One DAC/preamp to rule them all.. is there one?

So i’m looking for options for a DAC/preamp with PC usage that does it all, at lowest price.
Not so much knowledge of the hundreds of dac’s out there so it’s best to ask the collective memory.
You all.

Will be used with powered monitors and headphone output.
Focusing only - What i’m looking from the dac:

  • Power button, in front.
  • Remote
  • XLR output
  • Volume knob, that works with preout’s and headphone volume
  • Hi-Res audio
  • USB-power, could be a option
    = On the price point of 280e/330$…ish, less for better.

I have found only few… and they are more in the 400…ish range and few more going up the ladder more but then the point for going low is gone.

So what options are there or is there even… and don’t get stuck “what headphones” etc minor details.

For ~$260, you can get a DAC/Amp stack from Topping. The Topping L30 and Topping E30 will give you what you need there. They get great reviews, but its made in China.

For ~$200, you can get an DAC/Amp Stack that is American made…the JDS Labs Atom and the Atom DAC are great.

These two are great, but lack a little power for some headphones that need a little juice. They also have small footprints. The Topping (metal chassis) is built better than the JDS (plastic). Both fit everything you’re looking for.

If you can stretch the budget to about $400, American made Schiit Modius and Schiit Asgard 3 would give you everything you need with some added juice and sound quality as well as build quality. Power button for the Asgard is in the back, unfortunately. But hits everything else.

There are better posters here that can give you headphone-equipment pairings…but for the most part, those are going to be the big three recommendations for you in your price category.

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Used Project Pre Box S2 digital DAC, has MQA, is a pre-amp, has a remote, clean, well made, multiple filters for very fine tuning of the sound. Excellent IEM amp and will drive easy to push headphones just fine IMO. Solid value for the money.

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This actually is one of those i found that checks pretty much every box and is a strong candidate. Big plus is that my local dealer has them so could probably make good deal, even for a new one.

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Plenty of connection options, I have plenty “better” DAC’s but happily keep mine around because the sound is fine for modest system use and integration along with the fact that i very much enjoy it with IEM’s. it is a solid IEM amp and better than others in my collection.
I also have added a used Topping P50 Linear power supply to it, I can’t honestly tell any difference at all but it does NO harm. Good luck with whatever you choose and I hope you can find something your wallet is pleased with, happy listening always.

On this long perilous and dangerous guest in search of ‘my precious!!’

I added a new need for the list. Balanced XLR output.
After that i found this, it’s a older dac but checks pretty nicely the needs.

Since it’s from 2012 or close to it. Price is spot on! Bad thing is that it’s China made and no remote.
The tech is bit older and no BT but that’s is something i can live without. Don’t really know… should i be worried about the older tech? It might work and sound pretty decent still.

Was wondering… is there a 2020 version of any similar DAC’s with the specs?

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I heard this Cambridge Dac before I bought the Singxer and it is still in my possession.
I keep it because I want to use it as a replacement when something happens.
Yes you’re right it is indeed older but there’s no need to hide it, it’s still very musical today and will outshine anything if the headphone amp fits.
The tuning is warm and offers enough depth and brilliance.
It was designed in England and probably made in China, but the workmanship is really very good.
Surely with an Akm 4490 it can’t be as good as it used to be, but you can hear some differences.
But his money is worth it in all cases.
In the driver you can adjust a little bit if you want to have more open stage, similar to a filter but I could not see any differences.
You finish the driver installation once and then it’s good to change it to Usb 2 and that’s it. the manual is a bit complicated but with several reads it works.
Nevertheless a really good Dac without any frills and quite uncomplicated switch it on and that’s it.

It’s a solid unit. As with any DAC it’s not the Delta Sigma chip it’s the implementation. This one is actually implemented very well. If you feed it a clean USB signal it will sound great I had it connected via SPDIF to a reclocker and it was very nice. I’ve always liked the Burr Brown sound and it meets all of your requirements with the exception of the remote. It really is a desktop DAC.

Just sold one for $215. :slight_smile: So they’re out there cheap.


Yes, another possible candidate. Think now have covered all of the full 400…ish range.

I have read tech.specs and reviews for like 30 DAC’s…in few days and it is getting to me on this quest. “Just upgrade speakers”… right. Never happened before…

We have a saying “The moped is getting out of hand” and… i think i’m about to crash it.

Maybe is easier to find the right when you can say what for preference you like in Sound.
More Clean or more warm Sound?
Or you like totally analytical?
I find the Esaber chips are for me too cold and too analyitcal but not bad sounding.I miss the love.
Akm and cirrus Logic are more warm and transperent,and life more the Music.More spectaclelius from Sounding and Punchy.
Burr Brown is not bad too but not punchy enough i find.

Clean. Accurate sound, total clarity, definition and neutrality.
Touch of bass to be added when needed, like fresh strawberry’s to ice cream.

So… things turned out. Not as planned. With the… price. Part.
…well in the end that kinda depends of the view…

But those who know me it’s in the range of normality and someone spotted the moped!
It was going exceedingly fast without control. They only asked “when did you lose it…” To figure out the range of damage.

RME ADI-2 DAC FS, it checked all the boxes and plenty more. Newest edition.
Power, Balanced, XLR, remote, volume knob, “Audiophile” and all the tuning possibilities there could be.
.Except. was not cheap. I needed something quality that was not available with milk money, that did not exist in the realm of my twisted mind.


Picked up the DAC today and still waiting for Genelec factory order. Might take few weeks… but factory fresh. :smile:


Had it in his hands as well.
Had absolutely not been mine.
The manual is something like that for the foxes you can give them to eat.
With the whole menu, it is very time consuming but it takes a lot of getting used to.
The loudness function is nice and the remote control is nice but you really have to get used to the menu.
Also a little bit on the tuning, I personally found it too clean and quite anaylitic.
Also the instrument separation was not great, the fig, harp, trumpet comes and it is gone.
So quite unmusical for my find.

Where the part is relatively unbeatable are with old titles where you really have the feeling you are standing with them on stage.
So Ac/dc for example the best I have heard.
The new songs are more like the description above which is really disappointing.
And I found for the money I got what is not overloaded where in the menu navigation and plays much better.

What was also extremely irritating was that with this part all my headphones sounded the same and I knew they were totally different in the tuning.
And I wasn’t looking for that, because then cheap headphones would have done the trick.

In summary, I didn’t regret sending it back, but I was glad to have tested it.
So I knew I wanted to have something more musical and also something less analytical but accurate enough without having to give up anything.
And when I plug my headphones in today, you are just like I met you.

Have fun with him I hope you get along with him and you like him. :wink: