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Help: Looking for Amp/DAC for Desktop computer setup

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#1
I'm trying to look for a good AMP + DAC (separate or integrated) that I can use for my Computer desktop setup. My speakers will be Kef Q150. Budget for both Amp+DAC is around $500. (I can stretch it more but i'd rather stay within that range if possible). Note: I will use this to listen to music while i am on the computer working. I plan to have another setup in another room for my serious music listening.

I don't have the budget to get tube amps for this as I want to minimize cost but i hope the sound I get is something that sounds tube like. (warm/sweet).

It would also be nice if it has a sub out and a headphone out.

small or medium form factor is fine with me.

As of now im looking at the following:
a) Topping E30 + Topping TP60 power amp
b) Topping E30 + Emotiva Power Amp
c) Marantz Integrated Amp
d) NAD Integrated Amp
e) Cambridge Integrated Amp
f) Etc

Question: Can I still use the volume control on my keyboard if I connect to the choices above via USB or optical cable? (windows 10). This is a must as i want to quickly mute/increase or decrease volume instantly.

Thanks.
 
Last edited:

Cahudson42

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#3
but i hope the sound I get is something that sounds tube like. (warm/sweet).
Here at ASR I believe most members aim for devices of low distortion, believing if you want a particular distortion ("tube sound") you add it in afterward. Could be why no direct replies to your question so far.

As a start, it seems your source is a PC? If so, a simple DAC solution may be the $9 apple dongle. Cheap enough you can give it a try 'for peanuts' to start..

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K25P3N1/

As for an amp, IMO it's hard to beat the $149 Yamaha R-S202 100w/channel integrated amp:
https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022RS202/Yamaha-R-S202.html

Has a remote so you can easily quickly mute/adjust volume.

Perhaps try something like this. Then, if you believe the DAC is the weak link, plenty of budget left to upgrade the DAC.

As to 'tube sound', others may be able to recommend PC apps that let you add distortions you find pleasant. Not my area of interest or knowledge - sorry.

Happy hunting!
 
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Racheski

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#4
Here at ASR I believe most members aim for devices of low distortion, believing if you want a particular distortion ("tube sound") you add it in afterward. Could be why no direct replies to your question so far.

As a start, it seems your source is a PC? If so, a simple DAC solution may be the $9 apple dongle. Cheap enough you can give it a try 'for peanuts' to start..

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K25P3N1/

As for an amp, IMO it's hard to beat the $149 Yamaha R-S202 100w/channel integrated amp:
https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022RS202/Yamaha-R-S202.html

Has a remote so you can easily quickly mute/adjust volume.

Perhaps try something like this. Then, if you believe the DAC is the weak link, plenty of budget left to upgrade the DAC.

As to 'tube sound', others may be able to recommend PC apps that let you add distortions you find pleasant. Not my area of interest or knowledge - sorry.

Happy hunting!
Do you have enough space for a power amp on your desktop?
 

BillG

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#5
OP
J
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Thread Starter #7
Are the DACs in Marantz/NAD/Cambridge amplifiers (entry level) significantly inferior to the Topping E30? If only the E30 had a volume knob it would be perfect as i can place it right in front of me then hide the big amplifiers out below my desk. (note: I hate using remotes as they take time to lower the volume. Sometimes i need to instantly control the volume)
 

Cahudson42

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#8
Here is another alternate to give you a volume knob with the E30: add a decent $100 headphone amp with a line out that is controlled by HA knob. Such as a $100 Liquid Spark (LS - mentioned because I use one with my HE400i phones, and know it has variable line out)

So you would have:
E30 > LS (Headphone out to HP, Variable Line out) > R-S202

Others headphone amps such as the Heresy may also have variable line out, but I don't know.. (Edit: Appears schiit Magni and Heresy also have variable line out..)

You mentioned a headphone jack would be desireable. Unfortunately, the ones included in receivers/AVRs are usually simple voltage dividers off the main amp, with high output impedance, poor noise performance, etc. Going this way gives you great potential headphone performance, as well as knob control of your speaker amp..
 

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Racheski

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#9
Here is another alternate to give you a volume knob with the E30: add a decent $100 headphone amp with a line out that is controlled by HA knob. Such as a $100 Liquid Spark (LS - mentioned because I use one with my HE400i phones, and know it has variable line out)

So you would have:
E30 > LS (Headphone out to HP, Variable Line out) > R-S202

Others headphone amps such as the Heresy may also have variable line out, but I don't know..

You mentioned a headphone jack would be desireable. Unfortunately, the ones included in receivers/AVRs are usually simple voltage dividers off the main amp, with high output impedance, poor noise performance, etc. Going this way gives you great potential headphone performance, as well as knob control of your speaker amp..
But I think the OP would be happy with adjusting the volume via keyboard, right? Max out the volume on the E30 and R-S202, and adjust via Windows.
 
OP
J

joms

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Thread Starter #11
Thanks for the great suggestion, ill look into adding a headphone amp option with variable volume control.

On the other hand, can someone confirm if I can still use the volume control on my keyboard if I connect to the E30 via USB or optical cable of my computer (windows 10)? Someone said that if i connect a separate DAC with my computer then my volume control in my keyboard wont work anymore. Can someone really confirm that it works with their personal setup. Thanks.
 

majingotan

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#12
Thanks for the great suggestion, ill look into adding a headphone amp option with variable volume control.

On the other hand, can someone confirm if I can still use the volume control on my keyboard if I connect to the E30 via USB or optical cable of my computer (windows 10)? Someone said that if i connect a separate DAC with my computer then my volume control in my keyboard wont work anymore. Can someone really confirm that it works with their personal setup. Thanks.
As long as you’re using Directsound, you should be able to use the volume control in Windows
 

Cahudson42

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#13
confirm if I can still use the volume control on
I run a Plex server on W7. Just plugged in an unused xtrem pro USB DAC. Driver installed. Audio coming out of it. The w10/11 up/down top row keyboard buttons shift audio volume up and down...
 

Racheski

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#14
I'm using Windows PC USB > SMSL M300 MKII > A90 > Headphones/Powered Speakers. Audio source is set to M300, and I can control level via Windows volume or the A90, or the M300.
 
OP
J

joms

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Thread Starter #15
Terrific! Thanks so much. At least i got 1 problem out of the way.

By the way, what digital connection is best from computer to DAC or preamp? USB, SPDIF, Toslink? (or it doesn't matter)
 
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#16
Terrific! Thanks so much. At least i got 1 problem out of the way.

By the way, what digital connection is best from computer to DAC or preamp? USB, SPDIF, Toslink? (or it doesn't matter)
USB.

By the way, a lot of the information you're looking for can be searched.
 

Willem

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#17
I have a similar outfit. Computer into a usb DAC (an Odac in my case but there is better now), into a discontinued Emotiva Control Freak outboard analogue volume control, into some inline attenuators because my Quad 405-2 power amp has very sensitive inputs. The beauty of the 405-2 is its small form factor, generous power and excellent sound quality. These days I would probably buy a small Hypex power amp.
And yes I can mute from the keyboard but I find a quick turn on the volume knob more convenient.
 
OP
J

joms

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Thread Starter #18
Thanks for the info. Im now considering if i should get the Kef Q150 or the Kef LS50. If its the LS50 then i should get a much bigger amp with at least 100w @ 8ohms and 200w @ 4ohms to make it sing. This will be hard to find though as I live in the Philippines and there aren't that much options.
Another problem is i can't go out freely and test/audition said units due to the COVID problem. =(
 
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