Recomendation on a small DAC & Headphone amp for office desk

Well I can’t listen to my Directstream / PrimaLuna with my Focal Clear headphones anymore… too far away. So I need a DAC/Headphone amp at my desk.

What do you recommend?

Use case:

  • Sub $500 total for DAC/amp
  • USB to computer
  • Plays all (most?) formats (I will be using foobar and playing my library… been buying some HI Res and DSD)… if I had to give up a format, I would give up DSD as 98% of everything I own is PCM.
  • Audiophile sound… yea, no cht… but you know what I mean… most inexpensive stuff sounds dead to me… good equipment has that… um… well you know.
  • I just need a volume control and unbalanced out… will not power a system, no other interfaces needed in or out.
  • Used stuff is fine
  • NO Bluetooth or any other gimmicks
  • No other inputs needed, no preamp capabilities

I am looking at the usual suspect iFi Zen DAC V2 (not with their amp), maybe a Schiit… I dunno? I hate this mail order-only crap… dang I want to plug in and try 'em out!!!

Bruce in Philly (now Atlanta)

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Take a look at Burson audio products. Class A amp and excellent Dac. The price for a new unit might be more than $500 but some models might be cheaper. There are several in used markets too.

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If you’re a Roon user, Matrix Mini-i Pro 3 does a super job, though above budget. You may seek a preowned one. I love it.

I used a “topping x shenzhen ex5” ($350) - implemented with two ess chips. To me usb input to it is quite good and slightly warmer than neutral- most of all it is compact (desktop friendly) and its BT is also quite good for easy setup with various tablets and mobile phones for streaming.

Keep 'em coming folks… I am following up on all doing my research. BTW, yea, I can spend more than $500… I just want a good DAC/amp that ain’t going to piss me off. I know you get it.

Today, She came downstairs and told me to “Turn it down!” Dang I hate that. No headphones until I get this unit. So help!

Bruce in Philly

The Woo Audio WA7 is a neat bit of kit and may amuse. It is a good deal more than the $500.00 budget you proposed however.


I had a Burson, and liked it quite a bit. A good value product and many are available used if that’s your thing. I sold mine as it just was (1) under utilized, and (2) I was in a system de-cluttering mood.


I recently got a Schiit Modi 3+/Magni combo that’s pretty darn good for $200 total. If you have Amazon Prime you get free 30 day returns or if you buy from Schiit for a bit less you can return within 15 days for a 15% restocking fee.

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Ooooo… that Wooooooo… I like tubes… Hmmmmmmm… Oooooo… Wooooooo…

$899 in black with a solid state power supply…

Bruce in Philly (now Atlanta)

I am very pleased with my Woo WA5.

Woo also makes a tube power supply for the WA7. I have heard it only with the solid state PSU. It sounded great. And it looks neat.

Schiit Asgard with multiBit module, $400 -$450. Actually the Schiit cable works really really well for USB. MultiBit is limited to 192.

I tried Burson and was completely non-musical in my opinion. Tried multiple cables and swapped opamps, always detailed but never musical.


I have a Schitt Audio Lyr 3 / Bifrost 2 stack. Good sound and performance at a reasonable price.
Have been seriously thinking of adding the new Jotunheim for balanced headphones.


I have a Schiit Valhalla tube headphone amp/preamp that is good way beyond it’s price. $349.
And for one with built-in Dac, the LYR3 is also excellent for around $500 ( I think)


From my post in the Garage Sale thread
I used in my office, killer little machine


Thanx for the suggestions all… anyone know about that Woo Audio Fireflies 2nd Gen?

I have a thing for tubes… always did since I first heard them in a Luxman integrated around 1984 and have owned some great tube stuff over the years… Conrad Johnson (solid, beautiful, great company), VTL (like dating a nuts supermodel), and now PrimaLuna (very very musical, slightly veiled). The few reviews I read on the Woo are not all that good, but the reviews appear to be done by children. The 3rd gen is out and it is much more expensive. The money is not that big of a deal… but… I am looking for that inflection point (or product) that goes high-end above the dead-sounding crap. Another appeal to this unit is I have an inventory of tubes I can swap in an out.

The Burson units look pretty good but get mixed reviews… as does the Cambridge DAC magic… but so does the Woo unit. Very confusing. The Schiits get generally very favorable reviews all around but I have a bias against them… a dumb emotional thing… the gimmick of their name and a wave of reviews… I dunno… makes me wary. I know I shouldn’t think/emote like that but cripes… in the absence of brick and mortar to test drive, what else do we have?

Maybe my threshold should be sub $1,000 ??


Bruce in Philly (now Atlanta)

I bought a Woo WA6-se shortly after I got my Burson Conductor v2+. The Woo sounded a little better (? With Sophia tube upgrade). My headphone Mr Speakers ether can be tuned with a change of internal padding and at the end I didn’t hear much diffidence between Burson and Woo. I am not a heavy headphone user, and I often used the Woo only for an hour or so which wasn’t enough to fully warm up the tubes. On the other hand, the Burson can be left on all the time. So I ended up selling the Woo. Never heard WA7. I think Burson offers a home trial and you could take an advantage of that.

iFi Zen Signature DAC and amp (balanced!)

Mr Beef, do you own this?

They have a calculator which… well … kinda turns me off to the thing. It shouldn’t because it is there to help but I duuno… doesn’t look good for my Focal Clear


This might be helpful to you.

Love my tiny Chord Mojo. And you can take it with you. Very portable DAC.

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