Best DAC/AMP Combo

Best DAC/AMP Combo for HD6xx: Take your Sennheiser Experience Up a Notch

You audiophiles seem to adore the Sennheiser HD6xx. I mean, the headphone is great. But we’re not here to talk about that today.

Doesn’t matter how great the headphones are if your DAC/AMP combo is bad. Since it’s an expensive buying decision, you need proper advice.

Well, we had to go through a lot of research for this one. So, we might be able to help.

So, good people, today we’re taking a look at a few AMP/DAC combos. You might be able to pick the best DAC/AMP combo for HD6xx here.

Whether you’re new in the world of DACs or a seasoned veteran, I think the comparative analysis would help you. So, stick around.

Why you Should Choose a Combo?

Everything we recommended here is in combos. So is this the most practical solution? 

You’ve probably seen DACs and Amps being used separately. Well, that’s what people have been doing for years. 

The problem is that you start to lose quality with every new source you add.

It might not be quite obvious, but you’ll notice the difference when you place the two systems side by side. 

So, it’s better to use a single combo to take care of your audio troubles. At least, that’s what we think. 

Types of DAC/Amp Combos

We’d be looking at similar types of DAC/Amps today.

But they can be differentiated by form factor. You can either go for a small USB one or the big dedicated one. 

There’s also the choice of going for the small DACs that don’t take up a lot of space. So let’s check out why you should choose which one-

Dedicated AMP/DAC Combos

These are the priciest of the bunch. I bet you can find a couple of them, which can even cost north of three grand. 

They come with multiple input styles. So you get a tone of flexibility. You might not need them, but it’s good to have them.

In all honesty, I think you can do 99% of their job with the mid-sized versions. 

Mid-Sized DAC/Amp Combos

If you ask me, this is the segment to go for. They’re not giant console-sized devices.

You can place this on top of your desk, and people might mistake them as a wireless charger for your phone.

They offer just enough value to get you the enhanced audio experience.

Portable DAC/Amp Combos

Lastly, there are portable DACs. And these things use the USB interface most of the time. 

The drawbacks? 

Well, you don’t get the other types of inputs. But you probably don’t have the other cables when you’re on the go.

So hooking this up to your laptop or phone is the easiest solution. 

Dedicated AMP/DACsMid-Sized Amp/DAC CombosPortable Amp/DACs
Why you should pick themFor an enriched audio experience with full-sized drivers and dedicated chipsFor saving a bit of desk space without compromising audio quality too much.For on-the-go functionality.
When to use themWhen you have a console’s worth of space on your desk.When you want to keep your desk clutter-free.When you want to listen to higher-quality audio while commuting. 
Our RecommendedMonolith Desktop Headphone Amp with DACFosi Audio DAC Q4 AudioQuest Dragonfly Red Amp/DAC

Best Mid-Sized DAC/Amp Combos for HD6xx

I’ll start with my personal favorites. And I think most of you will agree with these choices too. 

ProductInputsResolution
Fosi Audio DAC Q4424-Bit/192 kHz
Schiit Fula 3 DAC232-Bit/192 Khz
Creative SoundBlaster X3 DAC332-Bit/192 KHz
Syba Sonic 24bit USB DAC424-Bit/96KHz

Take a look at how we ranked the dedicated combos below. The visual representation should make your choice easier.

Fosi Audio DAC Q4

Let’s get straight to the point with this one. The Q4 DAC from FOCI Audio is the best sounding DAC combo on the list.

And, this one is interesting, to say the least.

What sets this one apart is the two additional knobs at the front. That’s something the other mid-sized combos on the list lack.

But this might also seem like a drawback if you like a cleaner interface upfront.

You can use the knobs to reduce bass or increase the treble slightly, for instance.

This would give you a slightly sharper sound from the headphones without additional drivers.

Although this isn’t a full-sized dedicated DAC, you get three inputs. This includes USB, Optical, and RCA. 

This one has enough power, and it’s very similar to the next product on the list.

In terms of practicality, both of them perform the same functions well. But this one lacks a bit of the highlighted control.

The controls on the treble were a bit harsh on this one. But Fosi alleviates a lot of that with the little dial. So you can reduce or increase it accordingly. 

I think this would have been a fantastic combo if it had a mic input. But we can’t ask for them all, apparently. 

Things that Need Improvement:

  • The treble controls were on the harsh side. This seems to be settled with the next product on the list.
  • No mic input. If this bothers you, check out a DAC/Amp combo with this particular input. 
  • Needs additional power. If this seems annoying to you, you can opt for a device that uses USB for power. 

Schiit Fula 3 DAC

Schiit’s Fula 3 made it into second place. Don’t count it out just because of the name. The name’s not the discerning factor. 

This is the most basic unit here. But that’s probably what makes this stand out, other than the weird branding, of course.

The unit was designed to be a driverless compact solution. In terms of plug-and-play options, you don’t get a ton of choices. And this thing is small.

It’s the most compact unit among all the mid-sized combos that we’ve featured here. It’s even smaller than a pocket-sized dictionary. 

So there’s that. You can put this to the side of your desk and forget that it’s even there!

There’s this large volume wheel at the top of the device. I think this was done to keep things simple. But I found it quite scratchy.

I mean, you can hear a squeaky noise when you’re fiddling with it. Over time, this tends to get annoying.

Unlike the first one, this does not need additional power through a cable. You can set this up with the micro-USB cable from your laptop.

So that removes a few processes. 

Although I’m not a fan of the flat response for sound signals, you might appreciate it. 

We tried this out for a while, and the bass has just enough control. Unlike the previous one, we did not notice any harsh treble, even with higher volumes.

Although this one has a microphone input, it’s not the best out there, unlike the previous one. 

Firstly, it’s way too sensitive. You could blow peoples’ eardrums if you’re on conference calls with this one.

You won’t realize it without hearing how it sounds to the receiver. I faced a ton of complaints, sadly. 

Things that Need Improvement:

  • The volume knob sounds obnoxious. If you’re a fan of a smoother-sounding dial, take a look at the next device.
  • It uses an incredibly sensitive microphone input. This catches your breaths a bit too loudly. If this is concerning, try out a device with a natural-sounding microphone input

Creative SoundBlaster X3 DAC

If you’re afraid of annoying microphone inputs, this is the one that surprised us.

While the first one lacked an input altogether, the second DAC had a subpar input. Well, this one just outperforms the two in terms of mic quality.

Creative’s SoundBlaster X3 comes in at third place. This is the one I liked on my desk. The smaller footprint got me excited, to begin with.

What’s unique about this is the mic input. To my ears, it has the most natural input. And it’s also comparatively rich with neutral noise cancellation.

You don’t need to enable any extra noise cancellation with this one. So that’s good. 

Another unique feature about this is the Type-C connection. This is a proper step towards future-proofing, and it’s something the others lack. 

This lacks the extra knobs that the first one had. So, that’s a bummer.

But you get a couple of buttons on this one at the front. They allow you to switch from different modes.

This comes with dedicated software. They might call it well-designed, but I have to disagree.

Some of the features are all over the place. I think the interface and the giant knob are enough. You’ll probably never use the software anyway.

Things that Need Improvement:

  • It’s not too budget-friendly. This is the priciest one of the bunch. Opt for an affordable DAC if this concerns you. 
  • Suffers from software issues with AMD-running desktops. Maybe it wasn’t optimized to work with the OS. 

Syba Sonic 24bit USB DAC

Yes, if pricing’s the issue, this might put a smile on your face. If you’re just getting into the world of DAC’s, this could act as a good gateway.

Syba’s Sonic 24 Bit DAC is unique in its own way. I don’t think you get the 6.3mm headphone out in other products in this segment. So that’s there when you need it.

While the lower pricing is great, the build quality isn’t. This feels cheap to the touch. 

And you also miss out on the additional front knobs if you choose this one. I think the first one on the list just edges it when it comes to the overall interface.

Maybe we’re a bit biased towards tactile knobs. Apologies in advance. 

There’s a little lever to toggle between default, treble boost, and bass boost at the left. The lever felt flimsy, to say the least.

I don’t suppose this can be a long-term solution if you’re continuously switching the lever.

In terms of audio quality, this is miles behind the first on the list. We can say that the bass is a bit too muddy.

So, don’t use the bass boost option if you don’t need it.

Things that Need Improvement:

  • This isn’t built all that well. I don’t think it can survive a few drops. If this concerns you, try out a more industrial product
  • The bass seems too muddy, and the treble is on the harsher side. For the best audio quality, try out a good-sounding combo

Best Dedicated DAC/Amp Combos for HD6xx

Here’s the roundup. We listed all the dedicated combos here that we thought would be a great addition to your shelf.

ProductInputsResolution
Monolith Desktop Headphone Amp with DAC Drop + THX AAA 789 Amp632-Bit/768 kHz
Drop + THX AAA 789 Amp2N/A
Topping DX7 Pro ES9038Pro DAC Amp832-Bit/768 KHz

Take a look at how we ranked the dedicated combos below. The visual representation should make your choice easier.

Monolith Desktop Headphone Amp with DAC

Since I already said I liked the previous types of DAC/Amps, don’t think I’m biased. But this is one of the priciest units of the entire page.

So I’ll try to bash it enough.

Well, these DAC/Amps come with the most inputs. You can plug in way too many cables coming in from different sources.

Right off the bat, you get both digital and analog inputs on the Monolith Desktop Headphone Amp.

The notable ones are USB, optical, coaxial, AES, balanced, and finally, an RCA input. 

You even get the 2.5mm jack with the balanced XLR port at the front. 

I think adding a tiny screen to show all your menu settings is a must at this price point. And if a combo misses out on this, we’re policing.

A giant volume knob on the front of the interface seems standard here. We can see similarities here from the likes of more robust DAC/Amps.

The looks carried forward.

Things that Need Improvement:

  • No wireless connectivity. Since the third one has bluetooth connectivity, this could have added one too.
  • For what you pay, you miss out on a couple of inputs. If you want the best in terms of inputs, go for the Topping that came in third. 

Drop + THX AAA 789 Amp

I’d say this is the more down-to-earth version of the last Amp/DAC we just reviewed. We would’ve put this one on top if it did not lack a display up front.

Since it’s a collaboration between DROP and THX, the Sennheiser HD6xx gets a bit of special treatment.

These open-style headphones receive an enhanced audio delivering system thanks to this.

Sadly, this is something a much cheaper and smaller DAC/Amp can do. So this isn’t a very special device in this segment.

But there’s something the AAA 789  does that the others fail to. It’s earned high points for error correction. This even works with cheaper headphones too.

I’m not sure you’ll witness the difference of error correction with your pair of Sennheiser headphones.

But if you’re using other headphones in the future, you will notice the difference. 

Do you know what I think? 

This device was built to compete with the bigger DAC/Amps. It’s compact and won’t take up too much space compared to the other two.

If that’s something important to you, you can consider this.

Things that Need Improvement:

  • Lack of inputs. This one even lacks the basic inputs. 
  • This comes with a big power adapter since the small case doesn’t have its own power supply. If this bothers you, try out a bigger console-like DAC/Amp

Topping DX7 Pro ES9038Pro DAC Amp

Unlike the previous one, the Topping DX7 Pro has a tiny display. And that’s what we expect from the higher-end DACs.

Do you know what else we expect? Amazing audio quality. 

I hate to burst your bubbles, but this comes last among the three in terms of audio quality.

That’s kind of disappointing when you’re spending so much money.

Well, this is by far the most expensive unit on the entire page. So you’d only pick this if you absolutely know what you’re doing.

Other than the two-color offerings, this thing does have a few tricks up its sleeves. 

It has something the previous two don’t, Bluetooth connectivity. Now, I know Bluetooth isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Amp/DACs. 

But they could have added it since they priced it so high. 

Regardless, this one works well with the HD6xx. You can get the taste of a bit of bass and treble boost too. 

It also shows promise in the resolution. This allows it to output higher quality audio when you’re using headphones like the Sennheiser HD6xx. 

We like how the combo has the most inputs among the three. But it suffers a bit when it comes to the outputs. 

Things that Need Improvement:

  • It lacks a bit in the outputs department. If this seems troublesome, you can still go for the Monolith combo, which has the most outputs. 
  • You have to pay at least a hundred bucks more on this compared to the others. If you’re short on budget, this isn’t the one to go for. 

Best Portable DAC/Amp Combos for HD6xx

Finally, let’s move on to the small fries. 

ProductInputsResolution
AudioQuest Dragonfly Red Amp/DAC124-Bit/96 kHz
FiiO BTR5 Portable Amp with DAC224-Bit/192 kHz
Shanling UP4 Bluetooth Headphone Amp224-Bit/96 KHz

Take a look at how we ranked the dedicated combos below. The visual representation should make your choice easier.

AudioQuest Dragonfly Red Amp/DAC

Something that the previous DACs don’t come with is portability. Now, I mean, you could probably carry the DACs with you. But look at the Dragonfly Red.

There’s nothing on the list that matches this one, right?

This one looks like a USB drive at first glance. We’ve been looking at some of the mid-sized DAC/Amps so far.

And because of that, you might not even consider this a real deal.

The question’s still there. If this little guy can do the job, why bother spending thousands of dollars on the others?

Well, if you’re a true audiophile, this question wouldn’t be something to ponder upon. We tested this little guy out with our pair of HD6xx headphones. 

And then we tried this DAC with a cheaper pair of headphones. Well, the difference was astounding, to say the least.

So it could well mean that the headphones matter a lot when it comes to choosing a combo.

Things that Need Improvement:

  • This might seem a bit pricy for what it offers. You can get almost all the functionality from a cheaper version of the product. If the budget is your concern, you might prefer that one. 
  • You miss out on the interface if you choose this one. iIf you would want a device to show you the mode you’re playing, try out the next product.

FiiO BTR5 Portable Amp with DAC

I know you might cringe at this. That’s because Bluetooth isn’t something you audiophiles like, right?

Before you completely disregard the next two combos, hear us out. 

Unlike the previous one, you don’t need to connect the device to your smartphone or laptop.

You just have to plug the pair of Sennheiser HD6xx into the FiiO BTR5.

They have all the features when it comes to Amp/DACs. But when there’s Bluetooth, there’s latency.

I know Bluetooth 5.0 has made major leaps. But you can notice this if you’re using headphones and watching videos.

The good part is you get to choose from three different versions. But we took a look at the most expensive one at that. 

Do you know what I think is the best use-case for this?

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know smartphone companies are getting rid of the headphone jacks, right? 

Well, all of a sudden, this looks like the missing piece of the puzzle.

Now, here’s something it does that the other Bluetooth DAC can’t do. It has a USB-C port on the other side.

So if you have the cable lying around, you can use this as a cabled audio DAC/Amp too. And the best part is people around the globe like this too. Here’s tweet of a BTR5 user –

Things that Need Improvement

  • The build quality is concerning. A glass sandwich design doesn’t seem practical for a small device like this. 
  • This might seem bloated compared to a more compact option on the market. But you can still opt for it if you’re okay with the size. 

Shanling UP4 Bluetooth Headphone Amp

Just like the second one, the Shandling UP4 also has latency issues. But at least it’s cheaper than the previous one. 

But at least it doesn’t have the same glass-metal-glass sandwich design. I think the use of polycarbonate here was the smart thing to do. 

However, you don’t get the tiny display like the previous one. I think they tried to keep things simple since you’ll probably use this with your phone.

But we have to point it out since the previous one had a little display.

There’s a little knob on the side with two inputs on the top of the device.

This DAC/Amp allows you to use wired headphones with devices that don’t have a 3.5mm interface. 

I digress, the combo worked decently with our pair of Sennheiser HD6xx.

But here’s the problem, Bluetooth DAC/Amps will not come close to the wired counterparts in terms of performance. At least, not anytime soon. 

This one’s far from perfect. You don’t get all the high-res audio options from this one. And this only sounds good if you’re running it on the LDAC mode.

But if that’s all you need if you’re on the road, this thing is decent.

Things that Need Improvement

  • If we’re comparing the audio quality, this one lags behind. For sole audio quality, you can try the Dragonfly Red that we looked at a while ago.
  • You miss out on the tiny display to see the modes. Try out the FiiO bluetooth one that we just checked out. 

When Not to Use a Combo

I know we’ve bragged about the Amp/DAC combos a lot. But there are times when you should hold back a bit.

Remember those in-ear earphones that come with your phones? I mean, not a lot of companies are that generous anymore, but you should remember.

Well, they’re efficient enough. Smartphones work decently with them without using any enhancements.

So you can skip the combo in this case. That’s because we did not notice a lot of difference. 

Headphones with active noise cancellation also wouldn’t make much use of the combos. But your pair of Sennheiser headphones need them, to be precise. 

FAQs

Can I buy the combos separately?

Not really. They’re called a combo for a reason. But some devices get the jobs done separately. And they will cost you a lot of money. I think the industry is gradually moving towards combos, so you should too.

Will I notice an improved sound quality?

The simple answer is yes. Otherwise, companies like these wouldn’t have much to live on, right? Well, you have to listen to believe it. But you can surely notice an improved sound quality once you’ve plugged a combo in.

Is DAC worth it for Spotify only?

If your only goal is to listen to music on Spotify, a DAC won’t make a huge difference. So, the short answer is no. But if you’re looking to listen to music from other sources, a DAC will change your experience. 

Conclusion

Let’s cut to the chase. All the DAC/Amp combos above have something unique to them.

These external soundcards give you the convenience of physical volume controls, interesting audio features, and microphone input for coms. 

These DAC/Amps vary in complexity, size, and price. You might even play games through your Sennheiser headphones using these combos.

You should know that the analysis was subjective based on our ears.

So your mileage could vary. But I’m sure you can pick up something that you think is the best DAC/Amp combo for HD6xx.

Talk to you guys in the next one. Try out these combos in the meantime. Good Luck! 

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