Headphone amp and dac advice needed

Here's what's happening.

After almost 3 years of working from home where my main system is in my office, I'll be going back to the office in January.  I have a pair of Audio Technica Bluetooth headphones I used with my phone.  Sound wasn't great, but it worked for background music.

Now that I've been spoiled by great sound for almost 3 years, I want something better, so I'm looking for a good desktop dac and headphone amp (or combo unit).  I'd like to keep it under @1K US as I'm also going to consider a new set of wired headphones.  I already have a set of Grados, but I'm intrigued by the planar magnetic phones out there now.  I'd also like to have the option of using Bluetooth headphones for when I'm moving about the office.

Nice to have for the dac:  Bluetooth input, balanced line out.

Nice to have for the headphone amp:  Balanced input, balanced and se headphone outs, Bluetooth transmitter.


I have a little experience with dacs, but no real experience with headphone amps.  Thanks in advance for any guidance you might be able to provide.


I don't have an answer for you but I do suggest you keep it light so you can take it home with you every night.  One of the great mysteries of the universe is how good quality audio gear, when left alone, can grow legs and wander about the planet, never to be seen again.  

Don't assume just because you lock up your office it is secure.  It is not.  Likewise if you lock it up in a drawer.   

@spatialking Thanks.  Yeah, already planning to take them home each night.  I have a backpack for my laptop that has plenty of room for phones and other gear.

Wow, take it home every night. I had built a substantial headphone system at work for over ten years in an open plan office area (~ $7K) and never considered the possibility of theft… and never was. 

FWIW, I have Audeze LC 2’s and Schiit DAC and amp. I enjoy it, but try different gear first. What I will point out is my planer headphones are big and heavy. I generally don’t last for more that an hour with them on. And this is at home , not the office. Also the drivers are somewhat fragile. You must avoid letting them slap together as the sudden pressure could harm them. Also lugging them around or dropping them is not good. I had a driver failure that was fortunately replaced under warranty. Audeze went so far as to replace both drives and ear cuffs with updated items when they were only obligated for 1 driver . That’s impressive support. Happy Hunting, Mike B, 

My choices:

Ifi go bar $289 open box bloom audio

Hifiman ananda steath magnets

open box from hifiman. This is vey refficient


Balanced cooper cable-- no silver with ananda

Old Sammy note 9 with card for storage

Usb pro app to process higher rez thru Android


This system is relatively compact. I walk around my house

With everything in a pocket. Not the ultimate, but easy and streaming tidal 

I am content

PS balanced cable is apos imported from China. We made

Higher purity single crystal cooper w/4.4mm pent balanced connector.this needed a very long breakin maybe 100 hours. Apos took 3 weeks to deliver and communication and tracking is a bit off, but ok. A nice product which greatly improved the stock hifiman unbalanced cable. The apos is also more attractive and more pleasant to handle.

I have no first hand experience with higher quality 

Fancy cables -- not in my budget nor personal experience. 


I was working with a $1k budget with a goal of flexible portal system with very fine sound and some natural sound stage.

I prefer to leave off the ifi cross talk. The Anadarko sounds better without the special effects. 

Take a look at the Schiit offerings.  Both their headphone amps and DAC's are hard to beat for the price.

I will also give a heads up to the Rogue RH-5 headphone amp and can double as a preamp. It drives all types of headphones with ease and sounds real nice on all types. It has 2 tubes and can be tube rolled to customize the sound. Using some NOS RCA clear top 12AU7's with it now.

Sorry, been busy, but I did read thru the messages. 

The Rogue is just too expensive and heavy.

I've tried some of the Schiit gear and while they're fine, I'm not a fan of their sound.

I have an SMSL dac, and I like the sound and features.

So, I wound up buying the SMSL VMV D1se dac and a SMSL SP400 THX AAA 888 amp, both on sale and cost a hair over 1K.

Thanks for the advice.


I recently got the Dan Clark Aeon Noires and a Schiit Magni for the office.  I already had a Fiio X7 I bought years ago.  I've never been much of a headphones guy, I bought some Sennheiser HD 590s ~15 years ago but they broke.  

I bought some Sennheiser Momentum 4s a couple of years ago but I don't listen to music through them.  I don't enjoy it enough to bother.  It's only been a week but so far this new system is good enough for me.  The Noires are a lightweight, comfortable, folding headphone that come with a compact hard case.  I take them home every night, not significantly inconvenient.  I think we've hit the point where you can get headphone amps and dacs cheap that are very good.  

Having worked from home for 2yrs and then going back to the office and with site meetings and traveling, I wanted to step up my audio experience when listening to music, etc. while working & traveling. I ended up going with the Schiit HEL 2e  headphone amp/DAC. I like the volume knob and flexibility of the HEL to handle a microphone input as well when I need it. Plenty of power too. I have this set up with a pair of Senn 650s and the Schiit. It's a reasonably priced set-up and very portable for traveling and the back and forth to work. 

You should consider wireless, ANC, BT headphones. I am not talking about cheap ones, or even AirPods from Apple, but, something better. Like the new T+A Solitaire T, which can also be ran passively (connected to a desktop headphones amp). Just came out a couple of months ago, and it is fantastic. If $1,600 retail (in USA) is too much, maybe Focal Bathys, or the B&W p8



Try Burson. Fine DAC, fine amp, one unit. Probably RCA only in your price range though.