All in one DAC/AMP for Headphones/Monitors/Microphone?

So I have this DAC/AMP combo with an SMSL SA-50 and an SMSL SD739-II, connected to PC with a toslink cable. I use them to power my headphones (Fidelio X2) as well as my speakers (Micca MB42X). And I have a XLR microphone (Blue Spark) which I’m connecting to my computer at the moment with a Blue Icicle.

I’ve been looking into replacing my microphone (or rather adding another one) with the Rode NT1 and I found a bundle that includes the mic, the shock mount as well as an interface, the Rode Ai-1.

So my first question is, does anyone have experience with the Ai-1? It would be pretty handy if I could get rid of my SMSL stack and the Icicle and just have the one device that powers all 3 (headphones, mic and speakers), will it be able to do that?

Secondly, I’m wondering about it’s quality. Again, anyone who has experience is welcome to chime in. Is there a better option? This bundle deal is not bad, but if it’s not at least as good as my current setup I don’t see a point in spending extra money when I could just buy the mic and shock mount for a cheaper price.

I know I could get something like a Yamaha MG10XU and have everything I could ever need, but that’s a bit too pricey at the moment and also I like small packages, mixer boards have too big of a footprint.

Thanks in advanced for any tips!

The AI-1 does the job of low noise XLR microphones interface with phantom power well and near-zero-latency, direct monitoring is possible with it, but I would not fully recommend using it as an all-in-one replacement for a headphone DAC/AMP if your goal is critical listening.

The headphone output is rated at 1% THD. While it does supply plenty of power with 210 mW at 32 ohms or 390 mW at 300 ohms, it is not designed for critical listening.

As a microphone XLR to USB with phantom power interface, I think it is an excellent way into XLR microphones. I do like mine and have had no quality problems with it, but I only use it as a microphone interface with occasional monitoring using the headphone port. If I wanted to replace the AI-1, then I would realistically be looking to spend money on something like an Audient ID-14 as my next upgrade. That is to say, I have no need or desire for an all-in-one.

But if you are on a budget and already have a DAC/AMP solution, then the Rode NT-1 kit is a compelling buy. If you needed a headphone DAC/AMP and want to do a home studio, then perhaps take a look at the Mackie Big Knob (the studio, active version).

Actually that was very helpful, thank you. I had never heard of the Audient iD series and now that I took a look, it seems like that might perhaps be the perfect solution for me. Although I’m leaning towards the iD4 because of it’s much lower price (I found it for $80) and I don’t need 2 XLR input (I can still use my Icicle as a backup if needed).

The only thing I’m unsure about is the USB and lack of Optical input. I know iD14 has optical it, but like I said, there’s huge price difference between iD4 and iD14. I was always under the impression that USB could introduce noise from the PC audio signal to the monitors since it’s an electric signal. That’s why I always preferred optical. Is this something I should even be worried about? I mean it’s an over $100 price difference, so I’m wondering if it’s a problem.

Also, I’ve never used an interface like this, how does it function on the PC end? Does the XLR input just appear as a microphone in the Windows sound settings, or is there more to it?

The USB issue shouldn’t be an issue unless you have a ground loop. Also, you wouldn’t be able to use an interface like this with optical because the computer could not receive and transmit audio at the same time with optical. The interface takes an xlr or 1/4 inch input from a mic and boosts the signal and converts it to digital. In Windows, the device will show as a speaker output and in the recording tab as an input. So, you would set your interface as a default audio device for both your microphone and your speakers in windows. This will allow windows to send audio to the headphones and use the mic attached to the interface as an input in windows

Edit: this is the simplest way to do things. You could also configure ASIO drivers and use ASIO for your audio routing, but it’s more complex and more of a hassle, and really isn’t necessary unless you are using multiple inputs and outputs at the same time with different sound devices

I’m not sure if I understand what you mean. My understanding is that the XLR and 1/4" inputs appeared on my PC as audio input (microphones) under “recording” settings in Windows as you said. But that my PC audio (going out through the Optical cable to the iD14 in this example) would pass through the iD14 to my monitors and headphones. So I would select my S/PDIF as Default Audio Device and “iD14-Input1” (or whatever its name would be) as default Recording Device… is that not how it works?

The audio would also send through USB. You would choose your interface as default audio device in both the recording tab and the speakers tab

Edit: sorry for the confusion, you wouldn’t use optical or spdif at all. All audio would go through USB. It would just be two devices that show up in Windows audio.

Oh, ok. Thanks for clarifying. So even if I got the iD14 I wouldn’t be able to use the S/PDIF for outputting the PC audio to the monitors. That makes my ecision way easier, iD4 is the way to go.

Hopefully the USB wont be a problem though. I don’t really know what ground loop means :P. I just know from when I was a kid that some audio devices tended to have interference and made a lot of very annoying noise if I cranked them up. Hopefully that wont be a problem though.

Gotta say though, I LOOOVE that the iD4 is 100% USB powered. Not having to plug an AC adapter is a gift from the heavens.

A ground loop is going to be a constant buzz or hum that is caused by electrical interface or having multiple connections to the same device on the same power (sorry that’s not a great explanation), but you shouldn’t have to worry about it

It just occured to me… Can the Audient iD4 power my Micca MB42X? I noriced it doesn’t even have separated channel outputs, just one Left and Right output, but the speakers each has a left and right input.

Yes, I think so. There should be a monitor dial that controls the volume of the 1/4 inch monitor outs

That’s incredible if true, but I still don’t understand how. Does USB 2.0 really supply that much power that it can power an XLR microphone, stereo speakers, 2 headphones and whatever else is plugged into the D.I. slot? And all with latency free transfering of audio in both directions?

Also, I still don’t get how to connect to the speakers. the iD4 only has a single pair of left and right outputs. Not even sure what size, is it 6.5mm? Is there a cable that splits from 6.5mm to left and right into the speakers?

Yes, it should be able to just fine because it’s only outputting a volume controlled line level signal, the mic preamps and adc don’t take that much power, and it’s not a super powerful headphone amp. USB 2.0 can put out around 2.5 watts, which is enough to power all of this.

The outputs are in 6.3mm connectors. You could buy an adapter like this to use them with RCA’s and hook it up to an amp or powered monitors:

I’m so sorry I misread no they cannot. It can provide a signal from the dac to go to powered monitors or an amp

Digital to Analog Converter specs for output 1 and 2 should be line level output that should go to an amp.