• Welcome to Overclockers Forums! Join us to reply in threads, receive reduced ads, and to customize your site experience!

Portable Amp/DAC question/recommendations

Overclockers is supported by our readers. When you click a link to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn More.
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
GOOD MORNING VIETNAM

So I'm looking for recommendations for a new portable headphone amp & DAC, as I'm heading on vacation in a week and my Fiio E07K is getting a little tired. I'm currently eyeing an Audioquest Dragonfly Red and a Fiio X3-II (I like that it's both a DAP and USB DAC). Any input?
 

NiHaoMike

dBa Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2013
Are you just wanting to upgrade to something that supports 192kHz or is your existing unit starting to have problems?
 
OP
freakdiablo
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
Partly looking for a new toy, partly having real minor issues with the current unit. Some screen burn in, and it has a little trouble driving the M560s (using as travel cans) unless I turn up the amp gain, adding noise in the process - onboard volume goes on a scale from 1-60, in a quiet room find myself turning it to 50+ to get moderate volume. Didn't have that problem with the 80 ohm Dt770s I used before, for some reason...
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Partly looking for a new toy, partly having real minor issues with the current unit. Some screen burn in, and it has a little trouble driving the M560s (using as travel cans) unless I turn up the amp gain, adding noise in the process - onboard volume goes on a scale from 1-60, in a quiet room find myself turning it to 50+ to get moderate volume. Didn't have that problem with the 80 ohm Dt770s I used before, for some reason...

You may be better off with IEMs, which I think were recommended before. You don't usually need a DAC for them since they're low impedance, and their sound quality has come a long way. There's some good dual drivers on sale at Sweetwater.com [I was recently looking at them myself for travel, but opted to stick with my older and still good-enough Sennheiser ear buds].
 
OP
freakdiablo
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
Huh, actually forgot about this thread...

You may be better off with IEMs, which I think were recommended before. You don't usually need a DAC for them since they're low impedance, and their sound quality has come a long way. There's some good dual drivers on sale at Sweetwater.com [I was recently looking at them myself for travel, but opted to stick with my older and still good-enough Sennheiser ear buds].

And if I didn't mention it before, was never a fan of IEMs. Even after dropping >$100 on a pair, always thought they sounded good, never great. Even after trying a couple dual driver pairs.

And for the record, yes DACs do make a difference, impedence has nothing to do with it - are you thinking of amps? Speaking from experience.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
And for the record, yes DACs do make a difference, impedence has nothing to do with it - are you thinking of amps? Speaking from experience.

Yes, I was. Although I'd say the same for DACs considering the baseline quality for most audio chipsets nowadays is good enough I doubt many would know the difference (blind test). Prior blind tests with high definition audio revealed CD quality was sufficient, and my own experience has been highest quality (320kbps) MP3 will fool most ears most of the time. There's a place for DACs in studios and places where perhaps only having the absolute best will do, but for you and me with modest headphones/IEMs and usually background noise (less than ideal playback environments) - it's a waste/overkill.
 
OP
freakdiablo
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
Yes, I was. Although I'd say the same for DACs considering the baseline quality for most audio chipsets nowadays is good enough I doubt many would know the difference (blind test). Prior blind tests with high definition audio revealed CD quality was sufficient, and my own experience has been highest quality (320kbps) MP3 will fool most ears most of the time. There's a place for DACs in studios and places where perhaps only having the absolute best will do, but for you and me with modest headphones/IEMs and usually background noise (less than ideal playback environments) - it's a waste/overkill.

Again, you're going back to IEMs, which is outside the scope of this thread, and I stated I have little interested in using them for anything serious. I'm looking for a *portable DAC/amp combo*, which would directly imply I'm intending to use the setup with a laptop and a larger, harder to drive set of cans. If using a solo amp, it's also amplifying background noise of a laptop's audio out as well, many of which aren't exactly "clean", which is why you'll be hard pressed to find a SNR of the entire audio section of laptops - even desktop motherboards.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Again, you're going back to IEMs, which is outside the scope of this thread, and I stated I have little interested in using them for anything serious. I'm looking for a *portable DAC/amp combo*, which would directly imply I'm intending to use the setup with a laptop and a larger, harder to drive set of cans. If using a solo amp, it's also amplifying background noise of a laptop's audio out as well, many of which aren't exactly "clean", which is why you'll be hard pressed to find a SNR of the entire audio section of laptops - even desktop motherboards.

I said modest headphones/IEMs. At least read my post. ;)

Anyway, headphone amps don't work that way. They don't boost the signal from the laptop/sound card, they simply supply the output channel with more potential power. DACs might have a gain adjustment to boost the input signal. You likely would want a headphone amp for larger (say 40+ohm) headphones. Some can get away with no amp with 80ohm headphones but that's a matter of the actual headphone's efficiency, background noise, output power of the playback device, and desired volume level. But you don't *need* a dedicated DAC. The SNR is fine with most modern devices (phones, mp3 players, laptops, tablets). Get an amp if what you have simply isn't loud enough. Plus, as I said, any detail gained in using a DAC is negated by the crappy playback environment and other equipment (headphones).

Build a sound room/studio, then maybe you'll be able to discern the difference. Until then, buy what you need based on the actual listening parameters.

Headphone amps can be found for relative cheap. DACs can still be quite expensive because they're intended for higher end (purpose) uses, and are literally sound cards in-and-of-themselves [by design they circumvent the existing audio playback device(s) and/or use a dedicated digital output that circumvents the D/A converter of the existing audio playback device].
 
Last edited:

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
My coworker recently got one of those X3-II:

https://www.amazon.com/X3-II-Resolution-Music-Player-Generation/dp/B00VR5JHVK

It's a standalone media player, but also a DAC (including USB use with a computer), and has gain for the output and based on his experience as well as reviews it will power some very large, high impedance headphones with ease. He doesn't claim to notice a lot of playback quality improvement, but it does everything it claims and does it well.
 

Alaric

New Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
Location
Satan's Colon, US
Outboard DAC (decent quality)=good
most motherboard DACs=crap
MP3=crap
Realtek audio chips=crap

My view differs somewhat from some other folks. :D
 

Evilsizer

Senior Forum Spammer
Joined
Jun 6, 2002
well i really enjoy the sound quality improvement over the onboard sound with my Schiit stack.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/tigavlC3MoHrd8hK2

both are uber models but now they got rid of the magni 2 uber and it got replaced with the magni 3. only thing i can really tell is the magni 3 does 2000mW on 32ohm cans. really cant see needing that much power for 32ohm cans that are in the mid 90 db range. mine are 97 and i am barely using any amp, can get painfully loud fast.