Looking for my first Decent DAC / Amp

Hello all.

First time poster, long-time lurker on the forum.

As it says in the topic, I am looking to upgrade my setup with my first good / pretty good DAC and Amp. I am currently using a FiiO Q1 for a DAC and a Nobsound NS-08E tube amp. I am using either my PC running Musicbee (WASAPI exclusive out) or my LG V35 as my source. Files are almost 100% flac, about 5% or so are higher definition (either 96 or 192K). No requirement for DSD, 5.1 or MQA source data at this time but obviously that could change.

I am using primarily a pair of HD 6XX headphones that i purchased used here. I also have a set of Johnson and Mitchell JP1s and Audio Technica ATH M40s.

I would like to purchase separate components and spend in the $500 to $700 range.

I was initially looking at the Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC but the price is a bit out of what I want to spend. What I liked about the Bifrost 2 was the multibit implementation was well reviewed and I really like the USB implementation for noise reduction / signal quality. I have also looked at used Bifrost 1s with the multibit and USB Gen 5 upgrades.

Schiit also has used B stock on the Bifrost 1 with the multibit and USB options (both previous generations) for $399. The downside, besides the mb and usb not being most current is the the Bifrost 1 does not support balanced output. I’ve never heard a balanced setup so I can’t really judge whether I need it.

I have also been looking at two DACs from SMSL. I first saw the SU-8. Very good reviews and I liked the price. Then I saw the M200. Newer technology and very high definition Bluetooth implementation (which I don’t use now but might be handy for some patio listening with a new set of headphones). The only thing concerning me about the M200 is that the SU-9 is supposed to come out anytime. Apparently it was supposed to launch in February but Covid 19 slowed it down.

While I was thinking about a tube amplifier, I figured for my first decent amp I would go with solid state and look to add a tube preamp or buffer at a later date.

If I end up going with the Bifrost B stock then I will seriously consider the Schiit Asgard 3.

I am also looking at THX technology. Drop has their AAA 789 for a good price but it doesn’t look like it will ship until October. Monoprice has one at a similar price point that will ship immediately.

I have also been looking at the SMSL SP200. THX implementation and it has good reviews and is priced about $100 less than the Drop and Monoprice options.

Well, that’s where I am right now. I welcome any and all suggestions / advice except for saying I have to double my budget :slight_smile:


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