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Best Dac under 200?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

So I've been looking around the forums and am trying to upgrade my fiio e10. I will be using it with my magnums and with my Grados. I'm trying to not spend a lot have am looking at three options...

 

the Odac

the nuforce udac-3

and the schiit modi

 

 

Can anyone compare these? On occasions I'll also be using it through my LD1+ tube amp. Thanks guys! I really appreciate your time/responses. 

post #2 of 22
There is a lot of non sense people sprout when it comes to DACs.

The fact is:
1. Either a dac is transparent like apple products, benchmark products, Odac etc
2. Or it isn't like audio gd which is colored or lots of other such companies

Between transparent DACs the differences are fairly small. Going from an iphone inbuilt dac to a $2000 benchmark is going to have the same sound, just slightly smoother and less harsh. There will be no other difference. It is definitely worth the price if you have money to spend in huge amounts, otherwise no!

The placebo people get is because different DACs have a line output at different volumes. Once you match the line output to within 0.1 db of each other and provided no component is running out of steam and provided you do a double blind test, the difference between all DACs starting from the iphone dac to $5000+ DACs will be 1-5% of each other.

The only difference you get with a better dac is a slightly smoother and slightly resolving sound and very slightly at that.

And good speakers/headphones ideally sound decent out of anything and get better with better gear. Gear which is finicky is just not designed as well as other stuff and is revealing for all the wrong reasons. Like hd 650 scales very well but sounds better than most stuff nevertheless. Of course in its price range and lower that is.

Honestly, under $200 you aren't going to get much of an improvement over the iphone or iPod dac. There are lots of sub $500-1000 CD players which perform worse than it. And nobody has preferred them unconditionally in a double blind test either. And the differences are really small anyway.

The best you can get under $200 is either the asus stx or Odac. The iphone dac is slightly behind the two. To really get anything even slightly better you need to go up to the schiit bifrost or asus stu/one.

What is your rig?

Unless you have a hd 650 or higher gear you don't need to spend too much on a dac. With hd 650 and over $200 for a dac isn't ideal anyway, just a temporary measure.
post #3 of 22
And some DACs do sound different but that is because they are badly designed. People prefer their sound because they feel they have invested a lot of cash into them.

The iphone dac is excellent, 100% flat an transparent as per measurements but nowhere near the best. The differences are small but audible but you are likely to spend a lot more like 10x+ times more to get a sound which is equally flat but sounds smoother and easier with no added distortion.

Otherwise you are really just not being able to match the volume. If you could and then double blind test, the differences are very small, barely audible but there.

Though the headphone out of the iphone isn't very powerful because of the weak amp.
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milosingh View Post

There is a lot of non sense people sprout when it comes to DACs.

The fact is:
1. Either a dac is transparent like apple products, benchmark products, Odac etc
2. Or it isn't like audio gd which is colored or lots of other such companies

Between transparent DACs the differences are fairly small. Going from an iphone inbuilt dac to a $2000 benchmark is going to have the same sound, just slightly smoother and less harsh. There will be no other difference. It is definitely worth the price if you have money to spend in huge amounts, otherwise no!

The placebo people get is because different DACs have a line output at different volumes. Once you match the line output to within 0.1 db of each other and provided no component is running out of steam and provided you do a double blind test, the difference between all DACs starting from the iphone dac to $5000+ DACs will be 1-5% of each other.

The only difference you get with a better dac is a slightly smoother and slightly resolving sound and very slightly at that.

And good speakers/headphones ideally sound decent out of anything and get better with better gear. Gear which is finicky is just not designed as well as other stuff and is revealing for all the wrong reasons. Like hd 650 scales very well but sounds better than most stuff nevertheless. Of course in its price range and lower that is.

Honestly, under $200 you aren't going to get much of an improvement over the iphone or iPod dac. There are lots of sub $500-1000 CD players which perform worse than it. And nobody has preferred them unconditionally in a double blind test either. And the differences are really small anyway.

The best you can get under $200 is either the asus stx or Odac. The iphone dac is slightly behind the two. To really get anything even slightly better you need to go up to the schiit bifrost or asus stu/one.

What is your rig?

Unless you have a hd 650 or higher gear you don't need to spend too much on a dac. With hd 650 and over $200 for a dac isn't ideal anyway, just a temporary measure.

My rig is in my signature. I wouldnt be using my odac portably.....

can I even use it with my iPhone 5c?

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milosingh View Post

And some DACs do sound different but that is because they are badly designed. People prefer their sound because they feel they have invested a lot of cash into them.

The iphone dac is excellent, 100% flat an transparent as per measurements but nowhere near the best. The differences are small but audible but you are likely to spend a lot more like 10x+ times more to get a sound which is equally flat but sounds smoother and easier with no added distortion.

Otherwise you are really just not being able to match the volume. If you could and then double blind test, the differences are very small, barely audible but there.

Though the headphone out of the iphone isn't very powerful because of the weak amp.

I use my fiio e11 with my iPhone 5c. Just got the 30 pin adapter in the mail last week. 

post #6 of 22

I was going to recommend the AUdio GD dacs actually, I think Kingwa sells one that comes in 3 colors

 

I have an Audio GD 10ES2 [now discountinued] that's cleaner than the Mary Virgin her self ;3

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mshenay View Post
 

I was going to recommend the AUdio GD dacs actually, I think Kingwa sells one that comes in 3 colors

 

I have an Audio GD 10ES2 [now discountinued] that's cleaner than the Mary Virgin her self ;3

awesome. I'll check it out for sure 

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melvins View Post
 

awesome. I'll check it out for sure 

Indeed, but for $200 I think that is teh entry level AUdio GD unit, you might be able to find an old AUdio GD dac for around $200 used. But not all of kingwa's dacs are colored, he offers a little bit of everything truthfully

post #9 of 22

apple dacs transparent?  Nothing under 200 sounds better?  

 

LOL..

 

Some of you people.  

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by MLGrado View Post
 

apple dacs transparent?  Nothing under 200 sounds better?  

 

LOL..

 

Some of you people.  

Hi and you are :D

 

yea I have no idea what an apple product sounds like, I owned an iPod like 4 years ago... no clue what the new stuff sounds like. I don't bother with apply any more. Addiotionally Schiit and Audio GD are some of the best audio Bargins around, both of them are sure winners.

 

How ever with some diggin you may be able to find something else that's really awesome as well 

post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by MLGrado View Post
 

apple dacs transparent?  Nothing under 200 sounds better?  

 

LOL..

 

Some of you people.  

So your ears are better than measurement gear?

 

I guarantee you most people can't differentiate between competent dacs which are level matches. Most differences are imaginary. You clearly have never been a part of a blind test.

 

Iphone dacs measure transparent as far as human ears are concerned. They can be bettered in small ways but not at this price.

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by milosingh View Post
 

So your ears are better than measurement gear?

 

I guarantee you most people can't differentiate between competent dacs which are level matches. Most differences are imaginary. You clearly have never been a part of a blind test.

 

Iphone dacs measure transparent as far as human ears are concerned. They can be bettered in small ways but not at this price.

The thing with most people is that whenever something more expensive sounds different, they feel it is for the better. In reality it is further away from neutral/flat and in reality worse than neutral.

If two dacs are 100% transparent then the difference would be negligible or nill and the differences between most competent dacs is just that, irrespective of price.

 

Just like audio fools buy cables worth $10k+ which makes the sound less hifi but different, doesn't make that sound closer to reality. Warmer isn't hifi. Flat is hifi.

post #13 of 22

I've owned DACs in the price range of $15-1500.  The iPhone as a DAC/amp never leaves me with a bad impression.  It's a solid piece of audio equipment for portability and IEMs.  Under $200 I like the $169 ODAC and $189 iFi iDSD (not for USB3.0 yet, they are working on firmware).  Never heard the Modi or uDAC-3.      

post #14 of 22

Exactly my point. I have tried $1000-2000 dacs as well and although in a blind test some people can tell them from an iphone, the difference isn't night and day and is really close. And I myself own a $900 dac which is fairly close to the iphone though a bit better but not as flat or neutral but sounds slightly better with my hd 650, and is a bit smoother. But the differences are less than 1-2% tops.

 

The udac2 used to measure worse than the iphone dac and most dacs under $200 won't be different from an iphone dac or worse. The only which are comparable or slightly better are likely odac and asus stx and perhaps a few more.

 

Dacs which you can tell apart from the above you can only do so because they aren't as good. They may sound decent with some kit but won't be as neutral or flat as the above stuff. I would buy an odac or asus stx over a nuforce or modi. If you can go for a bifrost then that should be okay as well. But don't expect miracles. It could be a bit less harsh and smoother than cheaper dacs and that is it.

 

I used a FiiO E12 with my ipad dac for HD 598, the iphone headphone out is better quality sound. The FiiO E12 is much louder, slightly smoother and much warmer with better bass for most. But the iphone or ipad headphone out is closer to neutral and not loud enough and runs out of steam way before you realize. But had the iphone headphone out been much much louder with enough headroom i would prefer it to fiio e12.

 

And i own all this stuff including expensive dacs too.

 

Most people get confused between volume levels and lack of headroom. Most gear runs out of steam pretty quickly and isn't usable in a lot of stuff. but that doesn't mean it is technically worse, it just needs the right partnering equipment. Same with most passive stereo amps in the sub $2000-3000 range, most of them clip at regular volumes which nobody realizes and hence sound different.

 

And this is when the iphone headphone out is its weakeness, but if it had more headroom and volume I would take it over the Fiio E12, I don't need a warmer sound. I need a clearer sound.

post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 

this hasn't helped me out much

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