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Best amp under $100?

  1. Sound N00b
    I was driving my akg k712 headphones with a sound blaster z card which has now died. I now have a really good excuse to upgrade to something more audiophile. I was looking at headphone amps before and the consensus was pretty much a jds labs objective 2 or a schiit magni. Has that changed? How do the massdrop versions of the O2 compare? I am on a pretty tight budget and probably going to space my dac purchase from my amp purchase but I am willing to spend an extra $50 ($150 total) for an amp dac combo if the amp in it is better than any of the amp only options.

    edit: In case it wasn't obvious I am looking for desktop amps. I have no need for portability.

    edit 2: After looking at your responses and some research of my own I have narrowed it down to 2 amps I am torn between the jds atom and the geshelli archel pro. In addition to just a general recommendation for amps under a $100 if anybody has enough knowledge to compare the archel and the atom that is also appreciated.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  2. FastAndClean
    JDS Atom
  3. starence
    Atom is very good if you want neutral, if you prefer a warmer sound, maybe a Liquid Spark. I like separate components, so I would probably get a $100 amp now, and add a DAC later. But if you prefer a combination DAC/Amp, there are probably some good options in your price range.
  4. serman005
    Yes, the Magni 3 is quite good at the price, IMO.
  5. buke9
    +1 on a Monoprice Liquid Spark. I just love that little amp. Like was said before it has just a bit of the Cavalli sound that is just a bit of warmth to it. I have not heard the Atom yet but all say it is pretty good also and I think would probably be close to how the Magni 3 which I have sounds which is brighter or more neutral. Either would be fine just depends on if you want a brighter sound or just a hint of warmth.
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Are you into FPS gaming and have a need for headphone surround sound
    I would say to just buy another SB-Z (Sound Blaster Z), good prices for used ones (EBay).
    Has a very decent CS4398 DAC chip and I'm assuming your old SB-Z can amp was enough to drive the AKG K712.

    Or get the Schiit Magni or JDS Atom headphone amplifier.
    Check out Hifimediy website site, seem to have some good prices for USB DACs.
  7. blackdragon87
    i really like the spark as well
    buke9 likes this.
  8. Sound N00b
    I would say that my focus is about 60% gaming and 40% music. So while I care about gaming, increased overall sound quality is definitely appreciated too. I am not really that knowledgeable about surround sound. Is there a software solution to it or do you need a physical chip? How important is surround sound? Are there audiophile dacs with surround sound which I could combine with a nice amp like an atom? How do a nice dac+amp compare against a sound card?

    Edit: Also opinion of the monoprice liquid spark?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
  9. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Do you need headphone surround sound?
    For $30, Creative Labs will sell you their software, which works off your on-board audio,
    But will not work with a USB DAC, only optical DAC (if you get a DAC).
    So PC > on-board sound > optical DAC > Head amp.
    USB DAC bypasses on-board audio features.
  10. Sound N00b
    Is something like a schiit modi 3 an optical dac because it has an optical port? What makes a dac optical?
  11. turbomustang84
    The Geshelli Archel Pro Is a good budget Amp that will drive pretty much anything
  12. PurpleAngel Contributor
    DACs will mainly come with three types of digital signal inputs jacks (ports), USB or S/PDIF optical or S/PDIF coaxial.
    Some DACs will only have a USB input or just an optical input, some DAC come with all three inputs.
    turbomustang84 likes this.
  13. HamsterJ
    And how about the Audioquest Dragonfly? Excellent value, love the smaller footprint.

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