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post #1 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 06:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Do I need a DAC?

I just started my 2-Channel set-up. I acquired my preamp, amp and a CD player. So I was wondering if I need a DAC? I've noticed that my preamp doesn't have any digital inputs and outputs. Does that mean my preamp does not have a DAC. However, my CD player has a Toslink optical digital output and a L/R RCA output. I'm curious how does it works? Thanks.
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post #2 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 06:42 AM
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Your preamp probably does not have a DAC. What model is it?

Your CD player has a DAC built-in that is dedicated for its own use. It cannot be used by other sources unless it has a digital input as well. If you want to play local digital files and/or stream digital files from the internet, then you will need a DAC and some sort of player/source device to fetch the music you want and send it to the dac. That player could be your phone, a computer or even a combo DAC/player/streamer device.

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post #3 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 06:43 AM
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If your pre-amp has no digital inputs, it shouldn't have a digital-to-analogue converter because there's no conversion required. If your CD player has analogue outputs, it has a built-in DAC. If you don't have any digital-only sources, you don't need an external DAC.
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***All good advice. Can you specify what your equipment is (speakers, preamp, amp and CD player) as well as what music you are listening to? Example: CD only or CD and streaming & internet radio.

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SONY 75X900F & 49X900E, Denon X6700H & Emotiva XPA-3, OPPO 103 - 9.1.4 Setup - Speakers - Studio 60's-V.5 (FL/FR), CC-690-V.5 (C), ADP 590-V.5 (SS), MilleniaOne 2.0 (BS) - Velodyne 810 Sub, Cornered Audio (FH/RH), Definitive Technology (Front Wides). Stereo 2 Channel Only - Dali Evidence 470 & MartinLogan Forte Amplifier/Streamer with ARC.
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If all of the devices for music/audio have analog outputs (red/white) to connect your preamp, you don't "need" a DAC.
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If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein
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post #6 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
***All good advice. Can you specify what your equipment is (speakers, preamp, amp and CD player) as well as what music you are listening to? Example: CD only or CD and streaming & internet radio.
I have the Emotiva T1s, Linn Kairn preamp, Adcom GFA-555 MK II amp and a Sony CD player (not streaming yet).

Quote:
If your pre-amp has no digital inputs, it shouldn't have a digital-to-analogue converter because there's no conversion required. If your CD player has analogue outputs, it has a built-in DAC. If you don't have any digital-only sources, you don't need an external DAC.
I don't think my preamp has digital inputs. All I see are RCA inputs and outputs at the back. However, I think my CD player has analog L/R RCA output as well as digital (optical)
output.

Quote:
Your CD player has a DAC built-in that is dedicated for its own use. It cannot be used by other sources unless it has a digital input as well. If you want to play local digital files and/or stream digital files from the internet, then you will need a DAC and some sort of player/source device to fetch the music you want and send it to the dac. That player could be your phone, a computer or even a combo DAC/player/streamer device.
There is only one L/R RCA output and one optical output on the back of the player, no digital input. So I'm guessing I'm good to go then. Eventually, I will be streaming from the internet. Does that mean somewhere I need to connect to Bluetooth via DAC/player/streamer device?

Thanks, guys.

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RCA refers to the kind of connector, not the type of signal. True, most RCA connectors are analog, especially if they are colored red or white, but there are digital connections made with RCA connectors, usually orange. And, of course, composite and some other video connections also use RCA connectors.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907
… Eventually, I will be streaming from the internet. Does that mean somewhere I need to connect to Bluetooth via DAC/player/streamer device? …
Yes, you'll need some sort of device:
- to which you can wirelessly stream audio;
- which will do the D-to-A conversion; and
- which has L+R analogue outputs.
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Originally Posted by MTVhike View Post
RCA refers to the kind of connector, not the type of signal. True, most RCA connectors are analog, especially if they are colored red or white, but there are digital connections made with RCA connectors, usually orange. And, of course, composite and some other video connections also use RCA connectors.
Is it the coaxial?
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Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
If all of the devices for music/audio have analog outputs (red/white) to connect your preamp, you don't "need" a DAC.
OK. Thanks.
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Originally Posted by eljaycanuck View Post
Yes, you'll need some sort of device:
- to which you can wirelessly stream audio;
- which will do the D-to-A conversion; and
- which has L+R analogue outputs.
So eventually I will need a DAC to stream. If I go this route, where do I connect the DAC?
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Originally Posted by mlknez View Post
Your preamp probably does not have a DAC.
.
So I'm guessing, I'm using the built-in DAC from my CD player.
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post #13 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907 View Post
So eventually I will need a DAC to stream. …
Not if you get a streaming-capable device that has a DAC in it.

Quote:
… If I go this route, where do I connect the DAC?
Same as with your CD player: The analogue outputs on the device to analogue inputs on your pre-amp.
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Side note: If I go 2.1 can I connect a sub to one of the output on the back of the preamp if it doesn't have a dedicated sub out?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907 View Post
So eventually I will need a DAC to stream. If I go this route, where do I connect the DAC?
DAC's don't "stream".
If you get a "streaming device" with analog audio (red/white) audio outputs, you're fine.


Don't get confused with other connections that also use RCA type connectors.
Digital coax is typically "orange".
Analog composite video typically "yellow".



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post #16 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907 View Post
So I'm guessing, I'm using the built-in DAC from my CD player.
Yes.



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post #17 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907 View Post
Side note: If I go 2.1 can I connect a sub to one of the output on the back of the preamp if it doesn't have a dedicated sub out?
That's not "2.1". That's incorporating a subwoofer into a stereo system.
Yes... with a proper sub and interfaces, it can be easily accomplished.



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post #18 of 20 Old 06-11-2020, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleG7907 View Post
..... So I was wondering if I need a DAC? I've noticed that my preamp doesn't have any digital inputs and outputs. ... Thanks.
As unhelpful as it is, the answer to the question - Do I need a DAC? - is - Well, DO you need a DAC?

A DAC does one primary thing, and that is convert a list of numbers into analog voltages. Do you have any content or connections that feed numbers instead of Voltages? If so, then you need a DAC ... sort of.

You didn't tell us what your CD Player is, nor if it is actually a CD PLAYER. Most actual CD Player have DACs built into them. Most DVD/Blueray, have DACs built in, though become less common.

There are CD Transports, Cambridge comes to mind, that only have Digital Outputs, these depend on you having your own DAC to decode the material.

So, not knowing specifically what you have, it is difficult for us to say what you need.

Most Network Streaming Devices have DACs built in.

In short any device that plays digital content and also has RCA Line Out, has a DAC built in.

So, in this case, the question isn't - Do you need a DAC? - rather the question is - Do you need a Better DAC? - and likely you don't.

Here are some situation where a person might need a DAC -

1.) TV Audio fed to a Stereo System
- most TVs have by far an Digital Audio Out of the Optical variety, though a few have Coaxial connections. To hear movies on a Stereo, the Digital Audio Out of the TV will be connected to a DAC, and the Analog Output of the DAC will feed the Analog RCA input of the Stereo. This works very well and is how most people with Stereos are watching and listening to TV and Movies.

2.) CD Transport
- that is a CD playing device that has only Digital Outs and therefore needs to be connected to an External DAC.

3.) CD Players
- your CD Player will have a DAC, but your Integrated Amp or Stand Alone DAC might be a better DAC, so, while you don't need to, you might choose to connect the Digital Out of the CD to the better DAC.

4.) DVD/BlueRay Players
- Though there are other situations, the most common is when using a BluRay to also serve as a Stereo CD Player. For Video, you use HDMI to your TV or AVR, and for Stereo Music, you connect the BluRay Optical/Coaxial Out to a DAC which will feed the Analog Inputs on your amp

5.) Network Players - Network Players are like CD Players, they will most likely have an internal DAC, but you might have a better external DAC. Network Players like CD Player will by far most likely have Analog RCA Audio Out which will use the Internal DAC. But they are also very likely to have some from of Digital Out (optical/coaxial) that would allow you to feed an external DAC if you so desire.

6.) Computer - Many computers have Optical and sometimes Coaxial, and most certainly USB-PC outputs. These are good for feeding the Audio Output of the computer to an external Stereo amp with a DAC.

Most DACs have Optical and Coaxial Inputs, but some have USB-PC which facilitate a direct connect to a computer.

Some Amps have a USB-Media input, which will not connect directly to a computer, but can be connected to a Thumb Drive, sometimes a Hard Drive, and in many cases to a Smart Device like a Smart Phone, Tablet, or Pad.

Bluetooth, which is less than ideal, can be used for Casual Listening. But for Serious listening, you want to use some type of direct connect method. Networking (wired or WiFi) is bit perfect with (for the most part) no distance limitations. A direct USB connect to an external Smart Device, will be Bit Perfect. Bluetooth tend to use compression, and tends to be limited in distance; typically 30 feet line-of-sight. However, Bluetooth is improving, and has been stretched to 100ft with low latency. Bluetooth can sound pretty good, but is best for casual listening.

So, do you have any of these situations that would require a DAC? If you do, then you need a DAC, and if you don't then you probably don't need a DAC.

As to how much you need to spend on a DAC, the field runs from $6 up to about $6000. You just need to determine where in that range you are.

I would suggest, if you are serious about DAC recommendations, you lay out all the equipment in your system with the rough cost of each item, and we will recommend DACs that are proportional to your system, or that are reasonable for any budget you state. While you can indeed get very basic but decent DACs in the $10 to $50, most quality DACs are going to be about $300 and up. But in that wider range, should you need a DAC, we can certainly find one that suits your needs and your budget.

https://smsl-audio.com/portal/product/lists/id/3.html

Here is a quick cross-section of DACs -

https://www.amazon.com/PROZOR-Digita...dp/B00KNNSKV0/

https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Blu...dp/B082NTDX9Q/

https://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Aud...dp/B0078Q4FEG/

https://www.amazon.com/SMSL-Sanskrit...dp/B07J9YSD9R/

https://www.amazon.com/S-M-S-L-M500-...dp/B07X287BXC/

And about 1,000 other choices.

Steve/bluewizard

Last edited by bluewizard; 06-11-2020 at 12:13 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
As unhelpful as it is, the answer to the question - Do I need a DAC? - is - Well, DO you need a DAC?

A DAC does one primary thing, and that is convert a list of numbers into analog voltages. Do you have any content or connections that feed numbers instead of Voltages? If so, then you need a DAC ... sort of.

You didn't tell us what your CD Player is, nor if it is actually a CD PLAYER. Most actual CD Player have DACs built into them. Most DVD/Blueray, have DACs built in, though become less common.

There are CD Transports, Cambridge comes to mind, that only have Digital Outputs, these depend on you having your own DAC to decode the material.

So, not knowing specifically what you have, it is difficult for us to say what you need.

Most Network Streaming Devices have DACs built in.

In short any device that plays digital content and also has RCA Line Out, has a DAC built in.

So, in this case, the question isn't - Do you need a DAC? - rather the question is - Do you need a Better DAC? - and likely you don't.

Here are some situation where a person might need a DAC -

1.) TV Audio fed to a Stereo System
- most TVs have by far an Digital Audio Out of the Optical variety, though a few have Coaxial connections. To hear movies on a Stereo, the Digital Audio Out of the TV will be connected to a DAC, and the Analog Output of the DAC will feed the Analog RCA input of the Stereo. This works very well and is how most people with Stereos are watching and listening to TV and Movies.

2.) CD Transport
- that is a CD playing device that has only Digital Outs and therefore needs to be connected to an External DAC.

3.) CD Players
- your CD Player will have a DAC, but your Integrated Amp or Stand Alone DAC might be a better DAC, so, while you don't need to, you might choose to connect the Digital Out of the CD to the better DAC.

4.) DVD/BlueRay Players
- Though there are other situations, the most common is when using a BluRay to also serve as a Stereo CD Player. For Video, you use HDMI to your TV or AVR, and for Stereo Music, you connect the BluRay Optical/Coaxial Out to a DAC which will feed the Analog Inputs on your amp

5.) Network Players - Network Players are like CD Players, they will most likely have an internal DAC, but you might have a better external DAC. Network Players like CD Player will by far most likely have Analog RCA Audio Out which will use the Internal DAC. But they are also very likely to have some from of Digital Out (optical/coaxial) that would allow you to feed an external DAC if you so desire.

6.) Computer - Many computers have Optical and sometimes Coaxial, and most certainly USB-PC outputs. These are good for feeding the Audio Output of the computer to an external Stereo amp with a DAC.

Most DACs have Optical and Coaxial Inputs, but some have USB-PC which facilitate a direct connect to a computer.

Some Amps have a USB-Media input, which will not connect directly to a computer, but can be connected to a Thumb Drive, sometimes a Hard Drive, and in many cases to a Smart Device like a Smart Phone, Tablet, or Pad.

Bluetooth, which is less than ideal, can be used for Casual Listening. But for Serious listening, you want to use some type of direct connect method. Networking (wired or WiFi) is bit perfect with (for the most part) no distance limitations. A direct USB connect to an external Smart Device, will be Bit Perfect. Bluetooth tend to use compression, and tends to be limited in distance; typically 30 feet line-of-sight. However, Bluetooth is improving, and has been stretched to 100ft with low latency. Bluetooth can sound pretty good, but is best for casual listening.

So, do you have any of these situations that would require a DAC? If you do, then you need a DAC, and if you don't then you probably don't need a DAC.

As to how much you need to spend on a DAC, the field runs from $6 up to about $6000. You just need to determine where in that range you are.

I would suggest, if you are serious about DAC recommendations, you lay out all the equipment in your system with the rough cost of each item, and we will recommend DACs that are proportional to your system, or that are reasonable for any budget you state. While you can indeed get very basic but decent DACs in the $10 to $50, most quality DACs are going to be about $300 and up. But in that wider range, should you need a DAC, we can certainly find one that suits your needs and your budget.

https://smsl-audio.com/portal/product/lists/id/3.html

Here is a quick cross-section of DACs -

https://www.amazon.com/PROZOR-Digita...dp/B00KNNSKV0/

https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Blu...dp/B082NTDX9Q/

https://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Aud...dp/B0078Q4FEG/

https://www.amazon.com/SMSL-Sanskrit...dp/B07J9YSD9R/

https://www.amazon.com/S-M-S-L-M500-...dp/B07X287BXC/

And about 1,000 other choices.

Steve/bluewizard



I do own a DAC Magic from Cambridge Audio for many years now and it is really good equipment, very good quality, very resilient, and the price is reasonable I think.
You might find a second hand one for very cheap.
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post #20 of 20 Old 06-19-2020, 06:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
As unhelpful as it is, the answer to the question - Do I need a DAC? - is - Well, DO you need a DAC?

A DAC does one primary thing, and that is convert a list of numbers into analog voltages. Do you have any content or connections that feed numbers instead of Voltages? If so, then you need a DAC ... sort of.

You didn't tell us what your CD Player is, nor if it is actually a CD PLAYER. Most actual CD Player have DACs built into them. Most DVD/Blueray, have DACs built in, though become less common.

There are CD Transports, Cambridge comes to mind, that only have Digital Outputs, these depend on you having your own DAC to decode the material.

So, not knowing specifically what you have, it is difficult for us to say what you need.

Most Network Streaming Devices have DACs built in.

In short any device that plays digital content and also has RCA Line Out, has a DAC built in.

So, in this case, the question isn't - Do you need a DAC? - rather the question is - Do you need a Better DAC? - and likely you don't.

Here are some situation where a person might need a DAC -

1.) TV Audio fed to a Stereo System
- most TVs have by far an Digital Audio Out of the Optical variety, though a few have Coaxial connections. To hear movies on a Stereo, the Digital Audio Out of the TV will be connected to a DAC, and the Analog Output of the DAC will feed the Analog RCA input of the Stereo. This works very well and is how most people with Stereos are watching and listening to TV and Movies.

2.) CD Transport
- that is a CD playing device that has only Digital Outs and therefore needs to be connected to an External DAC.

3.) CD Players
- your CD Player will have a DAC, but your Integrated Amp or Stand Alone DAC might be a better DAC, so, while you don't need to, you might choose to connect the Digital Out of the CD to the better DAC.

4.) DVD/BlueRay Players
- Though there are other situations, the most common is when using a BluRay to also serve as a Stereo CD Player. For Video, you use HDMI to your TV or AVR, and for Stereo Music, you connect the BluRay Optical/Coaxial Out to a DAC which will feed the Analog Inputs on your amp

5.) Network Players - Network Players are like CD Players, they will most likely have an internal DAC, but you might have a better external DAC. Network Players like CD Player will by far most likely have Analog RCA Audio Out which will use the Internal DAC. But they are also very likely to have some from of Digital Out (optical/coaxial) that would allow you to feed an external DAC if you so desire.

6.) Computer - Many computers have Optical and sometimes Coaxial, and most certainly USB-PC outputs. These are good for feeding the Audio Output of the computer to an external Stereo amp with a DAC.

Most DACs have Optical and Coaxial Inputs, but some have USB-PC which facilitate a direct connect to a computer.

Some Amps have a USB-Media input, which will not connect directly to a computer, but can be connected to a Thumb Drive, sometimes a Hard Drive, and in many cases to a Smart Device like a Smart Phone, Tablet, or Pad.

Bluetooth, which is less than ideal, can be used for Casual Listening. But for Serious listening, you want to use some type of direct connect method. Networking (wired or WiFi) is bit perfect with (for the most part) no distance limitations. A direct USB connect to an external Smart Device, will be Bit Perfect. Bluetooth tend to use compression, and tends to be limited in distance; typically 30 feet line-of-sight. However, Bluetooth is improving, and has been stretched to 100ft with low latency. Bluetooth can sound pretty good, but is best for casual listening.

So, do you have any of these situations that would require a DAC? If you do, then you need a DAC, and if you don't then you probably don't need a DAC.

As to how much you need to spend on a DAC, the field runs from $6 up to about $6000. You just need to determine where in that range you are.

I would suggest, if you are serious about DAC recommendations, you lay out all the equipment in your system with the rough cost of each item, and we will recommend DACs that are proportional to your system, or that are reasonable for any budget you state. While you can indeed get very basic but decent DACs in the $10 to $50, most quality DACs are going to be about $300 and up. But in that wider range, should you need a DAC, we can certainly find one that suits your needs and your budget.

https://smsl-audio.com/portal/product/lists/id/3.html

Here is a quick cross-section of DACs -

https://www.amazon.com/PROZOR-Digita...dp/B00KNNSKV0/

https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Blu...dp/B082NTDX9Q/

https://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Aud...dp/B0078Q4FEG/

https://www.amazon.com/SMSL-Sanskrit...dp/B07J9YSD9R/

https://www.amazon.com/S-M-S-L-M500-...dp/B07X287BXC/

And about 1,000 other choices.

Steve/bluewizard
Thanks for the post/recommendations. I will try to lay out my equipment as soon as I'm ready to jump to the next level.
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