What cheaper options are there? I have started using Tidal + Roon and many songs in Tidal are MQA. So I have decided to try out what the fuss is all about. Current DACs I have : SMSL SU8 - bit too analytical and fatiguing for me, Audio GD-11 R2R - smoother, but SMSL has more detail, Modi 2 - good small thing to use in LAN partys etc, sounds decent for what it is.
MQA - SMSL M500 came to mind right away for me. So it can also be a DAC/AMP combo, but headphone selection is not a must have by any means.
There is only a Topping, but thats like 800. So bit of a stretch, but is it worth it?
In the red (4/4th) compared to all the hi-fi/endgame stuff ASR measures. It’s still 90-ish dB SINAD. At 90dB, my ears hurt. For the price and features, it’s impressive. For someone thinking about a SMSL M500, probably not.
The Pre-box S2 is apparently a decent, hi-end dac. Available on eBay for cheaper than the M500. Probably better than the M500 too. SMSL/Topping seem to be running after SINAD numbers instead of sound quality.
I love my ifi Zen dac. It has a nice tuning for me. It is also balanced. It really is impressive for the price. It has a 4.4mm balanced pre-out on the back, so you can use it for balanced amplifiers as well.
There’s upgrade potential too, with iFi making an outboard mains power supply called the iPower X (£99/$99), which definitely improves the sound in all areas, but also moves the DAC into desktop-only scenario and a higher price segment.
I have that dac,and for its size and performance its like a thx level device…you just need a better amp i you wanna drive something then hd 600s…but you can buy a project headbox s2,for like 120.ish dollars,and drive almost everything,and you have a small 500 dollars combo that is briliant and has everything possible…or just buy the thx monoprice dac amp for 500.
Honestly i wouldnt pay $500 to see what the fuss is all about with MQA. In my experience mqa is only beneficial to hip hop/rap/pop and maybe vocals on other genre. You should go with a zen dac or the portable ifi hip dac. And not pay more than $150. those dac amps are very good for the price. You seem to already have decent dacs. What headphones do you use? Having used tidals mqa I didnt think it was really worth it. Just made vocals stand out a tiny bit more but made everything else more airy. Maybe helped the bass a little too.