Any real quality difference between DACs? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 15 Old 06-21-2017, 01:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Any real quality difference between DACs?

I'm building my first hifi setup and I've got an offer to buy a used Node Bluesound 2 DAC.

It's a music streamer with built in DAC, but is the increased price only a design/wireless stream thing? It even recommends in it's description to run wired anyway for maximum fidelity, so is there any real difference re music quality compared to something cheap. Say a Canon Dacmagic 100.
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-21-2017, 11:37 AM
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Before answering your question, let me just say there will be no difference in "fidelity" between wireless or wired -- if you have insufficient wifi bandwidth, there may be dropouts or reduced quality from streaming sources (assuming the provider dynamically modifies their stream based on available bandwidth akin to Netflix). But, I'd figure most wireless connections can easily stream lossless 2-channel cd-quality music without issue.

As for the DAC itself, well...there are certainly specifications that can make one DAC measure superior to another. However, whether or not that is audible is going to be debated. I cannot hear a difference in DAC quality in a blind test. There are many who would swear they could, but people who proclaim night and day differences between DACs compare them sighted with all the listening bias that entails.

At the end of the day, I believe modern DACs all sound the same to me -- your mileage may vary.
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-21-2017, 02:04 PM
 
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Yes DACs sound different. The DAC in my Sony UBP800 sounds different than the one in my 2 channel system but then their is a cost difference of approx 35X between the Sony and my current Berkeley.
And there is also a difference between my Berkeley and a DAC that costs 10x more.
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post #4 of 15 Old 06-21-2017, 09:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonnyBb View Post
I'm building my first hifi setup and I've got an offer to buy a used Node Bluesound 2 DAC.

It's a music streamer with built in DAC, but is the increased price only a design/wireless stream thing? It even recommends in it's description to run wired anyway for maximum fidelity, so is there any real difference re music quality compared to something cheap. Say a Canon Dacmagic 100.
1st off I've recorded pro audio for more years I care to count. Yes there is a difference. Will YOU hear that difference is the real question.

There is always a bottleneck somewhere in the chain. For many there won't be a difference enough to justify the cost. And I would agree with them. If you were used to eating the most prime steak from a highly renown Steakhouse that used a private farm for its cuts would you be able to eat a select steak from say iHop and tell me that it tastes just as good? Doubtful.

The differences can be that polar opposite. But your palette will ultimately decide.

Many people can't tell WAV format from mp3 even at a higher bitrate...Which to me is fine to hold such an opinion. Will you have the same headroom/noisefloor? Nope. But will you care?

Probably not. Not unless of course you've heard the differences and can distinguish between X and Y.

In the end I feel that marketing BS makes a feature set sound unbelievable (5th antivibration foot anyone?)

Truth be told the newer Yamaha 3070 has a spec wise better DAC than its predecessor. Will you hear the difference? You will enjoy the 3060 just as much as the 3070. If Yamaha never even told you about it...would you have heard the difference?

You think that's air you're breathing now?



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post #5 of 15 Old 06-21-2017, 10:23 PM
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DACs are cheap things. They cost $5 or less and most of the cost is paying executives and marketing folks who produce shiny brochures convincing people their chip is better. The honest truth is and audio DAC is nowhere near the state of the art - perhaps it was 40 years ago, but today, we have DACs running at over 500Mupdates/sec (500MHz), so even the highest end audio dac running at 384kHz is barely technology (it's over 1000 times slower).

Add in tons of competition because every consumer device has an audio output device and well, prices are low, quality is high, and it's trivial technology that's hard to screw up.

With that knowledge try to figure out where most of the $200-$5000+ you pay for an external DAC goes. The other electronic parts inside shouldn't run more than $50 more - transistors,capacitors, resistors are cheap.
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post #6 of 15 Old 06-22-2017, 09:48 AM
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I have a Bluesound Node and the internal Dac is excellent. I go wireless and have had no problems. The quality of sound comes from how well the music was mastered. You'll get excellent to poor. Not the Dac's fault but the audio quality of the music being streamed.
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post #7 of 15 Old 06-22-2017, 11:28 AM
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Absolutely...
There are quality differences between various DACs...
However the basic question is Are these differences audible?
Today most AVRs are using an all-in 1 chip including the ADCs, DACs and digital interface reciever, so everything is compressed into 1 package to save $.. There still are some high end discrete stereo-DACs available from Wolfson, ADI, Burr-Brown, Cirrus Logic, ESS-Sabre but these are too expensive to use in a competively priced AVR..
So usually only available in the very high-end components & applications.

But just like in other technical areas the brands tend to HYPE 1 DAC over another to try and gain an advantage...

Just my $0.02...
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post #8 of 15 Old 06-24-2017, 01:00 PM
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I recently sampled 7 different DACs, 8 if I include the one built in to my new MX122 A/V Processor. I can say for certain I could tell an audible difference between all of them but it probably takes high-end loudspeakers to detect the differences. Most of them sounded great in their own way and some I did not like at all. They each had their own sonic characteristics. The best I heard to my ears and system was the PS Audio Directstream and the one in my McIntosh MX122; those two sound very similar although the PS Audio DS is ever so slightly more lush sounding.

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post #9 of 15 Old 06-24-2017, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Code View Post
Absolutely...
There are quality differences between various DACs...
However the basic question is Are these differences audible?
Today most AVRs are using an all-in 1 chip including the ADCs, DACs and digital interface reciever, so everything is compressed into 1 package to save $.. There still are some high end discrete stereo-DACs available from Wolfson, ADI, Burr-Brown, Cirrus Logic, ESS-Sabre but these are too expensive to use in a competively priced AVR..
So usually only available in the very high-end components & applications.

But just like in other technical areas the brands tend to HYPE 1 DAC over another to try and gain an advantage...

Just my $0.02...
I'd say your 2 cents hasn't been adjusted due to deflation Your 2 cents is worth a helluva lot more.

I've heard the differences as well yet some people I think...think that there isn't a difference and it becomes marketing speak. Same argument different topic.

I remember 720p vs 1080p days.



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post #10 of 15 Old 06-25-2017, 08:30 PM
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A DAC has one job. Convert a digital number to a signal. That's it. Practically all DACs on the market do this remarkably well and accurately.

If you can perceive differences, then just like amps, there is something in there that is altering the sound, so you're not getting pure audio. Instead, you're getting audio that's been altered, by an unknown EQ device. It could be some circuit inside your external box, or even an interaction between devices.

Yes, there have been DACs that are wired completely incorrectly which generate harmonics or undesirable filtering effects. Sure the end result sounds good, but it's not the pure audio you wanted.
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post #11 of 15 Old 06-25-2017, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worf View Post
A DAC has one job. Convert a digital number to a signal. That's it. Practically all DACs on the market do this remarkably well and accurately.

If you can perceive differences, then just like amps, there is something in there that is altering the sound, so you're not getting pure audio. Instead, you're getting audio that's been altered, by an unknown EQ device. It could be some circuit inside your external box, or even an interaction between devices.

Yes, there have been DACs that are wired completely incorrectly which generate harmonics or undesirable filtering effects. Sure the end result sounds good, but it's not the pure audio you wanted.
In the pro audio (not consumer) world costs are cut to reflect a given price point which in turn creates the need as well as a benefit towards modifying the weakest link(s) in the chain.

That's great you feel so passionate in dissuading those who not just feel but know of the differences mentioned herein. We need disagreement. You strike me as a guy who reads specs and tells me that there cannot be a difference because A and B both have the same frequency response.

I don't hold your conjecture to be self evident. Specs don't lie? Yes. They indeed do. Rated VS Tested can be a glaring difference and omissions are just as well misleading lies. I trust you can deduce what I'm stating here.

Either way if DACs (which is just ONE component that colors sound) are mostly the same. Please tell me what Pre and or Pro gear you use...

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post #12 of 15 Old 06-26-2017, 12:00 AM
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post #13 of 15 Old 01-02-2019, 05:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonnyBb View Post
I'm building my first hifi setup and I've got an offer to buy a used Node Bluesound 2 DAC.

It's a music streamer with built in DAC, but is the increased price only a design/wireless stream thing? It even recommends in it's description to run wired anyway for maximum fidelity, so is there any real difference re music quality compared to something cheap. Say a Canon Dacmagic 100.

My setup consists of An Ayre preamp, Ayre amplifier, Revel Ultima Salon2 speakers, Aurender N100H streamer. Until recently, I also owned a Audio Research DAC8. I loved the system but where was that much vaunted bass that I should be hearing from the Revels. Perhaps, as has been said, the Ayre amp is bass shy?

In any event, a few months ago, I started to hear about the PS Audio DirectStream DAC. Three weeks ago, I added the DirectStream to my setup. Guess what, the missing bass is now here but so is a whole lot more here. I’m not imagining it, my wife hears it as does my daughter. The difference is objectively clear.
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post #14 of 15 Old 01-02-2019, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biggar View Post
My setup consists of An Ayre preamp, Ayre amplifier, Revel Ultima Salon2 speakers, Aurender N100H streamer. Until recently, I also owned a Audio Research DAC8. I loved the system but where was that much vaunted bass that I should be hearing from the Revels. Perhaps, as has been said, the Ayre amp is bass shy?

In any event, a few months ago, I started to hear about the PS Audio DirectStream DAC. Three weeks ago, I added the DirectStream to my setup. Guess what, the missing bass is now here but so is a whole lot more here. I’m not imagining it, my wife hears it as does my daughter. The difference is objectively clear.



I love my DirectStream. Make sure you are running the latest firmware (Snowmass).

(Theater)Speakers: Martin Logan Expression 13A, Stage X, Dual Depth I Subs, Vanquish in ceiling (surrounds) | Processor: Marantz 8805 | Amp: Three Moon Simaudio 400m monoblocks,One Moon Simaudio 330a, PS Audio Directstream | Sources: DirecTV HR17, Mac Mini, PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, Panny UB820| Television: Samsung 75Q9FN | Remote: Logitech Harmony Elite
(Loft) Anthem MRX 520, LG 77G6P, Oppo UDP-203, Martin Logan Montis, Harmony Elite.
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post #15 of 15 Old 01-19-2019, 03:01 PM
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I love my DirectStream. Make sure you are running the latest firmware (Snowmass).
Now added the Directstream Memory Player. What a fantastic combination.
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