Need DAC/AMP Help

I wasn’t allowed to post in Purchase Advice so I thought this was the best place to put this. My head is swimming with the possible choices and I’m losing my way. I have the infamous power hungry HEDDphones coming my way at some point here and I know my current iFi xDSD isn’t going to cut it. That much I do know. I also know I need something with a strong output. The other thing I know is I can’t break the bank with this choice. The source would be from either my phone or my laptop using Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon HD. My budget is roughly $1,000US so I am hoping there are good options available. I hope that the collective wisdom of the community can help me out with this as all of your experience far outweighs mine.


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Options I would look at for that headphone and budget:

  • Grace SDAC Balanced + THX AAA 789 - $560
  • Bifrost 2 + Asgard 3 - $898
  • Bifrost 2 + Jotunheim - $1,098
  • RME ADI-2 DAC fs - $1,149

Based on about 30 minutes with the HEDDphone, I’d be leaning towards one of the latter two options which either have a natural tonal balance that’ll suit the HEDDphone (if you want a neutral result), or have EQ onboard to get there.


Thank you. That helps to narrow down my focus. And away we go… :grin:


I would expect that if you ran the xDSD in line out mode, you could drive something like the Schiit Lyr 3 as I do. And. You would then later be able to upgrade your non-mobile DAC at leisure. That won’t break your budget.

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Oh man, now it might get complicated again. My first step could be a strong amp and running the xDSD as the DAC. I do like the sound from iFi through my Elegias. Hmmmmm. Decisions, Decisions. I appreciate the suggestion and will think on that as well.

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You’re welcome. I am very happy with the Lyr 3, both with the TungSol tube upgrade I bought with it, and with the RCA Red base tube I use with it now. I also am happy with the xDSD. While I haven’t spent the $$ for Heddphones, I can assure you that the Lyr 3 / xDSD sounds very good with Sennheiser HD-6xx and with Hifiman HE-560, and with the Grado RS1e.

Eventually, I’ll get a Schiit Bifrost 2 to pair with the Lyr 3 in one location, and may occasionally move the Lyr 3 from room to room, as it currently is right by the bed, so I can do late-night listening. The xDSD often travels when I do.


Man I am really liking the iFi IDSD Micro Black label! Dual burr brown ChiPs and more power then my former beloved iFi XDSD. I am thinking about doing the same thing and getting a LYR 3 soon and using with the iFi IDSD micro black label until I get the stand alone bitfrost 2.


I looked at all of the replies so far and I cannot object to anyone of them. Might however consider a Marantz Dac 1 if you don’t require balanced.

I see that one is on sale for $550US. Information on that one is pretty sparse. Does it have the necessary power to drive the HEDDphone properly?

It will drive anything well except electrostatic transducers. Thr AMT the Hedd’ use are going to demand about what a typical 600 ohm headphone would require. The Marantz has three gain settings and I have never needed more than level two with any non electrostatic headphone.

If this is the Marantz HD-DAC 1 your’e talking about, then that statement isn’t really accurate. It’s going to be working very hard to keep up with things like the LCD-4, Abyss, Susvara, HE-6/SE and isn’t going to have much headroom for the HEDDphone either.

That’s a pure power-assessment … and generally the harder an amplifier is working (or at least the closer to its rails it is operating) the higher the distortion it’ll generate.

And I don’t see how it’ll drive electrostatic headphones at all. It doesn’t have a way to provide the bias voltage for a start.


Topping D50 + SMSL SP200 is also a pretty good combo. 6w at 16 ohm and great distortion and signal over noise measurements


+1 RME ADI-2 DAC FC ($1100 at B&H, new release).


Hi Matt: Perhaps consider the Emotiva (USA) BasX-A-100 (?):


I want to thank everyone for their help on this. After much searching and reading/watching reviews I kind of went in a sideways direction from the general theme of suggestions here. Not that I don’t appreciate all the input, which I think put me on the right search path. I ended up going with a combination of the Topping D70 for the DAC and the Monoprice Monolith Liquid Platinum for the amp. It’s serving me very well these first couple of days on my Elegias and I look forward to putting the combo to the test once I get the HEDDphone in.