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post #1 of 29 Old 06-14-2012, 06:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Folks.......

I'm taking the leap and just bought a used high quality preamp (ARC LS-17). The bulk of my two channel listening is with files from NAS though a media player (Dune). I'm sure the media player's DAC is not the best (I was bit streaming to an Onkyo pre/pro). So, I'd like to add a DAC in the chain. I'm figuring a starter one at this point (under $800 - used ok). Tube would be great, but not necessary as long as it isn't grainy in the higher freqs. Need 24/192 and don't want to hit any switches when changing resolution. USB is not necessary. Balanced isn't necessary.

Any recommendations for what to research in that range? And, in general, what DAC chips are considered better than others (eg, Wolfson?)

Thanks for any input.
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post #2 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 08:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

Hi Folks.......
I'm taking the leap and just bought a used high quality preamp (ARC LS-17). The bulk of my two channel listening is with files from NAS though a media player (Dune). I'm sure the media player's DAC is not the best (I was bit streaming to an Onkyo pre/pro). So, I'd like to add a DAC in the chain. I'm figuring a starter one at this point (under $800 - used ok). Tube would be great, but not necessary as long as it isn't grainy in the higher freqs. Need 24/192 and don't want to hit any switches when changing resolution. USB is not necessary. Balanced isn't necessary.
Any recommendations for what to research in that range? And, in general, what DAC chips are considered better than others (eg, Wolfson?)
Thanks for any input.
.

If you search the subject rationally, you will find that adding a DAC like this is about the last thing you should do.

Room acoustics and speakers are where it is at.
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post #3 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

If you search the subject rationally, you will find that adding a DAC like this is about the last thing you should do.
Room acoustics and speakers are where it is at.

I agree to a point. I have top notch speakers. I do have more room treatment to do and that is in the works. But relying on mediocre processing from a $300 media player when the rest of the system is very resolving is not wise IMO. Particularly when I have been bitstreaming it out through my Onkyo pre/pro which has a better DAC within. I don't like to take steps downward when upgrading the system!

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post #4 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 12:01 PM
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Something like a Peachtree Dac-it could fit the bill. I use one with a custom Mac Mini server over USB and I love it. It's limited to 24/96 over USB and toslink, but it can do 24/192 over coax.
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post #5 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

I agree to a point. I have top notch speakers. I do have more room treatment to do and that is in the works. But relying on mediocre processing from a $300 media player when the rest of the system is very resolving is not wise IMO. Particularly when I have been bitstreaming it out through my Onkyo pre/pro which has a better DAC within. I don't like to take steps downward when upgrading the system!

I'm not following this. Are you saying that you are routing a digital stream from your media player though a digital input on the Onkyo? If so, then why not rely on its converters?
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post #6 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

I'm not following this. Are you saying that you are routing a digital stream from your media player though a digital input on the Onkyo? If so, then why not rely on its converters?

Refer back to my original post. I was listening to music by bitstreaming from the Dune into the Onkyo. But I am adding a two channel preamp for music only, so the Dune will bypass the Onkyo and go straight to the preamp. I would like a decent quality DAC to put between the Dune and the ARC LS-17. With this preamp and Salk SoundScape 8 speakers, I'm sure the Dune's DAC would be the weak link.

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post #7 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 02:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by MadMartigan69 View Post

Something like a Peachtree Dac-it could fit the bill. I use one with a custom Mac Mini server over USB and I love it. It's limited to 24/96 over USB and toslink, but it can do 24/192 over coax.

This is a good option, thanks. It uses the same chip as a couple of others I am now looking at. Here is my thinking so far (the Peachtree would be a good substitue for #3 and would probably serve me longer):

1- Eastern Electric Minimax Plus looks to be very nice, versatile and with very good reviews. Nice to be able to switch back and forth between tube/SS. Has balanced out, USB. Could be more my final than starter DAC. Hard to find used it looks like, so $1100.

2- Wyred4Sound DAC2. Solid state. Same DAC chip as Minimax Plus. Good reviews. Also very versatile. More expensive at $1499 and few used units available yet. But also could be final choice rather than starter. Interesting that it has a HTBypass option built in, so could allow to not have to turn on tube preamp when watching video. Might be low enough power draw just to leave on all the time and simplify everything for family. Possible to use as preamp as well from what I can tell.

3- A good starter solution might be the W4S MDAC at $400 and keep eyes out for one of the above at good price after a few months.

At this stage, I hate to buy a more expensive new unit unless I'm absolutely sure it's a keeper.

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post #8 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 06:31 PM
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DCS Scarlatti and the soon to be announced Mussolini clock, which guarantees your data trains will run on time.
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post #9 of 29 Old 06-15-2012, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

DCS Scarlatti and the soon to be announced Mussolini clock, which guarantees your data trains will run on time.

That would be $20000 over my budget wise guy!

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post #10 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 01:15 AM
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Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

That would be $20000 over my budget wise guy!
You've already drunk the audiophile kool aid by buying ARC, so that was the next "logical" step.

Seriously, there are some very well designed and built DACs available off ebay for surprisingly little. One example is 200723848409 for $US160 complete (scroll to bottom), good parts choice, but poor translation (Filter the output using a dual op amp OP275G bile taste). I'm popping for one of these boards for my system controller. You can pay a lot more for a brand name unit, but you'd need to provide some very compelling evidence to me that they're better in any audible way.
The AD1955 is the best DAC in the AD line and other units such as the ESS line are theoretically slightly better, all the units they come in are much more expensive than this even DIY, but I seriously doubt the difference is audible.

PS: adding tubes to a DAC will do nothing other than reduce the good noise and distortion figures that the engineers at the silicon companies worked hard to get. They add nothing but a pretty glowing bottle. That's if you can see it.

PPS: Emotiva make a decent looking DAC, on special now for $199 shipped.
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post #11 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 07:09 AM
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I suggest that you look at the Musical Fidelity V-DAC, which goes for about $350.

Congratulations on the excellent preamp; I have been using the LS-26 for 6 years now, and it is the heart and soul of my system; the sound is to die for.




Quote:
Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

Hi Folks.......
I'm taking the leap and just bought a used high quality preamp (ARC LS-17). The bulk of my two channel listening is with files from NAS though a media player (Dune). I'm sure the media player's DAC is not the best (I was bit streaming to an Onkyo pre/pro). So, I'd like to add a DAC in the chain. I'm figuring a starter one at this point (under $800 - used ok). Tube would be great, but not necessary as long as it isn't grainy in the higher freqs. Need 24/192 and don't want to hit any switches when changing resolution. USB is not necessary. Balanced isn't necessary.
Any recommendations for what to research in that range? And, in general, what DAC chips are considered better than others (eg, Wolfson?)
Thanks for any input.
.
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post #12 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 08:05 AM
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I have spent months looking for a "good" DAC that is in a reasonable price range. By most accounts, the Wyred4Sound DAC2 is the best DAC at the $1500 price range. The Anedio D2 is another good one. My recent auditions have been everything from Bel Canto, Weiss DAC 202, Hegel D20 (this was crap), Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100, Schiit Bifrost, and my reference DAC, an MSB Platinum DAC IV.

The Platinum DAC IV from MSB is the best DAC I have heard. Period. It sounded more natural and detailed than even the VPI Aries 3 turn table I was listening to. However, it's $12,000. But it is still my benchmark that I hope to someday come close to for near $1,000. rolleyes.gif

The Bel Canto stuff is very good, but they don't have anything that fits my price range. I don't think there is as much value in Bel Canto as most people would expect to obtain.

The Weiss DAC 202 is another great one, but as usual its price is astronomical. It is incredibly detailed and transparent, but depending on the front-end material it can get a bit harsh. There are better options for this amount of money.

The Hegel D20 was very boring. It was pretty neutral, but it did not sound natural at all. It had a very dull sound which I did not like.

The Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 was surprisingly good. It had a lot of detail and transparency which I was not expecting. I found it to be a bit heavy on the low end but it was otherwise pretty good. I do think that it's a bit overpriced at $380, though. The Schiit Bifrost is a much better buy with or without USB.

Finally, I have a Schiit Bifrost right now. I read about many other DACs and I consistently came back to the Bifrost because of price/USB option. I've listened to it before and I really enjoyed it. I actually A-B'd it to the MSB Platinum DAC IV, Naim DAC, and Bryston BDA-1. The Bifrost bested the Bryston BDA-1 by a mile. The Bryston was very bright and harsh. The Naim was very good, it has the slightly warm "Naim" sound signature which is just a little bit of a soft roll off of the highs allowing for a more rich mid-range. The Schiit was very close to the Naim with its detail and natural sound signature.

I'm going to be auditioning the Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus and possibly an Arcam rDAC this weekend. I'm not expecting great things, but we will see.
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post #13 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
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The Cambridge Audio DacMagic and Musical Fidelity V-DAC are both upsampling, so I'll pass on those. The Schiit Bifrost is a very interesting option at reasonable cost.

An assumption I've made, and probably shouldn't, is that I can run both my CD player and media player through a DAC that has both coax and optical inputs (as in the Bifrost). There is not a switch for inputs. Will it automatically switch between those inputs when they receive signal? Or should I be looking for something specific that indicates I can use a single DAC for two sources?

Thanks........

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post #14 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 02:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

An assumption I've made, and probably shouldn't, is that I can run both my CD player and media player through a DAC that has both coax and optical inputs (as in the Bifrost). There is not a switch for inputs.
Well, buy a DAC that has a source switch. Most do, like the DACMagic in my bedroom system.
Don't understand the opposition to upsampling though.
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post #15 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 05:13 PM
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The Bifrost does have a source selection switch, it's right on the front. You will be able to select one or the other input.

I am auditioning the Arcam rDAC with the DacMagic Plus right now. I must say, I like the DM+ a lot better than I thought I would. The headphone output is garbage, but that's not why I am interested. I am able to use the XLR output with the Kimber Kable Hero balanced interconnects I borrowed from my dealer as well. I have it going into my B&K Ref 50 S2 and Anthem PVA7 and it sounds much better than I anticipated. It is very detailed, transparent, and to my ears seems very natural sounding on vocals which is what I am looking for. Some have said the sound is very 2 dimensional, but I am not getting that at all.

The Arcam rDAC is also very good. The build quality is certainly 100% better than the DM+. The DM+ feels like a tinker toy and it's not robust at all. The rDAC seems to be more neutral, but it causes a bit of sibilance on the high-end which is very apparent with my Beyerdynamic DT880 600 ohm headphones and Schiit Asgard amp. It's not so bad with the soft dome tweeters of my home theater speakers, Swan Diva 6.2s.

The real test will come a bit later when I hook up everything to my main stereo system, Kudos Cardea C30s. That's where I will make my final decision. The rDAC is at a disadvantage because its USB implementation is limited to 24/96 which means it is not asynchronous. The DacMagic Plus uses an XMOS chip which will allow 24/192 playback through asynchronous USB. It should also play nicely with Linux which is a must because I am using a Linux laptop with MPD for my main stereo.

I would not count out the DM+. I was pretty skeptical, but it is growing on me. It has a wide array of inputs and outputs and sounds quite good based on my initial opinions. Now I must get back to my listening session. biggrin.gif
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post #16 of 29 Old 06-16-2012, 09:03 PM
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The build quality is certainly 100% better than the DM+. The DM+ feels like a tinker toy and it's not robust at all.
You have no idea of it's actual robustness until you manage to physically damage it. As these units will likely sit on a shelf and never move, it's hardly an issue really, unless you wish to pay a premium for jewellery looks. Certainly the DM (mine is anyway) is nicely engineered and made.
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post #17 of 29 Old 06-17-2012, 07:02 AM
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You have no idea of it's actual robustness until you manage to physically damage it. As these units will likely sit on a shelf and never move, it's hardly an issue really, unless you wish to pay a premium for jewellery looks. Certainly the DM (mine is anyway) is nicely engineered and made.

In fact, I can quite easily tell the difference in build quality and robustness by handling it. rolleyes.gif
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post #18 of 29 Old 06-17-2012, 07:23 AM
 
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In fact, I can quite easily tell the difference in build quality and robustness by handling it. rolleyes.gif
You must have rough hands. eek.giffrown.gif
I haven't had that happened to me but how many times a DAC or other audio electronic components broke down in your hands during normal use?
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post #19 of 29 Old 06-17-2012, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

You must have rough hands. eek.giffrown.gif
I haven't had that happened to me but how many times a DAC or other audio electronic components broke down in your hands during normal use?

Often.
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Often.
Sorry to hear about the costly burden you live with.
So, how many is "often"? Once, twice, three, four.... or more?
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post #21 of 29 Old 06-17-2012, 12:32 PM
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Sorry to hear about the costly burden you live with.
So, how many is "often"? Once, twice, three, four.... or more?
When your knuckles always drag along the ground.....
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post #22 of 29 Old 06-18-2012, 10:11 AM
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Often.

hook hands?

237

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post #23 of 29 Old 06-18-2012, 10:50 AM
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When your knuckles always drag along the ground.....

Sighted evaluations of DACs is the audio equivalent of knuckle dragging. ;-)
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post #24 of 29 Old 06-19-2012, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

The Cambridge Audio DacMagic and Musical Fidelity V-DAC are both upsampling, so I'll pass on those. The Schiit Bifrost is a very interesting option at reasonable cost.
An assumption I've made, and probably shouldn't, is that I can run both my CD player and media player through a DAC that has both coax and optical inputs (as in the Bifrost). There is not a switch for inputs. Will it automatically switch between those inputs when they receive signal? Or should I be looking for something specific that indicates I can use a single DAC for two sources?
Thanks........

This all reads like someone looking for a 'magic' esoteric solution but I'll go ahead and throw one out there: Asus Essence One.

I know MarkK at AudioHeuristics.org has a Benchark and internal Asus STX and can't tell the difference.

2nd. Dump the CD player. Get a streamer and rip everything either lossless or full bitrate (Wav 1411Kbps) through the media player. CD's are toast, anarchic, the dial up modem.
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An audiophile likes to talk about how much they spent and how good it sounds.

A DIY'er likes to talk about how little they spent and how good it sounds.

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post #25 of 29 Old 06-21-2012, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Greg121986 View Post

I have spent months looking for a "good" DAC that is in a reasonable price range. By most accounts, the Wyred4Sound DAC2 is the best DAC at the $1500 price range.

Now, some will say all digital players sound the same but it's a load of bunk. You have to look at the overall design and implementation -- more importantly the output stages and power supply. Beginner audio geeks always tend to look at the actual DAC chip (ex. Wolfson or Burr Brown) and disregard everything else.
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Originally Posted by kashmereino View Post

Please don't exclude the Neko Audio D100 from your list. It's a bit pricey but worth it.
Now, some will say all digital players sound the same but it's a load of bunk. You have to look at the overall design and implementation -- more importantly the output stages and power supply.
That's a bunk. You have to do listening comparisons with levels matched.
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Beginner audio geeks always tend to look at the actual DAC chip (ex. Wolfson or Burr Brown) and disregard everything else.
Do you have the stats to support it?
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post #27 of 29 Old 06-21-2012, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by kashmereino View Post

Please don't exclude the Neko Audio D100 from your list. It's a bit pricey but worth it.

On what grounds?
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Now, some will say all digital players sound the same but it's a load of bunk.

Isn't any statement with the word all in it almost perfectly guaranteed to be a straw man argument?
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You have to look at the overall design and implementation -- more importantly the output stages and power supply. Beginner audio geeks always tend to look at the actual DAC chip (ex. Wolfson or Burr Brown) and disregard everything else.

Does your command to "...disregard everything else" include disregarding sound quality?
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post #28 of 29 Old 06-21-2012, 02:45 PM
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@ arnyk -- Rather than waste my time doing your homework why don't you contact Wesley Miaw directly and ask him about its merit? Or perhaps include yourself in the loaner program so that you can conduct your own testing methods and report back?
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