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Best Sub 100$ Dac/Amp

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by vickie2006, Jun 23, 2018.
  1. vickie2006
    Hello everyone,
    I know that posts like this, been posted a lot.
    But Since a lot of things change while DragonQuest Release their first DAC/Amp USB - And today there are many options that better and much cheaper.

    So Spotify main problem in smartphones is the volume level - when I am on the road I love to hear music with my RHA MA750 - But still, there are songs that you feel that a lot of details missing - So I look up for a solution.
    So portable small cheap DAC/AMP, hopefully, will solve this problem.
    So a little research you can easily find this list:

    Sabaj da2 (still don't know the difference between this and the idea).
    Wei Liang SE4 (A little bit bigger than the other one, but with unbelievable price)
    Wei Liang SA 9023 Chip
    Zorloo ZuperDac-S

    So if you have another offer, I will be more than happy to hear it.

    Just saying that durability is very important for me, unfortunately, I am a little destructible with my stuff.

    Thank you, everyone, for your help :)
  2. Zerohour88
    guys on the few other hi-fi sites loved the DA2/Idea and measurements-wise, they're better than the Dragonfly Black. More than enough power for most IEM (someone reviewed it with a HD800, even). Durability, that's mostly down to luck, tbh.

    Got my eye on the Breeze Audio/Weiliang SE4 too, but still thinking on going with a Topping NX4 DSD (140 bux-ish).

    You honestly can't go wrong with most of the product on that list. Even the super cheap SA9023 since its by Weiliang and they make some serious hi-fi stuff, if it breaks, just buy a new one since its cheap, lol. There's even the bulkier E19 if you need more power.
  3. vickie2006
    75$ isn't so cheap for this type of product.
    And I prefer to spend little more to get a product with a warranty, for long time use.
    Until I bought the RHA, I didn't understand how the warranty is important.
    The se4 is too big for my use, unfortunately.
    Someone says that the D3 has 3 years of warranty, but can't confirm it, on their website.
    Furthermore, I don't know if they support worldwide warranty, So...
    If you have another suggestion that has portable size, with good specs and price - just inform.
  4. cel4145
    What phone do you have? Some phones don't benefit much (if it all) from a DAC. In which case, all you need is a headphone amp and not a DAC. In that case, you could get a Fiio A3. Or if better to spend less, a Topping NX1s.

    I would be wary of the SMSL IDEA. Based on reviews, seems like it might be one of those SMSL models prone to reliability issues.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
  5. vickie2006
    Samsung A5 2017.
    I saw the problem in smsl, I think that they fix it. The Sabaj don't have this problem.
    Wanted to add this product too, it has sabre 9018, and look like it can drive up to 80 ohm.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
  6. Zerohour88
    uh, if the SE4 is too big for you, then just get something like the Hidizs Sonata cable, that has a built-in DAC, since the SE4 is already super small for a USB DAC (compared to something like a Mojo).

    If you need warranty, either get something not from chi-fi or from an established seller.
  7. vickie2006
    The sontana look great, but his output is 32 ohm, so I'm losing the main reason I wanted to buy external audio gear.
    If I just wanted to buy portable DAC, I would buy hidimediy 9018, that is very cheap and great.
    I need 80 ohm output, to raise the volume of my iem
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  8. Zerohour88
    how much output power at 80Ω? Sonata is 2x60mW @ 32Ω. I tested the RHA MA750 (or maybe the i version, can't remember), even with my phone it sounded loud enough with that great sparkle up top (even better on the Opus #1, ofc)


    so you need a very small, high-powered USB DAC AMP with warranty that is less than $75?

    also, measurements of the hifime 9018, you can compare to the smsl idea/da2:


    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  9. cel4145
    Apparently A5 audio improves dramatically with an amp (scroll down to the audio review): https://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_a5_and_a5_duos-review-1201p7.php. It's your built in headphone amplifier that's affecting audio quality. Line output for an amp looks good.
  10. vickie2006
    Yep, it is driven with enough volume in Samsung player, But Spotify has low volume. Although I change the options to loud.
    As I say it drives enough volume in most of my mobile apps like Samsung player, except Spotify, that some songs I can hear clear and other very low.

    "so you need a very small, high-powered USB DAC AMP with warranty that is less than $75?"
    Correct. I can pay more if its necessary.
  11. cel4145
    Yes. But there is benefit than just volume difference. If you look at the table in that review, it shows how IMD+noise and THD are rather high and stereo crosstalk is rather low when headphones are attached. All of those measurements improve dramatically when the headphone jack is used just for line out to a head amp. So the point is that you will not only increase volume, but also SQ just by using a headphone amp even if it doesn't have a DAC in it, because the output from your DAC with the Galaxy A5 to a headphone amp (via the headphone jack) is very good. On the other hand, a headphone amp/DAC completely bypasses the headphone jack, so you are using the internal DAC on your amp/DAC, which might provide a bit better sound, but those stats are pretty good for the Galaxy A5.

    Now it may not matter to you, but some people prefer using a headphone amp, when possible, rather than some of those small USB headphone amp/DAC, because (a) you can still charge your phone and (b) the headphone amp has it's own battery (so not likely to use as much phone battery). And of course, opens up more choices for you. But of course others prefer the convenience of not having to charge a separate headphone amp.

    If you don't care about having an external DAC--just the headphone amp--look into the Fiio A3. It's 2nd or 3rd generation of the original Fiio E11 that came out about 6 or 7 years ago. Well tested design. It's full aluminum chassis, so pretty durable. Lots of positive Head-Fi testimonials over the years for the E11/A3 design.
  12. vickie2006
    The fiio is too big for me.
    I see reviews that a5 DAC has distortion issue. So I think DAC/amp will add some details and much better quality.
    What is your opinion about this DAC/amp?
    it looks more sturdy than the da2.

  13. cel4145
    Yes. That's what I said. A5's built in headphone amp has distortion issues. However, A5 used as line output for a headphone amp, the distortion is greatly improved according to GSMArena.

    Sorry. I don't know anything about that company nor their DACs.
  14. vickie2006
    Ok man, I ordered the da2.
    It's cost now 70$ with coupons. They have a one-year worldwide warranty.
    That the best I can get, and their customer service answer very fast.
    Thanks for your help :)
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
  15. cel4145
    All right. You'll have to come back and let us know how it sounds :)

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