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Old 16th April 2014, 9:39 AM   #1
jastormont Thread Starter
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Default First DAC?

Hi guys,

I am thinking of getting a DAC for my Windows 8.1 Desktop and possibly use also with my Lenovo x230 laptop.

I am new to DAC and just wondering what would be a good cheap stater into the world of DAC?

I got a Asus Maximus VI Hero (http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/MAXIMUS_VI_HERO/) and Sennheiser HD598 headphones.

Any recommendations and advice much appreciated.
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Old 22nd April 2014, 4:43 PM   #2
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A DAC will last you years.
I've had mine for seven.
Buy wisely now, and you will save hassles in the future.
If I were buying now, I would look for the following features:

Mains power (usb powered is the devil's work)
usb in
coax optical in
fibre optical in
headphone out
l/r audio out (obviously)
24 bit

Good luck.
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Old 22nd April 2014, 4:49 PM   #3
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subscribed. As I am doing the same for a raspberry pi project.
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Old 22nd April 2014, 7:18 PM   #4
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max budget?
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Old 26th April 2014, 11:03 AM   #5
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Something like the Audinst HUD-mx2?
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Old 27th April 2014, 2:44 PM   #6
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Your options are outputs are this:

Optical S/PDIF
HDMI pass through

The usual connection options available on recent DACs are:

Optical S/PDIF aka. TOSLINK (most recommended)

You will probably only find HDMI support on a receiver or something similar.

Now to the nitty gritty. You most likely wont hear a difference between a $200 DAC and a $2000 DAC as long as the $200 has a quality noise free flat output.

One thing to keep in mind is that getting a DAC that only runs at say 24bit 192khz is a bad thing. If a DAC only operates at a single bit rate and frequency sample rate then it's going to be converting your 16bit 44.1khz single to something its not. Now in some circumstances this is fine, such as a 16bit 44.1khz to 24bit 88.2khz, where the increase in bit rate is simply filled in gaps that gets ignored and 88.2 khz is a direct doubling of sampling rate. Now if its something else like 48khz or 96khz then this might cause some issues with some DACs. So its best to just run your DAC at 16bit 44.1khz since you cannot add data that isn't there to begin with. 99% of your audio will be 16bit 44.1khz, you only step out of that range with 'audiophile grade' recording and formats such as SACD but even then there's plenty of blind tests that show you can't hear a difference. I'm sure i will get one person that says otherwise but those people just throw audio jargon around without following up their opinions with facts.

Now to which DAC. I bought an Audio GD one, which is a Chinese company that only sells out of their own site. I've had a few odd issues with it and its a massive hassle just trying to talk to them (bad english) let alone trying to sort out a problem. Though it does sound really good. So with that said, i would recommend getting an established brand name in audio since there are a LOT of pop up brands that come and go, especially with DACs and head phone amps.

I'd recommend the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 to you. It's not too expensive, its very versatile with your connection options, performs very well, and is external (not a sound card) so you can put it where ever you want. Cambridge Audio are a well established brand with a local warranty and make quality no bullshit products.

If you need to use headphones with it then we need to look at a DAC + Headphone amp combo which you can get but CA don't make one of those. The CA DAC is made for use with an external amp.

Last edited by meeetch; 27th April 2014 at 2:49 PM.
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Old 28th April 2014, 4:26 PM   #7
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I use a HRT Microstreamer and I can't fault it in anyway, portable and sounds fantastic
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Old 29th April 2014, 11:24 AM   #8
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I have a couple here.

I use a HiFiMan EF2 DAC with my AKG K701's, pretty nice. Running 'upgraded' tubes because it was sold to me with broken tubes so I got new ones before it arrived (turned out something else was broken but anyway...). Didn't hear a rats arse difference between tubes but you know,

I also have a HiFimeDIY Sabre USB dac (http://hifimediy.com/index.php?route...&product_id=83) I use with my IEM's for my work laptop and MS Surface tablet (the 3.5mm jack on it is very noisy). It can power my AKG K701's quite nicely, but obviously not as good as having an amp. Personal assessment is it sounds fantastic, no real difference between it and my HiFiman, only criticism is my IEM's have the high end a little bit too noisy for my tastes, easily fixed via EQ settings in foobar. I freaking love this thing, best purchase I've made recently, and the volume is controllable from within windows.

Finally I have a Audio-GD NFB 3.1 which I use with a larger stereo. Sounds fine, nicely made, probably overkill, I like it

Honestly I can't really tell much difference between them at all. I like the HiFiMan because I think the tubes look cool, but the volume pot seems a bit shit (mine is broken).

If you're curious about anything else let me know

@madmike, I reckon the sabre one I've linked is a great combo for a rPi project, but if you want RCA outputs you'd probably want a different DAC.
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Old 14th May 2014, 8:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by jastormont View Post
Hi guys,
I am thinking of getting a DAC for my Windows 8.1 Desktop and possibly use also with my Lenovo x230 laptop.
I got a Asus Maximus VI Hero (http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/MAXIMUS_VI_HERO/) and Sennheiser HD598 headphones.
The audio chip on your motherboard is so good I doubt if you would hear any improvement from an aftermarket DAC, it may even sound mediocre compared to your on board sound
Try and audition DAC's to compare to your on board sound before buying

Whereas the Lenovo sound would certainly benefit from a DAC

Have a squiz at Topping DAC's from China, they are well thought of and good value
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Old 14th May 2014, 11:34 PM   #10
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I can highly recommend the FiiO E17 for portable use and as part of a desktop setup with the E09K for DAC duties when at the desk. I just posted a mini review a few days ago here.

The Senn HD600 sound fabulous over Optical SPDIF from the E17 with the E09K doing amplification with a TI OPA2134/TPA6120 AMP section that is used in units much more expensive.

The E17 uses the AD8397 opamp chip for AMP duties and the WM8740 DAC which is also used in units costing several times more.

This is a very good combo as you have the slightly warmer E17 to power low impedance IEMs (In ear monitors) and the powerful and clean E09K for full size HP at home.

The combo does 96/24 over USB and 192/24 via optical or coax SPDIF. Also has line out, pre out and line in.

I use 2 E09Ks, 1 at work and 1 at home and take the E17 portable DAC/AMP back and forth. Running E09K in the office with Surface Pro 2, USB 3 - 7 port hub 1TB Seagate USB and USB input on E09K using the DAC in the E17 for decoding 96/24 from Jriver MC19 and E09K powering Klipsch X10i and Image Ones.

At home running Optical 192/24 from the Realtek on my Asus Rampage Black into the E17 docked in the E09K running HD600 with Jriver MC19.

The E17 also works with iPhone 5S and the camera connection kit and passive USB hub to get 48/16 digital. I use 8Player on the iPhone which does DLNA from the Jriver Media server to play back FLAC. The iPhone also supports 96/24 with Ampliflac App but at the moment I get a low level clicking with that sample rate. Either a bug with timing on the iPhone or E17 which will hopefully be patched as I can create the same noise in Jriver on the PC using WASAPI event style over USB to the E17 which cleans up with straight WASAPI or ASIO output.

The plan is to get Seagate 1TB wifi drive with DLNA and use that in the car to stream the FLAC files via iPhone and when mobile.

Here's my Jriver setup with a small EQ tweak to the HD600 to sweeten them up a bit. Also have a parametric 3db boost at 40hz to bring up the sub-bass a tad. Makes for comfortable long term listening at ~80dB and 100dB for short stints. I have a compensation curve setup with the Image Ones at work to drop the bass in the 100-170hz range to remove a bit upperbass bloom and slight boost at 12-14k to bring in a bit of definition.
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Last edited by Phatboy69; 15th May 2014 at 12:03 AM.
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Old 17th June 2014, 6:13 PM   #11
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Fiio e17 gets my vote as well, use it for my office setup
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Old 24th July 2014, 3:42 PM   #12
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What's everyone's thoughts on the above new player to the budget ~$100 amp/dac combo?

Looks just like the Fiio but all in one with amp so I'm seriously considering it for my first amp since it's like a thrid of the cost of o2dac.
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Old 24th July 2014, 4:18 PM   #13
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Dunno, $100 probably won't buy you too many quality components...but it maybe good enough, god knows without listening.

I'm eyeing this beaut:
Aune T1 Mk2 24-bit Tube USB DAC & Headphone Amp
I've read about it, talked to audio guys, and it looks it checks out. The mk2 is just coming out. It's not overly expensive, either.
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Old 30th July 2014, 10:17 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by [LoL] View Post
I use a HRT Microstreamer and I can't fault it in anyway, portable and sounds fantastic
Where can you get the microStreamer in Australia?
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Old 30th July 2014, 1:23 PM   #15
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Head-Fi has a tonne of threads on this. Apparently the $55 DAC Destroyer is the best cheap DAC - I bought one and I can barely tell any difference between good quality onboard sound. Definitely a big step down from my old Xonar D2X. Output isn't great either.

Probably going to end up using it with my RPi, but was wondering what people thought were good for around the $150 mark for Asus D2X-like quality.
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