Originally Posted by Shutterman
Thanks, Q. However, if one wanted to go the balanced route, i.e., use the XLR inputs on the headphone amp...I assume the source must provide balanced outs, no?
Here's an oddball situation where the answer may be "no.":
If you had my Apogee MiniDAC and you were using a headphone amp that ONLY had RCA inputs, then you would do one of two things:
1.) Buy RCA cables and put an RCA-XLR adapter on the end going into the DAC
2.) Buy XLR cables and buy XLR-RCA adapters that go into the headphone amp.
^^ That's kind of a rare situation, though, and you'd be aware of anything like that going into it anyways.
The way the experts talk, though, if you want to go balanced, everything in the food chain needs to be balanced.
I realize some CD players and DACs or Slim Devices Transporter offer these...but how would one connect up to a balanced pre/pro? Say, something like the Integra 9.8? Then what about phono preamps?
Again, not necessary, although some of these headphone amps can be pre amps in and of themselves.http://www.headamp.com/home_amps/gsx/index.htm
^^ This is my headphone amplifier. The website is a bit out of date. These have long since been available.
You can see by all the pictures that it has RCA and XLR inputs and even outputs for using this thing as an outright pre amp.
I've never been clear what "loop output" is for vs. "pre amp" output.http://www.headamp.com/home_amps/gs1/index.htm
^^ This is the little brother to my headphone amp, the GS-1. My headphone amp is admittedly overkill but I love the thing.
This one is a lot simpler.
Inputs/Outputs 2 RCA inputs, 1 RCA loop out, 1 RCA pre-out,
2 1/4" headphone outputs
Pretty straight forward. This is a lot more typical of what's out there.http://wooaudio.com/products/wa6se.htmlhttp://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-...ag=mncol;title
Those last two links are an example of a completely different kind of headphone amp. This one uses tubes but you'll see that for all that it doesn't bother with anything but RCA inputs either.
I assume one would need to search for one with balanced outs?
All that said, it would seem the OP's idea of using an optical out off his DAC would be good, but how would that connect to a headphone amp with only RCAs or XLR's?
We're talking about two channel DACs. All it needs is at least one digital input for a source and at least one analog output to go to a headphone amplifier or whatever. That's your most basic two channel DAC design you can count on no matter what.
The source plugs into a digital input on the DAC. The analog outputs can be either RCA, XLR, or even both depending on what you buy.http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/
^^ Some DACs double as headphone amps. This is a favorite as is my Apogee MiniDAC.http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/minidac.php
^^ This only had XLR analog outputs so I connected XLR cables from this to my headphone amp's XLR inputs that you can see in the pictures.
You're going to find there's a lot of choices and configuations out there.
It's really easy when you get down to it.
Perhaps to be safe, perhaps I should run RCAs, XLRs, and optical when I do the install?
Shouldn't be necessary once you know exactly what you're getting.
All of the above will depend on your budget and what gear you finally decide you want to buy.