Headphone DAC/amplifier

Ilya

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I am spending a lot of time listening to music in headphones lately, so I am thinking of getting a dedicated DAC/Amplifier that would also be capable of decoding Hi-Res Audio. Currently my main source of music is TIDAL, which in addition to its lossless CD-quality streaming and downloads now offers MQA Masters (typically at 96 kHz / 24 bit). In order to take full advantage of that audio format though, you need MQA-compatible equipment.

I am looking for something relatively portable, something that would work with my laptop and also with an iPhone, so I could easily carry it around the house and also take it with me when I travel. Hoping to stay within $200 or so.

After doing some research, I have narrowed down my selection to these two popular choices:

Amazon product Amazon product
Any thoughts?
 

Ilya

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navychop

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Schiit. Is it pronounced shh I tuh?


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Ilya

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A quick follow-up. I’ve been really enjoying this little headphone DAC/amplifier over the past couple of months!

My very first impression wasn’t great: I had all kinds of issues, from cut-off couple of seconds at the beginning of each track and failures to activate decoding, to occasional sound distortion. But all those issues went away after I installed the latest firmware and learned how to charge this thing correctly. It’s been a smooth sailing after that. I’ve been using this DAC almost every day.

Headphones I use the most: AKG K550 Reference (my favorite!) and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT (with noise canceling for noisy environments).

First and foremost, the MQA sound is amazing! I did not expect MQA tracks to sound so much better than lossless CD tracks, especially through headphones. I did some back-to-back comparisons and the difference was not just noticeable, it was quite shocking! Very detailed and natural sound, more accurate soundstage. More than once I caught myself taking the headphones off just to make sure the sound was actually coming from them - so realistic it sounded. Never happened to me before!

TIDAL has enormous collection of Master Quality Audio recordings. And it’s growing every week. About 1/3 of my listening is now in MQA. I canceled my Spotify subscription!

Not all albums benefit from MQA. I guess it depends on how they were mastered. Garbage in, garbage out. But those that have quality masters, digitized at 24 bits and at high sampling rates, do Sound better through this DAC. I am rediscovering some of my old favorites!

This device is very small and portable. I can carry it around the house in my pocket hooked up to the iPhone. Though most of the time I use it on the desk, connected to my laptop, while I am working.

Solid build quality. Love that old-school analog volume control!
 
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Inclined Orbit

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Jan 2, 2018
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I see you already got something but in the future the Audioquest Dragonfly Red is the bomb. It never ceases to amaze everyone feeding various headphones including some well known recording engineers and its also a fantastic DAC interface between a laptop or iPhone and a high end sound system.

A quick follow-up. I’ve been really enjoying this little headphone DAC/amplifier over the past couple of months!

My very first impression wasn’t great: I had all kinds of issues, from cut-off couple of seconds at the beginning of each track and failures to activate decoding, to occasional sound distortion. But all those issues went away after I installed the latest firmware and learned how to charge this thing correctly. It’s been a smooth sailing after that. I’ve been using this DAC almost every day.

Headphones I use the most: AKG K550 Reference (my favorite!) and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT (with noise canceling for noisy environments).

First and foremost, the MQA sound is amazing! I did not expect MQA tracks to sound so much better than lossless CD tracks, especially through headphones. I did some back-to-back comparisons and the difference was not just noticeable, it was quite shocking! Very detailed and natural sound, more accurate soundstage. More than once I caught myself taking the headphones off just to make sure the sound was actually coming from them - so realistic it sounded. Never happened to me before!

TIDAL has enormous collection of Master Quality Audio recordings. And it’s growing every week. About 1/3 of my listening is now in MQA. I canceled my Spotify subscription!

Not all albums benefit from MQA. I guess it depends on how they were mastered. Garbage in, garbage out. But those that have quality masters, digitized at 24 bits and at high sampling rates, do Sound better through this DAC. I am rediscovering some of my old favorites!

This device is very small and portable. I can carry it around the house in my pocket hooked up to the iPhone. Though most of the time I use it on the desk, connected to my laptop, while I am working.

Solid build quality. Love that old-school analog volume control!
 

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