I'm currently using an NAD C542+C320BEE combo, or an iPod (with or without the 320) to power my cans (Grado SR225, Senn HD580, and probably soon the ATH-M50 or DT770).
What I want is a combo DAC + Headphone amp that will scale up with my system. I want it for the following purposes, #1 is most important, #6 is least.
- USB -> DAC+Amp -> Cans
- USB -> DAC stage -> C320BEE Amp -> Speakers
- In the future, USB -> DAC stage -> Better HP Amp -> Cans
- IPod Line Out -> Amp stage -> Cans
- Possibly Digital Input -> DAC(+Amp) -> Amp (Cans)
- Possibly use as a low jitter digital output
So I guess I'm looking for the following features:
- DAC stage more important than HP amp stage
- Decent HP amp
- Probably easily adjustable gain (I don't want hiss on my Grados)
- USB input and hopefully digital S/PDIF or similar as well
- Ideally analogue input as well, but this isn't quite so important
- Analogue line out post-DAC
- Possibly a digital out post-USB (for #4)
Build and sound quality are paramount. Looks are next :). I'm also in New Zealand, so whatever I get needs to support the 240V power we have down here, and must be able to be shipped here.
The list of possible candidates so far with what I've read:
- Audinst HUD-mx1 - Meets almost all requirements, good price, good DAC, no gain switch, a little ugly.
- NuForce Icon uDac-2 - Great price, good DAC, no digi in or out, no gain adjust.
- Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 - Good looks, but questionable build+sound quality (?), no digi out
- Firestone Audio Fubar III (and IV) - Good looks, no digital output (or input on III), more expensive. Not sure on SQ?
What else is on the market that I can consider? What sort of price range? How do the above stack up?
If you've got any I'd love to hear comments (and especially comparisons).
I'm fully aware that I probably won't be able to get something to satisfy all my requirements.
If I can get something that satisfies most, and has an appropriate price, I'll be happy :)