Need DAC help and recommendations

I am pretty new to the audio world and started off with just a receiver and speakers to listen to my record player. I mostly listen to vinyl but have been looking into getting a DAC to listen to Spotify. My setup is currently:

(Rega p3 w/ schiit mani) or (old iPad via aux) > Jds labs Ol Switcher > (thx 789) or (denon x2500h > infinity r162 & svs sb12-nsd)

I feel like there is a better way to do my setup but that’s what I ended up with. I was looking into getting an iFi iDSD nano BL to use headphones on the go as well. Where do I start? Is it worth spending a lot on a dac just for spotify? Would getting a dedicated dac cause issues when running through my receiver to my speakers? Any recommendations and advice would be helpful!

What’s the role of the switcher? It seems the Denon should have sufficient inputs for a turntable and a DAC. I’m not sure you need a DAC though…

What is your source? In other words, what device will be playing Spotify? You mention an iPad. Is that what you’re streaming from? Do you use a laptop? With that Denon receiver, an external dac is not necessary. If you have a laptop with HDMI out you can connect that to one of the Denon’s HDMI inputs and you’ll be good to go. Some Denon’s offer iPad streaming via their front panel USB input. You can check that out. Honestly I would start with these options.

No, you don’t need an expensive dac for Spotify (or any streaming service) and no, an external dac will not harm your system. It’s just not necessary for you to have one based on the above. But, if the USB iPad thing doesn’t work and you don’t have a laptop, you can plug any budget dac into one of the Denon’s analog inputs. For your 789 headphone amp you could still use the Denon’s internal dac and run its Zone 2 preouts into the 789’s inputs, using the Denon’s internal dac as well.

If you choose to use an external dac, set the Denon to “Pure” or “Direct” stereo mode. This bypasses the internal analog to digital conversion. If you don’t bypass it, the Denon will digitize everything for processing then send it through its internal dac anyway, you’ll gain nothing but being able to connect your streaming source via analog.

Last thought… You could get something like a Fiio K3 or Topping D10 that can convert a USB signal to optical or coaxial digital. I do this on my Denon from 2012 to stream from a Surface Pro.

That’s a lot to digest. Feel free to ask questions.


I noticed a big dip in power when I tested it with the preouts to the 789. I had to turn up the volume a lot on my receiver or use max gain on the 789. I was also losing a lot of bass response for some reason. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong, but the switcher was mainly to avoid having to wire through the denon to the 789.

Yeah my source will most likely be the iPad. I didn’t even realize I could hook it up through the USB on the front panel! But the whole zone 2 preout thing is still an issue.

Will this make my audio quality better over using the Denon internal dac?

Thanks for the response!

Ok, that helps. You may have to max out the Denon’s volume to get a full line-level signal the THX amp needs from the Zone 2 out. That can be a pain.

To make sure I understand, you have desired 3 functions:

  1. Spotify/streaming through Denon with Infinity speakers

  2. Spotify/streaming through 789 head amp

  3. an OTG dac/amp

Denon has been one of the more forward-thinking receiver makers for awhile. Your receiver may have a built-in Spotify app, it might do Bluetooth, and it probably will do streaming from your iPad via USB. That last one is probably the most user friendly solution to #1. So moving forward let’s focus on 2 and 3. What headphone(s) are you using?

Yup that would be my goals! I am using Focal Clears and have Aeon 2 closed on their way to test. I wanted a portable closed back to travel with, so that’s why I was considering something like the iFi iDSD nano BL.

OK, the nano BL is a solid option for you, then. You are going to need a DAC to feed your 789. A self-powered unit is your best bet if you’re running it off an iPad. Some DACs are USB powered only, and that will drain you iPad battery quickly. The nano BL has its own battery. It’s also ‘nominally’ portable. You can take it OTG but you may eventually find its bulk a problem. But, yes, it will get you started nicely.

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Would connecting the nano BL to the 789 cause any issues since the nano BL has an integrated amp? Or should it be fine?

If you use the line out, NOT the headphone out, it will be just fine. The line out will bypass the internal amp and just send a line-level dac output to the 789.

Ah alright makes sense. Thanks for all the help!