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I've got the itch again - looking at $500-$1K DAC/Amps

Xulonn

Active Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
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Location
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
#1
In 2012, at the age of 70, I moved from Sonoma County in Northern California to Boquete, a small tourist, farming and ranching town in a valley on the slopes of Volcan Baru the mountains of Western Panama near the Costa Rica border where I could live better on my Social Security income here as an expat - my at the time, my only source of income was my SS pension.
Boquete.JPG Click to enlarge thumbnail

Before I left Northern California, I sold most of my belongings, including my living room and office stereo systems, and ripped all of my CD's to MP3. I bought a TEAC AH-01, an older and now discontinued IcePower Amp/DAC with 30wpc. I also bought a pair of the very well regarded Paradigm Atom V6 monitors, and an Intel Celeron NUC PC to use as an A/V player source. I brought the whole kit with me on the second of three trips with two suitcases and a carry-on, and then purchased a 32" LCD-TV here. I ended up with a limited range, but high-fidelity system - perfect for a retiree living in a modest little rental casita.

Because of my age, I thought that the Teac might be my last amplifier after 55 years of buying and selling audio gear, and I was quite happy with the system. Then 6 years later, the Teac died - shortly after a lightning strike hit a power pole right in front of my eyes about 50 yards outside my window. The lightning apparently bypassed the protection on my ups via my internet service cable. It even took out the old main breaker at my electric meter.

After the Teac failed (the local - and very talented) electronics repairman said the the main board needed replacement. I didn't even bother to price out a replacement main board for a 6 year old unit.

So I used my laptop and an old Trends T-amp temporarily until I could afford a better DAC and amp. I considered a tube or tube/SS hybrid, but instead bought an SMSL Q5. Although it wasn't a bad unit, the combination of no RCA's for line input and anemic power output led me to "upgrade" to an SMSL Sanskrit 6th DAC and a Topping PA-3 amp - my current electronics combo.

That combo is quite good for driving the Atoms, but I found a way to make a little extra money, and want to get back up to a larger DAC/AMP unit with Bluetooth and USB inputs. I wanted to try a Hypex-based amp, and NAD seemed to have some of the best budget implementations. However, after looking carefully at a couple of NAD offerings, I'm leaning towards another purchasing another TEAC IcePower DAC/AMP. Here are the three units that made it to my final list - finishing with my current choice - subject to change until the day I order something.

NAD D3045.JPG Click to enlarge thumbnail
NAD – D 3045 - $700 (too new for discounts or used/refurb), 60wpc @ 8Ω, Hypex amp, USB input, Bluetooth. Cheap plasticky design, looks to be nearly identical to the seemingly quite flawed D7050 "streaming amp" that Amir just reviewed. However, the reviews of the D3045 are mostly very positive.

NAD C328 -1.JPG
NAD C-328 - $550 ($410 refurbished), 40wpc @ 8Ω Hypex amp, has Bluetooth, COAX, optical inputs, but no USB. Classic NAD plain & simple case, but it’s all metal, and not plasticky like the D-3045. It is a modern “airbox” case – lots of empty space inside. This one is tempting - I could always use my SMSL Sanskrit DAC if I really wanted to use USB.


Teac Ai 503-2.jpg

Teac 503-AI - $900 (used units sometimes available). 30wpc @ 8Ω IcePower amp. Preamp out if I want more power. Bluetooth, USB, coax and optical inputs. Classy, solid looking and elegant industrial retro look, which I find very appealing. It has received some excellent reviews. My current plan is to save a couple of extra months and get the Teac – and drop-ship it via Amir for review.
I might even make a pair of cocobolo (our local true rosewood) side panels that don't stick out as far in front like the pseudo-rack handles, which are the only thing I don't like about the case design.
 
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Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
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Feb 23, 2016
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#2
Don't have anything useful to add right now. But I do love cocobolo wood. Side panels of that would look really nice.

I recall from having some small pieces of it the wood was very dense. The page I copied this photo from said it won't float in water, and I can believe that. It is quite beautiful. This photo doesn't exaggerate.

1551934172512.png
 

BillG

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
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264
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
#4
Here's its big brother, the A8, at $600USD:


https://m.shenzhenaudio.com/smsl-a8...-amplifier-audio-digital-power-amplifier.html

By the way, neither the A6 nor A8 have any onboard streaming capabilities. But there numerous, inexpensive Bluetooth and WiFi receivers on the market.

Another alternative, which does include streaming, is this:

https://www.amazon.com/d/Amplifiers/Yamaha-Audio-Component-Amplifier-Silver/B01EIBYRUA
 
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jsrtheta

Active Member
Joined
May 20, 2018
Messages
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124
#5
I would like to talk to you about the social security situation, because I am always semi-on-the-lookout for ways to stretch my ss payments.

But, back to your question: I said this just once before, and I claim no expertise nor a wide experience of NAD, but I have owned three NAD products, of which two failed within a couple of years, and the last (an amp) I thought was very cheaply made, parts-wise.

Having peeked under the hood of all of them (where, as with a car, I have no idea what I'm looking for), I have to say I have seen rice paper products that were more robust. But that's just me. Others swear by them, and I don't doubt their enthusiasm and likely superior knowledge. But frankly, IMHO, they traditionally have been made out of shite. I had one of their CD players and one of their DVD players, both failed, both built horribly out of flimsy materials. I still wonder how anything they made survived shipping. The amp was reasonably hefty, but still felt amazingly cheap.

As I said, the CD and DVD players failed. The amp survived, though not for long in my home.
 

Xulonn

Active Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
191
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249
Location
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
#6
The die is cast. I was unable to resist the influence of John-the-restorer. A 30lb (13.6kg) 1990's vintage used class AB 70wpc stereo power amplifier will arrive in Panama in July.

In order to have a more "robust" amp in the system, I had purchased a Ghent case from China and was waiting to order the ICEPower 200AS and 200ASC modules from Parts Express to finish up assembling it, but...

...then I came across an ad for a used Classe Model Seventy balanced 70wpc amplifier from the 1990's. Being familiar with the excellent reputation of Classe amps of that era, I checked it out. It was offered for sale by engineer/owner Rich Brkich of Signature Sound in upstate NY, a dealer from whom I had purchased a David Belles preamp nearly 20 years ago. Rich's customer service was excellent, and when the preamp arrived broken, Rich replaced it promptly with no hesitation. Even though he is a boutique high-end dealer who sells things like very expensive power cords and other audiophilia goodies that have no appeal for me, he knows electronics and checked the amp out thoroughly - and even ran it 24x7 playing FM radio in his office for a few days. Because it will cost about $150 to ship it to me in Panama, that "reliability testing" is important to me. The amp won't be here until mid-July, and I will report on it after it arrives and I have time to put it into my system and check it out. (Used Classe Model Seventy amps are not common on the used market, but when they do show up around the world, they typically sell for $300-500 depending on condition. Back in the mid 1990's they sold new for the equivalent of about $3k in today's dollars.)

My two-channel stereo system will be a simple modern one with one two digital sources and no preampifier per se. The sources are internet radio or NAS files > Daphile on an IntelNUC > Topping DX7s DAC via USB > Classe Seventy amplifier via balanced interconnects > Paradigm Atom v6 monitors via inexpensive 16ga generic speaker wire. (I might add room correction later.)

Total cost will be just under $1,600 total, and the only used component will be the Classe amplifier. My new Topping DX7s DAC/Headphone amp (purchased via Massdrop) has been playing in my system for several weeks. It has a volume control and a remote is available separately if I want one. It was reviewed by Amir and confirmed to be well engineered with excellent performance and is a solidly constructed component. For now, since my second Topping PA3 amp died, I put my "backup unit" an SMSL Q5 Pro DAC/amp into service, and I am using it as an "amp only" to drive my Paradigm Atom monitors until the Classe arrives.

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Specifications (from Classe and a CanuckAudioMart ad): High current design, sleek curved slimline chassis with dual heat sinks at rear, both regular and fully balanced operation switchable via internal gold plated jumpers.
  • Rated Output : [email protected]Ω, [email protected]Ω
  • Frequency Response : 20Hz to 20KHz +/- 0.1 dB
  • Sensitivity : 900 mV in for rated output
  • Input Impedance : 70 K Ohms
  • S/N Ratio : >100 dB
  • Dimensions: 19" x 11 3/4" x 4 7/8"
  • Weight: 30 lbs
  • 750 VA Toroidtech transformer (made in Woodridge, Ontario)
  • 4 X Classe Audio 10,000µfd power supply capacitors (made in Canada)
  • A variety of Philips, WIMA and Mallory capacitors inside.
  • Bipolar transistors are Motorola, made in Japan, 2 X 2SA1302 and 2 X 2SC3281 per channel
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Classe 70 - 1.jpg


Classe 70 - 5.jpg

Classe 70 - 6.jpg
 
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