DAC/amp combo for Koss Pro DJ 100?
Nov 19, 2016 at 12:05 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

molecule

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I've had my Koss Pro DJ 100s for a couple years now, and I really like them for their soundstage and clarity. I was aware when I got them that they would likely need an amp, but I decided to get them without an amp anyway.
 
I use these phones both on my desktop and laptop.  Since I use a receiver for my desktop's speakers, I've been using the headphone output of the receiver for these headphones.  I think this receiver has a built-in amp circuit as well as a "super-bass" mode that I leave on. The result is that I can hear the bass end well enough through the receiver at home.
 
In contrast, my laptop sounds very lacking on the bass side; even worse than the headphone output on my (tracfone) android phone!  While I could just listen to music on my phone, I would prefer to be able to listen through the laptop since it is much faster than my phone. While I might get a newer laptop soon, I don't know whether it's soundcard would be any better or not.
 
So, I'm wondering if getting an amp, DAC, or both would help improve the laptop's sound quality.  I'm thinking of either the Fiio E10K or Q1:
https://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E10K-Headphone-Amplifier-Black/dp/B00LP3AMC2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479574377&sr=8-1&keywords=fio+dac+amp
https://www.amazon.com/Q1-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier-Black/dp/B0157DKAU4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479574415&sr=8-1&keywords=fio+dac+amp+q1
 
Would these solve my laptop problem, or should I go a different route?
 
Also, would it be crazy to use this with my desktop (e.g. plug receiver into this instead of desktop's mobo input), or would it be better to go the soundcard route for that?
 
Finally, does anyone know if these would work at all with Arch Linux (what I use on both the desktop + laptop)?
 
Thanks in advance for the advice!
 
Nov 23, 2016 at 3:22 PM Post #2 of 10

molecule

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I think I asked too many questions in the last post, so I'll simplify:
 
Will a DAC/amp combo work like an external soundcard for my laptop, or is there a better/different solution?
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 3:38 PM Post #4 of 10

molecule

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In case anyone sees this thread, it might be helpful to know that I decided to get a Fiio K1 DAC/Amp combo.
 
I think this has solved my laptop problem; music does sounds better through the K1 than the onboard audio, though this improvement is across the whole frequency range (there's no "bass boost" in this amp, though the max volume is very high (more than necessary IMO)).
 
Also, this works great on Arch linux, I use pulseaudio, so I just have to use pavucontrol to set output to the K1.  Interestingly, there's different outputs for different programs, so this means I could play different audio through the onboard + K1 outputs! (shouldn't be surprising since the K1 is basically another external soundcard...)
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 4:02 PM Post #5 of 10

Sam21

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  I think I asked too many questions in the last post, so I'll simplify:
 
Will a DAC/amp combo work like an external soundcard for my laptop, or is there a better/different solution?

prosj100 is very easy to drive.....take a look at these:
 
http://www.zorloo.com/zuperdac
 
http://hifimediy.com/DACs/ready-made-dacs/Sabre-9018-DAC
 
FIIO portable DAC/AMPs
 
http://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-e5
 
 
Soundcards are basically a put-together DAC / DSP / AMP ....
 
Audiophile grade DAC/AMPs do not have DSP chips....you wont get EQ / Surround/ Digital Bass boost and many other processings... Creative E5/G5 is an exception though...
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 8:14 PM Post #6 of 10

molecule

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  prosj100 is very easy to drive.....take a look at these:
 
http://www.zorloo.com/zuperdac
 
http://hifimediy.com/DACs/ready-made-dacs/Sabre-9018-DAC
 
FIIO portable DAC/AMPs
 
http://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-e5
 
 
Soundcards are basically a put-together DAC / DSP / AMP ....
 
Audiophile grade DAC/AMPs do not have DSP chips....you wont get EQ / Surround/ Digital Bass boost and many other processings... Creative E5/G5 is an exception though...

Thanks for clarifying this!
 
I'm fine with the Fiio K1 right now; it seems to be exactly like most of the above without support for >96 kHz audio.  I only care about FLAC vs mp3 for listening (see this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/644595/official-free-flac-file-music-sharing-thread/1785), and as the Sabre site says, "However, most users play CD’s, FLAC, Apple lossless, MP3's, iTunes, Spotify, Tidal high resolution etc, and will not benefit from a 192/384kHz capable DAC."
 
One more question: the K1 is probably not the best thing for this, but could I use it with my desktop too (leading to a cheap receiver + powered speakers), or would that risk breaking the K1?
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 9:09 PM Post #7 of 10

Sam21

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you can set the headphone out to act as a line-out by setting the volume in windows to a desired one, Most DACs of this type allow such configuration, You just have to ask around about it(here or FIIO). 
 
 
Notice that double amping degrades the signal and should be avoided. Just ask FIIO about how to use the headphone out on K1 as a line-out.
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 9:17 PM Post #8 of 10

molecule

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My cheapo receiver actually has (IMO) a pretty good amp circuit in it already, so double-amping probably isn't a good idea or even worth it if it was.  If I'm just using my desktop mobo's headphone jack, would that still be double-amping? (would using the line-out jack improve the sound)?
 
Since I use arch linux, I'd probably lower the volume using alsamixer first.
 
The only other thing I might change now would be to get a micro-USB male to male cable to try to use the K1 with my phone (though I don't usually listen to my phone...)
 
Dec 27, 2016 at 11:28 PM Post #9 of 10

Sam21

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  My cheapo receiver actually has (IMO) a pretty good amp circuit in it already, so double-amping probably isn't a good idea or even worth it if it was.  If I'm just using my desktop mobo's headphone jack, would that still be double-amping? (would using the line-out jack improve the sound)?
 
Since I use arch linux, I'd probably lower the volume using alsamixer first.
 
The only other thing I might change now would be to get a micro-USB male to male cable to try to use the K1 with my phone (though I don't usually listen to my phone...)

 
Always try to feed your amp through the line-out on your DAC/SC...if you don't have an amp then just use the headphone out on the DAC/AMP...
 
the K1 is meant to be used as a USB DAC only...it would work on any platform (windows/Linux) provided the USB receiver chip is a popular one (in most cases they are).
 
My advise to you is to consider a DAC with the Sabre ES9018K2M chip...these DACs perform way better than what FIIO can offer in this price bracket.
 
All the three DACs that you mentioned (K1,Q1,E10K) use the inferior PCM5102 DAC chip with SNR of 112 DB while ES9018K2M has an impressive 127DB SNR and -120DB THD+N .
 
So on paper, the ES9018K2M destroys the FIIO DAC chips....the AMP chip is also superior on the ZuperDAC for instance when compared to the AMP chip on K1.
 
so, If you only want a USB DAC with an amp chip thrown in, consider the ZuperDAC or Hifimediy DACs ... want something with the extra optical/coaxial inputs ? Spend more and get the Modi2 Uber and Magni2 Uber stack...
 
Dec 28, 2016 at 9:42 AM Post #10 of 10

molecule

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Since I already got the K1, I'll stick with it for now, though I'll consider the other DACs in the future.  If I can't hear any noise with the K1 now despite it's lower SNR, would I notice the difference with a better DAC?
 
Also, for anyone who wants to know if their phone supports a USB DAC, you need to check if it is "On The Go" (otg) capable.  If it is, you can use an adapter like this: https://www.amazon.com/Generic-Cellphone-Tablet-Non-Retail-Packaging/dp/B00AYPEL56/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1482935517&sr=8-9&keywords=otg+usb+cable
If not, you would have to root your phone and then use something like otg usb helper to make your phone compatible.
 

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