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Worth investing in a new DAC+AMP for Denon D9200?

chrisr34000

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Hello everybody,

I am a long time lurker here and hope that you can give me me some advice with my predicament.

Currently, I am using the following setup to listen music:

- Denon AH-D9200 headphones (bought in 2022)
- Audio-GD Compass AMP+DAC (bought in 2007)
- source: PC connected with Coax to a Asus Xonar D2X PCIe internal souncard

I haven't had the Denon AH-9200 for long and I'm trying to figure out, if it would be worth investing in a newer AMP / DAC combination or maybe only in a AMP to squeeze even more listening quality out of the setup. I am very pleased with the headphones, but the question roaming through my head is: Can it get better?

The specs of the Compass are very similar to the following:

Audio-GD Compass 2 2014 DAC / Headphone Amplifier / Preamp 32bit / 384KHz WM8741 X2

This reissue of the Compass comes back in a version featuring the new USB interface of the brand (USB32) and two converter WM8741.

This very versatile device (DAC, Headphone Amplifier and Preamplifier), has many inputs (USB, Coax, Toslink and Line in) to be comfortable in all configurations.

The brand's engineers have designed this device to ensure its scalability (it is possible to change at will the USB interface, the converter or discrete Aop).

Its ultra-modern DAC allows you to manage 32 bit 384Khz sources directly via USB and SPDIF inputs.

The 100% discreet design of this amplifier is backed by a high power power supply.

24k Gold Plated RCAs and Nover (UK) capacitors have been specially manufactured on Audio-Gd specifications.


Features:

  • USB interface: USB 32 (VIA VT 1731)
  • SPDIF Receiver: WM8805
  • DAC: 2 x WM8741
  • DSD / DXD
Signal / noise ratio

115dB​
Output Level

Headphone output: 11V RMS
Variable output: 5V Max
Fixed output: 2.5V RMS​
Output Power (Headphones).

3600mW / 25 ohm (150mW class A)
2000mW / 50 ohm (300mW class A)
1100mW / 100 ohm (600mW class A)
400mW / 300 ohm (Full class A)
200mW / 600 ohm (Full class A)​
Gain
12DB at H gain
0 DB at L gain​
Output impedance
2ohm / Headphone output
10 ohm / DAC output​
Input sensitivity


0.5 Vp-p (75 Ohms, Coaxial)
19 dBm (Optical)
USB1.1 / 2.0 (High Speed / Full Speed)​
Frequency Response

20Hz - 20KHz (-0.2DB, DAC + amp)
3Hz - 350KHz (Amp parts)
3Hz - 200KHz (Line In)​
USB Compatibility
Windows: 44.1kHz to 192kHz music files
OSX: 44.1kHz to 384KHz music files
Linux: 44.1kHz to 192kHz music files​
Supported sampling rates
USB mode1: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
Coaxial model: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
Optical model: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz (176.4KHz and 192KHz available if the source support)​
Consumption
220-240V AC 50/60 Hz 20W​
Weight

5KG​
Accessories

AC power cord X1
USB cable X1
Optical cable X1​

I know that this is a fact-based and pragmatic community, so I am very interested in your thoughts. Is it worth thinking about a new DAC / AMP? Thank you!
 

nyxnyxnyx

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This is just my personal experience, I have the D7200 and I know that it is very efficient so I thought the sound won't change much with another setup.
Yet recently I've tried it with EF400 and the sound is way more impactful. I tested the track "Take Five" and the thumping sound is so amazing in comparison with my devices (dongle, DAP, Atom amp).
I think it might have been the volume difference that caused this impression, but no matter how loud I crank up the volume of my Atom, it still does not produce the same impact & weightiness.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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Also FWIW, some time ago I asked on this forum about the benefits of the extra power of headamp, way past our need to produce 112dB peak.
I think John or another expert here said that it's not about the power @ certain ohms, it's about the ability to produce low distortion voltage swing or something. You may want to read more into that.
 

Jimster480

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Honestly I would purchase something new. Like a topping dx5 or one of the smsl products. You could also buy a JDS Labs element 3 if you wanted to buy something american. The measured performance will be much greater than your audio GD product.
Audio GD does not have the greatest reputation on this forum and even if it was a high-end product from 2014 the market has come very far in the last 8 years.
 

VintageFlanker

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Is it worth thinking about a new DAC / AMP?
Just for peace of mind, I would avoid anything from Audio-GD. Their whole line up is most likely piece of crap, engineering-wise. By the way, the manufacturer's specs you published cannot be trusted. Will it get that much better with a proper DAC/Amp? You will have to try by yourself.
 
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chrisr34000

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Ok, thank you. What DAC / AMP models would you recommend?

So far we have:

- Topping DX5
- SMSL line
- JDS Labs Element 3
- EF400

Anything else I should consider?
 

tifune

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I'm pretty familiar with the 9200, it's one of my favorites. It's extremely sensitive; even if you don't plan on taking it out of the house I see no reason to chain yourself to a mains outlet. Qudelix 5K or just about any dongle will be fine. I used mine with Meizu Hifi non-Pro, TempoTec Sonata HD and iBAsso DC03 and all were great.
 
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chrisr34000

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I'm pretty familiar with the 9200, it's one of my favorites. It's extremely sensitive; even if you don't plan on taking it out of the house I see no reason to chain yourself to a mains outlet. Qudelix 5K or just about any dongle will be fine. I used mine with Meizu Hifi non-Pro, TempoTec Sonata HD and iBAsso DC03 and all were great.

I am wondering about something: The Compass was almost 4 times as expensive than the Qudelix 5K. Can I still expect a better performance in comparison?
 

Jimster480

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Depends on exactly what you are after. I just mentioned the dx5 specifically because it is an all-in-one that does everything great and has some almost top chart measurements.
If you wanted to go big on topping you could go with an A90 and a d90. Or you could go all the way down to the bottom of the stack and get the new l30 and e30.

Personally though these cheap products tend to have cheaper pots which have Channel imbalance at lower volumes. Also longevity is in question with any budget product. Whereas something like the dx5 has all of the features in one along with a nice OLED screen and a clean aesthetic. Has enough power for most headphones and all the features that you could want for listening to any kind of music you desire.

If you want to go the really expensive route then you could drop 1200 plus dollars on an RME ADI 2. You get some Hardware equalizer and a fancy color screen, but the objective performance is lower than that of the topping.

Sabaj (which is affiliated with SMSL) also has a few recent models that are quite good and they are all in ones with pretty decent Aesthetics too. The performance is also up there close to the dx5 and the prices are pretty affordable. You can find the reviews on the front page still because they were just recently reviewed.
Personally I like topping over smsl after having owned both brands.

Outside of the list of recommendations here you are more than welcome to go click on a review and then when you reach the Giant image of top ranking products you can download that image and flip it sideways in order to find more products to look at in the top range of performers. There are two separate Graphics one for amps and one for DACs.
It is best to get these images from the most recent reviews as they are updated per review.
If you have some trouble with doing this I can also link the images here when I am near my desktop computer.
 

Jimster480

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I am wondering about something: The Compass was almost 4 times as expensive than the Qudelix 5K. Can I still expect a better performance in comparison?
As you will find on this forum; price does not have very much to do with performance these days. Circuits have been created that deliver literal talk to your performance for very low prices. More money basically just get you some additional features and a fancy things like OLED screens as I mentioned before.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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This makes me want to test sensitive headphones like D9200 with my Atom and some way more powerful amplifiers (like the L30 II) in volume-matched condition and see if there are audible differences (both amplifiers are able to deliver way past 110+ dB peak).
If you guys are able to do it please share your result.
 

Jimster480

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This makes me want to test sensitive headphones like D9200 with my Atom and some way more powerful amplifiers (like the L30 II) in volume-matched condition and see if there are audible differences (both amplifiers are able to deliver way past 110+ dB peak).
If you guys are able to do it please share your result.
If I had both then I would test it for you. But I don't have an atom or an l30. I can tell you from testing with my geshelli archel 2 Pro and my THX 789; I couldn't tell a difference no matter how much I tested. I thought I heard one difference one time, but going back to do more testing confirmed there was none.
There were a couple times that I could tell a difference between my o2 and the archel2 pro... But the difference was very minor in very specific parts of complex / complicated songs with high frequency sweeps and one that has a specific under tone of bass.. But the differences would not be detected in every day listening.
I could also only hear the difference while using my aeon typically.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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If I had both then I would test it for you. But I don't have an atom or an l30. I can tell you from testing with my geshelli archel 2 Pro and my THX 789; I couldn't tell a difference no matter how much I tested. I thought I heard one difference one time, but going back to do more testing confirmed there was none.
There were a couple times that I could tell a difference between my o2 and the archel2 pro... But the difference was very minor in very specific parts of complex / complicated songs with high frequency sweeps and one that has a specific under tone of bass.. But the differences would not be detected in every day listening.
I could also only hear the difference while using my aeon typically.
Thank you for sharing the result. Objectively speaking, I don't expect big (reliable) changes or changes at all between the same kinda amplifier (Topping/JDS/Geshelli/THX....) but I found some nice differences with the EF400 that day. Not night-and-day differences or great enough that I must buy it but as a consumer I am kinda happy that the sound can still be different. I was half-glad half-disappointed that every product is going to sound 99,99% identical.

*FWIW that the impressions I had was not volume-matched nor blinded so it is just a reflection of my own experience, not an evidence. I simply A/B many times and gave Atom a huge boost in different volume ranges to see if the bass can strike like with EF400 but it didn't.
 

tifune

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I am wondering about something: The Compass was almost 4 times as expensive than the Qudelix 5K. Can I still expect a better performance in comparison?

Yes and no. Often you'll find the there is objectively better performance, but with modern technology said performance exceeds that of human hearing. If you haven't read below, it's highly recommended before buying anything.


In the case of Qudelix vs Compass, taken at face value yes Compass is a better performer. I would not take anything by Audio-GD at face value, but I'm trying to KISS. But Qudelix offers on-board PEQ, which in the case of the 9200 will outweigh the utility of the compass's "superior" specs. If you had power hungry headphones, such as planars, it's possible the Compass would win out. I'm not aware of any headphones that need 3.6W at 25ohm but it's nice to have I guess... My DCA Stealth falls in the "difficult, but not outrageous, to drive" category and I use a $175 Topping NX7 with my Meizu non-Pro. Sounds just as good, but not quite as loud, as the topping A90 or Ampersand I was using before.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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oh while we are on the topic do any of you know what are the differences between 5200/7200/9200? I mean not sound quality but the construction and design, they all kinda look identical only the wooden cups are different on each model.
 
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chrisr34000

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oh while we are on the topic do any of you know what are the differences between 5200/7200/9200? I mean not sound quality but the construction and design, they all kinda look identical only the wooden cups are different on each model.
I had all of them. The cups, the headband, the drivers and the pads are different. Everything else looks the same.
 
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chrisr34000

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Depends on exactly what you are after. I just mentioned the dx5 specifically because it is an all-in-one that does everything great and has some almost top chart measurements.
If you wanted to go big on topping you could go with an A90 and a d90. Or you could go all the way down to the bottom of the stack and get the new l30 and e30.

Personally though these cheap products tend to have cheaper pots which have Channel imbalance at lower volumes. Also longevity is in question with any budget product. Whereas something like the dx5 has all of the features in one along with a nice OLED screen and a clean aesthetic. Has enough power for most headphones and all the features that you could want for listening to any kind of music you desire.

If you want to go the really expensive route then you could drop 1200 plus dollars on an RME ADI 2. You get some Hardware equalizer and a fancy color screen, but the objective performance is lower than that of the topping.

Sabaj (which is affiliated with SMSL) also has a few recent models that are quite good and they are all in ones with pretty decent Aesthetics too. The performance is also up there close to the dx5 and the prices are pretty affordable. You can find the reviews on the front page still because they were just recently reviewed.
Personally I like topping over smsl after having owned both brands.

Outside of the list of recommendations here you are more than welcome to go click on a review and then when you reach the Giant image of top ranking products you can download that image and flip it sideways in order to find more products to look at in the top range of performers. There are two separate Graphics one for amps and one for DACs.
It is best to get these images from the most recent reviews as they are updated per review.
If you have some trouble with doing this I can also link the images here when I am near my desktop computer.
Can you link the me images for AMPs and DACs? Thank you!
 

Jimster480

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Can you link the me images for AMPs and DACs? Thank you!
DAC (from the E30 II review): https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-e30-ii-dac-review.36028/

index.php

Amp (from the L30 II review): https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/topping-l30-ii-review-headphone-amp.36027/
index.php


You can right click and save them, and then rotate them on your PC and blow them up as needed to read better. This is what I do at least.
 
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