Originally Posted by xenithon
I have an Heir 8A on order, and needed have recently sold my SACD player so am looking for a DAC for use with all my FLAC files. This seems to be a great option hence considering it; the only question I would have is if you would think it would be fine using the Explorer as both a USB DAC and an amp for the 8A, or to get the Explorer as a DAC and use it with a dedicated amp like the Heir Rendition 1?
I'm sure the Explorer would do a servicable job of amplifying your 8.A. Given the level of your investment in the 8.A, you could also justify external amplification that's superior to what's in Explorer. But if you just add another portable amp, you have to wonder how much of an improvement you're going to get while making a redundant investment, and you'll be carrying around two amps, degrading the portability of your rig. If you were talking about a higher performance, non-portable desktop amp, that might make a more distinct and worthwhile performance improvement. Not to disparage the Rendition 1 in any way. And if you really wanted a supremely simple and portable USB DAC/amp sans 192 kHz capability, the Dragonfly is still a great choice.
I use Explorer primarily as a DAC in a desktop rig, feeding Asgard 2 amp, driving desktop speakers and HD-650. For me, Explorer's on-board amp is a "nice to have" for the rare occasion I do some serious mobile listening (otherwise I rely on RE-400 and my iPhone for mobile, casual listening). In one sense, Explorer is just the best $300 DAC I could find. But DACs in this price range are hard to find without integrated amps, which kind of sets up your question. I guess my answer is that I think Explorer suits your IEMs, but you could justify better, but make sure you are indeed getting a substantially better amp if you go that route. Put another way, I'm not sure it makes much sense to go with separate DAC and amp for a truly mobile application, especially when the DAC already has an amp.