xDuoo TA-10 Balanced Headphone DAC/Ampsearch

xDuoo TA-10 Balanced Headphone DAC/Amp

xDuoo TA-10 Balanced Headphone DAC/Amp

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I did not buy this here but for $230-240 it's a pretty impressive amp especially with a NOS mullard or other quality NOS tube. It's almost as good as my NFB.11 but the two are different beasts. I did have the magnets on the wrong way for the tube guard which I fixed. Other than that a very solid well built amp/dac. The AK4490 leans towards the more detailed/analytical side of things but then the tubes change the flavor so it's versatile in terms of sound and 2000 mW is a nice amount of power it will drive a t50/60rp to very loud levels but you will be near max with 80-85 on the display with the max is 95. Only con was the magnets everything else it top notch! It is a step above the cheaper TA-01.
TL;DR: Great amp/dac, a unicorn in the audio world.
I don't intend to necromance, but I think there is a fundamental misunderstand of the nature of what "balanced" means in this context, and I would love to correct it for future understanding for anyone who reads this should Massdrop re-drop this. "Balanced" means that it is outputting two signals 180 degrees out of phase. Instead of just two pins on your headset per channel, there are instead 3, 2 voltages and a dedicated ground path (in a 4-pin XLR setup, there are +/- pins for each speaker and a shared ground path whereas a single-ended output has a + for each speaker, but the - is wired to the ground, which is itself wired to the cable's Faraday shielding.) At the speaker, the voltages are re-phased so that any noise collected along the way gets "diffed" out. That's ALL "balanced" means. Now there are SEVERAL ways you can produce a "balanced" signal and several places where you can generate the 180-degree phase shift before transmitting it to the output stage in an effort to eventually transmit the most noise-free signal possible. In it simplest implementation, an input signal will get processed and then sent through the amplification circuit, which will then be passed to an output-phaser for balancing. This prevents any noise from the CABLE up to the headphones, and is generally just so you can use ultra-long cables. In its most complex implementation, a phaser will pump discrete input signals to two signal decoders (XMOS chips in a USB situation,) which will then pump that to two DACs, which will then pump THAT to two amplifiers, which will then be attached to individual channels on the output, essentially treating each channel as a discrete DAC+Monoblock, the rationale being that any noise from the DAC and Amp circuit, not just the cable, will be diff'd out as well when they're re-phased. This requires EXTREMELY precise clocks to prevent jitter and is usually exclusive to extremely high-end products. For the TA-10, I would hazard that they are balancing at the output stage (hence the single tube.) The TA-20 appears to move that balancing back to BEFORE amplification, as it does not have a DAC integrated. If you look at a more high-end product like, say, the Schiit Jotunheim, they have a picture of their DAC circuit, which has 2 AKM4490EQ chips on it but only one CM633A USB decoder, meaning its phased before the DAC. So Tl;dr: the TA-10 IS balanced, but at a different level of complexity.
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thanks for the advice!! i was a bit scared of applying too much force when pulling coz it was really tight finally got it out!
Leski
I have about 12 tubes for this now any decent Mullard is great. Sylvania and certain RCA's are also awesome. The Gold pin Electro Harmonix is also very nice for a new tube.
I do have a few IEC Mullards I'll be posting on Head-Fi later today or tomorrow.
T50RP Argons sounds great with a NOS Mullard.
This company has serious quality issues, I have the xDuoo XD-05 and the DAC failed (or more specfically the USB connection to the DAC)
how does it compare with Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp (https://www.massdrop.com/buy/58390)
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Just got my TA-10. Wow. A match made in heaven for the Sennheiser HD-6XX with a balance XLR cable. It's eerily quiet and sooo silky smooth. The original tube was okay but lacked 3D and soundstage width. Mine was not microphonic at all. I replaced it with my Mullard CV4003 and it became airy and holographic in a big way. it's a warm and richly textured amp that brings out the subtle nuances in vocals. It exceeded my expectations. An incredible value for the price because there isn't anything in the market with 12AU7 tube, XLR headphone jack, AKM AK4490 DAC chip an XMOS USB input. I did not enjoy my Hifiman HE-400I as much as I did my HD-6XX through the XLR jack. It didn't have the same oomph I am used too listening through my OPPO HA-1. My AKG 7XX did sound excellent with this Amp.
junglewee
Will you ever sell it? I also have a DAC-X7 up for trade.
rslatara
Sorry. I got it for the XLR headphone jack and for 12au7 tube rolling. It's non fatiguing and functions quite well with my iMac. A good buy IMHO for the money.
Came with a Chinese power cord. Also, when it came, it had a major rattle. I'm an engineer and don't care about any sort of manufacturer coverage so popped it open. None of the screws have any blue loctite, so they had rattled out in shipping. Reseated them and it worked fine. Device rattles like a beast. Moving my headphone cord around causes a massive rattle, tapping on my desk is picked up, etc.
All that said, the AKM sounds good through my Senn HD598's, but I still prefer my Denon AVR-S920W receiver. Cleaner sound stage and better positional fidelity. Detail reproduction was still great and I plan on using this with my laptop whenever I can't jack into my Surround Receiver.
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I am also on head-fi and reddit.
PayPal ready and waiting. :)
Mine came with the wrong cable, too. No problem for me - I have a bunch of them hanging around - but Massdrop should have been attentive to that. Also, the very first thing you should do is get rid of the stock tube. It is highly microphonic and really is terrible. If you notice that, every time you tap the chassis or change the volume, you hear it in your headphones, the problem is the terrible no-name tube from China. For about $40 you ca get a Gold Lion on Amazon. Buy one while you are buying the correct power cable. Well worth the two-day wait.
Looseleafdude
(Pumping through some XLR-Recabled Sennheiser HD598's and referencing a DSD copy of a studio recording of Petrushka) I re-rolled from the Shenzen mystery meat to the Genalex Gold Lion tube. The Shenzen tube was highly microphonic, but had extremely good resolution and positional fidelity, similar to my FET-amplified HT receiver. The Genalex was much better "blended" and has a very pleasing sound, but didn't have the same clarity as the mystery meat. I am still rolling the Gold Lion because it is smoother overall, even if I sacrifice some of that crispness.
rpger9756
I agree with your observation about the crisper highs. I'm listening through the HiFiMan HE-500, which is pretty hot in the high end by themselves. The mellower Gold Lion puts it all in balance. So, depending on your cans, your mileage will surely vary!
Mine shipped with a power cable for China, and the little tube guard magnets are the wrong polarity, so it wants to jump out of the socket instead of attaching to it. Not impressed.
hexdreamer
I got one on ebay, was it yours? I had to drill a hole pop them out then used steel epoxy and sanded it down.
Sounds great though! :)
hexdreamer
Did you return it? I think I bought it on eBay and had to pry out the magnets and pop them back in.
How does this compare to the Aune T1?
Look what the tube-fairy brought us!
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Nice legs too...
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Coz u love it!
rslatara
Are you referring to the newspaper clipping?
Using this now (stock tubes) with cayin n5ii And with warm senn hd650.
And via usb-dac (using onboard akm 4490)
im still a novice in this hobby, but for me the akm4490 is sweeter than the detailed ES 9018k2m..
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Wow, that's surprising! So it works as a DAC with no tubes installed... Thanks for checking! Seems strange to me, but that's great as the DAC in this is a good one and this way you can listen to it clean directly, or colored with tube magic by using the headphone outputs as preamp.
trapnine
I will try to plug my speakers on the headphone amp later.. Right now im enjoying the cayinn5ii- xduoota10- senn momentum2 over ear.. Im in awe, my momentums doesnt sing like this before. But ill try more songs, to be sure.
That single tube doesn't look very balanced.
Unfortunately not true balanced. I’m going to wait till there’s another drop for the Cavalli Liquid Carbon X.
Swampy
The USB DAC is true balanced through the balanced headphone out, and the SPDIF out is a digital signal which can be output to a balanced amp or preamp AFAIK.
Swampy
But the Cavalli lacks the DAC doesn't it?
Anyone know if the 'tube sound' comes through the RCA line outs and the coax, or is that straight output from the 4490? (can I use it as a DAC for another tube amp, like the DarkVoice)?
Also has anyone tried this and found it sensitive to noise in the AC line? I see the transformer is in the case, not a wall wart, which makes me worry. I'm trying to find something with clean line output.
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trapnine
I'm using USB and AC and it's totally fine. I have to crank this to 80-90 before I start hearing the sound floor on my LCD-2, and it's still quiet even with the tube buffer. It's much better IMO in this regard compared to the Little Dot 1+ 3.0 and 4.0. There is more shielding with this than the little dot, so at least in my case with both my laptop and TA-10 on the same circuit, it's totally fine.
Coax is cleaner than USB but there's more jitter issues. USB->Coax converter would help with jitter issues, but won't help with isolation. I would just use USB input on this, jitter, AC and USB noise are not worth considering at this price point IMO.
It is wild that they keep dropping this as "balanced" when xDuoo confirmed it's not, ages ago.
This or the CTH + SDAC?
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Heh, well at least that makes sense. Maybe they should use this as a selling point on future CTH drops:
* Rated "one of the noisiest amps you'll get" by @junki on the massdrop forums!
Jaggi
I mean at least he said the DAC was a solid choice lul
Definitely single-ended on the aux inputs but is this "balanced" on the USB input? If not, the description is misleading. Massdrop needs to correct this right away rather than misleading potential buyers.
I'm torn between this and the Little Dot 1+? Which on should I get? Can this power T50RPs? I just want to have a hybrid amp that can power those cans.
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Thanks for the reply! I already have a Darkvoice but as far as I know, using planars on OTL tube amps is not ideal, hence I want a hybrid amp for my planar cans. I decided to get a Bravo Ocean along with a JJ 12AU7 replacement tube. I already have a good DAC so I scrapped the idea getting the TA-10.
Zenwalker
Yeah, kinda tough to find a good tube sound for planars. I've heard of tubes that affect the DAC sound output like the Aune tube DAC/amp that is on here now and again, and that the tube colors the sound if you were to use the DAC to connect to another amp. Of course then you have to consider the harmony of that with a solid state amp that colors it again.
Damn you, planars!
So should I buy this or wait for the darkvoice to come back around?
Buckaboo
Sorry for replying after the drop ended. This is going to be the cheapest all in one with an XLR output with such power in both single ended and XLR. It is basically a Magni 2 with a good DAC chip.
The darkvoice may sound better with tube rolling for high impedance headphones but for lower impedance headphones this will have less distortion/noise due to impedence output. So if you have a large variety of headphones that aren't 250+ ohms, this would work better. Think having the AKG 7XX, the fostex X00, hd 6XX, and a beyerdynamic 990 pro 250/600 ohm and this will power them all decently with little distortion/impedance output under control since it says 8 ohm suitable output for sensitive headphones, the darkvoice might have issues with the lower impedance headphones like the fostex X00 and planar magnetic headphones since the tubes and darkvoice impedance output is higher than this, so IEMs and planar magnetic headphones are going to pick up noise with the darkvoice.
This is essentially an all in one, so if you don't have a DAC or an amp, this is the cheapest you can get a single and XLR output (and one of the cheapest tube amps with an XLR out in general) so if you don't have a DAC (again sorry for replying after the drop ended) this is a good starter. If you already have a DAC you like, and have the higher impedance Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic headphones, go grab the darkvoice.
If you don't have a DAC, if you don't want to grab one of these off eBay at a higher price (closer to the cavali plus sdac price which would be one of the next cheapest DAC/amps with XLR out, but this Xduoo would still cheaper by a bit) I recommend a Topping D30 DAC.
If you just need the amp, darkvoice would be my recommendation if you have the high impedance headphones. Otherwise for the price, single ended Magni 3 has more or similar power to the darkvoice at the higher impedance levels and does well with lower impedance headphones, but no tube rolling.
Brosefstalin42
> It is basically a Magni 2 with a good DAC chip.
What? Nothing you said makes sense.
I Looked at XDuoo Web Site It's Not a True Balanced Design I Looking Elsewere
michaels1963
Well at least we got this sweet Haiku from you before you departed. :)
Sorry, was thinking to drop 500£, is this a good amp/dac + he4xx,he400i,m1060 BUT at the same time that XLR is for microphone, right? I'm new to this. EDIT: initially, I want focusrite, but people say it doesn't have enough power. I'd go for m1060, but I hate the fact that can't change the pads(easily) cuz I want real leather pads so it doesn't sweat that bad, but keeps the leather properties :D
Serboom
Microphones use 3 pin XLR and this has a 4 pin XLR output that is used to run headphones balanced.
itsTwister
Oh, thanks.
this is NOT a balanced amp. to quote the xDuoo website it "[c]an be used as as an amp or [sic] separately or with other equipment to form a balanced HIFI system". later it states "two groups of single-ended input [sic] can also be converted into a balanced output, Effectively [sic] enhance the player's sound quality". Finally under a section titled "Pure balance analog flavour" and sub-titled "Clever combination of 'Tube' and 'Transistor'" it states "from the input to the output all using balance transmission mode, the balance output can vibrate the headphones' diaphragm better".
If you compare this to the TA-20 balanced Amp (not DAC), it explicitly states that it has balanced input and output. The TA-20 also has an LED labeled "balanced" on the front, which is missing from the TA-10. This information -- plus xDuoo confirming that without additional components the TA-10 is single-ended -- I can confirm that this is Single-ended.
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Your argument is with the ambiguity of the marketing copy. I'm not saying that you are wrong, but that a conclusion cannot be made.
SilentGhost
I'm fairly certain this is one of those "it has an XLR out so putting balanced balanced on it is good for marketing because everyone says balanced output connection instead of 4-pin XLR output" situations. I don't have the eye to tell not the mental fortitude to open it myself without risking ruining it, but if someone can pop the case open and examine the insides, it would be more definitive.
I don't think people are going after this for a full true balanced system. This is more having everything in the cheapest with decent power (Magni 2 level power) all in one for just a little more than a Magni 2 Schiit stack with the ability to roll the tube to change the sound.
Let's think about logistics, though. If there are two/four channels going to the powered out ports, assuming the DAC has 8 channels, plus the SPDIF being two channels, and the single ended outs being one channel each, is that enough to assume a semi-balanced setup via channels? I'd assume you'd want two separate DACs, which at this price I doubt there would be two DAC chips in there (the jotunheim DAC has two of these chips in it and Schiit charges 150, so let's assume 100 for parts and a little extra for labor to put the DAC in the jotunheim so maybe 30 profit off the DAC? I doubt Xduoo is able to make money at this price if they had two DACs inside) Purists will argue for separate DAC chips to handle left and right to truly isolate left and right in a balanced setup. If you can isolate left and right in separate channels on a single DAC chip and have the same result, maybe you could call it balanced if they handle the DAC channels correctly, but the chip is still decoding both left and right, which most balanced purists will call out as not truly balanced. But, if you can separate them with a multi-channel DAC (that's where people with electrical engineering info have to weigh in on if it's possible to still be balanced with a single multi-channel DAC chip and if the Xduoo is wired correctly if it can be) then it's maybe a hybrid balanced if you use the USB port?
Again, I'd argue against it being dual-dac balanced at this price, and only if you can make the DAC to analog internals balanced via a multi-channel DAC chip could you envision it as balanced. I'd just take it for the cheap DAC/tube amp with an XLR port, even though the XLR port doesn't increase the power output.
If this is truly balanced, I'm in. Please confirm. How well will this work with Sony R1R? Thanks.
So I thought that it was determined last drop that this amp is not balanced.
Okay, so I just emailed xDuoo and they helpfully confirmed the amp is single-ended. (Quite fast response, too, good for them.)
Hopefully Massdrop will update the title of the drop and the description to make clear that it's a single-ended amp that includes an XLR output, rather than a balanced amp. (Just like the CTH.)
kukkurovaca
@kukkurovaca, thanks for letting us know! We'll look into this and make corrections for potential future iterations of this drop. I think there may have been some confusion based on what was listed on Xduoo's site, ‘from input to the out put, all using balanced transmission mode, the balance output can vibrate the headphones’. http://www.xduoo.com/xduoo/En/ProductView.Asp?ID=22/
Matt.T
Is this the same with this current drop? Because it also says balanced here?
Is it balanced or not?
I must say I become suspicious of a device that claims to be "Balanced" but has the same power output on both the balanced and the single ended outputs.
Is that really true, or am I reading the specs wrong?
Also, are there really no other output power ratings than 1 at 32Ω? 6x gain seems a bit high for the 32Ω cans I'm familiar with.
This DAC/amp has a line output. Does this mean the output has a fixed signal (i.e. not controlled by volume)? Anyone knows?
andyo
If I recall correctly, line out is a fixed signal that is independent from the Volume controller, and pre amp out is signal controlled by the volume controller
I think the problem is they call it "Fully balanced from input to output" while it don't have balanced input. But the digital input from USB can still be balanced as long as the amp is balanced. And this is the only way I will use this little device. i get the PC to pass the digital signal to it and do hardware decode DSD using TA-10. Sound is actually very good.
i have a pair of HD6xx and a HE4xx one the way too. the HE4xx will be my first planar. Can not wait to plug them in to the TA-10.
frankghzhu
And??? Sorry if your update is elsewhere in here...
What are the pros and cons in getting a dac/amp combo bs getting them separate?
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I’ve been thinking of getting the purplehearts. Is there a dac/amp combo that works for that? I’m not planning on switching headphones for a while
Jack-in-the-Box
The first priority in a DAC is to get one with a decent power wart and not just USB powered. This reduces the noise floor as USB on certain systems can be noisy. The DAC won't color the sound as much as the amp unless you spend above $300 on a standalone DAC so that's a fast diminishing returns on DACs. I have the Topping D30 and a Focusrite Scarlet Solo, and the Topping is standalone DAC with a wall wart, no headphone out and not USB powered.
I haven't compared an O2 with the headphones I currently have, but it's a nice cost-effective amp but won't power much more than the 250 ohm beyerdynamics headphones effectively. The Magni 3 I have tends to dull the harshness of the highs in favor of mids and lows. It doesn't remove the highs too much, but the portable amps I have are brighter in the highs so you'd lose some of the brightness of the purplehearts, but boost it's lows and mids, almost making it more neutral. I also have the Xduoo x5 DAC/amp which is quiet but brighter than the Magni 3, and an smsl pro II amp which is also brighter than the Magni 3. If you like strong highs, look for solid state amps that aren't the Magni 3, the jotunheim tends to run bright so it might be harsh highs, but that's up to your sound tastes. Most tube amps run dark and enhance bass and low mids and reduce the highs harshness, so they make bright phoneseasier to listen to for longer but remove the bright high quality, but also boost bass since bright phones tend to have weaker bass (relatively, not a direct bright won't have bass, but Sennheiser tend to run bright with softer bass which is why tube amps go well with them, make the highs bearable and increase the bass to decent levels)
Check out the other amps here and on the purplehearts page if they recommend anything. I want the ebony but the extra money compared to regular is more than in my budget now.