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Looking for versatile desktop DAC and Amp recommendation

DancingFish

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Sep 27, 2023
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Hey everyone, I'm looking to purchase a new DAC and AMP (or an all-in-one).

I'm mainly using this with Hifiman Arya Stealth and Beyerdynamic DT1990 but also have Sennheiser HD6XX and some IEMs as well (Sennheiser IE300 and Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite).

I currently have a 6 year old Burson Play which has plenty of power but it's starting to have some issues (volume nob wouldn't always work, noise and distortion particular with sensitive headphones).

Recently, I purchased an SMSL DO400 which is probably a little overkill spec-wise but I liked how it looked and the features it offered. Overall, the sound quality and power have been fantastic. However, there's a few issues that I've had that are going to make me return it and look for something else. The main issues were:
  • XMOS implementation required XML tweaks to stop it from going into low power mode after 5 seconds of no audio. The tweak fixes this but it still seems to happen occasionally
  • Popping/clicking when changing between songs or different audio
  • I got back from a 5 day trip and my SMSL DO400 had a lot of weird static when I first used it and then it just stopped working completely. I unplugged and replugged everything and it's working again now but it just didn't leave my feeling confident in the product
Since I bought it from Amazon it's an easy return.

I'd like an Amp with 6.35mm (1/4in) connector (if it also has Balanced XLR that's a bonus since I'd like to try a Balanced cable in the future) and enough power mainly for my Arya Stealth and DT1990 but can also deal with IEMs and has room for whatever else I buy in the future.

For the DAC, USB-C would be nice (but not a must have) and I know this sounds like a very strange request but I've had a few issues with USB2.0 connections acting weird in USB3.0 ports and my PC doesn't have any USB2.0 ports anymore. Plus, it's much easier to get USB-C cables if I'm having issues.
If I can avoid XMOS I probably would because I haven't had good experience with either the Burson or SMSL drivers but it seems like XMOS is very much the standard (besides Schiit) so at least a good XMOS implementation.

The main recommendations I see are:
  • Topping DX3 Pro+ (This only has a 3.5mm input from what I can see and my Arya's only have 1/4inch cable)
  • Topping E30 II/L30 II or E50/L50
  • JDS Atom+ Stack or JDS Element 3
  • Schiit Magni+/Modi+ (or maybe the new Midgard + Modius?)
  • FiiO K11/K7/K9
I'm finding it really hard to separate all of the above options (and others as well). So, If you were going to recommend one DAC/Amp combo that you're confident in and think has minimal quality issues, plenty of power and a good feature set, what would it be and why?
 
Last edited:

Transmaniacon

Active Member
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Mar 25, 2020
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Hey everyone, I'm looking to purchase a new DAC and AMP (or an all-in-one).

I'm mainly using this with Hifiman Arya Stealth and Beyerdynamic DT1990 but also have Sennheiser HD6XX and some IEMs as well (Sennheiser IE300 and Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite).

I currently have a 6 year old Burson Play which has plenty of power but it's starting to have some issues (volume nob wouldn't always work, noise and distortion particular with sensitive headphones).

Recently, I purchased an SMSL DO400 which is probably a little overkill spec-wise but I liked how it looked and the features it offered. Overall, the sound quality and power have been fantastic. However, there's a few issues that I've had that are going to make me return it and look for something else. The main issues were:
  • XMOS implementation required XML tweaks to stop it from going into low power mode after 5 seconds of no audio. The tweak fixes this but it still seems to happen occasionally
  • Popping/clicking when changing between songs or different audio
  • I got back from a 5 day trip and my SMSL DO400 had a lot of weird static when I first used it and then it just stopped working completely. I unplugged and replugged everything and it's working again now but it just didn't leave my feeling confident in the product
Since I bought it from Amazon it's an easy return.

I'd like an Amp with 6.35mm (1/4in) connector (if it also has Balanced XLR that's a bonus since I'd like to try a Balanced cable in the future) and enough power mainly for my Arya Stealth and DT1990 but can also deal with IEMs and has room for whatever else I buy in the future.

For the DAC, USB-C would be nice (but not a must have) and I know this sounds like a very strange request but I've had a few issues with USB2.0 connections acting weird in USB3.0 ports and my PC doesn't have any USB2.0 ports anymore. Plus, it's much easier to get USB-C cables if I'm having issues.
If I can avoid XMOS I probably would because I haven't had good experience with either the Burson or SMSL drivers but it seems like XMOS is very much the standard (besides Schiit) so at least a good XMOS implementation.

The main recommendations I see are:
  • Topping DX3 Pro+ (This only has a 3.5mm input from what I can see and my Arya's only have 1/4inch cable)
  • Topping E30 II/L30 II or E50/L50
  • JDS Atom+ Stack or JDS Element 3
  • Schiit Magni+/Modi+ (or maybe the new Midgard + Modius?)
  • FiiO K11/K7/K9
I'm finding it really hard to separate all of the above options (and others as well). So, If you were going to recommend one DAC/Amp combo that you're confident in and think has minimal quality issues, plenty of power and a good feature set, what would it be and why?
I think you should decide if you want an all in one unit or separates. Some of these pairings are significantly larger than others, do you have the desk space for these?

All of them measure really well, snd most of these can drive just about anything. I would say pick the aesthetic and price you like the best.

I just got a Sabaj A10d for $169 off Amazon and it’s been great, I like the internal power supply and the single unit is easy to fit on my desk.
 

Jimbob54

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If you can get the dx3 with good return window it's a no brainer for me. 6.35 to 3.5mm adapters are easy to come by. Personally would get one with a tail so the 6.35mm female rests on your desktop
 

Ian Wendt

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Topping's XMOS implementation will likely require the XML tweak as well. Fiio definitely does.
The Fiio K7 performs really quite well, I've been running one for a little over a month now, using mostly with HD6XX (balanced) and BeyerDynamic DT 700 Pro X. No issues with pops or clicks, and the slight wake-delay was fixed with the XML tweak.
 

Dunring

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If you're using IEM's as well, the Topping E30 II L30 II will power everything and the noise floor is total blackness, even with 10 ohm IEM's I tried. I use a Topping E50 with an L30 II and it's amazing on everything. The L50 is excellent also and balanced XLR for flexibility. Can't go wrong with either stack. If you see the reviews here, the 50mv test shows how good they are on low ohm IEM's for a silent noise floor. Each stack needs different cables though, so check before buying (L50/E50 needs the 1/4" balanced RCA for best performance, L30II uses the standard RCA ones).
 

jcadduono

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If you want complete versatility, I would actually pick up a Moondrop Dawn Pro (or Tanchjim Space) and Topping L30ii. You can use a 3.5mm to RCA cable (I'd go for the this one) to connect them. When you want to take your headphones on the go / around the house you could connect them directly to the Dawn Pro into your phone. When you desire more power, swap them to the L30ii. This should take less space and you won't have to deal with XMOS drivers. Just beware the large power supply adapter on the L30ii.
 

doalt

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I'm finding it really hard to separate all of the above options (and others as well). So, If you were going to recommend one DAC/Amp combo that you're confident in and think has minimal quality issues, plenty of power and a good feature set, what would it be and why?
For less quality issues and plenty of power, I would consider Fiio K7/K7-BT/K9.

K7 has 6.35mm output, truly balanced amp (4.4mm not XLR, but there are 4.4 cables too), a ton of power (1.2W single ended, 2.2W balanced), and you don't need to tweak XML (it's interesting that @Ian Wendt mentioned K7 has a slight wake-delay, but I haven't noticed that). You can choose K7-BT for extra bluetooth, or K9 for even more power + other features like XLR connection to speakers.

"A good feature set" depends on your use case. For example, I listen next to my desk and I prefer the big volume knob of K7 over a screen + remote combo in most topping/SMSL DACs. But TV/couch listeners may choose the opposite.

Do you sit close to or far away from the unit? Will you connect it to speakers too? Do you want a remote, or bluetooth, or the chance to take headphones on the go? Clarifying your own needs will help narrow down the choices.

I've had a few issues with USB2.0 connections acting weird in USB3.0 ports and my PC doesn't have any USB2.0 ports anymore.
I haven't seen any USB3.0 DAC. Some of them have USB-C ports, but that doesn't make them 3.0. Even if a DAC has a USB-B port, you can run a USB-B to USB-C cable and it should work fine.
 
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Ian Wendt

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The delay was very noticeable on my system, so the XML tweak was pretty necessary. But it was the same on my SMSL M500 MkIII
For less quality issues and plenty of power, I would consider Fiio K7/K7-BT/K9.

K7 has 6.35mm output, truly balanced amp (4.4mm not XLR, but there are 4.4 cables too), a ton of power (1.2W single ended, 2.2W balanced), and you don't need to tweak XML (it's interesting that @Ian Wendt mentioned K7 has a slight wake-delay, but I haven't noticed that). You can choose K7-BT for extra bluetooth, or K9 for even more power + other features like XLR connection to speakers.

"A good feature set" depends on your use case. For example, I listen next to my desk and I prefer the big volume knob of K7 over a screen + remote combo in most topping/SMSL DACs. But TV/couch listeners may choose the opposite.

Do you sit close to or far away from the unit? Will you connect it to speakers too? Do you want a remote, or bluetooth, or the chance to take headphones on the go? Clarifying your own needs will help narrow down the choices.


I haven't seen any USB3.0 DAC. Some of them have USB-C ports, but that doesn't make them 3.0. Even if a DAC has a USB-B port, you can run a USB-B to USB-C cable and it should work fine.
 
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