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tuanpekoe

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Hi everyone,

I have been looking for my first DAC (or combo DAC/Pre-Amp) recently and found that SMSL SU-1 is highly recommended by some members.
Because I am a newbie so I don't have much experience in this area. My purpose is quite simple, I want to listen to music by IEM headphone.
And I would like to ask members in here several questions. I hope you can help me to make a final decision.

Q1. Which solution produces the best sound quality?
- Option 1: DAC + Heaphone Amp. Example: SMSL SU-1 + Douk Audio U3 or Topping D10s + Douk Audio U3.
- Option 2: Combo DAC/Pre-Amp. Example: Topping DX1

Q2
. Which entry-level DAC have the same price and sound quality compare to SMSL SU-1?
- I found in the internet that Topping D10s or Topping E30 II lite have the same price and sound quality, but I do not know other brands.

Q3. Which reasonable Headphone Amp have the same price and sound quality compare to Douk Audio U3?
- Someone suggest that Douk Audio U3 is a good Headphone Amp. But I still need your advice.

Thank you in advance.
 
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Dunring

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The Topping L30 ii is the most quiet noise floor for IEMs and a great match. Look in reviews here for amplifiers and the 50mv test is key, get on that scores 90+ on that test and it'll be great even with sensitive IEMs and no background hiss.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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The Topping L30 ii is the most quiet noise floor for IEMs and a great match. Look in reviews here for amplifiers and the 50mv test is key, get on that scores 90+ on that test and it'll be great even with sensitive IEMs and no background hiss.
@Dunring Thanks for your help.
Unfortunately, my budget is not much (<$100) so I need your idea for an inexpensive option. I understand that SMSL SU-1+ Topping L30 II is an excellent pair. As you know, I can't afford it :(
 

wunderkind

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What's your source? Phone? Receiver? PC?
IEMs and earbuds are sensitive with low impedance. Easy to drive. Therefore I'm not sure headphone amp is needed.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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What's your source? Phone? Receiver? PC?
IEMs and earbuds are sensitive with low impedance. Easy to drive. Therefore I'm not sure headphone amp is needed.
@wunderkind Thanks for your advice. I'd like to elaborate my condition herewith:
  1. My music source is only from USB port (Laptop/Desktop).
  2. In my hard disk, Audio encoding is only PCM (16bit or 24bit). I don't have other audio encoding like DSD or MQA. So, PCM is more than enough.
  3. Using condition: I will place the DAC and Amp on my table and rarely move it to other place.
  4. Because SMSL SU-1 or Topping D10s does not have 3.5mm output, just RCA output with high impedance. So, I need to pair that DAC with Headphone Amp to drive IEMs.
Please give me more advice for my case.
 

wunderkind

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Modern laptop/desktop sound chips and Windows OS would be able to process current standard of hi-res (24/192). Let's not kid ourselves, we can't tell anything higher than CD quality most of the time. Therefore the nbrs are for measurebating. Your current audio files are seem to be well within the processing prowess of your laptop/desktop device.
Were you planning to stream super hi-res music from Tidal or Amazon UHD?
Therefore I think you should be fine without adding little chi-fi boxes and cables to clutter up your table.

Full disclosure, I do have the above chi-fi boxes (and cables) because my damn planars headphones are too insensitive to be driven off my computer! And I have resisted for a long time.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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Modern laptop/desktop sound chips and Windows OS would be able to process current standard of hi-res (24/192). Let's not kid ourselves, we can't tell anything higher than CD quality most of the time. Therefore the nbrs are for measurebating. Your current audio files are seem to be well within the processing prowess of your laptop/desktop device.
Were you planning to stream super hi-res music from Tidal or Amazon UHD?
Therefore I think you should be fine without adding little chi-fi boxes and cables to clutter up your table.

Full disclosure, I do have the above chi-fi boxes (and cables) because my damn planars headphones are too insensitive to be driven off my computer! And I have resisted for a long time.
@wunderkind You was right about modern PC ability. My Dell Vostro 5481 is able to process maximum 24bit/48kHz. It sounds quite good.
However, I have some albums with 24bit/96kHz. So I think it is better to have a DAC to solve that sample rate and have higher sound quality. I borrowed a 7HZ Sevenhertz 71 from friend of mine to compare with built-in DAC in PC. The dongle DAC actually sounds better.
Please share me your experience with chi-fi boxes that you had.
 
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Rhodo

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If all you want to do is drive headphones a DAC/Amp combo device like this one might be a good fit: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pace-portable-headphone-adapter-review.46231/

I don't personally own that product but it certainly measures well in that review and comes in under 100$. Maybe check for open-box or returned/refurbished items too for things like the Topping DX1 or FiiO K5.

On the review index here you can do an advanced search and filter all 'Audio Electronics' reviews by price range, set it from 1 to 100 dollars so you also filter out items without a listed price. The 'device type' filters you're after are probably DAC (Multifunction) and Headphone Amp (Multifunction). I recently went completely crazy digging through those reviews before settling on a Topping DX5 and am pretty happy with the result. Once you've zero'd in on something be sure to check consumer reviews on Amazon or where ever you can find them, the reviews here give you an excellent idea of the measured performance of a product but they won't tell you much of anything about the long term build quality of it.
 

solderdude

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Douk Audio U3 + a USB dongle is fine.
For listening with an IEM low noise numbers are most important (nothing as annoying as a constant background hiss in quiet moments).
Just 10mW of power is usually already enough to damage your ears.

 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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If all you want to do is drive headphones a DAC/Amp combo device like this one might be a good fit: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pace-portable-headphone-adapter-review.46231/

I don't personally own that product but it certainly measures well in that review and comes in under 100$. Maybe check for open-box or returned/refurbished items too for things like the Topping DX1 or FiiO K5.

On the review index here you can do an advanced search and filter all 'Audio Electronics' reviews by price range, set it from 1 to 100 dollars so you also filter out items without a listed price. The 'device type' filters you're after are probably DAC (Multifunction) and Headphone Amp (Multifunction). I recently went completely crazy digging through those reviews before settling on a Topping DX5 and am pretty happy with the result. Once you've zero'd in on something be sure to check consumer reviews on Amazon or where ever you can find them, the reviews here give you an excellent idea of the measured performance of a product but they won't tell you much of anything about the long term build quality of it.
@Rhodo Thanks for the recommendation. I will consider Tanchjim Space.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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Douk Audio U3 + a USB dongle is fine.
For listening with an IEM low noise numbers are most important (nothing as annoying as a constant background hiss in quiet moments).
Just 10mW of power is usually already enough to damage your ears.
@solderdude Thanks for the advice about noise with an IEM.
Some people reported that Topping DX1 generate noise with IEMs. Have you had experience with Topping products?
 

solderdude

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I do not have experience with any of the Topping amplifiers.
Whenever there is noise with these devices it most likely is caused by leakage currents through USB devices.
Only have an E30 which works fine and problem free.
 

wunderkind

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@wunderkind You was right about modern PC ability. My Dell Vostro 5481 is able to process maximum 24bit/48kHz. It sounds quite good.
However, I have some albums with 24bit/96kHz. So I think it is better to have a DAC to solve that sample rate and have higher sound quality. I borrowed a 7HZ Sevenhertz 71 from friend of mine to compare with built-in DAC in PC. The dongle DAC actually sounds better.
Please share me your experience with chi-fi boxes that you had.
In the Advanced Sound Properties in Windows I was able to change bit rate/bandwidth on my desktop and mini PC to 24/192.
The chi-fi boxes mentioned on this thread are good for the price.
DAC dongles are great for portability.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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In the Advanced Sound Properties in Windows I was able to change bit rate/bandwidth on my desktop and mini PC to 24/192.
The chi-fi boxes mentioned on this thread are good for the price.
DAC dongles are great for portability.
Maybe your computer is better than my Dell laptop. I already checked Advanced Sound Properties, the 24Bit/48khz is highest option.
"chi-fi boxes mentioned on this thread" ~> Which chi-fi boxes did you mention in this thread. Because I have not seen any recommendation from you.
 

wunderkind

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I really have nothing to add in terms of which chi-fi recommendations as the one you listed on your first post are good ones supported by a few folks here. I have some of them and had no issues.

DAC technology is pretty mature for many years now. So you have to assess whether your digital music exceed that of your current DAC processing limit. If yes, then upgrade.
Next, what listening levels do you crank your volume when using your IEM? Near max or only up 1/3rd? If you find yourself always in the upper end of the volume knob and find it wanting, then yes get a headphone amp.

If your answers to the above are "Yes". I think any of the combos you listed are fine. Go forth my man! :)
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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I really have nothing to add in terms of which chi-fi recommendations as the one you listed on your first post are good ones supported by a few folks here. I have some of them and had no issues.

DAC technology is pretty mature for many years now. So you have to assess whether your digital music exceed that of your current DAC processing limit. If yes, then upgrade.
Next, what listening levels do you crank your volume when using your IEM? Near max or only up 1/3rd? If you find yourself always in the upper end of the volume knob and find it wanting, then yes get a headphone amp.

If your answers to the above are "Yes". I think any of the combos you listed are fine. Go forth my man! :)
Thanks for the orientation :D
 

mc.god

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@solderdude Thanks for the advice about noise with an IEM.
Some people reported that Topping DX1 generate noise with IEMs. Have you had experience with Topping products?
DX1 should be perfect for use with IEMs as per measurements by L7audiolab
https://www.l7audiolab.com/f/topping-dx1/
Especially the 50mv dnr is fantastic, so no noise at all with sensitive iems, unless some leakage in usb like @solderdude said, that can happen with any device.
I don't own the DX1 but i see it as a great all-in-one solution for IEM having the great convenience of a volume pot. Alternative is a good dongle (moondrop dawn pro, tanchjim space or space lite, truthear shio or even a 20€ jcally jm20) possibly with a usb volume control if you value it.
I would already have bought a DX1 if I wouldn't already have an old external sound blaster that i adapted as a usb volume control for my good dongles.
 
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tuanpekoe

tuanpekoe

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DX1 should be perfect for use with IEMs as per measurements by L7audiolab
https://www.l7audiolab.com/f/topping-dx1/
Especially the 50mv dnr is fantastic, so no noise at all with sensitive iems, unless some leakage in usb like @solderdude said, that can happen with any device.
I don't own the DX1 but i see it as a great all-in-one solution for IEM having the great convenience of a volume pot. Alternative is a good dongle (moondrop dawn pro, tanchjim space or space lite, truthear shio or even a 20€ jcally jm20) possibly with a usb volume control if you value it.
I would already have bought a DX1 if I wouldn't already have an old external sound blaster that i adapted as a usb volume control for my good dongles.
Thanks for the recommendation. It is really helpful.
 

LuCar

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Hi everyone,

I have been looking for my first DAC (or combo DAC/Pre-Amp) recently and found that SMSL SU-1 is highly recommended by some members.
Because I am a newbie so I don't have much experience in this area. My purpose is quite simple, I want to listen to music by IEM headphone.
And I would like to ask members in here several questions. I hope you can help me to make a final decision.

Q1. Which solution produces the best sound quality?
- Option 1: DAC + Heaphone Amp. Example: SMSL SU-1 + Douk Audio U3 or Topping D10s + Douk Audio U3.
- Option 2: Combo DAC/Pre-Amp. Example: Topping DX1

Q2
. Which entry-level DAC have the same price and sound quality compare to SMSL SU-1?
- I found in the internet that Topping D10s or Topping E30 II lite have the same price and sound quality, but I do not know other brands.

Q3. Which reasonable Headphone Amp have the same price and sound quality compare to Douk Audio U3?
- Someone suggest that Douk Audio U3 is a good Headphone Amp. But I still need your advice.

Thank you in advance.
I am using SMSL SU-1 with Crinacle Zero:2 IEM, both highly thought of here. The SU-1 is connected to the PC via USB. I'm using one of these (https://www.amazon.com/Connector-Female-Amplifier-Speakers-Theater/dp/B07DNXZBW4) to connect the RCA output of the SU-1 to the IEM. Sounds fantastic. Volume control using the PC.
 

staticV3

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I am using SMSL SU-1 with Crinacle Zero:2 IEM, both highly thought of here. The SU-1 is connected to the PC via USB. I'm using one of these (https://www.amazon.com/Connector-Female-Amplifier-Speakers-Theater/dp/B07DNXZBW4) to connect the RCA output of the SU-1 to the IEM. Sounds fantastic. Volume control using the PC.
By doing it this way, you're most likely boosting the Zero's bass response a lot.

Nothing wrong with that if it suits your preference, but something to be aware of nonetheless.

The SU-1 is designed exclusively for plugging into external Amps.

If you're looking for a compact DAC that's actually built to drive IEMs directly, then take a look at the Topping DX1.

That one will reproduce the Zero's tuning as intended by the designer.

Edit: Sorry, my mind jumped to the Truthear Zero. It's the Truthear Zero whose bass will be boosted when used directly from Line out.
The 7Hz Zero OTOH should stay pretty stable WRT frequency response.

Whether the SU-1 can cope with the increased current draw due to a load which it wasn't designed for, is another question.
 
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