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Starter investment - advice needed

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I happened on this site while investigating computer audio and I am very impressed so far.


I am a Canadian university student (on a student's budget) interested in improving my musical experience. I listen most frequently to my iPod, and have tried Shure e2cs, my father's E530s, and currently some Sennheiser CX-300s, which I like the least of the three (and will be investing in Grado SR-60s for home listening to complement my canalphones). Most of my music is v0 vbr or 320 cbr mp3 in a range of genres: hip-hop, experimental, folk, jazz, classical, and more.


I am really lacking in the stereo department. I have a B&W Zeppelin but that is a living room piece, not a system (and doesn't have access to iTunes, which I like). I spend quite a bit of time on my computer listening to music, but unfortunately my current speaker setup are some 2w speakers (the horror, I know!) I found discarded, out of my sound card. Clearly this is not ideal.


My upgrade would likely be capped at $500 - a pittance in the audiophile world, I know, as my father is one - and therefore the components that have looked most attractive to me thus far are the Devilsound DAC + Audioengine 2 powered speakers. From reading various reviews both these components seem like they are a great value, considering the 'starter' nature of this buy. My main question is with the DAC - I have heard many things about USB being prone to jitter, but I realize at the sub $250 mark there are few options (I will note my system has S/PDIF out, if it matters). Are there any other good value DAC options?


I would appreciate any comments on the above.


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Hi nestorius - Welcome to Computer Audiophile! Don't ever worry about justifying your less than system around here. This is a laid back site, no worries.


I'm not sure where in Canada you are located, but I recommend checking out http://themacgroup.ca . If you are close enough they should be able to offer some in person advice and listening sessions.


The Devilsound / Audioengine combo would be very nice. I just review the Devilsound DAC here on this site and I reviewed the Audioengine 2 speakers in issue 14 f Tone Audio Magazine. Both great products for the money. Another DAC that you should check out is the KingRex UD-01 USB DAC. There has been some good talk about it around here.


As far as jitter goes USB is not as bad as some people make it out to be. In fact when implemented right USB has far less jitter than SPDIF. If your current SPDIF output is TOSlink I'd be willing to bet a new USB DAC will offer much less jitter. Do some searching or browsing around here and you'll find some very informative jitter discussions with some of the best experts around answering questions.


Let me know if this is the kind of info you're looking for or if you have any questions or comments.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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You can get a reasonably decent setup for $500. However, the question is, do you really need a DAC? Price is not a good parameter to go by, but I think you may not get a system (i.e., amp + speakers) for $500 that would be good enough to reveal the differences between the signal coming out of your iPod passed through a DAC or not. Likewise, some people believe in jitter, others don't. If it does play a role, your $500-system will likely not be sufficient to reveal it. And in addition, you first have to get unadulterated signal out of your iPod, and there is only one company, I believe, that got the license to do so. That gadget will cost you as well. You'd be better off using your laptop (assuming you have one).


In any case, the way to go is to buy used equipment. For $500, you can easily get a decent setup that would have cost more than $2,000 just 5 or 10 years ago. And believe me, the technology 10 years ago was just as good as today's. Check out audiogon.com.


Have fun! MM





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Thanks for all the quick replies!


The DAC is for my computer. I only use my iPod for non-home listening (commute, library, etc.) and with the B&W Zeppelin.


I'll check out used amps and speakers, but I believe I need a USB DAC (and I don't think they made those 10 years ago).


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Hi Nestorius - I'm Cheap-O, check this out for perspective if nothing else


DAC - http://www.audio-magus.com/DAC707_Super_Pro_USB_p/dac707usb.htm - Not hi-res, but for cd's ought to work.


AMP - http://www.audio-magus.com/product_p/ta10.htm - there is a lot to read about these and they can be upgraded over time.


For speakers, I agree on used. I'd go find, (and not everyone will agree) some used Klipsch Heresy speakers for

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