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Desktop AMP for under $350

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Hello I currently have a JDS Labs C421 (OPPA227) and an ODAC. I think it's time for an upgrade from a portable amp to a more powerful desktop amp and perhaps a new DAC as well. I enjoy this setup, but can only imagine how much better my setup would sound with a powerful desktop amp.

My current headphone inventory consists of HE-400, HD600, T50RP Mad Dogs, D5000, Pro 900, AD900, HM5, and HFI-780. I would like a solid state amp. I am considering the Schiit Asgard, Matrix M-Stage, O2/ODA, and other recommendations that you might have. I would like to keep the budget under $350.

The DAC is more questionable because the ODAC might be perfectly fine for entry level desktop amps such as the ones I have mentioned. I know its measured to be transparent, which is what I'm after, but if something such as the Schiit Bifrost, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, or HRT Music Streamer II or II+ is worth it for this type of amp, then I would certainly consider the upgrade. Obviously open to other recommendations as well. I would like to keep this under $300 but can stretch if needed.

Just curious what you all think would be best for the budget, either ones I listed or others you know of that are better. Thank you very much.
post #2 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddcpitt View Post

The DAC is more questionable because the ODAC might be perfectly fine for entry level desktop amps such as the ones I have mentioned. I know its measured to be transparent, which is what I'm after, but if something such as the Schiit Bifrost, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, or HRT Music Streamer II or II+ is worth it for this type of amp, then I would certainly consider the upgrade. Obviously open to other recommendations as well. I would like to keep this under $300 but can stretch if needed.

Just curious what you all think would be best for the budget, either ones I listed or others you know of that are better. Thank you very much.

 

The ODAC was designed to be neutral and it is neutral. If you're interested in spending more money just to be spending more money, or to impress your online friends, just buy the most expensive thing you can afford; no research is necessary.

 

However, if you want a transparent amp (or DAC+amp), you won't beat the O2+ODAC except at many times the price. You won't hear any difference, but your oscilloscope will be able to measure it.

post #3 of 38

But would the o2 be able to drive all of his headphones to their full potential? I'm in a similar predicament but I've been leaning toward the M-stage for its customization and power. It also looks cleaner than the o2 with all the inputs in the back and doesn't require a 1/4 to 1/8 inch adaptor


Edited by PanamaHat - 11/10/12 at 7:13pm
post #4 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddcpitt View Post

Hello I currently have a JDS Labs C421 (OPPA227) and an ODAC. I think it's time for an upgrade from a portable amp to a more powerful desktop amp and perhaps a new DAC as well. I enjoy this setup, but can only imagine how much better my setup would sound with a powerful desktop amp.
My current headphone inventory consists of HE-400, HD600, T50RP Mad Dogs, D5000, Pro 900, AD900, HM5, and HFI-780. I would like a solid state amp. I am considering the Schiit Asgard, Matrix M-Stage, O2/ODA, and other recommendations that you might have. I would like to keep the budget under $350.
The DAC is more questionable because the ODAC might be perfectly fine for entry level desktop amps such as the ones I have mentioned. I know its measured to be transparent, which is what I'm after, but if something such as the Schiit Bifrost, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, or HRT Music Streamer II or II+ is worth it for this type of amp, then I would certainly consider the upgrade. Obviously open to other recommendations as well. I would like to keep this under $300 but can stretch if needed.
Just curious what you all think would be best for the budget, either ones I listed or others you know of that are better. Thank you very much.

What source(s) do you plug the ODAC into?

Guess you could always get a Little Dot MKIII tube amplifier and try it with the Senn HD600.

Get a different (tube colored) sound for the HD600s.

 

Personally I'm fine with my O2 driving my headphones (32-Ohm to 600-Ohm).

post #5 of 38

If you're worried about power and to have more headroom for the two orthos, get the Lyr. 450 new. sells used for ~350 or so. I know it's not SS, but it's got a ton of power for those headphones. I wouldn't bother upgrading from the O2 to an Asgard or other sub 300 dollar SS amp.

 

Don't bother upgrading the DAC. the ODAC is great, and everything around 400 bucks or so will sound nearly the same or less neutral.

post #6 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by PanamaHat View Post

But would the o2 be able to drive all of his headphones to their full potential? I'm in a similar predicament but I've been leaning toward the M-stage for its customization and power. It also looks cleaner than the o2 with all the inputs in the back and doesn't require a 1/8 to 1/8 inch adaptor

 

Sure. None of those headphones (HE-400, HD600, T50RP Mad Dogs, D5000, Pro 900, AD900, HM5, and HFI-780) is hard to drive.

 

The M-Stage has features not available on a stock O2.

 

  • Dual-RCA, switch-selectable inputs;
  • four gain settings;
  • internal power supply;
  • inputs on the back;
  • output (1/4" TRS) on the front.

 

The switchable inputs are the main reason I bought an M-Stage. I don't think it's as good an amp but its mechanical design is superior.

post #7 of 38
Quote:

The M-Stage has features not available on a stock O2.

 

  • Dual-RCA, switch-selectable inputs;
  • four gain settings;
  • internal power supply;
  • inputs on the back;
  • output (1/4" TRS) on the front.

 

The switchable inputs are the main reason I bought an M-Stage. I don't think it's as good an amp but its mechanical design is superior.

Lol from what I've read the o2 is somewhat of an acquired taste, perhaps too neutral and cold. I have to try it out for myself someday biggrin.gif. What two sources have you got connected to your m-stage?

post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by PanamaHat View Post

Quote:

The M-Stage has features not available on a stock O2.

 

  • Dual-RCA, switch-selectable inputs;
  • four gain settings;
  • internal power supply;
  • inputs on the back;
  • output (1/4" TRS) on the front.

 

The switchable inputs are the main reason I bought an M-Stage. I don't think it's as good an amp but its mechanical design is superior.

Lol from what I've read the o2 is somewhat of an acquired taste, perhaps too neutral and cold. I have to try it out for myself someday biggrin.gif. What two sources have you got connected to your m-stage?

 

Tube amps tend to produce a somewhat-distinctive "tube audio sound", so the O2 may seem "cold" when compared to them. However, the warmth of a tube amp is added distortion and whether this is a good thing or not is up to the listener's preference. I understand their appeal.

 

My sources are an Oppo BDP-93 (for BD, DVD, FLAC, and MP3) and a Behringer UCA-222 DAC (for FLAC and MP3.) I purposely avoided critical listening tests. If the ODAC+O2 outperformed the Behringer+M-Stage combo, I'd have to buy another O2+ODAC. But, I've spent waaaaaaaay too much money since I started reading Head-Fi forums. My flipping credit card bill has been well over $1,000 every month since July.

post #9 of 38

The lyr would be a nice upgrade for several of the hp's. Not major in every case but certainly appreciable without an osciliscope. biggrin.gif

 

Try to grab on used from the forum here for about $350 shipped. 

post #10 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

The lyr would be a nice upgrade for several of the hp's. Not major in every case but certainly appreciable without an osciliscope. biggrin.gif

 

Try to grab on used from the forum here for about $350 shipped. 

 

It's an upgrade if the OP wants "tube audio sound."

 

It's not an upgrade for neutral sound. The ODAC+O2 is. Plus, it's less expensive to buy and operate.

post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddcpitt View Post

Hello I currently have a JDS Labs C421 (OPPA227) and an ODAC. I think it's time for an upgrade from a portable amp to a more powerful desktop amp and perhaps a new DAC as well. I enjoy this setup, but can only imagine how much better my setup would sound with a powerful desktop amp.

 

yeahhh it's not going to sound much better. If your headphones are getting loud enough, and the amp is not distorting, I don't see the point of upgrading.

post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 
Hello I just wanted to thank you for all of your input so far. I was at work today and then was busy for hours after work, but have been following along all day. This is the first chance I've had to reply.

I will admit that my original plan I had months ago was to get the C421 and use it as my main and portable until the ODA came out, then upgrade to that (assuming favorable reviews and good price) and keep the C421 as a portable amp. That plan sort of fell short when news and updates on the ODA stopped. I pretty much abandoned all hope for that to happen anytime soon. I considered an O2, but just decided to wait because of the ODA and now I have discovered the Asgard and M-Stage.

I will also admit I have never tried a tube amp, but I am really set on ease of use and being totally maintenance free with a solid state. The Lyr sounds awesome and I have read lots about it, I just don't know if right now that would be best for me, especially never having heard a tube amp.

The Agard and M-Stage both seem worth the upgrade to finally have a more powerful desktop amp, but if the O2 is that good, maybe not considering O2 can be had for much less. Beyond these 3 amps, I really don't know of others in the price range that are worth looking at and some people seem to think maybe this price range isn't really worth it anyway for a desktop amp.

As for the DAC, i am happy with ODAC, but the only real thing I have to compare it to is the Wolfson DAC in the 5th gen iPod Video and the Cirrus DAC in the iPad 2. It seems that for under $300, a completely transparent DAC with totally black background is a steal (the reason I went for it) and that even stretching my budget to accomodate a Centrance Dacport LX, Music Streamer II+, or Schiit Bifrost (USB) might not be worth it compared to what the ODAC is currently offering me. It might sound cold and sterile to some, but I don't really know any other sound in my somewhat limited experience. I am after "better", but still want transparency without coloration. Maybe that is not possible without spending upwards of $500-$600? If that's the case, I am fine with the ODAC so if anyone else has opinions on it, that'd be great. But if any of the other DACs I mentioned or any that you know of would be better within that price range and qualify as good upgrade to the ODAC, please let me know.

Basically, if you think the ODAC is on par with the DACs in the sub $350 price range, I will stick with it. I am really trusting you guys with this one haha and I really appreciate your time. As for the desktop amp, I am definitely going to be picking one up, it's just a matter of which one.

Thanks, everybody!
post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eisenhower View Post

 

yeahhh it's not going to sound much better. If your headphones are getting loud enough, and the amp is not distorting, I don't see the point of upgrading.

 

The point of better amps is not "louder" is most cases. When you starting using better headphones, sometimes but not always, the headphone will scale up nicely with the amp. The hd650 is a good example. I can play the hd650 from my e17 and while it gets plenty "loud" the sound is next to awful. Now, the he400 will sound fine from the e17 and maybe even good enough. But does it sound more enjoyable from the lry? You betcha. There are more bass impact. The highs are more detailed without being harsh. It's just a better sound. 

post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

 

The point of better amps is not "louder" is most cases. When you starting using better headphones, sometimes but not always, the headphone will scale up nicely with the amp. The hd650 is a good example. I can play the hd650 from my e17 and while it gets plenty "loud" the sound is next to awful. Now, the he400 will sound fine from the e17 and maybe even good enough. But does it sound more enjoyable from the lry? You betcha. There are more bass impact. The highs are more detailed without being harsh. It's just a better sound. 

 

Please explain to me, apart from distortion, power output, and cross talk, how one amp can sound better than another?

Any properly designed amps will not affect "bass impact" or how detailed the highs are, because they have flat frequency responses. The FiiO amps will meet this requirement.

post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eisenhower View Post

 

Please explain to me, apart from distortion, power output, and cross talk, how one amp can sound better than another?

Any properly designed amps will not affect "bass impact" or how detailed the highs are, because they have flat frequency responses. The FiiO amps will meet this requirement.

 

I can't really tbh. I could go into transparency, instrument separation, musical dynamics, decay of sound blah, blah, blah. But honestly, I'm more of a listen and see what sounds better person. I've been fortunate enough to own and live with over a dozen amps over the years. But now I don't think that I'll ever change from the lyr. It's just a great amp for the money and I love the warm tube sound, which can be tailored and tweaked to your preference. 

 

I hope that this is not a cop out response. I was really just trying to answer your question in an honest way. 

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