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Best DAP for my needs?

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#1
Hello,

I am looking to purchase a new DAP for my audio setup and I have a few in mind based on my research. I currently have Sennheiser HD650 w/2.5mm balanced cables and a FiiO Mark2 X7 DAP. I am looking for a step up in audio performance and UI performance from the FiiO. I may also be looking at purchasing the HD800s at some point in the next 3-6 months as well. The DAP will solely be used in my house listening in various locations. I do not want a stationary setup with a separate DAC/AMP/ etc.

I looked at Sony WM1A but the lack of WiFi is a no-go for me. I have also considered the Cayin N6ii, but I have heard mixed things with the two sets of headphones (HD 650 / HD800s). I have heard good things about the Astell & Kern Kann Cube and Kann Alpha. What I cannot determine is which one is better between the two. I know the Alpha was recently released, and one reviewer states it is a step up in all aspects. However, the Cube is priced higher and appears to have a better DAC. I do not care about the size / weight aspect as it will be sitting beside me on the couch / coffee table / etc.

Is there a review planned for either of these DAPs? Or, can anyone weigh in with some advice?

Thank you,

Peter
 

bobbooo

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#2
Hello,

I am looking to purchase a new DAP for my audio setup and I have a few in mind based on my research. I currently have Sennheiser HD650 w/2.5mm balanced cables and a FiiO Mark2 X7 DAP. I am looking for a step up in audio performance and UI performance from the FiiO. I may also be looking at purchasing the HD800s at some point in the next 3-6 months as well. The DAP will solely be used in my house listening in various locations. I do not want a stationary setup with a separate DAC/AMP/ etc.

I looked at Sony WM1A but the lack of WiFi is a no-go for me. I have also considered the Cayin N6ii, but I have heard mixed things with the two sets of headphones (HD 650 / HD800s). I have heard good things about the Astell & Kern Kann Cube and Kann Alpha. What I cannot determine is which one is better between the two. I know the Alpha was recently released, and one reviewer states it is a step up in all aspects. However, the Cube is priced higher and appears to have a better DAC. I do not care about the size / weight aspect as it will be sitting beside me on the couch / coffee table / etc.

Is there a review planned for either of these DAPs? Or, can anyone weigh in with some advice?

Thank you,

Peter
Your FiiO X7 II is already audibly transparent, with THD below -100 dB, so no DAP you buy will offer any audible improvement. If you don't like its UI you can just use your smartphone as a source with an app of your choice, feeding via USB a portable DAC/amp such as the Qudelix 5K, which also includes a hardware parametric equalizer for system-wide EQing, something that has far greater capability to improve the sound of a pair of headphones than any DAC/amp alone.
 
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Thread Starter #3
Your FiiO X7 II is already audibly transparent, with THD below -100 dB, so no DAP you buy will offer any audible improvement. If you don't like its UI you can just use your smartphone as a source with an app of your choice, feeding via USB a portable DAC/amp such as the Qudelix 5K, which also includes a hardware parametric equalizer for system-wide EQing, something that has far greater capability to improve the sound of a pair of headphones than any DAC/amp alone.
Thank you for the reply. My preference would be to have one device only and to not use my cell phone as a source. I appreciate your opinion on potentially not receiving an audible improvement in moving to a "higher end" DAP. The audio market can be very confusing without objective data. and all I have to go on at this point is various subjective opinions and reviews. Having said that, can anyone weigh in on the Kann Cube or Kann Alpha and their audio performances with HD650 / HD800s? Or, are some reviews under way?
 

bobbooo

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#4
The audio market can be very confusing without objective data. and all I have to go on at this point is various subjective opinions and reviews.
I just linked you to a full suite of objective measurements of your FiiO X7 II by Reference Audio Analyzer showing that it's audibly transparent. It's not opinion that you won't get any audible improvement in performance from another DAP, it's scientific fact.
 
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Thread Starter #5
I just linked you to a full suite of objective measurements of your FiiO X7 II by Reference Audio Analyzer showing that it's audibly transparent. It's not opinion that you won't get any audible improvement in performance from another DAP, it's scientific fact.
Thank you again bobbooo. I should have been clearer in my statement. Yes, there is objective data from one site for the FiiO M2 X7, but I cannot find data for either the Kann Cube or Kann Alpha. In addition, I am deciding to purchase a new DAP for several reasons, one of them being that I really do not like the responsiveness and UI of the FiiO. That, in and of itself, decreases the experience I have when I use it. (to that point, if you would like to buy it, I will sell it!). Something else to consider (and correct me if I am wrong) is that objective measurements are done in a very structured way with specific goals. That's great, but, is there an objective test that can measure the output of a song through a specific set of headphones. For example, keep the source file the same and the headphones / cable the same, but swap out the DAP in the following scenario. Play a song through the DAP and measure the output through the headphones. Swap the DAP and repeat the measurement. I suspect that the measurement you receive comparing the two DAPs this way may present more objective data that is not available with standard testing.
 

majingotan

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#6
Thank you for the reply. My preference would be to have one device only and to not use my cell phone as a source. I appreciate your opinion on potentially not receiving an audible improvement in moving to a "higher end" DAP. The audio market can be very confusing without objective data. and all I have to go on at this point is various subjective opinions and reviews. Having said that, can anyone weigh in on the Kann Cube or Kann Alpha and their audio performances with HD650 / HD800s? Or, are some reviews under way?
You're only comparing the power output of the amplification side of the DAPs. I have the SP2000 DAP and with more demanding headphones at high SPLs (90-110 dB SPL), you will likely hear less clipping, less audible distortion with a DAP vs an Apple dongle or a non-LG Quad DAC smartphone. The caveat is high SPLs (90-110 SPL), and if you're using very sensitive IEMs, you won't hear a difference under a blind volume matched test: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...eally-worth-it-vs-my-phone.12235/#post-357990
 
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Thread Starter #7
You're only comparing the power output of the amplification side of the DAPs. I have the SP2000 DAP and with more demanding headphones at high SPLs (90-110 dB SPL), you will likely hear less clipping, less audible distortion with a DAP vs an Apple dongle or a non-LG Quad DAC smartphone. The caveat is high SPLs (90-110 SPL), and if you're using very sensitive IEMs, you won't hear a difference under a blind volume matched test: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...eally-worth-it-vs-my-phone.12235/#post-357990
Hi majingotan,

To be clear, I do want to purchase a new DAP and I do not want to use my iphone. I plan on primarily driving HD650/HD800s. I do not plan on purchasing high quality IEMs at this time.
 
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#8
Amir might review the A&K Kann Cube or Kann Alpha, but only if an ASR member loaned him one for review.

I recommend the iBasso DX160 (2020 version) (uses the same dual CS43198 chips as the A&K SR25). I think it cannot be beaten - sound quality as good as top-price-tier DAPs at a fraction of the price. Do not know about the WiFi quality, though. The UI is pretty snappy:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...looking-for-inexpensive-dap.16259/post-533487

The FiiO M15 with an equally snappy UI (I only use the exclusive music mode on any of my DAPs, never the Android mode, and never use WiFi) is also a great option. As is the iBasso DX220 with default Amp 1 Mk 2 or Amp 8, or if you like piano Amp9 though its max power is lower. Since size/weight are no consideration for your use case, have you looked into the iBasso DX220 MAX (limited production runs) or the Quloos QLS QA390 (available from Apos Audio)? I did not pursue them, so I know little about them. The iBasso DX200 measured fairly well in Amir's testing (and the DX220 improves a little bit on that):
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ew-and-measurements-of-ibasso-dx200-dap.9383/

caveat emptor: (Amir's review of Quloos Melokin DA9.1 ES9038PRO DAC-HPamp)
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...n-da9-1-es9038pro-dac-and-headphone-amp.3618/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-qa390-marketing-hype-or-great-product.11763/
https://apos.audio/products/quloos-qls-qa390-digital-music-player

Whatever you end up buying as a replacement for your FiiO X7 Mk2, if possible please let us know whether you perceive any improvement in sound quality, and if so then in what sense.
Hello,

I am looking to purchase a new DAP for my audio setup and I have a few in mind based on my research. I currently have Sennheiser HD650 w/2.5mm balanced cables and a FiiO Mark2 X7 DAP. I am looking for a step up in audio performance and UI performance from the FiiO. I may also be looking at purchasing the HD800s at some point in the next 3-6 months as well. The DAP will solely be used in my house listening in various locations. I do not want a stationary setup with a separate DAC/AMP/ etc.

I looked at Sony WM1A but the lack of WiFi is a no-go for me. I have also considered the Cayin N6ii, but I have heard mixed things with the two sets of headphones (HD 650 / HD800s). I have heard good things about the Astell & Kern Kann Cube and Kann Alpha. What I cannot determine is which one is better between the two. I know the Alpha was recently released, and one reviewer states it is a step up in all aspects. However, the Cube is priced higher and appears to have a better DAC. I do not care about the size / weight aspect as it will be sitting beside me on the couch / coffee table / etc.

Is there a review planned for either of these DAPs? Or, can anyone weigh in with some advice?

Thank you,

Peter
 
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Thread Starter #9
Amir might review the A&K Kann Cube or Kann Alpha, but only if an ASR member loaned him one for review.

I recommend the iBasso DX160 (2020 version) (uses the same dual CS43198 chips as the A&K SR25). I think it cannot be beaten - sound quality as good as top-price-tier DAPs at a fraction of the price. Do not know about the WiFi quality, though. The UI is pretty snappy:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...looking-for-inexpensive-dap.16259/post-533487

The FiiO M15 with an equally snappy UI (I only use the exclusive music mode on any of my DAPs, never the Android mode, and never use WiFi) is also a great option. As is the iBasso DX220 with default Amp 1 Mk 2 or Amp 8, or if you like piano Amp9 though its max power is lower. Since size/weight are no consideration for your use case, have you looked into the iBasso DX220 MAX (limited production runs) or the Quloos QLS QA390 (available from Apos Audio)? I did not pursue them, so I know little about them. The iBasso DX200 measured fairly well in Amir's testing (and the DX220 improves a little bit on that):
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ew-and-measurements-of-ibasso-dx200-dap.9383/

caveat emptor: (Amir's review of Quloos Melokin DA9.1 ES9038PRO DAC-HPamp)
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...n-da9-1-es9038pro-dac-and-headphone-amp.3618/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-qa390-marketing-hype-or-great-product.11763/
https://apos.audio/products/quloos-qls-qa390-digital-music-player

Whatever you end up buying as a replacement for your FiiO X7 Mk2, if possible please let us know whether you perceive any improvement in sound quality, and if so then in what sense.
Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response. The Quloos QLS QA390 looks like I would still need another device for the music content so I don't think that will work for my needs.

I have my FiiO for sale now. Once I sell it, I will purchase the Astell&Kern Kann Cube or Kann Alpha.

Thank you!
 

Nango

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#11
If I were in your situation for a new DAp I would seriously consider the Hiby R6 and R3 with mounting newer dual AKM chips. I was not so happy with the way the Astell implemented the Tidal support with installing from the net some apk files, etc.
 
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Thread Starter #12
If I were in your situation for a new DAp I would seriously consider the Hiby R6 and R3 with mounting newer dual AKM chips. I was not so happy with the way the Astell implemented the Tidal support with installing from the net some apk files, etc.
My understanding is that the R6 uses "ESS9028Q2M x2 one for each channel" while the Kann Cube uses "ESS ES9038PRO SABRE 8channel x2 (Dual DAC)" which is a step up. To be honest, I highly doubt I would be able to hear the difference. I have also read, although cannot find objective data, that the R6, and especially the R3 cannot power the 650 / 800s that well.
 
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Thread Starter #14
Yes, in this case, Astell Kann Alpha will be the best option.
Kann Cube or Kann Alpha?

They seem to have similar power output (again, can't find specific mW numbers at 300ohm for balanced output). Similar THD. Alpha uses 2 x ESS ES9068AS 32-Bit and Cube uses 2 x ESS ES9038PRO SABRE 32-Bit. Cube has more internal storage (128 vs 64), has a 5" screen vs 4.1" screen - same resolution. Cube is bluetooth 4.2, Alpha is 5.0. Alpha has 4.4mm balanced, Cube has mini XLR. Cube is 1499 and Alpha is 1099. This indicates to me that the Cube is higher end (?). Note: the Cube is on sale for 300 off right now.

I personally don't care about the bluetooth or internal storage or 4.4mm vs XLR.

I would like some guidance around the DAC and amplifier section which I can't find information online. It appears the Cube is the better choice based on price and DAC?

Thought?
 
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Nango

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#15
Astell is very very obscure with all the specs stuff of their DAP. I would avoid Astell whenever I can. Unless @amirm measurements some day would be very revealing.
 

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#16
Astell is very very obscure with all the specs stuff of their DAP. I would avoid Astell whenever I can. Unless @amirm measurements some day would be very revealing.
AK does not disclose their output power other than how much voltage it can put out when using lineout mode. However, I have one of their models that I solely use for very sensitive IEMs since it’s a hiss free like the Apple Dongle experience compared to other more powerful DAPs which can induce hiss due to poor SINAD at 50mV
 
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Thread Starter #17
Astell is very very obscure with all the specs stuff of their DAP. I would avoid Astell whenever I can. Unless @amirm measurements some day would be very revealing.
Why would you avoid Astell? Is it something that you personally don't like about the company? or is there data to support why to avoid them? I.e. higher than industry average defects, etc.

Thanks
 
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Thread Starter #18
AK does not disclose their output power other than how much voltage it can put out when using lineout mode. However, I have one of their models that I solely use for very sensitive IEMs since it’s a hiss free like the Apple Dongle experience compared to other more powerful DAPs which can induce hiss due to poor SINAD at 50mV
What model do you use? Yes, I agree, It would be great to see some measurements of their high end lineup
 

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#19
Why would you avoid Astell? Is it something that you personally don't like about the company? or is there data to support why to avoid them? I.e. higher than industry average defects, etc.

Thanks
They support only their latest devices, just have a look on how they support with firmware update the SE1000 vs the newer models. Things like us what I really detest from them.
 

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What model do you use? Yes, I agree, It would be great to see some measurements of their high end lineup
I have the SP2000 (before the SE200 was announced) since I wanted the latest AK4499 DAC chip on-the-go. Never really cared about the power output since I only use it for CA Andromeda IEM.
 

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