Discuss please.....any help most appreciated as I'm faced with a vast array of esoteric DACs.
Requirments are for USB with headphone amplifier.
It's for desktop use but portables are not ruled out..........Thank you.
For USB, you need a specialist device, not some general-purpose thing with a tacked on, low-rent chipset. I've heard many and they're not all pretty. It's important to try before you buy wherever possible. Sorry I can't give specific recommendations!
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I know of a few but can only give you my personal impression of the Fiio E7+E9 combo at the moment (still waiting for my DACport and it's over your budget). I love them for the money which is about £50/70. you can use the E7 on it's own and it give one hell of a boost over the standard PC audio for little cash. It's limited to 16/48 quality though but has now been updated to the Fiio E17. The E17 adds 24/96 over USB or 24/192 over S/PDIF, upgraded DAC and amp over the E7 and gets good reviews (£99). These will work as an amp for the any portable device like phones & PMPs too - but can't use it's DAC for those (nothing cheap can atm).
Other stuff in your price range: Audioengine D1 (£150), Nuforce uDAC2 HP (£120), Audinst Hud MX1 (£120)
Actually I can think of a couple more but I have to run out the door right now, good luck!
Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC > Audiolab 8200P > Tannoy DC6T SE ●
Headphone/DAC/amp: Denon D7000, SoundMAGIC HP100 / HP200, Schiit Combo ●
Currently using: Galaxy Note 2 > Epiphany E-DAC > Shonyun 306A > RZA Premium ●
Thanks all, keep them coming. I had the FiiO E10 (loved it) and sold it to make way for the E17. Stock is not coming in until mid-March so I wondered if viable and cost effective alternatives would be useful as a benchmark against the (relatively untested) E17.
If you've run back in the door - grateful for other options.....
Now that I have a bit more time to babble. I wanted to add that all the ones I have listed there include headphone amps, are in your budget and I have heard good things about. In a perfect world it would be great to try them all out first before buying but I wouldn't know where to send you. These kind of devices are pretty difficult to find in shops period, let alone out of a box and ready to play with. On top of that I don't think you can get a good feel for the advantages they give in a shop environment. I would recommend reading as much as you can and just make the most informed decision you can. If possible buy from somewhere that is good with returns. The Fiio, AudioEngine and NuForce are all available at Advanced MP3 Players and I have had good experiences with their customer services.
If you don't mind being stuck to USB (PC only - no portable amp) then you can pick up the Fiio E10 for as little as £60.
I have also heard some good things about the 'Beresford Caiman' and 'HRT Headstreamer' but I think those two are a little over your budget.
Thanks quad. As above I've already had the E10, so was looking for what was perceived to be an upgrade SQ wise from that.
Only one I have experience of is the Fubar IV obv, but it's a teensy bit over budget at about 185 quid (euro conversion).
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Yeah sorry about that I started writing that before I saw your reply about the E10 and now I see that I seem to remember you mentioning you had that in another post. Ok so ignore that one you have 5 to consider. A friend of mine owns the Audinst MX1 and highly recommends it. He has it combined with the Beyerdynamic DT770 (600ohm) headphones and is a very happy puppy! Have you got any of these these on your list to research?:
Headroom Total Bithead (£125) - A lot of people seem to like this on Head-Fi
Yulong U100 (£150) - This would be my choice for the budget or Audinst if you want to save a few pounds
The Matrix Cube and Matrix Mini are just a bit above your budget (eBay), as is the Mini Audio D6 (Chinese version of Ibasso). Ok I am running out of suggestions now. I'm sorry that I can't offer much more insight in to these but I have only just started getting in to this stuff. Oh I got the DACport today, I'm listening to it now and it's impressing me with it's depth and clarity so far (plugged in to the D7000). I am getting a better impression from this than I got from the Chord Tucan that I tried in the hi-fi shop.
Thanks quad, some great advice there.
I particularly like the sound of the Beavis and Bithead one!
You're welcome Graham, it was fun going through all those. I need to write them all down for future reference anyway so this post will be handy for me too .
I had most of yesterday to play with the DACport. It's not quite the step up I was hoping for from the Fiio E7+E9 together but recently I noticed the E9 actually does quite a good job in the combo. The E9 is wall powered so the fact that the DACport can best it with USB power is great and for me the full size headphone jack (compared to the E7 alone) is great for the Denons.
Just a quick first impression from my Fiio upgrade (CEntrance DACport): The bass seems to have a little less impact but tighter detail (more texture on the low end). The sound stage is nicer (wider), the mids more exciting and the treble more controled but all of this was pretty slight to my ears - so far. Also it seemed to have a more noticable effect on my lower end Sennheiser HD25-1 II compared to the Denon AH-D7000. Perhaps it's just me but it took me quite a while to get used to the differences of the Fiio, after a while however I could not live without it so for now I will reserve too much judgement and just concentrate on putting more listening hours in to the DACport.
Oh btw the latest WHF mag has a review of another DAC/amp called a 'CYP AU-D160' which is £135 which I have never heard of before. These reviews generally don't make it on to the website for a few weeks so I am probably not allowed to tell you how it did in here.
If you can find one (which might be tricky but not impossible) the M-Audio Transit was apparently very decent for the £80 or so that it cost. USB only.
Onkyo TX-NR818 / Tannoy Revolution DC4 (bi-amped)
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Thanks spotty/all. Think I'm going to stick to my original and go with the FiiO E17 when it comes out mid-March. The portability appeals for my iPod Classic as well as PC set up.
I think that's a wise choice! I have had a few days to play with the DACport now, I was initially a bit disapointed because there was so little difference coming from the Fiio and the bass has less impact which makes it less fun for me (I must be a bass head). I have since started to notice a bit of extra texture in mid tones but I suddenly love the Fiio even more than before!!
I will get either a Fiio E17 or a Yulong D100 or maybe I will push the boat out and go for the Matrix Quattro DAC next... but don't know when yet.
I don't think there is any point plugging the Fiio in to your iPod unless it really can't push your headphones high enough. Which headphones do you have btw? I found the iPhone 4 DAC to be really closely balanced to the Fiio E7. Not as crisp and clean but the bass is there, unlike the DACport ... It's a good job the Denons make up for that a bit but I don't like taking that biblical bass of the D7000 away.
Hmmm headphones. AKG K44, AKG450, Senn HD 202. I've been up to Senn HD 600 money and found diminishing returns (rapid).
If it wasn't for the (very) short lead, I think the AKG 450 does it for me........
For sure the HD600 would need an additional amp and then I think the E17 would not quite cut it anyway. The rest I think would be fine direct. Have you tried any on the iPod? If so how is the volume?
The only thing the E17 will add is volume and bass/treble control but it will not really improve the quality.
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