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Receivers, Amps, and Processors > DAC help
mikem999's Avatar mikem999 07:59 AM 11-02-2011
Hi guys,

I'm looking for some advice. I'm newb to audio and i'm trying to upgrade my current computer audio system to a budget "hifi" system. Don't have much money to spend but I'm trying to do the best i can.

My current setup is:

-computer sound card: HT Claro Plus
-headphones: Audio-Technica ATH AD700
-receiver (just purchased): Onkyo TX-8255
-speakers (just purchased): Pioneer SP-BS41-LR


My questions are:
- does the Onkyo TX-8255 have a built in DAC? I am currently connecting my soundcard to the receiver via an analog cable. The receiver only has analog connections. Is the receiver doing any processing or is it all in the soundcard?

-i am thinking of buying a separate DAC, the HRT Music Streamer II, $149 on Amazon. Will this considerably improve the sound from my system? Some of my music is FLAC , but lots are mp3. Would the DAC also improve sound from the MP3's? Are there any other recommendations for a DAC (or other component) that would improve with my setup for around $200?

Thanks in advance for your input guys!

Kal Rubinson's Avatar Kal Rubinson 10:14 AM 11-02-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikem999 View Post

My questions are:
- does the Onkyo TX-8255 have a built in DAC? I am currently connecting my soundcard to the receiver via an analog cable. The receiver only has analog connections. Is the receiver doing any processing or is it all in the soundcard?

It is an analog receiver. It does no processing except for tone controls.

Quote:


-i am thinking of buying a separate DAC, the HRT Music Streamer II, $149 on Amazon. Will this considerably improve the sound from my system?

Hard to say but it is possible.

Quote:


Some of my music is FLAC , but lots are mp3. Would the DAC also improve sound from the MP3's? Are there any other recommendations for a DAC (or other component) that would improve with my setup for around $200?

It would have been better to put that $200 into the receiver purchase but the HRT is a worthwhile try.

Thanks in advance for your input guys![/quote]
mikem999's Avatar mikem999 09:03 PM 11-02-2011
It would have been better to put that $200 into the receiver purchase but the HRT is a worthwhile try.

So you mean that it would be better to buy a more expensive receiver than to buy a DAC for $200?

The onkyo i bought costs around $160. Is there anything recommended for around $350-400?
MichaelJHuman's Avatar MichaelJHuman 10:13 PM 11-02-2011
Many receivers have built in DACs, but seeing how you already bought a receiver, unless you want to return it, you can just use the audio outputs from the sound card.

If the sound was problematical, as sometimes seems to be the case with sound card analog audio outputs, you could get an affordable USB audio interface for cheaper than $200.

IMO, many DACs seem ridiculously expensive given the potential for improvement. Of course some people feel DACs make a big difference, but some people also think we never landed men on the moon - you can't assume people are rational, IMO
Jeckler's Avatar Jeckler 11:16 PM 11-02-2011
Is the 8255 a recent purchase? I'd return it if you can and get something with digital coaxial and/or optical inputs to let the receiver handle the processing. It looks like that card you have will do both (and looks like a nice card too). If you'd like to stay with Onkyo, the TX8050 has digital in, and offers a LOT more than the 8255, including networking. And it's not any more than a separate DAC would cost you.
Kilian.ca's Avatar Kilian.ca 12:11 AM 11-03-2011
I'd get better speakers that go lower than 55Hz or a sub. A DAC is redundant in the chain when there is something else more important to see to and a DAC that costs as much as the bookshelves seems not quite right to me. It's a matter of making the most of what you have to spend.
Warpdrv's Avatar Warpdrv 03:03 AM 11-03-2011
Save up for a nice sub if you want to see a huge upgrade in performance.
mikem999's Avatar mikem999 08:12 AM 11-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilian.ca View Post

I'd get better speakers that go lower than 55Hz or a sub. A DAC is redundant in the chain when there is something else more important to see to and a DAC that costs as much as the bookshelves seems not quite right to me. It's a matter of making the most of what you have to spend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

Many receivers have built in DACs, but seeing how you already bought a receiver, unless you want to return it, you can just use the audio outputs from the sound card.

If the sound was problematical, as sometimes seems to be the case with sound card analog audio outputs, you could get an affordable USB audio interface for cheaper than $200.

IMO, many DACs seem ridiculously expensive given the potential for improvement. Of course some people feel DACs make a big difference, but some people also think we never landed men on the moon - you can't assume people are rational, IMO

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeckler View Post

Is the 8255 a recent purchase? I'd return it if you can and get something with digital coaxial and/or optical inputs to let the receiver handle the processing. It looks like that card you have will do both (and looks like a nice card too). If you'd like to stay with Onkyo, the TX8050 has digital in, and offers a LOT more than the 8255, including networking. And it's not any more than a separate DAC would cost you.


i appreciate the input guys. i'm learning more from the comments.

What i gather from above is that :
1) a better receiver (such as onkyo 8050) with a DAC inside will process sound better than my computer soundcard.
2) getting a DAC for my system will not be the best upgrade and may even not make much of a difference.

Am I getting this right?

Subwoofers were also mentioned. Would the main benefit of getting a DAC be in the lower frequencies? What benefits do DACs give to the sound? What sub would be recommended for my speakers?

If i get a receiver such as the onkyo 8050 or similar, would the bass from my speakers benefit too? What benefits to the sound other than bass would i get? I do enjoy good bass, but overall sound is the most important for me.

thanks again!
MichaelJHuman's Avatar MichaelJHuman 03:31 PM 11-03-2011
I will tell you what I know and think...(other people will have differing ideas

What I know...
* Any DAC chip I have ever seen used in a modern AVR has amazing specs
* Some people claim that the specs don't tell the whole story
* One person, who seemed rational and educated says the SNR of some DACs is questionable (which leads into a technical discussion of what the minium should be)

What I think...
* People in audio regularly make crazy claims that have never been backed up with any solid evidence
* DACs should not require $200 worth of parts/labor to sound correct - the concept that they would is silly to me!
* A DAC may be a small part of the total analog audio path; consider a guitar being played on some song...how many electronic circuits did that go through before it hits your speakers...do you think one chip along with associated circuitry is making a big difference in that chain?
Kal Rubinson's Avatar Kal Rubinson 05:06 PM 11-03-2011
Of course, the OP has not said what he wants to correct/improve about his system. What component to add/replace/improve will depend on this.
MichaelJHuman's Avatar MichaelJHuman 05:49 PM 11-03-2011
People rarely state what their actual reason for waning an improvement is
Kilian.ca's Avatar Kilian.ca 07:03 PM 11-03-2011
Sometimes until you try something better, you think what you have is good enough and just aren't aware something better exists. Not only in audio. Food, cars, people...

The DAC sceptics (skeptics) usually would say a modern DAC decodes the signal from 20-20kHz perfectly, which implies a ruler-flat FR. How about when some tapers off top and bottom end? Very rarely if ever I've seen mentioned here is the filter characteristics. Some DACs let you choose the filter settings and sampling frequencies.

I know what some of you are going to say: these differences are inaudible...This isn't the right place to have yet another DAC discussion or flame war so that's all I'll say.

To get back to the OP: there is no definitive correct answers to your questions. All are opinions of people here and we aren't necessarily representative of the whole audio community. Some people have preferences and priorities to what their equipment sounds. A DAC covers 20-20kHz and does not particularly benefit the bass. Some (and a vocal few) people here don't believe in using external DACs at all. If you hang around here long enough you get the impression that all DACs, all cables, all CD/DVD players, all AVRs and amps have no audible differences. Go to other sections (2CH, CD players and audio theory) and you'll see heated debates (and worse) on these topics. If your have time read the long USB DAC thread (relevant for computers) in the 2CH forum - but be warned.

You have to read around and listen to some equipment yourself and decide. For a sub recommendation you should go to the sub forum.
Kal Rubinson's Avatar Kal Rubinson 07:07 PM 11-03-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

People rarely state what their actual reason for waning an improvement is

True. OTOH, he asked us to make that improvement.
Knucklehead90's Avatar Knucklehead90 07:16 PM 11-03-2011
I have the same sound card in my HTPC as the OP. It has very good sound quality IMO. I doubt a separate DAC will net you much better sound - probably none. I use that card for movies and music. I use analog outputs to an HK 3390 for music and to an Integra DHC 40.1 for 5.1 movies. DVDs on the Oppo BDP-80 sound very much like they do from hard drive and through the HT Claro card.

I also have an 8255 in the bedroom 2 channel setup. Sound is good but it doesn't have the power to push high volume.
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