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Jay Loofah

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Hello!​

I've been scouring the web but have gotten so many conflicting suggestions with regard to the "budget dac" query. I think my context might help with an answer if y'all might could throw out some suggestions!


So, I've got a t430 Thinkpad with Windows on it and the auxiliary port produces noise when plugging in phones, and a noticeable hum when un-muted. I'm guessing it's a current issue. I've tried two cheap (~$10) usb dacs, one Sabrient one from Amazon and another from China, both having issues with volume control (way too loud with no knobs and the noise remains). I'm using a pair of m50x's so pretty easy to drive (32ohms).


I just tried my friends Behringer 202 and it worked flawlessly it seems in eliminating the noise floor and the current. What do y'all think about this option? I would have liked a very simple and slim usb dac (no amp needed for these headphones) but it looks like for under $50, the 202 might be the best pick for my needs.

Any other suggestions?
Under $50 / DAC, no amp / USB / No noise floor / Slim, portable
 

sejarzo

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Fiio K1?

You do need a device that has an output designed to drive low impedance loads. Most "DAC-only" don't, as they are designed to drive the input of an amp, which is likely >15 kohms...hence the need for a DAC/amp.

As an example, I could not drive any of my low impedance earphones with my original version ODAC when I tried to see what would happen. The output impedance of that DAC is around 400 ohms, which would result in poor frequency response in any headphone.
 

Rob MacLean

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Hello!​

I've been scouring the web but have gotten so many conflicting suggestions with regard to the "budget dac" query. I think my context might help with an answer if y'all might could throw out some suggestions!


So, I've got a t430 Thinkpad with Windows on it and the auxiliary port produces noise when plugging in phones, and a noticeable hum when un-muted. I'm guessing it's a current issue. I've tried two cheap (~$10) usb dacs, one Sabrient one from Amazon and another from China, both having issues with volume control (way too loud with no knobs and the noise remains). I'm using a pair of m50x's so pretty easy to drive (32ohms).


I just tried my friends Behringer 202 and it worked flawlessly it seems in eliminating the noise floor and the current. What do y'all think about this option? I would have liked a very simple and slim usb dac (no amp needed for these headphones) but it looks like for under $50, the 202 might be the best pick for my needs.

Any other suggestions?
Under $50 / DAC, no amp / USB / No noise floor / Slim, portable

Hello,

I would suggest the following:

SMSL X4 $42
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06XYN7X7H/ref=ya_aw_oh_bia_dp?ie=UTF8&psc=1&th=1

I have the black X4, but gray and red are still available.

Xtrempro X1 $32.50
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01FQHBDI4/ref=yo_ii_img?ie=UTF8&psc=1#

Amirm reviewed the Speaka usb dac which is a version of the above. They talk about it here:

https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...-speaka-usb-dac-and-headphone-amplifier.2423/

They both work with Windows and Android for me. I have tried them with low impedance headphones and in the 3.5mm line-in for my car stereo. I currently use the SMSL X4 in the car. I think they sound good, better after "break-in" of maybe 30 hours. Another great thing about the X4 is it has digital volume control on the outside of the unit, so you can max the volume on the source (computer or phone) and use the dac to set the volume. I hope this helps.

Rob
 
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Sal1950

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Jay Loofah

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Hello,

I would suggest the following:

SMSL X4 $42
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06XYN7X7H/ref=ya_aw_oh_bia_dp?ie=UTF8&psc=1&th=1

I have the black X4, but gray and red are still available.

Xtrempro X1 $32.50
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01FQHBDI4/ref=yo_ii_img?ie=UTF8&psc=1#

Amirm reviewed the Speaka usb dac which is a version of the above. They talk about it here:

https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...-speaka-usb-dac-and-headphone-amplifier.2423/

They both work with Windows and Android for me. I have tried them with low impedance headphones and in the 3.5mm line-in for my car stereo. I currently use the SMSL X4 in the car. I think they sound good, better after "break-in" of maybe 30 hours. Another great thing about the X4 is it has digital volume control on the outside of the unit, so you can max the volume on the source (computer or phone) and use the dac to set the volume. I hope this helps.

Rob
Thanks for the info! I was wondering if there was anyway to get a hold of the Speaka, however, I'm a little worried about a usb dac with no volume control. I've used cheap usb dacs and they just blow out my headphones a the lowest volume.

However, I bit the bullet with the UCA202 and it's good but when I max out the Window's volume (as I'm supposed to) I am just barely pushing the dac's knob before I'm at a comfortable volume. I feel like the m50s are just way too easy to drive. Would the X4 or Speaka push the signal too loud?
 

sejarzo

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I feel like the m50s are just way too easy to drive. Would the X4 or Speaka push the signal too loud?

I just took a look at a number of measurements on the innerfidelity site...the following are the Vrms and mW required to reach 90 dB SPL for some other relatively low impedance headphones, versus your AT M50x (37 ohm): 0.042 Vrms, 0.05 mW

Closed phones:

AKG 550 (35 ohm): 0.055 Vrms, 0.09 mW
Senn HD280 (65 ohm): 0.061 Vrms, 0.06 mW

There appear to be quite a few more in that general range that require far less than 0.1 Vrms/0.1 mW to reach 90 dB SPL, so I don't think your cans are out of the ordinary for that category.

On the other hand, here are the figures for some low impedance, open phones:

Beyerdynamic DT 880 (33 ohm): 0.125 Vrms, 0.47 mW
Senn HD598 (61 ohm): 0.090 Vrms, 0.13 mW
Shure SRH1440 (37 ohm): 0.098 Vrms, 0.26 mW

I haven't owned a pair of closed phones for some years, and I frankly cannot recall having to reduce the volume knob on my headamp from the typical range with my HD600s to a much lower level with my HD280s, but I must have!

Most apps pad 16 bit audio to 24 bits before software volume control, and then streaming the data to the DAC over USB. That means you should have 8 bits of attenuation or 48 dB available in software before there should be any potential for audible impact. I rarely use IEMs but when I do, I tend to cut the output from Foobar by 12-15 dB so I am not running the knob on my amp at only 8 o'clock or so.
 
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Jay Loofah

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I just took a look at a number of measurements on the innerfidelity site...the following are the Vrms and mW required to reach 90 dB SPL for some other relatively low impedance headphones, versus your AT M50x (37 ohm): 0.042 Vrms, 0.05 mW

Closed phones:

AKG 550 (35 ohm): 0.055 Vrms, 0.09 mW
Senn HD280 (65 ohm): 0.061 Vrms, 0.06 mW

There appear to be quite a few more in that general range that require far less than 0.1 Vrms/0.1 mW to reach 90 dB SPL, so I don't think your cans are out of the ordinary for that category.

On the other hand, here are the figures for some low impedance, open phones:

Beyerdynamic DT 880 (33 ohm): 0.125 Vrms, 0.47 mW
Senn HD598 (61 ohm): 0.090 Vrms, 0.13 mW
Shure SRH1440 (37 ohm): 0.098 Vrms, 0.26 mW

I haven't owned a pair of closed phones for some years, and I frankly cannot recall having to reduce the volume knob on my headamp from the typical range with my HD600s to a much lower level with my HD280s, but I must have!

Most apps pad 16 bit audio to 24 bits before software volume control, and then streaming the data to the DAC over USB. That means you should have 8 bits of attenuation or 48 dB available in software before there should be any potential for audible impact. I rarely use IEMs but when I do, I tend to cut the output from Foobar by 12-15 dB so I am not running the knob on my amp at only 8 o'clock or so.

So, with the UCA202 only providing 16bit audio, would you suggest lowering the Window's volume so that the knob can rest at a more manageable position (I use foobar, but there are many more apps that don't have independent volume controls)? I feel like the potential distortion coming from the low setting of the knob is worse than loosing some data over the USB connection. That is, unless there is a workaround for lowering all Windows apps while maintaining 100% of the Window's output?

Any further suggestions, and thanks for the comparison between some other headphones.
 

RayDunzl

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So, with the UCA202 only providing 16bit audio, would you suggest lowering the Window's volume so that the knob can rest at a more manageable position (I use foobar, but there are many more apps that don't have independent volume controls)?

I suspect the volume control on the UCA202 for the Headphone output is analog and not digital, meaning no digital resolution is lost when you use it. It may have analog problems, but that's another story.

Why don't you experiment some more with each type or combination of volume control, and see which you prefer?
 
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RayDunzl

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That is, unless there is a workaround for lowering all Windows apps while maintaining 100% of the Window's output?

You can't attenuate digital without losing some bits - one for every 6dB. If the UCA202 converter is 16 bits, that's less than optimal.

So, no workaround as you envision.

Maybe you can get a better device for your phones.
 
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Jay Loofah

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Okay, so I just got a SMSL X4, and the lowest volume setting on this device is also quite loud (Windows at 100% and X4 at one press from mute)! It may be that I have sensitive ears or something with how Windows is pumping out the data stream via USB?

Hm. What do I do :( However, the X4 is outputing at 24bits so maybe I can turn down Windows? But how far?
 
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RayDunzl

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Turn down the Windows volume as far as you need to reach a comfortable listening level.
 
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Jay Loofah

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OK, got it! Last question, so I have a UCA202 and X4 with me and I'm deciding which to keep. What do you think? Also should I worry about the high noise floor I get when turning the X4's internal gain to max (listening on silence of course)?
 

RayDunzl

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I have a UCA202 and X4 with me and I'm deciding which to keep. What do you think?

You keep the one you prefer.

Should I worry about the high noise floor I get when turning the X4's internal gain to max (listening on silence of course)?

I usually don't listen to silence at high levels. If the noise is objectionable at your regular listening levels with normal source material (music/game/whatever), then it's a practical problem.
 

sejarzo

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Oooops. I forgot that the UCA202 is only 16 bit. Every USB device or onboard sound chip I have owned in the past 10 years has been 24 bit capable.
 

Rob MacLean

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Okay, so I just got a SMSL X4, and the lowest volume setting on this device is also quite loud (Windows at 100% and X4 at one press from mute)! It may be that I have sensitive ears or something with how Windows is pumping out the data stream via USB?

Hm. What do I do :( However, the X4 is outputing at 24bits so maybe I can turn down Windows? But how far?
Hello,

I'm glad you tried the SMSL X4, I really like it. I haven't tried the X4 with Windows, but with Android I can turn the phone volume all the way up and adjust the volume to a comfortable level with a few presses of the up(+) button using my low impedance headphones. I think they're 32 ohm.

You might want to research using replaygain on your digital tracks, mp3 or flac files. I think they might be clipping. Foobar2000 has it installed. Highlight your album by clicking on it where the title is, right click, scroll down to replaygain, scroll over to scan as album or by individual track, click on whichever you choose, apply, no more clipping. Also, if all your tracks are mp3's you can use mp3gain. Check it out here:
http://mp3gain.sourceforge.net
It will explain what it does on that page. I hope this helps you.

Rob
 

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Hello,

I'm glad you tried the SMSL X4, I really like it. I haven't tried the X4 with Windows, but with Android I can turn the phone volume all the way up and adjust the volume to a comfortable level with a few presses of the up(+) button using my low impedance headphones. I think they're 32 ohm.

You might want to research using replaygain on your digital tracks, mp3 or flac files. I think they might be clipping. Foobar2000 has it installed. Highlight your album by clicking on it where the title is, right click, scroll down to replaygain, scroll over to scan as album or by individual track, click on whichever you choose, apply, no more clipping. Also, if all your tracks are mp3's you can use mp3gain. Check it out here:
http://mp3gain.sourceforge.net
It will explain what it does on that page. I hope this helps you.

Rob

If a product performs as well as the topping D30 and has the connectivity you require at a price that is not much more(or less), I think you have an answer.
 
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