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Small form-factor Headphone DAC/AMP for PC under 500$

ZolaIII

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Shocking low mV performance that nothing comes ever close to it and for 10 $/€!
Feal free to compare it to everything else available there. Gonna buy my a bunch of those.
 

mc.god

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I prefer just one device.
It was just an hint to give you another solution to take in account.
And in regard to that aspect:
  • A dongle is nearly invisible and much more manageable than even the smallest desktop device;
  • The USB volume controller too is really small, so even going with both the result is smaller than a desktop dac\amp.
Anyway the usb volume controller is technically not mandatory, you can stick with os software volume slider or with the physical volume buttons of the dongle (if it has them), or you can add it later if you find yourself uncomfortable.
 

ZolaIII

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It was just an hint to give you another solution to take in account.
And in regard to that aspect:
  • A dongle is nearly invisible and much more manageable than even the smallest desktop device;
  • The USB volume controller too is really small, so even going with both the result is smaller than a desktop dac\amp.
Anyway the usb volume controller is technically not mandatory, you can stick with os software volume slider or with the physical volume buttons of the dongle (if it has them), or you can add it later if you find yourself uncomfortable.
Very good linear volume control is very necessary and logometric fals badly (Windows), in most cases physical digital is also bad implemented with a small number of steps that are too big (phones, dongle DAC's and so on). I am satisfied with digital linear 100 steps or more and every step half dB.
 

mc.god

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Very good linear volume control is very necessary and logometric fals badly (Windows), in most cases physical digital is also bad implemented with a small number of steps that are too big (phones, dongle DAC's and so on). I am satisfied with digital linear 100 steps or more and every step half dB.
On my linux laptop + ugreen dongle I am fine with OS volume slider (expressed in %, not linear), now added a usb controller for convenience (not a real usb controller, it's my dismissed Creative X-Fi 5.1 that i managed to configure via Lirc to control volume at 1% steps via it's rotary encoder) and it's perfect for me.
Sure, the Sabaj A10h stepped relay is better, but I feel nothing missing going that way.
 

ZolaIII

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On my linux laptop + ugreen dongle I am fine with OS volume slider (expressed in %, not linear), now added a usb controller for convenience (not a real usb controller, it's my dismissed Creative X-Fi 5.1 that i managed to configure via Lirc to control volume at 1% steps via it's rotary encoder) and it's perfect for me.
Sure, the Sabaj A10h stepped relay is better, but I feel nothing missing going that way.
I use strict calibration on main speaker system with equal loudness compensation and it's in dB, 100 steps / 50 dB. On headphones less important but still like the same and that I can increase it slowly by 1½ dB every h on longer listening seasons. Mainly using JRiver. On the go Sony at least has more steps than rest of crowd and Hiby Music is also 100 steps.
 

mc.god

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Ok, but I think we are now derailing the thread, as said i just wanted to prospect to the op another option he can evaluate.
 

ZolaIII

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As most of you are lazy and don't really understand details I will make a highlight and explanation as it's beneficial that you understand this correctly.
Apple USB C audio dongle EU version A2155 is something which Amir and many hire will call broken as its able to output only 500 mV, one Amir measured did 1V and what's usually called proper line out or dongle is 2V unbalanced of course. To put this in perspective 2*V=+6 dB so A2155 can give only - 12 dB amplification of an DAC with 2V out and another - 12 dB to reach it's peak performance (175 mV). So why bother in the first place? Big and strong nice looking and so on won't always be good nor does the standard 2V dashboard means much and 50 mV one is deceptive thanks to methodology used as well.
No amount of money will give you performance of this little thing on low mV outputs required for sensitive IEM's and headphones!
To demonstrate;
Capture.JPG

This compression of Apple A2155 (blue) to R.M.E. ADI - 2 DAC FS (old AKM version sharp filter, red) and Topping DX7 Pro (default, green).
For let's say my Denon AH-D5200 26 Ohms, 117.2 dB per V - 30 dB is reference calibration point 87 dB and plesent loud front listening at 75 dB is - 42 dB while background on normal speech level is 63 dB or - 54 dB. In mV it comes to: 31, 7.8, 1.95. And they aren't neither most sensitive or lowest impedance.
Difference is whopping 12+ dB SINAD across the range and from such small affordable dongle. It even has ADC for in line microphone and standard three button cable controls also work so also good for in game chats and phone calls with headsets/cables that have integrated mic. Works only after jack is inserted (jack sensing).
It's not all roses of course with low impedance crosstalk suffers (on anything) but for me 60 dB or more is just fine even on IEM's or closed back headphones that seal and isolate well and of course don't expect it to really last you long.
Apple this time outdone it self (more probably slipped it self) and this comes from someone who doesn't really like them.
In short for sensitive IEM's and headphones make sure you get one on the go or at home.
 

worms

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Hello.
My current setup is Topping L30 (1st gen) and Topping E30 (1st gen) connected to PC via USB and I'm using Hifiman Edition XS. In future I'm planning to upgrade to either Arya or LCD-X. I will be only using USB as a connector so I don't care about bluetooth, coaxial or optical input and I won't be using Speakers, so the less outputs, the better. I only care about USB and Headphone out(balanced would be a plus). I want the best measurements and power I can get for the money and neutral sound. And I want AIO. Even though L30 and E30 sounds great, I want something in smaller box, also if possible with screen that turns off when its not used (like in Topping DX5). Also, built in power supply is a must, cause I hate these bricks, that's why I eliminated some great DAC/AMPs like Topping DX3Pro+ or FiiO K7. Good and long drivers support and good build quality is also important.

I found these to fit most of my requirements, but I don't know if there are others or newer versions of these that are better and even more suitable for me:
1. Topping DX5 - look like a direct upgrade to my setup, with really useful Auto Off feature, but maybe there are smaller and cheaper DACs that would be enough for me and I will never use XLR headphone out, so it just adds another port that breaks front simplistic asthetics.
2. SMSL M500 MKIII - also not cheap and a little bigger that DX5 but measurements are a little better, but maybe there are smaller and cheaper ones that are enough for me.
3. SMSL M300 SE - also big, but at least cheaper than M500, and I prefer that power off button is in front, easier to access, and I will be powering off any DAC/AMPs often as I'm doing it now with L30, cause E30 is turning off when PC shuts down as it's using USB power. Unfortunately there is no Amir review, so I don't know how it measures compared to DX5 and M500.
4. SMSL C200 - for now my favourite, cheap, small, only usefull outputs in front, knob turns it off in front but I don't know if the screen powers off if not used, measures a little better than DX3Pro+ and has built in power supply. Problem is that it's almost nowhere to be found, only aliexpress shops as of today(I live in Europe, Poland). I heard that there is a newer version DL200 and C200 is now abandoned, but DL200 is much bigger and doesn't look like C200. Also I don't know if it's enough for my future Headphone upgrade.

Any recommendations and opinions are much appreciated. Thanks
Hi friend.
You wrote that you are from Poland. I'm surprised that you won't rent the equipment to your home to see if you like it and satisfy your requirements.
If you live in a big city where there are audio stores you can do it for a deposit, even the stores send home demo versions for listening.
This is what I do, living in Warsaw I move between 2 stores and rent what interests me. A week of playing and I have some insight into how a given set in my system behaves. Currently I am after listening to the K11, K7, DX5, K9Pro ESS, M500-3. At the moment the M500-3 performed best, in my system.
 
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