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Would like some advice on choosing a portable amp. + DAC [single unit]

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hello, everyone;


First and foremost, I'm quite new to Head-Fi. I had an old account - which I need someone to close; so if an admin./moderator can send me a PM on this account, I will send a PM to you, with the relevant information regarding the other account -, but had hardly posted in that, either. [I know that you can ask - voluntarily - for an account to be banned, however.]


--- Introduction ---

Although having a pair of TF10s, a Null Audio Lune cable [which broke...] and some custom sleeves (from ear-impressions), by ACS, I have decided that I'm going to get some cans, but for portability - which is why some particular brands have sprung to mind; but I'll get on to that later.


Due to large storage, compatibility with L-ODs with other amp + DACs, I think I've decided to go for an iPod Classic [160GB]. You should note that I live in the UK, so do recognise how availability and the pricing of products may differ to quite an extent - as well as the cost of shipping.


Budget-wise ...I do have one [probably about £800-£850] - for: source; amp. + DAC [one unit]; cans -, but it's not so much a budget, but rather, something I would like to stay within, if possible. It's flexible, at the end of the day. If I am going to be satisfied with a particular amp. + DAC for the long run and have it last me a long time and possibly cater or be well-suited for newer, better cans - if I wanted to upgrade those -, then that'd be fine.



--- What I've been looking at ---

One combination that you should all be familiar with, that I have looked at, is the FiiO E17 + L9.


I've been discussing this - quite heavily - with 'bowei006', who has been a great help and very kind to spend his time in helping me - so big thanks go out to him!


He stated that he generally wouldn't get an amp. + DAC over $200.

The following is a list of amp. + DAC units that he would recommend, other than the FiiO, from which I have investigated the products and listed what seems to be the pricing for the product and the delivery cost, to the UK [if not more local, already]:



ALO Audio - 'The National' is the cheapest, but still about $250-$300.
iBasso T5 - about $170 for the unit, alone.
Leckerton UHA4 - $199 [With Leckerton - it's $42 for delivery, to the UK]
Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII - $279 [With Leckerton - it's $42 for delivery, to the UK]
Pico Slim - $400
HeadRoom Total BitHead - $150; but being sold for $100 at most places, even the manufacturer is selling for $100 ...but costs $50 for shipping to the UK.



I also spotted the JDS Labs O2 amp. + ODAC Combo; but now that I look more closely at it, it's quite large and also requires a wall-socket output or some form of constant live power. You can get the O2 amp. on its own and the ODAC separately; but that's more expensive and larger, yet again.


I did initially mention the Arcam rPAC that 'bowei006' had reviewed, but he didn't feel that it's portable.


--- The headphones that I've been looking at ...or should I be getting C-IEMs?! ---

The cans that I've been looking at are: BeyerDynamic's DT 880, DT 990 [the 'Premium' models, not the cheaper 'Pro' models], Ultrasone's PRO 900, AKG's K701/702 - although I don't think they're right for me -, and finally... Sennheiser's HD 650. Well... that's the 'main' list.

I've spoken to Gunter, who is the Technical Support Manager at BeyerDynamic and he agreed that because the DT 990 has a 'V-shaped' frequency curve, that the DT 880 would be better for me; especially due to the wide range of music that I listen to.


In regards to the BeyerDynamic headphones, I was looking at the 250 Ohm versions. The reason - as I mentioned earlier - that I needed to raise about being more 'semi-sized' on full headphones, was referring to the Ultrasone product-line. They're more compact, although seem to be a bridge between over and on-ear [still being over-ear ...I think?].


Anyhow... 'bowei006' recommended that I possibly choose some C-IEMs. However; I do feel that I would prefer to have proper cans, as I prefer the feel and audible environment that they provide. I love my custom-sleeved TF10s, but I find that IEMs hurt my hears quite a lot; and if I need to briefly talk to someone, I'd have to twist them out of my hears to hear what they're saying and then get a good, tight seal, yet again - which find difficult to achieve [strangely shaped ear-canals, I think; as once I get a good seal, it tends to stay put ...until I remove them, of course].


If I were to chose a C-IEM, I think I'd go for the (Logitech) UE7s - although I'd have to have more ear-impressions taken [nearly another £100, excluding travel to wherever - I don't drive; I'm a student by the way ...that should change your view on budget, quite a lot]; whereas ACS already have my impressions [I believe that they keep them for about three years, or something along the lines of that].


--- Music that I listen to; (genres and artists) what suits me best? ---

This is an extremely short list as a set of examples: Orchestral, hardstyle, trance, house, post-hardcore, raggae-metal, rock, trance-rock, liquid D&B, chillstep, J-rock, Japanese orchestral ...and the list goes on ...forever ...well, not quite.


Some examples of those genres, are:

Falling In Reverse, blessthefall, We Are The Ocean, Enter Shikari, Joe Hisaishi, Takanashi Yasuhara, Toshia Masuda, Lorne Balfe, Hans Zimmer, Michael McCann, Feint, Stan SB, Blackmill, Two Steps From Hell, Rameses B, Gammer, Wildstylez, Headhunterz, Clayfacer, deadmau5, Klubfiller, Keeno, Sam Hulick, Moleman, Eminence, Guns 'n' Roses, Billy Talent, System of a Down, Tesseract, Mord Fustang, Morgan Page, Nutronic, Norland, Wolfgang Gartner, Soulero, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Avicii.



--- Advice, choices ...and most importantly; your help ---

So I've explained the basics of everything that I've researched, thought about and now I need the help of the community.

Feel free to recommend whatever you want; but please do justify your recommendations and try and structure everything as best as you can, as it makes many individuals' recommendations easy to compare.




- Alistair (a.k.a. Kizatsu)

Edited by Kizatsu - 11/24/12 at 8:00am
post #2 of 14
Thread Starter 


Due to not being able to skip the iPod's DAC, I feel that it may be pointless to get a DAC, rather than just getting an amp. alone - I'd be getting a desktop setup at some point in time.

Therefore, I have taken a strong interest in the C421 amp. by JDS Labs.


What do people think of such a choice? [Also; which precision amplifier to go for? The 'OPA2227', or the 'AD8620'?]


(The upcoming) E12 vs C421 ...or even [although it does also include a DAC] the UHA-4 by Leckerton Audio..?

I have read the UHA-4 vs C421 threads, but they still go off on tangents and it still seems to be subjective. If someone could sum up reasons to go for one or the other, that'd be a great help.


Don't forget that this is intended to be a very portable rig - to walk around with.




- Alistair (a.k.a Kizatsu)

Edited by Kizatsu - 11/26/12 at 4:14pm
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 


post #4 of 14
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by H20Fidelity View Post


Although the Sanza players have been highly rated and are incredibly affordable, I want a larger screen and much more storage.

The iPod Classic with a LOD seemed to be the best option [for the LOD side of things].

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

In regards to the DACs and amps., I think that if it's going to be truly portable setup and I can't skip the built-in DAC, then I'm better off getting a better amp. rather than something that is a DAC + amp. [single unit]. Therefore, so far ...it seems to be out of the C421 - both the OP2227 and AD8620 - and the E12 [currently unreleased]. 

post #7 of 14

Well, you can get an external DAC with a portable device. There is a list out here with all the ones which Apple has approved (given the little authentication chip) If you want it ultra-portable, I'd go with an iPhone and a V-Moda Vamp.

post #8 of 14

If you can wait, these might suit you

post #9 of 14

I think you should consider a different DAP if youre not willing to dish out big bucks on a DAC. You'll be limited to only a few hand full of idevice compatible dac If you decide that you absolutely want a iPod. That being said, if you are willing to spend the money for a cypher labs dac, you will be rewarded greatly. I have the CLAS -db and I couldnt be happier. Look into the fostex hp-p1 or sony's portable dac. cheers

post #10 of 14

Have you heard of iQube V3? One of the best portable amp + dac I've ever heard. I have a portable set for sale, iPod Classic V3 + LOD + iQube V3 biggrin.gif.

post #11 of 14

if you looking for an ipod... might want to consider the ipod video.  Wolfson Dac instead of the cirrus or something in the classic.  Also, might want to consider doing the compact flash mod so no moving parts (old style hard drive).  but if you need 160gb storage than classic is the way to go.  also the video would be cheaper.


Something wrong with your tf10s?  just want to try something new?  well if you don't.... get them reshelled/remolded.  I dunno what it cost over there but here you can get it done for about 100-170 usd.  


Headphones.... you might want to consider portable headphones.... the ones you mentioned are used mostly at home.  they can be certainly brought anywhere but still kind of hard to store away quickly.  And some of the ones you mentioned are pretty hard to drive.... i dont know if you will get a lot out of them with a portable amp.  K701 are pretty hard to drive, so are senns....and the 250ohm Beyers.... maybe look at the 32ohm?  if you want those though...you'll need one of the more powerful portables amps. 


also you put down a lot of open headphones....so people will be able to hear what your listening too. be wary of that if you want discreet listening.


UHA4...i loved it, clean, neutral, pretty dead black background....kind of an odd shape and will be wider than your ipod and shorter.... advantage that it does have a dac.  so if you have a smart phone you might be able to use it as a usb dac and amp.  The newer samsung phones support it, but you'd have to check.  and if you did have a smart phone that support usb audio via an otg cable...then you can save money buy not buying the ipod.  just a suggestion.  it's pretty powerful but when i had it, it could drive my hd580's decently well but not full potential well.


UHA6 mk2... never tried it but im sure its more powerful than the uha4.  saw a used one in the for sale trade forum here...might save some money there too.


Pico slim... great amp.... pretty powerful from what i remember....never owned it but it was usually compared to the rsa shadow which i do own.  it was a general consensus that it was more powerful than the shadow.  the shadow could drive the hd580's about the same if not a little better than the uha4.  so the slim would drive the cans a little better than the uha4...from my logic.


from what i know....alo portable amps where usually as reguarded as one of the if not the most powerful portable amps.  i had the original alo rx and it drove full size cans pretty damn well. might look into those.


c421...never tried but if its around the same as a uha4... might not be the strongest amp.


but consider portable headphones if you're going to be going around a lot... maybe hd-25, good things have been said about over achieving jvc s500.


but for me.... i would recommend customs, a good fit is key...comfortable great isolation...good sound.  also with those you wont need that strong of any amp to drive them to full potential.  uha4 would have more than enough power.  heard some decent things about the e12....maybe even the c&c bh which is tiny but a good sounding amp from what i read and is my next portable amp to purchase.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Wow, after so long a ton of comments come rushing in.


For everyone's information, I got the HP-P1 in the end. I absolutely love the sound it produces.

I also got some HD 800s and am setting up a desktop setup.


@TekeRugburn - JDS Labs appear to have discontinued the C421 and moved on with the C5.


I also managed to take a listen to Justin's [JustAudio] amps. and they are VERY good.


In the end it became an Amperior setup with my HP-P1; but I also got an E17 for when I can't carry my HP-P1. I'm intending to turn that [HP-P1] into a 'long-commute' rig. (as many members of my family live far away or overseas) with some comfortable, closed over-ears. Possibly a T5p, Sig Pro, or whatever else.


I would get my TF10s re-shelled, but it's not as cheap over here. Unique Melody are in the UK now, but it's not nearly as affordable to get CIEMs or have a re-shelling service from them, as it is from 1964 Ears. At the current time I'm saving up for a Mytek Digital Stereo192 DSD (and 32/192 PCM) Mastering ver. DAC and a Violectric V200.


Thanks for the incredibly detailed response, though. It's much appreciated to see that. redface.gif


- Alistair (a.k.a. Kizatsu)

post #13 of 14
If you want more thorough answers I would advise keeping the OP short and sweet. Not everyone has time to read such a big wall of information
post #14 of 14
If you willing to go deep, I suggest you should go for the Alo mark III-B amp and coupled together with Cypher Labs -db or the -R DAC. Both -db and -R are made for iphones and ipods. Listening to music alone on the MKIII-B is very good. It has fantastic sound stage and sepetation. Add the -db DAC and you'll have the most formidable stack which no other setups can beat!!
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