Denon D5000 + iMac: DAC / Amp Necessity
Jun 6, 2012 at 1:13 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11

boopyman

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I just received my Denon D5000s about two weeks ago, and being my first serious pair of headphones, I was seriously impressed. I could instantly tell the difference between 160kbps and ALAC, and this prompted me to re-rip my entire CD collection to the iTunes Lossless format. This first upgrade has brought quite an improvement to my utterly simple system, consisting solely of the Denons plugged directly into the iMac's headphone port.
 
However, I have another computer, self built, which, according to the motherboard's specs, has a Realtek ALC662 chip for the audio. This output definitely sounds louder, and (I hope this isn't a consequence of the added loudness) better. This has brought an issue to my attention: maybe my main iMac isn't giving me the best I can get.
 
So I started looking into the desktop headphone amplifier market, at anything under the $300 line. The FiiO E7 particularly interested me, but being in the first tier of my budget, I'm certain I can find something better. Furthermore, it is a portable amplifier, and I imagine better quality can be found for a similar sacrifice when sacrificing portability.
 
I'm sure that a DAC / Amp combo would benefit me, but I don't really know how much either. Will the money put into it reflect the sonic improvements ? Additionally, I can definitely understand why a Digital to Analog Converter would help me, but does an amp only raise the volume of sound ? If so, I think I might only need a DAC.
 
To provide more information, I listen to about every genre except for metal. 
 
 
So, to conclude, in function of my musical tastes, machine and headphones, is their any DAC + combo you would suggest ? 
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 3:04 PM Post #2 of 11

Lee Harvey

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Go order a Schiit Asgard from schiit.com.  Its only $249 and is in your $300 budget.  It is a highly recommended solid state headphone amp on this site. I have Lyr which allows for "Tube Rolling".  Its $449 but also works well with the D5000's IMHO.  I have had my D5000's for a year and a half and have been very happy with them.  Congrats on you purchase!  
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 3:28 PM Post #3 of 11

boopyman

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Thanks for the advice, I had been looking into the Asgard, forgot to mention it.
However, I just have a question concerning it, which you may or may not be able to answer: the Asgard only seems to have RCA inputs, so does that mean that if I just plug the 3.5mm output of my iMac into it thanks to a converter, I would be sacrificing quality I could obtain with USB ? If I'm getting this right, it's simply an amplifier, and not a DAC. 
 
Will the results I'm getting even be an improvement if I don't get an independant DAC to go with it ?
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 4:04 PM Post #4 of 11

Lee Harvey

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Getting a DAC opens up a whole new can of worms.  Start with a headphone amp and as your funds become available then start looking for DAC.   This is a hobby that will keep changing as each new "flavor of the month" comes along.  As for Amp/DAC combo's go you can start at www.Audio-GD.com.  They have a few units that will be in the $300 ballpark.  It just takes time to receive what you order as things are hand built in Hong Kong and then shipped out to customers. 
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 8:07 PM Post #6 of 11

MattTCG

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Save yourself a lot of trouble and money and just buy the fiio e17. It pairs very well with the d5k, is nice and portable. Good luck finding it for retail right now though. 
 
The Asgard and a dedicated dac will sound better with your Denon. But...only about 5-10% and will cost about 5x the price as the e17. Also you have to deal with the heat issues that go along with the Asgard, think waffle iron, and you'd loose the portability. 
 
gL!!
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 8:16 PM Post #7 of 11

boopyman

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Thanks for this suggestion as well. Is the E17 worth it in comparison with the E7's price and availability ?
I guess this is where the comparison gets harder: between an DAC / Amp combo like the E17 for $200, and the Schiit Asgard, which is solely an amp, for $250.
 
I'm gonna have to think hard about this one !
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM Post #8 of 11

MattTCG

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The problem with the e17 is supply and demand. I paid $150 for mine and then they became hard to get and now they are going for $200+ on amazon/ebay. At $150 it's a no brainer if you can find one. 
 
Jun 6, 2012 at 8:52 PM Post #9 of 11

boopyman

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Alright, you've pretty much got me convinced, since I additionally found some place online where I can get it for $170, despite a back order: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=839353&Q=&is=REG&A=details.
 
Furthermore, this leaves me the Bifrost + Asgard combo for when I have $700 to blow on an upgrade :)
 
Thanks for all the help !
 
Jun 7, 2012 at 5:22 PM Post #11 of 11

boopyman

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Wow, sounds good as well ! It just hurts that it won't be able to ship to mid-summer...
 
To additional readers, I'm considering the FiiO E17 my main option, but if I'm convinced otherwise before I can get my hands on one, that's cool as well :)
 

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