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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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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.
 

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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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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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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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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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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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Here is literally the first AVR review with measurements I could find over at ASR:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-measurements-of-sony-str-za1100es-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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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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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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Here's the second AVR review I found over there:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-measurements-of-pioneer-vsx-lx303-avr.7503/

:eek::eek:

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. :eek:
 

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Here is literally the first AVR review with measurements I could find over at ASR:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-measurements-of-sony-str-za1100es-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.

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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Here's a $5,000 Marantz pre/pro:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...urements-of-marantz-av8805-av-processor.6926/

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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Here's a $5,000 Marantz pre/pro:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...urements-of-marantz-av8805-av-processor.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. :eek:
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. :p [Joke]
 
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