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Different DAC/AMP or new headphones

post #1 of 3
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Well, in order to listen to music while working with my laptop in cafes or where ever, I decided to buy a portable DAC/AMP.

I have Shure 535 IEMs.


First, I tried the Dragonfly (scheduled to be returned), and there is quite a bit of hiss just plugging it into the USB port without playing anything.

There is also some 'digital glare' and I have to set up EQ in JRiver to cut everything but the bass by 12-18 Db depending on the frequency range. 

Because of the sensitivity of the Shure's, I can listen to volume more than 15-20 on Windows. Because of this, even after all the cuts, I still need to boost bass to hear it well enough.


So, I ordered and just received the Ifi DSD nano. There is still some hiss just from turning it on, and I am basically having the same issues regarding volume and EQ settings.

There also some serious driver issues with this DAC. They claim it is due to USB 3 problems, but I am also having playback issues on USB2 ports as well.

I think the Ifi sounds better than the Dragonfly, but I haven't done and side-by-side comparisons yet.


Anyway, I hate this hiss issue. I don't have any hiss through the EMU 0404 USB, I don't have hiss through either my iPhone 4 or LG G2.

Having the EQ set the way I do doesn't bother me if that is just what it takes as long as I am not creating any other problems with the signal by doing so.

Though it makes it absolutely necessary to pipe everything through JRiver using the live feed option, which also doesn't really bother me so much.


But, I was wondering if I should return both of these DACs and try something else, or if I need to start looking at different phones.

I bought these originally because of their sound signature supposed to emphasize bass with relaxed, rolled-off treble. I am very sensitive to pretty much anything 2000 and up and normally turn this way down. I also don't like boomy bass, so I typically boost 30-50, and cut 800-150 to get that really deep, clean bass. So, as long as I EQ it this way in JRiver, it is pretty cool.


My active set up in car is similar, though the cuts are not so drastic.

Edited by nipponbiki - 3/1/14 at 6:11pm
post #2 of 3
Thread Starter 
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Well, I found the attenuator that came with the earphones.
This really helps and I don't have to turn it down that much to get rid of the hiss. I don't mind having to use this at all.

So, with the attenuator, I started A/B-ing the Dragonfly and DSD nano. The Dragonfly actually has less initial hiss, but the Nano definitely is the better DAC.
However, I said I was having driver issues with the Nano that was causing a weird delay effect. Actually I just noticed yesterday it is happening on both devices, but it didn't start happening until after I installed the driver for the DSD nano.
It doesn't happen all the time at 96 KHz, but it does happen at the same parts of certain songs on both devices.  It just happens much, much more often and really stands out when set to 192 KHz.

Also, I read some reviews about the Audioengine D3, particularly the one here at headfi, where they compare this with the Dragonfly. I agree completely with what the say about the Dragonfly, and I liked what they had to say about bass performance from the D3, and also it is supposed to have the SNR over 110 dB the guys over the JRiver forum said should be a minimum, so I also ordered that, and that should be here tomorrow for me to continue comparing.

However, this weird delay problem has got to be fixed, or otherwise, there really isn't much point in having any kind of external, dedicated device. 
I will play some more with it to see if it is isolated to JRiver or not, and then if the problem is reproduced on my laptop.

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