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 :)
freb03
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 (headphone.com) 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.
http://centrance.com/products/dacport/
If you can, look for a used DACmini as it's really fine sounding.

All the best,
Nonoise
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.