What would your ideal portable Head-Fi solution look like?

So my mind has started to turn to a post-quarantine life (albeit prematurely) and it’s looking like my commute may go from ~30m to ~1h30m via public transit, depending on the house my fiancé and I buy. This got me to thinking about my “ideal” (trans)portable HiFi solution which then made me curious as to what other folks might want.

I’ll kick things off by saying that my ideal portable solution would be a single, fully-balanced device with separate digital source, DAC, and AMP modules. The digital source module would be Bluetooth 5 with LHDC/LDAC as well as USB-C compatible for plugging in to my phone. The DAC module would be an R-2R ladder configuration DAC. This would then feed an AMP module with switchable tube/solid state topologies (or even just two separate AMP modules - one for Tube sound and one solid state that I could quickly and easily swap out on the go). For the headphone, I’d probably use my Sundaras or my HD 6XX, since they’re open-back so I can still hear what’s going on around me, but also aren’t too expensive if they get lost/stolen/broken.

Barring a single device that does this, I’d have 3 separate devices: a digital source, a DAC, and an AMP. It seems to me that digital sources change more frequently than DACs and DACs change more frequently than AMPs, so to me it makes sense that these should be three distinct devices.


I work far from home and I have long service runs with some time outs so I always have some listening equipment with me. I work in medical stuff fighting pandemic so I never stopped working during these months.
At the moment I bring with me an iBasso DX200, Moondrop Starfield and a Dragonfly Cobalt with Usb C Dragontail. Dragonfly is my backup source when my iBasso battery runs out and I use it with my Android phone to turn it in a decent audio player.
I have an Astell & Kern SR25 coming which will take the place of the iBasso and will eventually benefit of the Dragonfly Cobalt in order to drive some full size headphones as an alternative to the Starfield.
It happens also I have to stay away from home for longer periods of time because of my work.
In those occasions I bring with me a pair of Grado SR80e. With a pair of Aeon Noire coming I’ll probably bring them with me and I’ll add my Chord Mojo as DAC/Amplifier in order to be able to decently drive the Noire.


@monochromios Thank you so much for all your work on the front-lines of this damned pandemic. The rest of us are truly grateful for everything you do.

I’ve also been using the Dragonfly Cobalt, along with a FiiO BTR5 and a FiiO Q5S Type-C as my portable setups, depending on how long I need them to be portable for. However, when running wirelessly, I’ve found that my BTR5 doesn’t last as long as I’d like it to, and the Q5S has been randomly turning off while on bluetooth mode :confused: .


Thank you for your support. I’m making my due, nothing more and nothing less. I hope we’ll get out of this madness very soon. You can work out of your possibility for 6/8 months but then it is difficult to keep on positively without a break. I’m optimist by nature and for one time I hope nature will be as optimist as I am. I appreciate the Dragonfly and especially the Cobalt because it is battery less. Of course you have to power it through your source but it isn’t very power hungry and the results it gives isn’t so bad. Noise floor for the way I use it is dead silent and it is something very important for me.
Never got very deep into wireless on mobile because of battery life. Not always I have a recharge spot available so I gravitate more into wired products and multiple solutions. There are days I really can’t sleep with no music in my ears so better always have a B plan for those occasions.
Be well and stay safe


So, good news is your ideal solution exists already on the market. Problem is it starts at like 3k USB and goes up to 8k USD or so.

3 devices:

Source: phone
Dac: HM1000/R2R2000
Amp: Cayin C9/Continental Dual Mono/Phatlabs chimera d/a few others

That said, if you are going to all that trouble you are probabaky better served by a dap to get as much info into the dac as possible as even LDAC can’t transfer enough data for some 48/16 songs much the less high samplerates and but depths. Lucky for you, the only r2r daps out there dont use android anyways so software aging them out shouldnt be too far off just better dacs coming out

R2R daps:
L&P P6, P6Pro, and LP6


Interesting info. My search is for ideal setup for my 1-3 hour bike rides. Currently using Fiio M7 with very old pair of B&O in-ear phones or old pair Bose sport. Both sound extremely good with the Fiio. Would like to upgrade to something with a more robust and versatile interface, but don’t want something bulky or heavy. I would consider wireless if convinced sound quality would be as good. Suggestions welcomed. Thanks.


Yeah, I’ve looked at the L&P product line and while really, really cool, they’re also really, really, really expensive. And between the fact that they fill both digital source & dac roles and the speed at which digital source technology is changing (bluetooth codecs, versions, etc.), I just haven’t been able to justify the price. I’ve also looked at the HiFiMan R2R2000/HM1000 and I feel that has the same fundamental issues. I also have concerns (as a software engineer) about the longevity of custom OSes like those used on these devices. They’re so close to what I’m looking for, but at the price I don’t think I can really justify their cost.

That being said, I’ve already pre-ordered the Cayin C9 :grin: and I think I can get by with that and my BTR5 or C5S until someone comes out with more ideal kit for what I’m looking for.


Honestly man, I worry far less about proprietary OSs aging out than I do android. Dont forget how quick dac tech progresses too. chances are pretty low any of us will be using the same sources in 5 years anyways


I’m out of the house frequently so my portable solution has been my btr5 and xd-05 plus.

With these two, I get to choose which headphones I want to take out and I’ll grab the corresponding dac/amp to power them.

For instance, I take out my dt770 600ohm and I know I’ll need my xd-05 for that. With the bluetooth dongle attached to it, just makes everything so much more convenient for travel. The xd-05 makes it possible for me to take out my power hungry headphones and not have to worry.

I do prefer the btr5 more for form factor. Powers my aeon 2 closed balanced and runs my campfire cascades nicely. I got a short cable for my ndh20 and I love wrapping the btr5 around it and clipping it to the headband for a very nice, seemingly wireless solution.

My ideal upgrade to my current setup would be to get an ifi micro bl. It would probably be the bulky upgrade for a portable rig but no compromises with that dac amp. I want a warm portable amp and I’ve read the ifi micro bl can provide that and all the power I’ll ever need on the go.

1 Like

Yeah, the BTR5 is a great little device. I haven’t tried the XD-05 series yet, but with two solid recs on this thread alone, I’m heavily considering checking out the balanced version that’s coming out soon. How do you find the bluetooth functionality on it to sound? That’s one area I feel like I’m constantly let down, but where the convenience factor is too hard to live without.

I’ve also heard good things about the Micro BL, but haven’t heard that one yet.

1 Like

For my ears, with a device that can transmit LDAC to the btr5 and xd-05, I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything personally. I can hear an audible difference between lower quality codecs but when on LDAC, I can’t tell the difference between going hard wired and LDAC bluetooth myself.

The bluetooth functionality on the btr5 seems a lot better. Less finicky and easier to handle compared to the xd-05 dongle but when it’s all set up and nothing’s interfering, it all goes smoothly. My biggest disappointment is range but it depends on surroundings I guess.

Audio coming through LDAC bluetooth codec hasn’t made me think of what I might be missing yet. It’s mostly been about how the amp/dac paired with the bluetooth performs for me. I enjoy the added warmth the btr5 provides. The xd-05 provides a bit more clarity to the sound and has better control of the bass compared to the btr5 which comes off a little boomy in comparison.

Also have my eyes on that balanced xduoo. Looks interesting.

1 Like

Yeah, for the most part I can’t differentiate bluetooth vs not, but there are two songs which immediately spring to mind (The Imitation Game by Alexandre Desplat and Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of Bésame Mucho) where I can definitely tell the difference. In particular, I find that during busy sections, the piano in The Imitation Game seems to disappear. In Andrea Bocelli’s Bésame Mucho, I find that his voice gets distorted, even with LDAC.

I have noticed that the BTR5’s Bluetooth implementation seems fantastic. I also like that it (unlike the Q5S) has multi-device support which I (ab)use to my advantage while at work. It’s nice to be able to use the mic on it for phone calls and still be able to listen to quality music - I just wish the battery life on it could last a full work day.

Reading that does make me wonder if a) I just haven’t listened to enough devices and b) the Bluetooth on the XD-05 might be able to resolve some of the issues I hear from the BTR5.

Well, I still use my iPod Classic quite a bit, and it is older than 5 years and still works quite well.


I love that you’re still using your iPod Classic! Those things were tanks, and that’s the kind of longevity I’d like to see in more devices. I always wanted to get one, but finances were pretty tight for me at the time.


I resurrected my 2005 iPod recently (I posted about it here) and it’s still a great little portable solution. The small size appeals - perfect for the front pocket of a pair of jeans when out and about!


Ok, so I made some big spending jumps in the last couple weeks, but I got a couple very good used deals. Currently this is an exceptional transportable setup

BT from phone/local → P6 Pro → se LO → Micro iDSD BL (please bring back analogue input ifi) → arya

Dead honest though, pure SQ, I think the much simpler (but similar priced used) P6 Pro → Mest is a bit better as it handles far more genres quite well

Honestly, other than dreaming about a cayin C9 or Romi BX2+ that i just have no need for, im not even sure where I would improve without stepping into a whole new tier of cans/iems


I do have to say, from a SQ perspective, the C9 is one of the best things I’ve ever listened to. It’s just the weird power/charging issues that hold it back.

If folks are interested, my full C9 review is published.