AMP/DAC Recommendation for Sony XBA-Z5 & Fostex TH-X00
Dec 1, 2015 at 3:08 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

jonnymooshoo

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Hi Guys,
 
I'm new to the hobby and I would like some seasoned advice on what amp/dac to pair with my gear:
 
Sources:
iPhone6+ - Main source
Macbook Pro
PC
 
Music:
iTunes Music subscription - although would switch if it made sense to get a DAP/DAC/AMP combo
 
Headphone:
Fostex Massdrop TH-X00
 
IEM:
Sony XBA-Z5
 
Preferences:
Significant audio quality improvement to warrant carrying around another device
Portability - If I am to carry around another device I would want it to be portable friendly
iOS device MFi compatible - again portability I'd rather not have to carry a CCK around and worry about another cable
Neutral processing without coloring the sound signature of my headphones
If I am to stack I'd like something low profile
Ability to use with my laptop/PC
Under $500 preferably in the $200-$300 range 
 
Potentials:
Oppo HA-2
Sony PHA-1A
Bayerdynamic A200p
Cozoy Aegis
JDS Labs C5D - no MFi support though :frowning2:
? - up for any suggestions. If it makes sense to get an android based DAP with wifi for a streaming service I'd consider that too as long as there is a nice improvement in sound quality. (I wouldn't want a Fiio X5 eg. because I'd prefer a streaming service than having to manage a downloaded library)
 
I would really like some advice on helping me decide which device will be the best pairing for my gear without needing to compromise on my preferences
 
Dec 8, 2015 at 11:30 PM Post #4 of 16

JoeDoe

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The issue here is that you're source material seems to be mostly lossy 256 AAC files. With this lower quality file type, you're probably not going to see the massive improvement in sound quality that you might be expecting. Both of your headphones are easy to drive so they don't necessarily need a standalone amplifier and since a high quality DAC is only going to be processing lossy files, it's not going to dig out a little of nuance or detail since those aren't there to begin with.
 
Dec 8, 2015 at 11:31 PM Post #5 of 16

JoeDoe

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If you're 100% committed to making a purchase, I'd start small and inexpensive. Check out the thumb-sized amp/DAC combos like the Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2 and Audioengine D3. Maybe a DACport or Meridian Explorer if you want a little better build quality and power for headphone upgrades in the future.
 
Dec 9, 2015 at 12:09 AM Post #6 of 16

jonnymooshoo

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  The issue here is that you're source material seems to be mostly lossy 256 AAC files. With this lower quality file type, you're probably not going to see the massive improvement in sound quality that you might be expecting. Both of your headphones are easy to drive so they don't necessarily need a standalone amplifier and since a high quality DAC is only going to be processing lossy files, it's not going to dig out a little of nuance or detail since those aren't there to begin with.

I'm really skeptical on the lossless vs lossy files. it's been shown that in ABX testing you can't really tell the difference.
 
Real difference is in how the master recordings were made and engineered
 
I'm looking for amp dac recommendations that have a tangible effect on how the digital signal is processed and how the headphones will be driven. And I agree while I may not need an amp with the iem and hP i have, the dac quality vs the iphone is wat im interested in.
 
Dec 9, 2015 at 8:21 AM Post #7 of 16

JoeDoe

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  I'm really skeptical on the lossless vs lossy files. it's been shown that in ABX testing you can't really tell the difference.
 
Real difference is in how the master recordings were made and engineered
 
I'm looking for amp dac recommendations that have a tangible effect on how the digital signal is processed and how the headphones will be driven. And I agree while I may not need an amp with the iem and hP i have, the dac quality vs the iphone is wat im interested in.

To each his own. Just remember that there is a difference between "it has been shown" and "I can hear," especially on head-fi :)
 
can discern the differences between 256 MP3 and FLAC. VBR 320 is a little tougher, but the better your source material is, the more likely improved source gear is going to improve your experience. After all, the more data a DAC has to work with, the more it's going to discern.
 
That being said, if your main concern is portability and iOS compatibility, I'd definitely give a hard look at the Centrance Mini-M8. 
 
Dec 10, 2015 at 3:21 AM Post #8 of 16

jonnymooshoo

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  To each his own. Just remember that there is a difference between "it has been shown" and "I can hear," especially on head-fi :)
 
can discern the differences between 256 MP3 and FLAC. VBR 320 is a little tougher, but the better your source material is, the more likely improved source gear is going to improve your experience. After all, the more data a DAC has to work with, the more it's going to discern.
 
That being said, if your main concern is portability and iOS compatibility, I'd definitely give a hard look at the Centrance Mini-M8. 

Thanks for the suggestions JoeDoe. 
 
I'm really interested in learning more about highres music. Would be interested to know what the conditions were for you when you determined you could tell the difference between MP3 and FLAC. Did you downsample a FLAC file to MP3 and do ABX blind testing? What were your controls to prevent yourself from being influenced by placebo effect? Do you know if they were the same mastering? 
 
I'm typically a pretty skeptical guy when it comes to allegorical claims so for me I'd like to make sure there's a proven difference before investing a ton of money in higher source material. Happy to be proven wrong, I just haven't come across any scientific proof of a difference and in fact I've seen the opposite - that it's shown you can't hear the difference when it comes to lossless vs lossy files.
 
There's no doubt in my mind that you can tell the difference between a well engineered mastering and a brickwall limited mastering of the same track but that doesn't really have a bearing on what DAC/AMP i get.
 
Dec 30, 2015 at 12:54 PM Post #9 of 16

Bandooken

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Hello All! 

I have the XBA z5, Denon AH-C400, Hifiman HE500, Denon D600, and i will be getting the Fostex TH X00. Is the Sony PHA-2 a good amp/dac to get? I will be using it at my desk and sometimes moving it around maybe to the office or my living room! i can get it for $299 CAD brand new ($215 USD). Let me know what you guys think!
 
Nov 6, 2016 at 1:19 PM Post #10 of 16

Jun Flores

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To each is own is quite right. As JoeDoe said: I can hear the difference! Me too! Never went back to lossy files after hearing lossless files. Investment is a right term. I can tell you this, GO FOR IT! Money can't buy happiness hearing heavenly tunes in your ears. that's how I describe lossless files, heavenly! Go for it man. But one item at a time. Start buying lossless files first. An album of your choice or two. I get get from HD Tracks. Try one you might be addicted, beware. More power. 
 
Jan 2, 2017 at 2:21 PM Post #11 of 16

harishmirror

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Hey Guys,
 
New to Head-FIer on a strict budget.. Planning to pick up a Sony XBA Z5 shortly. I am not sure which amp would best suit the Z5.
 
My DAP would be a Fiio X3 (1st Gen) or my Xperia Phone
 
I have narrowed into Fiio A5 amp or Sony PHA 1A amp/dac
 
Please help with your experience
 
Jan 2, 2017 at 4:57 PM Post #14 of 16

Jun Flores

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Or try considering other IEMs before getting the XBA Z5. For that price you can choose/invest more on the IEM and when you got another budget, then go for the amp dac. I suggests you look at Heir Audio, Lear or others because it is a lot cheaper not to upgrade rather than buy hastily and waste money on the process. I got Heir Audio 8.0 and they sound amazing even just with my iPhone. 
 
Jan 2, 2017 at 8:32 PM Post #15 of 16

harishmirror

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  Or try considering other IEMs before getting the XBA Z5. For that price you can choose/invest more on the IEM and when you got another budget, then go for the amp dac. I suggests you look at Heir Audio, Lear or others because it is a lot cheaper not to upgrade rather than buy hastily and waste money on the process. I got Heir Audio 8.0 and they sound amazing even just with my iPhone. 

 
@Jun Flores Thanks for the input, I am getting an used Z5 so that makes it under my budget. Is there any other amp that you suggest for Z5 under the $200-300 range?
 
  Go for Sony PHA 1A

 
@sammaher1 sure, I am kind or more inclined towards PHA1A, but any thoughts on Fiio A5? The specs looks smashing.. so would like to know if anyone tried the A5 + Z5 combo
 

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