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Best DAC around $100?

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#1
Source audio is from USB, playing Tidal Hi-Fi/Master tracks. Stuck between the Topping D30, Modi 3, and Khadas toneboard. I did read read the reviews by @amirm but I don't feel I was smart enough to really compare cause I wasn't able to really come to a conclusion ;') (lots of graphs and what not, but didnt know what meant what or which to compare apart from the SINAD graph). This DAC will be for a desktop setup with two monitor audio radius 45 bookshelf speakers that I may replace down the road, and a custom made sub (friend made it for me, subwoofer nerd, said it was a few hundred bucks in parts but gave it to me for free cause has so many sitting around, no idea what the specs are). Haven't settled on an amp yet, but will likely get something like a topping D10, or similar (whatever I can find around the same price range that is better). I don't need or want extra bells or whistles, just good quality sound.
 

tlr

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#2
JDS Atom seems to be the top choice for ~$100 amps at the moment. It would be nice if JDS made a DAC that stacked with it nicely.
 

andreasmaaan

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#3
The 3 DACs you're looking at all measure very well and there shouldn't be any audible difference between them. My pick would be the Modi 3 since it's prettier and it doesn't have the "ESS hump" (increase in IM distortion around-35dBfs), but I don't believe that this could possibly be audible.

How are you planning to do volume control?

And the D10 is a DAC, not an amp btw.
 
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#4
The 3 DACs you're looking at all measure very well and there shouldn't be any audible difference between them. My pick would be the Modi 3 since it's prettier and it doesn't have the "ESS hump" (increase in IM distortion around-35dBfs), but I don't believe that this could possibly be audible.

How are you planning to do volume control?

And the D10 is a DAC, not an amp btw.
Yeah, I'm between the Modi 3 and khadas with a 3d printed enclosure. I'll probably get whichever I can find a better deal for. Just need to figure out my amp situation now. I would control volume from my PC's software control of possible.

JDS Atom seems to be the top choice for ~$100 amps at the moment. It would be nice if JDS made a DAC that stacked with it nicely.
Looks great.. but I don't think it could power me speakers. I need a stereo amp
 

andreasmaaan

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#5
It's an interesting little pair of speakers you have there. How do they sound? And how are you powering them now?
 

alyon

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#6
I would suggest looking at the Topping MX3, which is a dac/headphone amp/speaker amp all in one sitting on amazon at about 130 right now:
https://www.amazon.com/Topping-MX3-...opping+mx3&dpPl=1&dpID=41BieLqTkXL&ref=plSrch
It seems to check all of the boxes for what you want and should sound good too. Another plus is you won’t need to buy an amp down the line, and it shouldn’t sacrifice much in sound quality. Also it has a sub out (although no crossover unfortunately, but maybe you can run high power signal into your sub and out to your speakers anyway?) but another benefit to consider.
Unfortunatly I’m not sure if there are measurements of the DAC anywhere at this time, but Topping seems to know what they’re doing.
 

Roen

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#7
Source audio is from USB, playing Tidal Hi-Fi/Master tracks. Stuck between the Topping D30, Modi 3, and Khadas toneboard. I did read read the reviews by @amirm but I don't feel I was smart enough to really compare cause I wasn't able to really come to a conclusion ;') (lots of graphs and what not, but didnt know what meant what or which to compare apart from the SINAD graph). This DAC will be for a desktop setup with two monitor audio radius 45 bookshelf speakers that I may replace down the road, and a custom made sub (friend made it for me, subwoofer nerd, said it was a few hundred bucks in parts but gave it to me for free cause has so many sitting around, no idea what the specs are). Haven't settled on an amp yet, but will likely get something like a topping D10, or similar (whatever I can find around the same price range that is better). I don't need or want extra bells or whistles, just good quality sound.
Do you want a DAC, a DAC + an Amp, or a DAC / Amp combo unit?

I understand from your later posts. I assume your speakers have their own amplification?
 

bravomail

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#8
Sciit Modi 3 has a case, power supply, no ESS IMD hump and better return/warranty - it wins against Khadas Tone Board easily.
 

Roen

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#9
Sciit Modi 3 has a case, power supply, no ESS IMD hump and better return/warranty - it wins against Khadas Tone Board easily.
Khadas doesn't need a power supply, it's bus powered.

You could have a Khadas in a frame for $73 shipped to your door if you bought it during Black Friday ($68 for Tone Board, $5 for DIY frame + time to assemble). Schitt will be $99 + shipping.

Khadas has DoP support, if that means anything to you.

Khadas has better SINAD numbers. When arguing better SINAD vs. ESS IMD hump, both phenomena, in well executed DACs, are inaudible.

Schiit has a better case, but at a ~$40 price point difference shipped, that may not matter much. You'll get the Schiit much faster though.

I'm not sure about winning easily. There are pros and cons of both.
 
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#10
It's an interesting little pair of speakers you have there. How do they sound? And how are you powering them now?
I love them. Not sure how they compete against other bookshelf speakers cause the only other ones I've had some very old kef ones, which also sounded great. I think the best way to describe these is "very well rounded satellites". They have a very clean, crisp and bright sound which pair amazing with a good subwoofer. I have the crossover in my sub set to cover the lower frequency range that the radius 45s don't cover. They're quite easy to drive, look great and have a small foot print. Sounded good from even a cheap lepai amp (garbage from this cheap 50x2w amp I had though, too much distortion). I'm back to powering them with my lepai amp (15x2w) but the clips in the back are broken so the speaker wiring is loose.. so I want to change this amp soon hopefully.
I would suggest looking at the Topping MX3, which is a dac/headphone amp/speaker amp all in one sitting on amazon at about 130 right now:
https://www.amazon.com/Topping-MX3-...opping+mx3&dpPl=1&dpID=41BieLqTkXL&ref=plSrch
It seems to check all of the boxes for what you want and should sound good too. Another plus is you won’t need to buy an amp down the line, and it shouldn’t sacrifice much in sound quality. Also it has a sub out (although no crossover unfortunately, but maybe you can run high power signal into your sub and out to your speakers anyway?) but another benefit to consider.
Unfortunatly I’m not sure if there are measurements of the DAC anywhere at this time, but Topping seems to know what they’re doing.
Looks good on paper.. reviews not so much. I'll have to look into it. Honestly not too sure about the dac, I'd rather get no dac than cheap one since my motherboard dac is pretty decent for what it is.. so I probably wouldn't notice a difference without going the extra mile. The amp might make a bigger difference.
Do you want a DAC, a DAC + an Amp, or a DAC / Amp combo unit?

I understand from your later posts. I assume your speakers have their own amplification?
I want a dac + amp or a dac amp/combo. I might settle on just an amp for now and get a dac later a this rate since I feel like this would be the most noticeable upgrade. I don't think the my integrated dac is that bad (g.1 sniper h6 by gigabyte, has better circuitry than most mobos and a decent op-amp). While a dedicated external dac would most definitely lower distortion I think most of my distortion currently is from my amp.

Khadas doesn't need a power supply, it's bus powered.

You could have a Khadas in a frame for $73 shipped to your door if you bought it during Black Friday ($68 for Tone Board, $5 for DIY frame + time to assemble). Schitt will be $99 + shipping.

Khadas has DoP support, if that means anything to you.

Khadas has better SINAD numbers. When arguing better SINAD vs. ESS IMD hump, both phenomena, in well executed DACs, are inaudible.

Schiit has a better case, but at a ~$40 price point difference shipped, that may not matter much. You'll get the Schiit much faster though.

I'm not sure about winning easily. There are pros and cons of both.
Yeah I don't really care about looks, and I doubt I'd be able to tell the difference in sound between the two so it feels like I can't go wrong with either which is probably a very good situation to be in. My logic tells me that I should just grab whichever I find on a better deal and be happy with it since I can't go wrong with either. Thanks for all your help, fantastic forum with a ton useful content.
 
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#12
FWIW, Modi has both optical and coaxial digital inputs, IIUC Khadas has only coax.
I figure it would be better to run it through usb anyways to avoid preprocessing through the integrated dac, unless there's an option to feed raw audio data through the toslink that I dont know about.
 
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#13
I love them. Not sure how they compete against other bookshelf speakers cause the only other ones I've had some very old kef ones, which also sounded great. I think the best way to describe these is "very well rounded satellites". They have a very clean, crisp and bright sound which pair amazing with a good subwoofer. I have the crossover in my sub set to cover the lower frequency range that the radius 45s don't cover. They're quite easy to drive, look great and have a small foot print. Sounded good from even a cheap lepai amp (garbage from this cheap 50x2w amp I had though, too much distortion). I'm back to powering them with my lepai amp (15x2w) but the clips in the back are broken so the speaker wiring is loose.. so I want to change this amp soon hopefully.
You can't go wrong with Monitor Audio. If you want to make an affordable upgrade, consider the Bronze 1s, or the older Bronze BR1s. The BR1s are pretty damned impressive for entry-level speakers. When I sold mine (to get BR 2s), the guy who bought them listened for about two minutes before whipping out his wallet. And then he called me later, to thank me again. They're that good.
 

andreasmaaan

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#14
I figure it would be better to run it through usb anyways to avoid preprocessing through the integrated dac, unless there's an option to feed raw audio data through the toslink that I dont know about.
I'm not sure what you mean by "feeding raw data through the toslink", but I agree that based on what you've said about your system there'd be no need to bother with anything other than USB input to the Modi.
 
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#15
You can't go wrong with Monitor Audio. If you want to make an affordable upgrade, consider the Bronze 1s, or the older Bronze BR1s. The BR1s are pretty damned impressive for entry-level speakers. When I sold mine (to get BR 2s), the guy who bought them listened for about two minutes before whipping out his wallet. And then he called me later, to thank me again. They're that good.
Really a hidden gem, my dad actually picked up these monitor audios from a warehouse randomly for me on a whim to surprise me many years ago. Only paid about a hundred bucks for them, brand new. If nothing else, these are really well made and great quality from what I can tell, very premium looking/feeling. I considered trying to "upgrade" but quickly realized whatever I got what probably be a sidegrade or downgrade unless I spent quite a bit. They sound great even with a cheap budget setup so no reason to replace them yet, at least before the other parts. Every time I've had something good, and tried to change them for better I usually ended up regretting it lmao.. so I'm a bit scared to try upgrading them, usually when something seems good, they usually are.
I'm not sure what you mean by "feeding raw data through the toslink", but I agree that based on what you've said about your system there'd be no need to bother with anything other than USB input to the Modi.
From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong, still learning this stuff), the data sent over toslink is processed by your system's default hardware dac since it doesn't recognize devices connected over optical/spdif as dacs and only as "audio outputs", but with USB the system can recognize and treat the usb device as a dac/sound processor to send unprocessed audio data directly to it (like a usb sound card).
 

pwjazz

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#16
I'm not sure what you mean by "feeding raw data through the toslink", but I agree that based on what you've said about your system there'd be no need to bother with anything other than USB input to the Modi.
For sure, I was just thinking of future proofing. For example the Chromecast audio has an optical toslink out. You could connect this directly to a Modi but connecting to the Khadas would require an additional box to convert optical to coax.
 

andreasmaaan

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#17
From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong, still learning this stuff), the data sent over toslink is processed by your system's default hardware dac since it doesn't recognize devices connected over optical/spdif as dacs and only as "audio outputs", but with USB the system can recognize and treat the usb device as a dac/sound processor to send unprocessed audio data directly to it (like a usb sound card).
Ok yeh, kind of :) Toslink is still a digital transmission medium, so the DAC still processes data it reecives via toslink (i.e. converts the digital data to analogue). However, with toslink, the computer clocks the data before it arrives at the DAC. With an (asynchronius) USB connection, the DAC clocks the data internally.

Also FWIW, I assume you're talking about an older macbook? (PCs and IIRC newer macbooks don't have toslink outputs in the first place.)
 

andreasmaaan

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#18
For sure, I was just thinking of future proofing. For example the Chromecast audio has an optical toslink out. You could connect this directly to a Modi but connecting to the Khadas would require an additional box to convert optical to coax.
Fair point :)
 
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#19
Ok yeh, kind of :) Toslink is still a digital transmission medium, so the DAC still processes data it reecives via toslink (i.e. converts the digital data to analogue). However, with toslink, the computer clocks the data before it arrives at the DAC. With an (asynchronius) USB connection, the DAC clocks the data internally.

Also FWIW, I assume you're talking about an older macbook? (PCs and IIRC newer macbooks don't have toslink outputs in the first place.)
Ahh, am I confusing things? I meant optical whenever I said toslink. Wouldn't the dac be processing already processed data (processed by your devices default dac)?
 
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#20
I got a Grace Designs SDAC and I prefer it to my Modi Multibit which I need to stop being lazy and box up and sell lol
 
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