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Is this better than the CEntrance DACport Slim ? And what's the difference between this and the other one (+ODAC (revB) DAC/Amplifier) on sale now? What does the DAC part of it let you do exactly?
The O2 from this drop was a headphone amplifier only whereas the CEntrance DACport Slim and the ODAC/O2 in one combo are both DAC + headphone amplifier. The Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) converts the digital signal from a digital source (in this case, a computer) to analog line level signal that can be then amplified by the headphone amp or a sent to an amp for speakers. The O2 would be used if you already have a DAC or are using another source that provides a line level output to feed it. Regarding the different gain levels - the lower gain level (1.0x/1.33x) is for use with the ODAC stand alone unit that was dropped or with low impedance headphones/IEMs and the higher gain level (2.5x/6.5x) is for use with most headphones and lower powered sources than the ODAC.
Oh. So you need to have both a DAC and an AMP together? having just the AMP would be pointless?
If you're using with a PC, you could use the built in sound card and headphone jack and connect into the headphone amp - this uses the DAC built into your computer but it's not the best solution. Or use it with another line level source (tuner, etc) to amplify enough to drive headphones. The DAC built into your computer is usually cheap and not the ideal implementation, which is why people buy an external DAC like the ODAC to use as a source instead.
You don't need to spend a lot on a DAC. I posted this early in the drop, but the Behringer UCA222 or UCA202, are cheap and well regarded USB DAC's. I drive a SSMH tube amp from a UCA222, and intend to drive this O2 amp from another UCA222. NWAVGuy has a lovely article on the UCA202, and how good it is, especially for the money.