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Long overdue to replace my NFB-5

Phos

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May 27, 2021
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(I actually don't think this thing was a bad buy when I got it, it would have been competing with stuff from Headamp and Headroom and no one was measuring headphone amps back then, though the lack of any compliance stickers, US or otherwise, it a bit of a downside.)

What I want to end up with is USB audio via WASAPI for music and some way of getting output from my soundcard into this chain as well (for games/misc, not music). The X-Fi outputs analog over TRS and digital over toslink, though for some reason trying to get WASAPI exclusive mode output over the X-Fi's toslink recently has caused my computer to blue screen, but it seems to work fine for all other audio.

Ideally it would be nice to have either option in case I run into a ground loop from my sound card's TRS output to the amp's analog input

What I'm unsure of: Do these amps have a similar output level when switching between RCA and XLR? Or would the doubled voltage input be matched at the output?

Being honest, even though I have this capability now, it's something I haven't used in quite some time, partly because the duration of wearing my HE-500's is comfort limited, so the ability to use my soundcard with this chain isn't a hard and fast requirement.

Might be desirable to have a line out somewhere BUT chances are if I got a set of speakers I'd probably just go for a pair with their own DAC.

What I have now:
Audio-GD NFB-5 > HiFiMan HE-500

Because I'm going to be using it desktop style, using a remote is really kind of a downside.

What I'm looking at right now, for the amp:
SMSL SH-9 - R2R volume control is appealing (I don't find myself changing volume rapidly on my current setup anyway), slightly cheaper, but less power and no line out
Topping A30 Pro - Middle in price when Monoprice isn't having a sale, full power over TRS
Monoprice 887 - Most expensive, but if there are any issues I imagine monoprice will be quicker to deal with them than whatever reseller the other two come from.

Part of me wants a "last amp I'll ever need" sort of amp in case I decide I want a Susvara or some other super inefficient headphone at some point, but given the weight of most of the "can it run crysis?" headphones I kinda doubt it. The SMSL is the only one of the three I don't think can power such a headphone. I might end up with an Ether 2 just by virtue of the extra comfort focus on this headphone, which I don't know but suspect is beyond the capability of something like a topping L30, but I think the SH-9 could handle it.

Probably not considering:
Schiit Magnius - Not crazy about being beholden to having a balanced cable for max performance, and the "joke" about their name started out not funny and has only worsened

For the DAC, ideally it would be something bus powered, as it turning on and off with the computer is appealing:
Khadas Tone2 Pro - even if you think of it as a $250 DAC ($50 for the adapters) it still competes, and I'm probably just going to be setting it and forgetting it so I only need to deal with the click wheel once. Only material downside for me is the physical size limits how many inputs/outputs can be used at once. My computer no longer has coax out, so this would be USB only.

Schiit Modius - Still don't think the name is funny but wow there are so few bus powered balanced DACs.
SMSL M300 MkII - Kinda like the form factor, unlike the MK1 it isn't bus powered. Uses a remote but I think everything can be controlled with the face buttons (would a touch screen kill them?)

Maybe a Soncoz LA-QXD1 - If I plug this into a USB 3.0 A port, will that be enough juice for it? Man, pre USB C USB 3 is a mess. Are they still iffy with dead units? Still a better interface than the Tone 2 Pro on the other hand.

Probably not looking at:
Topping D30 Pro - heavy remote dependence, seems weird to pair an amp that technically goes to 100K (The A30) with a DAC that uses out of band noise shaping, though this is mostly a psychological rather than practical issue.

I was sort of thinking of the Sabaj D5 as an all in one but again the remote dependence makes it not an appealing option.

Gun to my head (a very strange assailant, I must say), I'd probably get the Tone 2 pro and Topping A30 Pro. Is there anything I'm missing?
 
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Phos

Member
Joined
May 27, 2021
Messages
53
Likes
35
Huh, I seem to have put this in the wrong section, must have had the wrong tab open. Meant to put it in the headphone/headphone electronics section.

But I do have a pretty general question, do the balanced and single ended inputs have the same level or does twice the line level voltage mean twice the output voltage?
 
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