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Budget combo

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#1
Hi Audio Folks!

I am new to this forum and hi-fi audio.
My goal is to taste a bit of audiophile flavour and enjoy hi-fi music records from Tidal or Spotify premium.

I've bought Philips X2HR/00 HP at 90€ and would like to go for a desktop DAC + HP amp combo, if it makes any difference.
Currently I am listening to music from my MacBook PRO and consider following options:

- topping dx3 pro version 2 (This one I like the most visually, however low impedance of X2, 32Ω probably dismiss it)
- smsl M7
- fosi audio q5 (https://fosiaudio.com/collections/h...dphone-amplifier-mini-stereo-pre-amplifier-q5)
- MEIZU Hifi Pro USB-C

Not a combo:
- chromecast audio
- topping d10 + some external amp (so many cables...)


Will 200$ budget make an audible difference and allow me to enjoy the music more than from the macbook/phone? Which combo should I choose?

Your recommendations, opinions and suggestions are highly welcomed.
 
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JJB70

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#2
My advice is to try and visit somewhere you can try an external DAC and amp with your headphones and try and evaluate whether it offers any audible benefit. My experience is that the audible benefit of an external DAC is negligible at best if you just want it for playback and don't need or want the sort of functionality you get with something like an RME. An amplifier is different as if your headphones are hard to drive or you like ear bleeding volume then an amplifier is a good addition. Models like the Schiit Magni 3 and Heresy, Geshelli and JDS have more power than you will ever need and are inexpensive.
 
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Piotr
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Thread Starter #3
I do not have friends or neighbours who have a DAC or HP amp, hence it would be difficult to evaluate. I assume all the fuss about DACs is for a reason and people are excited about them not only because DACs could be expensive but also they hear a distinct difference.

Regarding amp, the power I got from the phone is enough for my ears to bleed, however the sound lacks some depth and I can hear a difference when I plug HP to my Marantz receiver.
 
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JJB70

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I do not have friends or neighbours who have a DAC or HP amp, hence it would be difficult to evaluate. I assume all the fuss about DACs is for a reason and people are excited about them not only because DACs could be expensive but also they hear a distinct difference.

Regarding amp, the power I got from the phone is enough for my ears to bleed, however the sound lacks some depth and I can hear a difference when I plug HP to my Marantz receiver.
Can you get to a dealer? Do not assume that the reason a lot of people buy DACs is because they make a sonic difference. Manufacturers and their friends in magazines and on the web have been heavily promoting DACs and using all the usual florid subjective prose to convince people they need a DAC if they are a music lover and the effect is to condition people and plant the necessary psychoacoustic triggers which means when they try them they're convinced there is a difference. If you do a double blind test those differences become an awful lot harder to discern and in fairness an awful lot of people are up front in admitting they can't hear a difference.
 
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Piotr
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Thread Starter #5
I've noticed three groups of people:

- Those who claim DACs make significant sonic difference and chasing for better and better auditory experience throwing a heck of money onto this journey
- DAC denialists, claiming USB-C adapter from a dongle provides same sonic experience as e.g. Chord Dave
- Those who think a good DACs can make a difference and bring more pleasing but not necessarily you have to throw a lot of money on it

Frankly, I don't know which group is right but I'm in the 3rd. That's because I trust my ears ultimately and I can blindly distinguish phone vs Marantz HP output. The second brings me more joy while listening without a shadow of doubt.
 

Berwhale

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#6
A JDS Labs Atom could work well for you. It has more than enough power for the X2HRs and plenty of headroom for more demanding headphones. It has 2 line inputs, so you could connect both your Mac and phone and switch between them, it has a pre-amp out which could be connected to some speakers or your existing amp.
 
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#7
I've noticed three groups of people:

- Those who claim DACs make significant sonic difference and chasing for better and better auditory experience throwing a heck of money onto this journey
- DAC denialists, claiming USB-C adapter from a dongle provides same sonic experience as e.g. Chord Dave
- Those who think a good DACs can make a difference and bring more pleasing but not necessarily you have to throw a lot of money on it

Frankly, I don't know which group is right but I'm in the 3rd. That's because I trust my ears ultimately and I can blindly distinguish phone vs Marantz HP output. The second brings me more joy while listening without a shadow of doubt.
I would be in group 3. People in the first group may not be wrong but they tend to have more disposable income ;)

A $200 budget can easily get you there these days.
DAC: SMSL M100 / Topping D10 / Schiit Modi / JDS Labs OL DAC + AMP: JDS Labs Atom / Schiit Magni Heresy / Monolith Liquid Spark

Take your pick.

If you're in the US, with tax and shipping, the M100 + Atom comes in just under $200. If you want a nice matching stack, then get the Modi (in black) + Magni Heresy. Any of these will sound great.
 
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rl55

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This is my first post. I am also looking for a budget system, maybe around 200-250. Will be used as a desktop system with my laptop. I currently have an older Dragon fly black, v 1.2 . I use the dac section for my Emotiva bi-amped speakers. My useage with headphones is very limited, maybe ten percent of the time. I have three pair of iem's and a pair of B&O H7's. So a clean dac for the lineout/ pre amp for my speakers is more important than a high powered headphone amp section. I listen to amazon HD, spotify premium, and I download from HD tracks and iTunes. An all in one or separates is fine, no preference for either one. I do like the Monolith liquid spark from the reviews here. The Atom's plastic case and subpar volume pot is a turn off. I think the dac selection is more critical and I currently have no idea. BTW, I am not a big fan of Schiit products. Thanks in advance.
Sorry for the rambling...….
 

majingotan

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#9
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#10
I currently have an older Dragon fly black, v 1.2 . I use the dac section for my Emotiva bi-amped speakers. My useage with headphones is very limited, maybe ten percent of the time.
Do you currently unplug your speakers and connect headphones whenever you want to switch? If you would like to avoid that, you could get something like the ifi nano iDSD Black. It is also supposed to have some kind of high sensitivity input, since you mentioned using IEMs.

Another option for you, and the OP, is to get the Meizu Hifi DAC and connect that to a headphone amp with line out for your speakers.
 

rl55

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#12
Do you currently unplug your speakers and connect headphones whenever you want to switch? If you would like to avoid that, you could get something like the ifi nano iDSD Black. It is also supposed to have some kind of high sensitivity input, since you mentioned using IEMs.

Another option for you, and the OP, is to get the Meizu Hifi DAC and connect that to a headphone amp with line out for your speakers.
Yes , I currently have to unplug one to switch. Those are possibilities for consideration. Thank you.
 

solderdude

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Frankly, I don't know which group is right but I'm in the 3rd. That's because I trust my ears ultimately and I can blindly distinguish phone vs Marantz HP output. The second brings me more joy while listening without a shadow of doubt.
Most likely the Marantz out is speaker output via a resistor.
This means that there will be a bass boost and more 'power' will be available translating in cleaner sound at louder levels.
X2HR through 120Ohm (the Marantz may even be higher ?) and through 0.2 Ohm



Given the fact that external DAC/amps usually have a low (insignificant) output resistance chances are the only benefit will be a cleaner sound at louder levels = more enjoyable when listening at impressive levels.
You probably will not get the same 'fullness'/'bass' experience than that from your Marantz (assuming it has a simple high output resistance).

At lower levels, level matched and blind you will probably not hear any difference between the Dave and your phone.
At higher levels there sure will be differences as well as when 'tested' sighted.
 
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Piotr
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Thread Starter #15
I am not sure what's the output impedance in my marantz mcr-603. Couldn't find the spec anywhere, also puzzled about what's the DAC sitting inside and what's the max toslink resolution.

Meanwhile, I am really tempted by SMLS M500 and tidal hifi+ subscription. So at this moment I am considering only meizu pro and M500.
 

solderdude

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#16
Max Toslink will be 96/24.

There are ways to find out the output resistance but requires some soldering
 
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Piotr
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Thread Starter #17
How do you know that? Some poeple claim that the mcr-603 is running at 192/24 when streaming tidal hifi from chromcast audio via toslink.
 
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Billy Budapest

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#18
If you want a reference-level system and have a $200 budget, get a JDS Atom ($99) and Khadas Tone Board ($99, and use its box as a case). The measurements are “beyond reproach,” as one particular audio reviewer would say. You can spend more money and get specs that are a minuscule better, but would not be audible.
 
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Piotr
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Thread Starter #19
Not based in the US, your combo with taxes and transport would be approx the smsl m500 price (360€ from ali).
 

Billy Budapest

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#20
Yeah, I guess that is over your budget. The SMSL M500 is an awesome DAC but the headphone amp is mediocre.
 
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