Benefit of a DAC--Zero DAC/Amp vs. LD MKIII
Jul 19, 2008 at 8:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11

crispyambulance

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I'm fairly new to this place minus some heavy forum sifting I did a while back to give me ideas on what equipment to start on. My experience with auditory matters is somewhat lacking, so please forgive if I sound yutsy or this thread is redundant; none of the other threads I searched through gave me enough of a definitive answer, etc.

I've been wanting to buy some better equipment for the last few months because right now I have some HD280s hooked directly to a desktop... and that's it. I sort of decided I wanted the AKG K701s for a headphone, and after a time I was able to narrow down what amplifier I wanted to either the MKIII or the Zero unit, but I haven't been able to decide between them. It seems as though the Little Dot would be a better overall amplifer/preamplifier unit, but the inclusion of a DAC in the Zero makes me hesitate, as I have an AV-710 sound card I bought a while ago.

Would the external DAC on the Zero combined with bit-perfection sound better than the MKIII and analogue out from the Wolfson DAC?

I'd be grateful for just about any opinion on this.
 
Jul 19, 2008 at 10:59 PM Post #3 of 11

ciphercomplete

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As a headphone amp the MK III runs circles around the Zero Amp. Thats not to say that the Zero's amp is crap. Its is superior to many entry level home and portable amps. It is definitely loads better than the Creek OBH-11 I owned. It is just a hair below the Little Dot MK II I had although the MK II has more soundstage. Its is a great first time amp.

The Zero DAC is awesome and I am not saying that because I own one. I was thinking about getting the Super DAC but quite frankly the Zero uses better components and it is extremely upgradable and very easily upgraded even for newbies. Its not a giant killer but with a discrete opamp upgrade (which pushes the overall price to about $220) I would pit it against any DAC in the $400-500 range.

When I compared the Zero and the Super you just get so much more with the Zero for only about $50 more once shipping is added in. Its really a no brainer between the two.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 12:15 AM Post #4 of 11

breakfastchef

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First, buy the finest headphone you can afford. That generally will provide you with the largest leap in terms of sonic quality.

I have grown to love tubes and recently sold off my LD MKII in favor of a much more expensive Woo Audio WA6 SE. I like the tube sound and expect to stick with it for some time to come. Tube rolling offers an additional avenue to tuning the sound to your preference, especially with the Little Dot line of amps.

If you do not need a DAC, don't sweat it. I am in the camp that believes that individual components trump devices that perform multiple functions. You should consider a DAC if you plan to primarily use a PC as a source/transport or have other components that have low quality digital outputs. The Beresfors TC-7510, Trends and other similarly priced DAC's are a good value. The next step up in the DAC world seems to be Benchmard, Lavry and a few others at $1000+.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 12:37 AM Post #5 of 11

crispyambulance

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So I suppose the concensus is the Little Dot?

I wouldn't mind getting an external DAC down the line, to be sure. I just couldn't decide between getting the Zero and perhaps using it as a DAC later or getting the MKIII and later supplementing it with something else, so it kind of came down to which one would immediately sound better.

Ciphercomplete, could you say which opamp it is that you recommend for the Zero? It sounds like something I will consider for the DAC later, and I may as well file this information somewhere. I have no problems with modifying my electronics, for the most part.

Breakfastchef, I could probably afford something fancier for the headphone right now, but, well, I'm not exactly aurally trained, and I'm hell of a scrooge. People have recommended the K701 elsewhere, and it seems like it'd be mighty fine, price and all.

Thanks for the help, everyone.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 3:23 AM Post #7 of 11

Pricklely Peete

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Price wise and performance wise it's hard to beat the MKIII/Zero with HDAM combo. I was feeding my MK III from an Auzen Prelude via the computer using lossless FLAC files, bit perfect...blah blah blah...long story short .....Zero killed it SQ wise....absolutely no contest and that prelude card is supposed to be the best of the consumer cards right now for music etc...Not even close.......Zero 1 - Prelude -10.
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You should try those phones out first to see if you like the AKG sound, then try some Senn's. You may find you like the Senn's house sound far better. Try as many different brands as you can, get a feel for what htey deliver SQ wise.....Just a thought. These are fine headphones (K701 & HD600/650) but they are definitely birds of a different feather. A lot of budget gear (hell even some of the expensive stuff) has trouble getting the most from K701's. They are a tricky load for some amps. The Senns are 300 ohms and the 701's less than 50 ohms. Just something to keep in mind.

The 701's when properly amped are outstanding as are the top offerings from Denon, Grado,Sennheiser, etc...you get the idea I think
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hope this helps you some...good luck, and remember... no matter what you decide on there's a ton of info here to get the most from that decision (for the most part )
smily_headphones1.gif



Peete.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 4:16 AM Post #8 of 11

crispyambulance

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Thanks for the tip, Chocula.

Yeah, that combo sounds like what I'll have eventually. It's just a matter of which piece I'll buy first since I'll be damned if I'm going to spend upwards of 700$ in one go. I'm leaning toward the MKIII, yeah, but, come to think of it, no one has really answered the original question. (Anyone with both mind doing a little reconnaissance? : ) : ) : )

The thing about trying the headphones is that I don't really know of anywhere round where I live that would actually stock this sort of equipment, let alone let me test it. I've talked with a few people about the K701s, and based on their (admittedly vague) descriptions it sounds like my cup of tea, relatively, and from what I heard it goes well with the MKIII, so I'm not horribly worried about an inadequate setup unless someone would like to correct me. The HD650s, taking a quick glance through Amazon, are a lot more expensive than I remember them being, and a lot more expensive than the K701s. And if all of my readings haven't betrayed me they're somewhat equal in performance beyond the subjective differences. I figured if I really hate the K701s I could end up just reselling them and making most of the money back, lesson learned. Again, though, I might not have any real basis for thinking this.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 4:25 AM Post #9 of 11

Pricklely Peete

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Yeah it's a tough call crispy. You don't have anywhere within a reasonable distance to try these various phones out ? What about a local head fi'er ?

What general area are you located in, if your close to me you can come by and have a listen to my set up (MKIII/Zero + HDAM w cap mod/HD650 with tjumper78 cable)
smily_headphones1.gif


Peete.
 
Jul 20, 2008 at 4:40 AM Post #10 of 11

crispyambulance

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'Less you live nearabouts Albuquerque NM that's a no go. Thanks for the offer, though.

I'll probably wait a while to make the purchases. It's been nice that this thread was such a success, let me say, so thanks. And I'm still open to advice on what to buy first, if anyone has an opinion. I'm leaning toward the MKIII, and it's probably unimportant in the long run, but hey.
 
Jul 23, 2008 at 6:31 AM Post #11 of 11

tranhieu

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what about using the zero as the preamp for the LD?
 

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