Need a Simple Stereo DAC Solution between HTPC and Power Amp - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-16-2019, 09:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Need a Simple Stereo DAC Solution between HTPC and Power Amp

I'll be putting together a modest HTPC soon to go along with an Emotiva A-300 and a pair of ELAC UB5s, a bedroom setup. Normally, I would be using HDMI output (as I do on my main HTPC) for video and audio along with an AVR. In this case, I want to avoid an AVR or the sort of preamp that would typically appear with the sort of power amp I'm getting because either would be excessive for my needs. I don't need a flexible preamp because Equalizer APO will take care of all the processing I require. I can decode on-the-fly what I'd otherwise bitstream on my main setup (though the setup will primarily be for music). I also won't require any switching as I'll only have the one source device: a PC.

A decade ago the answer would have been simple. I'd buy a soundcard with decent DAC and two RCA outs. If this were to be a more serious setup, I'd either run HDMI into an AVR or a proper modular preamp/power amp pair, or buy a nicer mainboard with upgraded DACs for the onboard sound. Rather than having too much mainboard, I'd rather spend the excess on a dedicated DAC solution.

I'm not screwing with old soundcards. I have a Auzentech X-Fi Bravura in the closet and I'd rather do nothing at all than deal with Creative or affiliated brands' (Auzentech licensed some of their tech) drivers ever again. I haven't been able to find any new soundcards that fit the bill, but if a simple PCIE soundcard with good DACs, unobtrusive (better yet, no) bundled software and just a pair of RCA outs exist, I'd be happy to check that out. Everything I see is geared towards gaming, pro audio, or cost twice as much as it otherwise would thanks to headphone amplification.

Should I be looking at USB audio interfaces? Everything I've come across is either cheap private label Amazon garbage I don't trust but has the proper features (with poor or no real specs listed), or is vastly over-featured overkill intended to go alongside a DAW. For example, I don't need headphone amplification, and I don't need more than 2x2, or Speakon, or XLR, or hi/lo-Z switching... And with hifi-geared preamps, I don't need Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Spotify or Tidal integration, equalization/room correction... Just a USB or S/PDIF input, good DACs, and a pair of unbalanced outs to feed the Emotiva.

Basically, I need something to put between an HTPC and a stereo power amp, and I really don't want that to be a 3.5mm to dual RCA cable coming out of cheap onboard.

Surely a simple but high-quality solution exists? I don't want to put together a new setup only to send trash to the Emotiva, but getting a TA-100 or similar for my predicament would be excessive.





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post #2 of 6 Old 10-16-2019, 09:18 PM
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You could look at the Dragonfly series, or something by FiiO. A few of the "Amazon garbage" DACs are actually not that bad, if you choose the right ones- some are knockoffs of FiiO ones. Someone I know got one to do some diagnostic testing when his $30K DAC was playing up. He was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the $13 DAC he got! Another option might be an HDMI stereo receiver that can be had for about $200.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-16-2019, 09:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fitbrit View Post
You could look at the Dragonfly series, or something by FiiO. A few of the "Amazon garbage" DACs are actually not that bad, if you choose the right ones- some are knockoffs of FiiO ones. Someone I know got one to do some diagnostic testing when his $30K DAC was playing up. He was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the $13 DAC he got! Another option might be an HDMI stereo receiver that can be had for about $200.
Thanks! Going to check out the Dragonfly and Fiio options.

I'm sure there are some good Amazon DACs, and I'd love to hear some specific recommendations. It's just difficult to trust anything private label on Amazon that appears too good to be true, at least without hearing from people who actually know what they're talking about (i.e. people not from the Google Play/App Store crowd which typically review products on Amazon).

AVR will always be an option in the end... There'd just be a lot of waste involved in terms of power/heat and (potentially) cost. I'd have to get one with pre-outs, for example.

Edit: I could try the $13 Amazon DAC. It's exactly what I want--coax/toslink in, 2x unbalanced rca out--I just don't know anything of the quality. In the meantime, if someone knows of something the same but better for more money (odd concept), I'd rather go that route from the start. The Fiio K5 Pro is close... But again, no need of a headphone amp. I'd love to pay half of what the K5 Pro goes for to get something with a third of the features and the same quality DAC.



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post #4 of 6 Old 10-17-2019, 05:34 AM
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Do you already have the Emotiva amp? If not then why not go with an integrated amp like the Emotiva TA-100? It's not as powerful as the A-300, but for a bedroom setup it should be fine.

I haven't kept up with the latest trends in audio buit I ran across this review of a DAC that looks interesting:

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post #5 of 6 Old 10-23-2019, 05:12 PM
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Raspberry Pi with HiFiBerry DAC ? (Low Power Consumption).....Comes in RCA or Digi (Toslink).

Several (Free) OS's to choose from.

I have some running headless attached via RCA. Music sources range from phone (Airplay), shared folders or HDHomrun boxes (FiOS).
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-29-2019, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galneon View Post
I'll be putting together a modest HTPC soon to go along with an Emotiva A-300 and a pair of ELAC UB5s, a bedroom setup. Normally, I would be using HDMI output (as I do on my main HTPC) for video and audio along with an AVR. In this case, I want to avoid an AVR or the sort of preamp that would typically appear with the sort of power amp I'm getting because either would be excessive for my needs. I don't need a flexible preamp because Equalizer APO will take care of all the processing I require. I can decode on-the-fly what I'd otherwise bitstream on my main setup (though the setup will primarily be for music). I also won't require any switching as I'll only have the one source device: a PC.

A decade ago the answer would have been simple. I'd buy a soundcard with decent DAC and two RCA outs. If this were to be a more serious setup, I'd either run HDMI into an AVR or a proper modular preamp/power amp pair, or buy a nicer mainboard with upgraded DACs for the onboard sound. Rather than having too much mainboard, I'd rather spend the excess on a dedicated DAC solution.

I'm not screwing with old soundcards. I have a Auzentech X-Fi Bravura in the closet and I'd rather do nothing at all than deal with Creative or affiliated brands' (Auzentech licensed some of their tech) drivers ever again. I haven't been able to find any new soundcards that fit the bill, but if a simple PCIE soundcard with good DACs, unobtrusive (better yet, no) bundled software and just a pair of RCA outs exist, I'd be happy to check that out. Everything I see is geared towards gaming, pro audio, or cost twice as much as it otherwise would thanks to headphone amplification.

Should I be looking at USB audio interfaces? Everything I've come across is either cheap private label Amazon garbage I don't trust but has the proper features (with poor or no real specs listed), or is vastly over-featured overkill intended to go alongside a DAW. For example, I don't need headphone amplification, and I don't need more than 2x2, or Speakon, or XLR, or hi/lo-Z switching... And with hifi-geared preamps, I don't need Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Spotify or Tidal integration, equalization/room correction... Just a USB or S/PDIF input, good DACs, and a pair of unbalanced outs to feed the Emotiva.

Basically, I need something to put between an HTPC and a stereo power amp, and I really don't want that to be a 3.5mm to dual RCA cable coming out of cheap onboard.

Surely a simple but high-quality solution exists? I don't want to put together a new setup only to send trash to the Emotiva, but getting a TA-100 or similar for my predicament would be excessive.



There are a ton of inexpensive Chinese DAC's and people have measured them over at Headfi.org that fit the bill. There is a new Sound Card in town made by EVGA...and get this......AUDIO NOTE!!!!! The NU Audio card will payback 384khz 32bit (192khz,24 bit for Toslink), and has native DSD support up to DSD256. Op-amps are swappable and it's using the AK4493 DAC. There are a ton of reviews for it out there.
You could also go the Schiit route as they make wonderful products as well. I'm using a ESS 9038pro DAC, with Burson Vivid V6 opamps - very nice DAC but it's Chinese and Australian.
Speaking of Burson - they also have some fine offerings, the Burson Swing and the Play actually fits in your PC (Swing ESS 9038PRO, Play ESS 9018 Dac) along with a few other dacs. Here's a link to Burson www.bursonaudio.com.
If anything you have more choices now than ever!!!
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