Source Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

Source Recommendations

The source is the first part of your system chain. Usually, the source consists of two parts: a Transport and a DAC. Let me explain this further to avoid any confusion.

1. What is a Transport? 

A transport is the CD reading mechanism on a CD player. On a computer based system, the transport is the computer used to read the digital file from the hard disk. The purpose of the transport is to get the file from the storage media and pass it along to the Digital to Analog converter.

2. What is a DAC?

Remember that the data is stored in the digital format. In another word, in Zeros and Ones. After the digital data is read by the transport, it needs to be converted to an analog format before it can be reproduced into audio waves. This process is commonly known as the D/A conversion (or Digital to Analog conversion), and the component that does this job is the DAC (or Digital to Analog converter).

After the signal is converted to an analog format, then it is passed to a headphone amplifier so that the signal is amplified to a volume loud enough for you to hear and enjoy.

The quality of the DAC is very important to the quality of the analog signal which you will listen to with your headphones. This is where this page comes in. There are a lot of DACs out there and although I’ve done a review on many different units, there are a few that consistently have been proven to be favorites among the crowd.

  • USB: Digital connection is achieved from the USB port. If you’re playing music from a computer, this is the type of DACs to get.
  • S/PDIF: Digital connection is achieved using a Coaxial or Toslink S/PDIF port. The common interface used with CD Players, also available on certain Macintosh computers.
  • 24/96: Support for high resolution 24 bit, 96kHz sample rate. Superior to CD quality which is limited at 16/44.1.
  • Headphone Out: There is an onboard headphone amplifier, so you don’t need to add an additional headphone amplifier.
  • Balanced Out: Support for balanced out which are the common connection for Pro-grade equipment and studio monitor speakers.

Audinst HUD-MX1 – USB 24/96 with Headphone Out
The Audinst is the most popular entry level DAC/Amp box in Headfonia. It comes with a USB connection and doesn’t require a separate power supply, so you can just hook it to the Laptop/PC USB port, plug in a headphone in the front panel, and enjoy great sound right away. The WM8740-based DAC delivers a musical sound with good technicalities, and would make for a very good product to hear what the hype with external DACs are all about. The box will deliver an instant improvement in sound, and the built in headphone amp is powerful enough to drive the 300 Ohm full size headphones. Even after owning other higher end sources, I still enjoy using the Audinst for a simple one box set up next to my Mac.
$179.00 from Audinst | Audinst HUD-MX1

HRT Music Streamer II – USB 24/96
If you love a warm and analog sound, the HRT Music Steamers are the USB DACs to go for.  The Music Streamer II model is the entry level product from High Resolution Tecnologies, based on the PCM1793 chip. Priced much lower than the Music Streamer II+, the Music Streamer II delivers a performance perhaps 80%-90% of the bigger brother’s. This product runs strictly off the USB bus, and it is simply awesome.
$149.00 from Amazon.com | HRT Music Streamer II

HRT Music Streamer II Plus – USB 24/96
The Music Streamer II+ (with the plus sign) is the higher up variant of the Music Streamer II. It gives that extra bit of sound quality that makes it a good pairing even with $2K amplifiers and $1K headphones. This DAC, together with the DACport LX, are my favorite $300 level DAC. I love the HRTs for their warm analog sound, while the CEntrance shines with their clean black background sound.
$349.00 from Amazon.com | HRT Music Streamer II+ 

Fiio E10 – USB 24/96 with Headphone Out
At $80, the E10 is the number one budget level USB DAC/Amp on my recommendation list. You get a lot of sound for the money, good spacious soundstage, good midrange and bottom end, top notch musicality. It may not have the DAC resolution of the higher-priced boxes like the Audinst and the HRT, but for $80, it’s the best thing out there. As a bonus it also takes 24/96 files through USB, and works as a relatively good quality USB to S/PDIF converter (I’ve compared it to a pretty serious USB to S/PDIF and I like the E10 better).
$80.99 from Amazon.com | The Latest Must Have: Fiio E10

CEntrance DACport – USB 24/96 with Headphone Out
The original DACport gives you a high quality 24/96 USB DAC combined with a very powerful Class-A headphone amplifier in a package the size of a cigar. It’s pretty pricey at $399, but there is no denying its convenience. You plug in the DACport to your computer’s USB port, plug in your headphone at the other end, and voila you get a pretty good sounding set up just like that. The DACport is really popular, and everybody I know who owns one seems to love every bit of it. $399.00 at Amazon.com |  CEntrance DACmini and DACport

CEntrance DACport LX – USB 24/96
The DACport LX is the DAC only variant of the DACport, meaning there is no amplifier and you have to add in a separate amplifier. Less convenient, but at $299, it’s a full $100 cheaper than the original, while offering a superior 24/96 USB DAC performance. Yes, superior DAC performance for $100 less, but no amp. The thing that makes me love the DACport LX is that simply the sound of DAC section. For $299, I can take this DAC to a high end set up and never feel that the DAC is being a bottleneck to the system. For real. Unless you have a $2,000 DAC standing around next to the DACport LX, it’s really hard to find a fault with the DACport LX. Once again, a superb USB DAC, for merely $299. This DAC, together with the HRT Music Streamer II+, are my favorite $300 level DAC. I love the HRTs for their warm analog sound, while the CEntrance shines with their clean black background sound.
$295.00 from Amazon.com | Cheaper, Better: The CEntrance DACPort LX

Cambridge Audio Dacmagic – Multi S/PDIF and USB with Balanced Out
Though mostly underrated, the Dacmagic is one of the best deal around when it comes to desktop DACs. The Dacmagic employs dual Wolfson WM8740 chips for a highly smooth and refined sound. It is in fact one of the best implementation of the WM8740 and one that I would highly recommend to anyone. What makes the Dacmagic even better is that it comes with an abundance of conventional S/PDIF inputs in addition to the USB input, where most other DACs at this price range tend to support only USB input. What’s more, the Dacmagic also offers both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs. At the price that the Dacmagic is selling for, it truly is the best deals around. Cambridge has released a new version called the Dacmagic Plus that includes a build in headphone amplifier, but I have yet to had the chance to test it.
$429.99 from Amazon.com | Cambridge Dacmagic Review

 

Only list the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Source Category:

 

 

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138 Comments

  • Reply February 17, 2012

    Agitya Renanda Q

     how about the topping d2 dac amp mike?  why you not recommend it? because many people give a good review with the topping d2?

    • Reply February 17, 2012

      Mike

      Personally I think the D2 is okay.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Jeff Kong

    Hi Headfonia, 
    Just in relation to DACs, lets just say I use it with my computer. Does it essentially do a bypass on the sound card and goes through the DAC to my amp / headphone? So in other words, if I use a DAC my sound card is no longer relevant to what is going on. Is that correct?

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Jeff,
      Yes if you use a DAC your sound card is no longer relevant. The signal is sent directly to the DAC without passing the sound card.

      • Reply March 7, 2012

        Jeff Kong

        Thanks Mike

        • Reply March 7, 2012

          Mike

          You’re welcome, Jeff.

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    umar2

    why don’t you include pico dac here ? on your review you wrote :
    closer in giving the “audiophile” sound often found in high end systems.

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      I try to keep the list updated, and I just think that there are better DACs for the money these days.

  • Reply April 16, 2012

    Sergey Pilipenko

    Any chance to read your opinion on Audioengine D1 and Aune X1 DAC? Thanks.

  • Reply June 17, 2012

    Rais

    hi M/L !

    do you have any suggestion for a DAC to pair with IEM ? I listen to many genres of music & i currently use SF5EB & SM3. My budget is not more than $300

    thanks

    • Reply June 18, 2012

      Mike

      Rais,
      DAC recommendations for an IEM is the same as for headphones. Basically you want a good sounding source.

  • Reply June 21, 2012

    Sumflow

    Dragonfly?

  • Reply June 21, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Hi,

    Which one would you recommend for the C421 and the Ipod Classic?

    • Reply June 21, 2012

      Mike

      The Ipod Classic is already a source.

  • Reply August 6, 2012

    Ian Gray

    I have Senn HD 650s with Crack/Speedball. What would be a better DAC, DACport LX or Bifrost? Or is there another DAC i should consider?

    • Reply August 6, 2012

      Mike

      Ian,
      I have used the DACport LX with that combination and it’s superb. Don’t have an experience with Bifrost.

  • Reply August 21, 2012

    joshkerr

    Does the quality of the USB cable matter for using a DAC? Isn’t the digital transmission protected with error correction?

    • Reply August 21, 2012

      Mike

      Josh,
      Yes in theory you have error correction but if you look deeper into the transmission method it’s actually not that simple. So yes the quality of the cable matter, but I’m not suggesting you go out and buy $1,000 USB cables.

      • Reply August 21, 2012

        joshkerr

        I’m a smart guy, can you explain why it isn’t that simple? Maybe a post for the website?

        • Reply August 21, 2012

          Mike

          Josh,
          At the moment please just use google.

          • Reply August 21, 2012

            joshkerr

            I promise I’m not a troll, I didn’t realize that this is a heated topic. Google results turned up a lot of debates on whether or not it makes a difference. Most people seem to think that it does (jitter can be heard in poor quality cables.)

            • Reply August 21, 2012

              Mike

              Josh,
              Digital signal travels as an electrical signal. So the cables still see voltages, even when the signal is digital (copper can’t transfer zeros and ones anyway). So the quality of the cable would somehow still affect the signal.

              • Reply August 21, 2012

                joshkerr

                As far as I know, copper can transmit digital signals. Digital is either a 1 or zero and copper can vary signal strength such that high is 1 and low is 0.
                I think the issue is that a lower quality cable might have less variance between high and low signals. So there is a high chance that what is receiving the signal might loose data by not being able to properly detect a 1 or a 0. Error correction usually fixes this, but in the case of using digital audio, it is a stream of data, so error correction is of limited value.
                I think the reason that there is a debate is that a high quality cable can reduce the chance for error on the receiving side. But high quality receiving equipment would be able to detect even weak signals making the need for a high quality cable worthless. As long as you’ve got a killer DAC, you should be able to reproduce excellent sound with a bad cable.
                At least thats my new theory on it.

                • Reply August 21, 2012

                  Mike

                  Josh,
                  How does copper transmit zeros and ones?

                  • Reply August 21, 2012

                    joshkerr

                    Passband. Its digital modulation by using a a modulated sine wave signal representing a digital bit stream. This is how cable companies transmit digital signals over coax cable.

                    • August 22, 2012

                      Mike

                      Exactly and how does that signal actually transfer over the copper?

                    • August 22, 2012

                      joshkerr

                      Little elf’s carry the signal in mini briefcases?

                    • August 23, 2012

                      Mike

                      Good one.. but seriously, how does the 011101010001 signal actually transfer?

                    • August 23, 2012

                      bgymn2000

                      He already explained that. High voltage = 1 and low voltage = 0.

                    • August 23, 2012

                      Mike

                      And I’ve already explained the answer as well.

                    • August 23, 2012

                      bgymn2000

                      It looks like you both have the same understanding of how the signal transfers but have a dispute over semantics. Why respond to his argument facetiously? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to just insist that he look elsewhere for the explanation. Nobody expects a website to be able to fully explain absolutely everything related to the purpose of the site.

                    • January 11, 2013

                      Duncan Lam

                      The answer is yes and no. It really depends on the design of the DAC. Forget about the 1s and 0s, and the copper wire. USB protocol has error correction CRC built in, and if the data is corrupted, the data is ignored. That’s why when you transfer 1 billion bits to your portable harddrive, and you can get the same 1 billion bits back. If that’s the case, then why does USB cables matter??? Say, if you have a really really bad cable. Data will be dropped, and if you drop enough data, You don’t have enough data to fill the data buffer of the DAC. Some DAC will fill the buffer with some old data, or just make up some data, or skipping them rather getting them again. It really depends on the design of the DAC. But then again, with a decent cable, the chance of hearing jitter as what people claim is really really low. By decent cable, I meant a cable without cut or chipped, no broken connector, not a cable made out of silver or gold. In the other words, if you have DAC which has a buffer big enough to hold a few seconds worth of data, you can use 99 cents cable, and you wont hear the difference compare to a 1 million dollar cable. I hope this answers your question.

                    • August 23, 2012

                      joshkerr

                      At some point it goes Analog. Is that what you were trying to get to? Signal low, signal high…

  • Reply October 19, 2012

    Howard Lin

    Hey Mike, i am torn between what DAC/AMP i should get. i just got the e17 and was totally underwhelmed. i am not sure if it’s the Wulffen DAC or the implementation. but it sounds too bright, and low end is lacking. i am not sure if i should even try Audinst MX1, since it’s the same DAC. i was wondering if you have any experience with PC soundcards like Asus Xonar Essence STX. it’s suppose to be the best Audiophile soundcard one can get right now. i am not sure if i should get that or give the MX1 a try. i would very much love for you to do a review on the Essence STX, since many members on Head-fi all say it’s the best Audiophile soundcard.

    • Reply October 19, 2012

      Ken Stuart

      Howard – in order to make a recommendation, we need to know which headphones you use, which player, and what genres of music.

    • Reply October 19, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Essence STX, for a budget computer PCIe solution, it probably is. I have the E17 and was not disappointed, it honestly boils down to your system. GIGO>> Garbage in, garbage out. That applies to your headphones as well. The Wolfson 8740 chip has seen many implementations from low end such as the Fiio E10 to high end gear like the high end Rein Audio X-DAC. I’m not trying to defend the E17 or anything like that but “supposedly the best” is purely subjective. But honestly I could not agree that the Essence STX is the best DAC solution for price. It used to be, but that was well over 2 years ago. Newer implementations of the Wolfson chip never failed to please anyone here.

      Your impressions of the E17 are quite opposite of what we know, you sure you aren’t using Beyerdynamics?

    • Reply October 19, 2012

      Mike

      It’s a wolfson, not wullfen. 😉

      Anyway, the impression of the sound being bright and lacking low end, what do you compare the E17 to?

      If you want something darker, you can either use the tone controls on the E17, or get the Matrix Mini Portable.

      I have no experience with the Asus soundcards, sorry.

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    Nick Tam

    Massive price cuts on the Dacport and Dacport LX!

    http://centrance.com/products/new/blog/2012/10/23/sharing-the-love/

  • Reply October 28, 2012

    reckoncile

    I have an E17. Is it possible to bypass internal amp?

  • Reply November 2, 2012

    Gerald Chow

    Hi Mike,

    Have you heard about the ifi Micro line from AMR (Abbingdon Music Research)?

    http://www.ifi-audio.com/en/all_p.html

    Am interested in getting the iDAC, which is based on the ESS Sabre chip; http://www.ifi-audio.com/en/iDAC.html

    Key features are 24Bit/192kHz (driver required), ESS Sabre, Asynchronous USB transfer, and powerful 150mW headphone output.

    #–#

    The ifi Micro range is currently on audition at the International Sight and Sound Exhibition in Singapore;http://www.facebook.com/SoundSightJournal

    I believe ifi Micro was also at the Rocky Mountain Audiofest, seems to be a new range of audio goodness; http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/rocky-mountain-show-report-1/

    #–#

    It (iDAC) is retailing at SGD$399 before discount.

    On paper, would you think that it would perform better compared to DACPort LX or HRT Music Streamer II Plus?

    • Reply November 2, 2012

      Mike

      Interesting Gerald.. on paper, I’ve yet to find the ESS Sabre chip being better than the Burr-Brown or AKM chips. But who knows maybe this one did the ESS very well.

  • Reply November 9, 2012

    Thibault

    Hi Mike 🙂
    First of all, congrats for your great site and reviews !
    I am searching for a desktop DAC/Amp combo which I will connect to my PC and my AKG K240MKII. I already have FiiO E11, but I really need a desktop amp and, most of all, a good DAC.
    I’m listening to classical music only, from Middle Age to “very modern classical music”.
    I am searching for good instrument separation and very good/excellent soundstage, and my budget is <250€ approximately.
    What dac/amp combo (2 different gears or 2 in 1) do you think it could fullfil these conditions and could match the low impedance of the AKG K240MkII ?
    I am very interested in the Aune T1, because I want to discover the tube sound. But if you know better choices I would be glad to know them.
    Thanks in advance for your help;
    Thibault

    • Reply November 9, 2012

      Trent_D

      Well, the Dacport LX has to be the best value in the world of Dacs right now. I got mine for $199 new from audioadvisor.com. Very clean sounding, good instrument separation, good soundstage, very clean sounding. Although, that is most of your budget right there… You could pair it with a cMoy, which is what I am doing until I can afford a better amp. The cMoy does well with both my low impedance AKG’s and my high impedance Sennheisers. It has a surprisingly spacious and transparent sound for it’s low cost. It will be a step up from the fiio.

  • Reply November 11, 2012

    Renishi

    Hi mike,

    I posted in the he-300 thread before asking whether to get it or the ms2i but u recommended the he-400 instead. Guess what, i grab the he-400 🙂

    Right now i am in the midst of looking for a amp/dac combo for my he-400 (prefer it to below $200). The HE-400 is quite bright and warm sounding. My Govibe mini usb dac (http://www.jaben.com.au/collections/go-vibe/products/gvb-miniusbdac) makes it even warmer for me… i have to use my s3 instead as it is less warm and i think it smoothen out the treble alittle. There is the fiio e17, audinst mx1 and mini (there is an offer on ebay with the muses amp) which catches my attention. Which of them is less warm sounding? (something like my s3 or better would be best)

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply November 14, 2012

      Renishi

      bump

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  • Reply December 24, 2012

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  • Reply January 22, 2013

    wittmmann

    Hello, I love these reviews, I’m lost and I
    ask I want to buy a DAC amplifier to listen
    to music from my laptop?.

    I read that loses less to get the USB sound.

    I will connect a CAL
    and listen to all
    kinds of music ITUNES.

    The FiiO E10,
    was the one I had in mind, because I can buy directly
    in stores in Madrid Spain. Price 89 euros.
    I would bought in
    Germany at 70 euros. It is a
    good quality product.

    The mini Audinst,
    say it’s better than the E10, but this should
    change the OP factory
    by 2227. Price
    105 euros. It could be the best of the three.

    The Topping D1
    mark 2, it would
    have to buy in China ebay. Price 70 euros.
    85 euros ebay england.
    Portability, price is one of the best.

    Coclusión, I still can not decide. I want to
    start playing. To connect my CAL, and listen to
    all kinds of music. It will connect to my
    laptop.

    Can you help?

  • Reply April 27, 2013

    Aditya

    Hey Mike, i live in Indonesia 😀

    How about combo :
    – Audinst Hud MX-1 pair with Schiit Asgard
    – Schiit Modi pair with Asgard

    wonder if these type of combo will work well for the following headphone :
    – Hifiman HE-400, 500
    – Senn HD 600/650
    – even audeze LCD-2 for the future

    because it’s gonna be my long investment, and for first i’m planning to get HE-500/HE-400. but i’m gonna invest for future.

    and how about Burson HA 160 DS comparing to two combo above?

    thanks 😀

    • Reply April 27, 2013

      Mike

      Very complicated question there, Aditya. Can you make it simpler?

      • Reply April 27, 2013

        Aditya

        sorry for the confusing question Mike.

        i was looking your review for Dacport LX and Topping D20, and still confuse between those 2.

        and i’m also searching for amp that work well to pair with Dacport LX/ Topping D20 for the following Headphone :
        – HE 400/500
        – HD 650
        – Audeze LCD-2 (who knows :D)

        currently, i’m using Alessandro MS 1, but planning to purchase either HE 400/500 or HD 650 in the near future.

        and it’s gonna be for a long invesment so i need your recommendation for the DAC and AMP

        Thanks Mike 😀

        • Reply April 27, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          What type of music are you listening to? Those are all very different headphones. For classical, pop/rock (assuming it isn’t anything TOO fast), I would go with the dacport LX and the Bottlehead Crack. If you like rap,techno, hard rock, or what have you, the HE-400 is wonderful with the cheap Fiio e9k. I haven’t heard the he-500, but from my understanding, it is great with jazz, folk, indie and that sort of thing. I really want this headphone. It is also a bit more difficult to drive than the others. The Asgard 2 WILL drive it, but how well, I cannot say.

          • Reply April 27, 2013

            Aditya

            well i’m not the person that stick with one genre of music, but i can say mostly i listen to Jazz and Pop.

            not leaning too much with hard rock, metal or something similiar, but a few slow rock is also on the list.

            what’s your other recommendation beside bottlehead crack, maybe in the same price range?

            • Reply April 28, 2013

              Dave Ulrich

              I don’t think the he-400 would be much fun for your music. From all I have heard, I don’t think you will find a better amp for the HD650 than the crack, especially not for the price. If you are on an even tighter budget, the JDSlabs cMoy is a very musical choice. Is it just that you want to avoid a DIY project?

              • Reply April 28, 2013

                Aditya

                Oh My ! how can you read through my mind Dave ! 😀

                i’m very new to this headphone world, should give it a try, but really afraid to do this one because i dont have any experience with soldering thing

                i dont know, heard that headfonia store in jakarta (me also locate in Jakarta) sell bottlehead crack and also offer to build one if you bought the kit.

                and beside HD 650, does this amp work flawlessly with other headphone?

                • Reply April 28, 2013

                  Dave Ulrich

                  The Crack is intended for high impedance headphones, and it makes special friends with the HD650. I doubt it would do too well with the HE-400 or the LCD-2, and there is no way it could drive the HE-500. This is the first review I did for headfonia, I think you might find it interesting.

                  http://www.headfonia.com/the-dark-sennheiser-hd650-all-for-the-music/

                  I have actually changed my mind about the speedball, though. Once I adjusted to the sound, I did prefer it to stock. It was my first soldering experience as well. I would give anything to be able to build it over again. I have actually started to really enjoy soldering. I would say to go for it.

                  • Reply April 28, 2013

                    Aditya

                    yeah i saw that ! a very complete review about HD 650 with the bottlehead, love it Dave 😀

                    i also notice that bottlehead crack designed to pair with high impedance headphone only.

                    that’s also one of the reason why i asked another amp that will work with other headphone, maybe i’m looking at an all-rounder amp. especially compare to Bottlehead crack in $ 200-300 range. (forgot to mention it earlier)

                    but i’ll take your recommendation deeply about the bottlehead crack

                    so many thanks for answering all my question Dave !

                    • April 28, 2013

                      Dave Ulrich

                      I have a review sample of the Asgard 2 right now. Like I said, I will throw out some impressions soon.

                    • April 28, 2013

                      Aditya

                      Great ! cant wait for it.

                      Looking at Asgard 2 in the schiit web, said that it’ll improve a lot from Asgard 1.

                      wonder about what kind of improvement

  • Reply May 5, 2013

    santhoshr

    Hi Mike, What Portable Amp you would recommend for two people listening from a single source (iPhone 4/j3/clip+), also the headphones are not same my collection includes IEMS (SE535, PFE232, X10, SE215, PFE012 etc) and Headphones (Denon 1100 and KSC75) so it could be any combination of above headphones, what I want from amp is good SQ, less distortion, minimum volume mismatch. I currently own FiiO E11 not sure if it do the job with simple headphone splitter.

    • Reply May 5, 2013

      dalethorn

      Sounds to me like you really need separate volume controls. Some amps have separate headphone jacks, but only one volume control.

      • Reply May 6, 2013

        Mike

        Yes what dale said, I think you’ll need separate volume controls and you can check out the headphone amps from Rolls but I don’t think they run off batteries.

        • Reply May 6, 2013

          santhoshr

          Thanks dale & Mike, Checked Rolls site, I think battery operated Rolls HA204 should work. I’m also wondering if any other Amp like Headstage Arrow (which has unreliable delivery times) does the job ?

          • Reply May 6, 2013

            Mike

            At the moment I’m not aware of anything else that comes with dual volume controls.

            • Reply May 7, 2013

              santhoshr

              Mike, thinking about getting an Amp with two headphone out Arrow 4 / FiiO E07K and use volume control on both sides like EA650 from Shure, do you have any other suggestion for Amp? also as you are one of the few who popularized Tera player 😉 do you think Tera dual headphone out will solve my problem, have you tried it?

          • Reply May 7, 2013

            dalethorn

            If you can’t get a 2nd volume control, just get an inline attenuator like Sennheiser uses for the PX200 series, for the more sensitive or louder headphone.

            • Reply May 29, 2013

              Mike

              That’s a great idea.

  • Reply May 16, 2013

    Mohamed Taha

    fiio x3 Compared to the high ENd players on the market this is very cheap …..That s right …..waiting ur review because i consider buying it but confused between it and hifiman hm-601 …….and wondering is it a worthy upgrade from ipod classic 5th gen. + fiio e11 ?

  • Reply May 28, 2013

    Adriano Moretti

    Hi ! I’ve just bought the Audiotechnica’s ad700 and i’m willing to pair them with a decent DAC(which will be me first DAC)… I’m thinking getting the Fiio E10…what do you think?

    • Reply May 29, 2013

      Mike

      The E10 is good but if you can get the E07K it’s even better in my opinion.

  • Reply June 1, 2013

    George

    Hello Headphonias, I need advice on what I device works best withe the Cypher Labs solo db ? the 5 the Gen does not work with is the best iPod! What should i use to get the best Sound Quality? Thanks in advance!!

    • Reply June 1, 2013

      Mike

      Hi George,
      Anything from the Ipod Classic 6G and up should work.

  • Reply July 4, 2013

    Synyster Jasnizam Paget

    Hi all..i’m still new to audiophile thing..i recently just bough shure SRH940 headphones,just 3 days ago..so i wanna get some good DAC to use for this headphones..i mostly listen to metal songs..also listen with 320kbps mp3 with my xperia Z hp and flac on my pc..is it fiio e7K good for me?thank

    • Reply July 4, 2013

      Mike

      Depending on your budget. The E07 is good, make sure you get the new and improved E07K model instead of the original E07.
      If you want to up your budget the Audinst HUD-MX1 ($~190) or the Centrance Dacport LX (~$250) are also good.

      • Reply July 4, 2013

        Synyster Jasnizam Paget

        hi mike,thank for the reply..so can E07K be use with android hp?i just need to get OTG cable right?never mind if cant use it with my hp cuz my priority using it as my desktop dac for pc..

        • Reply July 4, 2013

          Mike

          Ah,
          I haven’t tested it with OTG. Please do a google search for that.

          • Reply July 4, 2013

            Synyster Jasnizam Paget

            i already search and got confirmation that it can be used usb audio with android hp just not all the dac model..nevermind btw still can use with pc..btw e07K amp better than fiio11?i already got fiio11..

            • Reply July 4, 2013

              dalethorn

              I think the E07k is great, and will be good with the SRH940 – but the 940 is razor-sharp detailed, and I would be careful choosing from the more expensive solid state amps, so you don’t get distortions amplified out of proportion to what they should be.

              • Reply July 4, 2013

                Synyster Jasnizam Paget

                thank for the reply bro..btw which solid state amp/dac u like to suggest to me?my budget around 100-200 dollar..

                • Reply July 4, 2013

                  dalethorn

                  For computer use only, you could get a DAC plus amp such as the HRT Microstreamer, or you could get a FiiO E17 that’s a computer USB DAC plus amp, but also has its own power so you can use the amp remotely, away from the computer. I think the new FiiO E07k has the same features as the E17, but the total power might be different.

                  • Reply July 4, 2013

                    dalethorn

                    Ultimately though, when the budget is more, I would be looking at a tube(valve) amp because of that sharp detailed response of the SRH940.

                    • July 4, 2013

                      Synyster Jasnizam Paget

                      i see but tube amp not portable right and can easily break..so i wanna try fiio E17 or E07k..also interested on tube amp..which one is good in your opinion sir?

                    • July 5, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      Ultimately for home use and very quiet places, where you can hear the very fine details, a top quality tube amp will give you the best sound I think. But most everything else, especially outdoors with portable use, it’s not that critical and the E07k will be more than enough quality.

                    • July 9, 2013

                      Mike

                      At the lower end price point going from tube vs solid state is more about sound signature preferences. I don’t think entry level tube amps are more detailed than the solid state counter parts, or vica versa.
                      For instance if you have a sharp sounding headphone like a Grado, going with an entry level tube would help soften it. With a headphone like the Senn, entry level tube would mellow the sound too much.
                      That’s how I would choose my pairings for entry level stuff.

                    • July 9, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      Very true, and that Shure 940 is a pretty sharp sounding headphone (“detail monster”).

                    • July 9, 2013

                      Mike

                      Very right.

  • Reply November 17, 2013

    STARSTERN

    HRT Music Streamer II Plus – USB 24/96 is it still your highest pick ,or been update since ? the same with fiio e10 would need a update to the fiio e17 ?

    • Reply November 17, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      The Fiio would be updated with the e7k. I know not every one would agree with me here, but I much preferred the dacport LX to the MS2+. Much cleaner.

    • Reply November 21, 2013

      Mike

      E10 is just exceptional value even the 17 can’t touch.

      MS2+ is still exceptionally good at that price. Haven’t quite found a replacement for it. Lately I’ve been liking the Dacport LX which I find comparable but with a less grainy sound. Weird thing is the newer rounded enclosure MS2+ lost a bit of the bass impact compared to the version with the boxy enclosure.

  • Reply November 18, 2013

    STARSTERN

    why e7k ,I still insist its the e17 ; here I found a side by side comparison review of them both ; http://www.head-fi.org/t/643547/fiio-andes-e07k-vs-fiio-e17-whats-the-difference-and-how-does-it-sway-the-amateur-audiophile/30

    Ok, there we go with my impressions.

    To be honest, it is almost everything said about this two devices. They are very very similar in every single aspect. I tried them with all my headset ( sennheiser px100-I & px100-II, mx800, bose AE2 (yes, I have these, it was a gift ^^) and the Jaycar Pro Monitor.

    In the sound stage, the E17 is slightly clearer and neutral, while the E07K is slightly warmer specially in the bass. It is not something you can easily notice, as I said, they are very similar, and with the EQ option you can set up your preference in this aspect. As I said, if you are searching for sound quality, I would definitely go with the E17, it is a little bit clearer and it supports more sample rates and bit depth (24/96 vs 24/192), although as some people says, if you feel the difference because of this, it is probably in your head.

    Regarding the design, again they are pretty similar. The size is exactly the same or almost, as well as the LED display. The E07K comes with a plastic case that fits as well in the the E17. There is a carry soft bag in both of them, excessively big in my opinion, but useful for traveling. I probably prefer the E07K over the E17 because of the lateral buttons (this is a personal preference) and that frontal plastic panel that is very elegant in my opinion. The E07K is definitely prettier.

    Regarding the firmware, you have more options in the E07K. The main differences are that the E07K recognize the input automatically (this is a little bit annoying in the E17) and that you have an auto display shut off configuration that avoids the LED display to burn (you can manually turn the screen off with the hold button in both devices).

    Regarding the inputs, bot of them has the mini USB input as well as the mini jack input. The E07K has a double mini jack output while the E17 replaces one of those with a SPDIF that I personally never used, but that might become useful in some cases.

    As closing words I would say that if you are using the device mainly as an amplifier I would go with the E07K if the amplifier power is enough for you but if the main purpose is to use the DAC, the extra ports of the E17 plus the extra sound clarity is definitely the way to go, even more if you are thinking in the E09K combo upgrade. In my personal case, I think I am going to move to another concept as I mainly use them with my iMac, my Lenovo Yoga and my Galaxy Note II, in any of those cases the amplifier doesn’t make any sense to me as the output volume is pretty good for all of my headphones (I rarely reach half of its power even with a negative amplification), and the prebuilt DAC quality satisfies me enough as well. The LED display and the EQ option are nice but I have EQ options in all of those devices, and I miss the analog potentiometer for setting up the gain. On top of that, none of them work with my Galaxy Note II loosing the main purpose of them.

    I hope this helps somebody to decide.

    from another poster ;

    I presently own both the E07K and the E17. To me the noticeable differences (aside from the additional E17 interfaces) are 1) the higher output power of the E17 2) the E17 is noticeably brighter. If you are using low impedance headphones, the higher power will not matter. On a pair of orthos, the higher power seemed to tighten up the bass.

  • Reply November 22, 2013

    STARSTERN

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/571953/has-anyone-compared-the-dacport-to-the-hrt-music-streamer-ii

    MS2+ is still exceptionally good at that price. Haven’t quite found a replacement for it. Lately I’ve been liking the Dacport LX which I find comparable but with a less grainy sound=which is good ”
    ..so you did indeed find a replacement for it ‘ the dacport !

  • Reply November 22, 2013

    STARSTERN

    E10 is just exceptional value even the 17 can’t touch… BUT read this abstract taken from a post;

    Sorry to revive a dead thread but I just wanted to put some input as to which amp to take… So far at first when receiving my E17 was extremely unsatisfied with it as it carried a VERY neutral tone… Not sure what it is with the E10 but the tuning on that thing makes music come ALIVE just straight out of the box with plenty of body and depth that you can feel and almost touch…. After a few hours of toying with the E17 I almost gave up total hope but then after adjusting the EQ on my laptop I realized I could mimic the E10s sound signature… Boy when I did that the E17 kicked some MAJOR BUTT!!!! The depth, richer, deeper… golden… The bass… so clean and fast paced… sooo Engaging!!! Final thoughts is that if you want a good amp get the E17 because the power difference although small, has some great effects. The E17 has a very neutral sound signature stock whereas the E10 has a very “fun” sound signature. Its very hard to describe but you can mimic the E10s with the E17 and get even BETTER results if you are willing to play with the onboard EQ the E17 carries and pair it with a computerized EQ at the same time to get the desired sound signature you desire. By all means the E10 is very good but the E17 is Better… (^_^) Also please don’t forget to play with the E17s gain as well as I feel it expands sound stage by a lot on the E17 where with 6 db or 0 db gain makes everything sound lifeless…

    *just to note not sure if its the E10s sound signature or if its just how much black is between notes… the imaging effects stock on the E10 are pretty intense… but can be matched or even better with the E17

    • Reply November 22, 2013

      Mike

      E10 is much cheaper hence good value.

      Background is blacker on the E10 actually.
      Bass is looser on the E10.

  • Reply November 22, 2013

    STARSTERN

    E10 is just exceptional value even the 17 can’t touch;

    mike why haven’t you put that in here’ http://www.headfonia.com/the-upgrade-fiio-e17-alpen/2/

    • Reply November 22, 2013

      Mike

      Sometimes I miss things..

  • Reply January 29, 2014

    John Junior

    Hi Headfonia. If you guys remembered me, I ask a lot of questions from you guys. So far, all my purchased item is based on your guys advised and I never regret it. Senn HD 600, Senn Amperior, BH Crack, and Fiio X3, they’re all purchased after I consult this website.

    So, now I’m looking for a DAC, about $ 300, the cheaper the better. DAC will be paired with Bottlehead Crack. So far, my list consist of Musical Fidelity V90, Schiit Modi, Odac, Music Streamer II+, ifi DAC, Matrix M-Stage DAC. My idea is to get ODAC to get a transparent sound but aesthetically, that combination can be quite weird. Any suggestion from Headfonia? Thank you.

    • Reply January 30, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I can only claim to have head the Odac and the MSII+, but I would deffinitly go with the Dacport LX. It retails for $200 from Centrance’s website. It’s the combo I use with my Crack. It is very clean and transparent, but it is more lively, with better impact than the odac, and it lacks that somewhat artificial timbre that seems to affect sabre dacs. Just my two cents.

      • Reply January 30, 2014

        John Junior

        Hi, LX have been caught my attention too. But I also been hearing about USB powered DAC vs self powered DAC topic. So lack of artificial timbre is a good or bad thing for you? I want to avoid something that too laid back. Really not my type… So among all these, you prefer and recommended LX?

        • Reply January 30, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          yes. Artificial timbre=bad. Not such a huge deal with mainstream music. Fatal with string quartets. The LX, odac and MSII+ are all USB powered. Also, the LX is definitely the least laid back of those three.

          • Reply January 30, 2014

            John Junior

            So means LX doesn’t have artificial timbre and that’s a good thing for LX? Sorry, I’m kinda confused. LoL. What I mean USB powered vs self powered is for portable DAC vs desktop DAC. The current desktop DAC that I aim is MF V-90 but you never test that DAC and I never have the chance to try with my Crack.

            My current DAC is Aune T1, just wondering should change or not since I found one year used LX for about $ 175. I tried DACport previously with my HD 600 and not really my type. But not sure of LX performance tho.

    • Reply January 30, 2014

      Mike

      The HP-A4 from Fostex is really really good for the price.

      • Reply January 30, 2014

        John Junior

        Thanks.. But that’s a DAC amp right? I might consider getting HP-A4 if I haven’t got amp yet. And it’s over my budget. 🙁 I guess I don’t have too much choice with my current budget. >_< Any particular reason for suggesting HP-A4?

  • Reply February 6, 2014

    STARSTERN

    would a dac only serve when using a computer with onboard ,but not with CDP with dac chips inside ???

    http://www.avsforum.com/t/1000566/cd-transport-importance-vs-dac/270#post_24313979

    • Reply February 6, 2014

      L.

      You really have to read up on what a DAC does man. It can bypass your CDP dac too if the CDP allows it.

      • Reply February 6, 2014

        STARSTERN

        i really know what it does ,as well that it bypass ,still will it SERVE ?

        will it give any better sound ?

        of course it should ,but acording this forum http://www.avsforum.com/t/1000

        they found different ???

        • Reply February 6, 2014

          dalethorn

          That’s the downside of this digital stuff. Not everything sounds the same, even when playing a CD on a CDP and a perfect rip on a computer right next to the CDP. In my opinion, it’s almost always better to make bit-perfect rips of CDs and possibly store those as lossless FLAC etc., because when playing CDs, the physical process can incur jitter and other anomalies that don’t exist in a bit perfect rip. ….because the computer can wait for a re-read when the first read isn’t right, while a CDP has to keep moving on in real time.

  • Reply June 1, 2014

    Vaibhav Pisal

    source recommendation

    ibasso dx90

    astell and kern ak100

    fostex hp a4

    any other you may recommend.

    conditions:

    usb or battery powered, solid state.

    must have built in amp as i intend to use it standalone for forseeable future. no amp plans for now. (perhaps crack as its affordable and will cover most types of headphones then)

    i prefer warm sound. listen to most genres. max usd 500 budget.

    must scale well upto $1000 amp/ headphone.

    thanks in advance. I bought akg k550 and audinst hud mini based on your reviews and liked them both.

  • Reply November 2, 2014

    Michał Dżingis Błażejewski

    Hello,

    I am currently using a Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 ohm paired with a Asus Xonar DX audio card (this would be the DAC I believe) and a cMoyBB v2.03 AMP.

    However, you being the experts seem to think that USB DACs are the way to go and I need to get rid of my current audio card either way as it covers the fans of my graphics card 🙁

    So, I decided to get a new DAC + AMP. I could for instance spend money on the here recommended Audinst HUD-MX1, but I’d welcome something cheaper for now. I’ve been looking at the new FiiO E10K Olypmus 2, the E07K Andes and the aforementioned twice as expensive Audinst HUD-MX1. I could pair the E07K with the E09K in the future. Also, I am asking myself if the Audinst or the E07K/E09K combo wouldn’t be overkill due to my headphones not needing such a ‘powerful’ DAC/AMP as far as I am aware.

    So what’s your opinion? How do these face-off against each other? Do you have any other recommendations? Do you think that the FiiO E10K would offer better sound quality than my current set-up?

    I am passionate about hearing from you soon.

    P.S. I want to get rid of the cMoyBB as well.

    • Reply November 2, 2014

      dalethorn

      I can’t imagine that those FiiO amps would sound as good as the Xonar card. I would plan on something higher up in the chain.

      • Reply November 2, 2014

        Michał Dżingis Błażejewski

        Really? So a FiiO E07/E09K combo or Audinst HUD-MX1 are all inferior to my current setup? I’d welcome the opinion of other’s here as well. 🙂

        • Reply November 3, 2014

          dalethorn

          I hope somebody else here offers a suggestion, but in the meantime it looks like you have a good alternative with the Xonar DX.

          • Reply November 3, 2014

            Michał Dżingis Błażejewski

            If I held off with the purchase for a while I could eventually afford something like the JDS Labs O2+ODAC or some combination of Modi, Magni, Bitfrost and Asgard 2. I’m just not really sure if it was worth for me. My music library consists solely of MP3 320 kbps recordings. I’d honestly be happy with something that is only slightly better than my current setup, but if you were to buy a DAC and AMP from those listed above what would it be?

            • Reply November 3, 2014

              dalethorn

              Headfonia is not a fan of O2 plus ODAC, but it’s an excellent DAC/amp for a reasonable price, and I would get it. I would want the DAC built into the enclosure with as little wiring as necessary, since separate DACs and amps lose some of their sound quality due to the extra jacks and wiring, plus interconnect cables. To really exceed the quality of O2/ODAC you would have to spend a lot of money.

              • Reply November 3, 2014

                Headfonia_L.

                A lot maybe not, but more yes. but you would have something that actually sounds good 😉

                • Reply November 3, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  You’re the expert on entry-level amps, and it would be good to have a list of what you’re familiar with from the sub-$100 amps up to maybe $1000, if the list not only described where the amps’ sound fits in the overall hierarchy, but comments with each amp showing what it can be used with (due to its inputs and outputs).

                  • Reply November 3, 2014

                    Headfonia_L.

                    If only time would permit. The updating of the recommendations section is on the To Do list. somewhere

                    • November 3, 2014

                      dalethorn

                      This might be a good time to ask this: I’m finding that the new iPhone 6-plus (and maybe the 6?) is doing better on its own than using the FiiO E07k and another low-cost amp I have (the PA2V2), but using the Portaphile Micro I get slightly better sound than the iPhone 6 alone. So I’m wondering, if other popular phones sound as good as the iPhone 6 series, what is the future of these low-cost headphone amps? BTW, to run these amps from the iPhone I have to use a LOD cable and Apple 30-pin to Lightning adapter – the adapter with the DAC inside. So I don’t know what got upgraded in the iPhone 6 – the DAC, the amp, or both – but the better sound I got with the Portaphile Micro used the DAC in the adapter, not the DAC in the phone.

                  • Reply November 3, 2014

                    Michał Dżingis Błażejewski

                    Thanks for your input guys! C5D is my best best than, eh? I’ll probably end up purchasing it in a months time 🙂

                    • November 3, 2014

                      Headfonia_L.

                      I do think the C5D would be a good match with your DT880. THe new E10K as you mentioned can be interesting too, certainly if you’re on a budget, but your Sound card is already a good one.

                      Mike retired from Headfonia early this year, it’s me and Nathan who are running it now with the help of guest reviewers like Dale, Dave and Ricky. and of course Dale’s nice work in the comments section

                    • November 3, 2014

                      dalethorn

                      I missed this, but the C5D does look really good, and a bonus is compatibility with computers and phones!

            • Reply November 3, 2014

              Headfonia_L.

              Yeah, like Dale says I would stay away from the O2. The Odac I can live with though, but for both there are better alternatives

    • Reply November 3, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      I would go for something like the JDSLabs C5D.

  • Reply December 18, 2014

    Viktor Majdák

    Hey, may I ask, what you think would be a nice choice for DAC/AMP combo under 100$?
    I am deciding betwee Audinst HUD-Mini, Audiotrak Prodigy Cube and Fiio E10k ?
    Do anyone has some experience with some of theese ? They are priced really close to each other and price difference between cheapest and the most expensive is just 12$

    I will use it with Microlab B77 (in next few months I will upgrade to Microlab Solo6C) and as far as headphones goes, I use Kingston Cloud (Qpad QH-90 / Takstar PRO 80)

  • Reply June 6, 2015

    Alberto Martinez

    Hi All,

    I love my configuration of iPod Touch 5G paired with CCK, mini USB hub to Audioquest DragonFly v1.2 and to Eytimotic ER4-PT.
    I use TIDAL HIFI (CD quality) and Onkyo HF Player for FLAC 24/96-192.
    Alway in offline mode (no wifi activated) with downloaded files to save battery in streaming.

    My problem is iPod battery life:
    – under 50% battery capacity DragonFly is not recognized
    – Schiit Modi DAC when connected needs extra power through especial USB cable to work, even with ipod 100% battery
    – with DragonFly in only 2-2.5h hours 50% of battery is reached and then external battery needs to be used with special USB cable
    – when external power is used, ipod can play for 30+ hours

    Is there any configuration of ipod to extend battery life without external battery support (powerbank) when connected to external USB DAC?

    How does compara internal iPod Touch 5G DAC (Cirrus I think) with Dragonfly v1.2? Is it worth for TIDAL HIFI (16/44) mode?

    Do any of you suggest only use external DAC Dragonfly for FLAC files when bigger than 16/44 as 24/96 o 24/192?

    Thanks in advance,
    Alberto

  • Reply December 13, 2015

    Виктор Ковыршин

    how does MX-1 stands after several years in market? I own this DAC, but sometime I think about upgrading to something. May be Sony UDA-1 to drive bookshelf speakers.

    Isn’t that step back in terms of quality? may be I should get a amp and speakers instead of changing dac?

  • Reply May 25, 2016

    Dennis

    it seems there’s no update for this sector for a long time~~~what a pity

    • Reply May 25, 2016

      dalethorn

      It’s a really big subject. If you were doing it, what approach would you take? Seems like you’d have a lot of things to plug into a lot of other things. How to simplify a little to make it manageable…

      • Reply May 26, 2016

        Dennis

        haha~it’s really challenging for just two people. but i still suggest you update from the most popular ones between $200 and $300 ranges

        • Reply May 26, 2016

          dalethorn

          I would change the whole thing, making source a phone or DAP or laptop etc., and amps be separate as DACs and amps.

          • Reply May 27, 2016

            Dennis

            good plan. that will significantly make the buying guide clearer.

    • Reply May 25, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Lack of time – it’s been on the list for very long

      • Reply May 26, 2016

        Dennis

        understandable~

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