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Budget DAC?

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  1. Chris Kaoss
    Thank you for chiming in with this little device.
    Looks good, like the other gear they've made so far.
    Really appreciated.
  2. scruffy1
    umm... everything :)

    it is better defined, crisper, has more attack and better sound stage

    and the ud110v2 cost me $25 with post included, and a good 1/8" to rca cable thrown in; the xonar is a decade older, and cost well over $200 new

    the ud130 is better than the ud110v2 again; not by the same margin, in this case the difference is evolution rather than revolution, but take all the attributes above and then shine 'em a bit more

    i haven't heard schiit personally, but they get good press although to my reading a lot of that is american pride rather than outstanding quality compared to similarly priced (and cheaper) options from china, or in the case of stoner, malaysia

    as basking shark notes, the khadas tone board is excellent ( i have one for the dac duties for my home theatre pc, for music mostly) and it is a notch above the better stoner dac/amp, but then it's a naked dac with no amp, for more money
    i recommend a look at audioscience review (as does b'shark) to see what analysis can reveal versus makerting bull and personal preferences / bias

    if your headphones are low impedance, they will sound pretty great with just a dac (even the ud110v2 can push adequate quality volume to my audiotechnica ad700's, but they are easy to drive), but step up to more hungry cans (my akg Q701's) and it lacks the same impact

    and for maximum quality, the dac output should be at 100% feeding to the amp

    i have no idea how the sound adapter will play with the suggestions, or if it amplifies or just does simulated multichannel

    in honesty, the audiotechnicas with good source are exquisite for gaming, with simple stereo... as witnessed on any gamer forum you might visit where they get discussed

    is the $100 american buckaroos ?
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
    baskingshark likes this.
  3. jason41987
    Just because my headphones now are unbalanced, doesn't mean my next set won't be, or that I couldn't convert any of the headphones I have now.
  4. jason41987
    Also, I do have a small headphone amp that should be adequate to drive just about anything these manufacturers have listed, so I wouldn't worry too much about the DAC providing it. If it can power higher impedance without an amp, or has an amp built in, which most I mentioned seem to, then that is even better, it'd save room on my desk.
  5. jason41987
    I was only considering the K3 for the balanced option, but I am not even sure if it's a true balanced output from the DAC chip or just splits it for the amps. Since I already have a headphone amp with 24v power supply that should be able to drive any headphones I needed, I am not too concerned with any of these DACs built in amps ability to drive higher impedance headphones when I buy some. It would be nice if they did, but not necessary.

    Since I already have an amp that works for now, standalone DACs are on the table too. I've heard great things about the SMSL M100, and if the fiio K5 sounds better than the balanced output of the K3, then I would gladly spend a bit extra on that as well.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  6. jason41987
    I started doing some research on the technology aspect and looking at the chips used. My understanding is that the ES9038Q2M is roughly the equivalent of an AK4490, The AK4490 is more high end than the AK4452. And the AK4497 and ES9038PRO are top of the line.

    Question 1: The Fiio K3 and the SMSL M100 both use the same AK4452 chip, just the K3 is balanced and should, theoretically sound the same unbalanced. Is balanced worth an extra $50 between these two devices?

    Question 2: The Fiio K5 uses the AK4493 chip which SHOULD be better than the AK4452 in the K3. All else being equal, what is better to have, the balanced AK4452 or the unbalanced AK4493?

    Question 3: I could spend $200 and get something like the SMSL M300 which uses an AK4497, and is balanced and get all the best features into one package, but that means waiting longer to upgrade headphones. Will this DAC sound better on SHP9500s than one of the other cheaper DACs would on something like Hifiman HE4XX or Sennheiser HD6xx? Basically for this question I am wondering if the extra money past my budget is better spent either getting an even better DAC, or better headphones than the philips SHP9500s I have now.
  7. scruffy1
    oils ain't oils !

    the stoner ud130 runs the ak4493 too :wink:

    the panam runs an ancient wolfson dac (unspecified), but it sounds so much sweeter

    making a decision based solely on the chip in a dac neglects that the rest of the components are involved in what you hear

    no point hiring a world renowned vocalist and giving them a basic high school band as the backing musicians, is there ?

    and if you already have an adequate small amp for phones, buy a khadas tone board and marvel - you won't need to do anything else to immediately realise what you've been missing

    there's probably better stuff out there, but not at that price from all my research
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
    baskingshark likes this.
  8. jason41987
    It's a generalization, since I cannot listen to any of these for myself, I have to look at specs and peoples opinions. Also that Khadas tone board I just learned about recently and looked into it, I am intrigued however, I hear of promise of them releasing a V2 which will be balanced, and that has me even more intrigued. I wonder if it'd be worth waiting for, if it ever comes.
  9. scruffy1
    oh, it'll be here, when it gets here

    but meantime you could be enjoying the available khadas and spend that time listening enough to establish a really practical baseline to compare to everything else you might try after

    really, the khadas will open your ears
  10. Tatalor51
    Where do you live? It's somewhat important to know as there are some very good US options that are not as readily available in EU or other places (VAT + shipping increase price by quite a lot).
  11. jason41987
    I am in the US
  12. Chris Kaoss
    It isn't a question how this or this dac sounds better on your Philips, rather it should be how the Philips sounds with the device.

    A dac device isn't just the chip in it.
    Implementation is more important at this point.
    Don't fix on a specific dac chip.
    Even 9038 devices could sound worse or pretty bad.

    Imo, getting a better sounding headphone would be the goal. :)
    But that's another "game" to play on head-fi. :deadhorse:
  13. jason41987
    Also, I seen you can simply pole holes in the 2-sided cardboard box the tone board comes in, push the RCA jacks out and thread the nuts on and voila, a case for the tone board. What else has me interested is its size. Maybe get a DIY amp board or something and build a single DAC/amp unit with interchangeable and upgradeable internals. Though at some point I was considering just engineering and building my own DAC and amp after I have a better understanding of what I look for.
    Chris Kaoss likes this.
  14. jason41987
    The problem is though, without a good DAC and amplifier, how do I test out headphones to see how they're really going to sound when properly driven? Of course, how does one test out amps without good headphones? I feel the SHP9500s should be sufficient enough to find a good DAC and amp, and when I have that I could maybe match the headphones to that. Currently I am on the fence as to whether I want another set of open backs (mic picks up audio, and background noise can make it hard to hear parts of some games) or if I want to look for a solid set of closed backs like DT770s or ATH-M50X, etc.

    The music I listen to, mostly metal, is never bass heavy, focusing more on trebles and vocals, generally speaking that would be the realm of open backs, now if there was a DAC/amp that could enhance or improve treble clarity and presence on a set of closed backs to sort of give me the best of both worlds there, that would really interest me.
  15. Tatalor51
    Let me make it really easy for you then :) JDS OL DAC + Atom (200$). Also, there's a great deal for Philips Fidelio X2HR on Amazon: 100$. I have all 3 and they are really great for the money (even after paying VAT and shipping for the first 2 which incresed the cost by almost 50% I still think it's a good deal). And the X2 is a fantastic headphone, really a steal for 100$.

    Altenatively, you can replace the OL DAC with Topping D30 and I heard very good things about Hifiman HE4XX, which is 130$ on Drop.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
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