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DAC/Preamp for Active Speakers

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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****** that. Blank post (ooh, editing it let me add a "B", that's much better). That'll teach me to post threads from work. Slightly shortened version...

Looking for combined DAC/preamp to run studio monitors (probably Adam Audio A7X, but need to audition).

Leading contenders are Luxman DA-200. Pros: full bodied, smooth natural sound. Cons: biggish, no remote control.



Benchmark DAC1 HDR. Pros: Compact, remote control, switchable voltage in case I move overseas. Cons: can't audition, worried that it may be too analytical combined with studio monitors, although I am a sucker for detail.



What else should I consider? Emotiva XDA-2? Please share any suggestions or experiences with respect to products that might suit. At the moment my heart says the Luxman while my head says the Benchmark.
 

busb

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Jun 14, 2011
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I currently feed my M-DAC via XLR into my power amp. A friend has recently part-exchanged his newish M-DAC for a NAD M51. Both DACs have both RCA & XLR outputs with remote volume that would be suitable for active speakers. He considers the NAB to be hugely better.

He's yet to bring the NAD round so I can hear it in my system but it has a reputation for being smooth with loads of detail & very deep & tight bass which I can confirm in his own setup. Most DACs that have dual outputs are not designed to use both together. The NAD has two HDMI inputs & a passthrough output. It supports 24/192 over USB with the driver installed.
 

mitch65

Well-known member
Dec 16, 2003
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18,540
April Music Eximus DP-1 pros - small, well built, sounds fab, home demo (igloo audio)

cons - no remote, oh and maybe the price ;)
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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The NAD looks good, but it's a bit pricey and I don't think it is available here (Japan). MDAC is available and in the price range I'm looking at, butI've read some less than encouraging reports on its performance as a preamp.

The EXIMUS DP1 looks nicely made, but it's a serious leap in price over the Benchmark and probably more than I'm willing to spend.

I don't see Naim around in Japan that much, but it is distributed here. Might be a little while before the DAC makes it over. It also looks like they get a massive markup.
 

Ketan Bharadia

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Jun 7, 2007
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I've used the M-DAC as a preamp for around a year or so, and have never had any issues with its performance (when its price is taken into account).
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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Ketan Bharadia said:
I've used the M-DAC as a preamp for around a year or so, and have never had any issues with its performance (when its price is taken into account).
Thanks. I'll try to audition it.

The Scarlett 2i2 is also a candidate if I decide to shoot for something budget. It's available here for similar prices so I'll see if I can get a listen. Also the Nuforce Icon HDP ticks budget and size boxes, but no remote.
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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DocG said:
Hi ID,

Are Wyred4Sound DACs available in Japan? The W4S-DAC2 seems to tick all the boxes ($1500), and for another $100 you can add DSD-support.
No distributor here, so I'd have to import it myself. Pity the exchange rate is now around 99 yen to the US$ rather than the 79 it was a few months ago.
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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I find the Benchmark to be a perfect match to my active monitors. I'm sure you could spend a lot less and still get great performance though.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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ID.

Given your relatively modest choice of monitors, your initial suggestions sound over the top, price wise.

Given where you live, I would have thought that locally made product would be the best value, though it is a very long time since I took any interest in the Japanese home market so offer no recomendations.

The Matrix Quattro Dac/preamp should be available in your neck of the woods for sensible money, effectively a very decent 'copy' of a full function Benchmark Dac 1, should do very nicely.

If it is not available locally, try http://tamaudio.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=96
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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matt49 said:
If you're not in a hurry, John Westlake's "MDAC2" should be worth waiting for.

Matt
Link to some details?

At the moment I'm stuck between that "OMG I want to sell up my current kit and get new stuff as quickly as possible" mood while the more objective part of my brain realizes I'll get over it in a week or so and then be able to take my time and make a much more informed decision rather than an impulse purchase.
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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davedotco said:
ID.

Given your relatively modest choice of monitors, your initial suggestions sound over the top, price wise.

Given where you live, I would have thought that locally made product would be the best value, though it is a very long time since I took any interest in the Japanese home market so offer no recomendations.

The Matrix Quattro Dac/preamp should be available in your neck of the woods for sensible money, effectively a very decent 'copy' of a full function Benchmark Dac 1, should do very nicely.

If it is not available locally, try http://tamaudio.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=96
I need to look more closely because many local products don't make it clear that they can be used as a preamp (although I could just run them off the headphone amp). The Benchmark is more than I'd like to spend, but it ticks all the boxes. I figured if I spend that much I'd hold onto it to use even if I upgraded and because both the monitors and Benchmark have switchable voltage, it means I wouldn't have to sell them at a loss if I moved back to Australia.

The Luxman I would get 2nd hand, although even new it costs a bit less than a pair of the Adam Audios here.

The Matrix I had heard of and is reasonably priced, but reviews seemed mixed. Maybe I need to convince myself that most DACs essentially sound the same.
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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ID. said:
Link to some details?

At the moment I'm stuck between that "OMG I want to sell up my current kit and get new stuff as quickly as possible" mood while the more objective part of my brain realizes I'll get over it in a week or so and then be able to take my time and make a much more informed decision rather than an impulse purchase.
http://wikkii.org/wiki/M-DAC_Next

The page is very slow to load.

Essentially, John W. has crowd-sourced funding from PFM forum members to develop his successor to the MDAC, which will be the first product under the new 'Lakewest' brand. Exactly when it'll go into production isn't clear.

Matt
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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ID. said:
I need to look more closely because many local products don't make it clear that they can be used as a preamp (although I could just run them off the headphone amp). The Benchmark is more than I'd like to spend, but it ticks all the boxes. I figured if I spend that much I'd hold onto it to use even if I upgraded and because both the monitors and Benchmark have switchable voltage, it means I wouldn't have to sell them at a loss if I moved back to Australia.

The Luxman I would get 2nd hand, although even new it costs a bit less than a pair of the Adam Audios here.

The Matrix I had heard of and is reasonably priced, but reviews seemed mixed. Maybe I need to convince myself that most DACs essentially sound the same.
Unless you are in to serious, and I mean serious headphone listening the Quattro is pretty damn good, much prefer it to the Mdac for example.

Even less expensive is the Matrix Mini-I, fantastic value though operationally it does have it's idiosyncracies, currently just £230 from a uk supplier, bargain of the moment in the uk in my view.

Edit;

Just checking, if you plan to use the usb as a main input, probably better with the Quattro.
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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Probably not USB as the main input but I may in future. The Matrix Quattro seems good value, but I always found it offputting that it is claimed to be a copy of the Benchmark. I know of at least one person on these forums using the Matrix DAC with far more expensive actives than the A7Xs. It's good in terms of the overall budget, but I can't audition.

I think the problem is I'm already half in love with the Luxman evewn though I've only heard it withs it's matching power amp and through headphones. That Lux tone I envision as being a great match with some highly analytical monitors. Time to start looking around and get my head out of impulse purchase mode.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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ID. said:
Probably not USB as the main input but I may in future. The Matrix Quattro seems good value, but I always found it offputting that it is claimed to be a copy of the Benchmark. I know of at least one person on these forums using the Matrix DAC with far more expensive actives than the A7Xs. It's good in terms of the overall budget, but I can't audition.

I think the problem is I'm already half in love with the Luxman evewn though I've only heard it withs it's matching power amp and through headphones. That Lux tone I envision as being a great match with some highly analytical monitors. Time to start looking around and get my head out of impulse purchase mode.
Go for it...... :cheers:

Their is simply nothing better than indulging your impulses and buying what you want, when you want it.

Being sensible is not always what it is cracked up to be.......
 

busb

New member
Jun 14, 2011
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I've been using my M-DAC for 18 months now wirthout a preamp. It may not be the smoothest or detailed Pre/DAC bt it is dynamically better than many more expensive ones. Mine has proved reliable & with designer-supplied firmware upgrades, has display dimming/timeout. The M-DAC IS very good value for money, possibly exceptional for its price.

I'm going to have to wait a week or two before I can compare it with the NAD M51 in my own system. It will be interesting comparing a £599 one with a £1499 DAC.
 

MattSPL

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Jan 4, 2010
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+1 on the Matrix Quattro. I have used it with ATC scm50asl's, ATC PA65's, and Digidesign RM2's.

It's a great Dac, especially for the £450 asking price.
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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Thanks busb. I'll definitely audition it. As shallow as it might seem, I also like the appearance of the MDAC.

MattSPL, I was hoping you'd chime in on the Quattro as I've seen you talk about it on here as well as on Head-FI, etc. Have you ever compared it ot the Benchmark? I'd also be interested in your impressions of the Quattro compared to other DACs or your CD player.
 

MattSPL

New member
Jan 4, 2010
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I haven't had the opportunity to compare the Quattro to any other Dac's, only an Arcam FMJ CD33 that i used to own.
The Quattro is a big step up from the Arcam CD player.

The Quattro is very musical and digs really deep in the detail department, and also has excellent bass power and extension. Timing is spot on too.
I've changed speakers a few times over the last few years, initially upgrading to a peak of ATC scm50asl's and JL Audio F112, and then downgrading to my current system due to being out of work a lot the last couple of years due to the economy.

The scm50 and JL combination was very impressive, and showcased the Quattro's abilities in the timing department, never sounding congested even with Aphex twins finest beats :grin:
I now struggle to enjoy Aphex twin as much, as my current speakers and sub don't quite have that razor sharp timing i got used to.

The Yulong SABRE DA8 looks very interesting too, although its nearly twice the price of the Quattro.

Here's a few pics of my Quattro.







 

shooter

New member
May 4, 2008
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Do you need a dac with pre?

I've played around and owned a few but now run a dac with no pre and use the media player on the pc to control the volume and eq, it opens up other possibilities if you run a system similar to this.
 

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