Need opinions on DAP or DAC
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Virgule

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Hello,

I'm looking to get some of the community's general opinions to help me with my current dilemma. I am looking at either buying a DAP or adding a portable DAC to use with my smartphone.

Gear at home
BD DT-990 Premium+Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (main), AT ATH-M50X+BT module (for Surface Pro 4 browsing on the couch)

Gear on the go
Google Pixel, CA Lyra II on Westone Bluetooth MMCX adapter or stock CA Litz cable

Background
I listen to a wide range of music, but especially Jazz, electronica and alt-rock. I've been playing the guitar for 20 years and have a bunch of good gear but not enough opportunities to use it, so I play my Gretsch unplugged most of the time.

I'm not the most tech-savy about audio. I have been running my home setup for a while enjoying listening to music and the overall all-around feeling of the BD cans on an entry-level quality desktop DAC. I'm not sure I can describe sound as I read it in the reviews. I think I have the ears for it, just not the knowledge of terms, science behind it or the experience with a ton of different gear.

I lately tried my Lyra IIs on the CA Litz cable connected the my 2i4 because I was quite let down by what I was earring when connected to my phone wired or not. I was blown away by how defined everything was, even if I was only playing from Spotify web player (I don't think I ever heard a lossless track). I want more of that quality on the go and while jogging.

Dilemma
I've done a bit of research into DAPs and I see there's a wide array of prices and selection. I assume the quality of even entry-level DAPs is miles ahead of a smartphone's output like mine. On the negative side, I am disappointed by how slow technologies seem to be integrated in these (USB Type-C WITH a USB3.0 bandwith, BT 4.2 APTxHD, decent touch screens and UIs, app support, ...). However, I am ready to either wait for the perfect release or let go of a few decent-to-have features and settle down with something that would essentially grant me a better use of my Lyra IIs and maybe other IEMs or cans in the future. I figured I would also probably need to replace my current library of about 30GB of 192-320 kbps MP3s to something that conveys a bit more quality. I had moved to Spotify for ease of use lately and my library needs management anyways.

On the other had, I see that a portable DAC is also an option. What I don't like about that option though are the following :
- bulkyness of need to have phone wired to DAC
- No BT support (at least from what I understand)

I think I'm ready to spend around 500$ with a possibility of considering adding more for jumps that would be worth the added value.

Just as a side note, so far I've been looking at the Fiio M7, X5 iii, X7 ii, Sony ZX300 and AK SR15.

Let me know what you guys think.
 
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CoupleofBigGulps

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I have been looking into the same topic and from what I can tell you are going for quality then the external DAC and AMP is the way to go. I have been using something similar with my phone and a cheap Fiio Q1 and I have to say I like the sound but the functionality of the phone is limited. Every time to you want to text, or do something on the phone you are picking up both devices and juggling them. Its also not convenient to have both in the same pocket, just my personal observation. I'd would have rather used that $100 towards a DAP and leave the phone for phone stuff. I have been looking at the same models you have listed, but also the Hiby's and Onkyo in that price range.
 
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Virgule

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After careful consideration, I chose the Fiio X5 iii. The ebay 15% promotion (promo code PRONTO15 today) might have helped expedite the decision process. I also bought a generic balanced 2.5mm MMCX cable and a 256GB MicroSD card to complete the setup. I hope I won't be bothered by the somewhat buggy experience of the DAP as I've read a lot of mixed reviews on that particular front. I'll begin to replace my entire library with lossless and if I run into too many hurdles, I'll just subscribe to Tidal, which is why I chose the X5 iii instead of jumping ahead to the ZX 300. Nothing is stopping me from switching to a newer DAP in the short future if I spot a release that seem to package what I'm looking for a bit better. In the meanwhile, this will give me a first look into the HiRes experience and a bit more hands-on experience with this particular DAC and the settings.

Opinions still welcomed.
 
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CoupleofBigGulps

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Virgule, I think you make a very valid argument. I'm interested in the x5 iii primarily because of the price and function. I am new to the hobby and while I would like to jump headfirst and wallet open right into it, its hard to drop big money equipment I'm just starting being able to differentiate. I am at the mindset of how can I appreciate this awesome expensive equipment if I dont have any points of reference. I have currently have a cheapy balanced mmcx cable in Amazon cart as well to go with that new setup.
 
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Virgule

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Virgule

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So just to let you know, I've had a bit of time with the X5 iii and it's a much richer sound than what I had on my Pixel phone. For that, I'm glad. However, I'm surprised by how many people I have to explain to what a DAP is an why I have one. My wife laughs at me because I remind her of our first year together when I had my old half-broken Creative Zen when the ipods were all the rage. Getting back to the subject...

The cons in my opinion are the following :

- UI experience, which I am getting used to. This past version of android feels a bit less responsive, especially on a small screen and sometimes require precise finger clicks to press the correct point on the small screen. Some of the factory apps are just horrible especially ES Explorer for managing storage. Fiio Music is pretty mediocre but tolerable. On the plus side, I didn't experience any experience-ruining bugs I've read about.
- The sometimes fragile BT connection, especially when in a pocket on the other side of the body from the headset receiver. Then again, I had kind of the same problem with my phone. I ordered a Fiio BT mmcx adapter (Fiio RT-BC) to try out for any potential improvements.
- The general notion that I have 1 more item to juggle with in my pockets. I ordered a generic fanny pack (yes...) and a small belt satchel. I'll probably use either or for the X5 and phone when jogging. I'll refrain from wearing either (especially the fanny pack...) when i'm dressed casually. If both devices have too much of a bouncing momentum when jogging, I'll just use the phone (for music and run tracking).
- The fact that it doesn't have a cellular connection. I wouldn't want a second paid plan anyway but right now if I want to use the Tidal app, I have to make a hotspot connection on my phone, connect to wifi on the X5 and then use the app. When I get back on a known Wifi, I need to switch connections in order to be the most frugal possible on my cell phone plan. Of course, that's not an issue when playing locally stored music. I ended up choosing to listen to my (thankfully growing) local library when I on the go and spend a bit more time discovering music while connected to a Wifi.

My guess is most of these small issues, I would have with any other DAP or a portable DAC. So taking a step backwards, it's a nice improvement and my focus is on upcoming mid-tier releases. For instance, if the Sony ZX300 had app support, I think it would be my first choice right now.
 
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CoupleofBigGulps

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I received mine over the weekend and i can echo some of this as well. My primary usage is in an office setting, at my desk and plugged in and on the wifi. I have noticed the wifi dropped once. Also have noticed several times that upon waking the screen it appears the wifi is disconnected yet I am still streaming Spotify only to open the device and wifi icon change back to being connected.

I am currently using my Massdrop Pinnacle PX's with the stock 3.5mm cable. I have my Hifiman RE00's with me also but haven't done an A to B test yet. So far I like the sound, but there is a noticeable hiss when using Spotify on high gain and higher volumes ( sometimes I really jam out and like to crank it up!). I do have Spotify premimum and I have the settings set to high quality stream and downloads.

I also had a 256gb SD Micro that was in my Galaxy and I was only using like 10% of it so I cleaned it and popped into the X5. I copied my .mp3 library and also had one album in there on FLAC. The "hiss" for lack of a better descriptive term is not there when playing the local music, and the quality is great on the one FLAC album. I haven't bothered using the Fiio app and downloaded the Hiby app instead and have been using that for playing the local files. Also I found there is a sticky thread in the music area for free FLAC albums.
 
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Virgule

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So you bought a X5iii as well, nice ! Are you using the latest firmware ? This could help with your issues of connection loss and hiss with Spotify. I have no issues with my CA Lyra II and 2.5mm balanced cable. I do experience some pops on BT when the connection goes in and out.

I haven't tried any over-the-ears headphones with the X5 yet.
 
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CoupleofBigGulps

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you know I didn't look at the firmware yet. just used the out of the box. Mine is still on 1.1.0 I'll get this firmware up to date and test it.

I just ordered a **** balanced mmcx cable on amazon for $30usd to experiment with.
 
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