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Recommend a 'budget' DAC to share between Headphone Amp and Integrated Amp? Or not!

radix

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I keep losing track of how you have stuff hooked up. I believe it is something like:

Focusrite -> TRS/XLR -> SP 200 -> Headphones
DAC Magic -> RCA -> Marantz -> Speakers

Also, the limit to 48 kHz is not a problem. You don't need more than 48 kHz. I'd more so be concerned about the THD+N and SINAD of the old Dac Magic. I'm sure it's worse than the DacMagic 100, which is not a great device.

Is that right?

It possibly isn't. But the things that confused me where:

- Confusion 1 -
I was originally going to split the signal out of the focusrite, which has balanced 1/4 jacks, via a 1/4 inch to rca connector. Then I stumbled on a blog post by JDS labs on how to connect an Audio Interface to a headphone amp and it confused me.
They've suggested one needs to take care to connect these balanced outputs to a unbalanced headphone amp (note the SMSL SP has balanced inputs, but only the XLR. The RCAs are unbalanced).

You should be able to get TRS to XLR, then XLR splitters, then an XLR to RCA adapter. This will cause an impedance imbalance between the + phase and the - phase, as the - phase is floated on the marantz. A resistor might be needed.

Also, the SP200 can take unbalanced inputs, so it might be find to simply drive each off one phase of the focusrite output. In that link you posted, they show the - phase not connected. Well, you could connect it to the other device. It won't matter that the headphones are + phase and the Marantz is - phase.

Doing what your buddy suggested: DAC (focusrite and/or dac magic) - RCA -> Marantz - (line out, RCA) -> SP 200 is maybe a better solution, so long as you don't mind having the Marantz turned on. It's simpler wiring.

- Confusion 2-
Interestingly the Focusrite manual specifies that one can use unbalanced out puts out of the outputs, no probs. Contradiction! Confusion 2!

Yes, it is common to take only the + phase of the balanced to drive an unbalanced input.

- Confusion 3 -
Splitting the signal out of the outputs with a y-splitter halves the signal. Or it doesn't. Confusion 3!

Not really. The current would be doubled as the resistance is (maybe) halved. It depends on the input impedance of each item. It's likely that this won't make any difference so long as the input impedances are large enough. One would need the specs on each device.

- Confusion 4 -
Getting decent y-splitter cables of short length is, for some reason, hard to find or expensive. Due to a coupon I have, I can get a SMSL Sanskrit Mk II for about $100.... and when I was considering these issues I would've preferred spending a little more on a DAC that was supposed to be better than the DAC in a focusrite, than spending $30-50 on cables.

So a range of little issues jumbling around in my head. Cathartic to get it all out. All this stuff made me consider upgrading to a higher end DAC that could serve both my outputs.

When you get to the point of needing adapters and splitters and maybe a custom cable with an extra resistor or needing to keep 3 or 4 boxes turned on to do one thing, I say you have too complex of a configuration.

I'll go back to the simplicity of a new DAC. It could be a DX3pro+ or the E30/L30 or Ex5 or SMSL Sh-6 or one of many others DAC/Headphone Amp/Preamp combos so your chain is much simpler:

DAC/HPA -> Marantz

Personally, I think simplicity and fewer wires and fewer boxes has a value all to itself.
 
OP
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huggzymers

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I just use one of these cheap items - about $12 on eBay. Works fine.

"4-Port RCA Composite Video Audio AV 4-Way Switch Selector Switcher Splitter Box"
Thanks Joe Smith. Looks like a great solution. The further along on this journey however, I've realised I want to prioritise reducing the boxes I have rather than adding. I appreciate the suggestion however!
 
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huggzymers

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Right. I set the volume for my Yamaha RX-V461 AVR at 0db. I've got a tiny Fiio M3K Dap that I connect via another input. The computer goes to "CD" because it plays CDs, in addition to the laptop. The DAP input is "DVD" for no damned good reason other than there is no DAP input. I can adjust the volume on the DAP to around the same volume levels when I attach it to headphones. The Topping has USB, Coax and Toslink digital inputs. The computer [I-Tunes & You Tube, not to mention movies] connects via USB. My Sony BDP-BX57 Blu Ray player is via coax. I have heard that some people have had issues with the E30 not properly connecting to some DVD and CD players, I've had no problems so far. The Topping L30 has a very smooth volume knob and three switchable levels of attenuation. The E30 has a miniature remote control that's probably behind the desk right now because I can't find it. One can adjust volume via the Remote thru the DAC if one wants to. Fortunately, I don't. Because audio levels are all over the place on YouTube, it turns out that three position audio level switch on the L30 is more useful than one would first guess.
Thanks Robin. It's a versatile little stack there.

I'm kicking myself (gently) as when I ended up getting the SMSL SP20, although it's fairly minimalistic in features, I knew it had a feature that I didn't much care about (balanced inputs/outputs), but it seems that I missed out on alternatives like the L30/E30 option that has that elusive line out feature that I do covet!
 
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huggzymers

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I keep losing track of how you have stuff hooked up. I believe it is something like:

Focusrite -> TRS/XLR -> SP 200 -> Headphones
DAC Magic -> RCA -> Marantz -> Speakers

Also, the limit to 48 kHz is not a problem. You don't need more than 48 kHz. I'd more so be concerned about the THD+N and SINAD of the old Dac Magic. I'm sure it's worse than the DacMagic 100, which is not a great device.

Is that right?



You should be able to get TRS to XLR, then XLR splitters, then an XLR to RCA adapter. This will cause an impedance imbalance between the + phase and the - phase, as the - phase is floated on the marantz. A resistor might be needed.

Also, the SP200 can take unbalanced inputs, so it might be find to simply drive each off one phase of the focusrite output. In that link you posted, they show the - phase not connected. Well, you could connect it to the other device. It won't matter that the headphones are + phase and the Marantz is - phase.

Doing what your buddy suggested: DAC (focusrite and/or dac magic) - RCA -> Marantz - (line out, RCA) -> SP 200 is maybe a better solution, so long as you don't mind having the Marantz turned on. It's simpler wiring.



Yes, it is common to take only the + phase of the balanced to drive an unbalanced input.



Not really. The current would be doubled as the resistance is (maybe) halved. It depends on the input impedance of each item. It's likely that this won't make any difference so long as the input impedances are large enough. One would need the specs on each device.



When you get to the point of needing adapters and splitters and maybe a custom cable with an extra resistor or needing to keep 3 or 4 boxes turned on to do one thing, I say you have too complex of a configuration.

I'll go back to the simplicity of a new DAC. It could be a DX3pro+ or the E30/L30 or Ex5 or SMSL Sh-6 or one of many others DAC/Headphone Amp/Preamp combos so your chain is much simpler:

DAC/HPA -> Marantz

Personally, I think simplicity and fewer wires and fewer boxes has a value all to itself.

Thanks Radix. Ridiculous how helpful you've been, I really appreciate it.

I took a break from the forum for a bit as I found myself spending more time reading reviews and forum threads about audio than listening to music! Which is a bit of a warning to me to stop fussing around with gear too much.

Your understanding of how I have things hooked up was spot on, although I have the DACs swapped, and a bit of a tweak with the cables coming out of the DACs.
DAC Magic -> RCA -> SP 200 -> Headphones
Focusrite -> TRS/RCA -> Marantz -> Speakers

Thanks for your run down of the different issues with the cabling options.

Ultimately, I think you've summed up the issue with:

"When you get to the point of needing adapters and splitters and maybe a custom cable with an extra resistor or needing to keep 3 or 4 boxes turned on to do one thing, I say you have too complex of a configuration.

I'll go back to the simplicity of a new DAC. It could be a DX3pro+ or the E30/L30 or Ex5 or SMSL Sh-6 or one of many others DAC/Headphone Amp/Preamp combos so your chain is much simpler:

DAC/HPA -> Marantz"


I'm having trouble using the quoting tool, but I tend to agree. And it's a pretty wonderful position to be in with so many relatively affordable and well featured options to choose from.

At the moment, I feel like we are in a bit of a deflationary environment regarding the tech. New models with new features seem to come out at a steady pace, so I feel like there's little incentive to jump in and buy something for the incremental gains in performance (if any), and simply to reduce boxes.

I might have a leisurely read of reviews of the models you've mentioned and end up selling the SMSP SP200 when I settle on an AIO.

Thanks again for your advice and help!
 
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