Jul 18, 2016

Recommendations on a DAC/Amp combo

Hey all, I'd really like some advice on a good dac and amp for my computer setup. I currently have a set of AKG Q701's and Audioengine A5+ that I'd like to run through the setup. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about these kinds of things, so I decided to see if anyone with more knowledge could help me out. I mostly would use this for gaming and listening to edm music, and I really wouldn't like to spend more than $200. Any suggestions?
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Apogee Groove
If you guys already own a DAC/AMP which is decent and you get good volume out of your amp----you don't 'need' another DAC/AMP. This is where people go wrong. Spending $200 on something like this and then complaining they don't hear a difference. Whether you own an Objective Dac/amp or Centrance slim or AudioEngine etc etc... All are basically within same category. Unless you have decided to drop some fat cash on dedicated equipments don't expect much difference and that too not HUGE. Huge difference is when you go from SS to say tube amps. But don't mistake it for better, it's different sounding. The law of diminishing value is very valid in audiophile world.
Second the Dacport Slim. I've had one for a few months and I love it. If you just want something minimal with a slim form factor, maximum value/$$, sufficiently powers just about everything, that's it. However, its strengths are also its weaknesses for certain people. If you want something nice and sturdy with a big ol volume knob, easy switchable gain, this is not the dac/amp for you. When I need that, I pull out my Micca Origen (also $99) which does that job quite well for the price.
Another vote for Schiit Modi2 (Uber) and Magni2 Uber. I use this stack to drive an AKG KXXX. Previously was using AKG Q701.
Pretty much any of the dac/amp combos between $100-200 that show up on here are great and will easily drive your Q701's. I recently got the SMSL M6 (~$130) to drive my K612 Pros and it works great. I also have the CEntrace dacport slim which is nice for traveling. Anything by SMSL is usually solid, CEntrace, or the Mayflower O2+ODAC is also really great. Naturally make sure it has a headphone jack on the front with volume control, and rca outs on the back if you want to also connect it to speakers. (Speakers will have to be powered or need another speaker amp). Other input options such as coaxial or optical are nice to have depending on your setup.
A few options to consider:

Value Option:
AQ Dragonfly 1.2 - these are being cleared out and can be had for $70-$80 if you look around. I picked up one for my work laptop and have been quite astounded by its performance. I've ran it with various different IEM's and full-sized HP's including the T1 and it did a pretty solid job with all of them. You will need a splitter as CEntrance mentioned.

DACport Slim - I would choose this over the Dragonfly if 192/24 bit support is needed. I was eyeing it for the office role but I don't listen to much 192/24 music (at the office), I saved $20 bucks with the Dragonfly and I got free 2-day shipping. I don't have first hand experience here but have researched it thoroughly.

Budget Stretcher:
Schiit Modi + Magni Uber - this puts you at $250 plus shipping BUT gives you significant versatility that most other options in this class can't match. This is a separate stack so you can swap the DAC or Amp as you requirements change or the product reaches the end of its life. The Uber includes variable pre-outs that would let you control your powered speakers without adapters and extra gear. I don't own this combo but I do own other Schiit gear and have been more than satisfied with it's price to performance ration. I researched an Uber stack thoroughly as I was eyeing it for a bedside rig, went with MassDrop O2 instead. Still might pick up a DACport Slim to go along with it, using my X3ii as a source now.

If it were my money I would stretch the budget with the Schiit stack. It accomplishes all of your goals and allows plenty of room for growth. The Magni has the ability to handle a wide variety of headphone loads. I am also a bit biased as I prefer to have dedicated components over "combos" in almost all aspects of audio. I like to be able to swap out one piece of the chain without affecting the other components.
Not wanting to hijack this thread, but I've been looking for a reasonable DAC suggestion for a match up with the Gustard H10 headphone amp.

the Gustard DACs have not come up on here and a bit expensive for me. Any sub $200 suggestions?
Do look at the CEntrance DACport Slim. For $99, it cannot be beat. 24-bit/192kHz resolution, high output drive capability, line level output, real volume control knob and very slick, slim packaging. Yes, I work for CEntrance and I'm very proud of this little gadget. I designed it myself, in America. We are one of the few US-based companies in a market that's full of Chinese players.
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So you want to connect both the speakers and headphones at the same time. You can use a cable splitter for that. Those are available for a couple of dollars. The output drive capability is still plenty to drive both sources like that. Just FYI.
CEntrance
Wow I didn't know that. I'll definitely look into it. Thanks!
It turns out to be rather challenging to find a headphone amp that's also a functioning preamp (ie, the volume controls signal out of RCAs, allowing use of powered speakers w/o volume controls of their own). Units w/both capabilities tend to be either very cheap or very expensive. In the past 2 weeks I picked up a couple used Matrix M Stage HPA-1s, and I'm very impressed by this 2012/2013 vintage Chinese unit, which earned critical praise for its warm, bass-rich sound, ability to drive finicky 'phones, & easy opamp upgradeability. I'm upgrading the opamp of one of these units--the classic OPA627AP class A biased upgrade--inexpensive and easily done. It sounds pretty good already, and may improve. Strongly recommended (if you can find a used one).
I've never heard of them before. I'll do some research now lol.
i'm using these cans:

HD 598
AKG K7XX
HD 650

with this dac/amp:

Aune T1 MK2.

Plenty of power to drive any of my cans.
Hi! I'm using the O2+ODAC (revB) from one of the drop 4 or 5 months ago and it great. I have the HD800, Audioengine A5+ and Shure SE535 and that DAC/AMP have no problem with those. However I have to turn the DAC volume to 75% sometime when using my HD800 but is all good. Also, its just $199 which is fit your pocket. Sorry about my bad English.
JustAC
I've heard really good things about that combo. Have you tried Schiit Modi/Magni before? I've heard that might be a better combo
dphjr
I've got a Schitt Stack with the Magni2/Modi2 and it's excellent. Bang for your buck is off the charts. I listen mostly to my TH-X00 on it, but it should have more than enough horsepower for your Q701. Also they look pretty good on the desk; clean lines, nothing but a volume knob and 1/4" output on the amp and power indicator lights for each on the front. The power switch on the Magni has a nice satisfying chunk to it as well.

Great little stack.
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