Looking for a usb DAC/headphone amp/ with pre-outs

Discussion in 'DACs' started by Huck, Dec 9, 2017.

  1. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    So,my 32 ohm RP-21's would not sound good with this DAC?.Thanks,Huck
     
  2. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    183
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    you could try them, but any deviation from a perfectly flat impedance curve in those cans would be painfully obvious in that setup, and very few headphones have ruler-flat impedance across the audio band so I would expect problems. Also, any damping you'd have would be mechanical rather than electronic.

    there is a rule of thumb that it's a good idea to try to keep jack impedance to 1/8 or less of cans' nominal impedance. My Senn 598s sound awful with the receiver in my office and similarly bad with an otherwise nice Denon integrated.

    they have an impedance hump at 100 hz, and a high impedance jack gives them a boomy, uncontrolled, one-note low end and little mid or high end.

    These days I look for amps with 1 ohm jacks for flexibility - even a 10 ohm jack impedance would be too much, IMO, for a 32 ohm headphone.

    there are lots of details given here:

    http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/headphone-amp-impedance.html

    My first test is pretty simple - do the headphones match the timbre of my speakers? And in your setup you'll be doing that test immediately on delivery.

    My "I'm returning the amp and here is why" was a little more complicated, as I measured the jack. Crutchfield was great about the return, though.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  3. Bob

    Bob AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,259
    Location:
    West coast
    try Xiangsheng/grant-Fidelity Dac-01

    has multiple (5) inputs (dual rca, optical, digital coax, USB), headphone output with volume control,
    and dual pre-outs - tube and SS.

    under $100 - just look carefully (make the one you're looking at has headphone vol control and is
    wired for your AC).

    spend the rest of the money on music and
    then
    enjoy the music
     
  4. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks,Huck
     
  5. Bill Ferris

    Bill Ferris Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    804
    Location:
    NE. FL.
    I would suggest a Grace Audio M920, as it seems to do all that you require, and is a "studio grade" multi digital/analog input/analog output DAC with variable headphone/ level control with direct 120 volt power input that I purchased new early 2017..

    But I don`t use the headphone jacks in my application(they were tested recently, though really don`t know about the output mute function with headphone plug insertion..

    I paid over twice for it over your budget, but I wanted, in my case, a very high quality 5 year warranty(I think transferable) very flexible HQ DAC that could run 24/7/365 without any issues for my digital flash drive to OPPO BDP-103 S/PDIF feeding to the M920 for all day back ground music delivery system with zero added listener fatigue(at least no more added perceptible distortions inherent on top of the original recordings) than reasonable possible ..

    And the M920 has performed flawlessly usb connected from my Win 10 upgraded laptop, as well..

    No affiliation with Grace Audio, just a extremely pleased customer.

    Just a thought/suggestion whilst drinking and thinking on a Sunday evening before feeding my pie hole !! :beerchug:

    If available used? A possible consideration ? :dunno:

    Good luck on your quest.. :thumbsup:

    Kind regards, OKB
     
  6. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks...that Grace unit sells for over $2500.00 CAN here...not sure if I want to go that high?! Thanks,Huck
     
    Bill Ferris likes this.
  7. Bill Ferris

    Bill Ferris Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    804
    Location:
    NE. FL.
    Wow Huck !! I didn`t pay that much, and can understand your sticker shock !!

    Don`t know if that unit ever shows up on the used market, but that`s an option if you`re ever interested..

    I liked the build quality, both outside and inside..("Beefy"

    I had to open mine up for jumper selection for bypassing the rear line outputs being controlled by the front volume control, which doesn`t effect the control of the headphone outs via the front control, which I thought was a good idea..

    Anyway, good luck on finding what will serve your purposes at a price you can live with..

    Kind regards, OKB
     
  8. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    183
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    Wow. I just took a look at amazon.ca, since Huck is in Canada. Prices are all over the map.

    The irdac-II that I have costs CDN 1199, which is USD 966. Ouch. In the US, that's a 750 or so retail DAC, often available as low as 550 new.

    So a lot of what I thought I knew about relative value of components simply doesn't apply to Huck.
     
  9. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Seems after some checking around,there are quite a few manufacturers still producing 'current' (Benchmark DAC3,Burson,Mytek Brooklyn) at least these three,are still using 'older' chip technology......so would you buy equipment based on whether or not it has the newer or older chip(s).?
    Do DAC chips from different makers (ESS,AKM,etc) have a sound signature of their own and would you buy or not buy,just based on what chipset they use? I am curious,as I am still looking for a DAC/headphone amp/pre-amp,but maybe I should wait till the new chips are all out,in production?Thanks,Huck
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
  10. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    688
    I doubt there will be significant advances in the DAC chips in the near future as what's out there today is already pretty good and overall DAC design and digital interfaces make more differences than the DAC chips themselves. No reason to wait IMO just because of the chips. There will probably be more DACs to choose from at more attractive prices that offer native MQA and DSD support, if that is something you might be interested in.
     
  11. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    183
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    At the level of design you're looking at, I'd say which chip is in use is much less important than the other design choices the manufacturer makes in putting the system together.

    A really good way to never, ever buy a technology is to read about what's coming next quarter. :)

    On the other hand - your Audioengine is a pretty good DAC. Since you don't need one right away, if I were you I'd try to arrange a road trip to visit to a hifi place once the weather warms up a bit. Bring music you know well, your own player for that music and your DAC. Ask them to set up some of their preferred gear with a DAC in the range you're interested in, connected to an integrated so source switching is easy, and connect your source and music to their DAC Then swap over to your Audioengine. Basically, you want to be sure that you like the result of the change.

    For this test, volume matching is key. If you don't have an SPL meter, there are phone apps that are useful - not for absolute SPL, but will get you reasonably close to measuring relative SPL. (I have a 20 minute wav file of a 440 hz tone that I use when I'm setting stuff up, so I have plenty of time to be sure the levels are behaving as I expect.)
     
  12. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Since I don't need any DSD or MQA,maybe I can go for one machine that was close to the top end back a few years ago,that just did the basic 16/44 or 24/96?.....what are some older top end usb DAC/headphone amp/pre-amps that can be used on my desktop,reasonably small footprint?.Thanks,Huck
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  13. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    688
    If you can find a Centrance DACmini CX with a variable output mod it will fit the bill, or you can find one for cheap (I saw one went for just above $100 on the auction site) Centrance should be able to retrofit a variable output for $100 + s/h. Benchmark DAC1 is highly regarded, but double check it mutes the outputs.
     
  14. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Any more to look at??.....maybe I need to upgrade my headphones(32 ohm RP-21's??)....what would I get more of in the way of better sound coming off my PC via usb with JRiver or Spotify Premium.... going with a better DAC (currently Audioengine D1) or better phones?Thanks,Huck
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018 at 6:33 AM
  15. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    688
    Umm, both? Another option is to just get a better headphone amp, even something like the O2 should be an improvement, it can easily be had for less than $100 shipped on that auction site, better look for the ones made by JDS labs, they come with different input/output configurations. You can put it on top of the D1 and connect with a short 3.5mm cabe from the D1's headphone output. I never heard the D1 but from the information available online it seems like a nicely put together DAC, for what it is anyway.

    Spotify app on Windows is fatally flawed btw as it cannot use exclusive mode/WASAPI for the sound device, you can route it through JRiver using its WDM driver which will probably bring more improvements than a new DAC.
     
  16. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I basically use Spotify to listen while surfing or for new music/artists.
    I can go up a little in price($1200CAN)....any opinion on an older Benchmark DAC 1 USB? Thanks,Huck
     
  17. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    688
    The Benchmark is wider than the Teac UD-301 which you said was too big for your desk...
     
  18. Huck

    Huck Active Member

    Messages:
    199
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Yeah....I did not think the Teac was as narrow (8.5"wide)...the DAC1 is (9.5"wide),which is about as wide as I would like to go. Sorry.Huck
     
  19. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    688
    I have no experience with either. The DAC1 has been considered a reference DAC at the time, some loved it some hated it, IMO for $300-$400 used you can't go wrong given it satisfies your requirements and it will be a definite upgrade over the D1. There were several models, the entry-level model lacked USB, the next model up had the USB input, the PRE added an analog input and the HDR had a remote and motorized volume pot. If you don't need the PRE and HDR features no need to pay extra for them. USB is limited to 96khz/24bits.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 11:41 AM
  20. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    183
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    As long as you're open to used gear, ebay.ca has some very interesting listings - and some of the new listings on ebay.ca are less than half the Amazon prices for the same.

    I don't know how diligent your customs folks are at researching prices and assigning import duties, but definitely worth a look.
     

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