Best sounding DAC/Amp under 600$?
Oct 29, 2015 at 10:16 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 7


500+ Head-Fier
Feb 3, 2013
I currently own the Ultrasone signature djs and am looking forward to getting the Fostex th900s within the next year.
I currently have owned the objective o2 amp (never bought a dac before) and although there is a large improvement in soundstage and detail in the djs I feel as though they did add a bit to the highs which I wasn't a fan of personally.
About a week ago though the amp broke and I am looking for a replacement, hopefully with a dac to pair with it as well.
I am currently looking for a full sized desktop amp/dac combo under 600$ and my only requirement is that they do well with very sensitive headphones and they don't add to the highs. (as neutral as possible, warm sounding if anything)
Thanks in advance for your help guys ^.^
Oct 29, 2015 at 11:20 PM Post #2 of 7
Any suggestions? Surely there has to be something that fits the bill haha. If the budget isn't enough for full sized then of course feel free to give me a few ideas on portable ones if you can. (Or tell me my budget isn't enough, and tell me how much i need to spend!)
Oct 31, 2015 at 11:49 AM Post #4 of 7
Schiit Bifrost ($400) + Asgard 2 ($250) is a great combo that is near your price range. You could downgrade from Bifrost to Modi 2 Uber ($150) if $650 is more than you want to spend. I think Bifrost is worth the extra cash because it is upgradable and gives you the option to have a very nice multibit DAC ($250 upgrade) in the future.
Nov 4, 2015 at 6:28 AM Post #5 of 7
^ This
I used Modi 1 -> Asgard2 with my TH900 for a year and was very happy with it. The modi is thin on bass compared to the Gungnir multibit I upgraded to, but it didn't matter as TH900 has plenty of bass anyway.
The Bifrost is a great choice as you can get it upgraded later to multibit. 
Nov 9, 2015 at 8:12 PM Post #6 of 7
I just got a JDS Labs Element and I'm digging it a lot.
Much of the principles are the same as the O2 re: distortion, and wrapping it with a nice UX (big old volume knob) and power and amplification toggle plus (now) a toggle on RCA in/out, it seems. Versatile little unit, pretty stealthy on your desk without looking too geeky at work. Solid frame, and compact. Makes me smile when I get to my desk.
Specs are pretty tops when it comes to minimum distortion, good channel separation, quiet noise floor. t powerful in its punch driving even the my Fostex T50RPs. I had almost abandoned those headphones running off of my laptop's audio out, it's just such a weak source of power. The headphones felt dead before I replaced them with the Element. Plus it's $350.
There is a switch on the back that goes from a 1x or a 4.7x gain, which should help with your IEMs.
This pairing on audiobot
Nov 11, 2015 at 1:49 AM Post #7 of 7
I have the Element and it is OK but I'm underwhelmed by it.  I'd love to find a really good Amp/DAC in the $600 range.  Currently I'm experimenting with a MusicStreamer III into my Phil Jones Bass Buddy which is actually a portable practice head for bass.  It is a 10 w amp with an Aux/in.  It has a bunch of features for practicing bass guitar, and is the preamp for the famed Phil Jones Bass briefcase amp.  It has a headphone out.  When I plugged it into the Music Streamer and started listening to my headphones it brought them to life about 10 times more than the Element.  The Element does add some boost and some support to the sound.  But, the bass coming from the phones is comparatively anemic.  I thought my Beyer T1 2d edition and my Beyer T 70 lacked bass slam until I heard them with the bass buddy.  The highs with the Element get shrill pretty quickly.  My HE-500 is polite but boring on the Element and alive on the Bass Buddy.  I tried a bunch more headphones and they all sounded better on the bass buddy.
So I'm using this thing that isn't designed specifically to be a headphone amp.  It is known for great bass sound reproduction so it should be no surprise that it brings alive the bass in my headphones.  But it also smoothes them out, leaves plenty of detail and space, yet doesn't kill the treble. The Bass Buddy sells for around $450.
I wish I could find a headphone amp/DAC in the roughly $600 range that was as good as what I'm using.  I've got a Little Dot and a Matrix, a few Fiios amps, among others.  The Element is better than most of them because it does put out quite a bit of power and the DAC is decent.  Unfortunately though I'm not that thrilled with the Element.  My Bass practice head plugged into a cheap DAC sounds better.  

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