To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

compact disc, dacs, mp3 players and streaming audio
raphaelmabo
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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by raphaelmabo » 26 Feb 2019 15:26

The analogue output of a Mac is inferior to the analogue output of a separate DAC, a Mac simply hasn't got audiophile components for the line out. I connect my Macbook with optical link to an external DAC and the sound I got from that one is larger, more focused, more detailed, more distinct and well defined. When I use the line out from my Macbook directly to my amplifier, the sound is warmer and less focused, it's like having a veil or curtain in front of my speakers.

I have the Alchemist TS-1D DAC and a Cambridge DacMagic 100. They both give me a distinctive and noticeable improvement of the sound. And the DacMagic cost below 200 euro. So not big money.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by nniemiec » 26 Feb 2019 15:36

Thanks for all the sharing - Based on all of this, sounds like i should do some A/B testing to see if this is a worthwhile investment for my setup.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by Whitigir » 26 Feb 2019 15:38

Correct, only your ears can tell you otherwise

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by dysmike » 26 Feb 2019 17:19

Whitigir wrote:
26 Feb 2019 15:04
Any DAC will do a better job than your intergrated one. However, asking for it to be as good as a proper turntable and a good record is something that the digital is still chasing.
Leave it for appropriate threads please. WE get it, you have an issue with digital.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by raphaelmabo » 26 Feb 2019 19:39

I also would like to add that DAC's sound different, my Cambridge DacMagic 100 sounds faster and more dynamic than my Alchemist TS-1D, but my TS-1D is smoother without the rough edges that I can hear the DacMagic sometimes has on some material.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by Whitigir » 26 Feb 2019 22:39

The way the DAC is working is more complicated than the cartridges.

No, using the same DAC-IC don’t make them equipments sound the same. They rely on clocking system, the power supplying, the filtering and smothering capacitors, the implementation of PLL, they are Oversampling or NOS implemented, the coupling between I/V stages and so on.....even the interfaces would make it sound different...aka, you are using USB built in or external bridge, or I2S port, or SPDIF....many factors

Cartridges is only either moving magnet or coil and different cut....much simpler.

However, the consensus is that due to the way the IC and the manufacturers are designing their own Modulator, same brand will tend to keep it own signatures (doesn’t mean they all sound the same...again)...so for example, AKM carry the typical warmth to mimick analog uniqueness which is easier to the listener, where as Sabre’s ESS has the typical airy and detailed signature.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by raphaelmabo » 27 Feb 2019 08:05

Back in the early days of digital audio, the Micromega Junior and Arcam Alpha used the same Philips D/A chip, but they didn't sounded the same. Both had an engaging and rhythmic sound, but the Arcam had deeper bass. I know this for sure because I auditioned them side by side and finally settled for the Micromega Junior because it was less expensive and good enough. It was a modified Philips with dual D/A's and better power regulation etc. etc. But it still couldn't beat the twice as expensive Arcam Alpha.

I notice that my Cambridge DacMagic 100 has a tiny little wall-mart thing to put in the wall socket, while my Alchemist TS-1D has a big chunky cylindrical box with chunky cables to the wall socket and a chunky cable to the D/A box. They don't have the same D/A, but the TS-1D was highly reviewed in it's days in the late 90's. More refined than the Musical Fidelity X with the same D/A.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by andybeau » 27 Feb 2019 15:45

Whitigir wrote:
27 Feb 2019 12:56


Yes, I understand, and that is my view so far. But how could you be so sure to buy the LP that is analog recorded ? Or is it really only badly digitally remastering that make it sound bad ?
If the CD has been mastered load the record will sound better the majority of times unless they are really bad at mastering for records. You cannot master as load for vinyl as digital, the stylus will jump out of the groove.
I think this is one of the major reasons for records comeback.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by raphaelmabo » 27 Feb 2019 16:31

I buy both CD's and LP's, I've got some new releases and they are fine... I can't say that CD/digital is better or worse than analogue/CD. I have several albums on both digital and vinyl, and I say that they differ in sound but I can't say that the one is better or worse than the other. There's a smothness and musicality with vinyl and also expansive soundstage, but CD/digital has deeper and harder hitting bass, and of course less noise and no visits from the brothers Pop, Crackle and Snap. I enjoy both digital and analogue. Some albums I prefer on digital, some on analogue.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by marcsloane » 11 May 2019 05:03

i bought a DAC WOW from Hotsaudio back in the day. It is still in use, and i can say without any hesitation, that thing sounds absolutely f'n amazing on my main stereo.

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by vintagevinyllover » 30 May 2019 17:15

I believe Ry Cooder’s lp Bop till you drop was the first major label digital recording. That was in 1979 and sounded awful, even Ry says so!
So every album release before that one was an analogue recording. A roundabout way after that was to check the 3 letter code on a cd to see if it was analogue or digital (ADD versus DDD for example) and then if ADD buy the vinyl if it was released. I don’t know if cds carry that code any more now. Most later remasters were digital but not all, btw. Some Discogs entries do have the info I think

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by zlartibartfast » 31 May 2019 00:15

The early ADC's were 13bit/32kHz. By today's standards, that's pretty poor

http://www.aes.org/aeshc/pdf/fine_dawn-of-digital.pdf

Albums mastered from PCM digital recordings started to appear about 1977, but yes I believe "Bop Til You Drop" is considered to be the first major release.

I'm not sure it was awful solely because ADC's were no better than 14bit at the time, however...

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by vintagevinyllover » 31 May 2019 17:04

That's a good article!

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Re: To DAC or NOT to DAC ?

Post by zwhita » 26 Jun 2019 18:52

I recently bought a second-hand Rega DAC, and connected it to my digital optical S/PDIF out on my PC. Reviews often call it a "musical" sounding DAC, whatever that means. (Perhaps less "clinical"?) It does seem to make music that is fatiuging on some gear sound not only listenable but enjoyable, assuming you are discreet with loudness. All I know is everything got much, much clearer, wider and more dynamic than the audio out on the Asus H170 Pro Gaming motherboard, a Realtek ALC1150 codec, claimed to be high quality(at least for gaming standards).
Aside from just being a better conversion and re-clocker, it removed all the clock noise and I was able to circumvent an issue I never got to the bottom of with the motherboard audio, where audio quality varied depending on whether the codec was arbitrarily resampling to 48khz. The Rega sounds great after its class A warmup period every time.

Then I inserted a Monolith Liquid Spark headphone amp in the chain(using the pre-amp out) and it got even better.

A few weeks after getting the Rega DAC, I discovered that foobar 2000 media player has a component to insert VST plugins. This allowed me to insert professional quality processing tools(mostly variants on EQ's but occasionally tape simulation and analog bus modelers). I've enjoyed this so much that my vinyl collection has been regrettably neglected ever since.

Vinyl still has the edge in some respects, but having the new DAC has really put each of them closer in terms of listening enjoyment.