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which is better? An ipod DAC/amp combo or a DAP + amp combo?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

I've recently got the Fiio X5 as an upgrade to my iPhone as my source. However, i recently came across a friend with an ipod + DAC + amp combo that looked pretty heavy but sounded quite impressive. According to them, the dedicated DAC made up for the output.

 

Would like to ask if it's better in general to use a normal music player (i.e. ipod) if it's hooked directly to a portable DAC which is then hooked to an amp? Or would it be better and simpler to just hook up a dedicated DAP to an amp?

 

Would appreciate your thoughts.

post #2 of 7

I have an X3, a DX50 and an AK100 - and except for when i need something pocketable, I prefer to use an iPod Classic hooked up to a CLAS -R DAC and then to an Alo Continental V3 amp for my critical listening when i am on the road.   In fact, I liked it so much I got a second iPod Classic and a Centrance M8.     If Apple releases a 128GB Touch, I am using that with the M8 as a second system.

 

Contrary to popular Head-fi myth, the DAC/amp section of iPods are very good, albeit underpowered.    If you upgrade the amp - and/or the DAC section, then you get all the benefits of Apple's superlative user interface.   Stuff that simply works.    The downside is that it is more expensive.

 

Best of all, you avoid having experiences like this - "I give ___  5 stars.   It has only crashed 3 times since yesterday, which is a lot better than the __")

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post
 

I have an X3, a DX50 and an AK100 - and except for when i need something pocketable, I prefer to use an iPod Classic hooked up to a CLAS -R DAC and then to an Alo Continental V3 amp for my critical listening when i am on the road.   In fact, I liked it so much I got a second iPod Classic and a Centrance M8.     If Apple releases a 128GB Touch, I am using that with the M8 as a second system.

 

Contrary to popular Head-fi myth, the DAC/amp section of iPods are very good, albeit underpowered.    If you upgrade the amp - and/or the DAC section, then you get all the benefits of Apple's superlative user interface.   Stuff that simply works.    The downside is that it is more expensive.

 

Best of all, you avoid having experiences like this - "I give ___  5 stars.   It has only crashed 3 times since yesterday, which is a lot better than the __")

 

Haha! Agreed on the UI. I've been using the AK120 and the X5 and I still like Apple's UI the most. The attention to detail that they have is just amazing. (that and the fact that they've had years to brainwash/re-program me)

 

I'm quite curious though, if a DAC is connected to a player's line out, be it an ipod or a cowon or iriver etc, does it directly bypass the player's internal DAC section?

 

If it does, wouldn't that mean that any digital player would be fine as long as I have a good DAC?

post #4 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by yeongman View Post
 

 

Haha! Agreed on the UI. I've been using the AK120 and the X5 and I still like Apple's UI the most. The attention to detail that they have is just amazing. (that and the fact that they've had years to brainwash/re-program me)

 

I'm quite curious though, if a DAC is connected to a player's line out, be it an ipod or a cowon or iriver etc, does it directly bypass the player's internal DAC section?

 

If it does, wouldn't that mean that any digital player would be fine as long as I have a good DAC?

 

A line-out is AFTER the player's internal DAC and outputs an analog signal, only bypassing the internal amp.   So if you are using a Line Out, you need an amp downstream, not a DAC.   And this isnt necessarily a bad thing - the Apple DAC does a very competent job and may actually be cleaner than some of the USB-powered ultra-small DACs (just b/c it is a separate device doesnt mean it is better).    Ill suggest you try to do an A/B with an open mind before making a decision.

 

To bypass an Apple device's internal DAC, there are 2 ways to go about it:

 

1/ One is to use a MFi certified device such as a Cypherlabs unit, a Ceentrance M8 or more - this will work with both the 30-pin connected and the Lightning connection and allows the device to bypass the Apple unit's internal DAC and amp

 

2/ Use an iDevice that runs OS 7.x and attach a CCK to it (this is a Lighting to female USB, with a chip inside) - then connect this to a DAC/amp via USB.    This is somewhat clunkier, as the CCK cable isnt the tidiest for pocket use, and also requires that the DAC/amp does not draw too much of a charging current from its USB port (esp as most devices charge and transmit data through their USB-in).      If your device does, then you have to use a USB hub in between - at which point, you've pretty much lost the whole "portable" concept.   One device that does work well in this application is the Apex Glacier - it has 2 USB ports, one for charging, and one for data+charging (the charging can be disabled on this one, allowing you to use it with an iDevice).

 

Having spent the money on the Apex Glacier, I kinda regret it.   It is a nice enough device and one benefit is that I can use it as a DAC/amp for my laptop as well, if i so choose.   But as far as iPod Touch + Glacier bricks go, it isnt pocketable, b/c the headphone cable comes out of one end, and the CCK/USB bit is in the other.  I am always hesitant about chucking this in my pocket, for fear of damaging the connections inside the cable.   

 

Hope this helps.

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post
 

 

A line-out is AFTER the player's internal DAC and outputs an analog signal, only bypassing the internal amp.   So if you are using a Line Out, you need an amp downstream, not a DAC.   And this isnt necessarily a bad thing - the Apple DAC does a very competent job and may actually be cleaner than some of the USB-powered ultra-small DACs (just b/c it is a separate device doesnt mean it is better).    Ill suggest you try to do an A/B with an open mind before making a decision.

 

To bypass an Apple device's internal DAC, there are 2 ways to go about it:

 

1/ One is to use a MFi certified device such as a Cypherlabs unit, a Ceentrance M8 or more - this will work with both the 30-pin connected and the Lightning connection and allows the device to bypass the Apple unit's internal DAC and amp

 

2/ Use an iDevice that runs OS 7.x and attach a CCK to it (this is a Lighting to female USB, with a chip inside) - then connect this to a DAC/amp via USB.    This is somewhat clunkier, as the CCK cable isnt the tidiest for pocket use, and also requires that the DAC/amp does not draw too much of a charging current from its USB port (esp as most devices charge and transmit data through their USB-in).      If your device does, then you have to use a USB hub in between - at which point, you've pretty much lost the whole "portable" concept.   One device that does work well in this application is the Apex Glacier - it has 2 USB ports, one for charging, and one for data+charging (the charging can be disabled on this one, allowing you to use it with an iDevice).

 

Having spent the money on the Apex Glacier, I kinda regret it.   It is a nice enough device and one benefit is that I can use it as a DAC/amp for my laptop as well, if i so choose.   But as far as iPod Touch + Glacier bricks go, it isnt pocketable, b/c the headphone cable comes out of one end, and the CCK/USB bit is in the other.  I am always hesitant about chucking this in my pocket, for fear of damaging the connections inside the cable.   

 

Hope this helps.

 

Wow. Thanks for taking the time for this explanation. It makes things way clearer now. So basically anything that uses a Line Out already goes through it's internal DAC eh? Is that why most people just use an amp with their source?

 

What about the iRiver H120/140 with an optical line out? Does it go through it's own internal DAC first?

post #6 of 7

Yeah, it is generally easier just to use a line out than to d*ck around with trying to extract a digital signal.  

 

Most DACs sound very close to each other, and unless you are sitting and concentrating on the music in a quiet room (which isnt the typical portable use case), there isnt a huge benefit to upgrading the DAC unless you are getting something that is substantially better.    A beefier amp, on the other  hand, allows you more choice of headphones and so is a natural add-on (although even here, some people just add an amp for the sake of adding an amp - eg, all the guys looking to add an E12 to an X5, only to use it with something like Momentums or V-Modas, both of which are WELL within the ability of an iDevice or X5's amp).  

 

An optical out, however, is different from a line out - that outputs a digital signal and you can connect it to an external DAC, if you prefer.  

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Just managed to get my hands on a Red Wined iPod + SR71 amp combo. I"ll have to say that it sounds pretty awesome. Half considering getting a Refurbished iPod just to compare the difference in sound signature of their Mod.

 

Might also get a DAC + amp combo for my iriver to test as well. Heh.

 

#forscience

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