Author Topic: uDSD and AMP pairing advice  (Read 684 times)

Offline Wietsche

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uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« on: February 15, 2017, 11:27:59 PM »
Hi All,

I need some advice with my Nuprime uDSD and providing more power to my headphones.

I currently have a pair of Philips Fidelio X2 headphones. Although the uDSD produce amazing sound through them, at louder volumes, or on under powered USB ports, the sound sometimes feels a bit flat and not fleshed out properly. And the X2s are not hard to drive, from my understanding, yet a lot of guys with X2s have also stated that amps definetely improves the sound towards being more fluid, round, dense, refined sound. I don't know how to describe this properly. But any headphone from here on up will need more juice.

I did a crude test by running the RCA outputs to an old vintage Merantz amp just to hear what it does to the headphone sound. The sound had a lot more body and warmth to it. But the amp sounds muddy and noisy compared to the uDSD, as expected, and I did not like it. Then I ran it straight from the headphone output on my Lenovo Thinkpad laptop and it had a lot more volume and again more fleshed out compared to the uDSD, but not with the clarity of the uDSD. Then I used my trusty Note 3 phone, and although this was the best sounding of the alternative sources, I arrived at the same conclusion. You can see where I am going with this. I like the uDSD's resolution and clarity.

I saw the other posts on how to provide extra juice to the uDSD with battery banks etc. But I am a bit of a neat freak and don't like the idea of extra stuff stacked or dangling around by desk. Especially with the side mounted USB cable on the uDSD... I have a powered USB hub and it indeed helps, but not enough. I mainly use the uDSD at home with my desktop PC and it does not really move around. So I want a setup that is ready to go when I sit down at my desk without too much clutter and fussing about. Listening to music should be the important part of my routine.

So, I need some advice on how to improve this little setup of mine, and still not be naive and prepare for a possible future headphone upgrade towards, say, planar magnetic. I know there are lots of you guys with uDSD's and also loving them, but what external amps works well with this particular DAC without breaking the bank?

In my mind, I have 3 options:

1. Just stick with what I have until I can upgrade everything eventually. It is still very enjoyable anyway.
2. Just add a headphone amp from the likes of Shiit Magni/Vali 2, O2 and the Little Dot I+ on Massdrop. Connect this to the RCA outputs of the uDSD. Then have the awsome uDSD DAC and DSD capabilities still available.
3. Or just get a Shiit Modi Magni/Vali 2 Uber Stack or similar DAC/AMP combo that works in harmony and looks neat, and decide what to do with the uDSD after some carefull listening.

I got some import pricing info from Scott on the products above and they seem to fit my budget well. The JOTUNHEIM for example is too pricy at this stage.

Please note, I have no idea how tube amps sound or how well they pair with the uDSD. Or what they offer at the same price point as a solid state amp. Reading reviews did not help much in this regard as I am not experienced enough. But someone did pair a Schiit Vali with the uDSD and liked it. But I am leaning towards solid state, yet I am very curious about the tube sound, but I have a feeling that tubes might need more investment to really enjoy, and could be a real hit or a miss. They look cool though. If someone can comment on this aspect as well for small headphone setups, please do.

Please help me make the right decission here and not burn cash unnecessarily.

Thanks for your time guys!

Cheers,
W


Offline AdrianDeLau

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2017, 05:33:22 AM »
Hi!

I cant really comment on udsd or fidelio cans.... havent really used them yet.

My setup comprises of a beyerdynamic dt880 pro 250ohm plugged into a hybrid tube amp(millet valve amp) which in turn is connected to my pc.
Now i know its probably a dumb question so please don't throw me with anything!

Whats the bitrate on the files you are listening to?(normal mp3's or is it flac files?)
This can from my experience make a huge difference in your listening experience.(reason for asking is that since i received my amp a couple of weeks ago, i don't listen to mp3's anymore.... only flac will do)

Also valves isn't that expensive to run, needs a bit of research as tube rolling can get expensive.
But yet again everything is based on what your sound preference is.

I have sent you a pm.

Regards
A


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Offline kamikazi

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2017, 09:41:26 AM »
LH Labs GO2A. I don't see why you would bother with the other bulky solutions when this one can solve all your problems.

Offline xenithon

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2017, 10:24:29 AM »
I was considering the GO too as one point, especially the newer 2A+ / Infinity, but read far too many negative experiences about the metal plates falling off, poor customer service, very delayed delivery, etc. The product might be great but quality and reliability is important too

Offline kamikazi

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2017, 10:39:38 AM »
I was considering the GO too as one point, especially the newer 2A+ / Infinity, but read far too many negative experiences about the metal plates falling off, poor customer service, very delayed delivery, etc. The product might be great but quality and reliability is important too

The newer ones are much better according SBAF and Head-Fi. I think they've learned a bit from their mistakes and trying to improve. I think using Scott's shipping services you can mitigate a lot of the other risks. The Dragonfly Red is also a possibility, but I think it's a bit expensive for what it is.

Offline Wietsche

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2017, 11:30:42 AM »
Hi Guys,

Thanks for replies so far, really appreciate it!

@Adrian:
I listen to Google Play Music(320kbps MP3) and trying out Tidal(FLAC and MASTER) for casual explorative listening, but then have flac and DSD files that I bought on the PC that I play through Foobar2000 when I feel like something really decent. I can hear the differences between the streaming services and the local files on my PC, but they all suffer from the same symptoms. I am doing lots of listening between theses sources above and will post my opinion a bit later, and then people might start throwing things at me.. About the tube stuff, that is my problem, I don't know what I like with tubes so it will be a lot of experimentation to determine that, and then it will be expensive anyway.

@kamikazi and xenithon:
I see the GO2A has a lot more power than the uDSD. I can see how that will improve my current setup. And yes quality(within range) is what I am after, for sure. I am concerned that it is again dependant on USB for power and I believe you can only draw so much power from a USB port, and it should become a limiting factor with future higher impedance headphones. Or am I mistaken?

And It feels very close to the uDSD, feels almost like it would be a repurchase of the same thing. So I was looking at something with an external power source as my starting point. Its nice and small I agree, but the SS amps I listed are not bulky at all from the pictures and reviews I saw. The Little Dot seems a bit bulky though for a study/working desk setup. I know you guys have lots of experience, and your opinions I take very seriously. Thanks for the input! I will list this one as an option for now.

Thanks again for the inputs! Enjoy the rest of your day!

Cheers,
W


Offline xenithon

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2017, 11:36:12 AM »
Have you considered something like the Matrix HPA-3U?

Offline Hi-Phibian

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2017, 12:57:45 PM »
Try different USB power supplies to power the hub.  They do sound different. 
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Offline kamikazi

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2017, 01:21:11 PM »
Here is a very useful reference and comparison for portable options - http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/easily-lost-portable-dac-amp-comparisons.3886/

I've seen the original Geek Out 2 once being used to drive an efficient speaker in a Youtube video so I'm sure it has the plenty of power to make magic smoke appear from high impedance cans when driven at full gain. Primary benefit of the GO2A over the uDSD are the added gain modes so you can use a variety of headphones with it and then of course it has the superior ES9018 DAC over the ES9010 that is used in the uDSD and it has a very powerful integrated headphone amp that should drive anything with authority bar the most inefficient of planar magnetic headphones. Many modern planar magnetic headphones are as efficient as their dynamic counterparts while having less demanding impedance curves.

Offline xenithon

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2017, 01:58:15 PM »
Very useful write-up. Surprised the Schiit isn't there as SBAF are fanboys  :O0:

Having said that I'd come back to the original question - do you need portability? If not then the $400-700 of some of these devices can buy you a very nice desktop amp/dac.

Nothing against the others, just don't think you should limit yourself given the potential compromises a mobile option has (USB power, EMI interference, etc).

Offline Wietsche

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2017, 04:34:27 PM »
Hi,

@ xenithon:
Your question about portability, I don't think it is necessary. When I started my only goal was better sound and the uDSD provides that perfectly. I mainly listen to quality stuff when at my desk. I however do not what to occupy too much desk space, since the books and files I need to have around me already occupy a lot at night. I am talking 3 large lever-arch folders minimum plus whatever needed. The music keeps me company and sane :) . When I travel to work on the train and at my office desk I use what I have, being my laptop and phone as music sources or streamers, and a pair of Plantronics Backbeat Pro active noise cancelling bluetooth headphones. Head-fi-ers here reading this probably have vivid objections to the Plantronics set, but I actually enjoyed them very much over the last 2 years, and the features works 100% for my needs. They are comfortable, quiet and not fatiguing, and I would buy them again easily. So let's just say I do not need more portable than this. The uDSD is a portable dac, but only because it was in my mind the best value, and now I wanted to build onto that, or make a change.

Regarding the Matrix HPA-3U, no I have not. It looks promising and I have seen it before on that specific website, and at the time I thought it was a bit big and overkill, not within budget, and not just a simple headphone amp I was looking for. When I look at it now again, I definitely reacted differently. So let's see where this topic leads to over the next couple of days or weeks. If I can sell the uDSD and get this unit (or the Schiit Stack) the budget works out. Would still be nice to be somewhat portable or easily moveable (like most headphone setups).

@ Kamakazi:
I will need to read through that writeup on SBAF still. You speak very highly of the GO2A and you sure have my attention to this little one. I will research a bit and watch some reviews. I would love to eventually have a proper planar magnetic set. That HE400i deal came just too late as I have my X2's less than a month now. I needed something that is easy to drive with the uDSD at that point and the money is now spent...

@ Hi-Phibian:
I will see if I have another wall wart at home with the correct specs that has more amps and give it a shot. I also just remembered that I have another powered hub at my HTPC that I can also try.


Your inputs are valued a lot, thank you!

Cheers,
W


Offline JonnyP

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2017, 07:09:44 PM »
I've run the uDSD through a tube amp (JNouw EL84) and speakers and it sounds great.  Have now got it plugged into the HPA-9 but not got around to testing with headphones.  The HPA is running as a pre-amp to STA-9 and tannoys and also sounds great.  Will try the head option and let you know
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Offline Wietsche

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2017, 09:41:45 PM »
Thanks Jonny!

Please let me know how the headphones sounds through the uDSD compared to the HPA if possible.

That is a proper "stack"! You just need the DAC-9 then you have the NuPrime-9 Stack! Beautiful!

Cheers,
W

Offline Wietsche

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2017, 11:01:00 AM »
Hi Guys,

The GO2A kamikazi mentioned seems like a champion when it comes to portable setups. Here is a review link: <http://www.head-fi.org/products/lh-labs-geek-out-2a/reviews/17331>

Seems like this guy thinks its a good pair with the X2's. I especially like that it supports DSD. To my ears, my DSD tracks sounds awesome on the uDSD compared to other formats I have. Although I do not have the same tracks in both DSD and FLAC format so this statement is very subjective. Does anyone on the forum actually own and/or used the GO2A for some time?

@ Hi-Phibian:
I tried another powered USB 3 hub with the uDSD last night. With the limited time I had, I could not hear a difference between the two hubs I have at various volume levels.

I think I need to listen to my X2s on any good amp, fed by my uDSD to know if my headphones are not the actual problem. Lots of guys saying that the X2s do not scale well with amplification like the HD600's, although many reviewers put these two very close in their ratings. If a good amp does not do the job, then I fear I might need to change my brand new X2 headphones. :(

Cheers,
W

Offline itscraig

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Re: uDSD and AMP pairing advice
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2017, 11:07:21 AM »
are you using the Udsd as an amp or out of the Udsd into an amp?
i found that the Udsd into a different amp works the best.