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Need advice, upgrading from D10/Atom to a fully balanced stack

fvoska

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Hi, I have decided to upgrade from my Topping D10 and JDS Labs Atom to something fully balanced and with better build quality/feel. I like the fact that Topping D10 has Digital Out and I utilize that regularly by connecting FiiO BTA30 to Optical Out so that I can stream LDAC over Bluetooth to my headphones. I also use analog out from BTA30 to Atom's 3.5mm input so that I can use bluetooth both ways and this is quite nice.

For headphones I use Audeze LCD-2C (with Reveal+ VST plugin in EQApo), HD58x and Drop Panda (via FiiO BTA30).

I also have powered monitors (Presonus Eris 3.5 with Eris Sub8 woofer) connected to Atom output RCAs so that I can use Atom as preamp volume control for my active speakers. When I plug in the headphones, speakers are muted and I would like to keep this functionality, be it automatic or via some toggle switch.

Here is a schematic of my current setup (I would like to keep all the functionality):

audio-setup.jpg


For DAC I have settled on Soncoz LA-QXD1 since it has Digital Out and I might also use Optical In one day. I also like that it has two sets of analog outputs (XLR and RCA) so that will allow me to, at some point, add a tube amp to my setup if I want something with a different flavour while still keeping the solid-state.

For AMP I am still not sure what I want to get in the ~$400 range. My three main options are:
I would like to keep preamp functionality with volume control and switching (automatic or manual) between headphones and preamp outs. There are not many reviews of HO200 but it is the best fit when it comes to features.

For H16 I have some worries because I read some comments that it does not mute preouts when the headphones are plugged in so I would have to turn off my speakers. There is one potential benefit to this - I could check out using a woofer together with headphones (I can turn off only the sepakers and keep the woofer running) so H16 is not completely out of the question although it does not offer preamp on/off switching. I might get some small switchbox for that at some point.

I am leaning towards HO200 but I really don't know what to expect from it in terms of sound quality. I like what I read about H16 being "musical".

I live in Europe and I would probably order from HiFiGo, Thomann or Audiophonics.

Do you guys have some recommendations?
 
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Human Bass

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What truly matters is balanced inputs that nullifies noise.

I have the A30pro that is a beast for 350 dollars.
The L50 can also do the trick for even less, 229 dollars.

The SMSL SU9 would be the ideal dac since you want bluetooth, so it can replace both the BTA30 and the D10.

Or you can buy the the E50 and connect a inexpensive Bluetooth receiver on the coaxial or optical input.
 
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fvoska

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If I am not mistaken, SU9 (and almost all DACs that have Bluetooth) can only receive Bluetooth audio, it can not transmit it. That is why I use BTA30, to send Bluetooth audio to my headphone and that is more important to me than receiving Bluetooth audio from phone to DAC. Examples of some other devices that can transmit LDAC are Shanling M0 and EM5.

With LA-QXD1 + BTA30 I am covered for bidirectional Bluetooth.
 

aandres_gm

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Why not go for the Topping EX5? That could replace the Atom, D10 and BTA30, and also give you the RCA + XLR outputs you're looking for. Is there any particular reason you want a "fully balanced" system?
 
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Jimbob54

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If I am not mistaken, SU9 (and almost all DACs that have Bluetooth) can only receive Bluetooth audio, it can not transmit it. That is why I use BTA30, to send Bluetooth audio to my headphone and that is more important to me than receiving Bluetooth audio from phone to DAC. Examples of some other devices that can transmit LDAC are Shanling M0 and EM5.

With LA-QXD1 + BTA30 I am covered for bidirectional Bluetooth.
Connect BT headphones direct to source device, especially if your phone does LDAC. Not sure why you would include the Bta30 in the phone to panda chain? Or even laptop to panda chain.

Just a note on the soncoz digital out by the way, it only applies to the usb input in case you were thinking of daisy chaining via optical or coax
 
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fvoska

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Why not go for the Topping EX5? That could replace the Atom, D10 and BTA30, and also give you the RCA + XLR outputs you're looking for. Is there any particular reason you want a "fully balanced" system?

Just like SU9, Topping EX5 does not replace BTA30 because EX5 can not transmit bluetooth from PC (that does not have bluetooth) to Panda.

I want to go full balanced because I already have the cable for my LDC-2C and I sometimes have some electrostatic discharge and/or ground loop issues that I am hoping balanced connection will solve to some extent. Audio sometimes cuts out if I shuffle around in my fabric chair and stand up, it seems to cause an ESD that reboots D10 for a second. Sometimes it even cuts out if I touch D10 metal case.

Connect BT headphones direct to source device, especially if your phone does LDAC. Not sure why you would include the Bta30 in the phone to panda chain? Or even laptop to panda chain.

Just a note on the soncoz digital out by the way, it only applies to the usb input in case you were thinking of daisy chaining via optical or coax

I connect D10 to my PC and my PC has no bluetooth, so BTA30 is the only way to send bluetooth from PC to Headphones.

I also use my Android mobile phone to connect to Panda directly and in that case it is a direct connection. That is fine, but sometimes I also want to use Pandas with my PC or my Macbook that only. PC does not have bluetooth at all, and macOS only has AAC and no LDAC.

It is very convenient to just reconnect one USB cable from PC to Macbook (or any other device) and I have all the options available via that USB connection and the rest of the stack - wired headphone, wireless LDAC and speakers.
 
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aandres_gm

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You're right, EX5 only acts as a receiver. Still, I think that would be a valid choice. EX5 + FiiO and you could do everything you need.
 
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MarcosCh

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Hello fvoska, sorry it is a bit out of topic, but how does it work the fiio as BT transmitter? I have tried a few others with quite bad results. How about the range? Thanks!
 
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fvoska

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Hello fvoska, sorry it is a bit out of topic, but how does it work the fiio as BT transmitter? I have tried a few others with quite bad results. How about the range? Thanks!

It works well, the range is I'd say 5m without any dropouts if there are no walls. I think my Samsung S20 has a bit better range. Maybe it would be possible to replace the antenna on BTA30 with something bigger or a longer wire so that you could place it better.

Unfortunatelly, LDAC does not work over USB, it only works if the digital signal comes in over optical or coax. There is a thread about it here: http://www.fiio.me/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=46518
 
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