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need a new DAC (SE) or DAC/;AMP (balanced) suggestion for about a grand

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I really wanted to get my Valab DAC fixed, but the way things are going I can pretty much write it off as dead :(

So I am off to look for a new DAC to bring my headphones out of retirement. Been a while since I last turned my headphone amp on or ever visited head-fi, most definitely sure there have been a good number of FOTMs and whatnot. Time to ask around to bring me up me speed.


The reason I sought a TDA154x NOS solution was because I thought that would fit my preference for soft, easy, relaxed mid-centric sound (for the lack of better term), but I am always open to experimenting with something newer and better. I do seem to have a certain aversion for something that champions "detail" or "speed" by the means of accentuated highs and lean body. The trouble is, I need to be selective with somewhat limited disposable income at hand. Since I live so far away from everyone else, I can't possibly go to the meets or have other means of auditioning the equipment - will have to do my best with research before committing to purchase.


My go-to phones still are HD650, which to my knowledge, are known to be very "different" (or better) in balanced operation. Thus far all my gear were single ended and had me dreaming of going balanced with the likes of β22 one day. Now might be that moment, seeing how there are some Chinese units that combine DAC/amp in a relatively affordable package, and I just happen to need a new DAC anyway.


Yet I am not completely abandoning the SE prospect, after all I liked it well enough to keep it all this time. Whichever that gets the job done better, ya know? At first I was thinking something along the line of Yulong DA8, going by the reviews anyway. Not sure which model to look at for a balanced setup, but it will need to include an amp or otherwise it would be an additional expense incurred. I am guessing something from Audio-gd might fit the bill? Dangerous Music Source maybe? Something that is.... well, lush, a tad euphoric if you will, easy and airy. Not all that concerned about neutrality as long as coloring isn't over the top and it is a fun listen.


Projected budget is around $1000 max for everything, lower would obviously be better (as always). I understand that might be a bit lacking for a balanced setup. Still, won't hurt to ask huh?


Other wants or needs:
- If SE, amp isn't needed but the DAC needs to play nice with my amps (SP PPX3, Schiit Lyr)
- would be a plus if my other phones like it too! (H5LE, HD580, t50rp, D7000, AD2000, maybe K701 - might get rid of this guy soon)
- not particularly picky about IO options, though I prefer USB as long as it works well enough
- 220V power input option, otherwise I will have to use a transformer


I am not looking to get the definitive answer in one sitting, would be nice if you could at least point me in the right direction.

Edited by MikoLayer - 3/9/14 at 6:26am
post #2 of 6

Audio gd NFB-10.33 or NFB-28 (maybe too detailed for you) for balanced. They will handle well the H5LE, where the Yulong DA8 is insufficient.

Metrum Octave or Audio gd NFB-2 for SE dac.

Edited by i019791 - 3/9/14 at 8:13am
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

thanks, I will look those up. If I didn't make it clear though, for now HD650 is of my primary concern. Ability to drive other phones well would just be an icing on the cake. H5LE seems to work well enough with lyr (tube rolled) albeit a bit brighter than I wish at times.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

I went thru the NFB-28 thread, and it does sound very intriguing, packed with everything I might need in one package. But I am still interested in Yulong D18 (more so than DA8) for its reputation as the smoothest and warmest  saber chip implementation; the obvious drawback here is the lack of included balanced amp (as opposed to the NFB-28) and USB input (more $$ to shell out on a usb-spdif converter).


At this level, I am sure they are both great sounding, but I may be served better by going with the Yulong if Audio-gd's design philosophy is a neutral sound first and foremost. I mean are the differences between these two rather subtle or night and day? Admittedly I belong in the musicality crowd. If the difference is quite pronounced, I am thinking I will go with the D18 and live with its SE output and perhaps save up for a balanced amp later if needed. Otherwise I could just get a NF-28 and call it a day. 


Keeping my eyes on these as well: http://www.head-fi.org/t/647917/dangerous-music-source-dac/60

Again, I have some unfounded (if you will) fear that their design goal might be not aligned with my own preferences. The few responses I did see in the thread were promising though, one of the folks saying it was a bit on the warm side.

Edited by MikoLayer - 3/10/14 at 5:44am
post #5 of 6

I am also not for neutral sound and use the HD650, which fit excellently to my tastes with an older Audio gd NFB-10 I have.

For more neutral/brighter cans (Hifiman HE500, AKG K701) I prefer a warmer/more musical setup, which is some times too much of a good thing for me with the HD650 specifically.

Unfortunately you cannot be sure what you will like best before you hear the candidates.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by i019791 View Post

Unfortunately you cannot be sure what you will like best before you hear the candidates.

Therein lies the rub...


Mods, any chance you could move this thread to dedicated source forum? I really could use more responses :(

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