How Would a DAC Improve My Computer Audio Setup? (AMD 7950 -> Onkyo 707 via HDMI) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-20-2012, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
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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"

ETC...

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.

Would I have a LOT to gain by getting one of these for my setup? 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)?

I'm in the mood to upgrade something in my setup, but figure the biggest upgrade would be getting new speakers (Ascend Sierra-1).

Office - Onkyo 506, AV123 X-LS Encore Monitors
Living Room -Panasonic 60ST60, Onkyo 707, Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 LCR
Car - Arc Audio Black 6.2; Arc Audio KS 2500.1, 300.4, 300.2; Audison BitOne; (2) Arc Audio Black 12 v2
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post #2 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 04:33 AM
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it wouldn't improve it at all...

you are headed in the correct direction with your last sentence... smile.gif

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post #3 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 05:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edgeh2o View Post

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"

ETC...

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.

Quote:
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.
Quote:
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.
Quote:
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.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info you two, as well as the history lesson wink.gif

I actually sold my SVS PB10-NSD when I moved into my apartment last year. I got 3 good years out of it while sharing a couple places with friends, but since moving into my own place, with a neighbor underneath me, I figured why not sell it and put the money towards a future upgrade. My ELT525T and ELT525C put out enough bass to make me happy, and a lot of the time I have to adjust the bass on the Onkyo -4db. The SVS PB10-NSD was great for movies, but I wish it was a bit more punchy/articulate for music. When I move back into a house in the future, I think I'll try a dual sub setup from Rythmik or Epik. And as for the Sierra-1, I'm very excited to try out a different sound, as well as the added accuracy and intelligibility. When I get a house hopefully I'll be able to swing the Sierra Tower/Horizon w/ RAAL, but that's quite a few years away still...

Back on topic-
I'm having a hard time figuring out who these DACs are marketed to? The ones I listed range from $250-$2000.

I didn't see that any of them included an amplifier section, so you would still need an amplifier in conjuction with them right? At that point you might have spent $2-3000. And like you guys said, if you already have a decent receiver with a digital connection from the computer, what would be the point of having a separate DAC? Is this for the super high-end market where you get into super revealing speakers costing $7,000+ that would be able to bring out the differences in these expensive DACs?

Office - Onkyo 506, AV123 X-LS Encore Monitors
Living Room -Panasonic 60ST60, Onkyo 707, Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 LCR
Car - Arc Audio Black 6.2; Arc Audio KS 2500.1, 300.4, 300.2; Audison BitOne; (2) Arc Audio Black 12 v2
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 07:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edgeh2o View Post

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"
ETC...
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.
Would I have a LOT to gain by getting one of these for my setup? 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)?
I'm in the mood to upgrade something in my setup, but figure the biggest upgrade would be getting new speakers (Ascend Sierra-1).

There are differences in DAC's and likewise, in their circuitry.

I recently ditched my receiver completely, going with a Xmeridian 7.1. As I was only using my receiver for processing, I literally just switched the Onkyo DAC circuitry to Auzentch/CMedia DAC circuitry. In my setup, it's been a huge difference.

Not as dramatic as say... Addng a sub. Or swapping my speakers out.

Still the best $100 I've ever spent on HT.

External DAC's are popular with the "pro audio" crowd. Maybe take a trip down to guitar center, and audition some. See if you like them.
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edgeh2o View Post

I'm having a hard time figuring out who these DACs are marketed to? The ones I listed range from $250-$2000.
I didn't see that any of them included an amplifier section, so you would still need an amplifier in conjuction with them right? At that point you might have spent $2-3000. And like you guys said, if you already have a decent receiver with a digital connection from the computer, what would be the point of having a separate DAC? Is this for the super high-end market where you get into super revealing speakers costing $7,000+ that would be able to bring out the differences in these expensive DACs?

Pro and semi-pro musicians, mostly.
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