"Budget" Amp/DAC stack or combo?

Hi there,
I just recently started getting into the audio world, and I’m going to make a purchase of the Sennheiser HD58X pretty soon, but of course I want my headphones to sound as good as they can be. So I was wondering if anyone knew what good stacks or amp/DAC combos there are out there. I know if I were to get just an amp I would go with the Liquid Spark, but when you throw the DAC into it I’m not well-versed, so I thought I would take to the forums to gather some knowledge. Plus I think if I bought a 2 in 1 amp/DAC it would probably be cheaper than buying an amp and a dac, both standalone. I’m curious as to what the people know

A good DAC/amp combo that I like is the Topping DX3 Pro for $220. I love the clean look of a combo myself, but there’s a bit more selection with standalone products and they allow for more flexibility. For amps, you’ve got the JDS Labs Atom, Monoprice Monolith Liquid Spark, Schiit Magni 3, and Topping A30, all of which are roughly $100. For DACs, there are several good DACs in the $100 price range, including the Grace Design SDAC, JDS Labs OL DAC, Schiit Modi 3, SMSL M100, SMSL Sanskrit, Topping D10, and Topping D30. I’d lean toward the Topping D10 myself since I think it looks nice and it has a good reputation for measuring well. I’ve also found Topping products to be more reliable than SMSL in my experience.

You could also get something in the $250 range like the JDS Labs EL DAC or the upcoming Topping D50s, which is a refresh of their current D50 DAC. The D50/D50s make for a popular combination with the JDS Labs Atom since they stack quite neatly and they’re considered some of the cleanest single-ended solutions in the budget range. I believe Topping is also planning to release a matching amp for its D50/D50s though and it remains to be seen how that performs.


thanks! I noticed Z just came out with a review of the DX3 so i might have to look at that and check out all the options, hopefully he has reviews on most of them

To put it lightly, Z’s review of the DX3 Pro is not his finest work. He claims the high gain option sounds terrible, but this is contrary to the experience of myself (I use high gain all the time for my DT 1990 Pro) and plenty of people who have been commenting on that video. He states in the video that, because he received the European power adapter with his and he had to use a different one, it might have had some detrimental effect on the unit and I’m thinking he might be right about that. I don’t think he should have released the video at all without the proper power adapter.

The other misleading thing in his review is how much he freaks out about the option to switch between line out and pre out modes, which caused him to nearly blow up his powered monitors. I can see someone making this mistake once and one time only before learning their lesson and only if they have the volume on their stereo amplifier or powered monitors cranked to some stupid level. The ability to switch between pre out and line out modes is something I’ve wanted on a reasonably priced DAC/amp for ages and haven’t often encountered aside from the discontinued $1,200 Oppo HA-1, so I’m personally thrilled about it.

Sadly, there’s just not a lot of good reviews out for the DX3 Pro. I see Audio Science Review as a bit of a cult, but, as of right now, it’s probably the only source for a somewhat professional review of the DX3 Pro.

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I also have the DX3 Pro and just watched Z’s review. The quibbles were minor I think and likely only apply if you don’t plan to use the remote much (I only ever use it via the remote).

Need to do more experimenting with the low/high gain issue that Z picked up as I’ve just left mine on high gain. Nothing I have is hard to drive (including the HD58X) so I will be checking this out. Mostly I listen on Verum 1’s.

I will say also that the bluetooth connection is very good. I use a Fiio M6 and it sounds really good using bluetooth. And has been very stable. It just works.

What will be your source of music jo-mama123?

mostly my laptop, but if I ever decided to get a portable amp like the Fiio Q1 then I would use my phone
come August I will be in college again which is why I kinda need something portable but I don’t need something portable at the same time
but mostly premium Spotify on my laptop

Check out Z’s review of the Topping NX4 (no personal experience with this). Something like this could be used with the laptop now, and phone later when required. It is also available from Massdrop for $135US.

In my opinion this would get you the enjoyment you want now while you save to go up to the next level later on.

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yeah that’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t need to go all out right now, just dip my toe in
right now I’m deciding between the NX4, the Origen G2, the K3 and the Fulla 2

I would suggest looking at something that is self powered if you’re thinking of using it later with a phone, unless I’ve misunderstood the intention. Not an issue of course if it will always be desktop based.

yeah I think everything but the topping is desktop, but they also seem really good for the value since they are amp/DAC combos
portability is a toss up, I don’t really need it because I mostly listen when im doing homework, and if I wanna lay down and listen to music I can just use my iems or whatever

For a budget stack I would go for a JDS Labs Atom ($100) + Topping D10 ($90) combo. That right there would realistically be all you would ever need for a desktop headphone setup unless you get the itch to go balanced, tube or want something with more “features” down the line.

You could probably go on r/avexchange and buy used to save a bit of cash as well.


Topping MX3.?

in the video he mentions that the Atom is still a better headphone amp, and personally I don’t want to upgrade anytime soon, so I’d rather choose the best of this price bracket
granted the MX3 is an all in one, though I’m still not sure which route I should take (all in one versus a stack)

+1 on the Atom/D10. Also, an Atom and a Khadas tone board is great, but a bit more expensive and requires some diy.

Apparently, 83dB SNR… that’s bottom-of-the-line for headphone amps. So, not the best choice, especially if he wants to upgrade headphones/amps later. Topping D10 is at 106dB snr for nearly half the price.

Maybe wait for the Khadas tone board 2, which (according to comments on a recent Zeos video), will come in an aluminium case (and have balanced outputs!).

Portable DAC/AMPS:

what do you guys know about the Geshelli Archel Pro?

sidenote: I think I prefer the Liquid Spark over the atom just because of the build quality, and because apparently it’s a little warmer and built better than the atom

(Hello again, I’m the guy who also just bought HD58Xs. :stuck_out_tongue: I’ll have them in a few hours.)

HD58Xs are already “a little warmer” than neutral. You’ll be okay with clean, neutral, flat-as-it-should-be DACs. I… don’t believe non-neutral DACs are “broken” DACs… but… kinda. Lol. It’s definitely not the norm. The idea is flat AF DAC/AMPs, and a headphone collection.

that’s true, as soon as I typed that out I realized that it would be too much warmth
im also worried about the topping D10 because it doesn’t have any buttons or anything like that so I’m confused on how it’ll work.
other than that it’s between the Atom and the Archel Pro

Plug and play. It’s not a portable unit. It’s just… an external sound card, basically. It’s just a simple DAC. USB powered. You don’t need any buttons, it will power on/off with your computer. RCA out goes to the Atom/Archel, at full volume, and you control the volume with the knob on the Atom/Archel. :slight_smile:

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