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Best Dac for the price; need opinions!!

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by simplemente, Sep 13, 2012.
  1. simplemente
    Hi there,
    I've had some trouble with the soundcard in my laptop (windows 7), and now the jack outpout won't deliver any sound. But the sound was pretty average anyway, and needed to be changed, so I did some research on possible solutions. This is what I've come up with:
    Both Amp and DAC:
    FiiO E7. 82€ 
    NuForce uDAC-2. 120€?
    FiiO E17. 133€
    HeadRoom Total BitHead. 149$
    Prodigy Cube. Around 100$
    These are only DAC:
    FiiO E10. 66€
    Music Streamer II.  149€
    Another option could be an external usb sound card like M-fast track pro or Esi U24 XL...
    So what are your thoughts on this? Which one do you recommend me the most?
    PS: I own a pair of Grados Sr60i
  2. gattari

    Inviato dal mio GT-I9300 con Tapatalk 2
  3. Currawong Contributor
    The Audio-gd NFB-16 is a battery-powered all-in-one unit which I'm impressed with. I can't say whether it is the best amongst what you've chosen, as I've only owned a Prodigy Cube, which was awful.
  4. Lord Voldemort
    I recommend the E10 for strictly desktop use and E7 if you plan to use these portable. I couldn't tell the difference between my music streamer II and my E17 under a blind test so don't expect big jumps in DAC sound. I've never seen that Prodigy Cube. The Total Bithead seems a bit expensive for what it is, and I think it has a pretty high output impedance as well. The NuForce uDac-2 was pretty popular until Nwavguy destroyed its reputation and showed its poor measurements. 
  5. kmthd
    I would suggest this..
    Audioengine D1
    Closeout(open box) price $109 from shoreline. Should be in fine condition
    Could also get the Music Streamer for $99 closeout from the same site http://www.shorelinemusic.com/closeouts/closeout-hrt-music-streamer-ii/
    Not sure where you are though
  6. GloryUprising
    Between the e7 and e17, I would go with the e17.

    The sound quality jump is there, although not a major one. The main argument tho is that the e17 plays 24bit and accepts more inputs giving you a bit of a buffer for future proofing.

    If you go with the fiio, be sure to get the line out dock if you plan on connecting with another amp.
  7. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The Fiio E10 is a USB input, DAC and Headphone amplifier.
    And it gets my vote.
  8. simplemente
    Thanks everybody for the answers!
    It problably is, but it gets a little out of my price range. At least I can cross out the prodigy cube :)
    Ok, thanks for the imputs. Not sure wheter you are recommending the E7 or the E17 for portable use...
    Those look real good, and cheap!  But the problem is, I live in Spain, so I don't think it's worthy to have it sent here. Or is it? (The cheapest shipping method is $11, but it's not trackable. And then there is the problem with customs...)
    Good to know that, thank you.
    Well, even after your answers, I'm more undecided than I was before. 
  9. Hoosierdaddy
    I know I'm late to the party, but I thought I'd throw in two more cents.
    I notice you mentioned your Grados. Will you be using this primarily for headphone listening? If so, then you will need a headphone amp section that can drive your phones with authority.
    Currawong says the Prodigy Cube sounds "awful". But he is wrong. The Prodigy Cube contains an excellent USB chipset - The Tenor - as well as a really nice Wolfson DAC. However, it is USB powered. So of course, the headphone amp sucks massively. It has very little power and almost no headroom. And it will struggle driving any load greater than a set of earbuds. So using it as a headphone source is completely out of the question. I suspect Currawong was using it for headphone listening, hence his negative reaction. Me? I have a Cube and have owned it for a couple of years now. I have it between my desktop and a Denon receiver driving some nice bookshelf speakers and it sounds simply killer in this setting. I have listened to the headphone amp for all of about 10 minutes. Pretty weak. But as a USB DAC, it does a great job. In fact, I'm listening to Jeff Lorber Fusion on that system right now, and it sounds wonderful.
    On the other hand, if you plan to use it primarily to drive headphones, then you will need an amp with sufficient voltage swing to clamp down on and control the Grados, And that narrows the field considerably. In that regard, I would not recommend any of the aforementioned DAC/amp combos. None of them can drive those headphones to reference levels and do so gracefully. I know. People drive those phones with an iPod. But note what I said...drive with authority. Low powered op amps simply cannot do those headphones justice. Need proof? Hook them up to an iPod and listen, Then switch to a Schitt Asgard. There is simply no comparison. The difference is night and day.
    For headphone listening on the cheap, I would probably recommend the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC 11. It'll give you the internal DAC which can be used to feed an audio system. And it will also give you an excellent headphone amp...110mW @ 300 Ohms and 600mW @ 32 Ohms...which will make those Grados really sing.
    Just my thoughts. Hope it helps.

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