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DAC, AMP, Headphone Balanced Cables for Desk and Portable Applications

staticV3

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And can I connect my speakers with RCA connections to a dac or pre-amp with balanced connections eliminate or reduce interference issues? Or do I need a speaker with balanced connections (XLR, TRS) too to make the system balanced?
You need a balanced DAC, balanced cables, and balanced inputs on your speaker to get the noise rejection that a balanced connection brings.
 
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wacomme

wacomme

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OK. Nice system - Macbook to Topping DX3Pro+ to Sundara. Using EQ via SoundSource and I get much better bass - very nice!I can also line out to the Audioengine A2's via RCA cables. With the remote and can switch between headphones and speakers, or both.

But . . . since I've had interference issues in the past, I'm thinking I should choose balanced inputs (connection between the amp and speakers). However, the A2s only have rca or 3.5mm cables connections - no balanced connectors. So I'm thinking if I should choose a different dac and amp, and desktop speakers.

I could move the A2s to the bedroom and connect them to the TV for better sound - I need to try that this weekend. I could then buy presonus eris e3.5 monitors and connect them to a balanced dac. This would virtually eliminate any electrical interference issues. The monitors are a little big for by small desk, but . . .

So, I'm considering Topping EX5 as a combo dac/amp or the Topping 10D (balanced) + L50 or A30Pro. The EX5 would work, though it's a little short on amp power. The 10D and A30Pro would also work well. With the pre amp I could adjust the volume on the amp when using the speakers as well as the dac. But this system is expensive. A cheaper solution is the 10D with the L50 - plenty of power, but with the L50 pass through I couldn't adjust the volume using the amp. Question: with the D10 and the L50, would I be able to adjust the speaker volume using my keyboard? If so, solution found! If not, the A30Pro is my solution.

So, which is my best option?

1) EX5 - has everything, but it's a combo and seems a little weak on amp power. Best price option.
2) 10D Balanced + L50. Solves the power issue of EX5, but with no pre amp, could I adjust monitor volume on my keyboard? If so, seems like an improvement on the EX5, and cheaper than option 3.
3) 10D Balanced + A30Pro. Has everything on the EX5 I need (want) + greater amp power.

Thanks for your thoughts and ideas!

Michael
 
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wacomme

wacomme

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If I went the 10D Balanced + A30Pro route (should satisfy any changing needs for many years ahead), I could save $50 with a certified Apos A30Pro with the caveat being it's not returnable. So, for about $500 (with cables) and $100 for new monitors, I would have a solid, powerful system that should be free from most electrical interference. And I would have speakers (A2's) in the bedroom for the TV (currently use TV speakers).

Then again, do I need such a system? Perhaps the DX3Pro+ I have is just fine. I moved some cables around and I currently don't have any electrical interference. Maybe I fixed that problem and therefore, balanced inputs are unnecessary. If it becomes a problem again in the future I'll address it at that time. Is the Dx3Pro+ powerful enough to run my Sundaras? I think there are. I could go the EX5 route for $150 more than the DX3Pro+ + $100 for new monitors + balanced cabling for the inputs. And probably the EX5 has enough amp power for the Sundaras.

And is a 10D Balanced + A30Pro really future-proofed? It seems like future dac/amps will have EQ integrated into the device, which would be fantastic. SoundSource works great on my Macbook, but when I use my iPhone or iPad I'm lacking an EQ solution - am I? Currently, at work, where I must use my iPhone or iPad since I can't seem to get iTunes on Windows to work and therefore have no other connection to Apple Music, I'm without EQ settings. This isn't bad on the AKG 371 that needs little EQ, but EQ definitely helps oh the Sundaras.

All in all I'm inclined to do the following:

1) Keep the Sundara. I love the sound, especially with EQ, and the headphones are relatively comfortable - a little big for my small head, but workable.
2) Keep the Topping DX3Pro+. Currently works well with my home desktop setup. I can control both headphones and the A2's. If I need a different DAC or AMP in the future so be it.
3) Keep the Hidezs S9 - great for semi-portability. I could probably get by with just this dongle and return the DX3Pro+, but it would be nice to keep the S9 mostly at work and the DX3Pro+ at home - convenient.
4) Get some Hart Audio balanced cables for the Sundara. This is to take advantage of increased volume for the S9 when using the 2.5mm balanced port. Though maybe not necessary, the higher volume ceiling will be nice to have.
5) Get a hard case for the Sundara to transport between work and home. I wish I could find a case where the cables don't have to be removed.
6) On the fence about the AKG 371's. They're relatively comfortable and sound pretty good (I like the Sundaras better). But they're closed headphones and that might be important, especially for some work situations. Is there a better closed headphone choice?
7) I also own Etymotic ER4S/P. Nice sound, but I can't find ear tips that are comfortable. I'm contemplating orderings some custom molded ear inserts. Thoughts? Is it worth the cost (mold cost + $150) to update my old Etys? Is there a better IEM option?

Michael
 

Sam Spade

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OK, so I'm not familiar with all the equipment you mention, including the Sundaras. The comments I am about to make are based on driving Audeze LCD4, LCD3, LCDxc which are full size planars and the LCDi3 IEM planars and the conventional Shure SE530 IEM and Sennheiser PMX686g sports.

My Astell and Kern AK70, and AK SP1000M are stellar, both have 2.5m balanced and 3.5mm single ended. The AK70 is so portable, great for anything active like running and snow skiing, the AK SP1000M does sound better, still pretty portable, but both do a great job through all my headphones and driving my top end Audiotech Fischer/Hertz car system.

I also have a Fiio M10 which is lovely, but shaded by the AK SP1000m, although I vaguely recall it was cheaper.

Even better is my Chord Mojo 2. It's a bargain I think for AU$900. But you'll need a DAP or phone to feed it a digital signal as it is only a DAC/Amp, so you have to carry two bits of hardware. But it sounds sublime. Truly sublime. Insanely good driving my car system, shits on my top end pioneer CD deck.

Re balanced vs single ended, my experience is that you get no/minimal SQ improvement from balanced unless you have interference problems which is why it is standard for pro gear. You do get more volume from balanced.

As always PLEASE do your own due diligence and have a listen yourself. Your taste may well differ from mine as may your perception of value.

PS one last thing, for desktop I can very strongly recommend what I have in my lounge, a Burson Conductor 3x, and Musical Fidelity X-Cans, both driven by a Cambridge Audio 840c CD player and a number of other sources. And I can also recommend the Sparkos Aries/Chord Qutest I have in my home office. But carrying around the desktop stuff between rooms at home is a complete pain in the ar*se. Let alone between home and work. For travel between work and home I'd go the best portable you can get, plus you have the added bonus of driving a car system with it.
 
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