usb DAC @ 500$
Mar 21, 2008 at 8:08 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11


Headphoneus Supremus
Mar 19, 2008

My current set up is a lot of flac files played with:
Vista > Foobar Asio (with no DSP) > Edirol UA-25 (at 44100Hz) > Musical Fidelity X-Can v3 > AKG K701.

I'd like to have a better source but mostly a better sound quality, my budget is about 500$ due to the current exchange rate with Euro.

I originally bought the Edirol in a hurry because I was leaving for Beijing and could not bring my cd player with me but now I wonder if I can have a better source than the 24 bit/ 96 kHz DAC of the external soundcard ( no idea what the chip is).

So, to get a higher SQ, several choices seem interesting to me.

1. RSA Predator (if the x-can v3 is int good enough)
2. Headamp Pico
3. Paradisea+ DAC
4. Stello DA100 DAC (which really stretches the budget @ 700$)

My first question is whether I can expect a better SQ with an amp/dac like the pico than with a separate Dac and the x-can (in other words if the x-can will be a strong limiting factor for a 500$ dac and if I would be better off buying a Pico or a RSA Pred than a dac)
Then, how does the paradisea+, the pico rate against the stello and other dacs.
If anyone knows a good dac at around 500 us$, please tell me. Note that while a USB connection would be better, the edirol has an optical out.

PS: I live in Beijing, so the product will have to be shipped there.

Mar 22, 2008 at 7:48 PM Post #2 of 11
I'm not sure about amps, but consider adding the Channel Islands Audio VDA-2 DAC to your list. It's a little higher than your set budget, but from what I can tell, the reviews have been positive. Not many DACs are using the Burr-Brown PCM1794 at this point, so it's kind of rare in that regard.

The Edirol may not make the best transport in the world (I haven't seen any measurements, but given that it runs on USB power and only offers TOSlink digital output, it may not be so great), but it should at least be capable of bit-perfect output.

Stretch your budget a little further for a used Benchmark DAC1 (~$725) and digital jitter may not matter.
Mar 23, 2008 at 9:08 AM Post #3 of 11
Actually, since I already have a amp, I don't really want to pay for the amp function of the DAC1, furthermore, 750$ is stretching a bit too far.
And I have a small pb with the Edirol, I sometimes gets pops and hisses when asio is selected in foobar (it works perfectly in DirectSound mode), that's why I wanted a usb dac.
I have seen the VDA2's reviews, it seems to be quite interesting. Thanks.

Has anyone compared the stello, the vda or the paradisea? or any other dacs in the 500$ range ?
Mar 23, 2008 at 9:44 AM Post #4 of 11
The Pico's DAC is said to perform better than others its price range, and even as good as (or better than) things higher up. Then you have the amp section that rivals the AE-2. If you don't need other inputs/outputs, then the Pico is a great bargain in my eyes. And if you wanted a dedicated amp you can always pull the (clean) "headphone" out from the Pico and feed it into another. This isn't a "pure line out" but this subject has been covered extensively by many members including Justin himself; using it as just a DAC to feed another amp does not kill the sound quality or anything.

I sound like a shill right now but the things I've read from people whose ears I trust point in the general direction of "Pico rocks"
Mar 23, 2008 at 8:05 PM Post #6 of 11
Are you sure that the headamp pico is the way to go, from what I've heard, the amp part is so-so while the DAc is great. I already have an amp, and i'm not sure the pico's dac can stand up against the stello or the CIA VDA2.
From what i've read on other post, the pico is just below the lavry or the DAC 1 which is about the level of the stello.
Anyway, I'll think about the pico.
Mar 24, 2008 at 6:13 AM Post #7 of 11
Head-Fier Jambo has an upcoming DIY USB-capable DAC called the Jambo DAC that will be capable of using either the Wolfson WM8740 (the DAC chip used in the Headamp Pico), or the superior WM8741. The word is that the final cost will be around $200 assembled, and for a bit more, you could have someone build and test one for you.
Apr 13, 2008 at 1:34 PM Post #9 of 11

Originally Posted by infinitesymphony /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Head-Fier Jambo has an upcoming DIY USB-capable DAC.......and for a bit more, you could have someone build and test one for you.

Any idea who's willing to custom build these to order?
Apr 13, 2008 at 10:55 PM Post #11 of 11

Originally Posted by DoubleEs /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Any idea who's willing to custom build these to order?

It's a little early to tell since the boards haven't been finalized, but you can probably find a volunteer if you create a thread about it in the Dedicated Source Components For Sale/For Trade sub-forum. It doesn't look like it will be a difficult project for an experienced DIYer. You might even PM Jambo about it.

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