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Desktop amp/DAC advice please

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

Being pretty much addicted to music for as long as I can remember, I now have the funds to actually make it sound as it is supposed to be. 

 

I recently started trying out several headphones and building a nice & small collection:

 

It all started with Grado SR125i, which I bought after listening to the SR60s, SR80s, SR325is and GS1000is. They just gave me the best price/performance ratio back then.

Since then I picked up a pair of iGrados for their portability, AD-ATH700s for their immense airy soundstage, Beyerdynamic Custom One Pros for some bass injection and, most recently, the HiFiMAN HE-400 (with pleather & velour pads, standard cable & HE-500 braided cable).

I did my research and am thinking about upgrading the HE-400 cable to a nice Toxic Cable. Contemplating Moon Audio if I can find a distributor in the EU as well.

 

I am also running them off a Fiio E11 at the moment, but I would love to have a setup at home that will give me a couple of things:

 

  • should be able to drive the HE-400 (quite easy) & a possible future upgrade to LCD2/3 or HE-5LE/HE-6
  • preferably tubes for their warmer sound (I like bass, I hate bass leaking into the mids like you get, to the extreme, with the headphones we do not mention by name)
  • distributor in the EU for cost control (customs/taxes are killing the possibility to import directly from the US)

 

So far, I came up with the following candidates, which should present some of the standard choices for most people at this stage:

 

Schiit Bifrost + Lyr:

 

My preferred choice at the moment. I read a bunch of reviews of each of them plus several reviews of the together and I feel confident this will provide quite an impressive sound while not being too hard on my wallet. 

Plus I found a bunch of distributors in the EU. While I will have to pay the USD price in Euros I will still be able to save a lot of cash this way.

 

Schiit Bifrost + Asgard:

 

Initially I found this very appealing. I am now under the impression this would possibly limit my upgrade paths in the future. And it's fully solid state, not preferred.

 

Woo Audio WA-7:

 

Very interesting looking & (apparently) sounding amp. Price could prove to be an issue... importing stuff from the US is insanely expensive as mentioned above. 

 

ALO Audio PanAm:

 

Pretty much the same applies as for the WA-7. On top of that I am not sure if it provides upgradability and the same level of sound quality.

 

Any opinions or other suggestions?

 

Some more information that might/will be requested anyway:

 

Source: MacBook Pro (early 2011)

Budget: max 1,000 Euros Why? I just cannot justify spending 2k or more on a setup at the moment and I do have some pretty expensive trips with my girlfriend lined up later this year.

Cables: stock for now, unless mentioned otherwise

 

Cheers.


Edited by perplekks45 - 4/23/13 at 1:51am
post #2 of 26
Thread Starter 

Well, just saw this:

 

Aune T1:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/633006/aune-t1-usb-tube-dac-amp-discussion-thread-see-first-post-for-faq

 

Seems nice, but apparently not able to drive the LCD2/3. Anyone around who has any more information about it?

Then again, for 200 GBP it would be a cheap start, later on I could always upgrade to something which can drive the LCDs, no?

post #3 of 26

The Aune is a very basic amp/dac, for guys with low to mid end gear. Not suited for cans such as the LCD or the HE-500 and up

 

Sadly, i don't like tubes much (i was a tubes user on the past) i can give you recommendations on SS gear mainly. 

post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks, that's what I thought.
Which SS amp would you recommend? The Asgard 2 seems to come along very nicely from what I have read.
post #5 of 26

At the recent NYC meet I got a chance to try WA7 with several different headphones including my beloved D7000 as well as T1, T90 ans $2000 Fostex cans. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up buying one right away and taking it home at the end of the meet. I did try  LCD3 with it too since they were already connected when i aproached the table and it definitely can drive them while I personally still can't understand what is so special with them but it just my personal preference. Also don't forget that besides using as DAC/Amp in you also can use each part separately which means you can conver yor sound using any other unit with built-in DAC or separate external DAC and than use tube amp only or you connect it to your laptop and than connect different amp to it using RCA cable as I planning to if I upgrade to Kingsound Electrostat headphones /amp combo I heard at the meet.

post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks.It does sound like quite a nice piece of kit, they WA7.

Unfortunately, if nobody can point me to a European distributor I just won't buy it. Including all customs, taxes & shipping this thing will likelyset me back 1500+ USD. Not exactly a bargain, if you ask me.
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45 View Post

Thanks, that's what I thought.
Which SS amp would you recommend? The Asgard 2 seems to come along very nicely from what I have read.

Lake People G109-S

Even better (and with kind of "tubey" sound): Audio gd SA-31

 

Affordable dac with very good USB input from Mac: Audio gd NFB-3.33

 

You can buy all the above inside EU

post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 

So I looked at the Audio-gd stuff and it looks to be quite decent. Not so sure about it, though. Will do some more research but right now I am leaning more and more towards the Schiit gear.

 

Lake People is located in Germany, so I might just pop in and visit them in person. 

 

Cheers, anyway! :)

post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45 View Post

 

 

  • should be able to drive the HE-400 (quite easy) & a possible future upgrade to LCD2/3 or HE-5LE/HE-6
  • preferably tubes for their warmer sound (I like bass, I hate bass leaking into the mids like you get, to the extreme, with the headphones we do not mention by name)
  • distributor in the EU for cost control (customs/taxes are killing the possibility to import directly from the US)

 

 

Burson Soloist SL (based on the Soloist) have a warm sound, accurate bass and i think they have retailers near your city? 

according to specs, it should be capable of driving the headphones you have in mind. 

post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45 View Post

Lake People is located in Germany, so I might just pop in and visit them in person. 

 

I'd do this. Buying locally is often a good idea. They have a stellar reputation here. Their consumer brand is Violectricsmile.gif

post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thecourier View Post

 

Burson Soloist SL (based on the Soloist) have a warm sound, accurate bass and i think they have retailers near your city? 

according to specs, it should be capable of driving the headphones you have in mind. 

Just checked the price for this thing, it's 600 Euros. Which DAC would you recommend for it? The Burson DAC would be another 850, which would push me way over the 1k boarder. The Schiit Bifrost would be 450, close call there. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

 

I'd do this. Buying locally is often a good idea. They have a stellar reputation here. Their consumer brand is Violectricsmile.gif

I checked their Violectric stuff and, while it sounds like really good gear, the prices are just a bit too high for me. Both the 181 and the 200 are 850 Euros. Not much left for a proper DAC after that, unless I am missing something here and their stuff has built-in DAC?


Edited by perplekks45 - 4/23/13 at 1:51am
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45 View Post

Just checked the price for this thing, it's 600 Euros. Which DAC would you recommend for it? The Burson DAC would be another 850, which would push me way over the 1k boarder. The Schiit Bifrost would be 450, close call there. 

 

I checked their Violectric stuff and, while it sounds like really good gear, the prices are just a bit too high for me. Both the 181 and the 200 are 850 Euros. Not much left for a proper DAC after that, unless I am missing something here and their stuff has built-in DAC?

You can add a USB or optical input dac to the Violectric amps for ca. 150 € extra, but I am not sure of its quality

post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by i019791 View Post

You can add a USB or optical input dac to the Violectric amps for ca. 150 € extra, but I am not sure of its quality
That's what I meant...a quality DAC would be quite essential.
post #14 of 26

Burson amps are versatile with dac's. The SL could pair well with the Bifrost, it would be right under your budget. 

post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 

After further input from i019791 and fabio-fi I am now looking at the following possibilities: (NOTE: I would still prefer a tube amp!)

 

  • Lake People G109-S (410 Euros) (LINK) [prices change when you change language due to VAT]
  • Lake People G109-P (459 Euros) (LINK) [prices change when you change language due to VAT]
  • Audio-gd NFB-3.2 (339 Euros) (LINK)
  • Audio-gd NFB-5.32 (369 Euros) (LINK
  • Burson Audio Soloist SL (599 Euros) (LINK)
  • Schiit Bifrost with USB (449 Euros) (LINK)
  • Schiit Lyr (449 Euros) (LINK)

 

Possible DAC are the Audio-gd & the Bifrost. Which combination of those would be the best? Or are there any other combinations I missed?

 

I am still leaning towards the Schiit solution because it would give me my tube amp (tube rolling is more than a gimmick) and I have to admit I do dig the looks. Well, I have to sell this stuff to my girlfriend as well. That's a nice weekend trip to London for two right there. 

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