Would I benefit from a DAP
Dec 1, 2022 at 4:11 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

cinisi

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Hey guys,

Question here because I'm in doubt, and afraid I'll throw more money at this hobby without understanding the real benefit.

Context; up until now I always listened to my headphones at home. Settled on my end-game setup (for now, hah) which is a pair of ZMF VC, powered by a ZMF Pendant OG, fed by a Denafrips Pontus II, with my laptop as source (Tidal Hi-Fi or Audirvana using FLAC files).

I'm about to migrate to another country in January, and there I will, for the first time, be depending on public transport for my commute. With this in mind, I already bought a Meze Liric which I absolutely enjoy a lot and feels like a great portable headphone with a serious sound. But now I'm debating whether or not to buy a DAP to go with this, or not.

What would I use if I don't use a DAP? Probably just my phone (Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3) with an Astell & Kern PEE51 dongle.

If I would get a DAP, I would like to add that I usually enjoy a slightly warmer than neutral sound (not too analytic) with a good soundstage. I mostly listen to quite mellow music, genre varies from Radiohead to Post Malone. Not listening to anything too heavy.

Would a DAP positively improve over my dongle-setup, would the Liric benefit from a DAP, would it just be another money pit.. I understand that the best way to choose is to try out and listen, but I can't try out a multitude of DAPs in the environment I'll be using them in. Let me know what you think. Looking for opinions, maybe suggestions. Thanks!

Edit: may also want to add, I read that some/most DAPs also double as a DAC. Could I use the DAP I'd use on my commute as a DAC/Amp for my office space as well and get that added benefit? Or would that depend on the DAP?
 
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Dec 1, 2022 at 5:20 PM Post #2 of 10
A DAP is storage and/or stream receiver with a user interface screen-->DAC (digital analog converter) -->Amp-->headphone jack.

Currently, your Astell & Kern PEE51 dongle is the DAC and Amp, while you're using your phone as the user interface and storage/streamer.

If you're satisfied with the phone's user interface and with the sound from your 'phones, getting a DAP would just be an expensive way to buy storage and streaming. You'd be moving the storage/streaming and UI functions from your phone to the DAP -- and, of course, using a different DAC and Amp than the ones in the dongle.

A pricier DAP may have a better DAC or a more powerful amp, and that could give you improved sound -- but whether you would hear subtle improvements while riding public transport is an open question.

Yes, many DAPs can double as DACs with the right connection; you'd have to check the individual model. But if your work computer already has a USB-C jack -- or you can add one -- you can already use your A&K dongle as a DAC.

From the A&K page:
"The Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable features a USB-C connection, which can be found on the latest Android-based smartphones and Windows and Mac computers."

https://us.astellnkern.com/products/ak-usb-c-dual-dac-cable-pee51
 
Dec 2, 2022 at 4:26 AM Post #3 of 10
Thanks for the reply @earmonger, appreciate it. Yeah I use the dongle at work now and it doesn't sound bad. I'm just afraid that when on public transport, I find the dongle with my phone a bit too fidgetty. Also read that for the Liric, an iFi GO Blu would work, which would mean I'd stream from my phone and the headphones would receive the signal wirelessly (plugged into the GO Blu). But I also read somewhere that it's not recommended to use wireless connection with higher-end headphones. I get your point of me perhaps not even perceiving a noticable difference when I'm on public transport.. Guess I have a lot of pondering to do. Might as well, since the DAP's I was looking at were 1.000 euros and over lol. Will probably give the fiddly dongle a try first and see where I go from there :p This hobby just makes me itch for something new all the time, to try out, to enjoy :)
 
Dec 2, 2022 at 9:21 AM Post #4 of 10
If you have the funds and value sound quality first and foremost check out the Chord Mojo 2 + Poly. (MRSP €600+€650)
It's an expensive solution without a doubt but the sound quality is excellent for such a small device.

I am using it mostly at the office and when travelling light, using the iPhone to control playback from the microSD card in the Poly or streaming Qobuz or Tidal, using the phone's data plan. (Side note: I am using Tidal and Qobuz. I like Tidal UI, but it has SQ issues IMO, Qobuz sounds better)

Mojo also has a built in lossless 5-band EQ and advanced cross-feed to fine tune the signature.

On a bus....
F8707C7F-7597-46B6-9BD1-B8F409FD86EE.jpeg
 
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Dec 2, 2022 at 1:12 PM Post #5 of 10
I too found it fidgetty for a Smartphone + Dac/Amp combo. Especially everytime I reach it out in my pocket and therefore was comtempèlating heavily for a DAP.
However, could not appreciate much with that setup due to surrounding noise during commute (and just to kill time, no critical listening).
Hence, I relegated to my smartphone (LG V50) + IEM (UM Maestro). Using only my DAC/Amp during weekend/business trips (along w/ an additional headphone. when I'm in my room).
 
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Dec 2, 2022 at 1:29 PM Post #6 of 10
Thanks for the replies guys, appreciate the input. For me the commute is part 1, I kinda forgot to mention I will be listening to the same cans (and maybe source as well) when I'm at the office. I work in IT and often spend a full working day behind my laptop or workstation (not sure which it will be in my new environment), and I'll be using the Liric there as well. Which I love because the Liric isolates very well and allows me to keep my focus even when people around me are chatting. Hence also my question about using a DAP as a possible DAC/Amp at the office as well, either with the music physically on there, or sourced from my laptop/workstation.
 
Dec 2, 2022 at 2:50 PM Post #7 of 10
Thanks for the replies guys, appreciate the input. For me the commute is part 1, I kinda forgot to mention I will be listening to the same cans (and maybe source as well) when I'm at the office. I work in IT and often spend a full working day behind my laptop or workstation (not sure which it will be in my new environment), and I'll be using the Liric there as well. Which I love because the Liric isolates very well and allows me to keep my focus even when people around me are chatting. Hence also my question about using a DAP as a possible DAC/Amp at the office as well, either with the music physically on there, or sourced from my laptop/workstation.
That's exactly how I use the Mojo2Poly. I use it with DCA AEON Noire or IEMs at work.
 
Dec 5, 2022 at 3:46 AM Post #8 of 10
In my experience there is always too much background noise and therefore too much distraction to really enjoy high end audio on public transport. To somehow compensate this I put noise blocking ability above pretty much everything else in that situation. Personally I'd go for IEMS but even then I found that it's just a waste to use an expensive DAP and headphone/IEMS when I cannot really enjoy it.
Now I just do the "serious" listening at home and use some 300-500$ IEMS on the go ...
 
Dec 5, 2022 at 4:17 AM Post #9 of 10
I think I'll keep my money in my pocket for now (or at least not spend it on a DAP for now) and just see how I fair in public transport. The Liric blocks out outside noises quite well, which I guess would be most important for me when on public transport. And the headphones are good enough to provide me a good enough experience at the office, with just the AK dongle sourced by my laptop. Thanks everyone for your input, from both me and my wallet :)
 
Dec 5, 2022 at 11:48 PM Post #10 of 10
The wallet matters. Maybe if you are in an anechoic environment totally concentrating on nuances you could hear (or hallucinate) differences. But in the real world perceptual options are limited.
 

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