~ $300 DAC + AMP for Elegia

I am looking for a good DAC and AMP for use with the Focal Elegia. It/they will be replacing my FiiO E17.

My price range is: About $300 (can stretch to around $600 if it makes a big difference).

I like to listen to: Electronica, rock, classical. For example: The Flaming Lips, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Shostakovitch, Bach.

I will be using them for: work at a desktop. Fed by a Macbook Pro or my 1+6. I listen to a lot of HiRes FLAC and DSDs, but also Google Music. Going to start the $2/4 mo. Tidal HiFi trial.

There are some excellent posts on this forum that have given me ideas – perhaps too many. :smiley:
So now I need to narrow it down.

My home setup is a Chord Hugo 2 with the Focal Utopia. I do have balanced cables for the headphones, but currently use an adapter to SE.

As it may be clear from my choice of music and home setup I do love really analytical setups. But I am also tube-curious, and will an listening for extended periods as I work.

So far I am considering the following:

Schiit Lyr
Schiit Magni + Schiit Modi
other Schiit products?
Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp $320
Massdrop x Eddie Current ZDT Jr $259 used
iFi product??

Some more expensive items I could stretch to if they would make a big difference:
Monoprice Liquid Platinum $700
Woo Audio WA6 $700
THX AAA 789 $400

Thanks in advance for your comments!

  • Henrik

Hi Henrik,

in the budget 300-600, you also could consider a DAP, like HiBy R5 or which is more analytical: Fiio M11 (for example) and you could use the onboard EQ

For DAC/Amp I think of the ifi Nano iDSD BL under 300.
The xDSD for 399€ - is my daily with the Elegia in the office. The Bass Boost is a nice option

The SMSL SU-8 + THX AAA 789 is also a quite analytical combination - what I also use with the Focal at home
The SU8 is 80 off at the moment, from what I read today.

You can’t go wrong with the Woo Audio WA6, though only once had a chance to demo it with another dynamic headphone

The Drop SGrace Balanced DAC was reviewed by @Torq - nice simple DAC for the money

The SMSL SP 200 THX AAA 888 AMP is under 280
there will be a fitting DAC M200 or M400 in january

Monolith by Monoprice for 499€ with Dual AKM 4493 DACs and Dual AAA 788 is maybe too much for office

Here are others with far more experiance, who also own the Elegia as office hf

As for tubes… you could run into problems with the Elegia and a Eddie Current ZDT - it could not match perfectly cause of the relative low impedance of the Elegia
Maybe a hybrid could do it better (Lyr 3)


@MartinTransporter nailed it…

I would second the NiBL it is an everyday carry for me.

For a more traditional separate DAC and amp combo I would say the JDS Atom, and the Schiit Modi.

Also a good DAP would work great, the Hiby r5 has good reviews and works well. There are a decent amount of DAPs in your price range that would easily fulfill your requirements/needs. @antdroid just did a bunch of comparisons of DAPs in the last couple months and would be a good resource for you to check out Here


A word of caution if you wind up looking at the SMSL SP200; apparently the production units have a linear-taper pot instead of the more normal log-taper, which with sensitive headphones means you won’t have much room to move on the volume dial. And since it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good pot even then, that means you’re very likely to run into fairly significant channel-balance issues.

The ZDT Jr is, for me, not a great fit with low-impedance cans either (anything under about 150 Ω and certainly under 100 Ω, and the Elegia are just 35 Ω).

And avoid anything with more than 3 ohms of output impedance (which is a very large swath of Topping’s AOI units, including the DX3 Pro, which seems to have undergone a big jump in OI with newer units … presumably part of addressing whatever was resulting them failing previously).


Thanks, that helps narrowing it down a bit.

Massdrop Liquid Carbon X + SDAC DAC/Amp @ $250 seems like a good deal.
Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp $320
iFi xDSD looks good too.
THX AAA 789 $400 + Topping D10 @ $65

Of the above, is there any clear winner or loser?

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I have thx 789 and it’s great for a linear clear sounding amp. Powerful and clear. Very little coloring added by the amp. I used it with Elegia and it keeps a very neutral sound. I use it with SMSL SU-8.

I just bought xdsd to go with my recently purchased Stellia on the go.

I’ll have my mint Thx 789 on sale fairly soon and probably with the SU-8 if interested.


also not the biggest fan of the SP200 - but you could adjust volume on it once
and use the SU-8 with the remote for volume - just a thought and would always prefer another solution

Ended up buying the Massdrop Liquid Carbon X + SDAC DAC/Amp. Thanks for the feedback!


Curious what were the main factors on that pair?

I used my Elegias for quite a while with the LCD-X and a SDAC (not the combined unit) and they sounded great. I can’t recommend getting a balanced headphone cable enough though - the change was more dramatic than I thought possible.

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I picked the Liquid Carbon X + SDAC because of good reviews on this site, good price, and suitability for use in my office. If I were to rank them I would say it was closely followed by the xDSD and the CTH + SDAC. I stayed away from the tube amps due to what @Torq said about them not being a good match for low impedance headphones. In short I think the Liquid Carbon X + SDAC will be a great step up from my aging E17 Alpen. But there are so many good alternatives in this price range and I think I would be very happy with any of them.


Have a Fiio Q5s with two modules if you are in the market still.

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