I need a portable iem dac and amp combo that is under 200 dollars. I want it to be as neutral as possible.
Qudelix 5k is the one I use and it’s great. I also see the Fiio BTR5 often recommended.
Topping NX4 DSD is also considered neutral.
Another thing I also would like a recommendation under 100 dollars.
As @Eric_Rosenfield mentioned the Qudelix 5k and Fiio BTR5 are probably the top two neutral picks in the range.
They both just rolled out new revisions, due to change in the DAC chips. The Qudelix 5k has support for headsets, while the BTR5 doesn’t ( the jack doesn’t have TRRS, but the unit has a mic ).
I own the BTR5 and use it for work. I am a work at home software engineer, and wanted the simultaneous connection to my phone and work PC. The Qudelix 5k apparently also has this feature, but I didn’t know the brand that when I bought.
The newer version of the BTR5 has added MQA ( only over USB ) and about $20, so if I were buying today, the Qudelix 5k is the better of the two, unless you think you would get some use out the MQA stuff.
The desktop one in that range that everyone raves about is the ZenDac v2 . It is up to $189, but has good power. The only beef is the limited input, it only takes input from USB, there should be RCA in.
Schiit is also very popular in the entry level gear right now. So for a solid state setup that would be a Modi DAC, and a Magni Amp. My biggest beef with these is that at $200, I really should have balanced output, and they don’t do that. Their $200 amp has balanced over the 4-Pin XLR, so then you get stuck buying an interconnect or some other expensive cable. aka - That schiit is annoying, or we all should own a set of Hart Audio cables.
So the Qudelix 5k is just over your $100, typically about $110, and worth it for the Bluetooth features, and balanced output.
The FiiO E10K is a standard starter amp and usually around $75. The next step up from FiiO is the K3 at $110, and also has balanced.
Then you sort of have to sift through the bargain bin. I hear good things about the Syba Sonic 24bit for about $45. I have also watched some posative reviews on the $30 Neoteck 3.5mm headphone amp, but don’t know about that style of amp, since it amplifies signal that should be strong enough to listen to.
There are also a whole weird pile of cheap tube amps that might fall in here, but I am just starting to look into that rabbit hole.