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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    USB DAC + heaphone amp??

    Anyone got a USB DAC and head amp combo? Any suggestions?

    For me it would be pretty convenient to have such a combo for occassional listening when I don't want to inflict my music on my co-dwellers.

    I'm considering only a moderately priced combo unit, definitely <$300. A couple that I've seen are:
    The latter has the advantage of portability and iPod connectivity, both of potential advantage to me. However it is battery operated only.

    Other suggestions?

    I'm awating the arrival of Sennheiser HD555's from B&H PhotoVideo.

  2. #2
    Ajani
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    I don't know any under $300, but the New Musical Fidelity X-Can V8 Headphone Amp has a USB input.....I believe it retails for $550, so unless you got a great deal, it would be well over budget....

  3. #3
    crash33 Registered Member crash33's Avatar
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    I'm in the market for the same DAC/Headphone combo myself. This online store offers some interesting values. Still debating whether I should say the heck with it and spring for the Benchmark DAC, otherwise I lean towards the Citypulse.

    http://www.audio-magus.com/category_s/6.htm

    Canadian retailer:
    http://www.obadimports.com/index.html

  4. #4
    Forum Regular Spancticles's Avatar
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    headamp pico

  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Interesting

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    I don't know any under $300, but the New Musical Fidelity X-Can V8 Headphone Amp has a USB input.....I believe it retails for $550, so unless you got a great deal, it would be well over budget....
    Yep, over my budget, but it's interesting to hear about the CANv8. No doubt a very respectible product coming from MF.

    Curiously MF simply call it simply a "headphone amp". There is exactly one reference to "DAC" which occurs in the set-up instuctions for Mac computers. For that matter, you have to read a lot of the copy before you get to "USB" references.

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Also interesting

    Quote Originally Posted by crash33
    I'm in the market for the same DAC/Headphone combo myself. This online store offers some interesting values. Still debating whether I should say the heck with it and spring for the Benchmark DAC, otherwise I lean towards the Citypulse.

    http://www.audio-magus.com/category_s/6.htm

    Canadian retailer:
    http://www.obadimports.com/index.html
    The Citypulse is intreging but over my budget unfortunately.

    I agree that the Benchmark is attractive as a very well-reputed DAC with a headphone amp.

  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    ...

    I'm awating the arrival of Sennheiser HD555's from B&H PhotoVideo.
    I'm no closer to a decission re. a USB DAC/headphone amp, but I thought I's update regarding the Sennheisers.

    The Sennheiser HD555s are very good indeed and an outrageous bargain at $105 plus shipping. They are full-sized, circumaural, open design 'phones. (Actually, they are the first circumaural 'phones I've owned since Koss Electrostatics back in the early '70s.) They are the most comfortable cans I've owned ever, of any type.

    The sound is reasonably dynamic with very good resolution, and extremely smooth, slightly warm, and listenable in long sessions. Some might say the are a bit over-smooth with a slightly drooping high-freq response, that is, a bit "polite". For my casual and occassional listening, they are about perfect. Highly recommended.
    ...
    http://www.headphone.com/productPhot...icn=0020080555

  8. #8
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Thanks for keeping us posted.
    I'm really interested to read about your future USB DAC/Headamp.

    I could use some peaceful moments at work buring midnight oil..
    I have no personal experience with 555, but I imagine it's a different experience from your Maggies.

    Peace

  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Not so different, than again

    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Thanks for keeping us posted.
    I'm really interested to read about your future USB DAC/Headamp.

    I could use some peaceful moments at work buring midnight oil..
    I have no personal experience with 555, but I imagine it's a different experience from your Maggies.

    Peace
    When I bought the 555s I was concerned that they would have a character seriously at odds with my own Maggies, however this turned out not to be the case. In fact the sound character will tonally be very agreeable to a Maggie owner, albeit a little more subdued on the top end and a tad less resolution maybe, (but not much, and remember we're talking $100 cans).

    Soundstage is, of course, another matter. I have never heard 'phones that can deliver anything like a dipolar planar soundstage. Basically the problem is that the sound is coming from inside our head but you can't do anthing about it. I'm total you can achieve a very convincing soundstage and ambience with 'phones given a 2chs recorded using the "binaural" technique but this isn't the way recordings are typically made or mixed.

  10. #10
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Yep, over my budget, but it's interesting to hear about the CANv8. No doubt a very respectible product coming from MF.

    Curiously MF simply call it simply a "headphone amp". There is exactly one reference to "DAC" which occurs in the set-up instuctions for Mac computers. For that matter, you have to read a lot of the copy before you get to "USB" references.
    Yep, Their Integrated amp (the A5.5) also has a USB DAC and I notice that there is very little mention of the DAC portion. I suspect it's because they don't want users to think that their USB DACs are anywhere near the quality of the DACs in their CD Players and their standalone DACs....

  11. #11
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Any new update on your USB DAC w/ Headamp?

    Here is a link you may want to consider, if you havent already.

    http://www.pacificvalve.us/SolidStateDacs.html


    MD-10 looks very interesting, but GST will put you over your budget.
    If I wasnt saving for my Vacation, I would get one and let you know about it. Keep us posted on your decision.

    Regards,

  12. #12
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Not yet

    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Any new update on your USB DAC w/ Headamp?

    Here is a link you may want to consider, if you havent already.

    http://www.pacificvalve.us/SolidStateDacs.html

    MD-10 looks very interesting, but GST will put you over your budget.
    If I wasnt saving for my Vacation, I would get one and let you know about it. Keep us posted on your decision.

    Regards,
    Thanks for your suggestion, JRA. I had noticed the MD-10 which is attactive but over the top of my range at the moment. Right now I'm doing OK splitting my listening between my preamp's headphone amp and my laptops which I used mostly for radio. This is working reasonably well.

    Once I get over a certain budget I start to think about upgrading my main DAC instead. If I were to get a USB DAC to replace my current M-Audio + Assemblage DAC arrangement, I could redeploy the M-Audio as a DAC/headphone device. The M-Audio would be significant improvement over the laptop's sound card not doubt.

  13. #13
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Good luck to ya.

  14. #14
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    I really need to get a decent USB DAC with headamp, since I've been spending even more time @ work. I'm getting sick of having a large 5 disc changer @ work, and it doent do well, especially on the road.

    Has anyone here tried iBasso?
    It does not come with RCA outputs, but 1/4" to RCA pair can be found easily.

    http://www.ibasso.com/en/products/show.asp?ID=32

    $170 seems very attractive and have read some positive reviews.
    Also, does anyone know any upsampling USB DAC/Headamp for under $500 besides:
    http://www.headamp.com/portable_amps/index.htm

    If I was spend $500 on a unit, I would rather go with the Preditor by Ray Samuels.

    Any thoughts?

  15. #15
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    I have the Musiland MD10 integrated with my home system but haven't used it for headphone listening. It's a nice unit. Reasonably compact, very easy to use. Dare I even go so far as to call it 'intuitive'?

    One of the 'problems' with USB DACs is that the USB chain is almost universally limited to 44.1Khz/16bit. Thus the DAC component isn't all that impressive. From Pacific Valve, if I were to just go for economical USB, I'd look at the DIYEDEN SVDAC05 USB DAC. I've read that it's basically the MD10 stripped down (both are Diyeden DACs). It's actually pretty hard to determine what the difference is other than price and cosmetic. I'm sure there must be some. Check out the photos.
    http://www.pacificvalve.us/MusilandMD10.html
    http://www.pacificvalve.us/DIYEDENSV05.html

    a modest step down would be the 06
    http://www.pacificvalve.us/DIYEDENSV06.html
    which has a different DAC chip. All have the same USB chip (PCM2704). It's the PCM2704 that limits the USB input resolution.

    I think all the newer Apple computers have a mini-optical out hiding in the headphone jack. I use this for digital output (mini-optical to toslink converter, ~$1.50 from Parts Express) to a Zhoulu D2.5 DAC for headphone listening
    http://www.ifiaudio.com/home.html
    I'm happy with it. Optical gives more flexibility with resolution. Lately, I've been using the Audio MIDI Setup.app to upsample the bit rate from iTunes to 90Khz, 24bit. The Zhoulu switches automatically and seemlessly. I actually think the sound is better this way.

    Obviously, none of these are portable solutions...

  16. #16
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Not necessarily

    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    ...

    One of the 'problems' with USB DACs is that the USB chain is almost universally limited to 44.1Khz/16bit. Thus the DAC component isn't all that impressive.
    ....
    My M-Audio Audiophile USB supports 48/96 for two channels; it is USB 1.1.

    USB 2.0 is capable of 480Mbps, so 6 channels of hi-rez isn't inherently a problem, each channel being <4Mbps.

  17. #17
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    I have the Musiland MD10 integrated with my home system but haven't used it for headphone listening. It's a nice unit. Reasonably compact, very easy to use. Dare I even go so far as to call it 'intuitive'?...
    hey noddy,

    Could you please let us know how sensitive the volume control is?
    My CDP I used @ work has a volume control, but its digital adjustment does not offer very flexibile output level.
    RCA output option is very attractive..

    Thanks

  18. #18
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    jrhymeammo-
    {corrected post}
    The MD10 has a 0 to -127dB attenuation on volume out through the RCA's. in 1.0dB increments. It's push button. An up button and a down button. I think the attenuation is in the analog domain, post DAC.

    Feanor-
    Yeah, there's variation. Most DACs can support higher res, but if they use something like the PCM2704 for the USB interface, the USB interface limits the resolution--not the DAC. The MD10 DAC supports essentially any 2 channel resolution, but you can't get it in via the USB. Also, many USB outputs are limited to 44.1/16bit. For example on a Apple computer, to the best of my knowledge you can't configure it to output higher than 48khz resolution through the USB. You can configure most any output through the optical out. I have a laptop, I imagine if you had additional hardware (soundcard, etc.) there might be more flexibility.

    So, as far as I know, the issue's not the potential bandwidth of USB, (although 1.1 has some limits). Its the interface.

    a slight correction in that the USB interface usually supports up to 48khz/16 bit. I figure that's essentially 44.1.
    Last edited by noddin0ff; 09-23-2008 at 12:47 PM.

  19. #19
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    I uploaded a scan of the MD10 manual for those interested. It's not the best scan. Functional, however.

    Link to manual

    There's one feature I don't use that's not available for USB inputs and an explanation is missing in the manual. Cruising the web tells me... I don't really know what this means practically.

    Two Different Filter Settings - AV (Digital Filter with 102dB Stop-Band Attenuation) and Hi-Fi (Digital Filter with 75dB Stop-Band Attenuation)

    jrhymeammo asked me to nitpick. So... the headphone jack is in the back, which isn't always the best place to be. The display is a fairly bright blue affair. It's not subtle. I have mine in a closed cabinet and I never touch it. It just sits in there doing it's DAC-y thing.

    In my system with my ears, it seems to be a rather neutral component. That's what I tend to like. I've had no problems with it.

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