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Portable amps and dacs

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Puer Aeternus

Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2001
Location
In your head (Ottawa.Canada)
I am new to the audio game and looking for some advice on getting a dac/amp for my phone.
Quick background:
I got a taste for good sound and been researching the confusing and expensive world of Audio. I have decided that I want to stick w/ a MP3 player as I can listen to tunes anywhere around the house. A dedicated DAP w/ android will likely have limited life if android is not updated for the apps I use. I figure my phone will always be updated and new tech. An amp/dac will just increase the sound quality.

I have:
  • Sennheiser HD 280 PRO - New Model (chose these for the price and Z review sold me on them)
  • Fiio A3 Portable Amp

Question:
If listening to You tube music at 320kbps..will a Fiio q5s or Monolith be a big improvement over my Fiio A3 or even worth it. I may try tidal but not sure I want to pay for another streaming service even though its high res music.

What would you do if starting out w/ Audio for the first time. Its a money sink so I want to make a good choice that will last a while and mitigate the upgrade bug if possible.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
First question - what phone do you have?

Surprisingly, this does make a difference. My current phone - Moto Z4 - has a pretty meh onboard DAC but some LGs supposedly have a decent one.

Second question - what are you looking for? Portability, something stationary but Android compatible, etc.

The best Android DACs I've used are actually the Apple USB-C dongles. Yes, the little $8 floppy bits you find at Best Buy. Yes, they work with Android - at least with 10. They can't drive headphones hard, but are awesome for the price. Worth giving a shot if you're willing to make dinner at home instead of getting takeout one night.

Third question - are you a Prime member?

Hate being an Amazon shill, but I use their HD-Unlimited-whatever-they're-calling-it-now and it's not bad. Decent selction, audio quality is good.
 
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OP
Puer Aeternus

Puer Aeternus

Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2001
Location
In your head (Ottawa.Canada)
Thanks for the feedback. Ill just say first, I took your suggestion and tried Amazon HD (I am a prime member), wow, Ultra HD albums are sublime! I compared it to YT Music and it sounds better. A bit flat at first until I tweaked the equalizer..YTM needs no tweaking.
As for phones:
  • Samsung s7
  • Motorola one action
The motorola sounds much better. I am aware that some phones have good dacs built in. This is why I have the portable amp, to give me that boost in sound quality. To date, the Fiio A3 gives a far better sound on anything I plug it into...including my stereo.

Yes, I want portability but not for commuting. I want to be able to take my music around the house and drown out sound w/ the cans. Ideally the amp/dac will last a lifetime and connect to any phone/device im using for music. I want to upgrade my sound but not go down the crazy audiophile rabbit hole.

Will the apple dongle be better than my Fiio A3? I was looking at something like the Fiio q5s or The Monolith

Edit: id consider a non portable headphone dac/amp, I tend to park myself on couch and an audio corner could be made.
 
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Joined
Dec 13, 2005
Afraid I'm at a dead end already, lol.

While I've had Samsung phones in the past and use an S9 for work, can't really comment on audio quality. Same for either of those DACs. But if it matters any, I did use a Fiio E07K back in college, and they tend to be decent. Same for Monolith equipment, like the rest of MP's lineup you're getting what you pay for (and I mean that in a good way).

WIll the Apple DAC be better than the A3? Actually apples and oranges (no pun intended). The A3 is just an amplifier, the Apple DAC is, well, a DAC. I'd actually recommend giving the two together a shot - going from the Apple dongle to the A3. I'm guessing your phone can't properly drive the 280s well - not surprising, most mobile devices don't do well with anything larger than IEMs, that's why you're getting an improvement.

The reason I suggest trying them together is because I found as a DAC, the Apple dongle is better than most phones. But as an amp, it suffers the same fate. The A3 can help on that end.

Sorry I can't offer too much more, I've been leaning towards the more portable, smaller dongles instead of what you're looking at. When I'm home I tend to stream straight to my receiver via BT or from my PC instead of hardwiring my phone in.
 
OP
Puer Aeternus

Puer Aeternus

Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2001
Location
In your head (Ottawa.Canada)
I appreciate it all. This is all new for me so im learning as I go. Humble and willing to listen. Ive been reading a lot since my first post on dacs and amps, slowly getting ideas. My main reason for portability, I want to get away from the PC after 8 hours of work and out of the home office. My wife watches tv where the stereo is. This is where my journey started...great sound I can move around the home.
 
OP
Puer Aeternus

Puer Aeternus

Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2001
Location
In your head (Ottawa.Canada)
As I was researching headphone amps, I came across a FiiO Q5S on sale (new) for $379. Normally they go for $479 and this is w/ out the TXH module. Needless to say, I made an impulse buy! Ill report back once I have it set up and give my thoughts on whether the journey was worth it. Impulse buys always make me feel a little dirty.....
On Amazon for $479 (most places sell for the same price)
EFLC for $100 less