I've been doing a lot of research over the past couple of days to get a solution for a couple of problems that maximizes my dollar. It would be awesome if someone could smack some sense into me before I blow a couple hundred bucks.
Here is what I already have.
- Sony MDR-7506 (great isolation for a coffee shop, super durable for audio work)
- Grado SR-80 (great for listening alone at home/office)
- laptop with a VERY noisy headphone jack
- iPhone 3G / iPod nano / iPod Touch
- Mac Mini for movies/iTunes -- headphone out, optical audio out
- 15 year old stereo reciever -- RCA inputs only, no digital input
- sendstation for plugging the ipods into the stereo
The biggest issue right now is that watching movies or listening to music at home through the mac mini sounds terrible because I'm running a headphone out to the old receiver inputs. When I use an iPod with the sendstation line-out, it literally sounds 10x better. But my entire media library is on the Mac Mini, so that's not working out for me.
The second issue is that I would like to improve the quality of my listening when I'm on the road, either with the laptop doing some work, or just through the portable players I already have. My headphones are good enough that the noise from the laptop is very present and distracting. Upgrading my headphones is out of the question as long as my sources are questionable like this.
NOW HERE IS MY DREAM
I would love to have a solution that meets the following requirements
- has a true line-out (for movies through the mac mini)
- has a good USB DAC (for the laptop)
- is portable for listening with the ipod only (like on a train or bus)
- has a good headphone amp so I can upgrade my headphones down the line
- $200 or so
I've narrowed it down to one or more of the following products:
- NuForce Icon Mobile ($79, but not a true line-out?)
- M-Audio Transit ($99 laptop/home only, no headphone amp)
- Prodigy Cube ($99 laptop/home only, not many reviews)
- NuForce uDAC-2 ($129 laptop/home only, seems awesome)
- iBasso D2+ Boa ($169, seems like a match, but is the D4 worth the extra money?)
- iBasso D4 Mambo ($219, a little out of my price range but seems awesome)
- iBasso T3 ($119, portable only)
So, do I just get the D2, or will I regret it now that the D4 is out?
Is the D4 even worth it at this point with my choice of headphones?
Or is a combo uDAC-2 + Icon Mobile the best bang for the buck?
Or am I missing something else?
Thanks for reading all this crap!