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When should one get a dac/amp?
Depending on your headphone, if your headphone has less than 80 Ohm impedance then chances are you don't need an amp. Your headphone most likely is very easy to power so it will run on anything.
So what would happen if you get an amp anyway? Your headphone will just sound "different", not better or worse, just different depending on the signature of the amp. Though you might potentially like it or hate it depend on your taste.
And if your headphone is hard to drive (like say, 300 Ohm) then most likely it will benefit from an amp (louder, more dynamic range... etc).
If you can tell me what headphone you use then I can give you further suggestions. :P
Hi Hyde. I'm new to the headphone and amp scene so can you help me with some questions? I'm currently joining the AKG K7XX drop right now and people say it is similar to the K701/702 series, which need an amp for better use. But the specs on Massdrop tell that its Rated impedance is 62 ohm. So do you think I need an amp? And for the price of below $120 do you have any suggestions? I'm thankful if you could work this out for me.
To be honest I don't own that headphone but I've heard about it here and there. So just to be on the safe side I read up here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/akg-k7xx
People seems to agree that while it's 62 Ohm, it still is best to use amplification and it's actually power hungry headphone. So you might need a desktop dedicated power amp/dac.
Now the problem is price, most desktop dac/amp will cost you over $120. Ideally you'll probably want to aim for O2/ODAC or Schiit Modi/Magni combo. But both of those will run you over $200.
Something to look for is that since K7XX is a very neutral headphone, it usually pair well with warm sounding amp. UDAC-3 is a warm sounding dac/amp I'm just not sure if it will have enough power to push it to its full potential. Though this might be a decent middle ground.
Maybe think about your final goal for now, if you think in the long run you do want to shell out for a good desktop amp, I'd just use it straight (no amp/dac) in the time being until you can afford the "proper" dac/amp. But if you think you'll never want to spend that much, then buying this might get you to a decent point (although not ideal but should be not bad either).
Another good option is the CEntrance DACport Slim that's also going on right now. To be honest, I've tried other sub $100 dac/amp (E10K, SMSL M2, and Schiit Fulla) and all of them were decent, you can't go wrong with any of them since most dac/amp in this price bracket actually do sound similar to each other. Only exception might be E10K since it's a more lean/clean sounding dac/amp and might be too lean/clean sounding with K7XX (very neutral to begin with).
Decide how much you're willing to spend then go from there. :)