If there are people who are just starting out in Hi FI audio, what DACs would you recommend to them?

I will be honest, I never have owned a DAC before and I can say to myself that I am still fairly new to Hi Fi audio in general. In your opinion, what is a good DAC that is good to own as a starting point? also the DAC should be at least in a budget friendly level as well. I just want to know your thoughts and of course would like to learn more about them in general.

Do you also have an amp?

If you wanted a killer combo, the topping d10 dac and jds labs atom amp is around 200 USD and really can’t be beat for the price.

The fiio k5 pro is around 150 and is an all in one unit that’s also great

If you wanted something portable, the fiio q1 mk2 is around 100 USD and can be used on the go or on a desk

Of course there are higher options out there, but these are more then just a good starting point, and honestly could be all you need

well I have yet to get an AMP as well, so I am still trying to get into things that I have yet to have some familiarity with.

You do need an amp first and foremost to actually get sound into your headphones. Typically an amp will make the larger difference in sound quality then a dac, but getting a nice dac is also worthwhile. Honestly if you want a separate dac, the topping d10 (~$80) usd is as good of a dac as you will pretty much need until you step into the above 500 usd range of gear.

well if you have a recommendation on AMPs, which one should I get first? I am thinking about getting some amps from Fiio since I heard some good things about them.

The k5 pro is an amp and dac desktop combo, so it would have everything you would need for around 150 usd. Very powerful for the price and a great unit overall

yeah that one, I was considering that but I might need to save up as always being broke is hard after all. I also heard the Focusrite Scarlett is somewhat kind of decent even though is more like a USB Audio interface than a DAC/AMP.

The focusrite scarlett is an audio interface mainly designed for taking inputs like microphones or instruments and converting them so you can record them in the operating system. While this does have a headphone out, it isn’t the main priority of the device, and isn’t that great compared to other dedicated headphone amps. If you need an audio interface for recording audio from xlr microphones or instruments, then it is a worthwhile buy, but if you only plan on using it for headphones it is not the best choice

yeah probably, those can wait for now I need to slowly but surely get things I want for my personal audio after all.

Yeah, the headphones, iems, speakers, etc. are the most important, so getting those right is more important then getting a dedicated dac and amp, especially for someone on a budget

yeah, so for now I will start with the portable amps since I am going to need if I am going to like listen on the go and as well at home.

If you’re trying to “bare bones” it, you should consider just using a phone/tablet/computer’s internal dac. If you already have headphones you may be able to do this. If you’re also buying cans, then money is best spent there first. I can drive most headphones -even high impedance ones- off my phone quite satisfactorily.

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Personally speaking an external dac is indispensable if fidelity is something you care about. While I don’t have much experience with budget friendly dacs, I have heard the khadas toneboard recommended.

I don’t think it’s really indispensable to be honest. Especially not on a budget. Most cheap dacs these days are more then good enough. I would understand if we were in the 80-90s, but really most current dacs, high or low end, do the job pretty well

I agree that most cheap dacs will do the job, and amp dac combos are fine. However, onboard audio/integrated dacs are prone to noise from other parts of the system, getting something external, even if just a toneboard offers a marked improvement.

Yup. Sorry then just misunderstood what you were trying to say. I pretty much agree. Although if you are really strapped for cash, using your phone or pc line out to an amp can be just fine for the time being until you can get a cheaper external dac

I can give you my opinion on quite a few of the recommended options.

I am going to keep it simple.

Overall Sound Experience:
A-T.D50s = Fiio K5 Pro >= A-KTB > DX3 Pro = A-T.D10

Note: A is for Atom (Amp)
KTB - Khadas Tone Board

My conclusion is that we have a capable DAC in the D50s, DX3 Pro, and Fiio K5. DAC alone, I can’t tell a difference. I don’t like the ESS Hump in the Khadas, but other than that they are so close, I would be happy with them. I can tell that the D10 is inferior.

The AMP is where things get real. I can not tell the difference between the Atom and the K5 Pro. I honestly thought I must be wrong, there has to be a difference. Days later Zeo basically said the same thing. IEM’s, Planars, or even the budget friendly Philips X2. They both sound clean. The DX3 Pro amp is simply not as good as the Atom or K5 Pro. It is noticeable to my ears. It’s still good; however I would avoid the DX3 Pro for low impedance head phones now that we have better options.

The DX3 Pro does have features such as Bluetooth the K5 Pro does not. If you do not need the features, even at the same price, I would recommend the K5 Pro.

After testing all of them, I ended up with the Fiio K5 Pro and the Hifiman Sundara as my daily driver.

Note: I want to remind everyone that Toppings did a stealthy revision to DX3 Pro which made a lower quality product. The amp now does 10 vs the 1. Since this is the only version people can get (not the one Amir rated) this is the version I tested.

Note 2: The DX3 Pro has some serious quality control issues. Even the new version.

PS: I also have a Senheiser GSX1000. This was my gateway drug, and I will never use it again.

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Yeah you can honestly get something like a topping d10 and liquid spark or jds atom, or the fiio k5 pro and be pretty much set.

What made you feel that the d10 was inferior to the d50 (besides features)?

The D10 had jitter I did not hear from the others. It is close. It’s an excellent product for a budget DAC. It’s just if your going to puchase an AMP and a DAC, I couldn’t recommend it over a Fiio K5 Pro which is less expensive.

Were your drivers correctly installed? And was it consistent with the programs used or day to day use? I have heard bad jitter on the d10, but a pretty bad pc only, otherwise the jitter wasn’t really an issue.

An alternative that I also thought was great for the price was the SMSL M100