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Playing digital audio files.

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I am wondering, is there a simple way to play digital audio such as FLAC or WAV files on my hi-end audio system? I don't need multi-functionality, just a device to convert the digital data sent from my computer to a clean and accurate analog siginal I can feed to my pre-amp. I have seen a few devices talked about in the past few years, but they were not true high fidelity units.

With the advances in electronics over the last couple of decades you would think there would me many such devices, but after a Google search it doesn't seem so simple.
post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I am wondering, is there a simple way to play digital audio such as FLAC or WAV files on my hi-end audio system? I don't need multi-functionality, just a device to convert the digital data sent from my computer to a clean and accurate analog siginal I can feed to my pre-amp. I have seen a few devices talked about in the past few years, but they were not true high fidelity units.

With the advances in electronics over the last couple of decades you would think there would me many such devices, but after a Google search it doesn't seem so simple.

 

The inexpensive Behringer UCA-202 is a true high-fidelity unit unless high-fidelity is defined as meaning "high priced." Digital-to-analog conversion has advanced greatly over the last couple of decades, so unless price is the only object there are many such low-priced devices.

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilcar Barca View Post

The inexpensive Behringer UCA-202 is a true high-fidelity unit unless high-fidelity is defined as meaning "high priced." Digital-to-analog conversion has advanced greatly over the last couple of decades, so unless price is the only object there are many such low-priced devices.

I have an 80's vintage high end audio system so no I don't equate hi-fidelity with high prices. At the price of $29.99 on Amazon, the UCA-202 is definitely worth a listen, however this review on blogspot ( http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/behringer-uca202-review.html ) describes the 202 as being a very good hi-fi unit, but, "if you’re not looking for a high-end solution, the UCA202 might fill the need" still as I say at the price it is worth a listen.

The problem with really high quality sound equipment is that so much of it is way over engineered and over priced. I would hope there are other pieces of gear out there that are priced somewhere between the $29.99 UCA-202 and the $2000 DAC2.
post #4 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilcar Barca View Post

The inexpensive Behringer UCA-202 is a true high-fidelity unit unless high-fidelity is defined as meaning "high priced." Digital-to-analog conversion has advanced greatly over the last couple of decades, so unless price is the only object there are many such low-priced devices.

I have an 80's vintage high end audio system so no I don't equate hi-fidelity with high prices. At the price of $29.99 on Amazon, the UCA-202 is definitely worth a listen, however this review on blogspot ( http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/behringer-uca202-review.html ) describes the 202 as being a very good hi-fi unit, but, "if you’re not looking for a high-end solution, the UCA202 might fill the need" still as I say at the price it is worth a listen.

The problem with really high quality sound equipment is that so much of it is way over engineered and over priced. I would hope there are other pieces of gear out there that are priced somewhere between the $29.99 UCA-202 and the $2000 DAC2.

 

Do you trust that reviewer? Personally, he's one of the few I actually do trust.

 

Besides the UCA-222, I have his ODAC, in the form of JDS Labs' ODAC+O2 combo, another I  recommend. I'm not certain the DAC stage is better than the Behringer (and it doesn't come in a pretty, red case.) Their "standalone" ODAC (~US$150) is far less expensive than the DAC2. Its only input is USB which suited me as a headphone user. He also mentions the DACMini CX favorably. If money were no object, I'd have considered the DACMini and DAC1 at the time. I wouldn't have expected improved sound.

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilcar Barca View Post

Do you trust that reviewer? Personally, he's one of the few I actually do trust.

Besides the UCA-222, I have his ODAC, in the form of JDS Labs' ODAC+O2 combo, another I  recommend. I'm not certain the DAC stage is better than the Behringer (and it doesn't come in a pretty, red case.) Their "standalone" ODAC (~US$150) is far less expensive than the DAC2. Its only input is USB which suited me as a headphone user. He also mentions the DACMini CX favorably. If money were no object, I'd have considered the DACMini and DAC1 at the time. I wouldn't have expected improved sound.

You first mention the UCA-202 then the UCA222, which is it you recommend? I think I will try one first then re-visit if I am not satisfied. Meanwhile another I spotted is the HRT Music Streamer HD. It gets excellent reviews, but at $450 is far more than I am interested in paying.
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilcar Barca View Post

Do you trust that reviewer? Personally, he's one of the few I actually do trust.

Besides the UCA-222, I have his ODAC, in the form of JDS Labs' ODAC+O2 combo, another I  recommend. I'm not certain the DAC stage is better than the Behringer (and it doesn't come in a pretty, red case.) Their "standalone" ODAC (~US$150) is far less expensive than the DAC2. Its only input is USB which suited me as a headphone user. He also mentions the DACMini CX favorably. If money were no object, I'd have considered the DACMini and DAC1 at the time. I wouldn't have expected improved sound.

You first mention the UCA-202 then the UCA222, which is it you recommend? I think I will try one first then re-visit if I am not satisfied. Meanwhile another I spotted is the HRT Music Streamer HD. It gets excellent reviews, but at $450 is far more than I am interested in paying.

 

I think the UCA-222 is a UCA-202 in a red case (accompanied by some software which is downloadable for free.) I liked the red case enough to pay the additional $5 for it.

 

Have you considered the HRT MS II? At ~$180, it also gets good reviews. Note: I have no personal experience with any HRT product.

post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I am wondering, is there a simple way to play digital audio such as FLAC or WAV files on my hi-end audio system? I don't need multi-functionality, just a device to convert the digital data sent from my computer to a clean and accurate analog siginal I can feed to my pre-amp. I have seen a few devices talked about in the past few years, but they were not true high fidelity units.

With the advances in electronics over the last couple of decades you would think there would me many such devices, but after a Google search it doesn't seem so simple.

You really need to define what you mean by "true high fidelity unit." It sounds like you are imposing arbitrary standards that may have little to nothing to do with audible differences from solutions that may not fit your definition of "true high fidelity unit." In other words, I suspect the actual bar for being audibly indistinguishable is pretty low. It's not hard to built a DAC that yields a sonically transparent signal, and Behringer and others do it inexpensively.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I am wondering, is there a simple way to play digital audio such as FLAC or WAV files on my hi-end audio system? I don't need multi-functionality, just a device to convert the digital data sent from my computer to a clean and accurate analog siginal I can feed to my pre-amp. I have seen a few devices talked about in the past few years, but they were not true high fidelity units.

With the advances in electronics over the last couple of decades you would think there would me many such devices, but after a Google search it doesn't seem so simple.

Can you directly connect the computer to the preamp? Depending on whether this fits your definition of a true high fidelity unit (?), look at something like the Asus Xonar Essence STX soundcard.
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilcar Barca View Post

I think the UCA-222 is a UCA-202 in a red case (accompanied by some software which is downloadable for free.) I liked the red case enough to pay the additional $5 for it.

Have you considered the HRT MS II? At ~$180, it also gets good reviews. Note: I have no personal experience with any HRT product.

That is my assessment of the UCA units also. I have ordered the UCA-202 and shall report back on my impressions next week.

I have seen a report on the HRT MSII, but would not want to purchase it without more convincing testimony.
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Will2007 View Post

You really need to define what you mean by "true high fidelity unit." It sounds like you are imposing arbitrary standards that may have little to nothing to do with audible differences from solutions that may not fit your definition of "true high fidelity unit." In other words, I suspect the actual bar for being audibly indistinguishable is pretty low. It's not hard to built a DAC that yields a sonically transparent signal, and Behringer and others do it inexpensively.

Trying to attach descriptions to sonic attributes is always quite arbitrary as there is no standard for doing such. I don't know truly to what level my audio system approaches the typical audiophiles ideal system, but I do know to most it would sound exceptional and it is located in a room that has extensive sonic treatments. It is not a golden eared $20,000 system but it is a very carefully considered vintage audiophile system.

The result I strive to achieve from a DAC is a very transparent result with no loss in detail or dynamics; as good or better than my optical drive.
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

Can you directly connect the computer to the preamp? Depending on whether this fits your definition of a true high fidelity unit (?), look at something like the Asus Xonar Essence STX soundcard.

I really would rather get my D/A conversion completely removed from high frequency noise in the computer case.
post #12 of 22
^^ If you read the specifications of the sound card I referenced, this is also the goal of the manufacturer.

It's just one of many options worth making you aware of. A relatively affordable and very efficient one with its onboard headphone amp and high SPL, but you have multiple choices. Good luck to you.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

^^ If you read the specifications of the sound card I referenced, this is also the goal of the manufacturer.

It's just one of many options worth making you aware of. A relatively affordable and very efficient one with its onboard headphone amp and high SPL, but you have multiple choices. Good luck to you.
I had assumed that was their intent. I greatly appreciate your thoughtful input. smile.gif
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

Can you directly connect the computer to the preamp? Depending on whether this fits your definition of a true high fidelity unit (?), look at something like the Asus Xonar Essence STX soundcard.

I really would rather get my D/A conversion completely removed from high frequency noise in the computer case.

Audiophile myth. Some of the quietest audio interfaces sit on PCI cards.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I am wondering, is there a simple way to play digital audio such as FLAC or WAV files on my hi-end audio system? I don't need multi-functionality, just a device to convert the digital data sent from my computer to a clean and accurate analog siginal I can feed to my pre-amp. I have seen a few devices talked about in the past few years, but they were not true high fidelity units.

With the advances in electronics over the last couple of decades you would think there would me many such devices, but after a Google search it doesn't seem so simple.

Many have used DLNA players such as oppo blu-ray players over ethernet in conjunction with pc based media servers such as jriver to convert and play digital data on your computer. Jriver media center software costs about $50. The oppo bdp-103 player handles the digital to audio conversion plus it plays virtually all disc types, and it plays FLAC and wav and DSD files.
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
I received my UCA202 a couple of days ago from Amazon so I have had a couple of hours listening to it. All I can say is that it is by far the best $29.99 I have ever spent on audio gear. I was skeptical when I placed my order but I am now convinced. I played a CD I was familiar with, then I played a FLAC of the same recording. It was very obvious that the FLAC played through the DAC was more dynamic and more resolved than paying the CD. I tried, but in all honesty I could not find a down side to the Behringer DAC.

As soon as I can convert all my CD's to FLAC I will be retiring the optical player from regular duty.
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I received my UCA202 a couple of days ago from Amazon so I have had a couple of hours listening to it. All I can say is that it is by far the best $29.99 I have ever spent on audio gear. I was skeptical when I placed my order but I am now convinced. I played a CD I was familiar with, then I played a FLAC of the same recording. It was very obvious that the FLAC played through the DAC was more dynamic and more resolved than paying the CD. I tried, but in all honesty I could not find a down side to the Behringer DAC.

As soon as I can convert all my CD's to FLAC I will be retiring the optical player from regular duty.

Would you mind sharing how you have the UCA-202 connected to your computer? What playback software are you using to send the music to your new dac? Also, what pre-amp are you using?
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martycool007 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by remilton View Post

I received my UCA202 a couple of days ago from Amazon so I have had a couple of hours listening to it. All I can say is that it is by far the best $29.99 I have ever spent on audio gear. I was skeptical when I placed my order but I am now convinced. I played a CD I was familiar with, then I played a FLAC of the same recording. It was very obvious that the FLAC played through the DAC was more dynamic and more resolved than paying the CD. I tried, but in all honesty I could not find a down side to the Behringer DAC.

As soon as I can convert all my CD's to FLAC I will be retiring the optical player from regular duty.

Would you mind sharing how you have the UCA-202 connected to your computer?

USB port and cable. It shows up as an regular audio input/output device in the OS, just like the computer's onboard audio interface.
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martycool007 View Post

Would you mind sharing how you have the UCA-202 connected to your computer? What playback software are you using to send the music to your new dac? Also, what pre-amp are you using?

Sure, I will describe my entire chain from computer to speakers. I have a Shuttle Sh67H3 pc with an i7-3770k CPU, 2 2Tb hard drives (one for the operating system and one for music files) and a Blu Ray/DVD/CD optical drive to play movies and concerts. I also have a Western Digital 2Tb "My Book" hard drive for backing up the music files. The UCA202 is then plugged into a USB 2.0 port and the DAC output is connected to my Sumo Athena preamp. Next, the Athena controls a GAS Grandson power amplifier which drives a pair of IMF TLS 80 Reference Monitors. The sofware I use is Foobar2000 which is very customizable and will play most types of music files.
post #20 of 22
Great to hear you are enjoying your move from CD media to digital files.

I made the transition a while back, first to 320kps VBR/iTunes via AppleTV to a AVR receivers then again to NAS/DLNA/FLAC via a streamer. Not having to change CDs makes me listen much more which is a very good thing.
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by akhter View Post

Great to hear you are enjoying your move from CD media to digital files.

I made the transition a while back, first to 320kps VBR/iTunes via AppleTV to a AVR receivers then again to NAS/DLNA/FLAC via a streamer. Not having to change CDs makes me listen much more which is a very good thing.
I find myself listening much more also. It is so convenient to scroll down a list of music selections and with a couple of mouse clicks I am listening!

I also spent quite a bit this past year on acoustic panels which has made a drastic change in my listening experience. Now that I have tamed early reflections I find all of my music much more enjoyable.
post #22 of 22
The combination of storing all of my content on a NAS and switch to networked receivers has been a serious game changer for me. I can pick up a smartphone or tablet in any room and in seconds listen to my library or any number of streaming services (Google Play has its limitations though), either in that room or throughout the house. As a lazy bum/total nerd, life is good cool.gif
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