DAC - Stand alone unit or built into amplifier

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Juzzie Wuzzie

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As Marjorie Dawes might say ... Air. Anybody? No? High in fat, low in fat? Air. Anybody? No? Air. Anybody? No? Air. Anybody? No? Air. Anybody? No? Air. Anybody? No? Air. It's actually very low in fat. You can have as much air as you like.


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Dec 26, 2023
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having gone down the all-in-one route with a SIMAUDIO Moon 390 and then a NAIM Uniti Nova, I think you can go either direction, as your space and budget allows and be happy with the sound.

I still have the Nova and run it semi-regularly and when gear from main system goes off to see the wizard.

the amp in the NOVA is exceptional, the streamer and DAC are also good, delivering a clean interpretation of the 1 and 0.. and it competed well with the streamer on a Lumin U1 Mini/ levinson class A 125w combo.

I actually preferred the NOVA over the separates combo in this pairing, if only for that good PRATy NAIM sound.

i think the answer here can be backed out a little further, to the common question/ conundrum of "all-in-one or separates?".

separates can deliver better performance but really nice all in ones can compete with nice separates.

what's easiest, is sometimes also what's goodest.


Well-known member
A seperate DAC will be better than any DAC built into an amplifier or CDP because they can focus all their engineering efforts on optimizing the DAC's performance without being constrained by the design considerations of an amplifier or CD player.

But an argument should be made for the synergy of audio components, where their designs are optimized for the entire audio path. In this context, having a DAC integrated into an amplifier could potentially lead to a better and more satisfying audio experience.

The integrated design allows for holistic optimizations, ensuring that the DAC, amplifier, and other components work together seamlessly, enhancing overall audio performance. This synergy enables manufacturers to fine-tune the interaction between different elements, potentially delivering a more cohesive and pleasing sound quality for the end user.

So which is better? I don't know, sorry.

Vincent Kars

Well-known member
would the addition of an outboard DAC give me that step up in SQ
DAC's still differ if one measure them. However they have become very good, so good that most of them have artifacts below -120 dBFS.
My line of reasoning is that if you have a power amp with a SNR of 80 dB, you have a clean range of 80 dB then the noise floor of the amp kick in masking all details. So this amp is not even able to resolve a CD properly.
If you have a modern amp (Zetex, Purify, Hypex) they do have a SNR close to 120 dB so extremely quiet. This are the amps able to resolve 24 bits recordings as in general they can contain musical information up to bit 20 so indeed musical life at -120 dBFS.

This make me wonder if one DAC has its artifacts below -120 dBFS and the other below -140 dBFS if there will be an audible difference as our playback chain is not able to resolve this even when we have that modern ultra low noise power amp.

On the other hand, if this is the performance of the H95 https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/hegel-h95-review-streaming-amplifier.28435/ you might profit using an external DAC
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