So you want to go balanced?

I grabbed the Focal Elegia from periodic sale on Adorama.

  • I am running a schiit Modi 3+ w/ a Magni Heresy primarily with these.
  • I have an xduoo mt-602 that doesn’t really do much for the Elegia.
  • I have a SMSL DA-8s pushing some JBL Studio 530s on the desk as well.
  • I have a O2+SDAC in the bedroom as well.

Here’s the list of amps I’m considering:

name pre-out SE+Bal Allin1 Portable price Notes
ifi Zen dac Yes Yes Yes No 130
ifi Zen Can Yes Yes No No 150
ifi Zen dac v2 Yes Yes Yes No 160 Allin1
Magnius Yes no no no 200
Geshelli Erish no no No no 200 Best and awesome
Khadas tone pro 2 no Yes Yes no 200
ifi Zen Can Sig Yes Yes No no 250
Smsl Sh-9 No Yes no no 290
Drop + THX AAA 789 No Yes No No 320
Topping A30 Pro no Yes No no 350 very powerful and has grnd lift switch
Gustard H16 Yes Yes No no 400 The other best but 100 to 200 cheaper than a90 and sa-1
Sabaj D5 Yes Yes Yes No 470
xduo xa-10 No Yes Yes no 480 Class a
Monolith THX AAA-788 No Yes Yes no 500 Linear
Topping A90 Yes Yes No no 500 Best but boring linear
Chord mojo no Yes Yes Yes 570
singxer sa-1 Yes Yes no no 600 Class a and the best especially after significant burn-in
smsl sp400 thx 888 Yes Yes no no 630
Topping DX7 Pro Yes Yes Yes no 650
ifi Neo iDSD yes yes yes no 700

Here’s the list of DACs I’m considering:

name Volume ctrl Bluetooth Chip Filters price Notes
Modius No No AK4493 No 200
Khadas tone pro 2 yes no ESS ES9038Q2M Yes 200
Soncoz la-qxd1 yes no ESS ES9038Q2M Yes 220 Made by khadas tone guy
ifi Zen dac Yes No Burr Brown Yes 130
ifi Zen dac v2 Yes No Burr Brown Yes 160 mqa?
ifi zen dac sig yes no Burr Brown Yes 250 paired set allin1
Smsl su-8 yes yes ESS ES9038Q2M Yes 250
Smsl M300 MKII Yes Yes AK4497EQ Yes 260
Smsl m200 yes yes AK4497EQ Yes 300
Geshelli Jnog2 Yes No ESS ES9026PRO No 300 Three gain levels
ToppingD30Pro yes no CS43198 no 400 Hamed_ShahrzadI don’t recommend Topping D30 Pro. It has a significant noise shaping. Plus it’s overpriced. SMSL M300 MKII (AK4497) is a better dac for almost half the cost ($260). I don’t think CS43198 would be better than AK4497.
Smsl su-9 yes yes ESS ES9038PRO Yes 460 is the pro chip plus mqa $210 more than the Q2M
Sabaj D5 Yes Yes ESS ES9038PRO Yes 470
xduo xa-10 Yes Yes AK4493 No 480 all-in-1
Soncoz SGD1 Yes Yes ESS ES9038Q2M yes 480
Monolith thx AAA-788 yes No AK4493 Yes 500
GUSTARD X16 yes yes ESS ES9068AS Yes 500 the best at $500
Chord mojo Yes Yes Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA No 570 portable and FPGA
Topping DX7 Pro yes Yes ESS ES9038PRO No 650 all-in-1
ifi Neo iDSD Yes yes Burr Brown No 700 all-in-1

Is there anything jumping out that looks like tremendous bang for the buck?

  • Modius / Magnius at $400 for sure
  • Khadas Tone Pro 2 / Geshelli Erish at $400
  • I guess i like the reviews of the Singxer SA-1 a lot, especially after lots of burn-in so ponying up $600 is something i’m considering too. How big a loss would it be for me to go with that Soncoz Lwhatever with the SA-1 amp?
  • The SMSL SU-8 is appealing at the price-point $250 too.
  • edit: I did bite on the Geshelli J2 tonight and the erish

Does anyone want to nominate any other amps or dacs to consider?


I don’t recommend Topping D30 Pro. It has a significant noise shaping. Plus it’s overpriced.

SMSL M300 MKII (AK4497) is a better dac for almost half the cost ($260). I don’t think CS43198 would be better than AK4497.


Great! Thank you for that. Updated the table

1 Like

Thanks @gdwallasign! This is exactly something I’ve been thinking about.

Perhaps add in the comments when the DAC is non sigma-delta (ie R-2R/multibit, or FPGA, or some other unique implementation)? The AKM, ESS, BB, and Cirrus Logic DAC chips are all similar sigma-delta architectures. Bifrost 2 would be good to add to the DAC list.

The question that jumps out at me is what is the real benefit moving up in price on these lists? Where is it sound quality and where is it features? My impression is that until you get a long ways up the list it’s increasing features more than increasing sound quality.

I’ll give a bump here to my favorite little balanced DAC - the Soncoz la-qxd1 (aka the “Lwhatever”). Solid audio performance, good enough feature set. I route it through my RNHP and my Erish. Sounds great on both. The added volume control is nice to help tame the high gain in the Erish with sensitive headphones or IEMs. I really want to see a head-to-head shoot out between the Lwhatever and the new Jnog2 from Geshelli. They are similar in features and cost, and both run an ESS Saber DAC chip (different models).

1 Like

Nice. I’m lookin at DACs too for the headphone rig and don’t really have a direction right now. So far the M200 has the lead based on price and features, since it can be a nice pairing with the SP200 I already have. I can do that since I don’t care about MQA, so that extra cost is negated (M400 vs M200). I’m actually thinking about going for another SU-8 based on how it is doing for me. I may consider going as high as 500 bucks for the DAC but as of now that is my cap. So that brings the SU-9 into play. That said, if I could actually buy a BiFrost I would consider it. But you can’t, which is pathetic, and honestly, that whole schiit situation just turns me off.

1 Like

I just jumped the gun on the jnog2 and erish. I’ll report back whenever they get here. I’m still not done with this list though. Jnog2 is $300 usd


From what I’m seeing that gustard x16 might be it for you at $500. I like @Hamed_Shahrzad 's suggestion of the m300 mkii though. That one looks great.

Spot on, man, I have been lookin at that one. As I think it out the Gustard and the SMSL M200 seem to be the ones that are sticking in my head. I hope the inbound Geshelli gear works out for you. I’ll be anxious to see how you like them.


take a look at the iFi Zen DAC…it also has 4.4mm pentacon like the Zen CAN, but is a complete system. I quite love mine!


I forgot to ask… What color are you going with? I love that you have a choice of colors.

Smoke black with purple windows


err not smoke black but black / blue mist and purple windows

reviewish thread