Will an external DAC be useful in my case? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 11-03-2009, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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I am planning on setting a dedicated 2 CH listening room in the next 5-6 months and am researching on this. I currently have the following equipment

Polk LSi25 Speakers
Emotiva XPA-3 Amp
Onkyo TX-SR805
Sonos system

I run my audio like this ..... Sonos --> Onkyo (AVR) --> Emotiva (amp) --> Polk speakers

I am well aware that my AVR has the excellent Burr-Brown DAC. If I am willing to spent about 6-800$ can I get any upgrade in my sound if I buy an external DAC? If so, what are you some of the recommendations?

Looks like Peachtree Decca would be a good unit but read in the threads that its amp section is weak. I am also aware that they are planning on releasing a DAC only version in early 2010.

Thanks
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post #2 of 25 Old 11-03-2009, 02:45 PM
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Going your route to just elimintate the internal DACs in the Onkyo won't yield much. An alternate way would be to use a preamp for dedicated 2 channel duty. A DAC/preamp (by TADAC) would best serve you and skip the Onkyo (just use it for home theater). Put the DAC between the receiver and Emo amp, then feed your CD player's digital signal to the DAC/preamp and play 2 shannel music through it. Put the DAC/preamp in home theater bypass mode and use the Onkyo for home theater, etc. This is similar to the Emo analog preamp setup, but with a DAC included.

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post #3 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boarder1995 View Post

Going your route to just elimintate the internal DACs in the Onkyo won't yield much. An alternate way would be to use a preamp for dedicated 2 channel duty. A DAC/preamp (by TADAC) would best serve you and skip the Onkyo (just use it for home theater). Put the DAC between the receiver and Emo amp, then feed your CD player's digital signal to the DAC/preamp and play 2 shannel music through it. Put the DAC/preamp in home theater bypass mode and use the Onkyo for home theater, etc. This is similar to the Emo analog preamp setup, but with a DAC included.

I agree this approach is better than using the receiver's DACs. I have no experience with the TADAC, but based on the hype here it should be easy to sell if you don't like it. Another option is my preference, a used Benchmark DAC-1 ($600 at Audiogon) and your choice of analog preamps (used) at Audiogon, such as a Bel Canto Pre2, Parasound P3, McCormack RLD1. But I must say that your speakers are not nearly good enough to warrant spending that kind of upgrade money, IMHO. I would replace them with Ascend Acoustics if you are on a budget, or Digital Phase if you can afford more.

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post #4 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the suggestions boarder1995 and dsmith901

The Polk LSi's are my first entry into buying expensive speakers. Earlier I have used the HTIB's, then the entry level Polk R series and then graduated to these. As stated by dsmith901 I myself was skeptical IF my speakers were good enough to spend 6-800$ on the DAC upgrade and that's why wanted to get some opinions.

I have an LSi25, LSiFX and LSiC (all Polk) that I use for home theater and I am currently researching for possible 2 CH solutions. I definitely do have a budget and probably would not want to spend more than 2-2.5K incl everything. But my primary goal is to maximize what I have now.

I looked at the TADAC, it does seem to have raving reviews in the audiophile community. And I can even afford to buy it ... but my principle is that if I cannot tell the difference it doesn't make sense to purchase more expensive units. So, I have been trying to take small strides. I am open to other cheaper suggestions if you think the speakers are not good enough to take advantage of a 1K DAC.

So, is the conclusion that I do not use an external DAC with my existing speakers?
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post #5 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 09:28 AM
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Trash in = trash out, regardless of speakers. BUT, I totally agree with dsmith - you'd be much better off spending more on speakers than an external DAC. Go listen to local speaker stores and see what appeals to you. Also, there are some good online only manufacturer/sellers. Audiogon is another great place to shop for some good deals. Beyond the speakers, then other items in the line will help too, but only you will be able to discern if it's an audible improvement. Don't get caught up too much in forum talk. That's all it is - talk, until you can hear and experience it for yourself.

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post #6 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you boarder1995, I am aware of the general things that you stated about Audiogon, buying expensive speakers, auditioning speakers etc

I had a question for both of you guys . Have any of you heard Polk LSi25? Assuming I am on a budget and if we consider Ascend Acoustics (as suggested in dsmith901's post .... how are they better than LSi25? Is it better on paper or are you going by general opinion you would have seen on the forums.
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post #7 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 11:36 AM
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A little late to the thread, but I just wanted to add my agreement to what has been said so far. It is doubtful that an outboard DAC of any cost or excellence would make a noticeable difference to your current system.

The BB DAC's in your Onkyo are very good and any gain from that point from ‘improved’ DAC’s would be lost at the speakers. The recommendation for Ascend's is a good one (I’m partial to their attributes). And I think you would hear a marked improvement over your current Polks.

I am not familiar with the Polk SLi25’s (and have not noticed much written about them on the forums) but they would have to be very good to compete with the Ascend 170’s which I feel are the best bang for the buck.

Good luck.

shane

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post #8 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shane55 View Post

It is doubtful that an outboard DAC of any cost or excellence would make a noticeable difference to your current system.

The BB DAC's in your Onkyo are very good and any gain from that point from improved' DAC's would be lost at the speakers. The recommendation for Ascend's is a good one (I'm partial to their attributes). And I think you would hear a marked improvement over your current Polks.

I am not familiar with the Polk SLi25's (and have not noticed much written about them on the forums) but they would have to be very good to compete with the Ascend 170's which I feel are the best bang for the buck.

I am very open to suggestions and I want to know how/why Ascend's are better than LSi25 ..... I also know that only I can tell if they sound better and that I need to audition them So please don't rub the same thing on me

But for comparison on paper how are they better. Please think of me as a novice in understanding the specs of speakers or their components on paper.
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post #9 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 11:58 AM
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I understand your question, but I can't give you an answer as I don't know the LSi25's.

http://ascendacoustics.com/pages/pro...70/cbm170.html

http://ascendacoustics.com/pages/pro...bm170meas.html

That should give you an understanding of the Ascends and how they test.

Being that they have a 30 day, no questions asked return policy, it might be worth it to you to invest a few bucks in the shipping costs and give them a whirl.

And... if you feel afterwards that you've wasted your money and that your Polks are better (or the same), you've at least answered a very fundamental question. But I still think you won't get much of a difference from an Outboad DAC (and yes I own one).

One question I have is:
What kind of files are on the Sonos? Are they mp3's or wav or flac? Because... I'm sure you know that the type of source file can make a huge difference as well.

shane

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post #10 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a variety of mix. The newer tracks are all FLAC and some of my older music are all mp3's (128kbps to 320Kbps VBR). Then I guess I will just stick with what I have for now. I will go ahead and see if I can audition some.

LSi25 are very well reviewed and is a full range speaker and costs alot more than Ascends. Here are the specs.
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post #11 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 12:31 PM
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Quote:


I am very open to suggestions and I want to know how/why Ascend's are better than LSi25

They aren't—not even close. I can't explain why people are pushing a modest bookshelf speaker as an alternative to what you've got, except to say that on the Internet you can find somebody to push anything.

Right now you've got speakers you like, and plenty of power to drive them. As far as the requirements of 2-channel listening go, that's it. Your next step is room treatments, not new components.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #12 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mekatoka View Post

I have a variety of mix. The newer tracks are all FLAC and some of my older music are all mp3's (128kbps to 320Kbps VBR). Then I guess I will just stick with what I have for now. I will go ahead and see if I can audition some.

LSi25 are very well reviewed and is a full range speaker and costs alot more than Ascends. Here are the specs.

Great specs on those! Thanks for sending the link.
In this case I'm not sure Ascends would be an 'upgrade'.

So, back to your original question... would an outboard DAC help? Maybe, but not much with the more compressed mp3's. But it might on some of the other files.

Benchmark has a 30 day return policy too. Give it a try. I really like my DAC1 PRE, and I have it hooked up to one of my computers.

See if it makes a difference.

Good luck.

"Yes Eve... I like to watch." - Chauncey Gardener.

My HT Setup:
http://www.fototime.com/A0E2793180FB3D0/orig.jpg
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post #13 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Now, I am starting to get the responses I had originally hoped for

I just didn't wanted to sound rude by outright turning down what people had suggested. That's why I was asking why they thought the other suggested speakers are better.

I do like my speakers very much and was wondering what I could do to improve my listening electronically. I do plan to do room treatments but thats not going to happen for another 6-8 months.
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post #14 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 02:21 PM
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Quote:


I do like my speakers very much and was wondering what I could do to improve my listening electronically.

Nothing much. I know we sound like a broken record sometimes, but:

Speakers-Room

Speakers-Room

Speakers-Room

.
.
.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #15 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 03:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mekatoka View Post

Now, I am starting to get the responses I had originally hoped for

I just didn't wanted to sound rude by outright turning down what people had suggested. That's why I was asking why they thought the other suggested speakers are better.

I do like my speakers very much and was wondering what I could do to improve my listening electronically. I do plan to do room treatments but thats not going to happen for another 6-8 months.

You may not have received posts you were hoping for but you got pretty good ones. Digital-Analog conversion is not voodoo. Accurate algorithms have been know for some time and are readily available, including your AVR. Read the post below the one of yours I quoted, it's all you need to know.
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post #16 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 03:48 PM
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I don't think there is an audible difference between modern DAC chips. Others will claim that it's not the DAC chip itself, but the analog section of separate DAC's that make them better. Of course this completely ignores the fact that no matter how good the analog section of the DAC is, it will still go through the analog section in the receiver or preamp. I don't see how feeding the signal through two analog circuits can be better than one.

And if you use a sub, or any type of room correction in the reciever, it will convert the analog from the DAC back to digital anyways, and it will still go through the DAC in the receiver.
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post #17 of 25 Old 11-04-2009, 04:28 PM
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i think you may notice a small change but it may or may not be better weit the dac

the polk lsi25s are fantastic. i loved their sound--ring radiator tweeters in those babies. i agree with mcnarus here. i think they compare favorably with sonus sperakers of higher msrp. just my ho.
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post #18 of 25 Old 11-06-2009, 12:47 AM
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Let me first say I find it amusing reading posts from some of the "experienced audiophiles" here on AVS. This hobby is all about experimentation, learning and evolving in your ability to hear and appreciate each new level of refinement. I remember my first system I bought back in high school: Advent Heritage speakers, Yamaha Dolby Pro Logic receiver, and an 18" Kicker subwoofer housed in my own hand-built enclosure powered by a Carver amp. I loved that system for many years, even though I was encouraged by well intentioned people to buy similarly priced entry level audiophile speakers, which I auditioned and didn't think even compared to my system....OK, so enough of the rambling.

In terms of electronics (if/when you decide to upgrade), my suggestion is the DAC is the LAST place to start. Amp and preamp both play comparably important roles in sound quality. I might even argue that the preamp is more important. I have the Onkyo PR-SC885 Pre/Pro for my home theater system and do the following for my 2-channel system. I connect the pre-outs of the Onkyo to the pre-ins of my 2-channel preamp, which then outputs to my amp. When doing 2-channel listening, I turn the volume on the Onkyo up to 0.0dB which I believe corresponds to unity gain after the Onkyo's internal DAC's have converted the digital inputs (very loud if connected to the amp directly). What my 2-channel pre does that my Onkyo does not do is preserve detail, texture and dynamics at low listening levels. This makes such a big difference when listening at normal volume levels, once you've heard it you won't want to go back. Anyway, enjoy each phase of this hobby and best of luck!
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post #19 of 25 Old 11-07-2009, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Nothing much. I know we sound like a broken record sometimes, but:.
.
.

So does a math teacher, all the time 2+2=; 3*3=
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post #20 of 25 Old 09-17-2012, 08:29 AM
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Just got back from CEDIA and saw/heard this amazing external DAC from MyDac MSRP $399.00 .
The demo with headphoes and balanced audio selector compares the $5000.00 Wadia DAC , $1500.00 Belcanto and the MyDac .
I found that the Wadia sounded the best but the MyDac was as good as the Belcanto and for $399.00 it was truly a bargain.
Here is the information -

http://www.micromega-hifi.com/cool.gif

As for speakers - room try a pair of headphones biggrin.gif
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post #21 of 25 Old 09-18-2012, 12:56 PM
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That's an odd thread bump, but what happened in here three years ago? I can't believe how dismissive everyone was of the LSi25s...
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post #22 of 25 Old 09-20-2012, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REWJR View Post

Just got back from CEDIA and saw/heard this amazing external DAC from MyDac MSRP $399.00 .
The demo with headphoes and balanced audio selector compares the $5000.00 Wadia DAC , $1500.00 Belcanto and the MyDac .
I found that the Wadia sounded the best but the MyDac was as good as the Belcanto and for $399.00 it was truly a bargain.
Here is the information -
http://www.micromega-hifi.com/cool.gif
As for speakers - room try a pair of headphones biggrin.gif

Yes, Robert Harley, THE ABSOLUTE SOUND, refers to the $399 Micromega MyDAC as being a future llegend, worthy of costing $2000.00. A full review will appear in the December 2012 issue of TAS.

I also experenced an improvement in 2 channel sound by replacing my OPPO 93 with the ONKYO C-S5VL SACD CD player. It contains a high grade WOLFSON 192 kHz/24-Bit D/A Converter (WM8742) Amazon has recently lowered its price, making it a tremendous bargain

I plan to purchase the $399 Micromega MyDAC (made in France, not China) when it becomes available. Can't wait to read Harley's review in the DEC TAS issue. Harley refers to it as a "miracle."
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post #23 of 25 Old 09-20-2012, 11:55 AM
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Robert Harley is a total clown.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #24 of 25 Old 09-20-2012, 12:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Robert Harley is a total clown.
That's much nicer than what I was going to say.

Anyway alkemac, keep winding up that expectation bias.
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post #25 of 25 Old 09-20-2012, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Robert Harley is a total clown.

I'm sure that the very many clowns who are serious about entertaining people either for free or for nominal remuneration will take exception to this characterization.

The worst thing I can say is that Harley is a very fastidious person. He is very fastidious about keeping his web site free of posts that might make people question his various pronouncements.
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