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Choice among FiiO Alpen 2, iFi nano iDSD and IBasso D-Zero MK 2

  1. hidart99
    Hello!! This is my first post here; I am a Jazz/Rock/Classical music lover, owning currently very little equipment, basically just an Arcam A18 and a pair of two-way speakers, and a almost historical Yamaha HP2 headphone.
    I am interested in a portable DAC/amp in the <$200 range and evaluating the devices in the post title.
    I wonder, the iFi nano iDSD is the most expensive of the three, and has a number of great features such as extensive support for HD formats; but basing a judgment on sound quality alone, is it really better than the other two? Is a higher price justified? I am interested in a comparison for both PCM and DSD as well, where applicable. (I have not checked the iBasso supports DSD.)
  2. billybob_jcv
    Since you have so little gear, why are you starting with a portable dac/amp? Why not start with new headphones, then buy the amp if the headphones need them? The HP2 do need an amp, I just think the $200 is better spent on new headphones.

    Also, what is your source - PC? Phone? DAP?

    Worrying about DSD now seems like you are putting the cart before the horse.
  3. hidart99
    My main sources are PCs. I also have an Android smartphone, but it sounds worse and USB cannot be used.
    I'd love to upgrade my HP2, but my goal now is to improve sound quality when I'm going to work. For practical reasons, I would not use a headphone but a IEM.
    I am not satisfied with the IEM of my phone, and I'm looking for an upgrade. Concerning DAC/Amp, I assumed external ones are better than PC ones. Truly, the output of my Vaio Pro is not bad at all, however I have not read any experimental comparison between laptop output and portable DAC/Amp output. Since there seems to be general consensus on the idea that external DACs sound better, I selected three DACs.
    Concerning DSD, I agree that logically it is premature to think about it, however most manufacturers are including DSD support without increasing price (for example FiiO). I will try DSD some time, I just thought it would be wise to gather some info on the quality of DACs on DSD.
  4. billybob_jcv
    IMHO, if you will be using IEMs, there is even *less* need to get a DAC/amp first. Many excellent IEMs do not require an external amp. In addition, using a DAC with an Android phone can only be accomplished if you use an OTG adapter cable - and not all Android devices and amps can play well together with OTG. What I'm trying to say is that I recommend you select the IEMs *first*, then we can decide whether an amp is actually needed.
  5. hidart99
    Fine, I'll proceed that way.
    Regarding my phone, it's a Samsung Galaxy running Android 4.1.2. From the posts I've gathered so far, there is no hope to make it work with an OTG cable as a source for a DAC, for this reason I am resigned to using my PC. Moreover, I compared my Vaio, a low-end laptop and an a Galaxy using classical music, the AUX input of the A18, Yamaha HP2 and speakers, and Vaio's sound is the one I like most.
    The only problem I see is that I'll probably never be able to know in advance what improvement I should expect from a decent DAC over Vaio's one. I have not even been able to learn what DAC is built into that PC. It likely satisfies Intel's hi def audio specs, though. We'll see.
    I'll post here in 24 hours a list of IEMs fitting my (small) budget and I'd be really grateful if you could post a few comments on them. (Or suggest alternatives; I know little of the IEM market.)
  6. hidart99
    Here's my list of IEMs within my budget:
    • HiFiMan RE-400
    • Sennheiser IE 60
    • Shure SE215
    • Phonak Audeo PFE 111/112/121/122
    • Etymotic HF5
    I am not entirely satisfied with my research: A lot of alternatives are surely missing and not all IEMs in the list above seem to have a balanced signature, according to reviews. As you may have understood, although I'm mainly a classical music listener and I have always been a careful listener, I am relatively inexperienced in comparing equipment and unable to fully understand how a warm or balanced or analytical IEM could sound like, simply because I have never tried an IEM of any of those categories and labeled by an expert. I can only guess I'd be more satisfied with a balanced one.
  7. hidart99
    Well,the only two real contenders here are HiFiMan RE-400 and Etymotic HF5. I've discarded the other options for different reasons.
    I am open to all suggestions and advice. I'll finalize my purchase most likely tomorrow morning
  8. hidart99
    I purchased an Etymotic HF2, which I believe is HF5 with a microphone. I have enjoyed it so far. Not much bass as expected; great clarity and not fatiguing at all.
    An amp isn't needed for the Vaio. Right now I'm listening to Beethoven's Quartet Op.131 in C# minor at 25% of full volume; it's the maximum volume I can tolerate.
    The volume on the Galaxy Note I is not as loud. 75% is the optimal loudness in a quiet room. Outdoors it is just enough.
    As to quality, the Note and the Vaio sound in a very different way with the Etymotic. I surely prefer the Vaio, which produces an airy and detailed sound. The Note is quite the opposite. I am still not sure whether an external DAC would bring any improvement over either source.
  9. billybob_jcv
    I just connected my hf5 to my Samsung Galaxy GS5 phone. It sounds OK to me, although I did need to raise the volume up to 13/15 to get it as loud as I like. (I generally listen fairly loud - I'm old... :xf_eek: )

    It certainly does seem like the Samsung needs an amp.

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