Recomendation on a small DAC & Headphone amp for office desk

Well I can’t listen to my Directstream / PrimaLuna with my Focal Clear headphones anymore… too far away. So I need a DAC/Headphone amp at my desk.

What do you recommend?

Use case:

  • Sub $500 total for DAC/amp
  • USB to computer
  • Plays all (most?) formats (I will be using foobar and playing my library… been buying some HI Res and DSD)… if I had to give up a format, I would give up DSD as 98% of everything I own is PCM.
  • Audiophile sound… yea, no cht… but you know what I mean… most inexpensive stuff sounds dead to me… good equipment has that… um… well you know.
  • I just need a volume control and unbalanced out… will not power a system, no other interfaces needed in or out.
  • Used stuff is fine
  • NO Bluetooth or any other gimmicks
  • No other inputs needed, no preamp capabilities

I am looking at the usual suspect iFi Zen DAC V2 (not with their amp), maybe a Schiit… I dunno? I hate this mail order-only crap… dang I want to plug in and try ’em out!!!

BTW, I posted this same question over at PS Audio... I love their Directstream DAC and frequent their forums.

Bruce in Philly


foobar means Windows. I rec the Schiit Modi Multibit. It plays whatever foobar dishes out.

It’s one push to cycle through USB, Toslink and coax.

Windows programs seemCurrently to find the output at random. Much faster than Sound<>Playback

And can choose the best one on foobar if they sound different.  Currently fiber from the sound card is worst for me.

I just run it into a Vali 2 with a 6FQ7 in it.

This two stack takes up little real estate.

That leaves you $100 for a DH Labs or ViaBlue USB cable.

Ok, just a bit of warning… I did this. From what you said… well sounds like me. You can see where I ended up (click on my user ID to see my headphone system).


It starts this way… then, well it doesn’t have the bass… or the detail.. you have excellent headphones, to get what you want out of them, it is going to require a great tube head amp… think Woo…WA6 or least. A good DAC… and, well PCs are not good at streaming. But you can probably get by with it. Power conditioning, interconnects.


Watch out… for me… well it cost a lot.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M.  $499

Everything you asked for and a couple of things you didn't want.

Excellent reviews. 

Mine comes tomorrow :-)

Thanx all, I just purchased a Woo Audio Fireflies 2nd Gen for $899. Why? Tubes. The on-line reviews were mixed but most appeared to be written by children. Oh well, now to wait... tears or cheers? Peace Bruce in Philly

I have been using a Woo Audio Fireflies amp for a few years.  Great product. I did not get the separate power supply because to me, it sounded great and the extra power supply doubled the cost.

Thanx for the update... nice to hear someone likes this product especially after you click "buy". I did not get the upgraded power supply either. In my experience, a better supply can really help the music, but at these cheaper (?!) prices, I found it makes little difference as there are other areas better suited for upgrades. IMO of course. Peace Bruce in Philly

While I have not heard the fireflies… my experiences with Woo has been terrific… they are so good at what they do, and tubes by them gets you real natural sound as well as detail and bass. I really think you are going to really like it, and long term be ready to move up their product lines… each step is amazing.