New member, although I've been a lurker on and off for years whenever I've needed help. So thanks everyone for the consistently helpful and informative posts!
Anyway, to my dilemma.
Macbook air i7
In my living room, I have a old mediocre Pioneer stereo receiver wired to a pair of speakers that I cannibalised off an old stereo system I had as a kid. Impedance for the receiver is 8-16 Ohms, for what it's worth.
The speakers I will be upgrading soon, scouring washington dc craigslist ads every hour.
I listen only to classical music, and I'm a professional violinist. So my ears are reasonably sharp, and from what I understand I want something relatively neutral or warm. I will also be adding a turntable as soon as a friend of mine drives his extra one down. I've recorded digital and analogue, and in general I prefer the sound of a good analogue recording to digital, especially since for strings it tends to make a big difference.
I recently faux-upgraded my laptop with a trial of Audirvana+, which made a big difference immediately. I compared some FLAC files, mostly from some recordings of Mahler 5, switching between itunes and VLC, no comparison. While most of my music files are 256 apple, I'm in the process of building a library of higher quality files, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
What I want is something which will go between my computer and output to my receiver and/or headphones, and do a reasonable job with both. For the time being improving the sound through the receiver is more important, as these headphones/earphones sound pretty decent through Audirvana and the built-in laptop DAC. I've been looking at several different options, and I'd like to find something around or below $100. Note: this gen macbook air unfortunately doesn't have an optical audio out, so a DAC would have to have USB
-This looks like it makes the most sense to me, but how does it compare to the Schiit? Also, is there a potential problem in having files upsampled to 96kHz by audirvana on hardware that I believe only handles 16-bit / 48 kHz?
-looks good, but ultimately would I want to get the magni/modi combo? currently can't afford to get both
also very interesting, but a little out of my price range
Or would the E07K be better?
As you can probably tell i'm not an expert in the audio chain, and I'm not entirely sure what I should focus on getting. Ultimately a headphone amp would be nice, but something which will drive the audio through a pair of decent bookshelf speakers would be even better. It seems clear that no matter how good the laptop DAC is, an external will almost always improve the process, but for $100 would I be better off buying an amp of some sort? While I listen mostly through my headphones/earphones right now, I want to be able to listen through speakers, as my ears tire easily, and frankly the sonys aren't that comfortable.
Sorry for the slightly rambling post, I hope my vague question is somewhat clear, and thanks in advance for any advice!