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DAC/AMP for ~500$

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Since I am kinda new to the world of dacs/amps I am looking for some recommendations. As title says, I am searching an excellent combo dac/amp (stand-alone dac + amp preferred, I am not that much of a fan of 2in1 options) below 500$ (combined, not 500$ each, it should also include shipping to Slovakia, but its not a must, I guess I can go slightly above 500$ if there is smth really worth it).

For the headphones I am gonna use with it, I just ordered Audio-Technica ATH-W1000x, closed low impedance headphones, I think this is the most important fact to know before getting amp.

 

The main source will be my laptop, so dac should at least have usb input, but I would highly prefer it to have optical input too. From time to time I will want to listen to my Cowon J3 too but thats gonna be hooked up directly with an amp with line-out cable (I dont think its possible to bypass cowons internal dac).

 

For the amp, I have no experience with amps, so I dont know which will match my headphones the best, so this is entirely up to you guys :)

 

As for some early suggestions (I have done some research myself already), I have few options in my mind:

DAC: Little Dot DAC_I (269$) , Matrix Mini-i (299$)

AMP: Little Dot I+ Hybrid (109$ + some tubes, I dont know which one but I guess I will get matched pair of Sylvania JAN 408A for 50$ since I cant find anywhere Sylvania Gold Branch 408A with golden pins), Little Dot MKV Solid State (289$), Matrix M-Stage (209$)

 

So far, from all I have read about amps, LD I+ would be really good match for low impedance headphones such as W1000x (as its hybrid amp). But I am a bit worried about tube rolling + I guess tubes require some maintenance/replacements from time to time. As for LD MKV/Matrix M-Stage, both are solid state amps, both have two inputs (which I like very much since I wont have to switch cables between dac and j3 input all the time, just one click and can listen to other source, but thats just matter of convenience). And also combo LD DAC_I + LD MK V would look really awesome in shelf as they have pretty much same front (height, width, color, finish...). On the other hand, LD DAC_I + LD I+ is much cheaper combo and by many ppl, the best sounding setup for my headphones (at given price).

 

What would be your suggestions? I dont know which brands are making the best equipment in this price range so I only checked the most refferenced ones (Matrix/LD).

 

Regards, Jan

post #2 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by filuS View Post

Since I am kinda new to the world of dacs/amps I am looking for some recommendations. As title says, I am searching an excellent combo dac/amp (stand-alone dac + amp preferred, I am not that much of a fan of 2in1 options) below 500$ (combined, not 500$ each, it should also include shipping to Slovakia, but its not a must, I guess I can go slightly above 500$ if there is smth really worth it).

For the headphones I am gonna use with it, I just ordered Audio-Technica ATH-W1000x, closed low impedance headphones, I think this is the most important fact to know before getting amp.

 

The main source will be my laptop, so dac should at least have usb input, but I would highly prefer it to have optical input too. From time to time I will want to listen to my Cowon J3 too but thats gonna be hooked up directly with an amp with line-out cable (I dont think its possible to bypass cowons internal dac).

 

For the amp, I have no experience with amps, so I dont know which will match my headphones the best, so this is entirely up to you guys :)

 

As for some early suggestions (I have done some research myself already), I have few options in my mind:

DAC: Little Dot DAC_I (269$) , Matrix Mini-i (299$)

AMP: Little Dot I+ Hybrid (109$ + some tubes, I dont know which one but I guess I will get matched pair of Sylvania JAN 408A for 50$ since I cant find anywhere Sylvania Gold Branch 408A with golden pins), Little Dot MKV Solid State (289$), Matrix M-Stage (209$)

 

So far, from all I have read about amps, LD I+ would be really good match for low impedance headphones such as W1000x (as its hybrid amp). But I am a bit worried about tube rolling + I guess tubes require some maintenance/replacements from time to time. As for LD MKV/Matrix M-Stage, both are solid state amps, both have two inputs (which I like very much since I wont have to switch cables between dac and j3 input all the time, just one click and can listen to other source, but thats just matter of convenience). And also combo LD DAC_I + LD MK V would look really awesome in shelf as they have pretty much same front (height, width, color, finish...). On the other hand, LD DAC_I + LD I+ is much cheaper combo and by many ppl, the best sounding setup for my headphones (at given price).

 

What would be your suggestions? I dont know which brands are making the best equipment in this price range so I only checked the most refferenced ones (Matrix/LD).

 

Regards, Jan


refer to this thread.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/571121/dac-and-amp-or-dac-amp-combo-for-under-500-bones

 

The choices you have in mind also seem on the right path. ; )

 

If you wanted to be cool (as in badA) you could diy both your amp and dac for that price. Build a miniMAX, and build A Gamma 1 (y1) DaC. Upgrade it to a Gamma 2 (one of the better dac's out there) down the road and be satisfied with your dac for quite some time, and enjoy building your own amp.

 

I was at one point well.. where you're at now. The main competitors to me remain Icon HDP and Yulong D100. Scatter some AudioGD offerings here and there as well. Or diy. Bingo.


Edited by Hennyo - 10/14/11 at 2:07am
post #3 of 14

You might want to consider a Schiit Bifrost/Asgard combo too, just a bit over your budget and the Asgard runs Grados really well.

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 

That combo would be way over my intended budget, Bifrost with USB input goes for 450$, Asgard for 250$ and thats 700$ without shipping. Their dac is kinda expensive and I have no idea why they are adding USB input for extra 100$.

post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by filuS View Post

That combo would be way over my intended budget, Bifrost with USB input goes for 450$, Asgard for 250$ and thats 700$ without shipping. Their dac is kinda expensive and I have no idea why they are adding USB input for extra 100$.


Haha, second hand? If not, in my experience, the Nuforce HDP is good if a bit thin and the LD DAC1 and Mk3 has really great soundstage for the price.

 

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

would be LD MKIII better than LD I+? I actually asked david on LD forum for thoughts about combo DAC_I+MKV (thats was my first options month ago) and he recommended LD I+ which he claims to be specifically designed for low impedance headphones.

 

on side note, I just found another hybrid amp which is supposed to sound amazing, namely Project Sunrise ( http://store.garage1217.com/project-sunrise-hybrid-class-a--tube-headphone-amplifier.html ). It has really good recommendations but I am kinda lost in deriving its price. I guess if I want to DIY it with all parts possible it would be 215$ with shipping (fully built would be around 400$). If its really as good as I have read in some topics, it would be worth of considering eventhought I have never built any eletrical device before (I have heard it comes with really thorough manual and assembling is really easy). Any thoughts on this one?

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Maybe this is not completely related to original topic of this thread, but I dont want start new thread because of this.

What cables (brand) would you recommend me to get to interconnect dac/amp and connect pc with dac? I dont rly want to spend another 200e just for cables, but I would like to get at least decent ones. I read some threads about this, but neither gave me an answer for this, too many options :P Would I be ok with NuForce cables (Transient Cable - pair of 1m RCA2RCA for 40$, Impulse Cable - 1.8m USB A/B for 30$) or would it be worthy to go for AudioQuest cables (well, there are 4 types of interconnects and 5 types of USB cables, but pair of 1m Sidewinders goes for 78$ and 1.5m of USB Cinnamon for ~100$)? I'd like to get the best possible quality for my money, but I dont necessarily need to go for 100$+ cables (I dont how much of a difference it makes).

post #8 of 14

I personally have the stock usb cable and i buy rca and xlr cables from monoprice. It depends on if you think it is worth it and if you believe there is a difference in sound (but let's not get into that here)

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

This is a bit tricky, without trying both I cant say whether there is some difference or not, thus cant really believe its worth. So, I am gonna take an advice from ppl who have experience with these cabels (or from any other company in same price range)

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

another dac came to my attention, NFB-12. How is its dac section compared to LD DAC_I? Its a bit cheaper and I could use it as dac+amp (with LD DAC_II can do that as well) before I get enough money to get a stand-alone amp (I guess I will go with built Project Sunrise instead of LD I+). Or maybe better question would be which one is the best dac on market in <300$ price range (no DYI, unfortunatelly I dont have tools for that)?

 

EDIT: also E-MU 0204 has been brought to my attention. As dac, is it comparable to dacs twice of its price? Eventhough it does not have direct rca output and it lacks optical input, it looks kinda solid and whats plus its available in my country (so no extra money for VAT). But I am not sure how it performs compared to NFB-12/LD DAC_I and other dacs in 300$ price range.


Edited by filuS - 11/1/11 at 3:12pm
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by filuS View Post

 

on side note, I just found another hybrid amp which is supposed to sound amazing, namely Project Sunrise ( http://store.garage1217.com/project-sunrise-hybrid-class-a--tube-headphone-amplifier.html ). It has really good recommendations but I am kinda lost in deriving its price. I guess if I want to DIY it with all parts possible it would be 215$ with shipping (fully built would be around 400$). If its really as good as I have read in some topics, it would be worth of considering eventhought I have never built any eletrical device before (I have heard it comes with really thorough manual and assembling is really easy). Any thoughts on this one?


Fully built is just the second Select menu, the price total for a fully built unit is $234.99

 

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

I know, I had been contacted by creator of Project Sunrise amp about this. I actually had good talk with him discussing its use with low impedance headphones and thats why I decided to go for PS rather than LD I+ for now(maybe I will get LD I+ sometime in future for comparison since its kinda cheap). Since my headphones arrived and I am expecting next paycheck to come in like 2 weeks, I need to make my mind up about dac. The biggest competitors atm are Audio-GD NFB-12, LD DAC_II and Matrix Cube/Mini-i (dunno if there is other dac better than any of these for <300$), but I am not 100% sure which one to pick.

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Since Christmas are comming, I would like to close this for me and purchase dac and amp so I can really enjoy music during holidays. As for amp, I am gonna get Project Sunrise, its a bit more expensive than LD I+ but I guess its the best hybrid amp for <300$. And with the price of 135e for LD I+ with WE408A, I can get that just for fun during next year.

But whats really bugging me is dac choice. I am deciding between Audio-GD NFB-12, LD DAC_II and Matrix Cube. I found shop in EU where all three are available (its really pain in the ***** to deal with ours custom for VAT), so now the only problem is to determine which one has the best dac section. I am still leaning towards NFB-12 because of the lowest price and dual WM8741 (DAC_II/Cube are using WM8740 chips and are more expensive, 240e for Cube and 310e for DAC_II), but I would appreciate some comments on differences between these dacs. Amp section in these is not an issue here, since I will get stand-alone amp (but I just want that amp section to be present, in case I break my amp :P ).

post #14 of 14

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Edited by Grado77 - 5/18/12 at 3:02am
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