DAC/AMP Setup w/ sub

Currently I am using an FX-Audio DAC6 MkII(or something like that). While it’s decent, it’s thin and has a horrible noise floor for IEM’s, also my old Logitech Z323(?) from like 2005 are dying off. I need new speakers, but I’m not going the old route. I was planning on a set of these powered speakers, but my desk arrangement just doesn’t have the space for them.

So sitting in my closet is a pair of these old Realistic speakers in silver.

What I was planning on was the SMSL stack seen here

  1. I know I can get RCA to speaker wire cables to attach the speakers, but I don’t know if that stack will have enough juice to drive the Realistic speakers.
  2. I will want to add a sub at some point, but that SMSL stack doesn’t have a dedicated sub output.
  3. I need be able to use my IEM’s without the horrendous noise floor of constant buzzing at all volumes, like my current FX-Audio does.
  4. I’m open to a smaller set of powered speakers instead of the Edifier’s, but that seems to be one of those things that if you go any smaller it’s craptastic desktop speakers.

I’m trying to keep the stack under the $300 mark.

Does anyone have suggestions?

Audiophile equiptment, like computers and cars, is also a hobby with no ceiling in price so you should be wary of how much money you feed it.

With that said, a powered Edifier R1850DB should be nice. There is a headphone jack in it but I havent actually tried it. Its cheap and good enough for the price.


I completely understand the rabbit hole, I have a few already that I just can’t afford to dive into but sound is must for me.

So. Personally, I’d probably go with JDS labs EL III combo unit. I just sold off my old stack and have a unit on the way, actually.

Specifically, one of the things that interested me was the increased ability to enjoy music more at lower volumes (should work great for your IEMs) + saving desk space

Having come from the EL II stack, I can confirm that they have zero issues driving whatever speakers you please


Part of the reason I also suggest stretching the budget is how good their customer service is and the fact that they’ve basically admitted to reaching the limit to sound quality; that’s why they focused on seeing what they could change to make an audible difference, ie, better sound floor and clarity at lower volumes

??? $450 for that unit … that’s a bit more than a stretch!

Eh. I see 150 more as not that much more when discussing quality equipment and already talking in hundreds. /shrug I’m not that price sensitive though.

If staying under 300 is absolutely important to you, your best bet will be going on Reddit to r/avexchange and r/hardwareswap and buying second hand.

I just sold my stack there for 320, but I’ve also seen it as low as 270, for instance.

This’ll let you stretch your budget to get better equipment than you otherwise would new.

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Unless your speakers are active (= amplifier built in), you need a dedicated amplifier.

Some active subwoofers have crossovers built in. So you just pass the signal through it and from it to the amplifier feeding your speakers.

No way around displacement, especially when you want some punch with your kickdrum or bass.

Doable, I’d say.
Either using JDS-Labs devices (Atom Dac + Amp) or Schiit devices (Modi + Magni). The Edifiers would hook up to the headphone amp in either setup.
For the Realistic speakers, you would need an amplifier (which would blow your budget)

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Here’s a thought… a Schiit Modi(dac) + a Loxjie A30(Amp)? That’s under $300 and gives me headphone out, speaker out and a sub out. Would that be a good combo? But would that amp be enough to drive the Realistic’s decently?

Comparison thread

But tldr:

I’d keep your Magni for your headphones as the A30’s weak link is the poor performing headphone out.


Your sacrificing your IEMs for your speakers

Doesn’t the JDS Labs ELII+ (current amp) use basically the same tech as what’s in the Atom? Cause I know ZReviews just uses their current ELII for his main speakers and it also worked for my Vantoo T0s

So, theoretically, the Atom Amp should work? Don’t quote me on that.

Then again, the Schiit or Atom stack should be like 200(?) or less last I checked and leave enough for a dedicated amp


Just so we’re clear, I’m like 99% sure these are powered speakers so the amp doesn’t actually need to power them

Looking at the PCB shots of both, they look mostly identical.
Both devices are headphone amplifiers with pre-amplifier outputs.

Either would be fine for powered speakers where it would then act as volume control.

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Lol cools, for a second there I was wondering if I was missing something and the pre-amp would need to do more :sweat_smile:

I just know it worked and didn’t question it haha

If you mean the Realistic’s in my first post, those are NOT powered speakers, regular old school passive speakers.

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Stand corrected. In that case, yeah~~ you need an actual dedicated speaker amp, id think

Edit: or use the one you suggested, if that works, and the headphone out isn’t a priority

So what I’m getting is to use the passive Realistic speakers I have, I would need the DAC, the headphone amp, and ANOTHER amp to drive just the speakers? Grrr …

Maybe I’ll just find a good old school AV receiver, run the output from the PC to that and drive all the speakers I want :slight_smile: Hmm … not a bad idea actually …

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Sounds like it.

I’ve never looked far into passive speakers beyond knowing they exist :man_shrugging:


I’m actually really curious if ZReviews main speakers are passive or active cause he’s made it a point to mention how he used the EL Amp to power/control them both at home and used a bunch at conventions for all kinds of speakers

Kinda implies its powerful enough(?) for passives


Welp, just dug into his old videos to see what that was about; turns out he was making use of just the DAC lol and/or bypassing the amp on combo unit for the DAC

So yeah, you can’t use headphon amp for your passive speakers

What do you have space for?
Those speakers are quite small, you won’t be able to get good sound out of speakers much smaller.

Have a look for Denon PMA-600, they can be found for 350€-ish, not sure about prices where you are. Would not be great for headphones, but workable. Since it accepts SPDIF or Toslink, you have some options for input.

Maybe a used Pro-Ject MaiA DS (or the newer MaiA S2) is available somewhere. Then USB would be back on the menu.

Some of the speakers he uses in the more recent reviews on the stand are actually powered speakers in some cases. I kinda wish he would do parts of his reviews according to speaker output and not just how well they do with headphones/iem’s.

Though it seems that recently he seems to absolutely love or recommend almost everything that crosses his desk, so I wonder about his objectivity in some cases.

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I agree with the first part.

For the second…eh? He’s explained before that he makes a consorted attempt to find something to enjoy about everything he tries, so it’s not like he isn’t upfront about it. His reviews are more fun pieces to me than critical.

However, he does sometimes find something he doesn’t. That happened with those recent expensive America made headphones he reviewed, forget the ones.

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