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Best DAC/Amp Combo with a Cowon J3 and Westone 3?

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by vlooienuker, Jun 28, 2012.
  1. Vlooienuker
    Hi all.
    I'm looking for a great DAC/Amp combo to pair up with my Cowon J3 and my W3's.
    My budget is 700 USD...
    I know the W3's are a low impedance phone but I really want to "make the most of them" and get the best sound possible. I dont want just a "slight" difference I want a huge difference because I'm spending so much. Especially after I convert the USD into my currency... Which is NZD -.-'
    Portability and durability are huge factors and hopefully none of them are much bigger or much heavier than the J3 itself.
    I usually listen to music like florence and the machine or a state of trance and sometimes maybe some post hardcore or deathcore.
    Ive been leaning towards the Pico Slim but dont know which DAC to pair that with.
    Also which LOD should I get? Ive been looking at this: http://aloaudio.com/compact-right-angle-sxc-22-fep-mini-to-mini.html
    Honestly I dont know what the differences are in each of those EXPENSIVE as cables but I know some of them are copper and some are silver and some are like SXC 22 or 18.
    Please help me out.
    Oh and how would I keep all the units safe? Like prevent them from slipping out of those straps or velcro tape?
    Thanks so much head-fiers.
  2. Vlooienuker
  3. moodyrn
    I think one of the reasons no one's touched this because you seem to be confused about what you have and what you want. First of all, there is not lod for the j3 and what you have listed isn't a lod, but a mini to mini cable. Next, the j3 doesn't have a lineout at all, the only output is the headphone out which isn't a line out. A line out bypasses the internal headphone amp and is taken directly from the internal dac. And also you can't use a dac with it because it doesn't have a digital out to go into a dac. So you don't have a lineout, and you don't have a digital out either. Sure theoretically you can use the mini to mini cable to run from the headphone out to the analog input of a portable amp, but then you are double amping you headphones/iem/earbuds. And there going to be an increase in noise and distortion. Again, which is why many don't use an amp at all with their cowons. But you could get away with it by turning the volume down, but taking a signal from the headphone out to an amp is never going to be as clean as a true lineout. And since it doesn't have a digital output onboard, you can't even use a dac at all.
  4. kmhaynes
    Hate to say it, but I think your expectations are too high for what an amp can do for that combination.  The J3 is powerful and the W3 is effecient (don't have it, but impedence is low), so you are probably getting most of what the W3 has to give.  If you add an amp, even a very strong amp, I am confident you will hear a "slight", but I just don't think you are going to hear a huge difference, no matter what amp you use.
    BTW, a DAC won't be any use for the J3 -- you would use the DAC between your computer (usually) and the W3.  The J3 won't be part of that mix.
    I would suggest that if you really want an amp, spend more like $200 on the Leckerton UHA4, or similar amp, and spend some of the other on a different set of earphones, maybe something to give you a contrast to the W3. 
  5. Vlooienuker
    Thanks, What phone should I get? Or should I just go straight into headphones? ATM I have a pair of AD700s, ATH M50s and Senns 201s.

    So pretty much only ipods can use DACS? Since theyre the only devices with a LOD? Sorry, im quite new to this topic and need quite a lot of information at this point... Thanks again.
  6. Hasashi
    DACs are usually used for the computer. They bypass the internal soundcard and presents a much cleaner sound than what you would get from the headphone jack on your computer.
    There are very few dacs for the ipod (though I don't remember any of them right now).
    There are a few amp/dac combos you can consider, but coming from a j3, you probably won't need any amping with your w3s. I run my UM3X without an amp from my ipod, but an amp does help slightly.
    with your budget at 700, you can consider the pico amp/dac or the RSA Predator. They have both amp and dac so they're something to look at. I'm thinking that the predator may suit your taste in music more; it provides a warmer sound as opposed to a more neutral sound from the pico.
    Read up on reviews, there are plenty around here.
  7. Vlooienuker
    I'm on the go quite a lot and dont have much time to sit there and listen to music which is why I usually use IEMS instead of headphones.
    I reckon the predator is too chunky and too heavy which is why I'm looking at something such as the FiiO E17 or Pico Slim. After reading quite a lot about DACS, I think I wont be needing one so I'll just buy an amp. And I may buy some portable headphones but just dont know which to go for, especially with my setup.
  8. Hasashi
    The fiio E17 isn't at all that small either.
    RSA P-51 mustang and the shadow are on the small end of things. Especially the P-51 Mustang.. the predator is pretty small.. but they managed to make the mustang even smaller. 
    also take a look at the TTVJ slim and the Headstage Arrow 4G
    there's also the cmoy, iBasso d-zero, and digizoid ZO2 which are on the lower end of the price ranges.
    as far as mini to mini connections go, fiio makes relatively cheap ones.
    some may argue that cables make a difference, but those are a late upgrade.
  9. moodyrn
    Well, sort of. It's possible to use a dac with an ipod, but there are very that are idevice capable. Using a lod with an ipod doesn't bypass the dac, but it does gives you a clean lineout signal to bypass the built in amp to use with a portable amp. There are only 4 "portable" devices that are capable of bypassing the ipod internal dac. They are the AlgoRhythm Solo, fostex hp p1, go-dap 4.0, v-moda vamp. The go-dap and vamp are really only for the iphone 4 but can be used with any idevice with an extension data/sync cable. Venturecraft is coming out with a go-dap x later this summer that can easily be use with any idevice. Given you budget, the fostex would be an easy recommendation. Unlike the solo, the hp p1 also comes with a high quality amp and can be had for around 650.00. But having to get both an ipod and a hp p1 will take you over budget though.
    Another option would be going with the audiophile players from ibasso and hifiman. They will be over you budget a little, but could be found used maybe at your budget.
  10. Vlooienuker

    I took a look at the Digizoid Z02 and im quite interested. Now my choices are probably the Pico Slim, P51 Mustang and the ZO2... I really dont know which to go for but may be leaning towards the Mustang since I like a warm smooth sound. Besides bass, is the ZO2 any good?
  11. proedros
    check out the headstage arrow thread....may be best bang for buck amp at its price range
  12. Vlooienuker
    I'm looking for a P51 Mustang atm. Is it better than the headstage arrow? And people say its sort of dark and fun which is my preference.
  13. Sil3nce Moderator
    The rsa predator hands down with your budget.
    It's quite honestly tiny, and sounds huge.
    Lifetime warranty anyone?
  14. Vlooienuker
    Well some people told me Cowon players dont have line out and they told me theres no point unless your MP3 player has line out. The only one I can think of atm is Ipods...
  15. khoi14021993
    Regardless of what you decide to buy, I don't think it'll make a "huge" difference at all. The amp and dac section of the J3 is quite good, so if you want an additional amp to go with it, I reckon it'll be more like a change in sound signature.

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