Long story short, things I'd like to have:
- Near-zero output impedance and enough power to run most full-size headphones, ie. compatible
- Low distortion, flat frequency response, low noise floor, no potentiometer rustling. ie. transparent
- Separate volume adjustment for headphone output and pre-amplifier
- Maybe more than one input?
- Balanced pre-amplified outputs for active monitors, or some method of decoupling inputs and outputs as to not cause switching computer PSU's or component interference to get to the monitors. According to my experience balanced interconnects are the best at it, even though the differential amplification adds a bit of a noise floor in the indistinguishable under -100dB range
The DAC I want is the ODAC, as per excellent performance and no-nonsense approach, I'd very much like to support labs offering such a product. However, if it turns out there is no separate headphone amplifier of this quality for a reasonable price (under 500€), I might consider the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus as it performs on an excellent level comparable to the ODAC, and has a built-in balanced pre-amp and headphone amplifier. It has a relatively bad 55 ohm headphone output and amplifier though, so it neither might be the Holy Grail I'm looking for, so as for now keep the recommendations to separate analog pre-amp/amplifiers as my intention is to still go with ODAC.
So, open to suggestions! As far as genre preferences etc. go, they don't matter as I don't believe in synergy, my choice of gear will be perfectly synergetic with all kinds of waveforms in the audible range ;) I generally listen to chill, down-tempo, ambient, instrumentals, trance, house, electronica, breakbeat, progressive metal. If it has melody or meaningful lyrics, I very likely enjoy it.
Oh and of course, if it's some obscure brand nobody else has ever heard of, that's a plus.
Edited by sandslash - 2/24/13 at 5:55am