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Small Amp/DAC for HD800

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I'm looking for a small-footprint "transportable" Amp/usb-DAC unit that will pair will with HD800s. Budget can extend, but I would love to keep it under the $1000 mark. Currently I am looking at:

  • Woo WA7: Tube amp, very beautiful with a 32/192 - $900 (a little on the pricey side)
  • ALO Pan Am: Tube amp with a nice 24/96 - $600 (good price but will probably need the handy and expensive "passport" battery)
  • Schiit Magni amp + Modi DAC: SS amp and USB DAC  - $200 (ridiculous price, DAC seems decent but amp may be the weak point in terms of synergy; could not find reviews)
  • Burson HA-160DS: Solid choice; SS amp may be harsh according to reviews?  - $900 (At expensive side of its territory, synergy questionable)


I am open to all other suggestions. It doesn't have to be a combined amp/DAC unit if both units are small enough in a stack (like the Schiits)


Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 11



It is difficult to work out what you mean by "transportable".


If I were going to spend $1000 on a brand new DAC and amplifier I think I would save a little, up to $1235 in fact, and get the Classic amplifier and Daccord DAC by Meier Audio.


If you go here:




Click on "Phones & Amps" and then scroll down, you will see.


Meier Audio do a more petite amp for $385 called the Jazz. This looks rather neat and transportable.


However the Classic and Daccord are just two boxes really, fairly easy to transport, if you were moving them occasionally.


These have an excellent crossfeed which I now see as being of great benefit to listening to music with headphones.


I do not have the Classic and Daccord myself but I do have the predecessor to the Daccord, the Meier Audio StageDAC which is excellent. I also use a portable amp by Meier audio which is also excellent.



post #3 of 11

The 160Ds is basically a HA-160D without the preamp function, if you find reviews the 160D is well known everywhere. 


Have you considered the soloist + a small dac like an HRT streamer? in case you plan to upgrade to hard to drive headphones in the future. 

post #4 of 11

For that amount, you can also consider Violectric or Benchmark, if you want something neutral.

post #5 of 11

Further to my post about the Meier Audio Classic and Daccord there is a lengthy thread about the Classic here:




At the end I noticed a very happy HD 800 owner. However I only looked briefly. It might be worth having a look through that thread.

post #6 of 11

Anything from Eddie Current is good I hear!

post #7 of 11

woo amps in general pair well with the high end sennheisers. Even the WA3 i hear pairs well with it. Other than that, the Bottlehead crack (speedball upgrade)+ dac of your choice would make the HD800 sing on a sub 600 dollar budget. ( assuming you bought a budget dac )

post #8 of 11
I'm looking for a small-footprint "transportable" Amp/usb-DAC unit that will pair will with HD800s. Budget can extend, but I would love to keep it under the $1000 mark. Currently I am looking at:
  • ALO Pan Am: Tube amp with a nice 24/96 - $600 (good price but will probably need the handy and expensive "passport" battery)
  • Hi I have a power gorilla battery power pack that I use with a 2.00 adapter tip I found on ebay. The HD800 is extremely loud at the tiniest turn of the volume control. It sounds great, the USB DAC is plug and play works well and gives a great sound. I prefer the stock tubes to the other ones that came as extras with mine (I bought it second hand on EBay). I can't comment on any of the rest as I haven't used them. I also have a Dacmagic Plus which will run off a dc power pack too and I have an adapter tip coming from Hong Kong to do just that. My feeling is that the DacMagic Plus is superior to the PanAm but I will have to qualify that with a proper side by side evaluation. I will go about doing that and report back forthwith. There are major differences between the 2 in terms of features offered- the Panam is 1 wolfson Dac the DM plus is 2 wolfson Dacs. There are 2 analogue outputs including balanced on the DM Plus as well as 1 headphone output. There are no analogue outs on the PanAm and of the 2 headphone outputs only 1 will work at a time. There is only 1 digital input into the panam and there are 4 digital inputs and even a digital output for the DM Plus. The DM Plus is much bigger than the PanAm if that's an issue. Again, if we're talking which one sounds better through the headphone output of the Dac/Amp I shall have a listen through my HD800s and get back to you. I listen to the PanAm through the headphone out having tried using the minijack out into my Graham Slee Novo headphone out but am happy enough that's not gaining me anything over the PanAm.
post #9 of 11

Violectric V100 with built in DAC.  The engineer who voiced the HD800s used the V100 and keeps it in his personal collection.

Edited by hodgjy - 6/26/13 at 4:11pm
post #10 of 11
Pan Am sounded great dm plus sounded great. Maybe a bit more bass with the pan am maybe a bit more clarity with the dm plus. These are minor differences that took lots of listening to pick up on. It was subjective listening under normal listrning rather than blind testing.
The HD800'S will have lots and lots of volume to spare with the PanA if you eventually decide to get it.
I've got tons of kit and have been through tons of kit and am happy with mine as a dac headphone amp.
There you go
post #11 of 11
A more objective approach yesterday under blind listening conditions left me with little to conclude over the differences between my 2 dac amps . I tried listening to 3 tracks before switching 1 track before switching and a 20 second track before switching. I wasn't able to tell which was which and what I preferred reliably and neither was my girlfriend.
In short , this makes the PanAm look like quite a product for the hd800. It's powerful and portable and sounds great.
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