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Stereo system using DVD player and DAC - help please

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi all.

I'm looking for some advice on putting together a new stereo music system. I haven't bought such a thing for nearly a decade and so am somewhat behind the curve. Here is my situation in bullet point form:
  • I own mostly CDs, all of which I have ripped using Apple Lossless.
  • I have no interest in the quality of sound accompanying the movies I watch. My TV's speakers are fine for that.
  • I want to be able to put music on to play and then wonder around while listening. Being confined to one spot is no good.
  • I am no professional and would doubt my own ability to differentiate between a CD-quality recording and a higher bit-rate track. But I've not tried this, so I could be wrong.
  • I will be unlikely to spend over $1000 on the whole lot.

I have been reading these forums and have learned that transports do not really affect sound quality. Therefore my current thinking is to use my existing (cheap) DVD player and a dedicated DAC to play my CDs. When I feel like it I can plug my laptop into the DAC instead. Here's what I'd like to know:
  • Does my plan make sense?
  • What do I need to put between the DAC and the speakers? For example, do people still use integrated amps?
  • What is a sensible split of funds between DAC, amp, speakers (and anything else I need)?

Thanks in advance to you all.

Also, as a small aside: On these new-fangled DVDa and SACD 5.1 recordings of old albums: Are they worth it (if you have the kit to play them)? I find it hard to believe the original recording of, say, Tommy, can contain the information necessary to create a surround-sound track.
post #2 of 20
Quote:


Does my plan make sense?

Not really, given your budget. You pay extra for more boxes, so design the system around the fewest boxes.
Quote:


What do I need to put between the DAC and the speakers? For example, do people still use integrated amps?

You need a preamp and amp, which could be combined into an integrated amp. But I would recommend buying DAC, preamp, and amp in a single box. That would be either an inexpensive 5.1 receiver or the Harman Kardon 3490 stereo receiver. This will be cheaper than just about any DAC/integrated amp pair you could find, and leave you plenty of money for speakers.
Quote:


What is a sensible split of funds between DAC, amp, speakers (and anything else I need)?

Spend the majority of your money on speakers, basically whatever you don't need for the receiver. Don't waste money on cables.
Quote:


Also, as a small aside: On these new-fangled DVDa and SACD 5.1 recordings of old albums: Are they worth it (if you have the kit to play them)? I find it hard to believe the original recording of, say, Tommy, can contain the information necessary to create a surround-sound track.

DVD-A is pretty much dead. SACDs can sound good, even with old material originally released in 2-channel. But $1000 isn't going to buy you much of a 5.1 system.
post #3 of 20
And if your preference is rock, SACD has always been dead. Very few selections, and most that were available are long out of production now.
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Many thanks both. Very helpful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Not really, given your budget. You pay extra for more boxes, so design the system around the fewest boxes.

Would you care to offer a budget where it starts to make sense to separate DAC, pre-amp, amp? Also, as budget increases, which of the three would be best to separate out first (i.e. is DAC + integrated amp better than a box with a DAC and pre-amp in it followed by a dedicated power amp)?

Edit: Also, thanks for the link to the Harman. I wasn't really aware of boxes with all three things in them (that aren't CD players). Looks like a pretty good deal.
post #5 of 20
Quote:


Would you care to offer a budget where it starts to make sense to separate DAC, pre-amp, amp?

No, I would not care to, actually! In terms of audible sound quality, there's no inherent advantage to separating these components out. Separates give you more flexibility, and allow you to use more powerful amps (which may or may not matter, depending on your speakers and how loud you like to play). And some people just like the idea of separates, which is fine.

So the answer isn't, you should go to separates if your budget is above $XXXX. The answer is, you should go to separates if you want to for some reason, and your budget allows. And your budget allows if it leaves you enough money for speakers you are really, really happy with, because they (plus your room) are the key determinants of sound quality.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
I see. I suppose I fall into the "just like the idea of separates" category. Thankfully I also fall into the "quite open minded" category, so I'm removing myself from the first category.

Thanks a lot for all the help. If you'll humor me I'll just re-frame the question one more time:

Supposing I buy a receiver like the one you recommended (i.e. at under $300), is there a price point anywhere near my budget at which I would be overspending on speakers given the sound quality coming from the receiver? I assume at some point it makes sense to start spending more on the electronics because the speakers deserve a better input? But maybe this point is way above my budget?

Thanks again.
post #7 of 20
Agreed, not a big selection in terms of rock, but this is what I've built up in the last year (so they're still available but mostly used, some SACD and some DVD-Audio). There are a few more I'd like to buy but I've got most of the ones I'll want.

Aerosmith Toys In The Attic
Alice In Chains Greatest Hits
The Allman Brothers Eat A Peach
The Allman Brothers Live At The Fillmore East
B.B. King Reflections
The Beach Boys Pet Sounds
Billy Joel The Stranger
Bob Dylan Blood On The Tracks
Bob Dylan Revisited
Boston Boston
Bruce Springsteen Live In New York City
David Bowie Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie Young Americans
Deep Purple Live On The BBC
Derek & The Dominoes Layla
Dire Straits Brothers In Arms
Don Henley The End Of The Innocence
The Doors Perception
The Eagles Hell Freezes Over
The Eagles Hotel California
Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Elton John Madman Across The Water
Eric Clapton 461 Ocean Boulevard
Eric Clapton Slowhand
Eric Johnson Av Via Musicom
Fleetwood Mac Rumors
Foo Fighters One By One
Frank Zappa Quadrophiliac
Genesis Abacab
Grateful Dead Terrapin Station
Grateful Dead Mars Hotel
Grateful Dead American Beauty
Grateful Dead Workingman's Dead
Heart Alive In Seattle
Jeff Beck Blow By Blow
Joe Satriani Strange Beautiful Music
Joe Satriani Engines Of Creation
John Coltrane Soultrain
Journey Escape
Led Zeppelin How The West Was Won
Metallica Black Album
Neil Young Harvest
Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East
Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral
Peter Gabriel Up
Peter Gabriel Security
Pink Floyd DSOTM
The Police Outlandos d'Amour
The Police Regatta de Blanc
The Police Zenyatta Mondatta
The Police Ghost
The Police Synchronicity
The Police Live
The Police Every Breath You Take
The Police Every Breath You Take
Porcupine Tree Fear Of A Blank Planet
Porcupine Tree Stupid Dream
Queen A Night At The Opera
Queensryche Empire
Queensryche Tribe
Roger Waters In The Flesh
Roger Waters The Wall
Roxy Music Avalon
Santana Supernatural
Santana Abraxas
Santana Jammin' Home
Steely Dan Gaucho
Steve Miller Band Fly Like An Eagle
Stevie Ray Vaughan Texas Flood
Stevie Ray Vaughan Couldn't Stand The Weather
Sting Brand New Day
Sting Nothing Like The Sun
Sting Ten Summoner's Tales
Sting Sacred Love
Stone Temple Pilots Core
Talking Heads All
Train Drops Of Jupiter
The Rolling Stones Big Hits & High Tides
The Rolling Stones More Hot Rocks
The Who Tommy
The Who Live At Royal Albert Hall
The Who My Generation
post #8 of 20
Quote:


Supposing I buy a receiver like the one you recommended (i.e. at under $300), is there a price point anywhere near my budget at which I would be overspending on speakers given the sound quality coming from the receiver?

No. It may be that you choose particular speakers that this particular receiver cannot drive cleanly (although this is less likely than you might think). But that has nothing to do with price, or overall "quality."

I once asked a guy who writes about audio professionally what he would do with $5000. He suggested a $4000 5.1 system and a $300 receiver. He wasn't joking.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Right then. Pretty unequivocal advice that. Thanks.

Just because I like a good argument: I invite anyone reading this to disagree with mcnarus! There must be someone out there who has bought a receiver/pre-amp+amp for more than $300 and not regretted it?

Note: I'm not disagreeing - I know nothing! Just looking for contrary opinions in case there are any. Currently I am thoroughly convinced I need a cheap receiver and the best speakers I can afford.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by holt7153 View Post

Agreed, not a big selection in terms of rock, but this is what I've built up in the last year (so they're still available but mostly used, some SACD and some DVD-Audio). There are a few more I'd like to buy but I've got most of the ones I'll want....

Would you say they sound better than the CD equivalents? If so, how?
post #11 of 20
Quote:


There must be someone out there who has bought a receiver/pre-amp+amp for more than $300 and not regretted it?

I've spent more than $300 on an integrated amp and not regretted it!
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlephCantor View Post

Would you say they sound better than the CD equivalents? If so, how?

Generally in my opinion most sound better-some considerably better, some marginally better, and a few about the same. I've heard a few people say that recent remasters or Mobile Fidely remasters sound as good or better than a few of the SACDs or DVD-As I listed, but not all have been remastered. An even bigger difference is that a lot of the ones are multichannel and not just stereo, which can be add (or detract) to their appeal, depending on who you ask. Just like asking "what's the best speaker/amp/etc." it's VERY subjective and you'll get a variety of opinions. A lot of the improvement or lack of can be attributed to the mix/remix by the engineer.

In terms of how it's better I could take a stab at it and confuse you with terms like bit rates and sampling, but frankly I don't feel that I'm qualified to do so. I have a general understanding of it but I'd feel much better leaving it to an expert. I'm fairly new to hirez music and I'd love to hear a technical explanation myself. There are great "two-channel/audio theory/multichannel" subforums here on AVS--feel free to post this question there and I'll eagerly read the responses.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I've spent more than $300 on an integrated amp and not regretted it!

But why???? You definitely just told me not to! (AND you said a friend of yours seriously thinks a $300 receiver is appropriate for a $5000 system.)
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by holt7153 View Post

There are great "two-channel/audio theory/multichannel" subforums here on AVS--feel free to post this question there and I'll eagerly read the responses.

Done.

And thanks for the rest of your explanation. I'm now starting to worry that one day I'll end up trying to replace my whole collection with high definition surround sound files. Oh dear.
post #15 of 20
Quote:
But why???? You definitely just told me not to! (AND you said a friend of yours seriously thinks a $300 receiver is appropriate for a $5000 system.)
Just because a $300 receiver will work in your system doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to that. In my case, I already had speakers and was replacing an integrated amp that was, shall we say, past its prime. I thought about just getting a cheap receiver, but for a variety of (non-sonic) reasons decided I'd rather have a integrated that was somewhat more expensive.

If I were spending $4000 on speakers, I'd definitely spend more than $300 on a receiver, and I think my reviewer friend would, too. But I'd be spending more for features (esp. room correction) and power handling, not general sound quality.
post #16 of 20
Quote:
In terms of how it's better I could take a stab at it and confuse you with terms like bit rates and sampling
That's almost certainly not how SACD is better. Higher resolution doesn't seem to matter to our feeble brains. What matters is 1) better mastering and 2) multichannel sound.
post #17 of 20
Quote:
I'm now starting to worry that one day I'll end up trying to replace my whole collection with high definition surround sound files. Oh dear.
I wouldn't be so sure. Multichannel music has pretty much failed in the marketplace, except for a narrow audiophile niche. I would predict that the vast majority of music will continue to be 2-channel, and no better than Apple Lossless.
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
Cheers!
post #19 of 20
BTW, thought I'd answer the question you didn't ask: What system would I buy with $1000?

Digital source: Panasonic Blu-Ray player ($100)
Digital "source": Apple Airport Express ($100)
Receiver: Sherwood RX4105 ($85)
Speakers: Infinity Primus P363 ($500) or Paradigm Monitor 7 ($640)
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlephCantor View Post

Done.

And thanks for the rest of your explanation. I'm now starting to worry that one day I'll end up trying to replace my whole collection with high definition surround sound files. Oh dear.

Yeah, I thought so too. But even some of today's $300 AVRs can give you the illusion of "High Definition". Spend your money on GOOD speakers. Not only will they last a lifetime but there's just something about the sound that you can spend hours enjoying them.

Just FYI, but we have an additive sound system; depending on factors such as the rest of the family sleeping or in the room with me. The low end speakers are what came in the Flat Panel. I tapped the analog output of the Flat Panel with an older Crown D-75 and they push a pair of JBL- L820. Then we have a Yamaha 667 with JBL -lC2 center, 2 JBL -L890s, 2 8400 subs, pair of L36 as sorround and another set of L-820s behind the couch. This AVR is hooked to the BR and HTPC so we can use eithor system alone or in conjunction with the other two. Or turn everything off and use headphones. The sweet spot is anywhere on the couch.

If there is one thing I would change..the L36 with L100s
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