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  1. #1

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    Default DACs and Head amps $600 or less

    Hey guys, I could probably put this in the digital section but since it concerns my head rig, here I am.
    I'm tired of the mess of cables i have for my Head fi rig. b/c the usb ports on my laptop don't provide enough bus power to my HRT MSII, I have to put a self-powered USB hub in the chain and the extra cables that entails makes it a pain in @ss with where i keep the rig.

    I want to simplify my rig. I've got a couple of options i'm considering but i'm not sure which route I want to go. I could ask this question on Headfi.org, but there might be too much info running around on that site. I don't want to spend more than $600 total on either a DAC/Amp combo or DAC and Head amp separates and the less the better, but the DAC must have usb input with 24/96 as I like to listen to hi-res on occaision but don't have a ton of it yet.

    the following is what i'm considering.
    keeping the Fiio E9

    -changing out the HRT for a Fiio E17 and docking it into the Fiio E9, its an all in one solution with one usb connection to the dac/amp combo and will drive my HD 650s however it is not Async and the dac may not be quite as good as the HRT (by far the cheapest solution)

    -getting a separate selfpowered DAC and connecting it to the E9 - not an all in one solution but eliminates the dangling USB HUB issue. (i worry about getting an DAC that will completely outclass the amp)

    scrapping the entire thing

    - getting a new amp and self-powered Dac separates ( ie a DACit, Music Hall DAC15.2, MF VDac, Cambridge Dacmagic 100, Arcam Rdac with a separate Head amp, ie a schiit, vcan, or Creek type amp) still some cables but again eliminates the dangling USB hub

    - getting a brand new (to me) DAC/amp combo ( lots of options CA DACmagic plus, TEAC dacamp combo, Audioquest Dragonfly(not sure if i would have same bus power issue with this one though), Music Hall DAC 25.3, Nuforce Dac/amps, alphas design, Yulong etc)

    I've heard great things about the CE Dac Mini and the Burson DAC/amp but i really don't want to spend the amount it would cost to get into those two.

    anyway just any thoughts if anyone has tried any specific combos.
    thanks!
    Last edited by coolsax; 08-17-2012 at 01:41 PM.
    HT - game room
    Yamaha RX V665 - AVR, Polk Monitor 60's,(HT), Polk Monitor 40's, Polk CS 1, Polk PSW 505, Samsung PN50B550 - 50" Plasma, PS3, Wii

    2ch - spare bedroom
    Squeezebox Touch->AQ Alpha Snake->Music Hall A15.2->Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1
    Yamaha S1800(SACD),Technics SL-QD33(TT)
    Head-fi - Sennheiser HD 280, Audio Technica ATH-AD700, B&W P5, Sennheiser HD 650
    Lenovo Laptop-> Dragonfly USB DAC/amp
    Server-QNAP TS110

  2. #2

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    Well after much of the same, I dropped ~300 on a used Audio GD NFB-5. They have a BUNCH of DAC & headphone amp combos in your price range and I read a LOT of good things about them.

    There is a Schitt Asgard on head-fi right now for 190 shipped, there are 2 Audio GD Compass USB DAC & Headphone amps on head-fi (one for 200 shipped). Audio GD has a bunch of stuff on their website that new is well within your price range and will drive just about ALL the headphones you want.

    Keces also made a USB DAC & Headphone combo but their low model Keces 152 started at 450. Dont know a lot about it personally.

    Here are some threads of mine that are quite parallel

    http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...-headphone-amp
    http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...dio-GD-models)
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/621203/200-...p#post_8621513
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/622588/usb-...p#post_8610643
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  3. #3

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    yeah i've heard a little about the Audio GD stuff on headfi, but really haven't had much of a chance to check them out.. will have to research them a bit.

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    You missed the Austin head fi meet, but there should be a fall mini meet back up here in Dallas.
    There may also be another meet in Houston or San Antone. There is a forum heading
    over at Head fi for meets and gatherings.
    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson

  5. #5

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    yeah i've seen that before.... havent' checked it in awhile though at some point i would like to make it to one.

  6. #6

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    Benchmark DAC1 base model. Headphone amp built in, stellar DAC with many different inputs/outputs. Find a used one for about $500. 2 headphone output jacks as well.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinaz View Post
    Benchmark DAC1 base model. Headphone amp built in, stellar DAC with many different inputs/outputs. Find a used one for about $500. 2 headphone output jacks as well.
    I use a Benchmark DAC1 at work and really like it. It is a very uncolored sound which is not for everybody.

    Even with a USB to S/PDIF converter such as the V-Link, you would still be under $600.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinaz View Post
    Benchmark DAC1 base model. Headphone amp built in, stellar DAC with many different inputs/outputs. Find a used one for about $500. 2 headphone output jacks as well.
    Good call Steve, I totally forgot about the DAC1. I always think of their HDR since its got the remote . If I had the extra cash I woulda probably popped on one myself. They also make GREAT pre-amps as well so your set for 2 channel nirvana that can travel
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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    Office: Win 7 -> DacMagic w/ Pangea PSU | DIY Pass BOSOZ| Parasound HCA-1200ii | Polk RTA 11TL | Cables TBA

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  9. #9

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    It's the swiss army knife of audio components.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

  10. #10

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    Hey Steve: Does the DAC1 do USB? I see a bunch for in his price range but they all have optical and no USB.
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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    Office: Win 7 -> DacMagic w/ Pangea PSU | DIY Pass BOSOZ| Parasound HCA-1200ii | Polk RTA 11TL | Cables TBA

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  11. #11

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    The regular DAC1 does not do USB. It would be cheaper to use the regular DAC1 plus V-link than the DAC1 USB model.

  12. #12

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    There are a few additional upgrades in the USB model. Here is a list of the differences by model: http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac/dac1-comparison-chart

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    ^ Yep.

    I've used my BM as a preamp, as line level DAC, and now it acts as my "hub" for all of my sources. Though I'm not a big headphone fan, I have listened thru the headphone outputs and was quite impressed. I have some (lowly) Grado SR60 headphones, so nothing mind blowing for sure.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 08-18-2012 at 11:26 AM.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

  14. #14

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    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson

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    ^^that's a nice option and i've heard good things about PS audio, however yesterday I went ahead and purchased a audioquest Dragonfly and i'm going to give that a run for a couple weeks to see how i like it since they had it at my local bestbuy that had a magnolia store... so far, I'm really impressed. It drives my HD 650's quite easily and i'm not getting any static like i did with the HRT MSII. I am going to give a couple weeks though before i make a final decision, but quite happy in just the first hour i've tried it. I think if i don't end up keeping the dragonfly I might go ahead and try the new Grant Fidelity Tubedac-11 that affordable audio reviewed recently.

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    Deleted already been said.

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