Originally Posted by Nil
The NYT article, nevertheless, compared an $1800 CD player versus a computer (lossless music files), both wired to a quality sound system (it was held at a high-end audio store), and found that there were DACs priced in the $500 range that significantly enhanced the computer-derived sound and brought it to par with that from the expensive CD player.
There are lots of ways to equal the sound of an $1800 CD player. Like a cheap Blu-Ray player.
I once did a blind test between an elite, critically-acclaimed, bloody expensive CD player (Meridian 508.20 factory upgraded to 508.24 spec) and a $60 Samsung "universal" (at the time, that meant SACD. DVD-A, and DVD-video) player. The players were level-matched, and the test was to determine whether or not they sounded different. (Difference must be established before preference can be discussed.)
I don't recommend trying such tests with disk spinners. The big problem is syncing playback! With DACs, it's easy enough to do. Just carefully match levels.
Originally Posted by Nil
Since streaming lossless music files via ATV or with Airplay-endowed AVRs, I think, is similar to playing through a computer, wouldn't having these external DACs help in the same way? My ATV and CD player are connected via HDMI to my AVR. These external DACs cost much more than the CD/SACD/DVD-A Pioneer 610 player and nearly as much as the Denon 3312 AVR in my system!
In your case, the only thing a DAC can do is mess things up. You could introduce noise, because of the analog lines, You could get ground loops. You would lose room correction and possibly bass management, or you'd just introduce an extraneous DA-AD-DA loop as your AVR re-digitizes the signal the DAC converted to analog. (I'm not sure how your AVR works.)
And cost is entirely irrelevant.
Originally Posted by jlpowell84
While on the subject of dacs do any of you have quality headphones? Do you insist on these headphone amp/dacs?
I have a few headphones, though I suppose "quality" is debatable: Senn HD-580, Denon D2000, Ety ER-4, ADDIEM, AKG K550, and I recently ordered a pair of Fostex T50RP's to play with modding.
I do use a headphone amp (HeadRoom Micro Amp at home, HeadRoom Total AirHead when traveling), but mostly because HeadRoom's crossfeed pulls the acoustic scene forward for me. (The Senn 580 and ER-4 do benefit from the extra voltage swing a headphone amp provides, because of their high impedances. The others, not so much. The Fostex is still on its way, so can't comment there.) Special DAC, no. I have thought about buying that new Meridian Explorer, but don't really expect it to sound different.