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What to switch first: DAC vs Amp?

jackdanyal

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Oct 9, 2021
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Hi All,
Hope somebody can help me with the dilemma I have last a couple of weeks. First of all let me list my gear:
  1. FiiO K3(new) only as DAC
  2. Monolith Liquid Spark
  3. Fostex T60Rp, Philips Fidelio L2, FiiO FH1s
I'm pretty happy with setup, but thinking about switching my Fiio K3 with something more hi end and mature. But lurking through some forums I noticed as many folks talking about switching first an amp instead of a DAC, but I'm not sure is it true or not with a cheap DAC as Fiio K3. I'm thinking about Aune X8 (love the form factor and it's on sale right now - 220 euros), but I will appreciate any other considerations.
So, what do u think? Is it still better to change my amp instead of dac to improve sound quality or better to start with DAC and after that the amp?

P.S. I'm sorry for any errors in my English, it's not my main language :)
 

MakeMineVinyl

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DACs are less mature technologies than amplifiers and are more likely to have advancements in their technology. I'd keep the amp as long as its serving you well.
 

DVDdoug

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There's probably nothing "wrong" and nothing to "improve". Usually distortion and frequency response are better than human hearing. That's true with almost ANY modern electronics as long as you don't over-drive the amplifier into distortion.

Sometimes there is audible noise but you didn't say that you were bothered by excessive hum or hiss in the background.

If you can't get enough volume without distortion of course a more-powerful amplifier will help.

Different headphones will sound different.... Maybe better, maybe worse, or maybe better until you get bored with them.

Equalization can also be used to correct the frequency response of headphones, or just to change the response to something you prefer.
 
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jackdanyal

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There's probably nothing "wrong" and nothing to "improve". Usually distortion and frequency response are better than human hearing. That's true with almost ANY modern electronics as long as you don't over-drive the amplifier into distortion.

Sometimes there is audible noise but you didn't say that you were bothered by excessive hum or hiss in the background.

If you can't get enough volume without distortion of course a more-powerful amplifier will help.

Different headphones will sound different.... Maybe better, maybe worse, or maybe better until you get bored with them.

Equalization can also be used to correct the frequency response of headphones, or just to change the response to something you prefer.
Power is more than enough for me. The amp drives my Fostex (which are known as very hungry HP) and the max what I can listen is on 2 o'clock position with low gain (max is on 5 o'clock and min on 7). I just thinking maybe new DAC will give a new experience, as I read from many places that FiiO K3 is OK device for it's price range, but not the great one. So, you think Aune X8 will not give any audible improvement in sound quality?
 

tonycollinet

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Power is more than enough for me. The amp drives my Fostex (which are known as very hungry HP) and the max what I can listen is on 2 o'clock position with low gain (max is on 5 o'clock and min on 7). I just thinking maybe new DAC will give a new experience, as I read from many places that FiiO K3 is OK device for it's price range, but not the great one. So, you think Aune X8 will not give any audible improvement in sound quality?
You are very unlikely to hear the difference between your K3 and any other DAC.

If you are going to try, get one from somewhere with a good return policy. Then when you listen, be *honest* with yourself. I nearly wasted £600 on an amp that I wanted to hear a difference with. In reality the difference was not there even though I'd convinced myself it was.
 
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jackdanyal

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You are very unlikely to hear the difference between your K3 and any other DAC.

If you are going to try, get one from somewhere with a good return policy. Then when you listen, be *honest* with yourself. I nearly wasted £600 on an amp that I wanted to hear a difference with. In reality the difference was not there even though I'd convinced myself it was.
So, I think another pair of headphones will make much more difference in sound than just swapping the dac/amp :)
 

sonitus mirus

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Any new DAC should not make any audible difference to what you are already enjoying with the current gear you have listed. If the form factor is suitable for your needs, there is nothing to improve with the sound of your DAC. Now that amp is outstanding for headphones and provides a ton of clean power rated at 1.3W at 50Ω; though, your Fostex headphones can take up to a maximum of 3W. (that is insane) I might suggest finding a DAC/Amp combo to sufficiently drive all of your headphones, but those Fostex are relatively demanding.

I think you are all set for now if you are content with the features of your gear. Sound quality is about as good as it gets unless you want to try equalization and/or different headphones. Even then, you might still prefer what you currently enjoy with the music that you listen to most often. I recommend that you save your money for now.
 
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jackdanyal

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Any new DAC should not make any audible difference to what you are already enjoying with the current gear you have listed. If the form factor is suitable for your needs, there is nothing to improve with the sound of your DAC. Now that amp is outstanding for headphones and provides a ton of clean power rated at 1.3W at 50Ω; though, your Fostex headphones can take up to a maximum of 3W. (that is insane) I might suggest finding a DAC/Amp combo to sufficiently drive all of your headphones, but those Fostex are relatively demanding.

I think you are all set for now if you are content with the features of your gear. Sound quality is about as good as it gets unless you want to try equalization and/or different headphones. Even then, you might still prefer what you currently enjoy with the music that you listen to most often. I recommend that you save your money for now.
I also thought about dac/amp combo, maybe something from Burson or Audio-GD. And agree, I think it's better to save some money now and spend them for decent dac/amp combo later, to something which will become an endgame gear.
 
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