So I've been looking to upgrade my headphone setup and in my search stumbled across these great pieces of gear. I previously had a Peachtree DAC-IT feeding a Schiit Valhalla and that setup was (and still is) very good, but I was curious what else was out there.
I went through several pieces of gear before I found the DacMini and DS. I started with the Peachtree NovaPre since I like my DAC so much and it sounded good but didn't play so well with my setup, was getting occasional pops. I then moved on to pairing my existing DAC with a Woo Audio WA3 and it sounded good as well but not really much better than my Schiit, in fact in some ways it was not as good. I then moved on to the Burson HA-160D, which sounded fantastic but I don't care for the stepped volume and the pop I got at each position. I swapped it out for the DS version which uses an Alps pot, which I actually prefer over the more expensive stepped attenuator.
The HA-160DS is a DAC / Headphone amp, and a very good one at that. It actually gives up a little bit in the way of impact to the D version since it doesn't have the stepped attenuator, but it's not enough to really care about and if anything I prefer the slightly smoother sound. These actually have a tube-like sound, probably more so than any other SS amp I've heard. Coming from the Schiit, this gave me exactly what I was looking for, a bit more body and impact in the sound without loosing any of the details.
So after I'd found my new amp I stumbled across the CEntrance DacMini. I don't even remember now how I found it, maybe on Head-Fi. I started doing some research and really like what I was reading. They're based in Chicago and do alot of design work for other companies who build DACs, seems like they're a think tank that other companies turn to when they need help with a chip design or implementation. They also write alot of the better USB drivers on the market. So I felt comfortable trying their DAC, the only unknown was really the headphone amp.
So even though I'm completely satisfied with the Burson, I decided to give the DacMini a shot, and am glad I did.
I've got both devices fully burned in and am going to take some time this weekend to sit down a do a thorough comparison between the two. My very early impressions are that the Burson has more impact to the sound while the CEntrance has more resolution, very early impressions often change though. I can already say that this will be a tough decision, maybe I'll find a way to keep both.
More to come