DAC and amplifier options
Jul 3, 2015 at 8:31 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

captvizcenzo

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I'm looking for a DAC that has headphone amp together with preamp/line out for my desktop setup. 
I have a Audioengine A5 speaker and DT990 Pro headphone. It would be a plus if the DAC/amp has a switch to change between headphone and speaker out. 
 
On my list I have:
Audinst HUD-MX2 - was my first choice, but maybe there's something better? It's very affordable and has everything I need. 
Aune X1 pro - how does this compare to the Audinst? It has DSD support which nice, although I'm not sure if I will ever use it. 
Aune T1 MKII - it doesn't have a switch for different output. 
Audio-GD NFB 15 - looks like the best option with lots of features. 
Schiit Magni2 and Modi2 
Wyred for Sound uDAC from classified section - shipping to Malaysia might not be possible.
Nuprime uDSD - I'm not sure if this is the same league as those mentioned the above. 
Audioengine D1 - weak headphone amp?
 
There are a lot more options in the classified section with reasonable price. However shipping to Malaysia would be a barrier, and I don't have the credibility yet. I did some transactions on OCN.net and fredmiranda.com if those count :p
 
Anyway, I would like to hear opinions from the community. I would prefer the best value option, and need someone to convince me on the options above. :) 
 
Thanks in advance!
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 10:33 AM Post #2 of 12

ProtegeManiac

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There really isn't anything of better value than the NFB-15.32 new. Compared to the Schiit option, you're basically deciding between having a convenient output selector switch and a nicer chassis, and personally it's not like the cheaper AudioGD chassis isn't solid nor are they ugly (they just don't hide the screws as well as Schiit) so choose the output selector.
 
As for used items, you don't need a rep to buy since you're paying with PayPal. As long as they agree to sell, and you transact with PayPal, then they'd send it. Reputation is more important for sellers actually since someone will have to essentially give you cash (or, heck, deal with PayPal to get it back) and then they wouldn't know if you actually shipped it until it arrives. 
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 10:34 AM Post #3 of 12

cel4145

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I have the NFB-11. Same headphone amp/pre-amp as the NFB-15, but different DAC chip. These are really great units that I would strongly recommend.
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 11:09 AM Post #4 of 12

captvizcenzo

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There really isn't anything of better value than the NFB-15.32 new. Compared to the Schiit option, you're basically deciding between having a convenient output selector switch and a nicer chassis, and personally it's not like the cheaper AudioGD chassis isn't solid nor are they ugly (they just don't hide the screws as well as Schiit) so choose the output selector.
 
As for used items, you don't need a rep to buy since you're paying with PayPal. As long as they agree to sell, and you transact with PayPal, then they'd send it. Reputation is more important for sellers actually since someone will have to essentially give you cash (or, heck, deal with PayPal to get it back) and then they wouldn't know if you actually shipped it until it arrives. 

 
Thanks! Indeed those screws on the AudioGD chassis do not look good. Perhaps they could be replaced with a nicer aluminum screws. 
There are the W4S uDAC, Schiit stack, and Pulse DAC that are priced reasonably in the classified, but both of they don't seem to have the output selector. 
Any thoughts on the Fostex HPA4? Is my presumption correct that the headphone amp is not as powerful? 
 
I have the NFB-11. Same headphone amp/pre-amp as the NFB-15, but different DAC chip. These are really great units that I would strongly recommend.

I believe the NFB-11 is more 'future proof' since it has support for DSD and DXD? Do you think it is worth the extra $70?
 
 
BTW, with AudioGD DAC, or any other DAC unit do I need to set the sampling rate manually depending on my playback file? 
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 11:41 AM Post #5 of 12

cel4145

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I believe the NFB-11 is more 'future proof' since it has support for DSD and DXD? Do you think it is worth the extra $70?

BTW, with AudioGD DAC, or any other DAC unit do I need to set the sampling rate manually depending on my playback file? 


Audio science does not support that DSD or DXD formats provides improvement in audible sound quality over traditional lossless. So I personally would not buy it for that reason. If the $70 extra is not a burden to you, the DAC chip in the NFB-11 is considered a bit higher grade of DAC that is a bit more detail oriented.

The NFB-15/11 will automatically handle the sampling rate sent to it by your computer.
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 11:49 AM Post #6 of 12

ProtegeManiac

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Thanks! Indeed those screws on the AudioGD chassis do not look good. Perhaps they could be replaced with a nicer aluminum screws. 

 
I'd rather not replace them with those - you'll use aluminum screws that are of a contrasting color and overall it will look worse. Flatter black screws maybe, but they aren't going to be flush anyway since the chassis screw holes are flat, instead of for example a thick aluminum panel where there is space for the screw head to sink in and flush with the surface.
 
 
Any thoughts on the Fostex HPA4? Is my presumption correct that the headphone amp is not as powerful?

 
Not sure, I haven't seen the specs on that one.
 
 
 
I believe the NFB-11 is more 'future proof' since it has support for DSD and DXD? Do you think it is worth the extra $70?

 
"Support" in the usual sense is pointless unless you just want to be able to listen to an existing music collection. DSD is a totally different kind of audio format - it uses a 1-bit, 2,8224MEGAhertz DSD DAC. The AudioGD NFB-11 uses a 32-bit, 384kilohertz DAC. Sure, it may have more bit depth, but the point in SACD/DSD is super high sampling rates, and you're not getting it with that one. Many universal disc players and now even DAPs use a 24bit/96khz DAC (like the Pioneer DVD player I had eight years ago) and have an SACD logo in front, but they use a chip (or the processor in the DAP with the right software) that converts the file to PCM (ie, regular CD) on the fly.

That basically renders all the possible benefits of SACD useless, and increases the possiblity of adding noise or other artifacts from the conversion process, and in the DAPs, more processing work that will suck more of the battery life.
 
You either get a real SACD player or a real DSD DAC like the Schiit Loki, or don't waste any resources and time on DSD unless you have an existing SACD collection. In that sense, if you want to "future-proof," then get the Schiit stack - the Modi, Magni, and Loki - and just hook them up separately. You just need to manually select the Loki or Modi when you want to use DSD or PCM. 
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:01 PM Post #7 of 12

captvizcenzo

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Audio science does not support that DSD or DXD formats provides improvement in audible sound quality over traditional lossless. So I personally would not buy it for that reason. If the $70 extra is not a burden to you, the DAC chip in the NFB-11 is considered a bit higher grade of DAC that is a bit more detail oriented.

The NFB-15/11 will automatically handle the sampling rate sent to it by your computer.

Initial reading tells that the ES9018 is more neutral, while the WM8741 is more musical and warm. I'll refer to the 11.32 vs 15.32 thread for more info.
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:08 PM Post #8 of 12

cel4145

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Initial reading tells that the ES9018 is more neutral, while the WM8741 is more musical and warm. I'll refer to the 11.32 vs 15.32 thread for more info.


Yeah. I've read that too. While I have not listened to the NFB-15, I've always suspected it seems to sound more warm just because it's slightly less revealing. DACs of this quality typically should not have any direct impact impact on the frequency response itself if well-implemented. YMMV
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:12 PM Post #9 of 12

captvizcenzo

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"Support" in the usual sense is pointless unless you just want to be able to listen to an existing music collection. DSD is a totally different kind of audio format - it uses a 1-bit, 2,8224MEGAhertz DSD DAC. The AudioGD NFB-11 uses a 32-bit, 384kilohertz DAC. Sure, it may have more bit depth, but the point in SACD/DSD is super high sampling rates, and you're not getting it with that one. Many universal disc players and now even DAPs use a 24bit/96khz DAC (like the Pioneer DVD player I had eight years ago) and have an SACD logo in front, but they use a chip (or the processor in the DAP with the right software) that converts the file to PCM (ie, regular CD) on the fly.

That basically renders all the possible benefits of SACD useless, and increases the possiblity of adding noise or other artifacts from the conversion process, and in the DAPs, more processing work that will suck more of the battery life.
 
You either get a real SACD player or a real DSD DAC like the Schiit Loki, or don't waste any resources and time on DSD unless you have an existing SACD collection. In that sense, if you want to "future-proof," then get the Schiit stack - the Modi, Magni, and Loki - and just hook them up separately. You just need to manually select the Loki or Modi when you want to use DSD or PCM. 

In that case, I will not take into account the DSD and DXD "support" as a deciding factor. Anyway most of the time I listen to music on Spotify, and sometimes from the limited flac collection that I have.  
Now it's mainly down to the different kind of sound which ES9018 and WM8741 produce. 
I wish I could audition them next to each other, or do a blind test on which one I prefer more. 
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:16 PM Post #10 of 12

captvizcenzo

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Yeah. I've read that too. While I have not listened to the NFB-15, I've always suspected it seems to sound more warm just because it's slightly less revealing. DACs of this quality typically should not have any direct impact impact on the frequency response itself if well-implemented. YMMV

BTW I'm curios to know how does the Tubemagic perform? Pretty sure you have experience on it
smily_headphones1.gif
 
 
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:22 PM Post #11 of 12

cel4145

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BTW I'm curios to know how does the Tubemagic perform? Pretty sure you have experience on it :)  


I just sold mine. Forgot to update my profile. :)

If you can get one for around $200 and want all its features, it's excellent at that price point. For someone that doesn't need all those connectivity options, I'd recommend the Schiit Modi 2/Magni 2. With a budget closer to $300 for the connectivity options, I say go for the NFB-15.
 
Jul 4, 2015 at 1:11 AM Post #12 of 12

captvizcenzo

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Thanks guy. I appreciate the feedback and recommendations. 
Most probably I would get the AudioGD because of the better value it has, plus there's 5% off until 15th July. 
smily_headphones1.gif

 
I like more neutral and revealing sound which makes me think NFB11 would be a more appropriate choice, plus all the hype about the Sabre chip. 
I'm just not sure if paired with the DT990 Pro, the treble will be too harsh.
 

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