AMP Or DAC First- Which One To Upgrade First?

For an audiophile, the best quality sound is very important. And to take the next step in the audiophiles’ world you gotta choose between DAC or AMP. This is to improve the total quality of the sound production.

Usually it’s better if you get them both. But on budget that can be a problem.

So which one to pick for the upgrade, AMP or DAC first? 

You should get an AMP first if you’re a beginner and planning a budget-friendly purchase. Alternatively, DAC is more professional and has other expertise with more expensive packages. AMP and DAC help differently to help us enjoy better sound with our devices. But they are different in their jobs.

Obviously, it’s not the end of the discussion. You need to have a better understanding of the pros and cons of choosing one over the other.

It will help you to make the right decision. So, hop on!

First Things First, What’s Your Budget? 

Before we start the discussion, it is important to decide your budget first. If you set a budget limit, it will be easier to set a parameter to compare these two items. 

Well, if you are just starting out, you should go with AMP first. Because of their higher impedance rating, high-end headphones typically require more power to operate.

As a result, an external amp is nearly always required to get through your headphones. 

Since it’s a basic need and also beginner-friendly. It is recommended to start with. Amps start at $20 and can cost well over $1000. 

Decent studio-grade amplifiers can be found for $200-$500. You can plan your budget accordingly. So you can decide what to upgrade dac or amp first.

But if you are a bit into this game. As an expert or working as a professional sound engineer, DAC should be the option for you.

The cost range is also between $40 to $2000. It’s better to put $200 to $1000 into this.

upgrade dac or amp first
Source: Reddit

However, it’s best if you can get both of them. It’ll give you everything you need to improve the output quality to take it to the next step.

Should I Wait For a Bigger Budget? 

Well, waiting for a bigger budget can be a reasonable concern. But we would suggest taking a chance. 

Because the recommendations are worth every penny of your spending. You can even directly connect Bose cube speakers to the amp. So it can be multi-purpose. 

If the built-in AMP on your device is inadequate. You should consider purchasing an external amp. 

You don’t need to wait. But if you think your in-built AMP is good enough, you might get yourself a DAC first. Then you can wait a little longer since it is more expensive.

Most gadgets include a built-in DAC. Although, if you utilize high-bitrate audio files or download music with devices. Then an external DAC may be required to make your job better.  

DAC also can be directly connected to power AMP. Before making any decision, do some research first. 

For example, if you want it for your headphones, go through dac vs amp for headphones. And note the prices of these.

But the decision will always be yours which one fits your requirements best. But if you decide to increase your budget then I’ll urge you to get both of them as mentioned earlier.

Many people think there’s not much difference between without and with amp/DAC. But once they use them both they clearly see the difference.

What Happens If I Go For AMP First? 

So, which one should you go with DAC vs AMP? To decide that, you need to simply go through all the pros and cons individually. It will help you make the right decision. So let’s discuss the pros and cons of AMP in our next segment: 


There are a lot of benefits to using an AMP. Since it is one of the basic feature requirements for an audiophile. 

Power Production:

If your sound source doesn’t quite deliver sufficient power to drive the headsets, you might need an amp. Simply you’ve to plug your headset into the smartphone, laptop, or other sound sources.

Master Switch
Source: Master Switch

Then turn up the volume to a reasonable level. And it will power up the device instantly. You can notice the difference in the performance. 

Level Up the High Volume:

If the sound quality of the headphones is not loud enough even at maximum volume. But there is still room to increase the level. For this, you will require an amp to draw out the maximum potential. 

I personally use the Schiit Magni Heresy with my headphones. And man o man! Trust me when I say this, it just takes me to another dimension.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Wireless headphones will not connect to the Schiit Magni. In that case, you’ll need a portable amp. The FiiO BTR5 is one of the best portable amps there is on the market.

To Bring Out the Full Potential:

Amp helps bring out the full potential of the headsets with an impedance value of more than 32 ohms. You must purchase a competent amp. 

Your sound quality will be hardly detectable and sound much worse than typical headphones. Do you know when it happens?  If you insert high-end headphones with impedance value in the hundreds into an ordinary sound source without a specialized amp.

Produce Better Sound Quality:

Audiophiles purchase specialist amplifiers to power their costly high-end headphones. Since they have better drivers, these items create higher-quality sound, but they also require more electricity to operate. 

With more power, these headphones will become louder and scale nicely. That means the more power you give them, the nicer they sound.

In this frontier, I would say the Fosi Audio Q4 Headphone Amplifier gets my vote of approval. Never have I ever got this much quality boost from an amp.


AMP Doesn’t Increase the Volume:

AMP doesn’t help to increase your device volume. You don’t need an amp if the music generated is not loud enough for your tastes. 

What Happens If I Go For DAC First? 

To decide do I need a DAC or just an amp. First, go through all the pros and cons of them. Since we have discussed amp earlier. Now it’s time to see the pros and cons of a DAC upgrade. 


To Remove Output Noise:

DAC helps remove the output noises. Sometimes the unnecessary noise doesn’t let us enjoy the music properly. To make matters worse, they were inadequately insulated. 

Which generated static noise, unwelcome input, or rendered the output awful. To address such issues, consumers began to purchase independent DAC devices.

DAC devices
Source: Amazon

Technology has advanced much since its inception. And the quality of digital music has increased tremendously with the evolution of DAC.

In this category, the undoubted performer is the iFi Hip-dac2. It is available on aliexpress with a 75-day money-back guarantee. However, if you want to save some bucks you can order it from Amazon as well.

Transform the Input Signal:

The DAC’s performance determines how precisely this can transform the input signals. And that is how the audio quality of the music gets better. 

When replayed using a high-quality DAC converter, high-bitrate audio files frequently feel better than normal music files.

Fosi Audio is another frontrunner in the DAC industry. And their Fosi Audio Q6 USB DAC is causing storms in the minds of the audiophiles. This one is not available on amazon however you can always get it from aliexpress.

But if You’re looking for the ultimate package then look no further than AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC. It’s a bit costlier than the others which you can check from Amazon

But its portability along with the exemplary audio output will blow anyone’s mind.


DAC Doesn’t Improve Sound-Quality:

It is more accurate to use DAC to aid in the resolution of difficulties. Well, are you already happy with the sound quality of your preferred headphones or speakers? Then buying an external DAC won’t make much of a difference.

Costly Package:

DAC can cost a lot more money than AMP. But it cannot be compared, since the functions are different. But it is one of the disadvantages of using DAC first. 

What About Dongle DACs?

Dongle DACs essentially convert an audio stream from digital to analog. Following that amplifies the analog signal to be used with headphones. 

Most dongle DACs sound much better than the 3.5mm headphone jack on a laptop or smartphone.

Advanced dongle DACs, such as the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt (Which I’ve mentioned earlier)and iBasso DC05 Portable USB Dongle DAC

These employ separate chips for each audio stage. One for D/A conversion and another for headphone amplification. Others, such as the HELM Bolt, involve a separate chip to handle both phases.


What provides a better DAC for an advanced gaming computer?

There are several possibilities for decent DACs, including Matrices, Schiit, Aurli, Denafrips, Play Stations, and others. Go grab a Holographic Cyan with audio setups out as a free recommendation.

Is a DAC or an amp used for the HD 598?

The HD 598 may result from an amp. But there is no need to spend a fortune on one sub-$200, one should suffice. Advanced and new gaming motherboards from Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, and others.  The DAC would be dependent on the present configuration. 

What is the finest DAC/amplifier setup for headphones?

The answer is clearly a tube amplifier. The only two DAC/Amp combinations on the list. That lack balanced headphone connectors are the TA-30 & JDS Labs Element II.


Now you know everything regarding AMP or DAC first? These two pieces are individually important and effective for audio setups. 

Hopefully, this will clear all your doubts. If you have any queries in your mind, knock us here! 

Until your next visit, enjoy your music.

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