I'm just dipping my toes in the high quality audio space, and I started with some AKG K553 headphones. Now I'm looking at a DAC/Amp combo to get things sounding really nice. My question is this: will I notice a difference between the three in the subject?
It seems like Massdrop pulled a fast one and got someone to manufacture the NwAvGuy design, but they're offering it at such a price point that it's hard to justify spending extra on the Mayflower version unless there is a significant difference in quality. Kyle of Awesomesaucenetwork just reviewed the Centrance and loves it, but his and my experience with this stuff is about the same: slim to none.
What do you all think? Is there something better that I didn't list? Thanks!
The reason why Massdrop's O2/ODAC is so much cheaper is because they use a Chinese manufacturer to build it, whereas I'm pretty sure Mayflower, JDS Labs, Head 'n' Hifi, and Epiphany Acoustics all make their respective O2/ODACs within the country they are based out of.
From what I understand the Massdrop O2 was a bit iffy on the components being used as well. The components being used were still adequate, but they weren't the same as what NwAVGuy listed in the BOM, so the general consensus was that Massdrop may have been going against the license the O2 was released under. I don't know if they changed the components to the "correct" ones or not.
Anyways, any O2/ODAC will be more powerful than the Centrance DACport, assuming you're talking about the slim variant. With the K553s you probably won't need anything all that special to power them, but if you want to upgrade your headphones in the future you may want something more powerful.
And Schiit has two sets of alternatives you may be interested in. The first being the Schiit Fulla, and alternative to the Centrance DACport. It's absolutely tiny, but it's fairly powerful.
The second is the Schiit Stack (Schiit Magni and Modi). The Schiit Stack would be a direct competitor to the O2/ODAC. Spec-wise it's more or less the same as the O2/ODAC, but it's cheaper. The only downside is that it takes up more space.
Wow, great info! Thanks! I suspected that Massdrop might have gone cheap on the components, and I definitely assumed it was a foreign mass production job. I'll definitely check out the Shiit (I can't help but laugh at the witty "Schiit Stack" name) products (what am I, 13?) and see how they compare!
There is another side though. They are selling them split as two pieces. The original o2 is open hardware. Basically open source for anyone to build, but it is no derivatives. So any one can build one but it has to be to the specs of the original, it sounds like they are breaking this.
But the other half is the ODAC. That is licenced and not open hardware. You are not allowed build your own as NwAvGuy had a consulting team or person help with it. So you can only legally buy it and sell it on, not make one yourself to sell.
If I understand it correctly. So there is some oddness going on.
Edit as compared to the o2+odac that JDS or other sell. It comes as a single unit.
I sometimes really wish that the O2 was under a different license because it is possible to squeeze out just a little bit more out of the amp without increasing the cost too much. Just switching out the electrolytic caps for some better ones will increase the BOM cost by like $1 at most, but better caps (like Chemi-Con KZN or Panasonic FR) will make the O2 handle heavy stress better. Replace the NJM2068 with something like the LM4562 to get something super analytical sounding, or go for gold with an AD8599 for an exciting sound.
So, how does that work with Mayflower selling ODACs? Does the ODAC guy make them and Mayflower just brands them? I'm really confused about the combo units, because I figured those would have to be made in-house.
Sorry for a slow response, didn't notice new posts.
Anyways, the ODAC board is made by Yoyodyne Consulting, an independent company and owner of the ODAC design. They are essentially the sole provider of legitmate ODACs in the world, so anybody that uses ODACs in their design on any scale has to go through Yoyodyne. This is just regarding the ODAC board itself, not any cases that the board ends up in.
The O2 on the other hand is a free design for anybody to use, as long as they use it in its original form. I believe even the PCB files and BOM are available for anybody to get, so anybody can make the O2 portion anywhere in the world.
So for companies like Mayflower, JDS Labs, Head 'n' Hifi, Epiphany Acoustics, and now Massdrop, they can make the O2 amplifier themselves as long as it follows the license. If they want to add an ODAC to the O2 they have to use an ODAC board made by Yoyodyne. So it's kinda like you said, Mayflower and whoever sorta rebrand the ODAC, sorta don't rebrand it because any legitimate ODAC board in the world is from Yoyodyne.