Portable-ish DAC Under $50? Under $30 Preferred
Jun 8, 2018 at 3:32 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24

AriGibson

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Hey everyone!

So I have the Samson Z35 which go for around $65. I kind of want to try getting a DAC for it, but I just wanted to run it by a few experts before choosing. I'm thinking my cans aren't good enough to benefit from a DAC anyway, but I don't really know.

Currently, they plug right into my PC's motherboard, the GIGABYTE GA-970A-UD3. It uses the Realtek ALC889 codec (according to Amazon), if that helps. It also has "108dB Signal-to-Noise ratio playback." While it appears to be a pretty good board back in it's day (2011), I have no clue how that audio quality lines up with today's standards.

Here's what I'm looking at currently... (some fit price because used/auction)
TOPPING NX2s Hi-Res Portable Headphone Amp + DAC USB Rechargeable Black - $12.50 Auction
FiiO E10 Olympus USB DAC Headphone Amplifier - $0.99 Auction
192KHz DAC Converter Optical Coaxial Toslink to Analog Stereo RCA 3.5mm Jack - $14.99 Buy It Now
PCM2704 USB DAC (+ 3D printed case) - $3.43 Buy It Now

Obviously, I know the first 2 options are great-sounding, well-known DACs. But, what should I set my highest price at for the auction?

As far as the second 2 go, does anyone have experience with the PCM2704 chip? They're pretty popular, and come in lots of combinations with dials and such.

Thanks so much for your help, it means a lot! :)
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:02 AM Post #2 of 24

Redcarmoose

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https://m.ebay.com/itm/Expedited-Shipping-NEW-FiiO-Alpen-2-E17K-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier-USB-DAC-/192545541720?_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIM.MBE%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D20150519202348%26meid%3Dac7b4cd723da463daedbac186ab8cfd4%26pid%3D100408%26rk%3D10%26rkt%3D25%26sd%3D273266567788%26itm%3D192545541720&_trksid=p2056116.c100408.m2460


I have the Alpen 2 and love it! Still though the one here is $124?

I’m not familiar with your sound card, none the less they get better and better every couple of years. Still you’ll most likely hear a diffence with an outboard DAC/AMP.
 
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Jun 8, 2018 at 4:12 AM Post #4 of 24

Redcarmoose

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Oooo... looks super nice! Does it really make sense to spend twice as much as my cans?

Read the reviews on it here. It’s kinda amazing how reviewers have gone and measured the response and describe it as flat and slighly, just ever so slighly on the warm side. But I don’t have your headphones so I can’t say? Most of the time I hook it to a laptop or go analog out from a IPod Touch. It completely improves the $60 headphones I use it with. Battery lasts a long time, and the interface is simple. It goes really really loud too. You may be able to find a used one for $60........maybe?

It also sounds better in USB DAC mode than going analog out from the IPod Touch. Now in my mind that’s actually saying a lot. Simply it seems like a great performer due to the fact that the Touch is a good DAC......but just amplified it’s not as good as what you get going USB into the Alpen2?

Read Brooko’s Review!
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fiio-e17k-alpen-2-usb-dac-headphone-amplifier.20540/
 
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Jun 8, 2018 at 4:20 AM Post #5 of 24

AriGibson

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Read the reviews on it here. It’s kinda amazing how reviewers have gone and measured the response and describe it as flat and slighly, just ever so slighly on the warm side. But I don’t have your headphones so I can’t say? Most of the time I hook it to a laptop or go analog out from a IPod Touch. It completely improves the $60 headphones I use it with. Battery lasts a long time, and the interface is simple. It goes really really loud too. You may be able to find a used one for $60........maybe?

It also sounds better in USB DAC mode than going analog out from the IPod Touch. Now in my mind that’s actually saying a lot, due to the fact that the Touch is a pretty good DAC......but just amplified it’s not as good as what you get going USB into the Alpen2?

Read Brooko’s Review!
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fiio-e17k-alpen-2-usb-dac-headphone-amplifier.20540/
$60? Pffffff... Try $33! Fits the budget! Just gotta hope it doesn't go up...

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Fiio-Alpen...754720&hash=item2cd55b6c67:g:K0wAAOSwwTlbFGS7
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:24 AM Post #6 of 24

Redcarmoose

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$60? Pffffff... Try $33! Fits the budget! Just gotta hope it doesn't go up...

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Fiio-Alpen...754720&hash=item2cd55b6c67:g:K0wAAOSwwTlbFGS7

The only reservation I would have is wondering how many battery cycles it had on it. But......if your going to be using it as a USB DAC then it’s always charging and even if the battery was old and only lasted to 1/2 a charge from normal, it’s not an issue. But yes, you could find a $30 one! Good luck!
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:27 AM Post #7 of 24

Redcarmoose

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Repost:


It also sounds better in USB DAC mode than going analog out from the IPod Touch. Now in my mind that’s actually saying a lot. Simply it seems like a great performer due to the fact that the Touch is a good DAC......but just amplified it’s not as good as what you get going USB into the Alpen2?

——————————————————————————-
Above is why I think so highly of it. Also read the reviews. If it had any flaws it would be noted, but in many ways it’s flawless. Tons of power, quiet with even the most sensitive IEMs, and works in a multitude of applications.
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:29 AM Post #8 of 24

AriGibson

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The only reservation I would have is wondering how many battery cycles it had on it. But......if your going to be using it as a USB DAC then it’s always charging and even if the battery was old and only lasted to 1/2 a charge from normal, it’s not an issue. But yes, you could find a $30 one! Good luck!

Good point... Well, one last check on Craigslist, Nextdoor, etc. for them local deals.
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:31 AM Post #9 of 24

AriGibson

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Repost:


It also sounds better in USB DAC mode than going analog out from the IPod Touch. Now in my mind that’s actually saying a lot. Simply it seems like a great performer due to the fact that the Touch is a good DAC......but just amplified it’s not as good as what you get going USB into the Alpen2?

——————————————————————————-
Above is why I think so highly of it. Also read the reviews. If it had any flaws it would be noted, but in many ways it’s flawless. Tons of power, quiet with even the most sensitive IEMs, and works in a multitude of applications.

Ok woah... Sennheiser HD650 + FiiO Kunlun for $150... I mean that's really worth it, and I could shell out the cash if I really wanted it... Have experience with either of those?
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:36 AM Post #10 of 24

Redcarmoose

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Don’t think you can actually buy a good used pair of HD650s for that price. But who knows........is that Craig’s list? Jump on them if it’s real.

HD 650s are great!
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 4:38 AM Post #11 of 24

Redcarmoose

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Jun 8, 2018 at 5:22 AM Post #12 of 24

AriGibson

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Don’t think you can actually buy a good used pair of HD650s for that price. But who knows........is that Craig’s list? Jump on them if it’s real.

HD 650s are great!
Letgo actually.

Ugh I don't know that's one heck of a deal though... I just got $150 pocket cash a couple weeks ago actually. I really want it but I don't know. It'll probably last me a while though...

UPDATE: Said he'll sell the Kunlan for $50. Countered with $30, we'll see how this goes. Not going to get the HD650s too, I just don't need them. Or maybe I do...
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 5:26 AM Post #13 of 24

Redcarmoose

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Letgo actually.

Ugh I don't know that's one heck of a deal though... I just got $150 pocket cash a couple weeks ago actually. I really want it but I don't know. It'll probably last me a while though...

UPDATE: Said he'll sell the Kunlan for $50. Countered with $30, we'll see how this goes. Not going to get the HD650s too, I just don't need them. Or maybe I do...

If you could meet him/stuff in person and try out the stuff, you will probably buy the two right off. Just saying......
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 3:42 PM Post #14 of 24

AriGibson

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If you could meet him/stuff in person and try out the stuff, you will probably buy the two right off. Just saying......
So true... I'm starting to really REALLY like the idea of portable (current headphones are foldable), closed-back and stay-at-home, open-back cans. No leaking music on the bus, but hi-fi sounds at home.

I think I might do it... Going to see if I can get him to drop to $100-$120 first. Not going to pass up this deal anyway though...

One more question: Any experience with Audio Technica's ATH-700ADX? Have a friend who is willing to lend them to me long-term. Which would you say is better? Think it's worth buying my own pair, but the ATH-700ADX are super light, at just 0.58 lbs.
 
Jun 8, 2018 at 3:58 PM Post #15 of 24

Redcarmoose

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So true... I'm starting to really REALLY like the idea of portable (current headphones are foldable), closed-back and stay-at-home, open-back cans. No leaking music on the bus, but hi-fi sounds at home.

I think I might do it... Going to see if I can get him to drop to $100-$120 first. Not going to pass up this deal anyway though...

One more question: Any experience with Audio Technica's ATH-700ADX? Have a friend who is willing to lend them to me long-term. Which would you say is better? Think it's worth buying my own pair, but the ATH-700ADX are super light, at just 0.58 lbs.

This is an amazing time for used purchases. I’ve seen relatively new stuff sell for 1/2 price. You will like the HD650s!

Not familiar with the Audio Technica headphones.
 

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