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bryan1976's picture
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Dedicated Headphone Amp or USB DAC & Amp combo

Hi everyone,

 

New to the forum and really impressed with the help and advice being shared, so hopefully someone can advise me/save me from a disastrous purchase.  I know listening and demos are best but not really an option here.

 

Most of my music listening is done on headphones these days (young family), and my source is either my laptop or ipod.  I suspect that eventually it will be possible to download so called 24bit studio recordings though this is another discussion I know.

 

I have a small budget of £250 to improve my current listening experience (using sennheiser HD570s) and keep going round in circles as to what to do.  I am considering:

 

1) A combined USB DAC and headphone amp like a Beresford Caiman

 

2) A Graham Slee Novo used with my ipod and a Russ Andrews GQ-24 line out cable

 

In time I hope to be able to afford a better source dedicated for downloaded/computer based music such as the unity or even the Cyrus equivalent when its brought to market...but that's a couple of years away for me.  The Novo would be best for these I suspect, but in the meantime, its a compromise.  I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on these 2 setups.  Would they work, have I missed something obvious??  I tend to listen to bass rich music..massive attack, radiohead etc...not classical.

 

Any help and suggestions would be greatly recieved...

 

Many thanks.

 

 

PJPro's picture
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Re: Dedicated Headphone Amp or USB DAC & Amp combo

Well, I have the Beresford TC-7510 DAC and the DIY version of the GS Novo headphone amp.

I would go with Bereford and use its headphone amp and get a dedicated headphone amp later.

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Re: Dedicated Headphone Amp or USB DAC & Amp combo

I would also suggest getting a combined headphone amp and DAC as well. You can either get a DAC, which has a headphone socket such as the Beresford, or a headphone amp which also has a DAC. Google and have a look at companies such Headroom, iBasso and Firestone who will all come in budget.


With all DACs, check that they will accept high resolution 24 bit files as not all do.

bryan1976's picture
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Re: Dedicated Headphone Amp or USB DAC & Amp combo

Thanks for the advice, a combo definitely seems like a neater solution, and after an email to Beresford to ask about the kind of usb cable needed (I asked how much you should spend to optimise the sound) Stan replied almost by return and confirmed that a decent USB 2.0 would be enough..no need to spend a fortune on Kimber, I am leaning towards the Caiman.

 

Thats a really good point I hadn't considered about the product being a dac with headphone output, or a headphone amp that has dac built in...given my intended upgrade route it might make sense to place more emphasis on the headphone amp, and improve on the dac later?

 

Idc, I've read some of your comments on the Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P, which looks interesting, although this would involve some extra saving up!  MF seem to play down the value of the dac on this unit-how do you rate it if used as a stand alone unit?  Using the Grado SR80i, would you say it gives decent bass?

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Re: Dedicated Headphone Amp or USB DAC & Amp combo

Hi bryan. The V8P uses the same USB DAC as with the V-DAC. My experience against the FubarUSB and supplier is that the V8P is less dynamic, has less attack and a smaller soundstage. But the difference is not huge.


Musical Fidelity emphasise musicality. With regards to bass they make it musical. The V8P does not do BASS in the sense that it does not rock out with a driving bassline and so it sounds less dynamic than other products. Instead it does a detailed bass that provides the rhythm section. After a while you notice the bass is clear and you really can hear the kick drum and bass notes. If a track is bass heavy, the V8P will go down deep. Think of it as an orchestra where there are kettle drums and bassons rather than drum n'bass group. You will hear the whole orchestra in its place with a strong midrange as opposed to just driving bass.


Add the Grados extra attack and I think you have the perfect combination.


Apparently there is a new MF headphone amp on the way, but it is not clear if it a replacement V-CAN or V8P. XCANS, V2 and V3 are all available on ebay, but command prices about what they cost new.

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