Recommend a USB DAC

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by AVT, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. AVT

    AVT [H]ardness Supreme

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    Hi,

    I don't listen to music that much on my computer (usually take my headphones with me), but I recently opened Spotify and realized that the DAC built into my monitor is terrible. There is substantially less bass than when I plug my headphones directly into my phone or laptop.

    So, I want to buy a DAC. Ideally under $100. Any recommendations?
     
  2. ocbaud

    ocbaud I'm a baud Man!

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  3. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    Could also be lack of decent power. And you'll need an amp in addition to the DAC if you get a DAC. What headphones are you using?

    Simple cheap and good Dac amp combo would be Fiio E10k. I have one and it even gets my planars (HE560 and 400i) plenty loud.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
    tungt88 likes this.
  4. Neapolitan6th

    Neapolitan6th Limp Gawd

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    I agree I think you will want an amp/dac combo. Even the best headphones can sound like trash if they don't have sufficient amplification.

    For the price, I would recommend The Schiit Fulla 2 at $99 (yes that is their company name.. They are the real deal and they make their products out of California if that means anything)

    That amp/dac with serve you well. Some others would as well of course.. Most options would be a step above plugging into a monitor or laptop as you have.

    Note: I had a friend buy the Fulla 2 and he mentioned when he used it close to his phone, and he got a text or a call, he would get some noise in his music caused by the interference... So make sure you don't put them right next to each other.
     
  5. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    Audioquest Dragonfly black is the best price/performance USB DAC if a simple USB DAC is what you're looking for. It doesn't have a specially strong headphone amp for example.
     
  6. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

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    Is this thing worthwhile? AVT might want to mention the model of headphones you have because some are harder to drive than others.
    http://schiit.com/products/fulla

    Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 2Hz-200KHz, -3dB
    Maximum Power:
    16 ohms: 250mW RMS per channel
    32 ohms: 200mW RMS per channel
    50 ohms: 175mW RMS per channel
    300 ohms: 40mW RMS per channel
    THD: <0.004%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
    IMD: <0.005%, CCIF
    SNR: >101db, A-weighted, referenced to 1V RMS
    Crosstalk: >-67dB, 20 Hz-20KHz
    Output Impedance: Less than 0.4 ohms
    Gain: 1.5 (3.5db)
    USB Receiver: C-Media CM6631A
    Bit Depth and Sample Rates Supported: 16/44.1 to 24/96, including 24/88.2
    DAC: AKM AK4396 with Analog Devices ADA4610-based filter stage
    Output stage: TI LMH6643 high-current rail-to-rail amplifier
    Headphone Output Size: 1/8", unlike all of our other amps
    Power Supply: Via USB, with +/- 5V rails via high-current negative rail generator with inductor filtering and local regulation
    Power Consumption: 0.8W typical
    Size: 2.5 x 1.2 x 0.45”
    Weight: 3 oz
     
  7. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have one at work. It's great for the majority of cans. (Actually I have two, I bought a spare when it went on sale for $59...)

    Yes, OP we need to know your headphones. In all likelihood something like the Fulla 1 (the old model because it is way cheaper) is plenty.
     
  8. AVT

    AVT [H]ardness Supreme

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    Sorry, I thought I added my headphones to the OP. They are the Audio Technica PRO700MK2.
     
  9. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

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    ATH-PRO700MK2
    Type Closed-back Dynamic
    Driver Diameter 53 mm
    Frequency Response 5 - 35,000 Hz
    Maximum Input Power 3,500 mW
    Sensitivity 106 dB/mW
    Impedance 38 ohms
    Weight 305 g
    Connector 3.5 mm mini-stereo, gold-plated
    Accessory Included Screw-on 1/4" (6.3 mm) adapter, detachable 1.2 m coiled cable (max. 3.0m), detachable 1.2 m straight cable, carrying pouch

    38 ohms should be easy to drive.
     
  10. fenixv

    fenixv Gawd

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    Another vote for the Schiit Fulla 2. Great little dac/amp for the price. Controls both my Fidelio x2's and JBL LSR-305s.
     
  11. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    For those headphones no reason to spend more on Fulla 2 if you can still snag the closeout price of the Fulla1.
     
  12. AVT

    AVT [H]ardness Supreme

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    Ordered the Fulla1, which seemed to be the consensus. Thanks everybody!
     
  13. capt_cope

    capt_cope Limp Gawd

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    Tough to beat that schiit. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
     
  14. SCSI

    SCSI Gawd

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    Awesome info here guys! I am considering the Fulla 2 to replace a Focusrite 2i4 that I currently use to connect a Phillips 9500 headphones, powered monitors, and to the L/R low level inputs of a subwoofer.

    One issue that I get with the Focusrite 2i4 1st gen is a popping sound it makes when it gets or losses power mainly during starting or shutting down the PC which powers it. The popping sound is not an issue most of the time until I forget to turn off my subwoofer and I get these loud thunderous sound from the sub.

    I haven't tried using a powered USB hub to keep power to the Focusrite. I think it will still shut itself off when the PC is turned off.

    I would like to know if the Fulla 2 produces popping sounds on power on/off. What's the best way to connect both the powered monitors and subwoofer to the Fulla's variable DAC output? Does the Fulla 2 stay powered on when connected to a powered USB hub or does it shut off when the USB signal from the PC is off? Do you guys recommend any other options?
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
  15. Decibel

    Decibel 2[H]4U

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    I do get a small pop from my Fulla 2 when I turn on and off my PC. Nothing I'd call thunderous though.

    My system goes PC >> USB >> Fulla 2 >> Unbalanced 3.5mm to dual 1/4 TS >> dbx GoRack processor >> Balanced XLR >> studio subwoofer >> Balanced XLR >> JBL LSR305

    Can't figure out why you'd get rid of the 2i4 though. Just mount a switch somewhere close and turn off your speakers. That's what I do.
     
  16. SCSI

    SCSI Gawd

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  17. SCSI

    SCSI Gawd

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    It's my HSU VTF3mk2 that is the issue with the 2i4. I hear the pops on my monitors when the 2i4 is powered on/off but if the subwoofer is on or in standby, it will make a very loud pop. The sub doesn't have the issue when connected to home receivers and my Topping VX1.
     
  18. zzz

    zzz Gawd

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    Maybe you didn't read farther down in the thread that the 404 has worse SNR, and external power isn't necessary.
     
  19. SCSI

    SCSI Gawd

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    Does your 204 give a popping sound when during power off or on? You mentioned using your "hacked USB cable to supply 5V and GND from a dedicated adapter" with your 204. Does the hacked USB cable keep your 204 powered all the time even if it is not receiving signal from the PC?
     
  20. chx

    chx Gawd

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    Sorry to butt in but this interests me as well but I need something portable. Currently I have a Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro II USB Sound Card and Headset Adapter and the difference between the sometimes noisy built in audio and this is earth shattering. But, it's very old and I am wondering whether there are better solutions in a similarly small format now. Also it makes a horrible clicking noise when rebooting, it hurts if I forget to take off my headphones.
     
  21. zzz

    zzz Gawd

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    If my 2.1 is powered and I connect power to the UMC, there is a low frequency pop through the sub. That never happens in my use case though; the UMC and LSR are on a power strip and the LSR take 6 seconds to turn on. Even with a standard USB cable you'd have to power the 2.1 before turning on the PC to get this potential pop. On a separate point, when the UMC first plays sound it exits some kind of sleep mode and puts a couple quiet clicks through the speakers before playing, which is fine.
     
  22. TechLarry

    TechLarry Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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  23. King of Heroes

    King of Heroes [H]ard|Gawd

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    Its too late at this point, but I would hit up Zeos' recommendation page and watch the Youtube reviews for them:

    DESKTOP DAC + AMP COMBO'S

    EDIT:

    So, apparently, linking to a reddit page causes the forum software to display the ENTIRE PAGE directly inside the post. Is there a way to turn that off?
     
  24. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

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    I would type something like "Here is Zeos DAC recommendation page", highlight it, and then use the "link" function in the editor here to link the page. That will create a link like this to the Zeos Recommendations Reddit page without posting the page. :)
     
  25. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss n00bie

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    Oh man, Dangerous Music "Source" all the way! http://dangerousmusic.com/product/source/

    It depends how much you want to spend, really. Any medium quality USB audio interface is gonna have a better DAC than your computer, most likely.

    I am an audio engineer/mixer/musician-performer and I needed a great DAC for mixing/matering/live performing with .vst synths. I bought the Source and haven't looked back. It sounds INCREDIBLE! Better clarity and detail than my Universal Audio Apollo Gen 1 interface. I hella recommend it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017 at 3:49 AM
  26. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    The user comments had such a hyperbole that a question raises: Does source have a built in EQ curve? Users comment it sounds so much brighter that they use less EQ in their mixes.
     
  27. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss n00bie

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    Which user comments? You mean like the quotes in the sidebar of that site on the right of the page?

    I can tell you from my own experience that I do not believe it has a built in EQ curve. Ever since I first plugged it in, turned it on, and hooked it up all I thought was that I couldn't belive how much more clear, open, detailed, and overall enjoyable the Source was to listen through. I have no connection to Dangerous Music. The Source was recommended to me by Nate Wood, one of the best drummers & mastering engineers I've ever met. I bought it on his recommendation and I haven't been disappointed!

    I bought it for 2 reasons: I needed a high quality DAC to perform with when I switched all my synth stuff over to software, and also I just wasn't happy with the DAC in my Apollo silverface. The Source is indeed noticeably more open, clear, and detailed than the Apollo's DAC.

    Bright? I would not characterize it that way. I can still tell when a mix doesn't have enough brightness and adding highs is very accurately portrayed in the monitors when necessary. This week I was working on a jazz mix of this song for a great piano player in NYC. At the mastering stage we decided to add some highs. In fact I feel like I might've even gone too far, so might back off the mastering EQ his a little bit, but this is it:

    Anyway I don't get too excited about something like a monitor controller very often but in this case I really think it's worth it. The Source is a really high quality piece of gear.

    You'd probably do just fine with an Apogee Duet or whatever too. Lots of good soundcards out there.

    Cheers.
     
  28. EVIL-SCOTSMAN

    EVIL-SCOTSMAN 2[H]4U

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    I would recommend a chord mojo dac/amp

    It has usb connection, optical and coax inputs and is considered thee best usb dac out there for its price.

    Plus, you can buy an addon for it, the poly addon module.

    Ok its way more than 100 bux.

    Its $450 for the mojo on its own and about 550 for the poly module.

    Its usb powered and also battery powered, it will run on battery power and when the battery runs down you can plug it in and charge it and still use it via usb power, once the battery is fully charged it will stop charging and start charging again when the battery gets down to about 98%. The battery is supposedly tested to last 20 years.
     
  29. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    Yes, those. And yours naturally.

    In my experience this is a warning signal. If there's such a radical difference to the other gear, chances are the system is exaggerating something. Subtle changes are possible but a big difference? Usually it's related to nonlinearity in reality.

    Of course it's possible that your gear simply is better - for your sake I wish so. Nevertheless when producing linearity is not the most important thing anyway. A hi-fi listener would never want to intentionally distort the sound where producers use distortion as an essential tool to create their sounds...

    Oh and cool job with the music btw. What are you going to use if Soundcloud goes tits up like they expect?
     
  30. MIDIBoss

    MIDIBoss n00bie

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    BOOnie, I find it interesting that someone would think there is an EQ curve exaggeration just because I am honestly recommending some gear to someone. DAC quality varies a lot in studio monitoring. You lose a lot of detail and clarity when you're listening out of the soundcard of your computer or an old cheapie Mbox or whatever compared to even the UA Apollo units. The Apollo Gen 1 DAC was good, the Source is a cut above. I am sure there are even better quality monitor controllers out there but for under a grand I find the Source fits my needs perfectly and I highly recommend it.

    I am an experienced engineer and I never noticed any kind of non-linearity with this unit. That is the point of it, to get out of the way and provide a crystal clear image of the sound. Dangerous Music makes amazing equipement. That is why Universal Audio and Plugin Alliance are creating digital models of their gear like the BAX Eq.

    It is not a world-apart difference. The sonic difference between the Source and a unit like my Apollo Gen 1, for instance, is relatively subtle. But for me it is the difference in midrange clarity that I cannot live without now that I have heard it and gotten used to working with this level of clarity. Before, I was straining to hear the details.

    If you don't believe me, take Nate Wood's advice on it. He's one of the best audio engineers I've ever heard of.

    Thanks I'm glad you liked the music. That's not my Soundcloud page, I just worked on the track and played sax on it. If Soundcloud goes away, I probably won't notice or care! Bandcamp on the other hand, I hope that stays around. At least we musos can make some bits of money if people like our music on that website.
     
  31. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    Like I said, a DAC (unless it's completely broken) should vary very little from another DAC. The use of hyperbole is the key. I have learned that in audio, if something jumps at you negatively or positively, it's often caused by nonlinearity.

    Did you measure the response? That's the only way to know.

    I'm tempted to try this device out.