How much should I be looking at spending for a new desktop DAC and Amp?
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piji

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I've just received my new pair of AKG K702s, replacing my old M50x (searching for a sound signature I like). Currently running off a DX3 Pro DAC/amp. I'd like to move on from that, but when I started to look I realised I don't even know what price range to look at. Are there reasonable upgrades within, say, US$200-350 (total), or is that going to get me a similar set up to what I have now?

Of course any upgrade recs for DACs, amps, or both are welcomed. :)
 
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sajunky

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PurpleAngel

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I've just received my new pair of AKG K702s, replacing my old M50x (searching for a sound signature I like). Currently running off a DX3 Pro DAC/amp. I'd like to move on from that, but when I started to look I realised I don't even know what price range to look at. Are there reasonable upgrades within, say, US$200-350 (total), or is that going to get me a similar set up to what I have now?

Of course any upgrade recs for DACs, amps, or both are welcomed. :)
For $200-$350, I would look at buying another headphone, then getting a DAC/amp.
Maybe something bassy, something to use when you want a different sound, from the K702.
 
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piji

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I guess you need more juice. While waiting for answers, perhaps look at this: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/audio-gd-a-2-class-a-headphone-amp-pre.936297/

It could be a cracker. It will have more power than a current leader in price/performance - Audio GD R2R11 DAC/AMP combo ($350).
Weeeeeell... There's nothing really wrong with the Topping DX3 Pro I'm using now, it's more that my partner is going to need a DAC/Amp for her new headphones and I'm being a bit selfish by saying I'll get myself something new and giving her a hand-me-down. :p If I can't find anything in my budget I suppose I'll just see if I can grab a decent deal on something entry level for her.

For $200-$350, I would look at buying another headphone, then getting a DAC/amp.
Maybe something bassy, something to use when you want a different sound, from the K702.
I'm not sure I want to get a new set already since these literally arrived this morning, lol. That said, what headphones are known to be bassy in the same price range as the K702? I'd like to upgrade to a higher price "tier" at some point, but I wanna figure out what kinda sound I prefer before doing so, since I'm definitely not in the market for buying multiple sets of $500-600 headphones!
 
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My rule of thumb is you need a minimum of doubling the cost of a component to get a “wow”. This goes on virtually indefinitely. I have found that reaching too low is a recipe for disappointment. I also found that most folks pursuing high end audio are usually not done, but reach plateaus. At a plateau you better learn to appreciate the sound you are hearing and then wonder what would happen if you upgraded something. You reach, get a wow. We frequently end up with different headphones for different environments. Also, the sound of a particular headphones has a lot to do with what you are feeding them with. I saw someone that was really disappointed with some Dennon A7000(?). I experienced that same thing... then got a high powered amp and the flabby bass turned into incredible tight and articulate. I’m rambling. I guess my point is, if you want to be happy, you probably need to reach as much as you can for as high a quality DAC/Amp if you want to be happy the longest. Sounds like you have learned this by getting lots of inexpensive headphones. So, what kind of music do you listen to? What aspect of the sound is most important? Bass, large soundstage, natural sounding, detail (watch out for this one, you can get distortion, fatigue, and noisy sources by emphasizing this).
 
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piji

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My rule of thumb is you need a minimum of doubling the cost of a component to get a “wow”. This goes on virtually indefinitely. I have found that reaching too low is a recipe for disappointment. I also found that most folks pursuing high end audio are usually not done, but reach plateaus. At a plateau you better learn to appreciate the sound you are hearing and then wonder what would happen if you upgraded something. You reach, get a wow. We frequently end up with different headphones for different environments. Also, the sound of a particular headphones has a lot to do with what you are feeding them with. I saw someone that was really disappointed with some Dennon A7000(?). I experienced that same thing... then got a high powered amp and the flabby bass turned into incredible tight and articulate. I’m rambling. I guess my point is, if you want to be happy, you probably need to reach as much as you can for as high a quality DAC/Amp if you want to be happy the longest. Sounds like you have learned this by getting lots of inexpensive headphones. So, what kind of music do you listen to? What aspect of the sound is most important? Bass, large soundstage, natural sounding, detail (watch out for this one, you can get distortion, fatigue, and noisy sources by emphasizing this).
This is what I suspected. I'm happy enough with the current setup and I'm not willing to spend any more than that right now, so I'll look at budget entry options to get my partner set up with a DAC/amp combo. :)

Regarding headphones, the K702s are actually only the 3rd pair I've bought! Not including the Tin T4s since they're for a different purpose entirely. I first had A900s for some period of time I can't remember at this point but the "wings" kept breaking so, despite being super comfy I stopped bothering to send them in for repairs. I still have the drivers from those, lying around in a drawer somewhere, lol. Then, the M50x for like 5 years, and now the K702s. :D
 
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at up to $350 don't discount the used/auction market - DAC/Amps tend to be well looked after by most people, and you can get into devices that are north of $500 new (i.e. Chord Mojo and similar)
 
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piji

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at up to $350 don't discount the used/auction market - DAC/Amps tend to be well looked after by most people, and you can get into devices that are north of $500 new (i.e. Chord Mojo and similar)
I'm not really sure where to look for used stuff. I'm always iffy about eBay stuff and the only other place I know of for Australia is pretty barren for audio gear.
 
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I'm not really sure where to look for used stuff. I'm always iffy about eBay stuff and the only other place I know of for Australia is pretty barren for audio gear.
Well, Bryston Burson maybe although it's expensive it's a local brand for you and it has many fans.

The other thing I suggest to people in far flung places is to see what the local builders do. It's interesting that many creative people are found everywhere and that includes audio lovers. I bet if you look around you can find amplifier builders for both tube and solid state right in your own backyard. Well I know Australia is a giant country :)
 
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For a second setup are you ok with a separate DAC and amp as in not a combo? The Schiit Heresy and Topping E30 DAC are amazing. Small footprint, look sleep, sound awesome, and measure superbly. The only issue here is they won't stack on top of each other. If you wanted that you can go with the E30 DAC and L30 amp from Topping.
 
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piji

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It comes back to Audio GD R2R11. :)
Do you know what the key differences are between the R2R11 and the previous one you mentioned (A2 I think it was called)? They seem to be a similar price range (and right about the same as what I'm happy to spend).

Well, Bryston Burson maybe although it's expensive it's a local brand for you and it has many fans.

The other thing I suggest to people in far flung places is to see what the local builders do. It's interesting that many creative people are found everywhere and that includes audio lovers. I bet if you look around you can find amplifier builders for both tube and solid state right in your own backyard. Well I know Australia is a giant country :)
Interesting, Burson has their own eBay store and does seem to have some things in my price range.

For a second setup are you ok with a separate DAC and amp as in not a combo? The Schiit Heresy and Topping E30 DAC are amazing. Small footprint, look sleep, sound awesome, and measure superbly. The only issue here is they won't stack on top of each other. If you wanted that you can go with the E30 DAC and L30 amp from Topping.
I'm not fussed whether the setup is a combo or a stack (even if it doesn't "stack" :p). I have plenty of desk space that I don't really use aside from assorted junk, so the size of things doesn't really matter. Even some of those bigger tube headphone amps would be fine with regards to desk space but I don't think I'm at the point of trying tube stuff yet!
 
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Do you know what the key differences are between the R2R11 and the previous one you mentioned (A2 I think it was called)? They seem to be a similar price range (and right about the same as what I'm happy to spend).
R2R11 has an incredible punchy and natural sounding NOS DAC. It doesn't cause any fatigue during long sessions, I have it playing all day on speakers. The amp section is a Class A discrete low feedback amp, but it is a simple version of a higher priced products from A-GD. I am not a headphone addict, so I use it with HD 600 mostly for a critical listening (max two hours a day). Users report that the headamp in the R28 DAC ($1100) sounds much better, so I think for $350 this DAC/HPA combo is a steal, but needs to be auditioned first. I can't say for sure you or your wife will be happy with R2R11, as your other DAC is not a ladder type. It all depends on the music type you are listening for.

On the other side NFB-1AMP ($489) and the same amp section in the R28 DAC can be recommended without reservations, R28 is in my upgrade plans. And now it comes the A2. It looks like it is specially designed for a difficult to drive headphones like AKG K702s. The same amp design as in NFB-1AMP and R28 (a differential Class A non-feedback in diamond configuration), but giving more power and better distribution of heat. Even you don't need so much volume pressure, it is good to have for SQ, a bass will become silky soft, but precise (go back to a post from @JDFlood it is explained better).
 
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piji

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It all depends on the music type you are listening for.
A lot of different kinds of electronic music (synthwave and chiptune primarily), and J-Rock mostly. I'm not really about the big bass. I like it to definitely be present but in the background, if that makes any sense lol. I auditioned some headphones at a local store (pre-covid lockdown), big bass thumps are amusing for a little but kind of distracts from parts of music that sometimes transfix me. Of course that could just be down to the headphones I've tried. That may sound counter to expectation since from reading it seems to be common that people who listen to various genres of electronic music prefer a lot of bass. I might get some bassy headphones at some point but it's not a huge priority for me right now.
 
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