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I have a very limited budget, but I consider myself to be an audiophile (My definition of an 'audiophile' is simply--There is a sweet spot, and I know where it is). I started with a Dragonfly v 1.2, which was defective. But, as a result of that experience, I learned more about the workings on my computer, and eventually Audioquest replaced the DF. Then I heard about the Schiit Modi 2 external DAC which would give me the full 192 on my Linux machine. It arrived yesterday, one day early, and the result is a spectacular sound. The replacement Dragonfly is now attached to a spare laptop, and runs a compact stereo system in the bedroom. I am a big fan of saving money and getting the most bang out of every dollar. My 'system' is a pair of vintage Advent Loudspeakers (circa 1975-composite boxes, re-foamed in 1990) and a three legged Harman/Kardon 330i which pushes 20 watts per channel. The computer is a vintage Dell Vostro with 4GB of RAM running Ubuntu Linux 16.04 LTS. I had an old pair of AR interconnects, which were close-out priced at $5 a few years back, and USB interconnect was borrowed from an external hard drive enclosure--nothing fancy or expensive. Whilst some amongst us like to talk about how expensive their hobby has become, I am the contrarian who because of circumstance, am quite proud of the sound my re-used, re-furbished, and vintage system with a very low overhead cost. The Schiit Modi 2 is key to making all the pieces work. I have a rather extensive collection of soundboard recordings from the 30 years of the Grateful Dead, and an array of 24 bit/192 audiophile pressing recordings in my hard drive. The Modi 2 makes everything sound better. Dare I say it, even 320 MP3 files sound great. I have no beef with Audioquest, they were prompt to replace the v1.2 and it does a wonderful job up to 24/96. But there is a whole new world of music on 176 and 192 recordings that just get lost with a Dragonfly. Money wise-the discontinued v1.2 can still be bought for around $79-- but my advice would be to pony-up another Dub and get the Schiit Modi 2. You will hear the difference the first time you cue up a 24/192 file, and never regret the extra $20. I have a friend who has invested well over $150,000 in a system, and I know he will never admit it...but I think my rig sounds better.
Happiness is a Electronics repair shop three blocks from home. The Yamaha RX-350 got a Spring Cleaning a few weeks early, and whatever Sasa did--it sounds better than it did when it was new. Gone is the scratchy sound in the right channel, and he replaced the light bulb. Over thirty years of dust was blown out, and I can read the circuit boards inside....WOW! He took a $20 deposit, and charged me another $5 for some parts...$25 to make something old sound better than new--that is "the Computer Audiophile on the Cheap" at it's best.
I admit I am a bit slow on the uptake, with these forums. I posted the question, "Can a chip amplifier sound as good as regular amp?" but I thought the thread was the Computer Audiophile on the Cheap thread--it was the DAC thread... ooops. Anyhow, that drew a number of folks into a exchange of ideas, and at last count, 11 pages of responses. I learned a lot from the experience. My $40 Nobsound Class D amp doesn't sound as good as the h/k 330i, so the answer is: 'No, not for $40.' I did find another USA manufacturer in Class D and read about a 699 GBPound unit from Britain. All in good fun. On this thread, my goal is to talk about not how MUCH a good sounding stereo costs, but rather, how good of a sound can I get out of the stereo I have. Not my original idea, I think it was expressed by folks at Schiit. I like their Modi 2 DAC for $99. That means anyone with a computer, an amplifier/receiver, and a pair of decent speakers can start hearing music differently. Computer Audiophile on the Cheap is a lifestyle. Hugh Hefner popularized the Playboy mystique. We aren't that glamorous. We talk about the iFi iPurifier2 with it's100x noise cancellation, stolen for civilian audiophiles from Military components used on fighters...I guess since they have a picture of a jet on the box. At $109, it is rated as a a "MUST BUY" Accessory if a computer is part of the signal path. Folks, you don't have to mortgage the children's future with a home stereo system. You can really enjoy music, knowing you did it on the Cheap...And it sounds better than you can ever recall hearing the music.