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DACs and HTPCa

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I currently have my HPTC connected to my Pioneer VSX-52 receiver. It's a sub $1000. I'm thinking about buying a DAC to assist or would a Sound Card be a better investment?
My HTPC is an I3 3225 on ASrock h77M.

Thoughts.
post #2 of 13
What difference are you expecting from getting another DAC?
post #3 of 13
Assuming you're connected via HDMI, that's as good as you're likely to get. Sound card or external DAC not needed.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yes I am connected via HDMI. So the whole aftermarket external DACs are all for not?
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by stamina1914 View Post

So the whole aftermarket external DACs are all for not?
Pretty much. Unless the DAC is designed to have a distinct sonic signature, you will not be able to tell the difference between modern DACs by ears alone.
post #6 of 13
I suspect with the best DAC money can buy and the best amp and speaker system you will hear something better than you do now but for the most part you would be splitting hairs. If your receiver is indeed a recent $1000 class AVR you are likely splitting hairs using the same speaker kit.
post #7 of 13
Digital-analog conversion is the easiest part of the audio chain and even cheap DAC chips (which cost a few cents these days) have been indistinguishable from perfect and have been for over a decade. This includes the DACs in your receiver.
post #8 of 13
In addition to which most stand-alone DAC's are for PCM only, they will not decode dolby digital or DTS. They are generally designed for 2-channel music.
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CSMR View Post

Digital-analog conversion is the easiest part of the audio chain and even cheap DAC chips (which cost a few cents these days) have been indistinguishable from perfect and have been for over a decade. This includes the DACs in your receiver.

Really?

How exactly are you able to measure or compare the sound quality from DAC chips?
post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by t-c View Post

Really?

How exactly are you able to measure or compare the sound quality from DAC chips?
It's very easy actually. A quality soundcard like an M Audio 24192 has excellent converters and can easily measure most DACs. Software like ARTA, REW, RIghtmark etc make it easy for free. If I want higher resolution than this I can take it to work and measure there. However as I can get a 120dB range out of the 24192, this is far, far better than anyone can hear and where the measureable differences between even relatively modest DACs exist.

To compare whether there is actually a detectable sonic difference, you need to do it blind and level matched.
post #11 of 13
That's just using a PC card to capture some aspect of the analog output of an entire DAC device. Chip testing is done by the Engineering manuf or OEM using reference boards and analysis hdwr and software. The tests encompass much more than just simple SNR.

There are several aspects of DAC chips and their implementation in DAC devices that result in audibly different analog output.

- Reconstruction filter slopes
- Oversampling rates, no-oversampling (NOS)
- Off-chip Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
- Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) e.g., Upsampling
- Amp stage implementation (OpAmp, discrete)
- Overall circuit design
- DAC architecture i.e., all-PCM vs. Sigma-Delta designs

So, all DAC chips and DAC devices measure and sound the same?
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by stamina1914 View Post

I currently have my HPTC connected to my Pioneer VSX-52 receiver. It's a sub $1000. I'm thinking about buying a DAC to assist or would a Sound Card be a better investment?
My HTPC is an I3 3225 on ASrock h77M.

Thoughts.

Are you using the MCACC on your Pioneer? If you are, the Pioneer would have to digitize the incoming analog signal in order to apply equalization which, in turn, would defeat the purpose of converting the signal to analog before sending it your receiver.
post #13 of 13
Pairing AV receiver with some cheap DAC does make no sence indeed cause AVRs have a similar cheap DAC part already.
And who knows how good are analog inputs in your AVR, btw. I would just connect some good CD player to your Pioneer VSX-52 and check out how it sounds.
An expensive dedicated DAC is another story. To get its full potential you may find you need a way better amplification and maybe new speakers. And don't forget a proper wiring and power supply upgrade. Do you have a spare $5-10k to spend?
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