Starter Dac for Headphones...

i've done a bit of research on the net but since there looks to be a lot of market i'm a bit overwhelmed on the different opinions/needs,etc...
In your opinion, what are the best features that i need to look about dac for headphones? usb-powered is good enough? Digital/analog volume control makes a big difference?
I don't need a portable one, i mostly listen to my music on my computer and i found "portable" dac a bit ridiculous lolll. Anyway, which one would consider in my case if i have a budget at around 400, 500 max? Would you suggest me to try them out first, because i don't know if the type of music would change the choices i have... (i listen to trance music, house, trip-hop, downtempo, jazz, etc)
I thank you in advance for your advices it means a lot :)
Hmm. Well what kind of headphones do you have or are planning to use with the DAC? That can help a lot with trying to figure out the proper DAC/Amp in your budget.

USB power can be good enough if your headphones are easy to drive. I experienced this with a USB powered NuForce UDAC-2 and a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones and BeyerDynamic DT-48 80 Ohm version.

I think analog or volume controls can be preference. For me I'm not a fan of a stepped volume control. The volume I like is often found between the steps. I do like adjusting volume via a knob though. Again it is just preference.

At $400 to $500 there are lots of choices for you for a DAC either new or used.

I cant really give you a lot of advice pertaining to this subject. What I can tell you is that I recently purchased a DAC/HEADPHONE AMP. I use it to play music from my laptop thru my home stereo using the usb, I use it to bypass the older dac in my 5 disk Sony es changer thru the toslink optical,I use it to bypass the dac in my single disk Emotiva ERC 1 thru the coaxle,and I use it to power my AKG Q701 headphones.This little device is called the Topping D2 $160 thru Amazon.they can also be found on ebay, but I would go thru amazon, just in case you decided to return it. I'm keeping mine....:).....good luck
Audioquest dragonfly is best value on the market today up t your budget and past. Check the reviews on Stereophile.
HeadRoom ( has their own line of headphone amps and DAC's. One of their entry level units would probably work very well for you. You definately can get something very good for a lot less than $400-$500.
sorry for the late answer i'm in my final term exams now XD
I would use beats pro, i know they're not the best and they are overated because of big publicity but i had them for 200$ instead of 450$ so i tought it was still a very good deal. i'm checking the akg (q701 as yours) right know since i really like deep bass...
i'm with jedinite24 for the volume control, it's like that for me too XD
@Zd542 i'll that site very soon!!
I'll give updates :)
Check out the Centrance line of in-line headpone/DAC amps.
If you can, look for a used DACmini as it's really fine sounding.

All the best,
I came on here to post Centrance, as well. They are really good.

Another good option would be to get a Schiit stack. They just introduced a $99 DAC (Modi) and a $99 headphone amp (Magni) - both made in the USA. The Modi is an asynchronous USB DAC. With a $500 budget, you could upgrade either the DAC (Bifrost USB $449) or the HPA (Asgard $249 Class A or Valhalla $349 single ended tube) and do really well.
Thanks Mateored for the info on the Schiit Modi DAC.

To Freb03

My brother-in-law has the Beats Pro headphones and when powered by his Iphone it hurt my ears. If you are going to stick with those headphones try the NuForce UDac-2. When I tried the Beats Pro with it the music was not fatiguing.

If you are going to the AKG Q701s I would say try the Schiit Valhalla headphone amp. I have the previous generation AKG K-701 headphones and with the Schiit Valhalla to me it was a good pairing. Just enough bass and very sweet mids and highs.

Last DAC/headphone amp I enjoy is a Grant Fidelity DAC-09 with a upgraded Western Electric tube. This unit did great with all sorts of headphones. Sennheiser, BeyerDyanamic etc. The DAC-11 is out now from Grant Fidelity should be considered.

Good luck with the finals and the DAC/headphone amp search. There is lots of options with your budget.
I directed questions to the one that told me something but you can reply too :)

To Nonoise

If i find a used DACmini of Centrance i'll jump on it :p
But for the in-line dac i guess i'll need an amp? Do you know if this will be good with the Valhalla amp from Schiit? I heard that tube amp are really good (for warmness sound ;) )
How do you compare the inline DAC from Centrance to the one from Schiit?

To Mateored

I take note about a schiit stack :)

To Jedinite24

The problem is that it's hard to know the difference between the AKG Q701 and the Beats pro because in the end, i will have a different dac... so it change all the frequency balance. And i'm not sure if there's a store that woud let me try all the options :(
I use the Audioengine D1 USB DAC/headphone amp to listen to music on my computer. It sounds very good and it's not expensive. A nice item for the budding a'phile.
Freb03- email me msklein52atcomcastdotnet.