DAC Amp Suggestions

LOL, I just might get that Yggy, if I do I’ll be sure to review! I swear the more I read about configurations the more confused I get. I am not a person who enjoys the technical aspects of this hobby, Impedance and voltage conversations make my head hurt, I just want to know if I pair x DAC with Y amp it will sound good with Z cans (and hopefully not explode).

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I wonder if @Shelby_Steve has considered that 2 BF2 might be better than 1. Certainly no problem reselling if he changes his mind.

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I certainly have given that a thought!

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Going with the Holo May KTE, I’ll give my impressions once its made and received, hopefully before June.


Very nice. At that segment, I’d choose between the May, Rockna Wavelight, and TT2. There are likely no bad selections. The dual mono and dedicated power supply of the May is an appealing design.


Time to bring this thread back to life!!!

You know how you think you are solving a problem, only to find that maybe you had a different problem than you first thought? I think that’s happened to me with the Sabaj. At $429 or so, it is going to be fine for use in the State College house - the one my wife inherited. And it is fully balanced, and I find that I like having that option for some headphones. I have the iFi xDSD (original) that I can use for portable/transportable, but while it powers the Rosson RAD-0, it is straining a bit. Its great with my Grado RS1e.

I find that I don’t OFTEN want to have headphones at work. Maybe when I know I will have a quiet day and want to work on CE credits or something. I greatly prefer the speakers for work.

But that leaves an everywhere else gap. The big easy chair I sometimes show in unboxing pics. Sitting on the covered porch. Occasional travel other places, including overnight work travel.

So I think I’m looking for yet another DAC/AMP; here are my thoughts

Battery operation is a plus, but it’s not a requirement. I have access to electricity.
THIS UNIT WILL NOT STAY IN ONE PLACE, but transportable or modest desktop size is OK
Features like iFi’s xBass, xSpace, also a plus but not a requirement
Either solid state or tube-hybrid operation. I like esthetics, and tubes are calming.
Minimum 1W and preferably more into 32 Ohm load, able to handle 300 Ohm headphones
True Balanced and Single-Ended operation.
USB input needed. Optical, Coax input a plus. Bluetooth/Wireless not required
Remote not required. Not sure if it’s even a plus.
Price range $400 - $1400 or thereabouts.
MUST sound good - but want it to LOOK good also.

I’d appreciate thoughts. I’ve glanced at these:

WU Audio - WA7 Gen 3 Fireflies or WA-11 Topaz
SPL Phonitor One D - not sure about output level
iFi iDSD Signature - this ticks most of the boxes, but it has no esthetics - the Diablo looks prettier
RME ADI-2 ? I see the writeup on our sponsor’s page, but don’t know the output of the amp. Looks like a lot of nice features to play with.

And yes, I’ve even thought of another Sabaj a20d 2022 edition. Price is right. Size is right.


I’ve never really looked into Topping. The price looks good. I’m now using Hart Audio cables, which allow good flexibility.

The ACRO would have to go on sale. Size looks right, have not thought about DAP functions. I have decent WiFi and stream from Apple devices in most places I go.

Maybe it will help you in making a decision;

For my part… — I go 100% +++ with Joshua

Well both look impressive. I guess Joshua hasn’t heard the ACRO, or some of the silly cost offerings. Have you listened to both of these? I see the ACRO is on sale at it’s rather $$$ price range. (2.5 $ out of possible 4).

Still, I love the look of the Fireflies. And I’d like to hear from others. How do you compare the Sabaj to the Topping?

In the ACRO price range, we have the WU Audio WA8 Eclipse, which ticks off the cool box.

I want more diversity of opinion and recommendations

To top it off, I made a small initial assessment in the appropriate forum.

I personally found the ACRO, like almost all Astell&Kern players, to have a very clean sound but relatively “thin”, which many people seem to appreciate very much.
With the appropriate headphones that may fit together :thinking:

Woo Audio is undoubtedly different in terms of sound, quite clean, relatively “thick” compared to the ACRO.
With tube amplifiers and planar headphones, however, I have had a very selective 50:50 experience so far, which relatively often did not end well.
Until I had the pleasure of listening to the Hifiman Susvara on the Feliks Audio Envy… World Class!!

BUT :dollar: :dollar: :dollar: :dollar: :dollar: :dollar:


There are worlds between the Topping and the Sabaj in terms of sound, the Sabaj is an accurate, playing solitstate amplifier that is one of the best in its price category.

The topping plays far, far above the requested price and sounds significantly “fuller” with a “healing” effect on various headphones with which I didn’t really know what to do until now.

I have the RME ADI 2 FS. The headphone output is single-ended only, but I have personally found it to be plenty powerful enough to drive both high-impedance dynamics (Sennheiser 800S) and low-impedance planars (DCA Ether 2s). Amir measured it as 310 mW into 300 ohms and 1.5 W into 32. Objectively, the RME is flawless; subjectively, opinions vary, but a number of people (SBAFers, Grover Neville) have said that the headphone amp is inferior to the DAC. Personally, I could hear no difference between it and the Schiit Jotunheim 2 (but keep in mind that I can hear no difference between the Schiit Jotunheim 2 and THX 789 in blind AB testing, and my general stance, until I hear otherwise, is that there is, for me, no meaningful difference between solid state amps).

Of course, the RME also gives you bass and treble controls, as well as five-band EQ, remote control, and a low-power 3.5mm output for IEMs. The user interface for the menus is less than intuitive at first, but I haven’t found it an issue in the long term.

Much cheaper and, in my experience, sonically identical, is the JDS Element. I have version II, but this has been superseded by version III, which has an ESS DAC, automatic gain switching, and a fully digital volume pot. Amir measured it as 268 mW into 300 ohms, and 1.1 W into 32. The critical consensus seems to be that it’s very good. More details here.

Subjectively, I love the form factor, admire JDS Labs as a company, and, if the Element had a remote, I would sell the RME and buy another Element for my living room listening station. As it is, it’s a wonderfully compact and tactile desktop solution, and I can’t imagine ever wanting or needing anything else.

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If your solid state amp is acting as a wire with gain, maybe you don’t hear differences. But in an integrated DAC/AMP, there’s a lot more going on. I guess it’s always a trade off of features. I found that the Senn HD-6xx sounds better than I expected on the balanced Sabaj. Better than the same amp in SE mode. Better in some ways than on my BF2/64 and Lyr3 stack, but worse in other ways - probably related to the DAC. Admittedly that Senn is not listened to a LOT, just some.

With the RME, I see the big gain as the parametric EQ. I don’t use EQ that much, but it can be handy. The downside is no balanced. Does that matter? The Rosson’s sound fine single ended on my main stack, and fine balanced on the Sabaj, probably differences are due to DAC.

My final use case could be replacing the old TEAC DAC in my main system, but that TEAC has Burr Browns that sound good to me, and since almost ALL listening on that DAC is with speakers, I don’t expect the nuance of headphones. Yes, it does have a SE headphone out with volume control, but position in the room requires a long cord, Long cords - if I were to use them - might argue for a balanced output.

IDK. No problem here that throwing wads of money couldn’t fix.

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Try your Bifrost on the speakers. I hooked mine up to my speaker amp and even my wife easily heard big differences versus my AKM and other DACs.

Maybe someday. This TEAC has balanced outs that go to the balanced input on my integrated amp. The wiring is not easy to get at and I don’t have many if any spare inputs. The TEAC is used primarily with digital output from SONOS (it sounds better than the old Sonos Connect, and probably better than the Sonos Port that I replaced it with) Also on those rare occasions that I use a digital out from the cable box.

If I ever go wielding interconnect machetes and try to clean up everything. But then I’d need another Bifrost because there is that ceiling above the main system with the floor of the computer/audio room above that. Wife frowns on me drilling holes between levels.

At least half my listening - if not more on the main system is to vinyl, anyway.

@pennstac , I refrain from recommending anything DAC/Amp wise as I don’t have the experience with enough stuff to be able to say “this” is more “this” than “that” is “that”.

I will say that I am very happy I got to try out the EF400, I think it is a lot of music for its price.

However, I have to admit that the Fireflies do have a look to them that I love and sometimes the looks are worth the 0.02% in performance.

I am a big fan of RME but as a tool. I think their stuff is great and it is amazing to have all that “tweakability” in a single box (especially if they finally release the app for Android/iOS). I also think that their performance is great but… I am not sure it would be something that I would choose for a simple music enjoyment rig. The temptation to “tweak” would probably take preference over just relaxing and listening. Honestly, this week at the beach I have been using just the GoBlu (with the KAI and the Vulkan) via BT and I couldn’t have been happier. Sometimes less choice is actually a plus.

On the complete opposite end of simplicity, what about something that is also a streamer with DAC/Amp, like the EM7 (a bit over budget) or the older EM5 which is cheaper, or something along those lines (I’m lusting over the Rose RS150b, but the fact that it doesn’t do anything that I can’t already do with my current set up makes the 5k price very hard to swallow).


That’s well-considered. Right now, The Topping that @Lothar_Wolf is suggesting looks pretty good. If I want to EQ, I have a spare Loki. And I generally prefer not to tweak. What do you think of Topping stuff?

I am guessing that the EF400 and the Sabaj that I have are roughly similar. Nobody has shown anything as pretty as the Fireflies. But the Topping is probably a better overall value. In black.

Cayin has beautiful amps, but I’m looking for a DAC/AMP combo. I’m super comfortable with the Topping price, but get resistant as cost goes up. Heck the Phonitors in the 2-3K range look great but I’m not trying to replace my main listening station. And I do run a ROON core at home, use the iPhone or an iPad to connect to it.

My Android tablet/phablets are a few years back now. Can’t go above Android 8, and thought that UAPP is as much a kludge as the camera connection kit for iOS.

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To add a question or two - I’ve looked at some reviews of the Woo Audio WA7 Firefiles, Gen 3. And am wondering if they finally represent a nice enough everything. Balanced now. Don’t know if the 12AU7 represents an improvement, or just an easier to find tube. I can’t find good specs on them.
The Woo Audio site says 1.5w into 4 ohms, but I’d like to know how they are into 32 ohms and yes, 300.

They are beautiful, and who really needs readout anyway?
I looked on ASR to find a review, and only saw a review of the 2nd gen. In classic ASR style, one comment on the review, “The funniest thing about your review is that you say that with tubes it’s not all about specs, it’s about listening – and then you proceed to listen to a 1khz sine wave.”

I am drawn to these things just because they look great and now seem to check most of the boxes. A search here showed @Torq in 2018 liking the looks, but not the specs. I wonder if Gen 3 makes them a reasonable compromise.

It’s hard to say for sure, since they only provide one spec … so without more data all you can do is apply ohms law. That would put them at 187.5 mW into 32 ohms, and about 20 mW into 300 ohms. Divide those values by four for the single-ended outputs.

Also, it is worth remembering that tube amps are more likely to be current-limited, which can mean they deliver MORE power into higher impedances than ohms law applied to their low impedance specs suggest.

I need to update my data on the 3rd Gen units in my power tool … looks like I have the numbers for the 2nd gen unit in there.


Thanks, @Torq I did the Ohm’s Law thing also, and if they obey the law, it looks like they will be light driving my Rosson’s, the HiFiman HE-560, and my Senn HD-6xx, which would make them nonstarters. There seem to get paired with the 42 ohm Diana Phi by Abyss, a lot.

But as you point out, they may be current-limited, so I was hoping that someone would have additional specs. It makes me wonder WHY Woo Audio measures them against such a low load.

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ANY OTHER THOUGHTS, ANYONE? The Sabaj is left over at the other house, as planned, so I may move on something soon. The iFi xDSD is powering the Rosson RAD-0 as I attempt to binge watch Asimov’s Foundation on my iPad. (My old Roku can’t to Apple TV+, though I could try using my MacBook Pro and um… wires)

I looked at the Shanling EM7, and it looks very nice, but is clearly over budget at just about $2K. The EM5 does not seem to be sold in the US, there may be some gray-market ones. I couldn’t find a price. Given the intent, the 7 makes more sense anyway. But I just don’t wish to stretch the budget.

What about other tube or tube hybrid products? I looked at Jolida, they only have single-ended.

In solid state, I see the Matrix Audio Mini iPro 3, which is nice in that it has integrated WiFi, so around home I just need to select ROON.

At work, we will EVENTUALLY get WiFi, so I might be able to attach a ROON server.

Portables? I see an Earman Angel which seems to be in an iDSD Micro Signature class, don’t know anything about it.