I've always enjoyed my readings on this site. The depth of knowledge here is staggering. Thus, as an entry level audiophile on a university student's budget, I am leery of coming off as blunt and naive in comparison to the general community. Please forgive me if it appears as such; the inexperience is not born of an absence of ambition, but rather a lack of a good starting place. However, this does seem like the perfect place to send some of my questions into the hi-fi audio ether.
If you'd like to skip over the background info, I'm wondering if it is more cost effective for me purchase a headphone dac/amp combo or a dedicated preamp, and a dedicated DAC? I will be getting a new power amp soon and need a new source and preamp.
I've slowly built up my living room system to be my vintage and analogue setup. For the time being (a function of my budget), I am satisfied with it. Where the majority of my listening is done, considering I'm a student, is at my desk with digital sources. Although the space is small, I have optimized the location of the speakers: A set of Alesis Monitor One's.
The first inklings of hifi (outside of headphones (I own a pair of Spiral Ear 2-Way Pro Customs)), began in me purchasing vintage speakers and amplifiers for enjoyment. After trying out a number of amps, I currently am flipping between an old Optonica Receiver for the Alesis', and an early 80's Akai; both of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Ironically, they are sonic opposites.
For all of the combinations at my desk so far, I have been using my Nuforce U-Dac as both a source, and a preamp. Now, I would like to upgrade to a dedicated power amp (which i will eventually make a decision on), but what I am having trouble with, is whether I should purchase a dedicated preamp and a dedicated DAC, or if it would be more cost effective to purchase a headphone amp/dac combo? What are the pros and cons of doing so? Also, if you could make any recommendations that would be great. I am more than likely going to buy used if possible, as my budget for the DAC and preamp is only around $300.
Thanks so much if you stuck through and listened! I greatly appreciate it!