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Should I get this or the Liquid Carbon X + SDAC for a Focal Elear? For context, I would be running audio out of my laptop using Foobar2000.
Consensus from the thread is the high output impedance on the Topping amp could be a problem for the low impedance Elears. And the DAC section on the Topping is much better than the SDAC. Seems to me the Liquid Carbon would be a better amp than the one on the Topping. But then I have to wait 3 months for the Liquid Carbon as opposed to one month for the Topping.
Also, how would the amp in this compare to the Schiit Magni 3? There's been a lot of rave reviews on the Magni, so I might consider lower budget options since I wouldn't have to wait to get them.
Okay, I will disclaim saying I am far from an expert, but I've been doing a lot of reading lately on all this stuff. I've never used either or an Elear, so I can't comment on any experience with any of them.
That being said, the Output Impedance on the Balanced Out on this is rated at "under 20 ohms" With the Elear averaging 80 Ohms out of the bass frequencies, you might notice some small difference depending on what the ACTUAL rating is. The unbalanced 1/4inch jack at "under 10" should be fine if you were using that based on the 1/8th rule[output Impedance should be under 1/8th of the headphone impedance]. The Liquid Carbon X has a much lower impedance output, so ideally you shouldn't really notice anything from that affecting the sound other than any minor coloration the Amp itself adds. Which sounds better? No idea. I do believe the DAC on this DX7s measures pretty well and has more input options. The SDAC is decent, but you're giving up a few options with it. To me it looks like a trade off of Better DAC/Worse Amp, or Better Amp/Worse DAC. That being said, most people notice differences in Amp more than DAC as long as the DAC performs reasonably well.
As for more Budget Options: The Magni 3 while cheaper is not a balanced amp. You're not really going to find balanced Amps cheaper than the two you're thinking about. It's toted as a solid entry-level amp that's fairly transparent. It will have enough juice to run any headphone. If you want something to just drive the headphones it'll work fine. So would an O2 Amp[For a little cheaper if you build it yourself]. It has no built in DAC however, so you'd need to rely on either your Source's DAC, or buy another DAC to go with it. The Modi 2 while stacks, as it's USB powered doesn't perform great if your USB ports aren't super clean. The Modi 2 Uber is self-powered and should behave a bit better while offering more input options. If you don't care about matching aesthetics as much, you could always go with something else like a Topping D30 DAC which measures really well and has a nice variety of inputs and supports DSD. If you go the O2 Amp route instead because you like to build things yourself, the JDS Labs OL DAC is a good pairing with it that's not terribly expensive.
I would get this as just a dac & get the lcx as an amp.
I did some preliminary measurements against the Magni 3 which I hope to finalize soon and post on audiosciencereview.com. For now, the distortion and noise from Topping DX7 was lower.
I ended up joining this drop after a lot of tough deliberation. The ES9038Q2M DAC chip looks like an upgrade to the older ES9018 found in many well-received DAC/Amp combos, such as the Audio GD NFB 11, Oppo HA-2 and the LH Labs Geek Out V2+. However, I believe the implementation matters more than the starting materials, so I'll hear whether the excellent measurements you took will translate to sound quality.
The main dealbreaker was the 10 Ohms output impedence on the amplifier which is at the very high end of what's acceptable for my 80 Ohm Focal Elears. The TPA6120A2 chip is less well-received and can be found on sub-$100 amplifiers. I suppose the option is there to invest money in a separate amplifier, although I don't know whether it will end up making any difference.
I hear you. I am thinking about modding my DX7 to see if I can lower its output impedance. For now, the high impedance is mainly an issue if the impedance of your headphone varies a lot. If it does not you just lose some power and the timbre will not be impacted.