Portable amp/dac for LA-2000 lite
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PXSS

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Hello fellow head-fiers!
I started building my setup about a year ago and I think it's time to start making some upgrades. Throughout the past year I spent just under $1000 in audio equipment and would like to keep a similar budget for this year's spendings.
 
My current setup consists of either laptop, an iPad or an iPhone as the source, with the latter 2 being the most frequent since I've been travelling a lot in the past few months and can't carry my laptop with me everywhere. From there it goes through a Fiio L9 or L30 LOD, depending on whether I'm using my iPhone or iPad as the source or a simple mini to mini from the laptop to the amplifier. My current amplifier is a CMoy built by fred_fred2004 back in march, which sounds great for the price but I know I could do much better. From then on it's up to my beautiful LA-2000 lite to make good music sound great.
 
Now what I would like to do is get a good DAC and Amp combo that will do my headphones justice for about $700-$800 as I plan to use about $200 on a balanced recable. 
 
I know that my headphones have a lot of potential but with my current setup I can't help but to feel I'm missing out on it. Sonically, I think I might be inclined to something a bit dark as I find my LA-2000 lite to be a bit too shrill at times and whenever I'm tired or stressed the sibilance is just a bit too much for me to bare. I am a bit of a basshead but that doesn't mean I like my base to be muddy or boomy. The type of music I listen to is rock and electronic mostly but sometimes I do like to sit back and relax while listening to some instrumentals or a capellas.
 
I hope I find the help I'm looking for and excuse the length of my post.
I'm just trying to clear out as much as it is possible beforehand.
 
I am open to any DAC/Amp suggestions including SE and balanced equipment.
Any other suggestions are also welcomed and appreciated.
 
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PXSS

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mchang

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I have the Lawton Audio-modded D5000 (standard mods) and I've found the pairing with my Headamp Pico amp/DAC quite good. I've gone from MacBook USB to Pico, iPhone LOD to Pico, and iPad camera connector to USB to Pico. Each work great; only criticism is the iPhone generates some amount of static due to phone and wi-fi connections.
 
My only concern for you is the mention of shrill highs. My stock D5000 were quite shrill, however the LA mods tamed them totally. I'm unfamiliar with the LA-2000 sound. I'm not sure if the Pico will necessarily dial back the highs, it would probably show them as it is or amplify them slightly.
 
I did try my D5000 with a buddy's Ray Samuels Predator years ago. I remember a good deal more bass and smoothness when compared against the transparent Pico. You didn't mention your LA-2000 bass impressions, so I don't know if a bit more bass would be a good or bad thing for you.
 
Not much help, I'm sorry. But it gives you two flavors to start from: crisp Headamp sound vs. smooth Ray Samuels sound.
 
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PXSS

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Sorry for the late reply but in my defense I did say before I travel quite frequently =P
Thanks for the information, it actually helped to clarify things more than you realize.
The main difference between the D2000 and the D5000 is the wood cups and the better cable. The driver itself is exactly the same one. So when comparing your MD5000 with my LA2000 lite the difference really lies in the cable and different type of wood cups. The sound should be pretty damn close to each other nonetheless.

I only really think that the LA2000 are shrill whenever I'm terribly tired or stressed and my ears are over sensitive but most of the time they are alright. (Still think a better DAC/Amp is the solution for my problem here)
I like the bass of the LA2000 plenty, but a little more bass is never a bad thing as long as it doesn't get bloated or muddy which I'm sure won't happen with a good quality DAC/Amp.

Have you tried your MD5000 straight off your iPhone line-out?
What are your impressions compared to using an LOD > Pico > MD5000?

From my research, I'm leaning more towards the sound of a RSA amplifier but am looking at other options specially since there isn't any balanced portable DAC from RSA.

Has anyone around got any experience using a Fostex HP-P1 or CLAS with the D2000 or D5000?
Impresions on these two would also be appreciated.
 
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mchang

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PXSS,
I just listened to a few tracks directly out of my iPhone audio jack with my MD-5000. On a scale from 0-100 (100 being the sound out of the iPhone-LOD-Pico combo), I would say I hear about an 85. There's nothing offensive with the sound directly out of the iPhone. Bass is still there. The highs seem to be lacking when compared to Pico. Speed is faster on Pico. The instrument separation and soundstage sound a bit compressed. For me and music I listen to, the emphasis on highs and mids are more important than the other factors, which makes the Pico worth the investment. For others, the expenditure may not match the 15-point jump in quality.
 
Please take this analysis with a grain of salt. 99.8% of my listening with my MD-5000 is with my desktop setup at work. On the same scale of 0-100, my discrete DAC and Gilmore Lite setup rates a 125 (if not higher). All of the descriptions listed above are "better" across the board.
 
Good luck on your search.
 
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PXSS

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Thanks for the analysis, I've concluded that the problem is with using the iPhone as my source. I've decided to go for a fostex hp-p1 for now to bypass the internal dac and amp in the iPhone and maybe later on upgrade to a balanced system, but if what I've read about the HP-P1 is true, then that upgrade can wait another year.
 
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