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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I am digitally challenged. I dont care enough for it to know a whole lot so I am needing some help.

After a really long time, I made a minor change and I finally heard something today from my digital rig that made me get really interested. It's starting to sound really pleasing to me.

So I have an SMSL Sanskrit DAC. It's pretty good, but I am jonesing for something better, and I wanna experience what else is out there. I want to come in below 1000, BUT, unless I can really sink my teeth into a DAC with screaming advantages and tangible improvements, I wont be able to make myself spend more than 500 bucks.

That said, I did another search, something Ive done multiple times over the last 3 years, and came up with the same suspects.

The SMSL M8A - http://www.smsl-audio.com/productshow.asp?id=116

It's got great reviews technically and from auditions.

Ive looked at the Cambridge DACMagic Plus, and can't get over the negative reviews. From the reviews, it sounds like its kinda meh.

The Marantz DAC1 looks interesting. I cant put my finger on why it would be better though except for the brand.

I was going to buy the CHORD Mojo today, but realized it does not have a digital coax input. My streamer and disc player only has that output.

Input from music listeners appreciated.
 

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Of all the components in any audio system the DAC has the least impact on the total experience, except perhaps for wire. If you want to improve something, like the etherial quantity of "musicality" for instance, work on the components that actually alter the music signal, like acoustics , speakers and listening position. A DAC's job, by definition, is to reconstruct the original signal without alteration, which they do achieve. Speakers and acoustics radically alter the original, so work on that.
 

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When I auditioned the Marantz SA8005 CD/SACD player ($1200) at home I tested its DAC separately. It can be used as an outboard DAC with other sources. It was a feature that interested me. My understanding is that the SA8005's internal DAC and associated circuitry (e.g., analog output section) and the HD-DAC1 ($800) are the same.

To my disappointment I found the Marantz DAC to be unlistenable in my music room system. (I used my McIntosh integrated amp; I had not yet purchased a Cary integrated amp.) The Marantz DAC's upper midrange had a harsh and edgy quality, particularly on brass and violins, and especially on closely miked trumpets. On those instruments it made me grimace. My wife laughed one day when I stopped the music and called out loudly that "This thing is killing my ears!"

The Teac UD-503 ($1000 list; purchased on sale for $800 from B&H) that I obtained shortly afterward, after concluding the SA8005 was a letdown, exhibited none of the Marantz's harshness or edginess. Instead the Teac was smooth as silk in the upper mids, including when utilizing the SA8005 as a transport only, via its digital output. The Marantz transport was excellent. The Marantz DAC, nope. I returned the Marantz and kept the Teac DAC.

The Teac offers many adjustable parameters. I like best the setting that converts a CD player's digital output to DSD. The DSD function offers terrific detail. Also, vocals and instruments have a natural, nonfatiguing quality that I rarely experience with digital components.

I had never compared DACs prior to that time about 18 months ago. I had read in this forum a number of posts that said DACs exhibit little or no sonic differences. At least in the case of the Marantz and Teac, the differences were striking: one hurt my ears whereas the other made my ears smile.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Of all the components in any audio system the DAC has the least impact on the total experience, except perhaps for wire. If you want to improve something, like the etherial quantity of "musicality" for instance, work on the components that actually alter the music signal, like acoustics , speakers and listening position. A DAC's job, by definition, is to reconstruct the original signal without alteration, which they do achieve. Speakers and acoustics radically alter the original, so work on that.
I'm all set on the rest of the system. I'm just looking to try a new DAC. Have you tried a few different DACs yourself?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
When I auditioned the Marantz SA8005 CD/SACD player ($1200) at home I tested its DAC separately. It can be used as an outboard DAC with other sources. It was a feature that interested me. My understanding is that the SA8005's internal DAC and associated circuitry (e.g., analog output section) and the HD-DAC1 ($800) are the same.

To my disappointment I found the Marantz DAC to be unlistenable in my music room system. (I used my McIntosh integrated amp; I had not yet purchased a Cary integrated amp.) The Marantz DAC's upper midrange had a harsh and edgy quality, particularly on brass and violins, and especially on closely miked trumpets. On those instruments it made me grimace. My wife laughed one day when I stopped the music and called out loudly that "This thing is killing my ears!"

The Teac UD-503 ($1000 list; purchased on sale for $800 from B&H) that I obtained shortly afterward, after concluding the SA8005 was a letdown, exhibited none of the Marantz's harshness or edginess. Instead the Teac was smooth as silk in the upper mids, including when utilizing the SA8005 as a transport only, via its digital output. The Marantz transport was excellent. The Marantz DAC, nope. I returned the Marantz and kept the Teac DAC.

The Teac offers many adjustable parameters. I like best the setting that converts a CD player's digital output to DSD. The DSD function offers terrific detail. Also, vocals and instruments have a natural, nonfatiguing quality that I rarely experience with digital components.

I had never compared DACs prior to that time about 18 months ago. I had read in this forum a number of posts that said DACs exhibit little or no sonic differences. At least in the case of the Marantz and Teac, the differences were striking: one hurt my ears whereas the other made my ears smile.
Scratch the Marantz then. Will be looking to test the TEAC. Ive heard good things about their integrateds. Thanks.
 

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When I was looking for an outboard DAC I checked out the Chord and my dealer also had the RME ADI-2 DAC. I saved myself around 1K and got a DAC w/a better feature set. Check out Audio Science for excellent technical review. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
When I was looking for an outboard DAC I checked out the Chord and my dealer also had the RME ADI-2 DAC. I saved myself around 1K and got a DAC w/a better feature set. Check out Audio Science for excellent technical review. :)
What did you get?
 

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Fostex HP-A8C or MK2

Puts the build quality of many competitors to complete shame -- made in Japan by people who know what they're doing. Internally powered with a toroidal instead of a cheap switch-mode wall-wart which makes a big difference IMO.

It has a bit of a mellow/relaxed sound that I find very nice. That is a quality you don't often find at this price point where people in China are just slapping parts together. Very 3D soundstage with nice layering.

I had this unit in my main system for a long time. I bought a PS Audio Directstream thinking I'd replace the Fostex....nope. Fostex was better in my system simply because the Direcstream sounded way too laid back and distant, and really didn't dredge out any more detail/layering/etc. Uses AKM chip which IMO is a big plus over the screaming detail/treble "Sabre" sound.

This didn't get replaced until I heard the T+A Dac 8 DSD. The T+A Dac at 512 DSD has beat everything I've heard up to the Chord Dave and the Berkeley Reference 2 which it runs neck and neck with depending on your preference.



Listen to Z gush all over the cheaper HP-A4 BL, the little brother of the HP-A8. Don't think it has the input you require though.

 

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I'm all set on the rest of the system. I'm just looking to try a new DAC. Have you tried a few different DACs yourself?
Yes.

The problem with trying different DACs is there are far too many non-sonic influences that mask the true performance, and the swap time makes audible comparison impossible.

If a particular DAC is "unlistenable", there's likely an interface problem.

I'll leave the thread now, as I can see that my line of reasoning will not be welcome here.
 

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When I auditioned the Marantz SA8005 CD/SACD player ($1200) at home I tested its DAC separately. It can be used as an outboard DAC with other sources. It was a feature that interested me. My understanding is that the SA8005's internal DAC and associated circuitry (e.g., analog output section) and the HD-DAC1 ($800) are the same.

To my disappointment I found the Marantz DAC to be unlistenable in my music room system. (I used my McIntosh integrated amp; I had not yet purchased a Cary integrated amp.) The Marantz DAC's upper midrange had a harsh and edgy quality, particularly on brass and violins, and especially on closely miked trumpets. On those instruments it made me grimace. My wife laughed one day when I stopped the music and called out loudly that "This thing is killing my ears!"

The Teac UD-503 ($1000 list; purchased on sale for $800 from B&H) that I obtained shortly afterward, after concluding the SA8005 was a letdown, exhibited none of the Marantz's harshness or edginess. Instead the Teac was smooth as silk in the upper mids, including when utilizing the SA8005 as a transport only, via its digital output. The Marantz transport was excellent. The Marantz DAC, nope. I returned the Marantz and kept the Teac DAC.

The Teac offers many adjustable parameters. I like best the setting that converts a CD player's digital output to DSD. The DSD function offers terrific detail. Also, vocals and instruments have a natural, nonfatiguing quality that I rarely experience with digital components.

I had never compared DACs prior to that time about 18 months ago. I had read in this forum a number of posts that said DACs exhibit little or no sonic differences. At least in the case of the Marantz and Teac, the differences were striking: one hurt my ears whereas the other made my ears smile.
Did you at least contact Marantz to see if that was a fluke?
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Yes.

The problem with trying different DACs is there are far too many non-sonic influences that mask the true performance, and the swap time makes audible comparison impossible.

If a particular DAC is "unlistenable", there's likely an interface problem.

I'll leave the thread now, as I can see that my line of reasoning will not be welcome here.
got it. I am very happy with my system from an analog sense. from the vinyl signal source, cart, phono stage, preamp, amp to speaker, I get excited when I get to sit down and l am able to listen to music.

nothing unlistenable here. to the contrary, its excellent. not about to break apart a system I like.

from the beginning, I invested the absolute minimum in my digital signal path. its time to do something about it. that said, I was not dismissing your logic, it just does not apply to this scenario.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Checked out the Fostex and was ready to go for it, but it doesnt have the input I need.

I'm sticking with SMSL. Ordering the SU-8 which will bring with it dual DA chips, balanced output (my preamp has balanced inputs), 9 tweaks for the ESS chip output that contours the color of the analog output, multiple PCM filtering options and a built-in toroidal power supply (no wall wart).

Ordering via Amazon so I can audition it. https://www.amazon.com/Decoder-SMSL-2ES9038Q2M-768kHz-Balance-x/dp/B07DQDNF6S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550430276&sr=8-1&keywords=smsl+su-8+v2

At a minimum, the upgrade will produce less noise, comparable to some really great units and compared to my lower model SMSL Sanskirt due to its improved design, connector format and a better clock.

 

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Did you at least contact Marantz to see if that was a fluke?
There is more to the story. After being disappointed with the SA8005, I then purchased the just introduced Marantz CD6006, hoping it might offer improvements. It uses the same inboard DAC as the SA8005, but drops SACD playback and costs less. The CD6006 sounded identical to the SA8005. It even had the exact same upper midrange problems mentioned earlier. It is reasonable to conclude that since two of the same DACs had the same sonics and problems, neither player had a manufacturing defect.
 
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Discussion Starter #15
There is more to the story. After being disappointed with the SA8005, I then purchased the just introduced Marantz CD6006, hoping it might offer improvements. It uses the same inboard DAC as the SA8005, but drops SACD playback and costs less. The CD6006 sounded identical to the SA8005. It even had the exact same upper midrange problems mentioned earlier. It is reasonable to conclude that since two of the same DACs had the same sonics and problems, neither player had a manufacturing defect.
its possible the impedance match between the Marantz players and your receiver/integrated/pre could have been not ideal.
 

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its possible the impedance match between the Marantz players and your receiver/integrated/pre could have been not ideal.
Marantz does not provide an output impedance spec for either player, but my McIntosh MA6500's 22k ohm input impedance is plenty high enough to avoid any mismatch difficulties. CD players have been pretty standardized for a long time in this regard and it should not be a concern. I am sure the Marantz output impedance is quite normal and not a peculiar industry outlier.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The RME ADI2_DAC. Check out the review on Audio Science Forum. :)
I looked at that very closely. It fits the bill, but don't have the benjamins. I did use Audio Science to vet what I settled on.

Thanks.
 

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I looked at that very closely. It fits the bill, but don't have the benjamins. I did use Audio Science to vet what I settled on.

Thanks.
Considering your price range you made a solid pick. But down the line if you upgrade the RME can compete w/many DAC's in the 2k-3k range.:)
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Considering your price range you made a solid pick. But down the line if you upgrade the RME can compete w/many DAC's in the 2k-3k range.:)
I'm really excited by the ADI-2 DAC. Z reviews says its end game. The last DAC you'll ever need. Soon as I make one of my bonuses this year, It'll be mine :)
 
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Considering your price range you made a solid pick. But down the line if you upgrade the RME can compete w/many DAC's in the 2k-3k range.:)
And many $3k dacs compete with the $6k dacs, and the $6k dacs compete with the $12k dacs, and so on, and so on, and so on....
 
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