$500 Budget what do you get?

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Pretty simple little game. If you had a $500 budget to get a DAC or AMP or DAC / AMP combo, what do you get?
thumb_upDamienR
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Whitedragem
174
Mar 1, 2021
Only $500? If I bought a combo unit it wouldn’t do justice to the headphone tier I am using, so I’d probably spend it on a source piece (a Digital Audio Player), that would technically be a DAC and an AMP, and be portable. Something like the Aurender Flow at Drops price, which would then double as an exceptional digital transport into a real DAC feeding the requisite amplifier for home duties. Most people do not seem to acknowledge the worth in having a good transport (zeros and ones passed well sound better than zeros and ones and ‘lots of’ error correction) and so that sort of coin I would make work for me by building the first building block into an eventual super high quality hifi rig. A great dedicated DAP which passes zeros and ones really well eg Drop sold the Questyle QP1 at one point, does such a solid job of throwing out zeros and ones that the soundstage improves, bas tightens and instrument timbres and tonality can readily render right. My ideal DAP probably wouldn’t even have a radio inside, and would be a really dedicated unit, probably running on ‘an old outdated’ operating system, using a custom or ancient CPU. It might not be the fastest or prettiest part, but given its task would be do ‘two channel audio well’, it would serve its purpose for the next decade, or, if less, because I pointlessly upgraded and passed the part on to a partner/child or family member. The included DACs and amplifier capability would keep me going, certainly getting to and from work, until I had enough coin saved up to buy other parts that suited my need.
MisfitMojo
10
Feb 27, 2021
Schiit Magnius/Modius. Mine's shipping on Tuesday.
Thelemming
10
Dec 4, 2020
If I had $500, I'd probably get groceries
Sunkiz
20
Apr 20, 2019
How far are you with the Audio Bug"? I would go with Headphone IEM, DAC/AMP and Portable DAC./AMP package You can spend $500 for everything if you know where to look. Headphones: I go with these selection, Sennheiser HD58x $160, HiFiman HE 400i (On Sale) , $120, Fostex T50RP MK3 with the Argon Mod. $250. Dac/Amp: SMSL 793-ii $80 or Origin Mica Origin G2 $110. For Desktop Dac/Amp: Topping NX-4 DSD $100, or Fiiio Q1 MKII (Balanced) $100 For Portable IEM: Acoustic Research AR-E10 when it goes on sale for $100 (Balanced) If you are looking for just Dac/Amp for $500???? Monoprice THX AAA $480. End Game.
(Edited)
jaydunndiddit
3210
Apr 19, 2019
I'd buy a used iFi micro iDSD Black Label. Really, a wonderful little device.
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Serhiy
16
Apr 19, 2019
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ES100 is god-level for making wired IEM's bluetooth compatible. It's how my Noble's get used the most when on the road.. I use it a lot when travelling or needing mobility at the office.
jaydunndiddit
3210
Apr 23, 2019
Yeah, I really like the little unit. Pleasantly surprised me with how capable it is for the cost. I'm patiently waiting for the ES200 (or whatever they call it). I'd happily pay for for the same device just in a better housing with nicer buttons.
Evshrug
2271
Apr 18, 2019
Just yesterday, I bought a Sony ZX300a for $420, does that count? It's still ”shipping!” If someone gave me an extra $500 right now for the explicit purpose of buying a new amp, DAC, or Amp/DAC combo, and considering that I already have some killer pieces in that price range that I LOVE (Chord Mojo, Cavalli Liquid Carbon), I would either like to play with some tubes (Darkvoice, Schiit Lyr 3, Bottlehead) or a solid state amp that I’ve always been curious about but never needed to own alongside what I have (Meier Audio Chord JAZZ FF, THX amp by Massdrop or Monoprice). I would also be curious about the iFi Micro iDSD BL, but I wouldn't sell my Mojo to get it because I would miss the optical connection for my TV or PS4.
CamBE2010
80
Apr 19, 2019
Thanks everyone! I love discussions like this, makes me want to buy everything. Hahah
Evshrug
2271
Apr 19, 2019
The Massdrop LCX has a different power supply than mine... so I can’t exactly predict what it sounds like, but probably really close. I like Schiit DACs (I have a Bifrost Uber, and used to have a Theta multibit DAC from the old company the Schiit founders used to work for), but the Cavalli has a smoothness and “Liquid” quality that The Schiit amps I’ve tried usually lack for me (sounding a bit fatiguing). I think the Jotunheim sounds great with dark headphones (like the Dekoni Blue), but I wouldn’t recommend connecting an HD 800 or DT 990 to a Jotunheim or Magni. I think the SE output of the Liquid Carbon actually sounds great! Maybe not as good as the balanced output, but it still made a great pairing with my stock HD 800, and I’ve never felt the need to do the Super DuPont mod due to having good amp and DAC synergy. I also really enjoyed the Cavalli sound in the Liquid Gold, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Lightning, prototypes of the Spark (haven’t heard the improved production version of the Spark yet, but I expect great things and read favorable reviews!). I trust the SQ of his designs. The first manufacturing factory had some QC issues (the first time I tried using the XLR-4 output, my amp broke itself and all outputs stopped working), but I sent my amp in to Cavalli and he fixed it up to work perfectly for the past two years. The new amps use a different factory, I believe. Amazing SQ that sounds like a much larger and more expensive amp (but still bested by my HDV 820, but that Sennheiser should win if it costs so much!). Between my HDV 820 for home duty and the incoming Sony ZX300A for portable or “computer free” listening, I have to admit that everything else is redundant at this point. I considered the Acoustic Research M200 instead of the Sony, because it’s also such a good deal here on Massdrop, but I travel outside of the country sometimes so I wanted something with enough battery to last a week’s moderate use without recharging. The M200 has a longer battery runtime than A&K players though, so for most people the M200 would be an awesome deal (and you can stream from your phone to both the M200 or ZX300 via high res Bluetooth if you ever want to use Tidal/Spotify/Pandora/YouTube).