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post #1 of 254 Old 08-08-2019, 07:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Understanding DAC

Any assistance would be much appreciated in bringing me up to speed on using an outboard DAC. I was an aspiring audiophile 25-30 years ago. Now that my 26 year old Rotel tuner/preamp amp combo is on its last leg I am trying to understand current technology. What I know of an outboard DAC is that it can provide better sound reproduction but am puzzled as to when and why I would consider one. On that point specs on some receivers and integrated amps- and not necessarily just the lower end ones-don't say much about the digital to analog conversion.
Is a DAC usable with any receiver or integrated amp I might choose? What connections or capability of a particular unit do I look for? If the unit is WiFi, bluetooth, steaming services, internet radio capable, and my Itunes CD library on my laptop connected to the system- could all these sources be routed to an outboard DAC and then how does the signal get to my speakers?
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post #2 of 254 Old 08-08-2019, 08:22 PM
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With modern AVR’s, I don’t see much point in outboard DAC’s. The built-in DAC’s of modern AVR’s are more than capable.

My humble main system:
Vizio M75-E1; Oppo 203 universal UHD player; Denon 4300H AVR, Dual PSA S1801's; Monitor Audio Silver RX-6 mains, RX center, and RX surrounds; one pair NHT mini Atmos speakers; Home-built HTPC (Xeon E1230, 16gb RAM, Crucial M500 480gb SSD, GeForce 980Ti, Corsair CX600, CoolerMaster mini-ITX case); Roku Premiere+; Amazon 4K Fire TV
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post #3 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 03:26 AM
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It's like anything in audio. There is a point of diminishing return. Yes, you can squeeze a bit more performance from a system with an external dac costing hundreds, if not thousands, but can you tell? What is good enough is typially determined by then critical listener and how deep his wallet is. Some would say yes to an external dac, others say what's available in most equipment is good enough. It's a personal choice.

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post #4 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 03:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glangford View Post
It's like anything in audio. There is a point of diminishing return. Yes, you can squeeze a bit more performance from a system with an external dac costing hundreds, if not thousands, but can you tell? What is good enough is typially determined by then critical listener and how deep his wallet is. Some would say yes to an external dac, others say what's available in most equipment is good enough. It's a personal choice.

For my self, the DAC and its implementation in my Anthem AVR is darn good, AKM 4458. I have the same dac in my Oppo 203. The 203 sounds really good in my headphone rig via analog connections. I have a 95 with the ESS 9018 dac, it bests the AKM a smidgen in my headphone rig, but not by much. Enough to justify the cost differential I paid? 999 vs, 548? Debatable.

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post #5 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 11:15 AM
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Let me give you some insight on how the high audio DAC (and of course other products) works.

Chip manufactures publish data sheet which generally include a "reference design" This is typically a tested circuit they developed to test the chip and verify the published performance data. Yes this design can be legally copied by anyone and put into a product. Some chip companies even provide sample PC board layouts. They want to sell chips, of course they will make it as easy as they can for anyone to do that.

So some people with as much as a hobbyist background in electronics can build these circuits and they well work fairly well. Of course the big guys, Denon, Sony, JBL, and other pro companies may use the reference circuit as a guide, they will engineer their own circuit from the ground up. They not only need to tailor it to their end product but also have to ensure reliability and manufacturing costs.

But what also happens is some (many) garage audio shops pile on all kinds of marketing BS and technical catch words for what is basically a copied circuit from the chip OEM. Some of these folks cannot even tell you what each part on the schematic does, they just know "it goes there". It's not that the product sounds bad although reliability may be an issue from people without formal engineering backgrounds. But these products are certainly not worth their asked price and perform no better than that $299 Denon receiver which uses the same exact chip. And the Denon receiver has more engineering behind their circuit than the garage audio shop can ever hope for. They just don't have the design and testing resources the big dogs have.

If you want snobbery and bragging rights, then you have to buy a label promoted by some audiophile rag. But if good, in fact excellent, sound reproduction from a DAC is your goal, that can be had for less than $200 these days easily.
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post #6 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glimmie View Post
If you want snobbery and bragging rights, then you have to buy a label promoted by some audiophile rag. But if good, in fact excellent, sound reproduction from a DAC is your goal, that can be had for less than $200 these days easily.
Even Benchmark admits they can't hear improvements in their latest models (but they do measure better). If you're obsessed with getting the absolute best and have 2 grand lying around it's an option but I'd take something like a $140 JDS any day if I needed an outboard.
That said the DAC in almost any decent [say over $500] receiver or integrated released recently will be able to handle anything without issue.
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post #7 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glimmie View Post
Let me give you some insight on how the high audio DAC (and of course other products) works.

Chip manufactures publish data sheet which generally include a "reference design" This is typically a tested circuit they developed to test the chip and verify the published performance data. Yes this design can be legally copied by anyone and put into a product. Some chip companies even provide sample PC board layouts. They want to sell chips, of course they will make it as easy as they can for anyone to do that.

So some people with as much as a hobbyist background in electronics can build these circuits and they well work fairly well. Of course the big guys, Denon, Sony, JBL, and other pro companies may use the reference circuit as a guide, they will engineer their own circuit from the ground up. They not only need to tailor it to their end product but also have to ensure reliability and manufacturing costs.

But what also happens is some (many) garage audio shops pile on all kinds of marketing BS and technical catch words for what is basically a copied circuit from the chip OEM. Some of these folks cannot even tell you what each part on the schematic does, they just know "it goes there". It's not that the product sounds bad although reliability may be an issue from people without formal engineering backgrounds. But these products are certainly not worth their asked price and perform no better than that $299 Denon receiver which uses the same exact chip. And the Denon receiver has more engineering behind their circuit than the garage audio shop can ever hope for. They just don't have the design and testing resources the big dogs have.

If you want snobbery and bragging rights, then you have to buy a label promoted by some audiophile rag. But if good, in fact excellent, sound reproduction from a DAC is your goal, that can be had for less than $200 these days easily.
Mind giving us a few examples of what you're talking about here?
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post #8 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:33 PM
 
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Here is literally the first AVR review with measurements I could find over at ASR:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...00es-avr.7824/

And here is the summary:

If you had any expectation of Sony STR-ZA1100ES beating separate components, that should be dashed by now. Another downer is the high noise floor of the internal analog to digital converter. Fortunately if you don't use the Room EQ, you can use the direct mode and get better performance. Speaking of room EQ, I did not have a chance to test the one on this unit. A few years back I tested it on another Sony AVR and results were very disappointing. Hopefully things have improved.

Operationally the unit operated well, never shutting down or getting too hot (despite using the flimsy heatsinks all AVR manufacturers use).

Overall, the STR-ZA1100ES gives me the impression of "good enough" performance and looks. Lowering my standards substantially, I am going to recommend it given how poor our other options have been in AVR land.
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post #9 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Mind giving us a few examples of what you're talking about here?
Not appropriate to post names. But as the OP is looking for buying advice I would say to stick with DAC vendors that sell through reputable dealers on the consumer side, like Benchmark mentioned above, or who make professional studio products. Can't BS that market.

Stay away from these one man internet store front companies that ramble on about outboard linear power supplies, USB fix boxes, magic jitter cleaners, you know the type. These are some examples.
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post #10 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Glimmie View Post
Not appropriate to post names. But as the OP is looking for buying advice I would say to stick with DAC vendors that sell through reputable dealers on the consumer side, like Benchmark mentioned above, or who make professional studio products. Can't BS that market.

Stay away from these one man internet store front companies that ramble on about outboard linear power supplies, USB fix boxes, magic jitter cleaners, you know the type. These are some examples.
Oooooh OK...........
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post #11 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:39 PM
 
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Here's the second AVR review I found over there:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...x303-avr.7503/



Quote:
On one hand it is hard to get upset when for $369 you get every feature under the sun with so many channels of amplifications. I don't know how to get this box with no electronics from China to hear and make money for that price let alone all the features it has. On the other hand, that is Pioneer's problem, not mine. My problem is that I want an efficient and reliable AVR that doesn't decide to shut down by itself. And a DAC that doesn't go into saturation early, showing even small amount of design verification was not performed.

I plan to hook it up to our living room TV system and listen. Maybe in real use the thermal cut-out doesn't occur. If so, I might keep it. Otherwise, I will probably return it.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Pioneer VSX-LX303 Elite AVR for audiophile use either as an amplifier, a DAC or combination.

Wow, seems to fly in the face of those who say that a $300 AV receiver is better engineered than an aftermarket DAC.
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post #12 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Here is literally the first AVR review with measurements I could find over at ASR:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...00es-avr.7824/

And here is the summary:

If you had any expectation of Sony STR-ZA1100ES beating separate components, that should be dashed by now. Another downer is the high noise floor of the internal analog to digital converter. Fortunately if you don't use the Room EQ, you can use the direct mode and get better performance. Speaking of room EQ, I did not have a chance to test the one on this unit. A few years back I tested it on another Sony AVR and results were very disappointing. Hopefully things have improved.

Operationally the unit operated well, never shutting down or getting too hot (despite using the flimsy heatsinks all AVR manufacturers use).

Overall, the STR-ZA1100ES gives me the impression of "good enough" performance and looks. Lowering my standards substantially, I am going to recommend it given how poor our other options have been in AVR land.
If you can read those measurements, it's not that bad. -100db is well below the acoustical noise floor of a typical residential setup.

Quote:
Operationally the unit operated well, never shutting down or getting too hot (despite using the flimsy heatsinks all AVR manufacturers use).
This further proves one of my points. Anybody with a check book can slap giant heatsinks on a power amplifier. But only precision engineering can get the size, weight, and cost down yet still provide reliable operation.
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post #13 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Here's the second AVR review I found over there:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...x303-avr.7503/






Wow, seems to fly in the face of those who say that a $300 AV receiver is better engineered than an aftermarket DAC.
How about some competent reviews on these garage DACs? Lets see where they spec out.
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post #14 of 254 Old 08-09-2019, 02:51 PM
 
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Here's a $5,000 Marantz pre/pro:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...rocessor.6926/

Quote:
From pure objective performance, the Marantz AV8805 Processor cannot touch 2-channel dedicated desktop DACs which cost less than its shipping cost! With no published measurements by Marantz, nor that of any reviewer, companies are getting away releasing products that leave good bit of performance on the table. Fortunately there is nothing drastically wrong here, sans the DAC filtering. That aspect needs to be reported to Marantz as hopefully can be fixed with a firmware update.

From subjective point of view, if you wrestle enough with Audyssey Room EQ, you should be able to get better in-room performance than any non-EQ DAC in a real room. Then again, you can get the same in much cheaper AVRs and processors.

I would say buy the Marantz AV8805 because it has the features it has not because you think it will provide reference quality audio performance. It will not.
Absolutely hilarious to me that products some try to rag on get reviewed AND MEASURED in places like Stereophile, yet the big AV companies you go to bat for measure like a giant steaming pile of crap.

We're 3 for 3 so far, but it's time to check out for the weekend.
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
Here's a $5,000 Marantz pre/pro:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...rocessor.6926/



Absolutely hilarious to me that products some try to rag on get reviewed AND MEASURED in places like Stereophile, yet the big AV companies you go to bat for measure like a giant steaming pile of crap.

We're 3 for 3 so far, but it's time to check out for the weekend.
Do you understand those images or are you just responding the the opinions? I see some lattitude between the measurements and the opinions. Seems the reviewer, who also owns a high end stereo shop, has it in for Best Buy grade products.

Yet those measurements aren't that bad. And we have no comparison to any stand alone DACs. Now I would expect a Benchmark to be superior but look at the cost difference. But I don't think any of these garage brand DACs will be any better then the AV receivers. That was what I claimed up top.
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It shouldn't be surprising that the most thorough reviewer of DACs on the planet isn't super impressed with a 100dB noise floor, that said he still rated that Sony receiver in the top third of its category.


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@maur53 what's your budget range? Do you want one box or to keep using separates? I'm going to assume 2 channel given the forum we're in.
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Wow, seems to fly in the face of those who say that a $300 AV receiver is better engineered than an aftermarket DAC.
I have not encountered such people. Might you please link me to one? Thanks.
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With modern AVR’s, I don’t see much point in outboard DAC’s. The built-in DAC’s of modern AVR’s are more than capable.
I would tend to agree. With better brands like Denon and Yamaha it seems to me worrying about their internal DACs is rather silly. An AVR has tons of different circuits in it but if there's something that holds it back from being top-notch the DAC is probably about as low, or almost as low on the list of the different circuits as comes to mind.
---

The review's trashing of the Sony ES unit is flawed on many points (so I'm guessing his store doesn't sell them). Would people like me to elaborate?
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if there's something that sets it back from being superb the DAC is probably about as low, or almost as low on the list of the different circuits as comes to mind.
It's the power cord that really matters. [Joke]
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post #21 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 03:19 AM - Thread Starter
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I've gotten lost in the details. My aged ears probably won't hear what seems to be marginal differences and I'll have to make do with about $1000 to spend so I'll probably go with something from Yamaha, an integrated amp and tuner or receiver.
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
I would tend to agree. With better brands like Denon and Yamaha it seems to me worrying about their internal DACs is rather silly. An AVR has tons of different circuits in it but if there's something that holds it back from being top-notch the DAC is probably about as low, or almost as low on the list of the different circuits as comes to mind.
---

Amir's trashing of the Sony ES unit is flawed on many points (so I'm guessing his store doesn't sell them). Would people like me to elaborate?
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post #24 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 11:23 AM
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Do you understand those images or are you just responding the the opinions? I see some lattitude between the measurements and the opinions. Seems the reviewer, who also owns a high end stereo shop, has it in for Best Buy grade products.
Agreed. He's trashing the competition because they hurt his sales.

For exmple, he measures a Sony ES AVR's "DAC" [incompetently and improperly, I might add] and then complains the performance isn't as good as many/most stand alone DACs he's measured? Huh? I didn't know anyone in the market for a stand alone DAC would consider buying a receiver to serve that function, but maybe that's just me.

To properly rate AVRs fairly you'd compare them against either:

- other brands of AVRs
- or, perhaps, packages of separates which serve the same group of functions [and if I throw in the words "comparably priced" here, then the all-in-one AVRs turn out to be the superior performance goods!]

An AVR is sort of like a Leatherman multi-tool: Is it as good as buying a stand alone screwdriver, a separate pair of pliers, a metal file, etc.? Probably not. But is it compact, affordable, easy to use, convenient, and 9 times out of 10 gets the job done indistinguishably from a dedicated pair of pliers, etc.? Yes.

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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Agreed. He's trashing the competition because they hurt his sales.

For exmple, he measures a Sony ES AVR's "DAC" [incompetently and improperly, I might add] and then complains the performance isn't as good as many/most stand alone DACs he's measured? Huh? I don't know anyone in the market for a stand alone DAC who'd consider buying a receiver to serve that function, but maybe that's just me.

To properly rate AVRs fairly you'd compare them against either:

- other brands of AVRs
- or, perhaps, packages of separates which serve the same group of functions [and if I throw in the words "comparably priced" here, then the all-in-one AVRs turn out to be the superior performance goods!]

An AVR is sort of like a Leatherman multi-tool. Is it as good as buying a stand alone screwdriver, a separate pair of pliers, a metal file, etc.? Probably not. But is it compact, affordable, easy to use, convenient, and 9 times out of 10 gets the job done indistinguishably from a dedicated pair of pliers, etc.? Yes.
Going off on a side bar- are AVR's easy to use? From what I read in forums here there seems to be considerable complexity in getting them set up and running without glitches with cables, video and audio signals getting to where they need to be, configuration menus, room acoustics, etc. It seems a long way from 'plug and play'.
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post #26 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by maur53 View Post
Going off on a side bar- are AVR's easy to use? From what I read in forums here there seems to be considerable complexity in getting them set up and running without glitches with cables, video and audio signals getting to where they need to be, configuration menus, room acoustics, etc. It seems a long way from 'plug and play'.
As with anything, the more complex they get and the more options provided, the more there is to go wrong. Luckily most newer AVRs have an "auto calibration mode" [YPAO, Audyssey, MCAA, etc.] where all you do is connect the speakers, connect a supplied microphone, and press "auto calibrate" on the remote. The system sends test signals to the speakers and analyzes the sound heard from the mic to optimize the whole she-bang to properly set the controls. It does a bang up job 99% of the time but automation drives audiophiles nuts so they are errantly convinced:

- "the system doesn't understand what speakers I have and how they behave"
- "the system must have a terrible SPL meter connected to that mic since it is essentially "FREE" and because my other one has a slightly different reading"
- "the system says my speakers only go down to 100Hz yet right here on paper it says they go down to 80Hz, so I'm going to override the auto system"
- more

They are almost always wrong, and love to pontificate on this in forums, but it would take pages and pages to explain it all and what errors they are making.

Overall I'd say AVRs are easy to use.

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post #27 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 06:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by maur53 View Post
Going off on a side bar- are AVR's easy to use? From what I read in forums here there seems to be considerable complexity in getting them set up and running without glitches with cables, video and audio signals getting to where they need to be, configuration menus, room acoustics, etc. It seems a long way from 'plug and play'.
They’re mostly crap. They’re just built to fill a bogus spec sheet and support the surround sound formats. Their menu systems have been archaic for decades and they’re slowly switching to the app model. They’re good enough for home theater dialog and explosions if you don’t push them into overheating and distortion. They suck for music.

A $100 standalone DAC will support more formats, sound better, and measure better than what’s in your integrated. It’s a good upgrade for not much money when you’re ready.
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post #28 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by maur53 View Post
Going off on a side bar- are AVR's easy to use?
Yup, plus even some introductory stereo receivers from the better name brand companies sound great and have stereo sound which is indistinguishable from separate amps if kept within their operational limits [meaning you don't crank the volume up to the point of clipping] and this was first demonstrated under controlled conditions using double blind listening tests by the largest and oldest audio magazine in the US, Sound and Vision [then called Stereo Review] in a groundbreaking article, January, 1987, pages 78 - 84.

"“Nevertheless, a majority of listeners, including some of the Believers, approved of the test methods both going in and going out, the amplifiers chosen varied widely in design and price, and the sample of listeners was diverse and large, as these things go. And the results indicated no audible differences. But for now, the evidence would seem to suggest that distinctive amplifier sounds, if they exist at all, are so minute that they form a poor basis for choosing one amplifier over another. Certainly there are still differences between amps, but we are unlikely to hear them.”


The full article can be found here:
"Do All Amplifiers Sound the Same?" by Ian G. Masters and David L. Clark
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Last edited by m. zillch; 08-10-2019 at 08:26 PM.
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post #29 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by maur53 View Post
I've gotten lost in the details. My aged ears probably won't hear what seems to be marginal differences and I'll have to make do with about $1000 to spend so I'll probably go with something from Yamaha, an integrated amp and tuner or receiver.
Is that $1000 to spend on a New DAC, or is that on a complete amp with a DAC? Or is that Amp, DAC, CD Player?

Rotel still makes pretty nice Amps, I have the RA-1570 with 120w/ch and a a Built In DAC. But for a bit less money you can get this amp -

Rotel A14, 80w/ch, DAC Integrated Amp- $1299 -


https://www.abt.com/product/108663/R...r-FR51743.html

https://www.abt.com/product/108662/R...r-FR51243.html

Rotel A12, 60w/ch, DAC Integrated Amp - $899 -


https://www.abt.com/product/108657/R...r-FR51242.html

https://www.abt.com/product/108651/R...r-FR51742.html

Rotel CD14 CD Player - $599 -


https://www.abt.com/product/108673/R...r-FR51244.html

https://www.abt.com/product/108677/R...r-FR51744.html

Best Buy also has Rotel if that is more convenient for you.

Costing a considerable amount, but delivering a TON of Feature, the Yamaha RN803 Network Streaming Receiver is worth looking at.

Yamaha RN803 Network Receiver, 100w/ch, Network Streaming, DAC, Room EQ, Full Bass Management, etc... - $750 -

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022RN8....html?skipvs=T

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audi...803/index.html

If you are an Apple Fan-Boy then perhaps not, apparently these will not be able to support Apple-AirPlay-2. But other than that, for the money, they are fine.

I'm fond of saying -

You can't get what you want until you know what you want.


And I mean that in terms of features and power. The more you know what you need in a system, the more you are able to find the specific system that does what you need.

Today in modern music, it is all about Streaming from your local collection of music, to Internet Radio, to a range of Internet Streaming services some of which transmit in CD quality, other are merely near CD quality. Streaming gives you access to a near INFINITE Library of Music all for about $10/month.

It is cheaper to buy an amp with Streaming built in, but if you want to update your streaming or add streaming to an Integrated amp, you are in the range of $350 to $500 for a Good, but basic streaming unit (Yamaha, Bluesound, etc...).

In a straight up amp with very high value, consider the top of the line consumer integrated Amp with DAC -

Yamaha AS801, 100w/ch, Upgraded DAC - $899 -


https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022AS8...801-Black.html

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audi...801/index.html

This has an upgraded 32b/384K DSD Capable DAC with the addition of a USB-PC connection.

Also -

Yamaha AS701 Integrated with DAC, 100w/ch - $799 -

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022AS7...01-Silver.html

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022AS7...701-Black.html

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audi...701/index.html

It has a pretty standard 24b/192k DAC with Optical and Coaxial only.

Worth noting that the AS701/AS801 have a single optical and a single coaxial, while the Yamaha RN802 and RN602 have 2xOptical and 2xCoaxial, and I believe 1xUSB-Media.

To add external Streaming the two affordable and generally high quality units would be these -

Yamaha WXC-50 Network Streamer/Pre-Amp - $349 -


https://www.crutchfield.com/p_022WXC....html?skipvs=T

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audi...-50/index.html

Bluesound NODE-2i - $499 -


https://www.crutchfield.com/p_813NOD...-2i-Black.html

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_813NOD...-2i-White.html

Both the Bluesound and the Yamaha use very fast ARM Processors. Most would give a slight nod to the Bluesound software.

So -

What is your budget for ALL the equipment you need?

Specifically what equipment do you need? CD? Turntable? Amp? Receiver? Network Streaming, DAC, other?

Related to the above question, what FEATURES to you need? Streaming? DAC? Phono? Sub-Out? other?

Lastly how much Power are you looking for? 60w/ch is modest but more than enough for most people for both Movies and Music ...but...
80w/ch and 100w/ch are more power ...but... also more money.

Every system is a Compromise, you just have to work out what you are willing to give up to get what you really need?

EDITED:

My previous Amp was a Yamaha RX-797 Stereo Receiver with 100w/ch (~$550 new) my current amp is the Rotel RA-1570 with 120w/ch and DAC (~$1600, current version is the RA-1572). They really don't sound that much different. The Rotel has better build and component quality, and way more features, but as to the general tone of the amp, they are similar. For whatever that might be worth.

Hopefully that is somewhat helpful.

Steve/bluewizard

Last edited by bluewizard; 08-10-2019 at 08:09 PM.
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post #30 of 254 Old 08-10-2019, 07:50 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Even some introductory stereo receivers from the better name brand companies have stereo sound which is indistinguishable from separate amps if kept within their operational limits [meaning you don't crank the volume up to the point of clipping] and this was first demonstrated under controlled conditions using double blind listening tests by the largest and oldest audio magazine in the US, Sound and Vision [then called Stereo Review] in a groundbreaking article, January, 1987, pages 78 - 84.

"“Nevertheless, a majority of listeners, including some of the Believers, approved of the test methods both going in and going out, the amplifiers chosen varied widely in design and price, and the sample of listeners was diverse and large, as these things go. And the results indicated no audible differences. But for now, the evidence would seem to suggest that distinctive amplifier sounds, if they exist at all, are so minute that they form a poor basis for choosing one amplifier over another. Certainly there are still differences between amps, but we are unlikely to hear them.”


The full article can be found here:
"Do All Amplifiers Sound the Same?" by Ian G. Masters and David L. Clark
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