or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Does a DAC/Amp make sense with this setup? + questions about Audioquest Dragonfly and Sony PHA-1
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Does a DAC/Amp make sense with this setup? + questions about Audioquest Dragonfly and Sony PHA-1

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I am considering getting an external DAC/amp and I have a few options in mind, but I am quite a newbie with this and would like confirmation that what I am looking at makes sense.

 

So here is my setup:

 

Source hardware: MacBook Pro, iPhone 5c, iPad Air

Source files: 256kbps AAC from iTunes, Spotify premium, and in the future possibly lossless streaming from Qobuz if I can hear the difference

Earphones/Headphones: Sennheiser ie80 and Sennheiser MM450 for now, and I might get a better pair of headphones at some point

 

I am open to any suggestion but the 2 devices that caught my eye are the Audioquest Dragonfly and the Sony PHA-1 (I know they are not really equivalent offerings, but it seems they could both fit my purpose and I am curious about the deferences between these 2 classes of devices).

 

And here are my questions:

 

1) With the setup I have, is an external DAC/amp going to bring a marked improvement in audio quality?

2) I know the Sony would work seemlessly with both a computer and an iOS device and includes a battery for the Amp part, whereas the Dragonfly is only meant to be used with a computer and powered by USB. I have howver read on this forum and others sites that using the camera connexion kit it is also possible to get the Dragonfly to work with an iOS device; and even to have the iOS device power it. Am I getting this right? If yes this sounds very tempting as the setup would be much more portable that the Sony, but I assume they are drawbacks? The main one I am wondering about is the effect it would have on the battery life of the iPhone. If the Sony needs a large battery to be powered for only 5 hours, is the Dragonfly not going to quickly deplete the battery of my iPhone when draining power from it? 

3) Aside from the battery, I don't really understand the size and weight deference between the Dragonfly and the PHA-1 (as far I understand they both include a DAC and an amp). Can someone explain reason for the difference to me or what I am possible getting wrong? Is it due to the the Amp being more powerful?

 

Thanks a lot!

post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 
Up
post #3 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob24 View Post

 

1) With the setup I have, is an external DAC/amp going to bring a marked improvement in audio quality?

 

Depending on the particular DAC/Amp, yes. How big of an improvement it will be will depend on the same variable, and also, which headphone. The IE80 might get some improvements at the same volume levels (not like you can't get to deafening levels on it before you get distortion), but ultimately this won't be much. You're more likely to get more improvements when you have, say, a fullsize headphone that needs more voltage or current. You might want to hold this purchase until later, after you've picked  the headphone, then get a DAC/Amp that can drive it well and with the input features/compatibility that you need.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob24 View Post

 

2) I know the Sony would work seemlessly with both a computer and an iOS device and includes a battery for the Amp part, whereas the Dragonfly is only meant to be used with a computer and powered by USB. I have howver read on this forum and others sites that using the camera connexion kit it is also possible to get the Dragonfly to work with an iOS device; and even to have the iOS device power it. Am I getting this right? If yes this sounds very tempting as the setup would be much more portable that the Sony, but I assume they are drawbacks? The main one I am wondering about is the effect it would have on the battery life of the iPhone. If the Sony needs a large battery to be powered for only 5 hours, is the Dragonfly not going to quickly deplete the battery of my iPhone when draining power from it? 

 

It depends on how much the Dragonfly and the Sony need. The Sony I think has a lot of dedicated chips - it's pretty much a desktop DAC with headphone amp, but in a smaller form factor and a relatively portable battery (RWA has desktop units that run off large battery banks for example) and also smaller power capacitors (so it doesn't necessarily make desktop units that take their power from a wall outlet obsolete). With a dedicated DAC chip/s, analog output stage op-amp/s, and headphone driver chip/s, you have a lot of chips doing a specific purpose taking power off that battery. The Dragonfly, AFAIK, doesn't have all these features, so even if it draws power from your mobile device, its requirements may be higher than the built-in audio chip's, but likely still closer to that than what something like the PHA-1 or, say, Ibasso units, would need.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob24 View Post

 

3) Aside from the battery, I don't really understand the size and weight deference between the Dragonfly and the PHA-1 (as far I understand they both include a DAC and an amp). Can someone explain reason for the difference to me or what I am possible getting wrong? Is it due to the the Amp being more powerful?

 

 

You kinda have it reversed - the amp is more powerful precisely because the PHA-1 makes less compromises in favor of compact size. Its battery provides more voltage than USB, it has power capacitors to help with the current delivery, it has dedicated chips for every stage of the signal processing all the way through to the headphone, probably uses a panel of the chassis as a heatsink too. Even if the Dragonfly can be made to draw more power the question is what happens to its non-Class D levels of efficiency? It might just cook the chips in there.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my silly questions ProtegeManiac, really appreciated. 

 

And yes, based on what you said I might be holding off until I get more demanding headphones. Actually I am happy enough with what I get off the IE80 (though wondering if I could get something better), but it is the mm450 I am a bit more frustrated with. I want to like these better for quite listening at home because they have wider soundstage and I somehow feel like the music is more dynamic through them, but I seem to be losing a lot of the good things when I listen to music at a level which is comfortable to my ears.

post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob24 View Post
 

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my silly questions ProtegeManiac, really appreciated. 

 

And yes, based on what you said I might be holding off until I get more demanding headphones. Actually I am happy enough with what I get off the IE80 (though wondering if I could get something better), but it is the mm450 I am a bit more frustrated with. I want to like these better for quite listening at home because they have wider soundstage and I somehow feel like the music is more dynamic through them, but I seem to be losing a lot of the good things when I listen to music at a level which is comfortable to my ears.

 

It's very likely that the larger drivers also need more voltage and current, just of course not in the same level as the 50mm driver on an HD650 for example. Still I'd say better to wait until you get better but more demanding headphones, that way you will be able to get match one to the other. Getting an amp that can power virtually anything now might either cost too much to use wth teh MM450 and you never know how long before you can save up for another headphone, or you can skimp on the price but later on decide to get a headphone that is very hard  to drive, like some orthodynamics, so you might just end up upgrading the amp too.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks, your advice seems to make a lot of sense ... I will probably hold off for now.
post #7 of 7

Dragonfly has a lean and neutral-to-bright signature which I don't like, pha-1 would be warmer and thicker.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Does a DAC/Amp make sense with this setup? + questions about Audioquest Dragonfly and Sony PHA-1