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Need suggestion: Upgrade from Fiio E9 for HD650 w/ integrated DAC

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I own a pair of HD650, which I love and use all the time (listening mainly to electronic music), and also a pair of Grado SR125 which I also use but more sparingly (only for instrumental music).

 

I am now using a Fiio E9 amp connected to the headphone jack of my Macbook Pro. I would like to perform a noticeable upgrade to it most probably to an AMP/DAC integrated solution (stand alone components would also be considered) with USB and optical inputs. I plan on using mostly the DAC optical input paired with my Macbook Pro's optical (via TOSLINK) output, but would still like to have an USB input for practical purposes, if I ever change computer or if I want to use the AMP/DAC with another computer.

 

Now, my budget would be around +-500$, and I aim for the absolute best value for my current setup. I don't plan on buying new headphones anytime soon, so they have to pair nicely with my HD650's.

 

Finally, I would like a product that gives me the possibility to upgrade its parts later on, if that is possible, so I can either swap the tubes or the op amps later on without having to change all my equipment, if that is possible.

 

I have no particular preference between tube amps and solid state amps, since I only own a solid state amp at the moment. I am open to all suggestions!

 

I have read good things about the Maverick TubeMagic D1, but would like to know about comparable solutions that would max out the value for the budget I planned.

 

Thanks a lot!

 


 

Summary:

 

Current setup

- Sennheiser HD650 (for electronic music)

- Grado SR125 (for instrumental/vocal music)

- Fiio E9

- Macbook Pro (Early 2011)

 

Looking for

- AMP/DAC solution

- +- 500$

- Optical input (most important input)

- USB input (nice to)

- Upgradable components (nice to)

- Tube or solid state

- Portability is not an issue

post #2 of 24

Welcome fran...beerchug.gif

 

Audio-GD for the all-in-one win...Well within your budget...Cheers!!!

 

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/624517/audio-gd-nfb-11-32-delivery-impression-thread

 

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/624518/audio-gd-nfb-15-1-delivery-impression-thread

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks HeatFan12,

 

I read both threads and it is quite interesting. I see that you have personally tried both these products. May I ask which one is your favorite between the two: the 15.1 or the 11.32 and why is that? Reading the specs of both amps alone kind of overwhelms me... I'm not familiar enough with all those chip model numbers to measure the meaning of all the comparisons that are made in those threads, so I'm having a hard time myself of trying to decide which one would be the best for me (aside from assuming the most expensive is "better" wink.gif) and if I need to buy any of the optional chip upgrades or why I would by an Audio-GD amp instead of, say, a Maverick of a NuForce.

 

Thanks for the time you take to answer me!

post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by franmon83 View Post

Thanks HeatFan12,

 

I read both threads and it is quite interesting. I see that you have personally tried both these products. May I ask which one is your favorite between the two: the 15.1 or the 11.32 and why is that? Reading the specs of both amps alone kind of overwhelms me... I'm not familiar enough with all those chip model numbers to measure the meaning of all the comparisons that are made in those threads, so I'm having a hard time myself of trying to decide which one would be the best for me (aside from assuming the most expensive is "better" wink.gif) and if I need to buy any of the optional chip upgrades or why I would by an Audio-GD amp instead of, say, a Maverick of a NuForce.

 

Thanks for the time you take to answer me!

 

beerchug.gif

 

If I would have to choose just one it would be the NFB-11.32.  Not because of price (not too big of a difference) but because of the Sabre ES9018 and the usb implementation.  The Sabre chip is transparent while being very smooth without sounding analytical.  Details are excellent.  It sounds great with various headphones and also plugged into tube amps as well.  They are both very solid units.  Listening to the NFB-15.1 right now with some Ultrasones...beyersmile.png

 

In reference to the upgrades, it's up to you.  I purchased both stock and others opted for the clock upgrade ($20).  A-GD has lots of gear and most are upgradeable for future use, but not necessary.

 

I can't answer your last question about why A-GD and not others.  When we are ready to purchase, all we can do is research and research and read, ask for opinions and at the end we make a decision.  Lots of gear here can't be auditioned before purchase.  Find a budget, look at your needs for the gear (usb, optical, coax, inputs, outputs etc.) then don't look back..lol....

 

Hope this helps you a bit....

 

Cheers!!!


Edited by HeatFan12 - 9/23/12 at 10:32am
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks, every little bit of information helps!

The more I read about amps and DACs to pair with the HD650, the more possibilities uncover... confused_face(1).gif

 

I narrowed (!) down my options to:

  • Audio-gd 11.32
  • Maverick TubeMagic D1
  • NuForce HDP
  • O2 + ODAC
  • Schiit Asgard/Valhalla + separate DAC
  • Bottlehead Crack + separate DAC (read it pairs very well with the HD650)
  • Am I forgetting any? tongue.gif

 

Anyone with hands-on information on either of these combinations with the HD650 or similar headphones, your feedback and guidance would be greatly appreciated!

post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by franmon83 View Post

Thanks, every little bit of information helps!

The more I read about amps and DACs to pair with the HD650, the more possibilities uncover... confused_face(1).gif

 

I narrowed (!) down my options to:

  • Audio-gd 11.32
  • Maverick TubeMagic D1
  • NuForce HDP
  • O2 + ODAC
  • Schiit Asgard/Valhalla + separate DAC
  • Bottlehead Crack + separate DAC (read it pairs very well with the HD650)
  • Am I forgetting any? tongue.gif

 

Anyone with hands-on information on either of these combinations with the HD650 or similar headphones, your feedback and guidance would be greatly appreciated!

 

I wish I could help, I'm in the same place you are looking at a combo for work with HE-400s. It's fun when you "narrowed" it down to like 10 choices isn't it?

 

I've tried the HD600 on the ODAC/O2 and it sounded pretty damn good to my ears, as well as the Asgard (very fitting to my Stargate marathon..). The only problem I have with the Asgard is that it get HOT, including the volume knob. It's not bad for it or anything, it's just somewhat annoying sometimes. 

 

EDIT: I'm looking at the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11, Audio-gd NFB-5.32 and Audio-gd Compass 2 as well, because obviously you need more choices tongue.gif


Edited by Uberbob102000 - 9/24/12 at 6:42pm
post #7 of 24

A few of those don't support optical.

post #8 of 24

Of those the O2+ODAC doesn't for sure, the ones with the seperate DAC depend on which DAC he buys. I'm pretty sure the rest of that list does support optical input.

post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by franmon83 View Post

Thanks, every little bit of information helps!

The more I read about amps and DACs to pair with the HD650, the more possibilities uncover... confused_face(1).gif

 

I narrowed (!) down my options to:

  • Audio-gd 11.32
  • Maverick TubeMagic D1
  • NuForce HDP
  • O2 + ODAC
  • Schiit Asgard/Valhalla + separate DAC
  • Bottlehead Crack + separate DAC (read it pairs very well with the HD650)
  • Am I forgetting any? tongue.gif

 

Anyone with hands-on information on either of these combinations with the HD650 or similar headphones, your feedback and guidance would be greatly appreciated!

 

After much reading, I revised a little bit my requirements (only fools never change their minds biggrin.gif). 

 

Some posters made me realize that some of those products with integrated DACs don't have optical input, which is a must for me, so I'm going to exclude them.

 

Also, I realized that some other AMP/DAC combos don't have any way of bypassing the DAC to play from an analog source. This is a bummer, because even though most of my current listening is done from my laptop, I don't want to prevent myself from using an analog source if I decide to buy one... I value this probably more than the USB connectivity...

 

Finally, I read some threads that made me realize that with integrated AMP/DAC combos, if one of the components breaks, you usually lose the entire unit confused_face.gif. This realization does not make me exclude integrated products, but I will probably weigh more separate components or integrated products with pre-amp outputs and DAC bypass (if such exist... for my budget...).

 

That gives this new list:

 

  • Audio-gd 11.32 (no analog input. would be interested to know if other Audio-gd products have such connection)
  • Maverick TubeMagic D1 (I read it uses cheaper components than comparable models (namely opamps), though I cannot measure the impact of such claim...)
  • NuForce HDP (no pre-amp output, unless I read wrong)
  • O2 + ODAC  (no optical input, no pre-amp output)
  • Schiit Asgard/Valhalla/Lyr + separate DAC (need suggestion of DAC to pair them with and recommendation on which one to choose between the 3)
  • Bottlehead Crack + separate DAC (read it pairs very well with the HD650, need suggestion of DAC to pair it with)
  • Am I forgetting any? tongue.gif

 

I'm glad I managed to exclude a few options, but I'm still puzzled as to what I should choose...

 

I am quite surprised to realize that in this list, no integrated solution would feature separate connections to both the AMP and the DAC for compatibility with a broader range of sources and for future gear upgrade purposes. Are there products that feature such connections aside from the TubeMagic D1, which is the only one I could find (yet)?

 

Are there any obvious products that should be on this list that I forgot, whether it's for their quality, value or nice pairing with the HD650?

 

I will of course continue my journey reading through the tons of information available in this forum, but in the meantime, if anyone has suggestions about what I should look for, I would really appreciate your help! No matter what I finally choose to buy, I will report back here how pleased I am with the results as best as I can describe it with my newbie hat tongue.gif.

post #10 of 24

Not saying this from a sound perspective, nor do I own one, but I've always liked the Bottlehead because of the DIY factor. The thing literally takes form before your eyes, same as O2 or Cmoy.

And from what I've read, its a pretty good performer as well. I can recommend the ODAC or the Fiio as standalone DACs.

post #11 of 24

Have you looked at the Audio gd Compass 2? It's $500 and has analog in. 

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uberbob102000 View Post

Have you looked at the Audio gd Compass 2? It's $500 and has analog in. 

I had not looked at it yet, but now that you mentioned it I went on to read its full description on Audio-gd's website. With all the connectivity it supports and all the possible upgrade options it allows and considering all the positive reviews and feedback I read about Audio-gd products... I have to say this just took the #1 spot on my list! Thanks a lot for pointing out that model to me, as with all the availed models, I might have missed it altogether without your post!

Do you own tha Compass 2? I am curious about feedback from someone who tried it... In any case, I'll be sure to search through the threads to find more feedback on this amp (but not tonight... Writing his on my iPhone from bed ;P ).

Thanks a lot!
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uberbob102000 View Post

Have you looked at the Audio gd Compass 2? It's $500 and has analog in. 

 

This looks like an interesting amp/dac to me but it's just too new. Got to wait for the reviews to start rolling out.

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

 

This looks like an interesting amp/dac to me but it's just too new. Got to wait for the reviews to start rolling out.

 

New in a sense but revised.  A-GD hit the market with the original Compass and since then Kingwa has put out so many products it's just crazy.  I still own the FUN(A)(all-in-one with line in) as well as the NFB-11.32 (32/384 & Sabre ES9018).  I wish I could pull the trigger to try it out, but Kingwa has taken all my money with the NFB-11.32, NFB-15.1 & NFB-16 in recent weeks.

 

On a side note Matt.  Since, you are the HE man, a buddy brought over his HE-500s and the NFB-16 spanked them good.  He also brought over his NFB-10.2 in balanced mode the HE-500s were sick, I tell you.  I want those phones, but 700 beans I can't do right now.  I was going to opt for the 400s but the new revision has me worried.

 

Cheers!!!

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatFan12 View Post

 

New in a sense but revised.  A-GD hit the market with the original Compass and since then Kingwa has put out so many products it's just crazy.  I still own the FUN(A)(all-in-one with line in) as well as the NFB-11.32 (32/384 & Sabre ES9018).  I wish I could pull the trigger to try it out, but Kingwa has taken all my money with the NFB-11.32, NFB-15.1 & NFB-16 in recent weeks.

 

On a side note Matt.  Since, you are the HE man, a buddy brought over his HE-500s and the NFB-16 spanked them good.  He also brought over his NFB-10.2 in balanced mode the HE-500s were sick, I tell you.  I want those phones, but 700 beans I can't do right now.  I was going to opt for the 400s but the new revision has me worried.

 

Cheers!!!

 

Hey, that's cool about the he500 and audio gd. I wouldn't be too concerned about a true revision yet, this is unconfirmed. 

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