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Is it generally better to get a separate DAC and amp as opposed to a combo? I prefer the cleanliness of a combo for aesthetics but perhaps having separate DAC and amp would provide an over all better sound.
I went with an ifi idsd nano Black Label DAC/amp combo because it decodes everything I want it to: PCM, DXD, DSD, MQA. I then feed it's line out to a Schiit Audio Vali 2 and Magni 3 because I like the sound and they drive headphones better than the nano's built in amp. This setup also fits my budget. It just boils down to the features and sound quality you want at the price you want to pay.
Well I have a Micca Origen+ DAC/amp combo and it works well. I don't need to turn the volume above 12 o'clock on low gain to power 6XX. They're plenty loud at that level. But I'm thinking there is a difference between volume loudness and amp power. Yes my Micca gets plenty loud but it's only being powered via USB. If I had an amp being powered via a wall outlet than perhaps the sound would be even better. I could use the DAC in the Micca and feed out to another Amp. My guess is that the volume knob would be useless on the Micca if my headphones were plugged into another amp.
Yes, I don't use the volume on the nano. I f you like the sound of the Micca and it decodes what you want if it has a line out then use that to feed a separate amp. The nano is only usb powered but it's performance belies that. I feel a separate amp will give you better better detail, sound stage, and spectral balance. The Magni provides that. The Vali allows me to "tube roll" to change the amp's sound to fit my mood. If I had to choose between solid state and tube/hybrid I'd go with tube because of it's flexibility. You can modify any of the three characteristics I've mentioned with the change of a tube.
The biggest benefit of getting separate DAC and amp isn't quality so much, it's the ability to upgrade them independently.
Yeah the Micca has a 3.5mm optical/analog line out. Not sure I'd want to get into tubes as it could end up costing lots of money just trying different tubes. But do all tubes have the same size input? Like one kind of tube could be plugged into virtually any tube amp?
Yeah I guess that's true. I keep eyeing the Aune X7S or one of the Massdrop Liquid Carbon options. I don't want to spend too much. I'm in Canada so the exchange rate from US to Canadian dollars can be a lot.
You'd be surprised how many different tubes will work in one amp. In my case the Vali 2 originally came with a 6BZ7, the amp is designed to take a 6922 (Which is a better tube to my ears and can be had for about $12.). I bought 2 tube base adapters: one $2.95 for a socket saver (lifts the tube above the hole in the chassis to accommodate a larger diameter tube) and $14.90 for a 6SN7 to 6922 adapter on tubedepot.com. I bought a new production Tung-Sol 6SN7 for $19.95 from the same place. All 3 put together yields a lush, rich sound that the Magni alone can't duplicate. I also bought an $11.50 12AX7 to 6922 adapter on eBay. This lets me use my stash of RCA 12AU7A clear tops. These can be found on eBay for$9 and up depending on their strength and whether they are used or new in the box. I have both used and new, I use the used tubes first and have yet to have one "burn out" on me. These yield a different sound which is brighter and more detailed than the 6SN7. Both have an excellent sound stage . In sum with and without the adapters I've tested 12AX7s, 12AT7s, 12AU7s (3 brands), 6CG7s, 6SN7s, 6922s (2 brands) and the original 6BZ7 spread out over 6 months. I'm on a budget.
Cool thanks for the info. Can any of these be found on Amazon? I don't have an eBay/PayPal account nor do I need/want one.
Yes, the 6922, 12AT7, and the socket saver can be found on Amazon. For tubes and adapters I've found tubedepot.com and vivatubes.com to be good cheap sources. For more info (and ask questions) and reviews of equipment go to head-fi.org.
The problem I can foresee happening is that I'd end up having tubes I'd no longer want. I can imagine it'd be hard to resell them.
Yes, you can wind up with some you don't like. I did until I started reading reviews at the sites I listed. Fortunately there were only about 3 or 4 out of the more than a dozen I have in my collection. I haven't tried reselling them but that's what eBay is for.