New to the world of head fi: So how good can a portable hi res DAP be?
Nov 5, 2020 at 1:38 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

Pezzab

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Hello, I thought I'd start my introductory thread with a question regarding DAPs, but here is some more context - tl:dr my specific query is at the very end:

I've been into hifi for many years yet somehow it has never occured to me to investigate the world of portable hifi until I recently decided to buy my son some decent quality IEMs as a gift (we settled on a pair of Final Audio E4000s after a failed trial of some RHA T20is that simply weren't comfortable to wear - he's very happy with his new IEMs).

Pretty soon I found myself disappearing down a rabbit hole of bewildering options and conflicting opinions and somewhat inevitably became very interested in the hobby and resolved myself to the idea of getting myself some IEMs and a DAP to go with them.

Because of the budget I set myself and my priorities I decided to pull the trigger on some mid fi IEMs first and after much tooing and froing decided to go for the Dunu DK 3001 pros.

These arrived yesterday and in a very short space of time I have been blown away by the quality and sound of these tiny devices simply plugged into my iPhone SE listening to music streamed via Roon, Spotify and even the odd YouTube track.

Despite the music collection on my NAS being all FLAC I'm not clear what conversion path this takes via my iPhone but it's safe to say that the sound quality is astounding already across formats - even a YouTube track sounded so incredible it was difficult to tell the difference between it and my local FLAC copy.

So back to my question, if I was to get a DAP (and I'm thinking between $800 to £$1200) aside from other features how much of a difference am I likely to hear compared to my humble iPhone?
 
Nov 5, 2020 at 5:16 PM Post #2 of 10

Neweymatt

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Hello, I thought I'd start my introductory thread with a question regarding DAPs, but here is some more context - tl:dr my specific query is at the very end:

I've been into hifi for many years yet somehow it has never occured to me to investigate the world of portable hifi until I recently decided to buy my son some decent quality IEMs as a gift (we settled on a pair of Final Audio E4000s after a failed trial of some RHA T20is that simply weren't comfortable to wear - he's very happy with his new IEMs).

Pretty soon I found myself disappearing down a rabbit hole of bewildering options and conflicting opinions and somewhat inevitably became very interested in the hobby and resolved myself to the idea of getting myself some IEMs and a DAP to go with them.

Because of the budget I set myself and my priorities I decided to pull the trigger on some mid fi IEMs first and after much tooing and froing decided to go for the Dunu DK 3001 pros.

These arrived yesterday and in a very short space of time I have been blown away by the quality and sound of these tiny devices simply plugged into my iPhone SE listening to music streamed via Roon, Spotify and even the odd YouTube track.

Despite the music collection on my NAS being all FLAC I'm not clear what conversion path this takes via my iPhone but it's safe to say that the sound quality is astounding already across formats - even a YouTube track sounded so incredible it was difficult to tell the difference between it and my local FLAC copy.

So back to my question, if I was to get a DAP (and I'm thinking between $800 to £$1200) aside from other features how much of a difference am I likely to hear compared to my humble iPhone?
A lot!!

As you've already noticed, the IEMs/Headphones will make a big difference, but the source will as well, especially now you've got better IEMs.

Like you, my first real 'serious' head-fi purchase was a mid-fi pair of Shure SE535s, which I used with my iPhone and the cheap lightning dongle. And yeah, I was blown away by the improvement at the time, couldn't believe what I'd been missing. Then a few months later I tried the Shure's out with an Astell&Kern SR15, and once again there were improvements, mainly better width of soundstage and further improvement to details that often get lost. I wound up getting the SR25 just after it was released, very happy with the purchase.

$800-1200 will get you plenty of DAP, if you can find a shop to listen to a few, that's probably the best way to decide what you like. Beware the UI and overall user experience will NOT be what you are used to on an iPhone, but it's worth the various device quirks to get the great sound quality out of a DAP.
 
Nov 5, 2020 at 5:32 PM Post #3 of 10

Pezzab

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Like you, my first real 'serious' head-fi purchase was a mid-fi pair of Shure SE535s, which I used with my iPhone and the cheap lightning dongle. And yeah, I was blown away by the improvement at the time, couldn't believe what I'd been missing. Then a few months later I tried the Shure's out with an Astell&Kern SR15, and once again there were improvements, mainly better width of soundstage and further improvement to details that often get lost. I wound up getting the SR25 just after it was released, very happy with the purchase.

Ha, yes this seems like it might be a slippery slope as far as gear lust is concerned :smile:

I'm currently listening on my iPhone and the level of detail and musicality these little drivers are pulling out of the mix is phenomenal - bearing in mind I'm aware of the limitations of of what I'm listening on. As my son remarked about his Final Audios, it's like sitting in front of some high end speakers. So impressed with how powerful the bass feels.

I'm expecting a near trancendent experience when I finally get around to getting a DAP!
 
Nov 5, 2020 at 7:20 PM Post #4 of 10

mrjaybird

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Hello, I thought I'd start my introductory thread with a question regarding DAPs, but here is some more context - tl:dr my specific query is at the very end:

I've been into hifi for many years yet somehow it has never occured to me to investigate the world of portable hifi until I recently decided to buy my son some decent quality IEMs as a gift (we settled on a pair of Final Audio E4000s after a failed trial of some RHA T20is that simply weren't comfortable to wear - he's very happy with his new IEMs).

Pretty soon I found myself disappearing down a rabbit hole of bewildering options and conflicting opinions and somewhat inevitably became very interested in the hobby and resolved myself to the idea of getting myself some IEMs and a DAP to go with them.

Because of the budget I set myself and my priorities I decided to pull the trigger on some mid fi IEMs first and after much tooing and froing decided to go for the Dunu DK 3001 pros.

These arrived yesterday and in a very short space of time I have been blown away by the quality and sound of these tiny devices simply plugged into my iPhone SE listening to music streamed via Roon, Spotify and even the odd YouTube track.

Despite the music collection on my NAS being all FLAC I'm not clear what conversion path this takes via my iPhone but it's safe to say that the sound quality is astounding already across formats - even a YouTube track sounded so incredible it was difficult to tell the difference between it and my local FLAC copy.

So back to my question, if I was to get a DAP (and I'm thinking between $800 to £$1200) aside from other features how much of a difference am I likely to hear compared to my humble iPhone?
Oh wow... a lot of difference. I got Odin recently. When I was listening to it from iphone 11 max pro with adapter it was still good. However, when I switched to ibasso dx220 DAP. I was actually impressed by the sound. The sound felt more real. The background of music and sound felt cleaner. The music became more smooth and soft. It was as if music was becoming more real to me. Its a subtle difference but it felt huge difference. The sound was cleaner and more real which made me more appreciate the music. Before using the DAP I was listening to music but taking a break after some time. Now I just listen to it all the time because I like it so much. Now just take this as experience. I cannot guarantee we will have the same experience because our IEMs are different. Odin is pretty TOTL so it may have more effect from DAP than midfi IEMs. Also, consider other factors such as the quality of music file itself and ear tips. Those can improve the experience as well.
 
Nov 5, 2020 at 7:33 PM Post #5 of 10

Neweymatt

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Ha, yes this seems like it might be a slippery slope as far as gear lust is concerned :smile:

I'm currently listening on my iPhone and the level of detail and musicality these little drivers are pulling out of the mix is phenomenal - bearing in mind I'm aware of the limitations of of what I'm listening on. As my son remarked about his Final Audios, it's like sitting in front of some high end speakers. So impressed with how powerful the bass feels.

I'm expecting a near trancendent experience when I finally get around to getting a DAP!
Yes, it is a slippery slope indeed. The DAP is great, but I am now completely addicted to my Schiit desktop rig and headphones. And lusting after the next pair of headphones. And IEMs. :L3000:

But the main thing is that it's made discovery/re-discovery of music so much more enjoyable. I'm definitely getting full value for my Tidal subscription..
 
Nov 6, 2020 at 4:58 AM Post #6 of 10

Pezzab

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Oh wow... a lot of difference. I got Odin recently. When I was listening to it from iphone 11 max pro with adapter it was still good. However, when I switched to ibasso dx220 DAP. I was actually impressed by the sound. The sound felt more real. The background of music and sound felt cleaner. The music became more smooth and soft. It was as if music was becoming more real to me. Its a subtle difference but it felt huge difference. The sound was cleaner and more real which made me more appreciate the music. Before using the DAP I was listening to music but taking a break after some time. Now I just listen to it all the time because I like it so much. Now just take this as experience. I cannot guarantee we will have the same experience because our IEMs are different. Odin is pretty TOTL so it may have more effect from DAP than midfi IEMs. Also, consider other factors such as the quality of music file itself and ear tips. Those can improve the experience as well.

It's a great illustration of how much individual components can affect the quality of reproduction though. I guess there's a pyramid of source, speakers and amplification to consider, but for me amp and speakers can have the most dramatic efffect. Bearing in mind the amp in my phone is probably not great I can't wait to hear what the Dunu's will sound like being driven by a decent amp, let alone a quality source.
 
Dec 9, 2020 at 7:42 AM Post #8 of 10

Pezzab

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Well that's me commited now, either that or I should be lol :smile:

_C090473.JPG
 
Dec 9, 2020 at 11:33 AM Post #9 of 10

dasadab

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Just a side note. Some dedicated to the IPhone sound wonderfuf. My Audeze 3i are one. But, they are not cheap. Further, after owning various android based DAPs, I came to the conclusion that they were nice, but the long boot up time of these devices made them less than ideal. The software can also be a bit buggy, but that is improving. I also found that with these android devices I was spending a ton of time just browsing music rather than listening. My new Lotoo PAW 6000 has no streaming capacity, but you get a 4 second boot up time. My “work flow” is to research want I really want to listen to and then buy and download the music on Qobuz and then transfer the files to the Lotoo—for me this means more great music and less wasted time.
 
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Dec 9, 2020 at 2:19 PM Post #10 of 10

Pezzab

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Just a side note. Some dedicated to the IPhone sound wonderfuf. My Audeze 3i are one. But, they are not cheap. Further, after owning various android based DAPs, I came to the conclusion that they were nice, but the long boot up time of these devices made them less than ideal. The software can also be a bit buggy, but that is improving. I also found that with these android devices I was spending a ton of time just browsing music rather than listening. My new Lotoo PAW 6000 has no streaming capacity, but you get a 4 second boot up time. My “work flow” is to research want I really want to listen to and then buy and download the music on Qobuz and then transfer the files to the Lotoo—for me this means more great music and less wasted time.

The Lotoo devices look fantastic but the cost and the absence of the convenience of being able to use streaming apps meant I ruled them out pretty early on.

The boot up time of the Alpha is kind of negligible tbh (I don't have a highly pressured life where those few seconds bother me :relaxed:) though while I think the UI experience for a "premium" device isn't great it doesn't get in the way of doing what I want it to do and for me it does that very well indeed.

After all, once I have some music cued up and playing from that point on I'm not really looking at the DAP any more.
 

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