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quadpatch's picture
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What's Your DAC / Amp?

I have recently gotten in to High end headphones and DAC/headphone amps and I'm loving it, I listen to lossless audio through my laptop mostly. I bought a cheap DAC/amp first and I love what it does but now I have headphones that rather outclass it so I am looking to get something even better. My question to you all is this:

Do you have a combined DAC/headphone amp that you would recommend, either a portable cobmo or desktop unit/s?

If you can mention which headphones work well with it that would be great too but I would like to keep the focus on the DAC/amps if poss.

Thanks Smile

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

bought a Firestone Audio DAC/headphone amp when they opened their promotion -

http://www.firestone-audio.eu/shop/products/allproductslisted/fubar4-plus.php

currently sits with AKG Q701 - good price at Amazon.

extremely happy with this combination - although nothing to compare against as first headphone set up.

plan to add the power supply unit in a month or so - have resisted so far as want to be able the hear the difference.....!!

 

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

quadpatch wrote:

I have recently gotten in to High end headphones and DAC/headphone amps and I'm loving it, I listen to lossless audio through my laptop mostly. I bought a cheap DAC/amp first and I love what it does but now I have headphones that rather outclass it so I am looking to get something even better. My question to you all is this:

Do you have a combined DAC/headphone amp that you would recommend, either a portable cobmo or desktop unit/s?

If you can mention which headphones work well with it that would be great too but I would like to keep the focus on the DAC/amps if poss.

Thanks Smile

 

What sort of money are you looking at spending......I'm in a similar position to yourself from the point of view I do a lot of listening via a laptop at work and use a netbook as a source for my home system.

What sort of files are you listening to from the laptop....Apple Lossless / FLAC / AIFF? are they standard 16/44.1kHz files or do you have any Hi Res files, for instance 24/96kHz? I take it you are connecting the DAC to your laptop vis USB.

I have read good things about the Cambridge Audio Dacmagic which is a DAC and Headphone Amp...it also takes files via USB up to 24/192kHz so you would be pretty much future proofing.

At the moment I use a NuForce uDAC2 which is USB and takes up to 24/96kHz.

Other contenders would be the HRT Music Streamer II.....this is USB only though...Asynchronous DAC but you would need Headphone Amp as well. I'm also going to look at the AudioLab MDAC as I already have a MF x-Can2

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

fatman: Thats perfect, thanks very much for that. It's funny I looked a little in the Fubar4 Plus a while back but couldn't find much in the way of reviews. Wow that's one heck of a first setup dude! Enjoy Smile

Jason36: Yes good point I should have mentioned some prices. I think about £300-400 is where I am looking for my next DAC/headphone amp purchase. However after that I will be looking to get some more headphones (possibly Sennheiser HD700) and then I might go up to £700 for the next DAC/amp so I am interested in any strong opinions from £200-1000 really.

My files are Apple Lossless 16/44.1 mostly, no MP3s but some 24/96 files. It's a Windows laptop via USB. If you're wondering why I use Apple files it's becuase they are easier to share at work without letting people rip them off, sounds rediculous I know but also handy for the wifes iPhone. Thanks for those recommendations, I will look in to them :).

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

Just to confirm it is the DACMagic Plus that has the headphone socket.

Will I see a leap in performance from my FiiO E10 to warrant £300 difference in price? Cool

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

Oh you have the E10, from what I hear it's even better than my E7, have you ever compared the two? I love the E7 for £50 but I'm expecting another £300 or so gives a noticable improvement! I'm willing to give it a go as I think the Denon headphones deserve it.

Ah yes the DACmagic Plus, I was just reading about it in the latest WHF, it sounds interesting indeed! Others sound even more interesting though, things like: The CEntrance DACport (portable) and the Yulong D100 (desktop). Both are around £300, I would love to test all of these side by side but that's not likely. This is why I would like to collect as many peoples opinions in here. Perhaps I should list this in the computer audio section as well...

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

quadpatch wrote:

Oh you have the E10, from what I hear it's even better than my E7

But one would assume that you are using the headphone output of the E9 and just the DAC section of the E7.
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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

quadpatch wrote:

Oh you have the E10, from what I hear it's even better than my E7, have you ever compared the two? I love the E7 for £50 but I'm expecting another £300 or so gives a noticable improvement! I'm willing to give it a go as I think the Denon headphones deserve it.

Ah yes the DACmagic Plus, I was just reading about it in the latest WHF, it sounds interesting indeed! Others sound even more interesting though, things like: The CEntrance DACport (portable) and the Yulong D100 (desktop). Both are around £300, I would love to test all of these side by side but that's not likely. This is why I would like to collect as many peoples opinions in here. Perhaps I should list this in the computer audio section as well...

 

They look like decent enough DAC's if you are considering the CEntrance then I would also say definately look at the Nuforce Icon uDAC2...also a protable DAC/HP Amp...accepts 24/96 and also has RCA out as well as coaxial (although not sure if this is in or out).....its a cracking DAC and sounds excellent with my laptop and Headphones at work as well as in my main system. They also do a few other larger and more expensive DAC's (you can get the Icon uDac2 for about £120.00).

A little bit more expensive, £500-£600, is the AudioLab M-DAC, DAC and Headphone Amp and again takes 24/96 via USB & Toslink or24/192 via Coaxial. This has had some excellent reviews....although wouldnt say it was portable.

and as mentioned earlier you have the HRT Streamer II / II+ and Pro and also the DACmagic Plus. 

I think there is a lot of excellent choices its just a case of narrowing it down and deciding what you need now and may want in the future.....i.e. headphone choice or fitting it into a more home based system.

Also, and not sure if I am allowed to mention it.........but Head-fi.org is a really good site for headphone users....lots of advice on headpones and equipment. have a look Smile

 

Anonymous
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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

No quad, I simply bought the E10 based on a few reviews.......it is a lovely sound mind. Dirol

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

eggontoast: Well yes I do use them together on the main PC but most of my listening at the moment goes through the E7 alone becuase it's through the laptop. To be honest I don't notice any difference between the E7 and the E7/E9 combo. The E9 does has a nice volume knob and the larger headphone socket which is handy for the Denons :P.

Jason36: Thanks. Lots of great things in there, the uDAC2 sounds interesting but it's a similar price as my Fiio combo so for my next step I will probably not be considering that one, although it is portable (which the E9 is not). The Audiolab M-DAC sounds good, that's going on my list. The HRT Streamer sounds good also but it's a DAC only isn't it? I would prefer a single unit that does both the DAC and the headphone amp but I am open to separates so I will keep it in mind. I would prefer portability but if i can get a bigger leap up in quality from loosing portability then I will consider it.

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

Quadpatch: Interesting, I have the Fiio E7&E9 combo myself which I use in the office. I have compared it to a number of other headphone amplifiers and TBH it doesn't fair badly at all. The limitations of the E7 become more apparent with higher impedance cans but are still evident with lower impedance ones especially with higher volume settings. Just prepare yourself that you may not get the fireworks your expecting when you lay out the big bucks on a new amp and DAC combo.

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

My only real experience in the matter documented here.  The 325is are great, but the 80is are better value...

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

eggontoast: Thanks for the info! What headphones do you use with your Fiio setup by the way? It's fair to say that I'll be dealing with deminishing returns here but just how much of it is something I need to experience. I was listening to some music last night and trying to think where improvements could be made by having a better DAC/amp and I realised whatever it can bring to the table is going to be small in relative terms. I am thinking that it would be great to try out something in the £300-500 in a shop, any ideas if this is possible? I am looking for shops at the moment.

John: I just got done reading the post and comments, great info in there dude thanks Smile

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

quadpatch wrote:

eggontoast: Thanks for the info! What headphones do you use with your Fiio setup by the way? It's fair to say that I'll be dealing with deminishing returns here but just how much of it is something I need to experience. I was listening to some music last night and trying to think where improvements could be made by having a better DAC/amp and I realised whatever it can bring to the table is going to be small in relative terms. I am thinking that it would be great to try out something in the £300-500 in a shop, any ideas if this is possible? I am looking for shops at the moment.

John: I just got done reading the post and comments, great info in there dude thanks Smile

 

I think a demo is the best way forward quadpatch and should be easy to arange if you can find a shop selling the equipment you are interested in....for instance the Audiolab M-DAC. Personally I would suggest that as eggontoast as mentioned the Fiio combination is very capable and you probably need to be looking at something along the lines of the £300-£600 bracket to see if you can hear a difference between the Fiio and new DAC's.

Its probably a lot easier to demo laptop based systems as it is easy enough to take your laptop and headphones into a shop and connect them to a demo DAC (not like carting amps, CD and speakers around  :grin: ) Any shop worth their salt should allow you to connect you laptop to a DAC and take the time listening and comparing (again it is fairly easy to take your Fio as well to compare)

Let us know how you get on.

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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

quadpatch wrote:

eggontoast: Thanks for the info! What headphones do you use with your Fiio setup by the way? 

I've tried a few with it AH-D5000's, HD-650's, RS2i's, DT-880's. Currently I just have an old pair of DT-770's which I occasionally use, most of the time I listen through speakers in my office and use the Fiio as a pre-amp.
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RE: What's Your DAC / Amp?

eggontoast: Thanks for that, I am going to use the Fiio E7/E9 as a pre-amp to power my speakers as soon as I can dig out a phono cable too. Hey how well do the HD650's work with the combo, I am tempted to get those headphones one day and I hear they can take a lot of driving, or scale well, depending on how you look at it. I have heard great things about them and the AKG Q701's so might chase those two before splashing out on something like the D7000 again (would love some HD800's or LCD-2's).

Jason: I have found a shop in London that sounds nice (Hifi Confidential), I sent them an email asking for a demo of the MDAC... lets see what they say... You're right, going to places to demo with my own equipment is nice and easy. I even have a backpack that it all fits in to nicely. The only down side is that there are no shops I can find in the UK that stock either the Yulong D100 or the CEntrance DACport and they are the two that I am most interested in at the moment :(. Oh well the MDAC should at least give me an idea of how much of a jump up in quality to expect.

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