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Thread: Starter amp and DAC recommendations for a young music lover

  1. #1
    Join Date: Oct 2017

    Location: Ontario, Canada

    Posts: 601
    I'm Svend.

    Default Starter amp and DAC recommendations for a young music lover

    I am starting to hunt around for some components to set up my eldest daughter with her first audio system for her upcoming move into an apartment in the city. She'll be graduating from university this year and is starting a job downtown after the summer. She loves music, values good sound quality, loves vinyl for its sound and not because it's trendy. Musical tastes range from alternative, acoustical, folk-influenced alternative, jazz, and a little classical. No rock, metal, or hip-hop. Doesn't care for overly heavy bass, but likes accurate, crisp, dynamic sound that highlight vocals, acoustic guitars, wind and brass instruments. Transparency and detail would rule here. Full midrange, lots of quickness and jump.

    So far I have acquired an original Rega Planar 2 turntable which I will upgrade with a few sensible mods (nothing over the top...mostly motor and deck isolation-focused). Arm and cartridge undetermined, but they will be good quality....something like an RB300/2M Bronze, or equivalent.

    Digital source will be a Macbook, most likely running Spotify and iTunes.

    Her Grandpa is giving her a pair of his old KEF stand-mounted speakers; model unknown, circa 1980's vintage. They are two-way, unported, so will likely need good oomph from whatever amp I end up getting. He ran them with a Quad 306 and I don't think it enough gas in the tank for those.


    So what I'd like some opinion on from the group here is the amp and DAC. Budget about C$1000 (600 GBP) for both.

    Re. the amp -- this could be compact separates or an integrated, new or second hand (prefer the latter for value for money). We'd probably need 75 to 100 watts to really drive the KEFs, but I could be wrong. I see that some of the new integrated amps have built-in DACs. My concern here is redundancy of the on-board DAC after a few short years, so instinct says to go for a high quality traditional amp and separate DAC that can be upgraded when needed.

    Older integrated models that I'm considering are the Rega Mira, one of the more powerful NAD integrated units, or something from Arcam or Cambridge. I love the Sugden sound, but I don't think they made anything much over 50 wpc(?). For separates, some of the older Bryston combos can be had here for very reasonable prices, being a local company, but some of their early stuff had a very grainy sound. I'm also not averse to Japanese units if simply designed, well made and good sounding -- most of them have so many superfluous bells and whistles that I'd be turned off by....and they tend to be rather large.

    I haven't heard most of these, and definitely not recently, so opinions most welcome. If new, then the field is wide open, but I'm doubtful I'd find anything suitably powerful within the budget. How about Class D? I know nothing about this - can these little amps drive a larger unported speaker like the KEF?

    As for the DAC, I'm leaning toward one of the Schiit units as they are good value, preferably one that can be upgraded (if it makes sense to do so). On the budget end perhaps one of the Dragonfly models would do the job.

    So, advice welcomed and gratefully accepted. Hopefully I'm on the right track with my amp leanings. Looking forward to hearing some recommendations.

    Kind regards,
    Svend

  2. #2
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 48,004
    I'm Grant.

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    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/XiangShen...8AAOSwr6xZnTpx

    As a dac these are hard to beat at anywhere near its cost. good headphone amp too and has great connectivity. V/C only used in headphones.
    Regards,
    Grant ....

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    OPPO BDP-103D DARBEE - JBE SERIES 3/B&O SP1/EMOTIVA XPS1/12V BATTERY - TWIN PRO MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIERS - XIANG SHENG DAC\PRE\HEADPHONE AMP\WE TUBED - TWIN AVANTREE OASIS CLASS 1 BLUETOOTHS - AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-MSR7 & OPPO PM-3 PLANAR HEADPHONES - WIN10, AUDIRVANA 3 PLUS, TIDAL - SMSL M6 MINIDAC - RPI/AUDIOPHONICS/VOLUMIO/5V BATTERY - FULL RANGE TWIN TELEFUNKEN/Q ACOUSTIC BT3/CANTON SUB - P.INSPIRED MAINS REGENERATED.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Aug 2016

    Location: South Yorkshire

    Posts: 75
    I'm David.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Svend N View Post
    How about Class D? I know nothing about this - can these little amps drive a larger unported speaker like the KEF?

    As for the DAC, I'm leaning toward one of the Schiit units as they are good value, preferably one that can be upgraded (if it makes sense to do so). On the budget end perhaps one of the Dragonfly models would do the job.

    So, advice welcomed and gratefully accepted. Hopefully I'm on the right track with my amp leanings. Looking forward to hearing some recommendations.

    Kind regards,
    Svend
    I've been using a TEAC AI-311DA ampDAC in my office system for a few months - it's only 30w Class D but put up a good fight with my big Spendor D9s when asked. The DAC side is DSD native and sounds excellent with upsampled CD from Audirvana on my Mac. Remote control and headphone socket, Blutooth for Iphone with 2 digi and 2 line inputs spare - you've have to budget for a phono stage for vinyl. Just a thought...
    DGP

  4. #4
    Join Date: Dec 2008

    Location: Lincolnshire, Home by the Sea

    Posts: 4,115
    I'm Shaun.

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    Not sure I can add much to this thread but I have owned two Sony TA-FB940R integrated amplifiers in the past and have been really impressed by them. They currently do the rounds at just over a ton in UKP, have a really good solid output and look amazing. Seriously good luck in your quest.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Oct 2017

    Location: Ontario, Canada

    Posts: 601
    I'm Svend.

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    Grant - thanks for the tip on the DAC. I've not heard of that one, but then this is all new territory for me, these DACs and all. Great price...only about C$200. Hard to beat. I may even buy one for myself at that price. How do they hold up sound quality wise wrt. audiophile standards?

    David - I'll check out the Teac unit. Good to know that the lower powered class D stuff can hold it's own. I really need to learn more about that technology. A good friend mine, who's an audio engineer, built a little class D integrated amp about ten years ago - it sounded amazing. So clear and transparent and lively. I can imagine that the new stuff has only improved since then.

    Shaun - thanks for the suggestion of the Sony. I know the Japanese have made some great sounding pieces - I recently heard some big Onkyo separates that blew me away, and I personally own a very nice Sony preamp (TAE-86B) that sounds terrific. But finding the jewels amongst all the mediocre mass-market stuff needs insight like yours. I'll check that out!

    Thanks,
    Svend

  6. #6
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 48,004
    I'm Grant.

    Default

    Sound is tops. Ive had a few really good dacs and I like this the best. If needed there is a simple mod to bring the vc into play. Some prefer it this way. I don't although it's handy for matching
    Regards,
    Grant ....

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    OPPO BDP-103D DARBEE - JBE SERIES 3/B&O SP1/EMOTIVA XPS1/12V BATTERY - TWIN PRO MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIERS - XIANG SHENG DAC\PRE\HEADPHONE AMP\WE TUBED - TWIN AVANTREE OASIS CLASS 1 BLUETOOTHS - AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-MSR7 & OPPO PM-3 PLANAR HEADPHONES - WIN10, AUDIRVANA 3 PLUS, TIDAL - SMSL M6 MINIDAC - RPI/AUDIOPHONICS/VOLUMIO/5V BATTERY - FULL RANGE TWIN TELEFUNKEN/Q ACOUSTIC BT3/CANTON SUB - P.INSPIRED MAINS REGENERATED.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Feb 2008

    Location: http://www.homehifi.co.uk

    Posts: 6,159

    Default

    DAC wise you could of course also buy British and support British engineering, such as the Caiman SEG .

  8. #8
    Join Date: Feb 2011

    Location: glasgow

    Posts: 2,273
    I'm tony.

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    A rega brio amp should fit the bill power wise with a good phono stage.

    A SEG is a very good dac with an excellent head phone section.

    This pairing would save change for a pair of cans to let your daughter listen late at night.

  9. #9
    Join Date: May 2016

    Location: Notts

    Posts: 1,692
    I'm Geoff.

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    I have one of these and can recommend it highly. Has one analogue input but the rest are digital. More than powerful enough to drive your speakers and the bluetooth dongle is very useful for streaming from a phone or tablet.

    https://www.amazon.com/NuForce-DDA12.../dp/B00UOVOVXM

    Geoff

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2016

    Location: Notts

    Posts: 1,692
    I'm Geoff.

    Default

    I should have added that this amp does not require a separate dac, though you will need a phono preamp. One option is a Rega phono preamp which has a usb digital out.

    I only noticed the low price of $249 after I posted my earlier comments. Do not be put off by this. This is a quality amp.

    Geoff

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