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Seeking advice: I have headphones, but what now? Amp? DAC?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I apologize if this is in the wrong forum, but my topic seems to span headphones, amps, and DACs. Likewise, I do not know of any don't-start-your-own-thread-ask-for-suggestions-here thread for amps or DACs. Suffice to say, I flipped a three-sided coin, and it landed on "Portable Source Gear". Thus, here I am.

 

I recently purchased two new (used) headphones (the ATH-M50 and SR80), and I intend to eventually own another (the K550). But what now? I know that all of these work fine without an amp, but would the purchase be worthwhile? Likewise, would I notice the addition of a DAC?

 

I listen directly out of iTunes on my MacBook Pro while at home, or out of my iPhone 4 on the bus. Thus, something fully portable (i.e. I-can-strap-it-to-my-iPhone) might be preferred, but I also obviously want to be able to use it with my laptop. Or I could be completely wrong and should just buy something for desktop use, in which case you should tell me.

 

Let's say my budget is under $200. With heavy emphasis on "under".

 

Thanks much for the help.

post #2 of 10

I think the O2 and ODAC are good places to start.

 

The O2 is portable but may be a little large, Meier's portable amps are good too and are on sale right now, maybe a PC Step?

 

ODAC would be good to pick up as it is a great DAC and would serve you well in the long run should you upgrade amplifiers (although the ODAC would only be used with your Macbook)

 

Buy used to keep costs down, that way you can resell if you don't like stuff and not lose any money :)

post #3 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowox8 View Post

I apologize if this is in the wrong forum, but my topic seems to span headphones, amps, and DACs. Likewise, I do not know of any don't-start-your-own-thread-ask-for-suggestions-here thread for amps or DACs. Suffice to say, I flipped a three-sided coin, and it landed on "Portable Source Gear". Thus, here I am.

 

I recently purchased two new (used) headphones (the ATH-M50 and SR80), and I intend to eventually own another (the K550). But what now? I know that all of these work fine without an amp, but would the purchase be worthwhile? Likewise, would I notice the addition of a DAC?

 

I listen directly out of iTunes on my MacBook Pro while at home, or out of my iPhone 4 on the bus. Thus, something fully portable (i.e. I-can-strap-it-to-my-iPhone) might be preferred, but I also obviously want to be able to use it with my laptop. Or I could be completely wrong and should just buy something for desktop use, in which case you should tell me.

 

Let's say my budget is under $200. With heavy emphasis on "under".

 

Thanks much for the help.

I'd go with a PCSTEP. They're currently on sale and Jan makes great amps. Just buy a LOD for your iPhone. 

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the comments, you two.

 

I have heard good things about the O2 / ODAC. I might throw away portability and buy the combo strictly for desktop use. Thoughts on that (as opposed to buying each piece separately)? I ask because, as I understand it, my headphones don't need an amp, but an amp is required if I intend to use a DAC. So, yes, purchased separately, I could use the O2 as a portable amp, but the ODAC would still not be portable. So, say for the M50, why bother with an amp if I'm not using a DAC, too? Is that train of thought going in the right direction, or am I horribly off?

 

A few additional questions for the purposes of my education (because knowing is half the battle):

 

The output from a LOD is the same as from the DAP's headphone jack except that it bypasses the DAP's volume settings, correct? Likewise, both of these outputs are analog because they have already gone through the DAP's internal DAC, and thus are strictly for an amp, yes? So I assume there would be a different connector if I (hypothetically) wanted to connect my iPhone to a DAC?

 

tl;dr: Is there a general introduction to amps and DACs somewhere on this site? Because I never found one that wasn't geared toward someone's individual circumstances. I need the "for dummies" version.

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowox8 View Post

Thanks for the comments, you two.

I have heard good things about the O2 / ODAC. I might throw away portability and buy the combo strictly for desktop use. Thoughts on that (as opposed to buying each piece separately)? I ask because, as I understand it, my headphones don't need an amp, but an amp is required if I intend to use a DAC. So, yes, purchased separately, I could use the O2 as a portable amp, but the ODAC would still not be portable. So, say for the M50, why bother with an amp if I'm not using a DAC, too? Is that train of thought going in the right direction, or am I horribly off?

A few additional questions for the purposes of my education (because knowing is half the battle):

The output from a LOD is the same as from the DAP's headphone jack except that it bypasses the DAP's volume settings, correct? Likewise, both of these outputs are analog because they have already gone through the DAP's internal DAC, and thus are strictly for an amp, yes? So I assume there would be a different connector if I (hypothetically) wanted to connect my iPhone to a DAC?

tl;dr: Is there a general introduction to amps and DACs somewhere on this site? Because I never found one that wasn't geared toward someone's individual circumstances. I need the "for dummies" version.

The signal from a LOD is analog and is not amplified. You can bypass an ipod dac with certain devices like the Fostex HP-P1.

If you get the odac an o2 in one unit it won't be portable cos it won't have the lithium battery inside. That's the advantage of having two seperate units. Honestly, if I were you I would buy a pcstep now while they're on sale. That way you can get a LOD and use it with an idevice and also use its dac features with a pc. The o2 is a very good amp but isn't really portable due to its size.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dryvadeum View Post


The signal from a LOD is analog and is not amplified. You can bypass an ipod dac with certain devices like the Fostex HP-P1.

If you get the odac an o2 in one unit it won't be portable cos it won't have the lithium battery inside. That's the advantage of having two seperate units. Honestly, if I were you I would buy a pcstep now while they're on sale. That way you can get a LOD and use it with an idevice and also use its dac features with a pc. The o2 is a very good amp but isn't really portable due to its size.

 

I looked up the Fostex HP-P1; it is very cool, but very expensive. Further research suggests that getting pure digital output from an iDevice is very, very hard (on account of encryption), hence any portable DAC compatible with my iPhone will be expensive, yes?

 

Assuming yes, I am willing to entirely ditch portability. As I said before, my headphones are low impedance, so having just a portable amp, I imagine, wouldn't do much for me. Instead, I'd rather have an amp coupled with a DAC for laptop use since, im my case, the DAC seems more important (again, because my headphones are easily driven without an amp).

 

Does this sound reasonable? Am I wrong or misled on any count?

 

P.S.: Are there DAPs with USB digital out that would make using a portable DAC easy? The FiiO X3 has coaxial out, but no USB out (and my understanding is that coaxial and optical are crude in comparison to USB).

post #7 of 10

There's always the iBasso D-Zero or Fiio E17 which let you amp your iPhone through a LOD and then also be used via USB to your PC as a DAC/Amp

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesterphile View Post

There's always the iBasso D-Zero or Fiio E17 which let you amp your iPhone through a LOD and then also be used via USB to your PC as a DAC/Amp

I think a pcstep would eat both of those for breakfast wink.gif
post #9 of 10
For more money smily_headphones1.gif I do agree the PC Step looks like a better choice though
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks once more for your comments and suggestions. I won't be buying anything right away, but this has been helpful; I think I have a better understanding of what I should be looking for and how these components function in a general technical sense.

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