Air and Magic

Ajani

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Apr 9, 2008
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matengawhat:tractorboy:I'm guessing the opposite...

me too - i run a squeezbox through an xray v8 dac and it is wow

I run a Squeezebox through a Benchmark DAC1 and it is also WOW...
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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The "oh dear" was because I thought it would be easy, I really did. For starters, I tried to make it easy for the CD player by giving it the Chorus, and letting the DACMagic have the Cobras. And when I played the first track (Damien Rice's Cannonball - thought I'd keep it simple), I thought the decision was made there and then - the Airport Express and DACMagic sounded so much warmer and musical that I thought the Primare had fallen at the first hurdle.

However, just to check again my previous assertion that the DAC in the Primare sounded exactly the same as the DM, a quick fiddle with digital inputs and I had the AE and CD both playing through the DM, and the warmth of the lossless files still beat the Primare hands down. And then I remembered - iTunes EQ......

So having turned off the gentle bass boost in iTunes, I started again...

Right, now we're talking - a change of tracks to Tori Amos' Me And A Gun, and A/B comparisons done by flicking channels on the amp - here the Primare seems to nose ahead, with the DM exhibiting a bit of bloom - maybe a thin veil on the treble, so the CD player sounds a bit clearer. I'd read that filters on the DM might help with simple music, so I tried the 'Steep' filter, and the DM pulled back - in fact they were almost indistinguishable. Almost, but not quite - round one to the Primare I'd say.

So then I put on one of my favourite tracks of the moment - Under My Skin by Peter Bradley Adams. Fairly simple acoustic and voice arrangement, but still more depth to it than the Tori Amos track, and it's here where the DM shone - the acoustic guitars sound wonderfully realistic, and that warmth I mentioned earlier has no detriment whatsoever - all the detail is there, but the midrange has become fuller, warmer and more pleasing, more musical - bass has better timing and leading edge attack - suppose it sounds more like proper instruments than a facsimile of one, which the Primare was tending to do at the very bottom end.

It was at this point that I gave the DM all the ammo - plugged into the Chorus, the Adams track has gained a little more detail (listening now) but still has lovely warmth and depth - it's just making great music, probably the best I've heard my system sound for a long time...

So there's a taster - DM currently ahead by a nose. Am off to find something more complex and see how they fare....
 

Charlie Jefferson

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Sep 2, 2007
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Joel,

Give in to the logic and language of love or should I say an external DAC & Lossless combo.

John's gracefully composed ad hoc review encapsulates a lot of what's going on here too. Different equipment to Mr.D but the same principles at work.

FWIW, my "complex" testers this evening have been selected tracks from Bjork's Volta, Steely Dan's Everything Must Go track, South San Gabriel's Ensuing Light Of Day, Miriam Makeba's Kilimanjaro and Emily by Joanna Newsom. All A/B tested with a flick of the switch at the back of the DAC, and all scintillatingly won by the AE. My Arcam is, sadly, a souvenir of increasingly former times.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Have you tried the more complex stuff with the gentle bass boost switched back on? If it kicked the CD players butt at the first hurdle, why not switch it back on?!
 

JoelSim

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Aug 24, 2007
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Just about to pick up an A32/P35 combo for £700 ish. Mint.

Surely I'll get £500 for my amp combo at least.

[rubs hands]
 

JoelSim

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Aug 24, 2007
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I am curious how the sound quality can improve substantially, I have to say but I will let you know.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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OK, last word on the subject, since have stopped A/Bing and am just Listening To Music. To sum up, I had faint hopes that lossless + DAC would suddenly give me a source which would compete with CD players in the stratospheric price bracket, and that hasn't turned out to be the case - in the ad,ittedly tiny sample of music that I've compared, the Primare won one, and the DM won two, before I let the DM have a run at it and just play music, which is what it's doing now.

It won't save 128k files, they sound rubbish, but for 320 and lossless, it sounds simply brilliant - the equal, and in some cases the master, of what isn't exactly a rubbish CD player. For 99.9% of listeners out there, and 90% of us on here, it's probably all the source you could ever possibly need, and you'd be better off spending more on amp speakers and cables than trying to better the 275 quid I've had to invest in this setup.

That's not to say I'm chucking away the CD player - let's face it, it didn't turn into a rubbish source overnight and more to the point, it looks hot and it's plug and play. Going PC based requires an investment in time and hair-tearing, so it's clearly not for everybody. Is the Airport Express and DACMagic the very best source I've ever heard in my life? From memory, probably not. Is it the best 275 quid source out there (vinyl arguments aside)? Almost certainly. Is it the best 'player' of any sort I've ever owned? D'you know what - I think it is.
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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Go on, let the CD21 go. (That is the one you have right?)

They were worth £800 new (full RRP) and are still part of the current Primare range. You could get a good amount for it and jump up to the next level of DAC (Stello DA100 perhaps).

Your DacMagic, if sold now, would get a great price or you could take it back within the Richer Sounds return period and get the whole £200.

That could be a Stello DA100 almost paid for!

[I actually feel quite envious of people who have viable, good, current range CDPs they can sell when they get a new DAC. Because of my Arcam 'all in one', I cannot free up a nice chunk of 'upgrade money' in the same way.)
 

fatboyslimfast

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Jan 10, 2008
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JohnDuncan:Is it the best 'player' of any sort I've ever owned? D'you know what - I think it is.

See? Told ya! As I've said before people - if you already have iTunes, pairing the little AE with a decent DAC will rival players at least twice the price of the combo.

Clare and team - pretty pretty pretty please can someone put the AE with a top-end DAC and see what happens? I think there might be some surprises...
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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fatboyslimfast:Clare and team - pretty pretty pretty please can someone put the AE with a top-end DAC and see what happens? I think there might be some surprises...

I would echo this but question why the AE is always mentioned as if it were an essential part of every single DAC + computer set-up. The Airport Express merely (a) substitutes for a cable in this context (b) allows non Mac users without optical outputs to use an optical cable into a DAC. It is simply a connectivity option.

I think it could be mis-leading for people reading these types of threads to get them believing every computer + DAC arrangement has to have an Airport Express.

But yes, let's have more reviews of good DACs at all price levels being used with lossless computer music replay as a primary source rather than as an afterthought.
 
A

Anonymous

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I'm looking for an Arcam power amp, to go with my A90!!!!!!

ÿ
 

fatboyslimfast

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Jan 10, 2008
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chebby:fatboyslimfast:Clare and team - pretty pretty pretty please can someone put the AE with a top-end DAC and see what happens? I think there might be some surprises...

I would echo this but question why the AE is always mentioned as if it were an essential part of every single DAC + computer set-up. The Airport Express merely (a) substitutes for a cable in this context (b) allows non Mac users without optical outputs to use an optical cable into a DAC. It is simply a connectivity option.

I think it could be mis-leading for people reading these types of threads to get them believing every computer + DAC arrangement has to have an Airport Express.

But yes, let's have more reviews of good DACs at all price levels being used with lossless computer music replay as a primary source rather than as an afterthought.

Oh true, but unless you are using a Mac, there are tweaks to be made to avoid Windows re-sampling things and losing quality. Whilst I agree that these can be done, and are not overly tricky, the AE bypasses this by streaming the file to the player, not the resampled digital audio stream, as with the digital out of most soundcards pre-tweak.
 
A

Anonymous

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Just a quickie.....with all the comments about airport express...does it only work from iTunes or will it work from Windows media player as well.....

Thanks
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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fatboyslimfast:Oh true, but unless you are using a Mac, there are tweaks to be made to avoid Windows re-sampling things and losing quality. Whilst I agree that these can be done, and are not overly tricky, the AE bypasses this by streaming the file to the player, not the resampled digital audio stream, as with the digital out of most soundcards pre-tweak.

Agreed but I am sure WHF would find it problematic to include an Airport Express and iTunes (or even a Mac) in every such DAC review despite whatever advantages they posess. It could be viewed (at worst) as an Apple-centric bias or at the very least confusing for newcomers to the whole DAC thing.
 

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