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DAC hunt leads to major headache.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I'm looking for a DAC below $500 dollars. As far under $500 as possible, if I am being honest. I will use it with either an Airport Express or an Apple TV2 and eventually with a computer. Reading all the reviews, forum posts, and opinions on the Schiit BiFrost, Peachtree Dac.iT, Musical Fidelity V-DAC MkII, Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100, Wyred 4 Sound uDac and etc has driven me completely nuts.

I know listening is the best way to do this but I am NOT in the mood to order, return, re-order and so on.

I'm leaning towards the V-DAC.
post #2 of 14
In my personal opinion, the V-DAC is the winner in the under $500 catagory. As a matter of fact, I am trying to find a good deal on one for myself!
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martycool007 View Post

In my personal opinion, the V-DAC is the winner in the under $500 catagory. As a matter of fact, I am trying to find a good deal on one for myself!

I agree with you. It seems like a lot of DAC for $349. You have to pay $100 more to get USB in the BiFrost. The Peachtree is $200 more and the USB is not asynchronous.

I wanted the BiFrost because of the price and the fact that it was made in America.
post #4 of 14
For use with a single 2-channel optical digital source such as an AppleTV or AirPort Express (optical) I don't see what the V-DAC will offer you that a $22 Monoprice DAC cannot. For later use with a computer, any decent machine (e.g. MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, etc.) offers an optical output, so the same DAC would work just fine. No need to tie up a USB slot for the audio, IMO, when decent hardware already gives you an onboard digital audio output.

Except that the Musical Fidelity piece is in a hideous, gaudy, and needlessly large silver box that calls unwarranted attention to itself, whereas the Monoprice piece is in a more restrained, compact, and elegant black box. So I guess if you want people to say "look: a Musicial Fidelity DAC," then it is the better choice.

FWIW, I'm currently using a slightly different Monoprice box, their $38 HDMI -> component video and stereo audio piece in my bedroom system, with an AppleTV2 as the source, and it's just plain sonically transparent. (I went with the more expensive one because I thought it might be useful to string a component video cable to an old computer monitor for setting up the ATV and such. I have an old LCD that has DVI and component but no HDMI. Maybe even watching streamed Netflix. Turns out I've yet to string the wires or even put the monitor in the bedroom, and don't really miss it.)

Rest of the signal chain: Meridian 551 integrated, KEF Q100 speakers, Peerless XLS12-based passive radiator sub. Yes, there are wires connecting them. I won't name them because they're not material to the sound of the system.
post #5 of 14
The Bheringer UCA202 is cheap and measures well. I have it and quite like it.

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UCA202.aspx

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/...eview.html?m=1

Give it a shot.
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckcoolic View Post

The Bheringer UCA202 is cheap and measures well. I have it and quite like it.

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UCA202.aspx

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/...eview.html?m=1

Give it a shot.

I'll second this recommendation.
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckcoolic View Post

The Bheringer UCA202 is cheap and measures well. I have it and quite like it.

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UCA202.aspx

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/...eview.html?m=1

Give it a shot.

Keep in mind that the Apple AirPort Express and AppleTV don't have USB outputs*, and that DAC doesn't have optical or HDMI inputs. So while it's probably all one needs for use with a computer, it's not a good fit for the intended use here.

*At least, I don't think one can get audio out of the APE's USB port. I think it's just for printers.
post #8 of 14
I bought a used Emotiva XDA-1 and very happy with it.
post #9 of 14
The Apple Express limits you to 16/44.1 so you don't need a fancy DAC. The DAC in the Express is not bad. I wouldn't use this signal path for critical listening but for casual listening, it is fine without an external DAC.
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post

For use with a single 2-channel optical digital source such as an AppleTV or AirPort Express (optical) I don't see what the V-DAC will offer you that a $22 Monoprice DAC cannot.

What, in your opinion, does the multiple times expensive V-DAC bring to the table that the monoprice item doesn't ? This post is not confrontational - just trying to learn.
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen arcane View Post

What, in your opinion, does the multiple times expensive V-DAC bring to the table that the monoprice item doesn't ? This post is not confrontational - just trying to learn.

I suspect that a number of people are influenced by this review:

http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/505apple

More specifically:





and



I'd like to say that the issues shown above are clearly unconditionally inaudible, but the spurious responses due to high frequency IM (second FFT) are a little close to the edge. Probably not over it, but close. The performance we see may be corrected in later versions as the above review dates back to 7 years ago, and the Airport Express at under $100 is a low cost piece.

I don't think that its less-than-stellar performance is going to corrupt anybody's stereo in an obvious way. Like I said its been 7 years since the review and the product may be updated several times by now. I don't think that one has to pay $350 to get a good-enough DAC but some $30 cheapies may be no better than what's in the Apple box.
post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen arcane View Post

What, in your opinion, does the multiple times expensive V-DAC bring to the table that the monoprice item doesn't ? This post is not confrontational - just trying to learn.

A USB input. The comparable* $23 Monoprice one only has optical and coax. Then again, the $38 Monoprice one goes both one better, and has an HDMI input with both audio and video outputs. It's great for hooking an AppleTV to a 2.x channel audio system and an older computer monitor that has DVI and component but no HDMI input. I can't think of anything better for that simple use, at any price.

And maybe a nicer wall-wart.

Even if they were the same price, I'd buy the Monoprice one just because it's more compact black chassis is a lot more attractive than the gaudy silver Musical Fidelity piece, which actually looks more low-rent than the $23 piece. (Yes, I've seen it in person.)

*there's certainly no reason to assume that the "high end" brand one is in fact superior in measured performance, and even if it is, I'd be shocked if anyone could distinguish them in an actual listening session.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
What did I decide? I don't need a DAC at all. The one inside the AEX is good enough. Thanks.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by TKYR1967 View Post

What did I decide? I don't need a DAC at all. The one inside the AEX is good enough. Thanks.

BTW, which model of the AEX do you have?

I found the following:

http://www.pinkfishmedia.net/forum/a...p/t-88411.html

"AE audio is handled by a Texas Instruments Burr-Brown PCM2705 16-bit digital-to-analog converter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_A..._.28802.11g.29 ).

...

The old AE 802.11g used this DAC, the 802.11n version uses I believe 'a Cirrus Logic 4344 24-bit/192-kHz DAC that's integrated into its custom Marvell Corporation chipset'"
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