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Topic: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp (Read 1950 times) previous topic - next topic
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Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Hello friends,
I am new and looking for advice as the title suggests. What I currently have is:
1. Source: Gaming computer ASUS ROG GL552VW, 6 years old - this is the main and only source /there is one free USB-A and one HDMI output/;

2. Headphones:
2.1. RØDE NTH-100
Impedance: 32Ω
Sensitivity: 110dB/V
Maximum Input Power: 1700mW, 1% THD @ 1kHz;

2.2. Kotori Audio DAUNTLESS IEM
Impedance: 12.2 Ω @1kHz 100dB;
These two are my first Real headphones and were recommended to me by "the Honest Audiophile" for which I am grateful!

2.3. I have more:
2.3.1 MOONDROP CHU IEM
Impedance: 28Ω±15% (@1kHz)
Sensitivity: 120dB/Vrms (@1kHz);
2.3.2 OnePlus Nord Buds TWS
Bluetooth 5.2, Codecs: AAC, SBC
Driver Sensitivity: 102dB ± 3dB @1kHz;
2.3.3 (Coming soon) TANGZU WAN ER SG IEM
Impedance: 20Ω
Sensitivity: 107dB (@1kHz).
These are for fun, tests, work use (it's dirty).

3. Dac/Amp - Hidizs S9 PRO
ESS9038Q2M DAC
PCM: Up to 32bit768kHz
Native DSD Supports Up to 512
Single-ended 3.5mm + Balanced 2.5mm

4. Speakers - I don't have and I don't plan to have (I live in a panel apartment...).

As you can see above, I'm new to the hobby - first music setup and I don't have a lot of money... The music I listen to is metal and specifically symphonic metal and melodic death metal. It is important for me that the vocals are heard well and I can say that I am sensitive to high frequencies. Almost all the bands I listen to have female lead vocals and some also have male raw (screaming) vocals.

What I'm looking for is a desktop dac/amp with maximum musical quality related to my musical preferences, a neutral and natural sounding device for the money I can spend ~ $300. I know there are not many, but this is what I can allocate as much as possible.

Regarding the "extras":
1. Bluetooth - if there is good, if there is no - good. It is not very important to me, because I do not foresee development (for now) in this direction.
2. Many inputs and outputs - I don't have speakers and I don't think I will. On the computer I have, as I wrote, USB-A and one HDMI output, which I don't know if it is "suitable" for music. I don't plan to connect my TV to the computer for music. I don't have and don't plan to have any other sources of audio content (CD player, music records, etc.);
3. Balanced output - my current headphones do not need this, and in the future I will hardly be able to spend more than $300 on headphones. And for this money, there will hardly be such headphones with such a need...;
4. It is good to have a display, if not - Ok, and I don't need a remote control.
Not that these extras are bad to have, but they are optional in my choice!

"the Honest Audiophile" recommended the following models to me: SMSL AO300, Fiio K11 and Aune X1s GT.

Of the listed, I first settled on the SMSL AO300. Then I read here and there and some more candidates jumped out at me besides the ones I suggested above. Unfortunately, I can only judge devices by other people's reviews and ratings. Here in Bulgaria there is no place to test devices, and I don't know anyone who is passionate about this hobby. In addition, from here (BG) it is not possible what is done as I read on the forums elsewhere - to take devices and if you don't like them, return them...

What came up in my search is:
1. TOPPING DX3 Pro+
2. SMSL DL200
3. FiiO K7/K7BT
4. TOPPING DX5

Yes, the price is important to me, but the quality of the music is more important to me, and from the point of view of perception, not as numbers! As I already wrote, I am looking for a device that reproduces music neutrally and naturally, the music I like as well. Hidizs S9 PRO I will use it with an IEM when I'm not at home, but at home I want a serious device that will give me the necessary musical experience working with my old computer and my available headphones. If there are extras, fine, but they are on the second or third plan.

I'm personally gravitating towards the SMSL DL200 and maybe the FiiO K11, BUT I'm not a reliable arbiter at all, so I'm hoping for some advice from you?

Thanks in advance!

Re: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Reply #1
This is a confusing post. An old notebook which has an 3.5 mm headphone jack and you want to connect an expensive DAC to it even though you already have one. And at the end you put in ad in the post.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3moaaOpYZM

Re: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Reply #2
This is the Hidizs S9: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hidizs-s9-review-headphone-adapter.21152/
Browse the same website for other models like the DX5: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-dx5-review-dac-hp-amp.32179/
It does a better job technically spoken.
Of course the DX5 can be toppinged: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/rme-adi-2-fs-version-2-dac-and-headphone-amp-review.13379/
Lots of room for technical improvement but if this is also audible is another question.
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Re: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Reply #3
This is a confusing post. ....
Hello, I don't know why you think my asking for help is strange?! In the end, the link is not an advertisement, but came to me during the purchase of TANGZU WAN ER SG IEM, which are traveling to me. Personally, I would be happy if someone provided me with such a link to buy at a discount, anyway.

I watched this video a long time ago.

I had asked people who know about this stuff and according to them I would have felt the difference in the quality of the music with a desktop device. I don't know if it is or not - that's why I'm asking.

If I wanted to just "hear" some music I would just use my headphones or the Apple dongle I also have.

Re: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Reply #4
This is the Hidizs S9....
Thanks Roseval, I have read/watched most of Amir's tests.
Topping DX5 looks like an option to me too. I read somewhere that it is a better option compared to the TOPPING DX3 Pro+, to be honest, it is a bit expensive for me...as well as the device from the third link.

Honestly, I'm hoping for advice from someone who has a similar case to mine and has a solution to it.

Re: Looking for advice on a headphone-only desktop dac/amp

Reply #5
Hello, I don't know why you think my asking for help is strange?!

Not asking for help is confusing but that you want to buy something new, even though you already have everything you need. That is why my advise is, use what you have. You don't need more.

Quote
In the end, the link is not an advertisement, but came to me during the purchase of TANGZU WAN ER SG IEM, which are traveling to me. Personally, I would be happy if someone provided me with such a link to buy at a discount, anyway.

This is the text book definition of an ad.

Quote
I had asked people who know about this stuff and according to them I would have felt the difference in the quality of the music with a desktop device. I don't know if it is or not - that's why I'm asking.

The choice of headphone has more influence on your experience than the DAC or amplifier. Except the amplifier just can't drive them. But that is rare.

Quote
If I wanted to just "hear" some music I would just use my headphones or the Apple dongle I also have.

What more do you want? That is what music is for, hearing it and enjoying that experience.