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Audio Interface vs DAC + Amp or Combo

Joined
Apr 23, 2019
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#1
I'm completely new to the idea of using a DAC + Amp or Combo when I'm not in my home studio with my Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt interface. I had just been using my 2019 MacBook Pro laptop's headphone out when someone suggested I look into a DAC & Amp. My headphones are OPPO PM-3 with an upgraded cable (TRS, not TRRS). After reading lots of reviews and content here and elsewhere, I'm 99% sure that something as cheap and simple as the Musiland MU2 Plus will improve the sound (transients, imaging, depth, separation, etc) I'm getting from my 2019 MacBook Pro headphone out. My goal is something neutral/revealing that will translate well when I get back to the studio (it's solely for production/mixing). This setup will be more of a permanent install at my office.

So, I'm trying to get an idea of how much of an investment it will take to at least get comparable results to my Apogee Ensemble TB and easy to drive PM-3's. Can it be done for $200 by the D10 + Atom, or $220 by the DX3 Pro, or maybe a little higher at $350ish by the D50 + Atom? If it is an easy thing to do with one of those options, what DAC + Amp or Combo would be a noticeable improvement to the Apogee Ensemble TB?
 

Blumlein 88

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#3
Any of those you list should work. The DX3 Pro should do what you need in one small box.
 
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#4
Thanks for those recommendations!

I get the impression from this and other posts that the DX3 Pro gets you probably 97% of the way to "impossible to hear an improvement beyond this point" for DAC and Amp (whether combo or not). Correct me if I'm wrong there! So, that would lead me to think I could squeeze out another 1% by spending closer to $500 on a DAC and Amp (most likely separate). If that logic is solid, then my decision is pretty clear. If a $300-400 spend with separate DAC and Amp gets me an audible improvement over the DX3 Pro (transients, imaging, depth, separation, etc), I'm all ears!!

@amirm any chance there's a setup in the $300-400 range you'd recommend over the DX3 Pro? Keep in mind that I'm not convinced a fully balanced setup is worth the cost.
 

JohnYang1997

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Dec 28, 2018
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#5
Thanks for those recommendations!

I get the impression from this and other posts that the DX3 Pro gets you probably 97% of the way to "impossible to hear an improvement beyond this point" for DAC and Amp (whether combo or not). Correct me if I'm wrong there! So, that would lead me to think I could squeeze out another 1% by spending closer to $500 on a DAC and Amp (most likely separate). If that logic is solid, then my decision is pretty clear. If a $300-400 spend with separate DAC and Amp gets me an audible improvement over the DX3 Pro (transients, imaging, depth, separation, etc), I'm all ears!!

@amirm any chance there's a setup in the $300-400 range you'd recommend over the DX3 Pro? Keep in mind that I'm not convinced a fully balanced setup is worth the cost.
no
 

amirm

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#6
@amirm any chance there's a setup in the $300-400 range you'd recommend over the DX3 Pro? Keep in mind that I'm not convinced a fully balanced setup is worth the cost.
The only advantage you get over DX3 Pro with another amp would be higher power. So how about starting with DX3 Pro and should you need more power, then get a JDS Labs Atom for another $99.

The only reason to avoid DX3 Pro would be potential reliability issues. Otherwise, it is a very close to ideal device.
 
Joined
Mar 27, 2019
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#7
I had a PM-3. And Apogee gear. And the DX3 Pro.

Really, the PM-3 is quite sensitive. Most of the time it doesn't need anything more than 0.8V-1V RMS ouput that most smartphone can muster. I had an iPhone and at 3/4 volume it was enough to blow off my ears.
A Lightning/USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor would do the same.

Of course, spend some money to satisfy your curiosity...
 
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