Hi, I'm looking at improving my listening station at work and was hoping that some people here may have experiences that can help me out. I've had a read through the forums and most of the office threads are for home offices, or people with large private offices at work.
A little back ground:
I work in an open plan office with a fair amount of background noise. I need to be able to get up/stop listening at short notice and not disturb others with my music. The onboard sound from a Dell Optiplex is dire, with no digital out-put, and we are not permitted to open, or install unauthorised software on the work computers. Therefore I need something external that takes a USB source and runs on the standard Windows drivers. I will be listening from CD-ripped, FLAC files, through Foobar on an external hard drive. I work for an engineering contractor and people bringing in smallish USB devices is common, but head phone amplifiers are not so common. I'm not too worried about the security at work, but if it is small I will lock it away at night so I would prefer a combined amp/dac.
I did try using an old Creek OBH-11 with an HRT MSII a little while ago and that drew a few comments. The MSII is now back in use at home and I am listening to a limited selection of music from an iPod while at work. I would like a discrete amp/dac for work, the Creek is currently unused. I might think about placing it under the desk, but on the desk would be my preferred position. I've not got a massive amount of desk space free after what I need for work.
I listen to a wide range of music and will be using Westone 2's and Grado 325i - I know they leak, but I've been doing 60-hour weeks and there aren't many people in the office after 4 in the afternoon. I will look into adding a set of closed cans in the future (probably from AT/Beyer/Denon/Phiaton?) - feel free to make any recommendations.
I've listed my main requirements below:
- USB input
- No custom drivers for use in Windows XP and 7
- All SS. No tubes.
- Works with IEMs and full size cans
- Good low-level channel balance
- Front panel volume dial
- Quickly installed and removed
- Moderately sized (preferable), if not it must be large enough to support a monitor (this wouldn't need to be removed).
- Discrete appearance, nothing too flashy
- Small plug size if it has a wall-wart power supply.
- CE Marked power supply (or an external, easily replaced one)
- around £350 all in - I could go higher, but would need a reason.
I've had a good read through threads, even looking through the pictures of computer rigs thread for inspiration, and have the following list. Please feel free to add suggestions. One of the reasons I'm asking is that none of these have ticked all the boxes.
- Teac UD-H01
- Matrix Cube, Mini
- Matrix M-Stage USB - showing on Ampcity's website, I've not heard anything else about it
- AudioGD NFB-5, Fun, NFB-12
- Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus
- HRT Headstreamer
Currently I'm most interested in the M-Stage USB, but I've found no information on it.
The ones listed are all full-sized, combined amp/dac units, but in principle I have nothing against seperate amp/dac (I'd probably use the Creek to save some money), or against a good portable unit. I've tried the Fiio e7 and NuForce Icon Mobile briefly, and thought they were missing something.
Thank you for reading all of that, and for any advice you can offer.