DAC for multiple situations

GinjaGTS

Novice Member
Amazon music HD has revived my interest in music, but the uplift in quality has created many questions. I can easily hear the difference between sources and outputs, e.g. through my amp vs through headphones, or even through my car. I greatly enjoy hearing the quality of the music, and while I wouldn't say I could hear the difference between HD and Ultra HD I can definitely hear the difference between something recorded differently. I find with HD I can enjoy acoustic music, as well as rap music, rock/heavy metal, and dance/electronica, whereas before I had become very focused (on rock and electronica). Aside from the acoustic stuff where its nice to hear strings being plucked and the timbre of a voice, I tend to enjoy 'exciting' music, something that's easy to get lost in.

I want to know how to get the most out of this though, to hear the intricacies and feel the depth. I have a 'good enough' hifi setup and use my mac book to play Amazon. I believe (but don't know) that a quality DAC would improve this sound? (My hifi is a Musical Fidelity A3.2 amp, with B&W 603 floorstanders - probably at least 15 years old, but they sound great to my ears - lots of controlled bass).

More importantly because I have a family, a relatively small house and a wife who likes TV completely at odds with my taste I really want to improve my personal music environment, e.g. my headphones. Here I currently have Bose QC35's (primarily bought for business travel and commuting), either an iphone or a Samsung S8 phone or my mac book (macbook appears to be the best source, with the Samsung worst). I'm a bit of a tart and like buying the occasional really nice thing, I find buying the best to start means no constant upgrade cycles and a great deal of enjoyment from the ownership. To cut a long story short, I really like the look of the Focal Stellia, but obviously baulk at the cost and that it seems fairly obvious driving them from my current environment would be idiotic. Assuming a DAC is my missing link would a s/h Chord Hugo give me a workable environment? Are the Stellia THAT much better than other, cheaper, choices? (I like the styling a great deal as well, black or silver or white is just so dull...). Closed back headphones are must given how I want to use them.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
You can get a DAC/Headphone amp combination and there are some serious contenders in that category. Cheaper option maybe a standalone version of each. It's an amp that brings a lot to the table with headphones. Again there are plenty of good closed back headphones available if you want wired. I use Shure 1540s when the wife is watching that dancing programme on a Saturday night.

The Hugo is a very good option but could you live with those looks. There are some excellent options from Lehmann, Simaudio and Naim all for around £1500.


 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
Amazon music HD has revived my interest in music, but the uplift in quality has created many questions. I can easily hear the difference between sources and outputs, e.g. through my amp vs through headphones, or even through my car. I greatly enjoy hearing the quality of the music, and while I wouldn't say I could hear the difference between HD and Ultra HD I can definitely hear the difference between something recorded differently. I find with HD I can enjoy acoustic music, as well as rap music, rock/heavy metal, and dance/electronica, whereas before I had become very focused (on rock and electronica). Aside from the acoustic stuff where its nice to hear strings being plucked and the timbre of a voice, I tend to enjoy 'exciting' music, something that's easy to get lost in.

I want to know how to get the most out of this though, to hear the intricacies and feel the depth. I have a 'good enough' hifi setup and use my mac book to play Amazon. I believe (but don't know) that a quality DAC would improve this sound? (My hifi is a Musical Fidelity A3.2 amp, with B&W 603 floorstanders - probably at least 15 years old, but they sound great to my ears - lots of controlled bass).

More importantly because I have a family, a relatively small house and a wife who likes TV completely at odds with my taste I really want to improve my personal music environment, e.g. my headphones. Here I currently have Bose QC35's (primarily bought for business travel and commuting), either an iphone or a Samsung S8 phone or my mac book (macbook appears to be the best source, with the Samsung worst). I'm a bit of a tart and like buying the occasional really nice thing, I find buying the best to start means no constant upgrade cycles and a great deal of enjoyment from the ownership. To cut a long story short, I really like the look of the Focal Stellia, but obviously baulk at the cost and that it seems fairly obvious driving them from my current environment would be idiotic. Assuming a DAC is my missing link would a s/h Chord Hugo give me a workable environment? Are the Stellia THAT much better than other, cheaper, choices? (I like the styling a great deal as well, black or silver or white is just so dull...). Closed back headphones are must given how I want to use them.
It does depend on whether you demand speakers or headphones. Both are different experiences. Any of the good headphones can benefit from the attention of any of external DACs . At present I am writing this with my Sony MDR1A headphones being driven from the Cyrus Soundkey DAC, and playing files stored on my Samsung S7 ,using a program called USB audio player PRO, and a collection of FLAC tracks on a memory card in that phone. The overall effect is stunning. I am hearing detail I cannot get with other combinations. I had the privilege last week of listening with even better phones Audeze 3 .,..at 5 times the price ,better almost certainly ,but not by much. .I would rank the MDR1 as better than the Sony 1000X M3 noise cancelling ones , generally viewed as a Bose QC35 competitor.
If you use these USB DACs the the quality of the iPhone or Samsung is bypassed . I would expect that the Chord Hugo will be better than the Cyrus...at least measurements would support that viewpoint
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
You can get a DAC/Headphone amp combination and there are some serious contenders in that category. Cheaper option maybe a standalone version of each. It's an amp that brings a lot to the table with headphones. Again there are plenty of good closed back headphones available if you want wired. I use Shure 1540s when the wife is watching that dancing programme on a Saturday night.

The Hugo is a very good option but could you live with those looks. There are some excellent options from Lehmann, Simaudio and Naim all for around £1500.


God help you!. I find leaving the room necessary for those two hours and the afters on Sunday. Were I to stay, I might trottle Bruno.
 

GinjaGTS

Novice Member
Thanks for the replies. I did imagine there would be a case of diminishing returns as you rise up the scale - hence the rather grandiose packaging of the more extravagant versions I suppose - to look to justify the cost. I suppose music is a rather personal affair where trying things is the best way to gain insight.

And that program. Ugh...
 
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