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3 Questions about Portable Amps/DAC's

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello Everyone,

I have 3 questions about portable headphone amps/DAC's:

 

1. I drive my headphones off an IPhone 4, and I've heard a lot about DAC's not working with I-products because of software incompatibility. Is there any truth behind this?

 

2. I'm running a tight budget, and am in between 3 amps right now: Fiio E12, Fiio E18, and JDS Labs C5. If It turns out that DAC's are incompatible with the IPhone, I will most likely buy the Fiio E12.

 

3.Which Amp/DAC is better- JDS Labs C5 or Fiio E18. The C5 is $190 on www.jdslabs.com (the only place they seem to be for sale other than amazon), and the E18 is $160 on www.adorama.com and amazon.com. I am REALLY strapped for cash right now, and if the C5 isn't really worth those $30, I won't buy it. I do prefer a neutral sound.

 

Thanks,

F23

post #2 of 10
2) JDS Labs C5 is also just a headphone amp--no DAC. So you could choose between it or E12
3) See these portable amp shootout reviews, ranking at the end.

What headphones are you going to run off the amp? Some headphones will benefit from amping more than others. And if you are not driving your headphones to loud volumes where there is no headroom left on the iPhone headphone amp, you might not notice a huge difference.
post #3 of 10

You can use the iphone with many dac/amps through the camera kit from what I have heard.

 

If you get an amp you should also get a LOD (line out dock) for the iphone so you can bypass the crappy build in amp in the iphone.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info on the C5

What is a camera kit? I've never heard the term before

Thanks,
F23
post #5 of 10
Google and head-fi search are your friends wink.gif
post #6 of 10

It's an adaptor that gives an iPhone or iPad a USB socket allowing you to connect a camera and download photos off it. However people found that some USB DACs unofficially work with it, but not ones that draw much power.

 

Usually, a manufacturer has to get permission from Apple allowing them to use a standard docking cable to connect a unit as a DAC. The CCK (as it is called in shorthand) allows people to bypass that requirement.

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by f23blackwidow2 View Post
 

Hello Everyone,

I have 3 questions about portable headphone amps/DAC's:

 

1. I drive my headphones off an IPhone 4, and I've heard a lot about DAC's not working with I-products because of software incompatibility. Is there any truth behind this?

 

2. I'm running a tight budget, and am in between 3 amps right now: Fiio E12, Fiio E18, and JDS Labs C5. If It turns out that DAC's are incompatible with the IPhone, I will most likely buy the Fiio E12.

 

3.Which Amp/DAC is better- JDS Labs C5 or Fiio E18. The C5 is $190 on www.jdslabs.com (the only place they seem to be for sale other than amazon), and the E18 is $160 on www.adorama.com and amazon.com. I am REALLY strapped for cash right now, and if the C5 isn't really worth those $30, I won't buy it. I do prefer a neutral sound.

 

Thanks,

F23

 

1/ Depends on the DAC.    Some DACs work directly - eg, Cypherlabs, Centrance, etc.   With others, you need a Camera Connector Kit for your phone (CCK) and iOS 7.   You also need to make sure you use a DAC which doesnt draw a lot of power from the micro-USB slot - else you'll have to use a USB hub in the middle.   There is a thread on this in the Source Equipment sub-forum, worth  reading

 

2 and 3/  Personally, I think you'd be hard pressed to find an audible difference between the two.   Check the specs and pick the one with the lower noise floor.   Heck, depending on the headphone you are using, you may not even need an external amp/DAC.    Try for yourself - making sure you match the volume first - and then make a decision only if you are sure you can hear something.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Why specs do I check to see if the amp draws a lot of power from the USB?
post #9 of 10

I'm not sure if any amps specify how much power they draw, unless they require a charger with a certain output ability, eg: 2A for an iPad. Some DAC/amps like the ones from Leckerton Audio and the Resonessence Labs Herus specify that they will work with the CCK from an iPhone.

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by f23blackwidow2 View Post

Why specs do I check to see if the amp draws a lot of power from the USB?

You'll better search on the individual DAC and ask around, can't reliably judge from specs.

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