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Amp, DAC, Amp +DAC or DAP?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 


Let me start with a disclaimer; I’m a virgin poster, so please be gentle with me. The reason for my post is that I am increasingly dissatisfied with my current portable gear, namely iPod Touch driving a set of Sure 535 IEMs. I started looking at portable headphone amps, but then realized , for about the same money I could get a DAP, which seemed therefore to be a bargain.

All of my music is currently managed by iTunes and, while I enjoy the simplicity this gives me, I would like to improve the SQ.

So, would I be best getting an external amp (or even an amp+DAC), or should I go straight to a DAP? My budget isn’t great, but circa $250 would be ideal.

post #2 of 7

Hiya, welcome to head fi. I assume that your music files are of 320 kbps or lossless quality. You could try to sell the ipod.

You could buy DAP such as, fiio x3.


post #3 of 7
Originally Posted by DeusVidet View Post

The reason for my post is that I am increasingly dissatisfied with my current portable gear, namely iPod Touch driving a set of Sure 535 IEMs.


Before you start getting random suggestions on what other people consider to be better in SQ - how about you try and qualify your initial statement a little better.


What don't you like about your current set-up?  If you can give some reasons for your dissatisfaction, it will help people making recommendations for changes.


BTW - I am an SE535 owner - and have both iPod Touch (4th) and iPhone 4.  I also have what would be considered an audiophile DAP (Studio V3).  So with a little more info - I may be able to give you my POV anyway.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Assume nothing! :-) No, part of my problem is that none of my collection is lossless, but most is 192kbps or 256, so would i notice any difference if I was to load lossy compressed files into a DAP? Would it be better doing this, or using a suitable DAC/amp between iPod and IEM? Or do I need to go to FLAC before it makes a difference?

Edited by DeusVidet - 1/1/14 at 3:34pm
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Great question and POVs are very welcome! I am looking for more stereo width and definition - far less muddiness. The volume I get from the iPod Touch is only just enough to drive the Sures, but run up short with Bose Acoustic Noise Cancellors I also have. I am hoping (beyond reason?) that I can get a step change in quality, but to do so should I look to go down the complete change to HD files and DAP, or would a DAC + Amp be better bang for my bucks (well pounds, actually!)

post #6 of 7

Hmmm - thanks for the replies.  Sheds more light to the situation.


  1. I see you're talking 'pounds' - so am guessing that your Touch might be volume limited (ie EU/UK standards)?  I know with my SE535 and Touch G4 - comfortable listening is at about 1/3 volume.  Half-way would have me removing them from my ears in pain.  The SE535 is low impedance and incredibly efficient (high sensitivity - mine are 36 ohms and 119 dB SPL/mW).
  2. When you talk 'muddy' - and also the low volume - then maybe it is simply a lack of volume - in which case a simple amp may well assist.
  3. IMO - both the iPod Touch G4 and iPhone4 are very good sources.  Very linear.  Good from the headphone-out with efficient IEMs as well.  Be cautious with the anti-Apple baggers.  Double blind testing with some other DAPs (Clip and J3) showed very little difference with all EQ's flat).
  4. As far as your question goes between compressed and lossless files ...... test yourself.  Yes - you'll probably get the majority on here saying there is a "night and day" difference - however most will have never actually tested their own hearing ability.  They simply parrot what I think is one of the great myths / untruths.  For me personally aac256 is audibly transparent compared to lossless.  Anyway - here is the link.  Software is free.  Knowledge is power ;)



As far as options go.

  • Maybe the SE535 is not what you are looking for.  So also consider changing your IEMs.  Can you get to a Meet in your area?  That might be best bet so you can try others.
  • I can't really suggest too many DAPs (as my overall experience is a little limited).  I do consider the Studio V3 to have superior sound to my iPhone4 - my review here (http://www.head-fi.org/products/studio-v-anniversary-edition/reviews/9992).  Caution though - the SQ increase does have caveats (UI).  I've learnt to live with them and would never part with my Studio now.
  • Consider looking at Apps like "Equalizer" - they are very good and allow you to tailor sound to your liking.  Other ones include SonicMax Pro (has BBE like the Cowons) and Accudio Pro (has preset EQs which include one for the SE535).  These may be a cheaper solution in the long run.


Hope some of this helps.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Brooko, Thank you so much, this is great advice and will give me something to work on. Yes, I have UK version of Touch G4 and with the 535s there is plenty of volume. With the Bose, far less so. I also agree about the SQ of the Touch (provided one doesn't go anywhere near useless EQ which robs volume and just muddies the sound). I had been reading the war-stories about the various UIs out there and these had been worrying me. 


PS - Congrats on the All Blacks success in 2013 - Just glad you weren't playing Wales in the Autumn Internationals - we had a tough enough time as it was!

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