Author Topic: DACs for dummies  (Read 862 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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DACs for dummies
« on: December 02, 2018, 05:17:30 AM »
I want to explore DACs in my hifi system. I'm finding it a complete nightmare. I just don't understand the issues about chips, architectures, power supplies, analogue stages blah blah blah.

Can anyone help? Is there a website which lays it all out clearly and not too technically?

By the way, my interest in DACs arose because of couple of years ago I got hold of one which had a huge impact on my system, made by a Canadian company called Museatex, here



It's really basic in terms of features -- it only plays redbook, for example -- but it's very "musical" -- in the way that analogue was musical. 

I'm building a second system now, hence I want to try a second DAC. The system is made up of JR149s (a sort of prototype made by Rogers of BBC monitors) and a Sugden amp.

Friends tell me that the closest I can get to this in a modern DAC is with the Philips TDA1541A  chip, and the best DAC implementing the chip is from Mhdt Labs. I'd go that route - at the end of the day if it failed then I could return it -- but it's a last resort because service may be a problem in the future, and I'd have to get it from Taiwan, which makes for expensive import taxes. And it's got a valve -- I'd prefer to stay solid state.



Another DAC which came highly recommended is the Theta gen v A balanced version, but they're very rare and no doubt very explensive, I mention it just in case someone has had experience of it

« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 05:25:55 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Holden

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2018, 05:08:30 PM »
My main knowledge of DACs comes from converting what my iMac produces into my headphones. For this I use the Burson PLAY which is a very powerful DAC/amp. However, it does have the facility to be run solely as a DAC via connections on the back of the unit. The improvement in sound quality when I used it as a replacement for my Fido E7/E9 combo was startling to say the least.

However, if you want a high end standalone DAC then it’s worth looking at the Audiolab M-ONE.
Cheers

Holden

Offline XB-70 Valkyrie

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 06:57:02 PM »
Tell you what...I've been in the high end audio racket (as a consumer) for nearly 30 years, I have shelled out a lot of money for equipment, and I enjoy it all a great deal. There is an enormous difference between high end (and by this, I don't necessarily mean ridiculously expensive) gear and mid-fi stuff. That being said, I believe the point of diminishing returns is quite a bit lower than your audio dealer would have you believe.

If I were you, I would find a reputable dealer in your area, tell them what you want, and ask how you can audition equipment in your home. Sure, you can listen in their store, but you are much better able to make an informed determination in your own listening room, with your own discs, and on your own schedule. In their store, the acoustics will be different, and you will have sales people hovering around. Take a couple pieces home and make the comparisons on the same discs. Start at the lower end of the cost spectrum, then see (hear) whether you can hear the difference in the higher-priced pieces. If not, it's not worth your extra money, period. That's the bottom line, and worrying about how much you understand about the technology is superfluous, unless you are really interested in the engineering aspect... My take--don't waste any extra money on prestige, status if you cannot hear the difference. Save the money for music.
If you really dislike Bach you keep quiet about it! - Andras Schiff

Offline Mandryka

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2018, 01:26:33 AM »
Tell you what...I've been in the high end audio racket (as a consumer) for nearly 30 years, I have shelled out a lot of money for equipment, and I enjoy it all a great deal. There is an enormous difference between high end (and by this, I don't necessarily mean ridiculously expensive) gear and mid-fi stuff. That being said, I believe the point of diminishing returns is quite a bit lower than your audio dealer would have you believe.

If I were you, I would find a reputable dealer in your area, tell them what you want, and ask how you can audition equipment in your home. Sure, you can listen in their store, but you are much better able to make an informed determination in your own listening room, with your own discs, and on your own schedule. In their store, the acoustics will be different, and you will have sales people hovering around. Take a couple pieces home and make the comparisons on the same discs. Start at the lower end of the cost spectrum, then see (hear) whether you can hear the difference in the higher-priced pieces. If not, it's not worth your extra money, period. That's the bottom line, and worrying about how much you understand about the technology is superfluous, unless you are really interested in the engineering aspect... My take--don't waste any extra money on prestige, status if you cannot hear the difference. Save the money for music.

I have good experience from dealers, but it’s better in my experience to buy from eBay and other internet sites, preferably from sellers who take returns, or who sell at such low prices it doesn’t matter too much if you make a mistake. And to use Internet forums rather than dealers for advice. The problem with most dealers, apart from price, is that they are more interested, for obvious reasons,  in people who want hi fi as bling than in people who are interested in sound. And of course they’re limited to the lines they represent.

As you know hi fi is a sensitive thing, I need to really listen to a new piece in your system, in my room, for quite some time, before I can form a proper judgement. I think I really need to give it a month long audition. It may be different for people in the business who’ve heard a lot of stuff and can form a judgement more rapidly.

Grahams in London is an exception to this, but they’re expensive
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 01:33:11 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Daverz

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2018, 12:12:28 PM »
I bought an Auralic Vega DAC back when they were the hot new DAC back in 2014, but it's still a great sounding DAC, and I have no desire to upgrade.  I've seen them going for under $2k used.  It can do DSD64 and PCM up to 384kHz.  I feed its USB input with a Raspberry Pi running piCorePlayer.




The only reason I'd change might be for something that combines DAC and pre-amp, or even DAC, pre-amp and amp, particularly if it includes room correction (e.g. Lyngdorf, Anthem).  Yeah, I know an AV receiver might have all that, but I don't need the features of a monster AV receiver.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 12:16:03 PM by Daverz »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2018, 01:40:35 PM »
Yes room correction is on my agenda to explore at some time too. I intend to use miniDSP equipment.

I don’t use high res files, all my music is Redbook.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 01:47:48 PM by Mandryka »
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2018, 01:46:57 PM »
My DAC is a Marantz SA8005 SACD player which has Coax and Optical inputs, allowing it to function as a DAC. My iMac drives a Musical Fidelity gadget which converts USB to Optical, and I sent the optical data to the player. It also plays CDs.

I really like the sound. The one issue is that the USB-B input doesn't seem to work well (sometimes get data loss streaming from the computer) hence the optical connection, which is rock-steady.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2018, 08:10:15 AM »
As a stopgap this arrived in the post this morning

 
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline Daverz

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2018, 09:04:20 AM »
By the way, the Auralic Vega is going for under $2k new.  I suppose while there is still stock on hand, since it's not their latest and greatest.

https://us.auralic.com/products/vega

Still love this DAC, though the volume knob fell off the drive shaft (it just needs to be glued back on to the shaft).


Offline NikF

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Re: DACs for dummies
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2018, 04:51:14 AM »
Tell you what...I've been in the high end audio racket (as a consumer) for nearly 30 years, I have shelled out a lot of money for equipment, and I enjoy it all a great deal. There is an enormous difference between high end (and by this, I don't necessarily mean ridiculously expensive) gear and mid-fi stuff. That being said, I believe the point of diminishing returns is quite a bit lower than your audio dealer would have you believe.

If I were you, I would find a reputable dealer in your area, tell them what you want, and ask how you can audition equipment in your home. Sure, you can listen in their store, but you are much better able to make an informed determination in your own listening room, with your own discs, and on your own schedule. In their store, the acoustics will be different, and you will have sales people hovering around. Take a couple pieces home and make the comparisons on the same discs. Start at the lower end of the cost spectrum, then see (hear) whether you can hear the difference in the higher-priced pieces. If not, it's not worth your extra money, period. That's the bottom line, and worrying about how much you understand about the technology is superfluous, unless you are really interested in the engineering aspect... My take--don't waste any extra money on prestige, status if you cannot hear the difference. Save the money for music.

A quote from your post - "Save the money for music"  - yeah, that's where it's at. But, you're a photographer and so have the ability (and frankly, the balls) to cut through the BS.
"You overestimate my power of attraction," he told her. "No, I don't," she replied sharply, "and neither do you".

 

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