What music is best for life in a tiny box?

The US Navy is sending me to Japan. My family is going to stay here in the States. That means I get to live on the ship! Imagine a tiny stateroom; that will be home for the next 2 years.

So..obviously my vinyl collection will stay home. I am thinking of going completely medialess digital.

What do you recommend for:
DAC (are there any that can read from an external hard-drive?)
Headphone Amp?

Portable media player (when i get away from the ship. Must read FLAC, no Apple! :) )

Since my system will be so small, I think I can afford somewhat better gear. I am thinking in the $2k range.

Your thoughts?
Just a few further thoughts, partly with an eye to minimizing clutter is a small space:

I take it you'll be taking a laptop aboard? Then make that your transport, with as much memory (8MB?) as is feasible (a dedicated machine is better, but in your circumstances, multitasking makes best sense). If you have the machine, so far you've spent nothing, except perhaps for the memory, if you're short.

For file storage, an eternal Raid like this one (I use the non raid version) 1TB for 260 bucks at the Zon:


Might be a "portable" unit out there, but saving the original packaging cheaper ;)

Now, an outboard DAC, headphone amp. I don't have experience here, but maybe a one box solution like the Music Hall 25.3 (successor to the well reviewed 25.2), which the estimable Walter of Underwood HiFi handles: 600 MSRP. http://www.musichallaudio.com/detail.php?p=68

Now you've got DAC/Amp/Storage for less than 900, and server as well, if you've got the laptop. Leaves 1100 or so, which I bet buys some nice headphones. Might even be something left over for a decent wire from laptop to DAC (stock wire from drive to laptop fine), or an iPod type device if you need that too. If you need to buy a laptop, you've got some wiggle room.

The Music Hall isn't tiny (w8.5 x d13.5 x h3.75 in.
10 lbs. pkg), but still a low clutter set up for a small space, and I bet something along these lines gives nice sound.

Best of Luck, and let us know what you do!

I'm no expert on dedicated DACs...the DACMagic is my first....but Cambridge Audio claims that jitter reduction is one of it's advantages. And that might explain the big improvement I hear.

What ship? It's gotta be more spacious than a sub!
For whatever its worth, CEntrance Dacport got a stellar review by Atkinson in Stereophile, if jitter is your concern. For you information, Benchmark DACs, which greatest strength is low jitter, license the USB implementation from Centrance.
@4est Was just looking at the Burson; I like the build of it. I will look into the other as well.

@Jdoris I like Music Hall stuff. The build does not seem as impressive as Burson, I know, that is only part of the picture. Plus the MH looks deep. The laptop I am not including in the $2k, I need that anyway for chatting with the fam and gaming. I will let you guys know, but I do not report to the ship until January...so you may have to wait awhile.

@Rsuminsby I like Cambridge and have heard good things. I will be on a DDG. Yes a stateroom with, at max, one roommate is FAR better than a "closet" with 9 racks in it!

@Arni It is too funny, I was in my garage this morning, and in an old stack of papers, I found an old Stereophile I had not read...guess what, it is the one that reviews the CEntrance! Fate?

Thanks again. I think I am strongly leaning toward a DAC with USB connector. The Creek mentioned above I have heard great things about...any other headphone amps? Maybe I should go tube. What was that Chinese one reviewed several months back in Sam's Space?
Not sure about other DACs, but the DACmagic has both a USB input and TOSlink and coaxial digital inputs, switchable on the front panel. That at least provides the option of comparing the sound you get from a CD transport with what you get from USB.

If you haven't already, check out the Headroom website (www.headphone.com) for lots of great info on headphones and amps. In-ear 'phones like the Eytomic are great if you expect noisy surroundings, which seems pretty likely.