Question about standalone DACs from an audio newbie

Hi all, new here, and new to the world of good sounding audio.
I’m looking into the Schiit Modi, which is a standalone DAC, but I would need it for 2 different purposes:

  1. For my living room, to improve the sound of my passive speakers (powered by an amp) by overriding the TV/Laptop’s onboard DAC.
  2. For my computer room where I only use headphones (Philips SHP9500), currently connected directly to the 3.5mm audio output of the PC.

In the second case, would the headphones (which don’t require an amp) be able to connect straight to the DAC? Or can you only connect headphones to a DAC only if it’s also an amplifier? Since there doesn’t seem to be any 3.5mm line-out on the Schiit Modi.


There are some DACs with built in amplifiers but are built primary with the use of a DAC in mind, such as the RME ADI-2.

But if you want to plug headphones in then an amp is necessary, see if you can find one like I mentioned with a built in AMP to save space.

Is this a piece of equipment you’d want to move regularly? If so then I would recommend a portable DAC that won’t be heavy and time consuming to move.

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Will you be buying two DACs one for each environment? If you are going to be moving one DAC back and forth, as suggested get something portable. There are a number of them, for example the Ifi iDSD, around $200 dollars and it includes a built in amp.

The Schiit pairing of the Modi/Magni is very popular because it’s cheap and it works well but there are a half dozen or so of these stackable amp/dac solutions. Even if your headphone doesn’t need an amp, an amp will more often than not improve your overall experience with the ability of more power with less distortion than your PC or phone could provide.

Last factor… budget. You can spend $85 on what you need or you can spend $2500 on what you need. It all depends on the features and quality of the sound you’re looking for. Start cheap and go from there since it will allow you to learn about what kind of sound you like before committing to something more expensive.

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So for the living room, something like a smsl m100 would work very well, and for the desk, a fiio k5 pro would get the job done well

To answer your question regarding case #2, the order in chain would go: Source --> DAC --> Amp --> Headphones/Speakers. As you noticed, the DAC alone does not have a space for your headphones even though you don’t need the extra power. That means you’ll need a DAC/amp combo for that, again, even though you don’t need the juice. M0N’s recommendation above will work for your scenario.

Also note that sometimes headphone amps and speaker amps may be separate products unless you get some sort of all-in-one.

Thanks man, this is a lot more clear now.

Thanks for the suggestion

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