Budget DAC and/or AMP for Work/WFH

Hello from Australia!

I have been lurking through the forums for a bit and there is so much to get through it’s causing my brain to explode.

This is basically driven by me wanting something for work which I could also take home and use in my study if I wanted.

Work requirements:

  • I have a Dell Win10 laptop which connects back to a dock.
  • DAC and/or AMP for headphones. Headphones are Koss KPH30i (has a mic which i use for meetings) and DT 990 250ohm (for just listening). Looking to get something close backed for better isolation at work.
  • Easy to grab volume knob. I currently use my Oppo HA-2 on the desk at work and it’s annoying to have to pick it up to adjust the volume. I sit it awkwardly on the dock to get access to the knob.
  • Optional - Additional input from Android phone either as headphone or USB
  • Not sure - something with a mic input… have thought about getting an antlion mic

Home requirements:

  • Using the same work DAC and/or AMP I would want to connect these to monitors (powered or not). I have not determined which monitors I want.
  • External sub not a requirement (but perhaps could be accommodated with an external DSP unit).
  • I would like to be able to use the outputs one of three ways:
  1. Plug in headphones, and output automatically switches to them; or
  2. Leave speakers and headphones in all the time and switch to them via a switch; or
  3. Leave speakers and headphones in all the time and they both have independent volume knobs - the wife as a UR44 audio interface which does this)

General requirements:

  • USB connection to Laptop/Dock
  • Balanced outputs not a requirement
  • Digital input coax or fibre not required
  • Headphone High and Low gain - Or so long as it has enough power to just handle anything.
  • Capable of playing High Def formats like DSD256 as per HA2
  • Capable of playing “clearly and cleanly” at low volumes through speakers. By this I mean that everything seems almost linear as you turn the volume down. More important at home when you just want something quiet. I realise that this is also dependent on the speakers themselves so this might be a bit hard to say.

By budget, I mean lets aim for say $800AUD for DAC/AMP components not including cables, adaptors or shipping. And for comparison sakes a JDS labs atom on the JDS website is $99USD, and it’s $240AUD from an Australian vendor. I could probably just buy it online, but in these COVID times, I prefer to give my money to a local reseller.

Thanks in advance.

PS. it has occurred to me just then, that for work… (not including the mic requirement) I could probably get away with getting a micca origen g2 or origen+ hmmm…

Please from someone that has been getting on calls with people with mics like the koss, get a better mic.

Total setup that I like personally is a pc37x with a Schiit Fulla 3. The Schit Hel or Arc Mayflower can do a lot on your budget. As far as overall, nearly any headphones with a Antlion Mod Mic 5 USB can be paired with nearly any/DAC combo.

For prospective, a mod mic usb on my LCD X or Abyss Diana Phi works great with my Bifrost 2 as my DAC and a few amps I swap based on mood. The fulla 3 gets used still as a microphone input for my Audeze Mic cable on my ZMF Eikons.

look at a combo unit like the Fiio K5 Pro or the iFi Zen DAC…which will be confusing, as there are a couple things called Zen now, but the first product from 2019 was a DAC / Amp combo unit like the K5 Pro. they have since introduced a stand alone DAC and Amp, both under the Zen brand :stuck_out_tongue:

If you want to keep thing at home, you could look at a Burson. (https://www.bursonaudio.com/shop/) Their things are pretty expensive, but they do have a mic input and are well regarded in the community. They are on my radar for future upgrades.

That being said, I think the given options given: Fulla, K5 pro, Zen dac are solid options. On the top end of your budget maybe a JDS Element II, I love the looks of it, mine should arrive on a few weeks.

Thanks for the responses. I’ll take a look at them and come back with any questions :slight_smile:

Hello everyone! I am new here and have been reading a lot through the forums. I hope there is no harm done in hi-jacking this post as I am also looking for a DAC/AMP combo that fulfills the below requirements.

I have been looking a lot at the Zen DAC / K5 PRO and both are lacking this feature. The device will not auto-mute speakers when you plug the headphones nor there is a switch button between outputs.

The only one I was able to find was the Element 2 but it is rather outside my budget unfortunately.

Are there any other options?

Many thanks!

Schiit Fulla 3 or Hel.

JDS Labs Atom Dac & Amp