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iBasso vs. Zero vs. Audio-gd Compass - What price portability?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
An iBasso like the D10 sounds pretty exciting. But how do the best portable DACs compare to the larger home units like the (Tian Yun) Zero or the Audio-gd Compass? What price portability, what do I give up, compared to these or other non-portable DAC units?

It would be handy to carry a portable back and forth from my computer room to my bedroom. At the same time I could just get two Zero's one for each room for the same cost. Going to drive some Grados with all this.

Its kind of strange to talk about portable DACs when there are so few portable digital sources. Though, I'm thinking of getting a Dell Inspiron 9 netbook and getting my .flacs off digitally over USB (the netbook would get them over the wireless network from my media server). Do you just plug the DAC into the USB and windows recognizes it as an audio output? Does Ubuntu do this?
post #2 of 15
Writing this from an EEE 1000 HE which is also my primary source. I don't know for Windows but under GNU/Linux, when you plug in the DAC, you get a new /dev/dsp1 device. You need to configure your media player to use it then you're good to go. You can also do some bits of Alsa hacking in ~/.asoundrc and get the system to output everything on both the internal card and on the USB DAC. It's the same with HA Sound Master 29, Plantronics DAC dongles, and cheap 15$ DAC dongles from Ebay that sound like crap.
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toe Tag View Post
An iBasso like the D10 sounds pretty exciting. But how do the best portable DACs compare to the larger home units like the (Tian Yun) Zero or the Audio-gd Compass? What price portability, what do I give up, compared to these or other non-portable DAC units?

It would be handy to carry a portable back and forth from my computer room to my bedroom. At the same time I could just get two Zero's one for each room for the same cost. Going to drive some Grados with all this.

Its kind of strange to talk about portable DACs when there are so few portable digital sources. Though, I'm thinking of getting a Dell Inspiron 9 netbook and getting my .flacs off digitally over USB (the netbook would get them over the wireless network from my media server). Do you just plug the DAC into the USB and windows recognizes it as an audio output? Does Ubuntu do this?
Windows XP recognizes a USB DAC as "USB Audio DAC". No external drivers are needed, although many people add ASIO4ALL or Ploytec USB ASIO plugins to their audio players to bypass the Windows Kmixer.

In terms of DACs, I don't think there is much difference between portables and straightforward ones like the Zero or Audio-Compass because most use the same DAC chip, the PCM2707. There are higher-end ones that add jitter control via oversampling, etc, but the additional cost is not worth it IMHO.

Now there are some differences in the quality of the sound due to differences in power supplies and output stages, which provide a relatively small but important amount of amplification. A lot of people change the sound by "rolling" the opamps in the output stage.

But by far the majority of distortion, or "coloring" of the sound occurs in your final amplification stage whether it is a headphone or integrated stereo amplifier. Since a desktop amplifier can obviously provide much greater power than a portable amplifier, the greatest difference will be seen when the output load is highest, i.e. high impedance headphones.

Even though I own a portable headphone amp (NuForce Icon Mobile), I pretty much never use it. I listen to music on my Grado SR80 through my audio-gd Compass when I'm at my desk, and just straight off my iPod Nano when I'm away. Carrying a portable amp and hooking it up with an interconnect is just too of a hassle when I want to get up and go, and the sound improvement from a portable amp just isn't worth it to me.
post #4 of 15
how bout the Compass vs Icon mobile? Is that worth it?
post #5 of 15
I just really wish that Compass was silver. That god forsaken black matches none of my tech!
post #6 of 15
Paint job ftw!
post #7 of 15
be nice for a comparison of compass vs d10
post #8 of 15
No comparison imo, Compass sounds better. =)
post #9 of 15
Nuforce Icon Mobile is an entry level USB DAC/AMP. It just nice for the price.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ekoshyun View Post
I just really wish that Compass was silver. That god forsaken black matches none of my tech!
You think you've got it bad? I've got an IBM Model M on my desk. That's a biege keyboard in an all black setup. Sixteen shades of awesome.

A portable DAC/amp is useful, if you ask me, if you're a student. You probably have a laptop/netbook, and you probably have a 1/1.5/2 hour break at some point in your day. You just pull out your D10 from your backpack, hook it up to your netbook, and get some quality sound from it. I don't think a D10 will be able to match some desktop amps, but that's always the price of portability.
post #11 of 15
How far off in SQ is the Zero from the Compass? And for that matter the Icon Mobile from the D10?

Looking for the lowest cost of entry to a good USB DAC for my laptop that might be useable with a better amp later down the line.
post #12 of 15
My Compass is quite a lot better than a fully-decked old-version Zero. IIRC the biggest difference is the Compass sounds a lot more open and neutral compared to the darker Zero.

That being said, my Compass is the classic version so it's also better than the mass-produced version.
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toe Tag View Post
An iBasso like the D10 sounds pretty exciting. But how do the best portable DACs compare to the larger home units like the (Tian Yun) Zero or the Audio-gd Compass? What price portability, what do I give up, compared to these or other non-portable DAC units?
actually I find that with the right opamps the D10 is superior to the compass via optical or coax, I found the compass to sound a bit blah to be honest

Quote:
It would be handy to carry a portable back and forth from my computer room to my bedroom. At the same time I could just get two Zero's one for each room for the same cost. Going to drive some Grados with all this.

Its kind of strange to talk about portable DACs when there are so few portable digital sources. Though, I'm thinking of getting a Dell Inspiron 9 netbook and getting my .flacs off digitally over USB (the netbook would get them over the wireless network from my media server). Do you just plug the DAC into the USB and windows recognizes it as an audio output? Does Ubuntu do this?
yep, I believe that the D10 actually represents great value even when comparing to home units in the same price range. it certainly beats the pants off the zero IMO being that the zero uses the 2707 as dac rather than simply as a USB receiver like the D10 does. IMO there are 50 dollar dac kits that equal the zero.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joewatch View Post
Windows XP recognizes a USB DAC as "USB Audio DAC". No external drivers are needed, although many people add ASIO4ALL or Ploytec USB ASIO plugins to their audio players to bypass the Windows Kmixer.

In terms of DACs, I don't think there is much difference between portables and straightforward ones like the Zero or Audio-Compass because most use the same DAC chip, the PCM2707. There are higher-end ones that add jitter control via oversampling, etc, but the additional cost is not worth it IMHO.

Now there are some differences in the quality of the sound due to differences in power supplies and output stages, which provide a relatively small but important amount of amplification. A lot of people change the sound by "rolling" the opamps in the output stage.

But by far the majority of distortion, or "coloring" of the sound occurs in your final amplification stage whether it is a headphone or integrated stereo amplifier. Since a desktop amplifier can obviously provide much greater power than a portable amplifier, the greatest difference will be seen when the output load is highest, i.e. high impedance headphones.

Even though I own a portable headphone amp (NuForce Icon Mobile), I pretty much never use it. I listen to music on my Grado SR80 through my audio-gd Compass when I'm at my desk, and just straight off my iPod Nano when I'm away. Carrying a portable amp and hooking it up with an interconnect is just too of a hassle when I want to get up and go, and the sound improvement from a portable amp just isn't worth it to me.

yes well considering the nuforce and D10 are in totally different leagues i'm not surprised. the D10 (especially with upgraded opamps) provides more than enough power for grados and it utilizes a wolfston WM8740 dac with BB PC2707 simply as a USB receiver, so if using optical, its not even in use at all and when using USB all its used for is to convert to i2s. the wolfston is clearly superior IMO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DoYouRight View Post
how bout the Compass vs Icon mobile? Is that worth it?
compass will beat the icon in all areas of performance IMO, but do you need portable??

Quote:
Originally Posted by C.L View Post
No comparison imo, Compass sounds better. =)
agreed

Quote:
Originally Posted by FraGGleR View Post
How far off in SQ is the Zero from the Compass? And for that matter the Icon Mobile from the D10?

Looking for the lowest cost of entry to a good USB DAC for my laptop that might be useable with a better amp later down the line.
well I cant offer to detailed a comparison between the compass and zero, as I havent spent much time with either and did not compare them, but based on my experience at the sydney meet a month or so ago, and my knowledge of the design of both, I would think that the compass -= win in detail and due to having more discrete level design is likely more musical as well. but again I only spent enough time with them to know I dont want one

but icon mobile vs D10 is simply not a worthy comparison; they are both portable and that is about where the similarity ends. the D10 punches well above its weight and when paired with a nice amp is capable of finessing the notes in a way that the icon just cant. with the 2707, the DAC function is more of a byproduct of its primary function of a USB codec/receiver, not an integral part of the design as in the d10's wolfston. if your headphones do not require gobs of drive like the grados and you think yo would enjoy the portable aspect, then I cant see a reason for getting the compass over the D10. play with the opamps or just buy the topkit straight away and later if you find that you need more power; for example if you get some senns or something else that requires it; then you can use the lineout function with an amp.

alternatively there is a new dac only version of the D10 coming out soon, that utilizes 2 x WM8740 running in parallel and you could pair that with a small portable amp.
post #14 of 15
lol question I asked about this is way old, in the last 3 months went from 3move, to compass, to Balanced B22 + Buffalo32s so no really important anymore :P
post #15 of 15
LMAO didnt check the date; someone else replied before me and bumped it, I must admit i did think it a bit odd considering your posts in the B32 thread. thought maybe it was something for work
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