Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Best $300 (or less) USB DAC/AMP combo for music production?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Best $300 (or less) USB DAC/AMP combo for music production?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Does anyone here use a dedicated DAC/AMP combo for production?
 
I don't do a lot of recording, if any at all, so I'm looking for a good USB DAC/AMP combo to use with my headphones (currently AKG K702s and Beats by Dre Studio, both hopefully to be replaced by AKG K550s which should be arriving later this week)
 
the thing is that I know DAWs can be temperamental with certain drivers, specially on PC which I'm switching to as soon as I get enough money together to put a decent build together
 
I am currently using Live but will be considering switching to Cubase once I make the switch to PC
 
the DACs I'm currently looking at are anywhere between $100 to $300
 
iFi-Micro iDac ($300)
NuForce uDAC-2 ($100 to $250)
NuForce Icon-2 ($300)
Meridan Explorer ($300)
AudioQuest DragonFly DAC ($250)
FiiO E10 ($75)
FiiO E17 ($140)
Audioengine D1 ($170)
 
anyone with any experience with any of these and production? if not then, which is the best for the money?
 
ps. I'm trying to stay at around $200 but I can stretch to $300 if it's really worth it
 
pps. I'm mostly leaning towards either the AudioQuest or the NuForce, my dad's an audiophiles and we've had great experiences with both companies

Edited by ohmicide - 6/12/13 at 8:35pm
post #2 of 31

I think the JDS Labs O2+ODAC is the best measuring and sounding that I have heard in that price range.

 

http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=48&gclid=CMGFxOzd4bcCFSFyQgodRRMA5Q

 

Here are the measurements;

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/121105_blog_update_FirstAmpTests.pdf

 

It is hard to defeat an amp/DAC combo that has been measured several times and always outperforms amps at twice or even five times its price.

post #3 of 31
+1 on the O2/ODAC. I love mine biggrin.gif

While I have not heard them, you might also research the Schiit Modi/Magni stack. People that have compared them with the O2/ODAC tend to describe them as comparable.
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post

I think the JDS Labs O2+ODAC is the best measuring and sounding that I have heard in that price range.

 

http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=48&gclid=CMGFxOzd4bcCFSFyQgodRRMA5Q

 

Here are the measurements;

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/121105_blog_update_FirstAmpTests.pdf

 

It is hard to defeat an amp/DAC combo that has been measured several times and always outperforms amps at twice or even five times its price.

looks good, have had a couple recommendations over at Gearslutz but one claims that it's unstable with Live

 

I'm surprised no one uses these for production if they really are as good as everyone says, perhaps the lack on informations on compatibility with productions software and low latency

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

+1 on the O2/ODAC. I love mine biggrin.gif

While I have not heard them, you might also research the Schiit Modi/Magni stack. People that have compared them with the O2/ODAC tend to describe them as comparable.

 

I need something more portable than the modi magni stack

post #5 of 31

OK forgive me if I have got this confused but there is simply ZERO reason for buying a ADC unit and a DAC unit.  The items above only do DAC conversion.  If you want to record anything at all then you will need to buy an audio interface, which does conversion in both ways, ie you record with a mic and its sent into your PC as data.  A DAC unit will only do the opposite, so you would need to find a different recording method, unless you are happy with USB mic (which are not up to scratch IMO) or are using only USB MIDI devices.

 

You talk about DAW's having issues with driver compatibility, but I think that is very much a thing of the past as I have certainly had no issues myself and have used both Cubase and Livelite and all of the interfaces I have tried have been pretty simple to set up, relatively plug and play.

 

The entry level audio interfaces will give you more than enough quality for home recording and playback, and simply put the upgrade in dedicated audio DAC units is usually not as huge as people will lead you to believe.  If I were you I would look into products from focusrite or roland but there are many more choices out there at a range of budgets.  

 

Do you research and you will get great value for money and far more flexibilty than a budget DAC will offer.

post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 

I don't need an entry level recording/playback interface, I need the best portable USB DAC/AMP that I can afford

 

and the DAW issues were mentioned by an ODAC and Live user, but I also have issues with my ONE sometimes so it could be just Live being ****ty

 

I do have problem with my ONE's software though, Maestro causes Live and Chrome to crash when plugging it into my MBP, their support has confirmed the bug but still hasn't released another update in more than a year

 

this plus their ****ty new warranty policies has completely turned me against buying any more Apogee products

 

I'm also thinking of switching back to PC so that pretty much completely rules out Apogee

 

sucks because the ONE is exactly what I need, I've also owned an original Duet and a Duet 2, the latter having tons of software and hardware issues but noticeable better DA and headphone AMP than the ONE and original Duet

 

it has horrible build quality too, I've had mine replace twice under warranty already

 

the ONE 2 actually has the same DAC and AMP than the Duet 2 and is made out of metal, but there's no way I'm buying another Apogee product after all the issues I've had with them and their products

post #7 of 31

How/what are you recording?  Without an audio interface you are limited to USB and onboard conversion? Also a simple $200 interface will offer just as good playback as any of the items you listed in your original post.  I also own a Fiio E7/E9 that i bought for my laptop a year or so ago and find my roland quad capture has far better sound quality, plus it has mic preamps and multiple I/O's

 

Also you asked for advice, and that's what I gave you. People are recommending you a simple audiophile DAC, which is far from ideal if you are producing music, which is what you implied.  If you are using a DAW to make music you want a flat frequency response from your output, and a audiophile DAC wont give you that in my experience.  Your AKG 702's are pretty good for giving you an idea of what you are producing however you will likely want a set of monitor speakers as some point as a comparison. 

 

You need to decide if you are making music or listening to it, as there are different parameters for what you need.  Audiophile gear will impart a sound signature, but when you want to produce you dont want that at all, as you want to make music that sounds as good as possible accross a broad selection of equipment.  I make and listen to music, I am no expert producer.  But how i listen and how I produce are two different types of equipment.  

 

If you really want to make your own music there is a wealth of information here http://homerecording.com/bbs/general-discussions/newbies/

 

If you want to listen to music then buy an ODAC.

 

One more thing, if you want an audio interface to run hard to drive phones then you need to look beyond USB powered devices in my experience as they can struggle.

 

I am honestly trying to answer you to the best of my knowledge.


Edited by Tablix - 7/10/13 at 1:25pm
post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post

[...]

Also you asked for advice, and that's what I gave you. People are recommending you a simple audiophile DAC, which is far from ideal if you are producing music, which is what you implied.  If you are using a DAW to make music you want a flat frequency response from your output, and a audiophile DAC wont give you that in my experience.  Your AKG 702's are pretty good for giving you an idea of what you are producing however you will likely want a set of monitor speakers as some point as a comparison. 

 

You need to decide if you are making music or listening to it, as there are different parameters for what you need.  Audiophile gear will impart a sound signature, but when you want to produce you dont want that at all, as you want to make music that sounds as good as possible accross a broad selection of equipment.  I make and listen to music, I am no expert producer.  But how i listen and how I produce are two different types of equipment.  

[...]

+1... A Roland Tri or Quad, or a FocusRite would be an affordable solution that actually does what a producer needs. Studios use recording equipment, not audiophile equipment. Right tools go a long way.

post #9 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post

How/what are you recording? 

 

I'm not recording. I will only need a recording interface on rare occasions, so I'll eventually be getting a decent interface that doesn't need to be portable like the DAC/AMP I'm looking for.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post

If you really want to make your own music there is a wealth of information here http://homerecording.com/bbs/general-discussions/newbies/

 

I'm not a newbie, I've been producing for more than 6 years. I'm a professional electronic music producer and all I need is a good portable DAC for production on my laptop.

 

All I need is a good portable USB DAC/AMP combo with enough juice for my AKG K550s that won't give problems with Live 8 or Cubase 7 after I switch to PC.


Edited by ohmicide - 7/10/13 at 8:50pm
post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohmicide View Post

 

I'm not recording. I will only need a recording interface on rare occasions, so I'll eventually be getting a decent interface that doesn't need to be portable like the DAC/AMP I'm looking for.

 

 

I'm not a newbie, I've been producing for more than 6 years. I'm a professional electronic music producer and all I need is a good portable DAC for production on my laptop.

 

All I need is a good portable USB DAC/AMP combo with enough juice for my AKG K550s that won't give problems with Live 8 or Cubase 7 after I switch to PC.

 

I would consider most midrange recording interfaces such as the ones mentioned above to be fairly portable. Why not simplify things by just getting one device which does everything fairly well? Driver compatibility is also less likely to be an issue with a proper recording interface, and you'd get lower latency too. 

post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by fraseyboy View Post

 

I would consider most midrange recording interfaces such as the ones mentioned above to be fairly portable. Why not simplify things by just getting one device which does everything fairly well? Driver compatibility is also less likely to be an issue with a proper recording interface, and you'd get lower latency too. 

 

I've gone through many of those in the past but never found anything quite as good at the Apogee interfaces

 

There's really nothing on the market, other than the Apogee ONE, that would really make sense for me to use more than a portable USB DAC/AMP and a cheap recording interface

 

I need the best quality DA and AMP for my headphones and a single channel of AD with a decent mic pre and DI

 

most companies try to put the most features they can in their mid priced interfaces, like 8 ins and 6 outs with MIDI, 4 mic pres, two headphone amps coax, daisy chain support, etc.

 

all that means to me is that I'm paying $500 to use 1/5 of an interface

 

there's also no good reason for me to be dragging a "fairly portable" interface because of added features I will not be using, I'm not even going to be recording on the go

 

I need the best quality DA and headphone amp combo I can afford, the O2+ODAC box seems to be what exactly I'm looking for, I just need someone to confirm that it works well with music production software on Mac and PC

post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 

this is the closest thing there is to an Apogee ONE

 

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/motu-microbook-ii-audio-interface

 

for $250 you get 4 inputs and 6 outputs, this means I'd be using 1/6th of the interface and wasting around $200 and not getting the DA and headphone amp quality I need

 

then there's this

 

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/rme-babyface-silver-edition

 

this has the quality and stability I need, but it's $700 and has more than double what I need (2 inputs, 4 outputs, MIDI, 8 I/O ADAT/SPDIF, etc.)

 

this is my issue with recording interfaces

 
if there was something like the Babyface with half the features for $350, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat
post #13 of 31

If you are certain you do not want any inputs at this point in time then you might want to look at the Native Instruments Audio 2.

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/dj-audio-interfaces/traktor-audio-2/

 

I have for use on the road with an ultrabook running Ableton and Traktor. Clean and powerful sound. It has two separate stereo outputs which can be similar or different depending on what you want at the time.  Pretty good value @ ~$100 plus a 'free' copy of Traktor.

 

If you do need ins just in case probably the most cost effective solution atm is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

 

http://us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4

 

Considerably more expensive @ ~$200+ but you do still get 2 stereo outs and a lot extra including a great suite of plug ins.

 

ed: correction :(


Edited by RonaldDumsfeld - 7/12/13 at 9:39am
post #14 of 31

Can't go wrong with either AQ or NF, but portability wise the DragonFly is hard to beat.

post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post

 

If you do need ins just in case probably the most cost effective solution atm is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

 

http://us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4

 

Considerably more expensive @ ~$200+ but you do still get 2 stereo outs and a lot extra including a great suite of plug ins.

 

 

Or the 2i2 which can be had under $150. One or the other seems a bit of a no-brainer. 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Best $300 (or less) USB DAC/AMP combo for music production?