-I am not sure whether this should be in "Dedicated Source Components" or "Introductions, Help, and Recommendations" so if a moderator sees that this is in the wrong place, feel free to move it.
-To begin with, let me say that I am definitely not an audiophile. So I am definitely not looking for a" really great sounding so and so, but you have to look past the fact that it comes from North Korea and it has a cardboard box for a case" What I am looking for is a budget unit that will last a while and provide no problems while meeting my requirements.
-I currently have a lot of disparate audio gear that I want to piece together. I have a pair of bookshelf speakers pilfered from an unused sony radio, powered by a lepai 2020a+ amp. I have a pair of gaming headphones, the Corsair 1400 . (I needed the mic attached, SQ was not important to me at the time, but they aren't totally horrid.) I finally have a pair of AKG k181 "DJ" headphones.
Currently, the speakers are powered by the lepai, fed by my computer's realtek 1150 audio chip. The Corsair Headphones also run off of that chip, through some software changes to the back panel's outputs (so i can have two "headphone outs") I have no way to plug my AKG into my computer because the back is difficult to access, and I am constantly unplugging the AKG to take them with me wherever i need audio. i also don't want to have to set up a third headphone out.
-Ideally, all I need is a dac, headphone amp, and speaker amp, as I can just leave the corsair connected to the realtek. However, my price range is below 200. The musical paradise mp-302 would have been perfect, but it is discontinued, to have a mk ii available sometime in the vague future. I am okay with keeping my lepai, as i have no real problems with it, and it is only powering cheap speakers. So that means I need a dac, amp, and line out/preamp to the lepai.
-Option 1- Combination dac and headphone amp, with line out/ preamp integrated. There are a lot of options in this configuration.
From low to high price, what i have found(listing only problems i might have)
-Creative SoundBlaster Z soundcard- $85(sale)- but requires a headphone extension cable and has probably the worst SQ (i'm not sure about that though)
-NuForce Udac-2 or 3- $100/$125-no coaxial/spdif input though (I have linux so usb can be worrisome), low bit-rate, no switch between line out and headphone(cannot leave 1/4 to 1/8 adapter plugged in)
-Audioengine D1- $170- no output switch either, seems basic/boring for price
-Aune T1- $170- not quite sure what tube sound really is or what extra processes are required for a tube amp, no coaxial/ spdif
-Aune X1- $200- looks a bit weird, no clue about SQ on it
-Zero 24/192khz Dac Head Amp- 150-200- Ebay, big
-Tube Magic D1- $200-0tube doesnt connect to headphone out, big
-GD NFB-15-$250- out of budget, foreign, looks bad
-Option 2- Seperate DAC and Amp. I don't really know how to budget each one because i don't know how much i buy into "Audiophile myths" or how much a cheap dac hurts SQ as opposed to a cheap amp
Some cheap dac's i've found (based upon assumption that cheap dac is better than cheap amp)
-Fiio D30k $30
-Fiio D07 $50
-Hifimediy Sabre USB dac $42
-ELE EL-D01- $24
-Option 3- Fiio E70k and E9, I suppose i could use the e70k as a portable, but not sure how often i'd actually use that functionality. This doesn't really fit as in the above categories.
-If there is something with actual speaker wire outs that also fits tell me right away, please as i do intend to upgrade my speakers.
Any and all advice is always appreciated, thank you.
*EDIT- I forgot to say that i like bass-centric and high energy music, but i listen to everything that doesnt sound like pop music or country (although folk is okay)
Edited by HappyFishFace - 5/19/14 at 9:40pm