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What's with these two trends: Everything portable and DAC + AMP in one box these days?! - Page 2

post #16 of 106
To the OP, I don't quite understand the trend, either. When I go portable, I run IEMs or Grados straight out of the iPod or laptop. No amp necessary; IEMs are engineered to work with DAPs; they are extremely sensitive. Grados are sensitive enough, as well.

I think a lot of the portable mania is from marketing and hype. There are just massive profit margins on some models - probably 300% or better. A lot of that gets turned back into marketing, both direct and viral. Most desktop amps (with a few notable exceptions) are built with a slimmer margin.


Also, a lot of the pitch is for "beginner" amps, so anyone new to this picks up on that and disregards desktop amps.

Just my point of view, but I've been mystified when I see $500 portables selling like crazy when a used Melos or Singlepower lingers in the forum for weeks around the same price.
post #17 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
Just my point of view, but I've been mystified when I see $500 portables selling like crazy when a used Melos or Singlepower lingers in the forum for weeks around the same price.
That did it appear strange with regards to Melos/Singlepower...but that seems to be more in the trend of what Boomana was talking about, not dac/amps hybrids. By the way - with ESW9 for example, my laptop sound makes me dizzy after a while, something goes wrong with the phase between channels with digital processing. Thus using laptop headphone out is not necessarily a desire option...
post #18 of 106
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
...As an upgrade path the Pico has proven that it can also act as a decent standalone DAC to separate amp so that option is open to me down the road as well.
The Pico is a DAC+Amp, there is no line-out, if you use it as a standalone DAC (plugging an amp into headphone out), you're using two amplifiers in series, not a good idea. Oh, if only the Pico had standalone DAC capabilities, I'd grab one for myself right away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
End of all? Maybe not entirely -- but end of all in our application? May very well be at this moment.

Here is my list of quirks:
Most of the time is spent on campus (thus I have to carry my gear, want small things).
Most of the time is spent on battery power (thus I need ~12 hours battery life).
I could care less about the little advantages of better and better amp designs over one-another - I am studying most of the time and not paying attention to sound. Paying attention to sound happens when I am at home, with speakers.
Thus items on the tier of portable amp/dac hybrid are very acceptable (although I would like a solution similar to Headroom Micro-Stack, but more neutral).

Also, Pimeta might be good...but it also is big. Add a USB DAC and you got a serious pile of equipment on your hands, not backpack friendly.
Pimeta isn't necessarily "big", but it's certainly larger than a the average portable. For you who carries it in your backpack, it would actually suit a lot better than people who hand-carry it.

Uhm... you "could care less" about sound quality because you're not paying attention? Save a few hundred and go unamped.


About the pricetag of some of these compared to great home amps like the Melos, etc, yeah... I'm dumbfounded as well.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for using a DAC with a laptop or a work computer (that's why I have an HPDac for work). I'm simply wandering about this influx of portable amp+dac combinations. I can see the niche which they fill, it just seems that it would be better for some of us who want to have a nice DAC but can't stand to be forced to use the specific amp it comes with.
post #19 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post
The Pico is a DAC+Amp, there is no line-out, if you use it as a standalone DAC (plugging an amp into headphone out), you're using two amplifiers in series, not a good idea. Oh, if only the Pico had standalone DAC capabilities, I'd grab one for myself right away.
Most DAC's needs some sort of amplification stage, many well respected high end DAC's have an opamp based output stage which isn't that far different than using the headphone output of the Pico as a variable line output. I'm not an electronics guru so I can't get into the in's and outs of it but this has been fairly well documented in numerous threads and there are quite a few people using the Pico as a standalone DAC.
post #20 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
....and there are quite a few people using the Pico as a standalone DAC.
If a DAC/amp combo is really neutral I could see getting away with that....but the Pico amp section has such a distinctive coloration (at least to me) I would think it would really defeat the point of using another amp after it.
post #21 of 106
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post
Most DAC's needs some sort of amplification stage, many well respected high end DAC's have an opamp based output stage which isn't that far different than using the headphone output of the Pico as a variable line output. I'm not an electronics guru so I can't get into the in's and outs of it but this has been fairly well documented in numerous threads and there are quite a few people using the Pico as a standalone DAC.
Some DACs do use opamp output stages, but they don't need it and it just colors the sound unnecessarily. You need a line driver to boost a signal to line output level with some DACs and you also need to remove DC on a Voltage Out DAC, but you really don't need opamps to do it.

I also don't believe everything that is "documented" on a forum, unfortunately there are way too many recommendations of equipment by people who have not compared it to other equipment or even worse, haven't even heard it for themselves. I do think the DAC in the Pico is fantastic, it's just good practice not to use headphone amps in series.
post #22 of 106
i think these will be really handy when UMPC beoome
the new trend.

cause hooking up the sony umpc with pico would be a nice setup.
and all i can say is if you are going to be carrying the imod, vcap and amp.
i rather carry a umpc-DAC portable
post #23 of 106
This is somewhat ironic for me as I am struggling to decide between a portable or desktop DAC/amp. The kicker for me is that I am also thinking about picking up a T-Amp for some bookshelfs that are just sitting around; for this to work the way I want I need a DAC that can work as just a DAC.

So easy answer right? Get something like the Zero that does double duty. But, what about listening with the laptop? If I get a desktop amp I will probably just end up getting a cheap portable amp for on the go listening.

The appeal of the D2 etc. for me is that I can have better music on the road at the cost of at home listening. About those speakers...
post #24 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post
I also don't believe everything that is "documented" on a forum, unfortunately there are way too many recommendations of equipment by people who have not compared it to other equipment or even worse, haven't even heard it for themselves.
I don’t believe everything that is “documented” either but the people who have “documented” what I stated are fairly experienced and well respected members. A quick search revealed a few…

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filburt View Post
The Pico can be used standalone; many dacs have two stages worth of op-amps, anyhow (one does LPF, the other buffers the output). It more or less is like a variable output.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Filburt View Post
If it makes you feel any better, it's relatively typical for sources to have two stages worth of op-amps between the converter and the output, as one is used in the LPF and one is used as a buffer. So, the principal difference is just that a volume control is present. I tested it as a source and it still sounded great ^-^
Quote:
Originally Posted by grawk View Post
That would work, and in that configuration, the pico would be operating as a variable output dac, which could be used like a preamp.
Quote:
Originally Posted by grawk View Post
Many of the popular dacs have variable outs controlled by a volume knob. It's looked on as a feature by many of our esteemed members. This really isn't any different from that. I hooked the pico up to the balancing inputs on my tooleaudio balanced mosfet amplifier at the baltimore meet, and was quite pleased with the results. It's not unusual for dacs to have IC opamps in the signal path, even with very high end options.
And from the designer himself

Quote:
Originally Posted by justin w. View Post
There's no reason you can't consider the headphone output as a pre-out as well, so you can connect it to an external amp and use with speakers if you want.
Quote:
Originally Posted by justin w. View Post
- You can't bypass the headphone amp, you can only use the output as a volume controlled "variable output" which is very transparent when connected to another amplifier
I believe there’s plenty more “documentation” by experienced members and builders who have either tried it as a standalone or use it as one on a regular basis. Again, I don’t have much electronics experience but there’s has been plenty of talk about using the Pico as a standalone with variable output and you’re the first I’ve seen to refute the feasibility of it that I’ve seen.
post #25 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post
Some DACs do use opamp output stages, but they don't need it and it just colors the sound unnecessarily. You need a line driver to boost a signal to line output level with some DACs and you also need to remove DC on a Voltage Out DAC, but you really don't need opamps to do it.

I also don't believe everything that is "documented" on a forum, unfortunately there are way too many recommendations of equipment by people who have not compared it to other equipment or even worse, haven't even heard it for themselves. I do think the DAC in the Pico is fantastic, it's just good practice not to use headphone amps in series.
Good practice or not, it sounds better used as a dac with a good amp than it does with it's own amp. It also sounds better than any other dac in the same price category or lower, so wtf. It's not ideal, but it's very very good.

I HAVE personally spent time with the pico in direct comparison with the apogee minidac, the apogee duet, and the dac in my luxman integrated amp. It is no slouch.
post #26 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post


Also, a lot of the pitch is for "beginner" amps, so anyone new to this picks up on that and disregards desktop amps.
I think this has the most to do with it. I bought a 2move, which is my first headphone amp. Though I'm looking into serious desktop units right now as well. So I guess I'm in the minority?

Let's face it though, portable amps are small and pretty, so people buy them.

I do think they are a good introductory step in amping, it's useful, and will really show you what you're missing in terms of listening.
post #27 of 106
My take on the move toward being portable is that the quality of the portable system today is much higher than it used to be and is most adequate for a lot of people.

I agree that one of these top portable setups has nothing on a good home DAC + Amp setup but having your music with adequate quality anytime you want it is something that is very desirable.

I think I have two very adequate setups, home (actually two of them) and my portable one. Both are very good, maybe not "real high end" but very adequate for me to really get into my music and enjoy it.
post #28 of 106
I love small portable amps though. I collect them. Theyre just fun little gadgets and im a gadget freek. I buy them to hear them and compare, and just "to have" .
post #29 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drag0n View Post
I love small portable amps though. I collect them. Theyre just fun little gadgets and im a gadget freek. I buy them to hear them and compare, and just "to have" .
I was once that way but my therapy finally paid off...that's why I just have one portable amp now and not six.
post #30 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by grawk View Post
Good practice or not, it sounds better used as a dac with a good amp than it does with it's own amp. It also sounds better than any other dac in the same price category or lower, so wtf. It's not ideal, but it's very very good.

I HAVE personally spent time with the pico in direct comparison with the apogee minidac, the apogee duet, and the dac in my luxman integrated amp. It is no slouch.
Yep, Pico is no slouch as a DAC, but as an amp it wont destroy many desktop amps. I tried the Apogee mini-DAC via Macbook USB to my Woo Audo WA6, and then I substituted the PICO in place of the Apogee, and it was almost as good, but a little less warm and a little more clinical. But, it wasn't bad at all. And I didn't notice any problems with distortion or amplified noise or other artifacts of amplifying the Pico's output.

I did feel the Apogee via optical from Macbook sounds even better, and 90% of my Apogee use is Coax from CDP and 10% optical from Macbook, not USB. But if a person only needs a USB DAC, then the Pico at half the cost of the Apogee with USB option is a screaming deal as DAC for feeding a high-end desktop amp from a computer with loss-less files (multiple CD's stored in PC used as a music server).

For me the Apogee + WA6 (or even Apogee alone) is still much better than the Pico as a DAC+Amp when I am listening to full size headphones at home. If I was just setting up in a hotel room, then the portable rig comes into play (but then I'll probably bring my Predator instead). But, many people who can only afford one rig will choose portable because it can be used anywhere, while they can't take a home rig with them everywhere. I think economics is a major factor driving the trend to go all in one portable.
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