Originally Posted by edgeh2o
I just got this Music Direct 2013 catalog in the mail. I'm browsing through it and come to the Computer Audio section, and it's all DACs.
I have my desktop connected to my Onkyo TX-SR707 through an HDMI cable going from my AMD 7950 videocard to HDMI IN on the receiver. My computer/video card doesn't do any converting or processing, all that is done by the receiver. Audio files are all ALAC Lossless.
I'm reading some of these descriptions in the magazine...
-Musical Surroundings MYDAC II "Vastly improve the sound of all digital files... this level of fidelity was, until now, reserved exclusively for analog master tapes"
-Musical Fidelity M1DAC-A "overall performance was so solid and musical... incredibly involving sound from its newest DAC"
-Musical Fidelity V-DAC MKII "removing jitter and ensuring bit perfect digital transmission... detailed, yet smooth and non-fatiguing"
-Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC "get brilliant sound from your computer audio files... you'll be stunned"
-Rega DAC "Makes the most of any digital source... rich, full bodied, almost tube like
-Peachtree Audio Dacit DAC "optomized for computer audio"
-Wadia 121 Decoding Computer DAC "warmth and realism
-PS Audio Nuwave DAC "warmest, sweetest, most open and musical DAC
-Music Hall DAC25.3 "warmth and musicality you can only get from tubes"
-Benchmark DAC2 HGC "lower distortion, improved accuracy, precise stereo imaging, remarkable sonic signature"
All these DACs make it seem like without these, audio files from a computer will sound lifeless, harsh, non-musical, low fidelity, closed off, etc.
An ideal DAC is like an ideal power amp in that the ideal DAC like the ideal power amp would simply let the source pass through, completely and totally unmolested in any audible way.
Once upon a time, DACs with this property literally cost $100,000's. That was in the early 1970s. By the early 80s and the first CD players, DACs that passed audio almost completely unmolested were components of CD players that cost in the $500-1,000 range. By the early 1990s CD players with sonically transparent DACs were under $200. The price of good DAC chips has come down to the point where their cost no longer defines the cost of the products that incorporate them. For example the best modern under-$50 portable players contain sonically transparent DACs that are packaged as part of superchips that also contain most of the logic of the computer that actually makes them work.
Would I have a LOT to gain by getting one of these for my setup?
Probably, there is nothing to gain at all. The DACs in your Onkyo AVR are almost certainly sonically transparent as are its power amps, etc.
Or are they mainly for computers where the motherboard/sound card would otherwise do all the decoding/processing instead of my setup (which sends the audio straight to the receiver for decoding/processing via HDMI)?
If I usnerstand your system, your computer is driving the DAC in your AVR via the HDMI link. The decoding/processing is divided between your computer and your AVR. From a sound quality standpoint the exact division of labor should not be an issue since the link between the two is digital.
I'm in the mood to upgrade something in my setup, but figure the biggest upgrade would be getting new speakers (Ascend Sierra-1).
You got that right! Speakers and room acoustics rule
However, in the realm of speakers your biggest SQ advantage might come from a really good subwoofer as opposed to new mains.