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Looking for a $150-$200 desktop DAC & amp combo (AIO or stack)

Alpha XVIV

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Hi! I'm very new to the forum and the audiophile hobby in general.

I'm currently using a HE400se with a KA3 dongle which is enough to power it but it's probably a little too much for the little thing. I'm looking for a desktop DAC & amp combo that can power it and perhaps any other headphones that I'm currently aiming for i.e. HD 650, HD 560s, Sundara.

I currently have a few in mind which is the FiiO K5 Pro ESS (~$150), Topping DX3 Pro+ (~$200), or the FiiO K7 (~$200). My reasoning for each product are as such (and yes I've read the ASR reviews except for the K7):
  • FiiO K5 Pro [ESS]: Cheaper but can power most headphones except for anything other than 300 ohms (from the specs).
  • Topping DX3 Pro+: Really strong amp but only has 3.5mm.
  • FiiO K7: Less power than DX3 Pro+ (which is puzzling since it has a THX AAA amp) but does have balanced output which may come in handy in the future.
All of them are AIO DAC & amps, but I'm also open for stack recommendations.

Limitations and concessions:
  • I'm not from the US or EU so Schiit products are unavailable or goes way overbudget due to shipping costs and/or import & customs tax (I'd really love to try them!). I can seem to find stuff from S.M.S.L., FiiO, Topping, xDuoo, iFi, and probably a few more. Just name me your recommendations and I'll search online marketplaces/stores to see if anyone sells them.
  • I prefer if it has an ASIO driver. I've tested FiiO and Topping drivers in the audiophile stores near me and I'm pretty satisfied by it. I have yet to try iFi's.
I'm still open for recommendations under or over. If there's anything else worth knowing please tell me as I'm still very new to the hobby. Thanks in advance!
 

staticV3

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The KA3 is a fine DAC, so I would keep using it and add an external headphone Amp to it for more juice.
You can connect the two via a 3.5mm to 2x RCA cable.

For the Amp, I'd choose a Topping L30 II.
 
OP
Alpha XVIV

Alpha XVIV

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The KA3 is a fine DAC, so I would keep using it and add an external headphone Amp to it for more juice.
You can connect the two via a 3.5mm to 2x RCA cable.

For the Amp, I'd choose a Topping L30 II.
Would you recommend the E30 II as well for later -- for a Topping LE30 II stack -- or is there any other desktop dedicated DAC you recommend around 100-150? I actually carry the dongle everywhere I go so having one just sitting on my desktop will be nice.
 

Boltman92124

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Hi! I'm very new to the forum and the audiophile hobby in general.

I'm currently using a HE400se with a KA3 dongle which is enough to power it but it's probably a little too much for the little thing. I'm looking for a desktop DAC & amp combo that can power it and perhaps any other headphones that I'm currently aiming for i.e. HD 650, HD 560s, Sundara.

I currently have a few in mind which is the FiiO K5 Pro ESS (~$150), Topping DX3 Pro+ (~$200), or the FiiO K7 (~$200). My reasoning for each product are as such (and yes I've read the ASR reviews except for the K7):
  • FiiO K5 Pro [ESS]: Cheaper but can power most headphones except for anything other than 300 ohms (from the specs).
  • Topping DX3 Pro+: Really strong amp but only has 3.5mm.
  • FiiO K7: Less power than DX3 Pro+ (which is puzzling since it has a THX AAA amp) but does have balanced output which may come in handy in the future.
All of them are AIO DAC & amps, but I'm also open for stack recommendations.

Limitations and concessions:
  • I'm not from the US or EU so Schiit products are unavailable or goes way overbudget due to shipping costs and/or import & customs tax (I'd really love to try them!). I can seem to find stuff from S.M.S.L., FiiO, Topping, xDuoo, iFi, and probably a few more. Just name me your recommendations and I'll search online marketplaces/stores to see if anyone sells them.
  • I prefer if it has an ASIO driver. I've tested FiiO and Topping drivers in the audiophile stores near me and I'm pretty satisfied by it. I have yet to try iFi's.
I'm still open for recommendations under or over. If there's anything else worth knowing please tell me as I'm still very new to the hobby. Thanks in advance!
I'm very pleased with the DX3Pro+. I couldn't live without a remote honestly. The DAC section sounds excellent as well. 5 digital inputs including Bluetooth. Fixed or variable output. Lots of headphone power. Sounds great! 3.5mm plug not a problem for me. Nice to have a display as well to show current volume level and sampling rates.
 

Mkilbride

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I almost went with the DXPro3+ myself, I found an excellent deal on Ebay for a open box one for 105$. I almost went for it. Instead I went for a 110$ L30 II Amp and decided to use it with a Soundblaster G6. My reason is: As far as DACS go, the G6 and the Topping are identical as DACS have been a solved issue for a long time, as has been said. The G6 has some nice features the DXPro3+ doesn't have, It has 10-band Graphic Equalizer, virtual surround sound and ability to apply SBX effects from Creative. For gaming on the PS5, this has been quite incredible, sounds like I'm actually using my speakers instead, sometimes I forget I have headphones on because of it.

The DX3pro+ was super tempting though, very powerful amp, great DAC, oh and of course - the remote is what I really wanted. I wish I had a remote to go with my setup, but I can live without one. Having a nice portable little EQ device is too good.

You can't go wrong, I really only decided on the L30 II because of the great deal I found, and it also has twice the power available, so in the future it could scale up.
 
OP
Alpha XVIV

Alpha XVIV

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Update: I decided to buy the L30 II amp and using my KA3 as a DAC as suggested by @staticV3. I'm currently saving up for a dedicated DAC. I'm primarily looking for a very transparent/flat DAC first and foremost but I'm up for other features/gimmicks as mentioned on Mkilbride's post.

Though of course, there are some concessions like the ASIO drivers I mentioned. Actually, as much as I love my KA3 the ASIO driver is not the same as the one I can use for FiiO's other products (not Thesycon-based). I'm a huge latency snob but that's mainly because I play keysounded rhythm games lol. It really is a portable dongle DAC/amp first and foremost with the windows drivers being an afterthought. IDK if that Soundblaster has low latency ASIO. To make things easier I don't really care about wireless/Bluetooth for my desktop setup

I can stretch the budget to 150-200 for the DAC although I do realize I don't even have to spend nearly as much. Any suggestions?

And as an addition, JDS Labs products don't seem to be sold here either :/
 

Mkilbride

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If you just want a DAC, why not the E30 II Lite? It's 99$ and is state of the art.
 
OP
Alpha XVIV

Alpha XVIV

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If you just want a DAC, why not the E30 II Lite? It's 99$ and is state of the art.
I googled around, apparently it's very recently released? Will take a while to get here but I'll consider
 

Boltman92124

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Update: I decided to buy the L30 II amp and using my KA3 as a DAC as suggested by @staticV3. I'm currently saving up for a dedicated DAC. I'm primarily looking for a very transparent/flat DAC first and foremost but I'm up for other features/gimmicks as mentioned on Mkilbride's post.

Though of course, there are some concessions like the ASIO drivers I mentioned. Actually, as much as I love my KA3 the ASIO driver is not the same as the one I can use for FiiO's other products (not Thesycon-based). I'm a huge latency snob but that's mainly because I play keysounded rhythm games lol. It really is a portable dongle DAC/amp first and foremost with the windows drivers being an afterthought. IDK if that Soundblaster has low latency ASIO. To make things easier I don't really care about wireless/Bluetooth for my desktop setup

I can stretch the budget to 150-200 for the DAC although I do realize I don't even have to spend nearly as much. Any suggestions?

And as an addition, JDS Labs products don't seem to be sold here either :/
Matching E30 right? Does it also have remote volume control etc..? Need Bluetooth?
 
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Alpha XVIV

Alpha XVIV

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Matching E30 right? Does it also have remote volume control etc..? Need Bluetooth?
Bluetooth, no, as I said. Remote control, maybe a nice to have. It doesn't have to be the E30 II if you have a better suggestion, though it is definitely the primary consideration so the stack looks nice

Edit: While still somewhat related, what are the key differences between CS, AKM, ESS, and Burr-Brown chips?
 
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Boltman92124

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dit: While still somewhat related, what are the key differences between CS, AKM, ESS, and Burr-Brown chips?
Burr Brown got bought out by Texas Instruments in 2000. Not sure if TI still uses their name sometimes? AKM and ES make a majority of the chips in DACs for a long time now. Although AKM had a facility fire that knocked them out of commission for awhile and some AKM devices switched over to ES chips.
 

BDWoody

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Edit: While still somewhat related, what are the key differences between CS, AKM, ESS, and Burr-Brown chips?

In terms of sound, or sound quality? None.
 

Sstorm

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I'm currently using the K5 pro Ess and HD560s and I'm very happy with both the sound quality and the power, Dac/amp and headphones.
 

Dunring

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I just put together an SMSL DL200 and Sabaj A20h stack and it's excellent. Should be available anywhere, under $300 USD for perfect channel matching on both, silent noise floor on 18 ohm IEMs, and every connector in the book. It's a 5 volt DAC and the amplifier was designed for it's 5 volt companion DAC which has been out of production for a while now. I tried it on the Hifiman HE6se (which is how I know it won't clip at the end of high gain), so if that's your white whale, it can power them on balanced just fine.
 
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