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Choosing My First DAC

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hey guys.  After some thinking, I'm thinking of asking to get an external USB DAC for my computer system (I have active speakers, and I'd like a port for headphones), and other than waiting on an amp (with my gear, I likely can), I have no idea as to what to get.  From what my amateurish sleuthing is telling me, some of my best options include the Schiit Loki (the Bitfrost is too much), the ODAC, CMOY, and the Maverick Audio TubeEngine D1 Plus/D2.  Would someone have any recommendations outside of this list sub ~$300, and if not, which would you recommend the most in terms of both price-performance ratio and pure performance?  I would be talking amp/DAC, too, but I'm not sure how viable the DAC would be in an isolated system.

 

Oh yeah, and I'd be fine with upgarding op-amps and tubes, as long as we don't have to get into soldering, which I have no clue how to do.

post #2 of 15

The Schiit Loki is a DSD only DAC and would not recommend it, the ODAC is highly regarded as well as the Maverick D1 you mentioned, the Cmoy is an amp only, no DAC and I would recommend the Schiit Modi if the Bifrost is too much for you


Edited by TheJosablo - 11/17/13 at 9:51am
post #3 of 15

Just get a ODAC and be done with it, very few DACs are objectively better than it.

post #4 of 15

If you want raw and transparent audio then go with the ODAC but make sure to go with JDSLabs since they have the best customer service!

post #5 of 15

i fought a similar battle recently, eventually i won but there was much in between there. my initial intent was a cheap starter DAC for less than £100 (around $160) after much much research i narrowed it down to 4 options:

 

1. hifimediy dac: eliminated as i feared it may not be great quality and long shipping, im impatient

2. O-DAC: not eliminated but there was nowhere i could hear one so i never tried it, i hear good things though as you see above

3. Schiit Modi: looks great and uses a high end chip, sadly though i couldnt hear it but i did come very very close to buying it

4. Cambridge Audio Dacmagic XS: small and well built and i thought it may work with my phone (it didnt)

 

i bought the dacmagic in the end, mainly because my impatience kicked in and i got what i could get locally, but i wasnt happy with it so i returned it and paid up the extra to get a HRT microstreamer which is excellent in every way, if you dont need masses of outputs or inputs (it has only usb input and a line level out and headphone out in 3.5 jack) then it is definitely worthy of consideration

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

From what I hear of the ODAC, though, it ends up being outperformed by both the Modi and the Maverick Tubemagic D2, so that really isn't helping me.  Besides, if anything, I need warm, as I may be hallucinating or not, but I'm pretty sure the sattelites on my 2.1 are going tinny.

post #7 of 15

Odac for detail.  Audioquest dragonfly for warmth.  Both are the biggest bang for your buck. Schiit modi is also good but I wouldn't reccomend it unless your also getting the schiit magni amp to go with it.

post #8 of 15

The best buy for 300$ is NFB-11.32. It features a Sabre 9018 chip, which is usually used in ~1000$ DACs.

http://audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1132/NFB11.32EN.htm

 

It also has a great built-in amp, no need for another one.

The amp can be used with the internal DAC though, can't be used as a standalone amp.

post #9 of 15

I actually have to change my answer to BenF.  The dac's I mentioned use a lower level chip compared to what BenF recommended.

post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenF View Post
 

The best buy for 300$ is NFB-11.32. It features a Sabre 9018 chip, which is usually used in ~1000$ DACs.

http://audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1132/NFB11.32EN.htm

 

It also has a great built-in amp, no need for another one.

The amp can be used with the internal DAC though, can't be used as a standalone amp.

 

...You officially now have my interest.  I might decide to shoot some questions to you at some point soon, since I'm kinda still near a noob, but I'm leaning towards these now, especially because you have both DAC and DAC/amp modes.  I'd probably cheer the specs, too, but I don't know audio specs nearly as well as I do computer specs.

post #11 of 15

Don't care about the chips , but how well it's implented => how well it measure :o

post #12 of 15

An overlooked DAC/headphone combo is the AudioTrak Dr Dac 2 DX.  It has preamp outs which is something you would appreciate with your powered speakers.  It's well made, has good internals, and has great sound for the money.  It's also easy to change the sound with opamp rolling.

 

It's been BY FAR my favorite budget DAC/headphone combo.

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by fishyee View Post
 

An overlooked DAC/headphone combo is the AudioTrak Dr Dac 2 DX.  It has preamp outs which is something you would appreciate with your powered speakers.  It's well made, has good internals, and has great sound for the money.  It's also easy to change the sound with opamp rolling.

 

It's been BY FAR my favorite budget DAC/headphone combo.

 

It's 500$.

post #14 of 15

$500?  I got mine for $350 back then.  The new editions have muse opamps, which are $10 each.  Perhaps a used one and 5 muse opamps would be the smarter, cheaper route.

 

My point is it should be on your short list to audition.  If you want, I can let you try mine.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenF View Post
 

The best buy for 300$ is NFB-11.32. It features a Sabre 9018 chip, which is usually used in ~1000$ DACs.

http://audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1132/NFB11.32EN.htm

 

It also has a great built-in amp, no need for another one.

The amp can be used with the internal DAC though, can't be used as a standalone amp.

+1 on the NFB11.32.  This has been my main dac-amp over the last 6 months and it's been amazing.  Great 32bit 384 khz dac, and very powerful amp portion that can beautifully drive my IEMS and HD650s without any hum.  Very versatile!

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