Small desktop amp recommendation / set up sense check!

WiseNormsk

Novice Member
Hi all

Wondering if I can get some advice on the following…

I’m setting up a speaker/headphone set up for my office / ‘den’ (girlfriends name for it!).

My aim to be able to seamlessly switch between headphones and speakers.

I’m going to be using speakers I currently own with a view to upgrading at some point if I get tempted.

I’m also going to be buying some proper headphones (currently using Beoplay H5s which got decent reviews for a ‘fashion’ headphone but are certainly not the best)

Plan
PC / work laptop -> USB switching hub -> Topping E30 DAC -> Topping L30 headphone amp -> pre-outs -> [SPEAKER AMP] -> passive speakers + subwoofer.

Need
a small-ish speaker amp to initially run Jamo c91/c93s with headroom to use some more demanding speakers later.

I’ve seen things like Aiyama A07 but it sounds a bit dodgy in terms of power supplies - don’t want something that might burn the house down! And topping PA3s just not sure if it has the power I’d want.

I also have a REL t-Zero sub which can use high level connection. But not sure if this is a good idea or not…? If not, then the amp would ideally have a sub input.

The amp doesn’t need any volume control or DAC etc as that should be taking care of by the headphone amp and DAC.

My reasoning for this set up is that I like the idea of mounting the headphone amp under my desk for easy access to the volume control and also means no cables trialling on desktop. I had looked at NAD3045 but it looks too chunky to put under desk.

Any thoughts on this much appreciated!
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Budget?

You can get amps with small footprints as long as it has pre-in abilities. The other alternative is an amp with a built in DAC and use that amp's record out circuit to the headphone amp. Some thing like the Rega Brio would have a small footprint so the connection would be PC>USB>DAC>Brio>headphone amp.

If you haven't bought the Topping headphone amp then the Brio has it's own headphone jack. Cyrus amps also have small footprints and headphone jacks.

I've not listened to the Brio's headphone jack but as an amp it's a class act. I own a Rega Elicit-R. In my experience though the headphone section of most amps are not as good as a standalone headphone amp. Connection of a headphone amp is pretty simple and it will be easier for you to go from the stereo amp to the headphone amp via the record out option. That's how I have my system set up.
 

WiseNormsk

Novice Member
Budget?

You can get amps with small footprints as long as it has pre-in abilities. The other alternative is an amp with a built in DAC and use that amp's record out circuit to the headphone amp. Some thing like the Rega Brio would have a small footprint so the connection would be PC>USB>DAC>Brio>headphone amp.

If you haven't bought the Topping headphone amp then the Brio has it's own headphone jack. Cyrus amps also have small footprints and headphone jacks.

I've not listened to the Brio's headphone jack but as an amp it's a class act. I own a Rega Elicit-R. In my experience though the headphone section of most amps are not as good as a standalone headphone amp. Connection of a headphone amp is pretty simple and it will be easier for you to go from the stereo amp to the headphone amp via the record out option. That's how I have my system set up.
Cheers Gibbsy that’s really interesting.
Re: budget - pretty broad. I’m not going whole hog but if something has headroom to drive future speakers then I’m ok with say 500 for the amp (I’ll use speakers more than headphones). It would be a bit lopsided in terms of component value for a while but hey!

The Topping headphone amp was only about £100 so yeah I’ll hang on to that - I’ve heard similar about headphone outs on speaker amps. Sounds like dedicated is way to go.

My only reservation with going speaker amp then out to headphone amp is having the volume on the headphone amp next to me being the control , but I’ll look into the other path and see if brio/similar could also sit under the desk.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Brio comes with a remote, as do most amps nowadays so as long as you have line of sight volume control will be easy. I use my headphone amp a lot yet none seem to come with remote control so like yourself I sit within an arms reach of the headphone amp in my headphone only system.

Most amps within your budget will be full size, certainly in width. Important with what you pick that you audition, at home preferably.
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
Did you consider active speakers?

Topping dx3 pro+, and Mackie MR524 would be my choice. Much neater, and just add better speakers when/if needed in the future.
 
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WiseNormsk

Novice Member
Brio comes with a remote, as do most amps nowadays so as long as you have line of sight volume control will be easy. I use my headphone amp a lot yet none seem to come with remote control so like yourself I sit within an arms reach of the headphone amp in my headphone only system.

Most amps within your budget will be full size, certainly in width. Important with what you pick that you audition, at home preferably.
So I just managed to get blue sound powernode 2i for an absolutely ridiculous price.

It has no pre-out, so I think I’d still need to go DAC -> headphone amp -> rca to 3.5m adapter -> bluesound. The bluesound has a fixed volume option which will set to max volume and then I assume headphone volume will control it but we will see.

Only wonder is whether Im missing out on the blue sounds dac - Any idea what’s the better DAC between powernode and topping e30?!

Or I just set them up separately from PC and switch via windows. I’m sure id survive…
 

gibbsy

Moderator
So I just managed to get blue sound powernode 2i for an absolutely ridiculous price.

It has no pre-out, so I think I’d still need to go DAC -> headphone amp -> rca to 3.5m adapter -> bluesound. The bluesound has a fixed volume option which will set to max volume and then I assume headphone volume will control it but we will see.

Only wonder is whether Im missing out on the blue sounds dac - Any idea what’s the better DAC between powernode and topping e30?!

Or I just set them up separately from PC and switch via windows. I’m sure id survive…
I know nothing about the Blue Sound, hopefully someone will come along and help you out with the ideal connection. With no outputs the 2i is going to be the end connection. So many good DACs out there now it's not going to be difficult to find one that suits your pocket and connections. Your connection theory is sound (pardon the pun).

I've never used a standalone DAC, or need one, to be honest so something I've not delved into. My set up is simple with SACD player to a stereo amp in the main system and another SACD player to a headphone amp in another. I love my little silver disc. Many have tried, and failed, to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
 

password1

Distinguished Member
For an even simpler and tidier setup, have you considered not having a separate amp and look at powered speakers with built in Dac and headphone out. eg audioengine
 

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