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Mr.Fi's picture
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Simple DAC questions

(I'm really new to this stuff).

Recently when browsing a few hi-fi websites I noticed that they sold headphone amps. After reading into it a bit more I noticed that many came with DACs and are particularly good at upgrading the sound quality from computers.

I have an iMac (with uncompressed CD-quality audio files) and a pair of Klipsch x10s (in-ear earphones). I'm looking at something to improve the sound quality and to also be able to output to a hi-fi too (without the need to change outputs every time).  The sound quality to the hi-fi needn't be that good (as it will mainly be used to let people hear sample tracks and the radio from the internet), the main listening will be done through earphones (so good quality essential there).

Will the DAC/headphone amp make much difference to such small earphones (are they really there to boost over-ear headphones)? And is it unreasonable to expect anything to be able output to two devices without pulling one connection out?

I've been looking at the Fiio E7 (with two headphone output jacks) and the Arcam rPac (with headphone output jack and phono output). Naturally they will connect to the mac via USB (unless Firewire or Thunderbolt are usable).

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RE: Simple DAC questions

No Firewire or Thunderbolt, it'll all be USB. I highly recommend the Arcam rPAC, if you can stretch to that cost, although it can be buggy on Apple computers so get it from somewhere you can take it back to is my recommendation there. It's a really great little unit! and I think it outputs to the headphones and RCAs at the same time. Can anyone else confirm this? I don't want to disconnect my M-DAC right now.

Mr.Fi's picture
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RE: Simple DAC questions

It would be really useful to know if the rPac can output to both at the same time.

Also I see that you have some of the Riio DACs, how do they compare?

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RE: Simple DAC questions

Hey there Mr.Fi,

Sorry it took me a while to get back to you on this one. Yes the rPAC outputs to headphones and RCA at the same time :). Ha, the M-DAC doesn't do that :P. It's also a more friendly sound than the M-DAC too. The Audiolab treble can be on the harsh side and the bass is a bit too pushed. Thus it adds a v-shaped response on top of everything. The rPAC does add a tiny bit of bass above neutral but the sound is smoother in general and not so harsh on the treble.

Bloody good little machine the rPAC - 1/4 the cost of the Audiolab, 1/10th the size and doesn't require power! Of course the M-DAC does have some redeeming features, like the ability to be used as a pre-amp, enough inputs to be the centre of a media hub, digital filters and a remote control that works on JRiver, Spotify, iTunes etc. But anyway, I digress, yes the rPAC is awesome if you want amazing value sound, simplicity and only USB.

Mr.Fi's picture
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RE: Simple DAC questions

Thanks, just bought one.

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RE: Simple DAC questions

You're welcome! Another one for the rPAC fan club I'm sure, do report back when you've had a good go with it.

There are so many exotic DAC/amps from around the world that are difficult or impossible to find for sale in the UK, let alone to test. In the US, China and Japan there is a much bigger movement for high quality headphones so of course they have more options. At last it is starting to look better here, especially now we have the rPAC! Because it's a UK company a lot of hifi stores stock it and most will let you try it.

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RE: Simple DAC questions

quadpatch wrote:

The Audiolab treble can be on the harsh side and the bass is a bit too pushed. Thus it adds a v-shaped response on top of everything.

I think there is something wrong with yours then, what firmware are you running ?
quadpatch's picture
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RE: Simple DAC questions

I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I've heard a few people describe the M-DAC sound this way and so far I concur. I've heard more than one and I don't totally dislike it, just that it seems to suit less headphones than something more balanced. It does sound great with a few.

As for the firmware - I upgraded it to the latest version as soon as I got it.

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RE: Simple DAC questions

eggontoast wrote:

quadpatch wrote:

The Audiolab treble can be on the harsh side and the bass is a bit too pushed. Thus it adds a v-shaped response on top of everything.

I think there is something wrong with yours then, what firmware are you running ?

 

I don't.

It's been reviewed well by WHF and as ever it's suddenly great. It's not, it's pretty mediocre in some systems like mine. The ridiculous number of options don't help as they have a negligible effect on the SQ. Just my experience FWIW.

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