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Old 07-22-2012, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
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My current set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via pre out, RCA connection) --> external amp --> speakers

I'm thinking to upgrade the DAC in the chain (receiver internal DAC) to a quality external DAC.

Upgrade set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via DIGITAL OUT) --> NEW external DAC (via RCA) --> external amp --> speakers

Any suggestion? Let's say budget is $1000.
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:44 PM
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Upgrade your speakers.

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

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Old 07-22-2012, 03:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Upgrade your speakers.

Without knowing what speakers I have?
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Upgrade your speakers.
Without knowing what speakers I have?
I think mcnarus's point is that any speaker upgrade would be more cost effective than any DAC upgrade.

If I had $1000 to spend, I would put it into speakers. Of course, you're right, if you've already put more than that into speakers. But then I would put the money into a better AVR, as the DACs within a good AVR are as good as the DACs within an external DAC, but the DSP processing in the AVR can give you more than an external DAC can.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:10 PM
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Your AVR has digital out? That's uncommon. You may get some improvement with a device that supports higher resolutions than the ATV, like a squeezebox or direct connection from a computer. If you want to go the external DAC route, you could go with a DAC/pre-pro with HT bypass, but whether it would sound noticeably better is debatable. I don't know of any that take HDMI, but you could use the optical output on the ATV.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

Without knowing what speakers I have?

Upgrading the speakers will at least make an audible change.

The DAC in your receiver is probably very, very good and while it may be possible to obtain one that measures better, obtaining one that sounds better (or even different) will be extremely difficult.

The very many "internet truth" reports relating to improved SQ due to dacs are based on sighted evaluations which are fraught with listener bias.

The other alternative is: room acoustics.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:27 PM
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Some pretty bad advice in this thread, I'll just leave it at that.

Why let facts or common sense get in the way of your opinions.

Quick shot of my gear/theater.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by AuralXTC View Post

Some pretty bad advice in this thread, I'll just leave it at that.

I'm hoping that you share my frustration with the absence of reliable evidence supporting many of the DAC upgrades that are thown around many audiophile conferences.

I've done a lot of relevant level matched, time synched blind listening evaluations and so have many other people. They back up the idea that a lot of common wisdom about alleged DAC upgrades is fiction.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

My current set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via pre out, RCA connection) --> external amp --> speakers
I'm thinking to upgrade the DAC in the chain (receiver internal DAC) to a quality external DAC.
Upgrade set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via DIGITAL OUT) --> NEW external DAC (via RCA) --> external amp --> speakers
Any suggestion? Let's say budget is $1000.

BTW I suspect that if we do a technical evaluation of your external amp lash up, you may be surprised again.

Please provide more details, if you wish.
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

My current set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via pre out, RCA connection) --> external amp --> speakers
I'm thinking to upgrade the DAC in the chain (receiver internal DAC) to a quality external DAC.
Upgrade set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via DIGITAL OUT) --> NEW external DAC (via RCA) --> external amp --> speakers
Any suggestion? Let's say budget is $1000.

I don't understand how you are going out of a receiver into a DAC into an amp and having the system work normally...can you explain how you intend to make this work and what sort of equipment/speakers you have?

Thanks,
B.
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Old 07-22-2012, 11:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

My current set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via pre out, RCA connection) --> external amp --> speakers
I'm thinking to upgrade the DAC in the chain (receiver internal DAC) to a quality external DAC.
Upgrade set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via DIGITAL OUT) --> NEW external DAC (via RCA) --> external amp --> speakers
Any suggestion? Let's say budget is $1000.

I don't understand how you are going out of a receiver into a DAC into an amp and having the system work normally...can you explain how you intend to make this work and what sort of equipment/speakers you have?

Thanks,
B.

It's my mistake. After I wrote it in the afternoon I realized that it wouldn't work the way I intended. It should have been DAC --> receiver --> amp.
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Old 07-22-2012, 11:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the suggestions.
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Old 07-23-2012, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post

My current set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via pre out, RCA connection) --> external amp --> speakers
I'm thinking to upgrade the DAC in the chain (receiver internal DAC) to a quality external DAC.
Upgrade set-up
AppleTV (via hdmi) --> A/V receiver as pre/pro (via DIGITAL OUT) --> NEW external DAC (via RCA) --> external amp --> speakers
Any suggestion? Let's say budget is $1000.

I tried several DACs at the $500 level and below. Here are three favorites, in order :

1. PS Audio DLIII (original retail $999)
2. Music Hall DAC 25.3 ( tube in output stage)
3. Cambridge DAC Magic

Next DAC I will try in this range is the Arcam R-DAC
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post


I tried several DACs at the $500 level and below. Here are three favorites, in order :
1. PS Audio DLIII (original retail $999)
2. Music Hall DAC 25.3 ( tube in output stage)
3. Cambridge DAC Magic

First off, what was your criteria for choosing favorites?

If the criteria was SQ, what listening methodology did you use that was properly level-matched, time-synched, and bias-controlled?
Quote:
Next DAC I will try in this range is the Arcam R-DAC

If your opinons are based on a reliable listening methodology, then that will have some general interest.
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Old 07-23-2012, 01:35 PM
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Personally, I would not buy an external standalone DAC unless I had >$5000 speakers
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Old 07-23-2012, 02:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

I tried several DACs at the $500 level and below. Here are three favorites, in order :
1. PS Audio DLIII (original retail $999)
2. Music Hall DAC 25.3 ( tube in output stage)
3. Cambridge DAC Magic
Next DAC I will try in this range is the Arcam R-DAC

Yeah, if you want more then: Peachtree iDAC and Rega DAC--both $1K. If you want to go higher then there is the Wadia 121 @ $1300.

B.
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

I tried several DACs at the $500 level and below. Here are three favorites, in order :
1. PS Audio DLIII (original retail $999)
2. Music Hall DAC 25.3 ( tube in output stage)
3. Cambridge DAC Magic
Next DAC I will try in this range is the Arcam R-DAC

Try the Asus Xonar Essence One http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essence_One/

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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Old 07-23-2012, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian B View Post

Yeah, if you want more then: Peachtree iDAC and Rega DAC--both $1K. If you want to go higher then there is the Wadia 121 @ $1300.
B.

Tried, owned the Rega DAC. While generally well reviewed, not a favorite of mine.
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

First off, what was your criteria for choosing favorites?
If the criteria was SQ, what listening methodology did you use that was properly level-matched, time-synched, and bias-controlled?
If your opinons are based on a reliable listening methodology, then that will have some general interest.

My criteria and methodology are not complex. I owned (still own) all three, interchanged them within the same system, same source, same room, same music, same everything. Even substituted solid state and tubes for pre and amplification.

I've had the speakers (Spendor SP 7/1), amps (Marantz and PrimaLuna) and sources for a couple of years and listen to nearly the same music daily.

It did come down to SQ measured by my own ears. I would tilt my head for level matching, time sync listening on my watch and alternately switched between Fox News and MSNBC to control bias.
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

same system, same source, same room, same music, same everything.
Everything except for same volume level. You missed one of the most critical aspect.
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:51 PM
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Everything except for same volume level. You missed one of the most critical aspect.

Same everything, included volume. There were volume differences and I would manually adjust. Sorry, no SPL meter used although I do own one.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:53 PM
 
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Same everything, included volume. There were volume differences and I would manually adjust. Sorry, no SPL meter used although I do own one.
That's what I mean, you didn't really match volumes to objective level.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:16 PM
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That's what I mean, you didn't really match volumes to objective level.

I prefer to listen rather than measure. Preferences are subjective.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

I prefer to listen rather than measure. Preferences are subjective.
Then you should edit your post (#19):
Quote:
Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

It did come down to SQ measured by my own ears.

Very likely, the difference you've heard was due to volume levels not matched precisely.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:57 PM
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Then you should edit your post (#19):
Very likely, the difference you've heard was due to volume levels not matched precisely.

Seriously?
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

I prefer to listen rather than measure.

Do you think that makes you different from me or better than people who can measure audio gear and understand the meaning of what we measure?

Do you seriously believe that they get all or most of their pleasure from measuring audio gear? No! Measuring audio gear is work. It can be work that is fun, but it is at its core boring, repetitive lab work.

Don't you think that people ho do measure on occasion audio gear on occasion spend hour after pleasurable hour listening to their audio systems?

I don't know of one person who is well-known in audio (and I know quite a few) who doesn't or (in the case of people like Julian Hirsch who have passed) didn't prefer to listen rather than measure.

The statement: "I prefer to listen rather than measure." is a truism, that sheds very little light on the question at hand.
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Preferences are subjective.

That would also be a truism.

What do you call a preference that is based on illusions or false information? Do you want to visit that shimmery blue lake on the horizon that is a mirage? I can tell you some funny stories about that, relating to some people from Chicaog who, seeing it on the horizon started talking about swimming in the Salton Sea. ;-)

Preferences are all fine and good as far as they go, but they aren't universal.

I agree that in the end, its the sound quality that matters, and let the measurements go where they will. Ironically, I have measured a ton of audio gear over the years. Yet I constantly advise against giving too much credibility to small differences that can only be measured and not heard.

What actions are logical when they are based on illusions or other false information?

What advice should people who are "in the know" give?

We can say that "This is a hobby, and its all about fun", but Audio is about science, art, and enjoyment. What about making scientific claims like "it sounds better" when in fact there are no audible differences at all?
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:38 AM
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Seriously?

Yes.
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

Then you should edit your post (#19):
Very likely, the difference you've heard was due to volume levels not matched precisely.

Agreed.

The problem of level matching is a very common problem with almost all audiophile listening evaluations including most that are done by well-known reviewers. Most audiophiles who talk about audio gear sounding different don't have any test gear at all, or if they have anything that measures, they have a cheap SPL meter. If you match levels by ear, you can hear differences with your ears because your level matching methodology is not any better than your listening methodology. Only meters measuring actual electrical audio signals are sensitive and reliable enough. Acoustic measurements are too imprecise and have too many built in variations.

There are other serious problems.

(1) Most audiophiles don't listen to the identical same music when they compare equipment. They listen to one piece of equipment with part of a recording, and then listen to the other piece of equipment with a somewhat different part of the same recording. The sound of music is constantly changing. Therefore, unless care is taken to match the musical selections being listened to with a great deal of precision, of course they will hear differences.

(2) Most audiophiles don't listen to equipment in quick succession. They hook up one piece of equipment, listen to it, and then hook up another piece of equipment and listen to it. It is a scientific fact that is now well understood that our memories for the small details of sound vanish after a few seconds. This is how our brains are wired. Only quick switching can give a reliable listening impression of small differences.

(3) Listener bias is almost always towards hearing differences, even when there aren't any. Again, we now have brain research that says this is the way that we are wired. This is easy to show when you address the first 3 problems: level matching, time synchronization, and quick switching.
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by diomania 

Very likely, the difference you've heard was due to volume levels not matched precisely.

Seriously?

Unless you matched levels very carefully, it is certain that the volume levels were mismatched enough to make the things you were comparing sound different. If you compared some component to itself with mismatched levels, it would sound different! Most DACs and music players have different output level ranging from about 1 volt to about 3 volts with the same digital signal. That's a huge audible difference all by itself.

Careful level matching involves a stable signal source such as a CD with test tones, and a measurement device properly attached, such as a voltmeter connected across the terminals of your main speakers.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

My criteria and methodology are not complex. I owned (still own) all three, interchanged them within the same system, same source, same room, same music, same everything. Even substituted solid state and tubes for pre and amplification.
I've had the speakers (Spendor SP 7/1), amps (Marantz and PrimaLuna) and sources for a couple of years and listen to nearly the same music daily.
It did come down to SQ measured by my own ears. I would tilt my head for level matching, time sync listening on my watch and alternately switched between Fox News and MSNBC to control bias.

This is the methodology that I employ as well. In my decades of experience when reviewing audio equipment (pseudo-professionally, of course) I've found that Fox News and MSNBC are the only reliable sources for controlling bias. When a double-blind, inverted-conservative study is required, I look no further.

Just wire this up. It's only 8-bit, you don't need to waste your money on those overpriced 16 and 24 bit contraptions. This 8-bit DAC is superior because it's more efficient. Fewer bits means that it's easier for the device to do its job and it doesn't have to work as hard. You won't be able to hear the difference anyway. They're all the same and bits are bits!

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