100% New Compass - Audio-gd headphone amplifier and DAC

Discussion in 'Headphone & Earphone General Discussion' started by usuallywin, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. usuallywin

    usuallywin Casual Listener

    Jan 7, 2010
    I havn't even opened the box

    Brand New Compass from Audio-gd, arrived in Janauary 2010.

    Headphone Amp + DAC + Pre-amp

    Well-known brand name with high C/P ratio


    Introduction to the Compass DAC and Headphone amplifier.

    The History of the Compass: (Read this specially if you're new to audio gear and Head-fi.)

    Like many people, back when I took an interest in Head-fi, I'd been using a good pair of headphones straight out of my computer. As the pads on my headphones had worn out, I was considering a new pair of headphones to replace them. With a budget of about $200-300, I headed to the local electronics shop to try out a few pairs, but thought I'd read around Head-fi to see what people liked. Like many other people, as soon as you ask about half-decent headphones, someone chimes in with "But you'll need a decent amp to drive them.". So you start looking for a decent amp. Then someone chimes in, "If you get an amp, you'll need a decent DAC too, your soundcard wont be good enough". Ok, so that makes what I need not just $200 for headphones, but a couple of hundred for an amp, and the same again for a DAC. Ouch.

    With decent headphones, you need an amp because it can drive the diaphragms of the headphones much better than a crappy sound card (or CD player). You need a dedicated DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) because your sound card, even if it's a good one, is seriously compromised so that it will work in a computer, not to mention will pick up a lot of interference from other components.

    However, rather than having to buy two components, some companies make an all-in-one device that is both a DAC and a headphone amp. You buy one box, plug it into your computer, plug your headphones into the box, and you're set. The most popular device for doing this on Head-fi is possibly the Zero DAC. Made in China, costing only $99 and, most importantly, sounding good, it was a hard purchase to argue with. What's more, over year, a number of people experimented with modifying it to improve the sound. This was easy because a couple of critical components (known as OPAMPs) could be popped out of their sockets and replaced with many of the thousands of others on the market. This got to the point where even the eBay sellers were modifying them and shipping them to customers for up to about $220. That's quite a jump from $99, but so was the sound quality.

    However, after a while there were problems. People were receiving these units not working, with stupid mistakes as as the OPAMPs inserted in backwards (destroying them) or in one extreme case, burning up someone's headphones. This was not cool.

    During various people's search for upgrades, we came across a company called Audio-gd, who makes, among other things, an OPAMP called a HDAM. It made quite a nice improvement to the Zero. Not only that, the owner, Kingwa, is a very receptive and enthusiastic man, and took on board a couple some suggestions about his designs. Audio-gd also makes other hi-fi gear, including a couple of headphone amps, so, after another head-fi'er blew up at me asking why I still had a link to an eBay seller in the Zero FAQ who'd had a couple of major customer issues, I decided to do one better, and asked the owner of Audio-gd if he could make something similar to the Zero, for about the price of a fully-upgraded model. Since I'd already bought and was satisfied with the quality of one of his headphone amps (the C2C), and a couple of other head-fiers who'd bought gear from him were pleased with both the quality and his customer service, if he could make such a unit, then there'd be a decent all-in-one solution for people, who, as I was when I started, were looking for a decent but inexpensive head-fi solution. This became the Compass.

    One of the important things here is, Kingwa has assured me that he will absolutely not compromise quality, even if he becomes popular on Head-fi. I previously have bought products that were "flavour of the month" on Head-fi and when I received one from another company, it had obviously been rushed to be assembled, with poor casework and screws not aligned properly. The result of this is, you may have to wait a couple of weeks after ordering to get a Compass, but you will receive a unit made with the highest attention to quality.

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