Small DAC recommendation

I’m working at home full-time now and will be for a while. My desktop workspace isn’t huge and my work monitor is vast so I’ve had to move my Benchmark DAC-1 down to the basement, and bring my SDAC into service. It’s decent, but it’s not quite as satisfying as the Benchmark. Any recommendations for a physically small, not-too-expensive DAC?

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What is your budget?

A couple of hundred USD, more or less. I’m open to shopping for something used, too, which gets me a bit more bang for my buck. I could also sell off some amps (LCX, CTH) I’m not using and buy a nice all-in-one unit, like a Jotunheim. I just don’t want too big a stack of gear on my desk.

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On the small footprint I can only think of Schiit stuff – e.g.: Modi (3 or Multibit). But I can’t answer on how much quality you’ll get over your SDAC. Of course there’s the new Bifrost 2 hype, but that’s a bigger gear.

If you’re open to DAC/Amp combos, then there are way more options. But in this case you’ll probably have to share the power requirements for your cans.

Anyway, those were my 2 cents. I’m sure the community will have a load of more options.

Good luck!

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Schiit is the direction I would look…

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Topping D50S is tiny. Size of a drinks coaster, inch thick, heavy, remote. Decent value there for what it is, isn’t going to compete with the higher end shit obviously, but for price and size.

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The D50S was going to be my recommendation. Clean, small and measures well if that’s your thing.

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ifi nano idsd black label.

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I would look into a Chord Mojo, as you can use it in line out mode for desktop use, it’s tiny and it’s a portable Dac/Amp combo that you could take with you, when the current craziness subsideds.

I would check with @taronlissimore to ask if they have any open box units as that would put this in your price range. I really enjoy mine and it will give you a ‘taste’ of the Chord ‘sound’.

I use this adapter to go to my amp.
https://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/audio/index.htm

Also I use this adapter for the USB input as I already had a nice USB cable to use. Or you could use an optical cable instead.
Audioquest - USB B to Micro Adaptor https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M0H4J6C/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_buONEbJ54S71S

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Curiosity strikes me… I own a Mojo my self and I love it… But I have read in some other parts that unlike other small form factor/portable DAC/AMPS the Mojo does not cycle the battery when plugged in all the time for desktop use, people have gone as far as taking the battery out to preserve it.
Hence why I didn’t recommend for desktop use.

Some say is true, some say is not… I rather not risk it?

The iFi devices cycle the battery while plugged in to make sure the battery does not damage.

TBH I think this apply s to most devices with a battery on it, I own the Chord Mojo, the iFi nano and a Micro iDSD. The micro iDSD is 100% of the time on and attached to my main desktop and the nano has been put away and replaced with the mojo.

Food for thought.

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iFi ZenDAC if you like a Burr Brown DAC. I’ve grown to like the little guy and it’s priced in a good spot for the features.

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I would look into a Chord Mojo, as you can use it in line out mode for desktop use, it’s tiny and it’s a portable Dac/Amp combo that you could take with you, when the current craziness subsideds.

I’ve generally tried to avoid buying devices with batteries when I don’t need portability. I looked at the Mojo a few years ago, but decided against it simply because I didn’t want to have to maintain yet another battery.

If you’re open to DAC/Amp combos, then there are way more options. But in this case you’ll probably have to share the power requirements for your cans.

I’m using Elegias right now (hopefully Stellias in the not-to-distant future :crossed_fingers:) and it just occurred to me that I could just use my Benchmark since it has a not-terrible headphone amp built in. If only it had a balanced output. Sigh.

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Yea, I am with you, Than maybe the Topping E30 is what you want or D50.
I cant attest to their stuff… I dont use Topping at all

In order of size:

  • AudioQuest Dragonfly – Black, Red, Cobalt – whichever you can afford – $100, $200, $300
  • Schiit – Magni 3 + Modi 3 = $200 total or $350 total for Modi Multibit DAC
    These pair well with Sennheiser HD600s, still the best bang for the buck @ $300
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Thats a very good list of recommendations!

@Simonfish check out https://www.headphones.com/collections/portable-amps-dacs

You cant go wrong with headphones.com as their staff and support is outstanding.

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Geshelli Labs Enog 2 Pro is a small dac with rca and xlr output, very small footprint.

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Can I ask why you’d need or want balanced output? The Elegia’s aren’t power hungry so single ended should do.

Another option is to use your phone and get one of those dongle DACs?

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At the first Seattle get-together I attended, I tried my Elegias with a balanced cable and was truly amazed at how much better they sounded. Lower noise? I don’t know. All I know is that they sound a lot better to my ears. I’ve switched back and forth several times just to be sure, and every time, I prefer the sound of the balanced cable.

I have a Dragonfly Red which I use with my phone. It’s pretty nice, and I actually have it plugged in to my work computer for when I feel like using IEMs rather than over-ear headphones. But I prefer being able to turn my phone over when I work so I’m not distracted by notifications, and I also prefer the Tidal and Spotify UI on my desktop vs on my phone.

I think I’m just going to call my current setup good for now - it doesn’t sound like I’m going to get any significant gains without spending significant amounts of money, which I suppose was the whole point of the SDAC.

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone!

  • S
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@DEXCOM7 What are your thoughts comparing your micro iDSD BL to your Mojo?

I don’t know if anyone has suggested it yet but the iFi Audio Hip DAC is a great option with the Elegia. @Resolve actually wrote about it in his work from home article here. It does have the option of balanced 4.4 if you were looking for the balanced option.

The bass boost is also a nice touch with the Elegia because it adds a little oomph to the low-end when you’re feeling frisky.

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