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DAC to Headphone amp and Balanced Powered Speakers

Canuckz

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Hello everyone. Long time lurker and I have searched and searched for a definitive solution. I'm seeking a DAC with ideally balanced outputs for headphone amp and desktop powered speakers. What's the best quality implementation for this setup for the money respecting diminishing returns?

Right now, my computer goes into my DAC then into my headphone amp. Volume wheel on my keyboard controls volume up and down. Very happy with this and would it to continue with the addition option to be able to switch to speakers when wish and still control volume via keyboard ideally.

My current setup:

Computer via USB to->Drop Grace SDAC Balanced via XLR to->Drop THX AAA 789 headphone amp to -> Sennheiser HD 6XX headphones

I have JBL LSR 305p MkII powered monitors and JBL LSR310s powered sub-woofer that currently not connected.

I have ordered some cables but have not received them yet to try this setup scenario below:

To explain what I will test when the cables arrive I will use the following cables/connections:
My assumption is that this will allow me to switch between Balanced and Unbalanced DAC outputs with the click of a button (789’s Input switch) for when I want to use SE outputs for example, and this way I also have my speakers connected to this stack. I just keep my speakers turned off whenever I don’t use my speakers.

I am perhaps overthinking this and posting this too soon since I have not fully tested this setup. Questions I have:

- any issues with this setup according to what I have described what I am trying to achieve?
- is there a better setup you can recommend that would perhaps clean this up or offer better performance?
- I will never need to use both headphones and speakers at the same time. Just one or the other.

From my research I think the ideal setup would be to just purchase a new DAC such as the Okto Reseach dac8 stereo and run that to my headphone amp and powered monitor setup but it does not appear to be in stock ever and is quite expensive. While the Topping and SMSL options seem to offer high performance for the money I am nervous about their reliability. Hopefully I have not bored you as readers with too much information. Just looking for insight from more experienced audio gurus.
 
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gvl

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If you don’t need to use the speakers and headphones at the same time I’d get something like this to switch back and forth.

Nobsound 1-IN-3-OUT XLR Audio Switch ; Balanced Audio Converter ; 3-Way Stereo Passive Audio Selector Switcher (MC103 Pro 3-Out) https://a.co/d/eO9oTLr
 
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Canuckz

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If you don’t need to use the speakers and headphones at the same time I’d get something like this to switch back and forth.

Nobsound 1-IN-3-OUT XLR Audio Switch ; Balanced Audio Converter ; 3-Way Stereo Passive Audio Selector Switcher (MC103 Pro 3-Out) https://a.co/d/eO9oTLr
Thanks for the quick reply and I should have specified in my post (edited that now) that I only intend to use one or the other, not both headphones and speakers at the same time. I feel dumb for not considering something so simple as just a switcher but I have no prior experience to using XLR cables. This is my first foray into using them and from what I have read it is beneficial to use them for my equipment due to potential grounding issues and humming noise.

Thanks for sending this option. Seems like an inexpensive option. Any downsides that you can think of before I purchase?
 

AaronJ

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Maybe consider a Schiit Jotunheim as your headphone amp. The outputs from the headphone amp can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch on the front of the unit, and then you have volume control for your speakers right in front of you on the desktop. I use something similar with the Schiit Asgard 3 but the outputs actually mute automatically when the headphones are plugged in. Unfortunately it does not have the XLR connections you desire.

Regarding the Nobsound switcher, I have a 3-in-3-out switcher and while it works as-intended the knobs have very poor tactile feel and the box is very light (you need to hold it down to turn the knobs) which yields a mediocre user experience.
 
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Canuckz

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Maybe consider a Schiit Jotunheim as your headphone amp. The outputs from the headphone amp can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch on the front of the unit, and then you have volume control for your speakers right in front of you on the desktop. I use something similar with the Schiit Asgard 3 but the outputs actually mute automatically when the headphones are plugged in. Unfortunately it does not have the XLR connections you desire.

Regarding the Nobsound switcher, I have a 3-in-3-out switcher and while it works as-intended the knobs have very poor tactile feel and the box is very light (you need to hold it down to turn the knobs) which yields a mediocre user experience.
Thank you for the response. Couple of questions. You mentioned it does not have XLR connections but according to the website I see XLR in and Out on the back of it but one is labelled pre-out. Could I not connect my current DAC to this via XLR input and use the XLR pre-output to my powered monitors? There is also an option to purchase with a DAC built in for an additonal $100. Would this be a better DAC than my current one and would this be a better overall system than my current stack? I know of Schiit quality, just do not know how this compares to my current equipment.

I read the same responses regarding the Nobsound switcher regarding the tactile feel and lightness. I see some people have added lead weight to it. I ordered it to try it out since it was inexpensive but still looking at best options.
 

gvl

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Your current setup is good enough. The XLR switcher is the cleanest solution for your current hardware if you’re happy with the software volume control on your PC. Personally I got an RME ADI-2 DAC for a similar application and never looked back since, if you have the budget get it.
 

AaronJ

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Thank you for the response. Couple of questions. You mentioned it does not have XLR connections but according to the website I see XLR in and Out on the back of it but one is labelled pre-out. Could I not connect my current DAC to this via XLR input and use the XLR pre-output to my powered monitors? There is also an option to purchase with a DAC built in for an additonal $100. Would this be a better DAC than my current one and would this be a better overall system than my current stack? I know of Schiit quality, just do not know how this compares to my current equipment.

I read the same responses regarding the Nobsound switcher regarding the tactile feel and lightness. I see some people have added lead weight to it. I ordered it to try it out since it was inexpensive but still looking at best options.
I meant the Asgard 3 doesn't have XLR - I was merely comparing the differences to the Jotunheim. If you're trying to minimize clutter, boxes, and cabling then the Jotunheim certainly can fit the bill. Historically the DACs Schiit puts in their headphone amps have not measured particularly well but many around here agree you'd be unlikely to notice any difference between it and something SOTA. There are lots of other very good combination DAC/headphone amps reviewed here like the SMSL MK500's and Sabaj A20d, but I am impartial to having US-based support for anything costing more than $200. I agree that the Nobsound switcher is a very good, inexpensive option if you like your gear.
 

cinemakinoeye

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Maybe consider a Schiit Jotunheim as your headphone amp. The outputs from the headphone amp can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch on the front of the unit, and then you have volume control for your speakers right in front of you on the desktop. […]
This is the setup I currently use, and very happy with it. I chose the Jotunheim for the pre-out switch and balanced out to drive my powered monitors with balanced inputs, along with having the power to drive a wide range of headphones as well.
 

MrOtto

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What about SMSL C200 DAC/AMP audio interface for 305P MKii and LSR310S? Manual wheel to control volume, and a remote. The cheapest I can find with balanced output (TRS) (TRS to XLR cable to the LSR310S) and with reference sound quality.
 
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