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Is it worth getting this to only use the DAC? Are there any comparable balanced DAC-only options out there?
Based on the specs and comments it seems like we'd want to pair this with a jotenheim, rather than use the amp section.
I think this is the cheapest branded dual ES9038 dac you can buy
It is ESS9038Q2M, not ESS9038. But it is still a very good DAC.
You can buy a emotiva stealth dc-1 for a little bit more.
It looks like the Emotiva only does 24/196 and no DSD
You could look at offerings by iFi Audio. They support pretty much any format you could throw at it:
MQA 88.2/96/176.4/192kHz filters
I use the smallest one the iDSD Nano Black Label and it's a great portable uni and works with Tidal MQA. They have desktop units if you need something much more powerful and I believe the higher end units are balanced.
Also note they tend to work well with low impedance IEMs, which is what I specifically bought mine for to pair it with my Shure 846s and it's a pretty perfect match.
this still a good dac/amp combo and I think this one is better than most of the dac/amp combo in the market, but lack of review and consumer impression makes me hesitate. I can't even find review from Chinese website when I google it. If someone can do some review, I will definitely be in the next round.
This combo device has an exceptional dual balanced DAC. The readings from the osciliscope of the DX7 (dx7s is upgraded) are superb compared to any schiit product on the market. Any other balanced DAC in this price range? There is one, Cambridge DACMAGIC Pro. Nearly the same price, and its a really nice device. But it doesnt have an amp.
This has a built in amp of decent quality that every review or comment i've seen from folks who have the non upgraded model, that its superb in driving everything they throw at it, even low impedence. So from where i looking, the money is worth it alone for the balanced DAC setup, and at least a decent amp that has more than enough power to drive anything. Later down the road, if you so choose you could upgrade to a jotunheim for the added power, or find another balanced amp that will cost you more than what the jotunheim cost (at least a few hundred more). There is no other balanced amp other than the jotunheim and this one that can produce over 500mw @ 300 ohm, at least that i'm aware of near this price bracket.
Thanks for the comment! I checked out the DACMAGIC and the latest version (PLUS) is balanced, but uses older Wolfson 24-bit chips and no DSD support. So that seals it for me!