As Worlds Collide: Modern DAC with VINTAGE AUDIOPHILE GEAR?!?
Jul 12, 2010 at 10:10 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4


New Head-Fier
Jul 12, 2010
Greetings everyone!
(If you wanna save yourself two minutes of reading, skip to the bolded section.)
I'm a long time reader, first time poster. Right now, as I'm sitting at home, I'm listening to some Eric Dolphy (Jazz, for those who don't know) through my father's setup of an Aragon 24k preamp into an Aragon 4004 power amp, into two Harbeth Acoustics speakers (sorry, don't know the model). My primary sources alternate between my 2009 Mac Book Pro and a 60GB iPod classic. I have owned a pair of Sennheiser HD-280s for 3-4 years now, and although I quite like them, I am probably going to get a pair of AKG K701s by the end of the month.
Here is my dilemna: Next year I'll be going off to school in some faraway land where I will have none of my father's listening setup. I would still like to be able to enjoy my lossless music files properly, which is why I am considering the K701s for a set of good quality cans. I don't really have a set budget, but a Pico or an Apogee Duet would be as much as I'm willing to spend on a DAC/headphone amp combo. I will not require any of the Duet's recording or ADC capabilities. In the future, I will purchase a Heed Canamp to power my headphones, and will be using the DAC/amp combo as a DAC only, which is why I am placing emphasis on the device's function as a DAC. 
Here's a quick recap:
  1. Looking for a DAC/headphone amp combo, to be used solely as a DAC later on
  2. Primary source will be a MBP with an audio output (and occasionally an iPod classic, although I much the prefer the iTunes library on my Mac)
  3. Budget: ~$450 USD 
  4. Does not need to be portable
  5. Will power the following setup at home:
  • Aragon 24k Preamp
  • Aragon 4004 Power Amp
  • Harbeth Acoustic Speakers
  1. Will power the following headphones setup:
  • AKG K701
  • Heed Canamp (God willing)
PS: I apologize if anyone found the thread less exciting than the title seemed, I am a master of deception.

Jul 12, 2010 at 10:35 PM Post #2 of 4
Welcome to Head-Fi and sorry about your wallet!

You can go one better buying the PreSonus Central Station. They run about $500. They have a very nice internal DAC, two (!) discrete headphone amps as well as a relay-based attenuator that can be used as a preamp.

I owned one for a bit, but sold it when I got deeply into vinyl and SACD. I still think it's a terrific unit and would have bought another if I hadn't found a nice deal on a Pass D1 clone.

If you go back a few years, you'll find a number of reviews and impressions of the Central Station. It might not have the hype that some of the newer units have, but it's a solid performer. $500 is above your budget, but if it means that you won't have to buy a separate headphone amp, you'll come out ahead of your budget.
Jul 12, 2010 at 10:46 PM Post #3 of 4
Hi Uncle Erik,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. As much as my wallet appreciates your concern, I care more about sound quality than his/her well being at the moment. Not to say that my budget is limitless, but if the Heed Canamp is as perfect a companion to the K701s as the first-hand accounts I've heard and read, then I have no issue spending the money for one. 
That being said, I do believe your expertise would help guide me towards the "right" decision in my search (as outlined in my initial post), so if you have any other suggestions, please, do share!
Jul 13, 2010 at 10:50 AM Post #4 of 4
For your budget, I recommend staying vintage and seeking out a Parasound D/AC 1100.  You should be able to get it for less than $300, and it will sound better than most similarly priced new gear, imo.  Only problem is you'll need to be patient as they are not readily available, but units in good condition do come up for sale with some frequency.  Also, it's a DAC only, so you would need that separate HP amp sooner rather than later.

Users who are viewing this thread