Originally Posted by jobio
Thanks for replies!
If I were to use the Onkyo CDP above (or something similar), would I still need an external DAC or is the onboard DAC sufficient (I'm guess that as in the home audio world, this is a bit of a loaded questions). Does it depend on whether I'm using the analog or optical outputs?
I'll definitely look into the Schiit and O2 products. What is the ODAC?
As far as a sound signature, I'm partial to a mostly neutral sound but with a bit of warmth and extra bass, if that makes any sense. My home speakers are Focal, if that's helpful.
Concerning budget, I'm starting to think ~$100-150 for the CD player, $100-150 for the headphone amp (DAC?), and $200-$250 for the headphones. Is that reasonable for a nice system?
I believe that the Onkyo CD and the Marantz players have good DACs in them for the money -- according to the reviews out there.
A couple of nuances regarding DACs...some are just built to accept USB input from your computer and others have the ability to accept other inputs like optical (Toslink) and coaxial (SPDIF). Some good discussion on the merits of each type of DAC connection is here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/698371/best-computer-to-dac-connection-usb-coaxial-or-optical).
Given that you seem to want to stay with your CD collection as your primary source, below are a few alternatives.
1. Using the CD Player's optical (or coaxial) output, bypass its internal DAC and feed the digital signal to an 'outboard' DAC that accepts optical (or coaxial) input, processes it, and then feeds the analog signal to your headphone amp. Seems like this option would blow your budget.
2. Buy the CD player & your headphones...then see if the headphone amplifier in the CD Player does a solid job of powering the headphones. Since the C7030 doesn't even list the specs for the headphone output, I'm inclined to think it may not be all that great. The Marantz CD5004 does publish the specs (Headphone output: 18 mW/32 ohms -- variable maximum); may be OK if you buy highly efficient headphones. Although the CD5004 would be a solid purchase at $349, the cost of this player and your headphones would consume your budget while most likely leaving you with an 'underpowered' configuration. To put the power differential in perspective, the Magni is 1.2W/32 ohms and the O2 is 613mW/33 ohms. Heck, my $60 Fiio E10 DAC / AMP combo, which I carry around with my laptop, has 150mW/32 Ohms.
3. Using the CD Player's Analog line out to feed the signal directly to your headphone amp (C7030 and Magni). Seems like this option works within your budget...$180 for CDP & $320 for cans.
However, if you're open to migrating (ripping) your files to your computer, then I'd choose...
4. Get the Modi / Magni stack for $200 and a nice set of Headphones for $300. The Magni will scale well with future headphone purchases (even high impedance ones). As a side benefit, the footprint of the M/M stack is compact and they are also nice looking (in my opinion) when paired together. The JDS Objective2 / Standalone ODAC or the O2 + ODAC combo would work as well but the cost would be $280.
A variation on this theme would be choosing a solid entry-level DAC/AMP combo from Fiio, Audioengine, iBasso, Nuforce, etc. and plowing even more money into your headphones; giving you more options and better sound. Assuming you get a good DAC/AMP combo for around a $100, you could get a couple sets of $200 headphones (one open and one closed) or a $400 set.
Edited by GearMe - 5/26/14 at 4:03pm