Upgrade from K5 Pro - how much to spend?

Hi Everyone

I have a very modest setup of a Fiio K5Pro plus several headphones, 6XX, 4XX, CALs and Sundaras. I have felt for a while now that regardless of the headphone the sound lacks detail and dynamics (comparing to my speaker system and also IEMs).

So … I want to try upgrading the DAC/Amp but am unsure how high up the chain I need to go to get a noticeable improvement? It’s worth saying at this point that from experience I think I struggle to hear small changes. Would a JDS Labs Element bring a step change in detail and dynamics or should I be looking at say Topping A/D30Pro level or save up longer for something like a Lake People G111 plus equivalent DAC?

My main listening is rock and classical, I like a fair bit of tight bass and eventually I would like a nice pair of Focal Clears or similar in 2022.

All opinions appreciated.

If you can nail down a budget, recs would be a lot easier. Pretty safe to say it won’t take much to make some pretty huge leaps for not much money if your starting point is a k5.

My preferred budget is 500USD for DAC and AMP but i’m willing to delay and save more to get what I want. Maybe buy the DAC first then the amp in 6 months time.

i’d actually go the other way around. the k5 as a DAC isn’t actually all that bad but the amp in it isn’t all that resolving or powerful. you could get a decent amount of extra performance with an upgraded power supply like the ones from ifi or a linear power supply unit and get a lot more detail out of the k5 DAC using a DDC like the Douk U2 pro using a coax cable as your input to the DAC.

a linear power supply like this (i’d recommend the talema version) could power both the k5 and the douk u2 pro and alleviate quite a bit of noise and jitter and you’d be at a pretty decent spot for not much money DAC wise.

as for the amp, that would leave about $400 for the amp and if you’re not opposed to buying used you can get some damn good deals if you’re patient. Singxer SA-1 and Burson Funk or Schiit Jotunheim 2 amps can be had occasionally for $400 and all have quite a bit of texture and character and plenty of power to drive anything you currently have and most headphones out there in general. If you’re looking for a more neutral amp, the topping a90 can be had all day for $350-400 used and are definitely a solid amp at the $350 range (used) and if you get any of those you’re pretty much at a $1000 plateau where you aren’t going to get much more out of anything up until you hit around $1000 msrp range but I’d definitely upgrade the DAC before upgrading past any of those amps.

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Thank you. That’s very interesting and not a route i’d considered.

Hifishark.com is a great place to find used gear too if you want to start searching

How about a Schiit Jot2 with the ESS Module, and some balanced cables or a Hart cable system?

Jot2 is definitely a contender but i’ve read mixed opinions about the DAC modules. No doubt about its cost effectiveness however.