short runs, though?
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:38 am

Can always try the used market and shop for a higher-end unit there. Given that nervosa-affected people flip gear like Magic cards...
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:37 am

I'm already bidding on one on eBay :wink:
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:39 am

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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:03 pm

DragonDaddyBear wrote:
I'm already bidding on one on eBay :wink:

Don't forget to look at Audiogon (https://www.audiogon.com/). There's always tons of great audio gear for sale there. It's where I bought my amp and preamp for my main stereo.
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:41 pm

I totally forgot about that site. That's a great idea! I saw an Emotiva XDA-2 on there. Other than it's huge, does anyone have specific thoughts on that? It's also a "multi-bit" DAC, but I think using a different chip than the Schiit. Also, anyone know if it will require drivers?
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:52 pm

DragonDaddyBear wrote:
I totally forgot about that site. That's a great idea! I saw an Emotiva XDA-2 on there. Other than it's huge, does anyone have specific thoughts on that? It's also a "multi-bit" DAC, but I think using a different chip than the Schiit. Also, anyone know if it will require drivers?

XDA-2 is Analog Devices AD1955. https://www.analog.com/en/products/ad1955.html
Schiit Multibit is Analog Devices AD5547. https://www.analog.com/en/products/ad5547.html

Neither should require drivers for USB.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:20 pm

I've read the implementation of the logic is as important as the components themselves. That said, all things equal, is there a significant difference between the chips?
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:25 pm

IME, the chip type is nearly irrelevant in practice. Sure, some chips are better than others, but it's always about the electronics around it. See also guitar pedals, effects processors, etc etc.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:31 pm

Yeah, as long as your source material is good the biggest failure point (with either of those DAC chips) is going to be speakers/headphones. I'm sure both DACs are wonderful with proper source material, but if you're running them through a pair of BeatsX then you're gonna get rubbish, mate.
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:48 pm

DragonDaddyBear wrote:
I've read the implementation of the logic is as important as the components themselves. That said, all things equal, is there a significant difference between the chips?


Subjectively speaking: no.. at least generally. You can get very similar subjective results from quite different DAC's (..classically multi-bit vs PDM variant). The biggest area of improvement is typically from the ANALOG OUTPUT stage: which is often far more refined in a multi-bit design because they usually don't provide enough voltage out for "direct-out" WITHOUT an analog output stage.

Barring certain objective results and "compatibility", I'd rank in order of importance to subjective results:

1. Analog output stage
2. Power supply in relation to the analog output stage
3. Power supply in relation to the digital stage
4. Interface and its power supply.
5. the DAC itself.

As far as best DAC for the money, it's also a DIY affair - and is a multi-bit hybrid derivation with custom logic:

http://www.soekris.dk/dam1021.html

-btw, IF you have headphones with a high enough Impedance then you won't need a Headphone amp with this DAC.. (..you could also use the balanced-out to a quality balanced to single-ended transformer, like an amporphous core from Lundhal.)


Here are commercial implementations of this DAC:

http://6moons.com/audioreviews2/lessloss5/3.html

https://6moons.com/audioreviews2/lampizator2/1.html
 
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:32 pm

I got a Fulla a couple of years ago and have been very happy with it, but I don't have golden ears by any means. https://www.schiit.com/products/fulla-1
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Re: DAC+Amp Suggestion

Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:08 pm

I'm running an Aune X1S with with AKG K7XX headphones, pretty good spot in terms of price / fidelity IMO. Can be found on massdrop.

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