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Portable DAC/AMP Question

I am looking to upgrade my portable DAC/AMP which I use for my laptop based music at home / office and when away on business. I currently have a NuForce Icon uDAC2 but think I could do better.....if at the end of the day they are the same, I will use one in the office and one at home.

 

I have a couple of choices on this at the moment including:

iBasso D7 (second hand, six months old for £85.00)

Audinst HUD-MX1 (£115.00 - but looks like I can only get this from Korea and could incur additional import tax charges)

Fiio E17 (not sure on price off hand) - this has the added benefit of being able to use it as an amp with iPod / iPhone.

 

At the moment I am drawn to either the iBasso of Audinst.....what do other people think? Not really looking to pay any more than £150 max.

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Hi Jason,

With a budget of £150 I would recommend that you spend it and go for something like the Arcam's rPAC. That's the one I have been most impressed with so far, it's better than all of the ones that you mentioned. 

I have had all three that you mention (check my SIG for reviews I wrote for each). The iBasso D7 I really didn't like - its a fiddle to use as it needs drivers, it didn't sound that great and made funny noises on two of my computers now.

The Fiio E17 is £99 from Amazon, its a good performer and versatile like you say but its nowhere near the quality of the Arcam's.

The Audinst MX1 is good for the price but you WILL get charged customs for that and it too is nowhere near the Arcam's sound quality.

I slightly prefer the Yulong u100 over the Arcam as its better for more demanding headphones and it's more transparent, but it's also quite big and needs mains power so might not suit your portable requirement.

 

Anonymous
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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

I developed the Bushmaster DAC to be able to drive even demanding headphones and work off batteries if required. I take my personal Bushmaster to the park sometimes together with my laptop. I even hauled it down to the Beach in Brighton when I went there on holiday in August. You should have seen the look on the faces of passersby. Especially with those Sennheiser HD800 over my head  Dirol .

But of course at about 1.5Kg it's not small and light enough for certain types of travelling use.

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Thanks Quadpatch,

I was hoping you would reply, as I know you have tried and tested a number of portable DACs recently with a variety of headphones. I have just read all your reviews on the rPac, iBasso, Audinst, Headstreamer and Fiio E17. All excellent and insightful reviews I must say and from your findings it would seem that the rPac is the right DAC for me.

 

I was having second thoughts about the iBasso after reading a few reviews and the Audinst is likely to be a similar price after import fees, however I have found one in the UK for £105.00. Would you say that the rPac is £50 better than the Audinst?

 

@ Stanley B...thanks for the heads up on the Bushmaster, however I think this is probably larger and Definately heavier and doesn't really meet my criteria for a portable amp.

 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

You're welcome Jason Smile

To cut a long story short: Yes I would say the rPAC is worth even an extra £50 (on sound quality alone), but I have to point out that the Audinst comes with no reliability issues of any kind (not true of the Arcam, as I mentioned in the review).

That's a great price for the Audinst!! Like the new Audinst Mini, the MX1 can also have the op-amps changed (could be fun to play with). Also for more demanding headphones the Audinst is king becuase it has a gain switch (internal jumper) and the ability to be mains powered if required. Although from looking at your sig, you don't have any demanding headphone, is that right?

I read yesterday that the Arcam has even better audio out of the RCAs, I really should have tested that with another headphone amp. It will be difficult to prove but I will give it a go later...

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Decisions decisions  Surprised

You are right I don't have any demanding headphones at the present time.....and if I do get some in the future (highly likely), I will by that time be using them with a Schiit Bitfrost/Asgard combo or an M-DAC.

So it would seem as though the question is do I want to sacrifice a bit of sound in place of a slightly cheaper product and better reliability? Are you still having reliability issues with the rPac?

Am I right in thinking that the rPac up samples all files to 96k?

 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

The rPAC issues are with certain PCs/software. Not many, but yes they continue. I can't be sure it's not just a defective unit. It's not very encouraging I know and doesn't bother me too much because I have a lot of different PCs to try it with, plus many other DAC/amp options laying around. I think I will contact Arcam about this and see what they have to say...

Considering it will only accept 24bit bit through JRiver (and Foobar) it is possible that it was also forcing the sample rate to 96k. Actually I think I can check that later, I will get back to you...

As for your future upgrades: I love the M-DAC but she is a sharp sounding detail monster to me and the rPAC would make a nice combo for that because the rPAC has smoothness to it that the M-DAC just doesn't. I'm not saying the M-DAC is bad, it's not and I would like to buy it one day too, but it's all about crispness, transparency and power. I love that some times but don't want to be stuck with it all the time. I've never heard the Schiit combo but I have heard great things about that also! As I am sure you have too.

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Thanks for the feedback Quadpatch.

Yes I have heard great things about the Schiit Audio products...but again these have to be imported from the USA and again will incur custom charges. Bearing this in mind the price for the Schiit amp and DAC will be getting on towards the cost of an M-DAC. It sounds as though the M-DAC and the rPac options give me the choice of what sort of sound I want on any one day...so may be the way forward.

 

At the moment I use a laptop running Foobar200 and iTunes and also a netbook which is just running Jriver MC17. The Laptop is used during the day whilst I am working and the netbook at night for more dedicated listening. I have the ability to control both of these via my iPad using the relevant remote apps (which I must say are all excellent).

 

Eventually the netbook will sit as part of a dedicated two channel system, I am even looking at probably investing in a Synology NAS and doing away with the netbook. So I Will have a NAS, Amp, DAC and speakers again all controlled via the iPad. But this has to wait until we move house unfortunately, so for now stuck with the Computers, DAC and Headphones (which to be honest I am really into at the moment).

 

I think, from what you have said, the rPac will be the one I go for (it also looks a lot sleeker and nicer than the Audinst), I am sure I can live with any potential reliability dropouts.

 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Just out of curiosity what software are you using (Foobar, JRiver, iTunes?) and are you using any additional Add ins like WASIO?

 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Again you're most welcome Smile

I am having a lazy day researching about the new VModa M-100 headphones and am enjoying breaking that up with some alternative DAC/amp babble... right back to your questions...

I use Spotify, iTunes (PC), JRiver (MC17) & Foobar. All of these are used at home (laptop and desktop) and at work (high-end desktop). The work computer has a Dell 24" monitor and when I had the rPAC plugged into the USB hub of the monitor it Blue-screened but I think this is also to do with the very bespoke software that we use. Plugged in to the back of the tower it never gave any issues on any software (including Spotiry). My Spotify issue was only on me home desktop and it must be said that its a little unstable anyway so I don't want to be too harsh on the Arcam here.

Anyway, back to the software: For JRiver I used WASAPI - event style, and have it buffering off the RAM. This has been the most reliable. For Foobar I use the WASAPI option also, it's great but crashes sometimes. In some ways I prefer Foobar interface (as simple as it is), but I'd be lying if I said that I could hear a noticable difference between Foobar and JRiver. They both "feel" better than iTunes (with no bit-perfect audio option on PC) but I can't quite put my finger on why or how much better it is. Compared to Spotify's lossy files I think there is a bigger drop in quality but the maximum quality on the 'Premium' service is pretty good. Any MP3s under 320kbps start to sound disgusting and that was noticable on the rPAC much more so than with the Audinst. The rPAC is fairly forgiving (unlike the more transparent Yulong u100, and probably the M-DAC) but it's just so much better that you can tell the difference.

It's interesting that you control your audio from your tablet via remote software. I had a go at this with my Nexus 7 to listen to music at night and it was great. I'm curious how you intend to remove your netbook from the loop with a NAS. Can a NAS plug directly into a DAC or will you have a streamer inbetween?

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Oh yeah i forgot to mention that I also use Spotify Premium on Laptop and Netbook as appropriate.

From what I have read and you have told me, I am going to opt for the rPac. It sounds as though the imporvement in sound will outweigh ny minor connection issues that may arise  :grin:

As regards my future system and a NAS.....I was actually basing that idea on a suggestion I had seen in What Hi-Fi a while ago under the Ultimate System Builder section. They had a system which consisted of Apple iPad2, Synology DS212J NAS, Marantz PM6004 Amp, Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus and KEF Q300 speakers.

I assume the NAS connects directly to the DAC and is controlled via the iPad using Airplay. I wouldnt be using the Marantz or DacMagic or Spekers as I would be looking at other options. My only issue with the NAS at the moment is the cost...by the time you have added in the Hard Drives you are probably looking at £350+ expensive route when I have a 500GB Netbook allready to go.

 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Cool, I don't see you regretting the Arcam. Not that this influenced my review of it even a tiny bit but it's nice that you get to buy british with the Arcam too. Since the price doesn't fluctuate at all you can walk straight into a hifi store and buy it for the same price. In the unlikely event that you get any/many issues at least you could take it back easily then. 

That's interesting about the Synology DS212J NAS, I guess it has a digital audio out and iPad support then to control music playback. If that's right I can see why it costs so much, that's damn cool! But yeah, it won't do anything that your netbook doesn't already so it's all about how much the convinience is worth to you really. 

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

hi guys, i dont mean to intrude but i am looking to buy a USB Dac for use with my nexus 7 tablet. With a custom kernel and some poking around you can get the Nexus to output audio over USB. I am thinking of the e17, but would there be a cheaper Fiio option that would do the job? I'm using sennheiser ie80 earphones. Ideally id like the DAC to have its own battery so it wouldnt pull juice from the Nexus..

Cheers,
Mick

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Hey Mick! It's probably better to start a new thread for this kind of thing. If you do that can you explain a bit more about how you do it. I'd be interested as I have a Nexus 7 and we can talk more there :).

Jason: I tried the rPAC with JRiver, it forces the music to 24bit but will allow 44.1khz, that's kind of odd but that seems to be what it's telling me is happening.

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Thanks Quad, have created a new post.. cheers mick

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RE: Portable DAC/AMP Question

Have been watching an Arcam rPac on a well known auction site for the last 4 days......Second hand, less than 5 months old....due to end at 21.36 tonight.......Getting really excited as with 1 hour to go it was only at £74.00.

5 minutes to go and I am sat there iPad in hand watching it and waiting to bid.........3 minutes to go and its now at £85.00

I decide I better get a bid in, thinking about going up to £110.00 for it, especially seeing as its local to me and I can collect in person.

Well would you bloody believe it the Ebay app on my ipad decides to have a mental breakdown and stops working (API Error)....quick where's my iPhone....same issue!!!!! |( |( |(

Needless to say by the time I have fired my laptop up the auction has ended and the rPac has sold for £97.00.......Arghhhhhh!!

BLOODY TECHNOLOGY!!

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