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Help me with a mess of requirements for a USB DAC / Headphone Amp

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

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)


Portable Players:

  • laptop with a VERY noisy headphone jack
  • iPhone 3G / iPod nano / iPod Touch


At home:

  • 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.




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!

post #2 of 3

If i were you i would get the D2+Boa and be happy for a while,hold on to your wallet and run away from here..I got one a couple of weeks ago,and with 50 hrs on it i think it will do everything that you want.Got it 'cause i hate messing about with batteries(D4).I use it out on the patio with a walkman,with my netbook/headphones,or straight into the amp and speakers.Sounds very good considering the price it was.Put it this way; there are some more expensive bits of kit about the house gathering dust at the moment.  Good Luck,  you'l need it .

PS The battery lasts forever !

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

I think you're right that the D2 is the best overall fit for what I need.  


It will be my first amp, and from reading other threads it seems like my headphones don't really need anything massive.  I saw so many people drooling over the D4, but it's probably not worthwhile for me at this point.



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