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Question Good MQA capable DAC under $300 (preferable at/under $200)?

May 1, 2021
2
0
20
Hi,

I've been looking for a dual-purpose DAC/amp/preamp for my systems.
One of them being an IEM, a Campfire Audio IO;
and a stereo system: A sony str-dh190 connected to a pair of Fyne Audio F302's
Right now, I'm just using the 3.5mm port of my phone and laptop, occasionally using Bluetooth (on the sony amp) but I want to upgrade my sound. I first heard about the Audioquest Dragonfly series and was considering getting their Cobalt USB DAC, but after hearing about its disappointing performance:
AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt Review (Portable Headphone Adapter) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum,
I think I'd like to go on a different route. I also saw the E1DA 9038D review which I'm pretty impressed by:
E1DA 9038D Review (portable DAC & Amp) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum
Another one I heard of THX Onyx Review (headphone adapter) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum
I need a recommendation for something like this. I know MQA isn't the best place to listen to music, but I happen to like the sound it gives and I've been using Tidal for a while now and its student discount plan serves me pretty well. Also, I'll be using this (with the IEMs) at the library sometimes so I can't get one that requires mains power but if there are any that very good, I might consider getting that.

Thanks in advance!
 

millennia_one

Well-known member
Sep 1, 2014
836
401
11,270
Hi.

That must be the only bad review I’ve seen for an audio quest colbolt. Every body else says it’s pretty decent.

Why are you narrowing your options for a format that only one place actually uses,
With dubious claims of hi fidelity playback? And its only around 5-7% of there library at best.

Do yourself a favour and get yourself a second hand chord mojo and be done with it. They’re available on eBay all day long for around $3-400 you’ll have a dac then you can pretty much use any where with a really decent headphone out put which can also be used standalone with the addition of the poly.

You also have many other options if you forget about mqa
 

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
332
88
4,970
Agree with above. Cd quality done well is superb, streaming in cd quality with good hifi will be so enjoyable to listen to. I tried MQA and couldn't tell a difference, but I'm not saying it's not better, but it's so small an amount of content in, as said above, one place, why bother

Edit- dragonfly red is a super bit of kit imo at less than 200, it is also mqa able
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
187
83
170
The OP wants an MQA enabled DAC.

He doesn't want to hear why he shouldn't get one.

To the OP ... I occasionally listen to MQA encoded files and whilst I would never claim they all sound superb (what encoding format does?), some are very good indeed and easily comparable to good high res files from say Quobuz, both of which I subscribe to.

I wouldn't pay a massive surcharge for an MQA enabled DAC (as opposed to one that isnt) but it's worth having imho.

Most detractors from MQA have never heard it completely unfolded.

Make your own mind up about it.
 
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manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
966
234
19,270
Hi,

I've been looking for a dual-purpose DAC/amp/preamp for my systems.
One of them being an IEM, a Campfire Audio IO;
and a stereo system: A sony str-dh190 connected to a pair of Fyne Audio F302's
Right now, I'm just using the 3.5mm port of my phone and laptop, occasionally using Bluetooth (on the sony amp) but I want to upgrade my sound. I first heard about the Audioquest Dragonfly series and was considering getting their Cobalt USB DAC, but after hearing about its disappointing performance:
AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt Review (Portable Headphone Adapter) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum,
I think I'd like to go on a different route. I also saw the E1DA 9038D review which I'm pretty impressed by:
E1DA 9038D Review (portable DAC & Amp) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum
Another one I heard of THX Onyx Review (headphone adapter) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum
I need a recommendation for something like this. I know MQA isn't the best place to listen to music, but I happen to like the sound it gives and I've been using Tidal for a while now and its student discount plan serves me pretty well. Also, I'll be using this (with the IEMs) at the library sometimes so I can't get one that requires mains power but if there are any that very good, I might consider getting that.

Thanks in advance!
I don't want to argue with Audio Science Review, but as always the truth is always in the middle. Read John Darko's review - very positive on the Dragonfly Cobalt but not totally unqualified.

I wouldn't rely on one source of reviews - even if more scientific than most.

Do note that all the Dragonfly DACS fully decode MQA. But in hifi terms you're limiting yourself as they're one trick ponies i.e. primarily for PC/Headphone use. Does the E1DA 9038D do MQA? I didn't read fully to tell.

The only standalone comprehensive MQA compatible DAC I can think of now is the CA DacMagic 200M. Yes it's 150 quid over your budget, but since you want a standalone DAC no sense in skimping for pennies. Save up and pony up.

WHF gave it top marks, and here's another glowing review by a respected tester - Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M DAC Review | StereoNET United Kingdom

It errs a bit on the warm side though - so consider your speakers and amp.
 
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anort3

Moderator
Dec 8, 2019
712
433
1,270
The OP wants an MQA enabled DAC.
This. I appreciate that MQA is divisive but if you want to argue about it make your own threads and lets not hijack others. The OP asked for a specific recommendations. If you don't have anything to add other than " I hate MQA for reasons" don't post.

Some off topic posts have been deleted.
 
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I gave both options. So what’s your point?

Doesn’t it speak volumes when you can count the amount mqa enabled dacs on the market at this price point on one hand? It just isn’t worth it and the market seems to mirror that thought.

Theres just more to worry about tbh and i wouldn’t let the lack of mqa stop me from buy a great sounding dac.

Take or leave the advice. There just my ramblings.
it's pretty much irrelevant at this price point with the added cost of licencing for MQA it isn't going to may a good bangs for your bucks DAC.
however, if that's what the OP wants........
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
187
83
170
The above. It may not be portable as in USB powered but seems to offer a lot for the money.

The Burr-Brown Dac's may also lack the audible slight edge of ESS Dac's which can result in slight hardness in the upper mids though I have never had an ifi DAC so this may or may not be the case.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
966
234
19,270

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