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Usb dac/amp, xonar essence one alternative

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi there,

I've been quietly reading along the last few years - now I feel kinda stuck with my decision and hope you can help me out.

I've been looking to upgrade my asus xonar xense to an external dac and I feel about as overwhelmed as I am underwhelmed by the extend and limitation of choices.
Budget first: I am willing to spend up to 400 euros, please consider that I am living in the eu and have to pay tax/toll upon arrival of an imported device, which means the limit for imported goods is $400, too.
20 bucks more wont kill me, but I honestly dont wanna spend much more than that.

Equipment-wise the dac/amp will drive the bluesky exo2 speaker system, which I am currently not planing on upgrading. As for headphones, theres the crossfade m-100 and the fidelio x1.
I dont plan on using my in-ears often (westone um3x and probably sd-3 in the near future) but it would be nice if the device were to drive those acceptably. Same for headphones that are harder to drive than the x1/m100, doesnt have to be perfect, but acceptable would be nice.


So, to the dac/amp.

Im looking for cheaper or better alternatives of the essence one.
- usb and rca are required (obviously)
- volume knob, no buttons please.
- no bright leds or displays up front, dim or small ones are ok
- xlr out would be nice
- neutral or relaxed and a liiiittle bit bright sound signature, no recessed or too boosted bass please
- internal psu would be nice, but i can live with external ones


Devices i've considered:

Q-dac (too expensive, too hollow sound)

Fiio e17 + e09k: i would like a bit more details in sound, plus the setup is too simplistic

Maverick d1 seems very nice feature-wise on the outside, but its a tube amp and i honestly do not want to change the tube every two years

Maverick d2 is too simplistic

Little dot dac II seems like a viable option without compromising too much

Asus xonar essence one is perfect feature-wise on the outside, but the leds bother me and i would like to have a little better sound quality, since ive been hearing/reading its not quite the best option in that price range

So, considering the backstory, are there other viable options for my taste that it should take into consideration?
Edited by Thallassa - 12/12/13 at 4:25am

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post #2 of 6
Asus Essence One Standard edition is one of the best DACs in the sub $1000 market despite costing just $600. The amp section is a bonus but competes well with external headphone amp units in the $200-300 mark.

However, since the impedance is 10 ohms, it will work best with headphones of 80 ohms or more. And IEMs are out of the question.

I have no idea what q dac is. But I am 100% certain that sound signature preferences aside none of the above units are even in the same league as the asus essence one. And I am just talking of the amp section, if I include the dac section then you would need to spend another $500-1500 on just a standalone dac to match/beat it. The dac is the main feature of the unit anyway. The amp is okay but worth about $200-300 tops.

Check the headfonia.com and 6moons review. The standard edition dac is better than the v800, conductor dac and fostex a-7 dac. The amp section isn't special but definitely average for a $600 unit.

Thank You
post #3 of 6

Starting at less than half of your budget I'd have a look at these threee popular audio interfaces from well established professional grade manufacturers.

 

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

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/dj-audio-interfaces/traktor-audio-6/specifications/

 

http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/audio-express/summary.html

 

They all do everything you want AND have extra features you don't yet realise you need. i.e. 2 stereo programs out, decent inputs and fantastic bundled software.

 

They are all perfectly clean and transparent. Which is what you want. I don't mean they 'sound' transparent. I mean they are transparent. i.e. you cannot tell by ear alone that they are in your signal chain.

 

The point about very low impedence IEMs still applies to all of them. best with phones 70Ohms and up. What you can do though is get a $25 FiiO E5 with near zero output impedence and add that to the chain. 

post #4 of 6
If I can't tell whether something is there in the chain or not, then I would rather not use it. Not even if I get it for free.

All high end DACs are easily differentiable in the chain and their presence is very easily felt and differs from dac to dac,

Nothing is perfectly transparent. You only have stuff which sounds similar.

I don't care how a device measures, I only care if I like its sound or not. And synergy is critical. And decent DACs far out do cheaper ones in this respect. If you don't know which measures better but are forced to choose by how ones sounds, the better dac is always likely to win.

OP also needs an amp.

There is no killer deal available for less than $600 which far outdoes the essence one in all aspects.

The E1 may not be best for driving IEMs, but a E5 or even E11 will likely be worse still. It is definitely better than junk, just not ideal. And I have owned enough fiio stuff and asus stuff to tell you how they compare.
Edited by yourboss - 12/12/13 at 6:28am
post #5 of 6
And a fiio e11 will be much worse even for easy to drive headphones. I have enough experience with fiio and asus to be reasonably sure of that.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the answers!

 

And sorry for posting this in the wrong area of the forum, I just read the PM you get when you join Head-Fi. Too late, obvisouly.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by yourboss View Post

Asus Essence One Standard edition is one of the best DACs in the sub $1000 market despite costing just $600. The amp section is a bonus but competes well with external headphone amp units in the $200-300 mark.

However, since the impedance is 10 ohms, it will work best with headphones of 80 ohms or more. And IEMs are out of the question.

I have no idea what q dac is. But I am 100% certain that sound signature preferences aside none of the above units are even in the same league as the asus essence one. And I am just talking of the amp section, if I include the dac section then you would need to spend another $500-1500 on just a standalone dac to match/beat it. The dac is the main feature of the unit anyway. The amp is okay but worth about $200-300 tops.

Check the headfonia.com and 6moons review. The standard edition dac is better than the v800, conductor dac and fostex a-7 dac. The amp section isn't special but definitely average for a $600 unit.

Thank You

 

 

Well that sounds different from what I've heard so far, but it isn't the first time there's different opinions about head-gear. I'll definitely give the ASUS a shot, because I can get it relatively cheap, but I wanted to know if there's other considerable options - seems not, at least so far.

 

The Q-Dac is made by Audio Lab and, as far as I know, was released this year. But it sounds kind of timid, while detail depth is good. Not my cup of tea though.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Audiolab-Q-DAC-Digital-Analogue-Converter/dp/B00DZM4GIW

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post
 

Starting at less than half of your budget I'd have a look at these threee popular audio interfaces from well established professional grade manufacturers.

 

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

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/dj-audio-interfaces/traktor-audio-6/specifications/

 

http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/audio-express/summary.html

 

They all do everything you want AND have extra features you don't yet realise you need. i.e. 2 stereo programs out, decent inputs and fantastic bundled software.

 

They are all perfectly clean and transparent. Which is what you want. I don't mean they 'sound' transparent. I mean they are transparent. i.e. you cannot tell by ear alone that they are in your signal chain.

 

The point about very low impedence IEMs still applies to all of them. best with phones 70Ohms and up. What you can do though is get a $25 FiiO E5 with near zero output impedence and add that to the chain. 

 

Thanks, but I've heard the 2i4 already and it's not quite what I'm looking for. As for the others, I don't need these features - I'm just moving away from these features (there's a Pioneer mixer in my audio chain, etc.) and I wanna go from complicated to rather simple and stereo only.


Edited by Thallassa - 12/12/13 at 11:56am
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