DAC to DAC to DAC to DAC??


Mar 8, 2022
Hi there,
I'm working on a new system with KEF Reference 5's for L/R and (2) KEF Reference 8b subs. This will also be part of a home theater with the McIntosh MC180 AV processor. I've spec'd out the McIntosh MC462 amp for the L/R channels. I'm planning to use a ROON library hosted on the SGM Extreme server. I'd like to use the Esoteric N-01XD DAC via USB from the ROON server but am having trouble figuring out how this works with the MX180. If I take the analog signal out from the N-01XD and bring it in to the MX180 via its balanced inputs, aren't I just sending it right back into its ADC for room correction/crossover/etc. then again back through another DAC before I can take it to the amp via the balanced outputs? Doesn't this make the special quality of the N-01XD basically useless in this chain?

Am I overthinking this? What is the best way to get the convenience of the MX180 processor but the quality of the N-01XD DAC?

Thanks for the feedback!

McIntosh MX180
McIntosh MC462
Esoteric N-01XD
SGM Extreme Server
KEF Reference 5 Speakers
KEF Reference 8b Subs


Well-known member
Mar 4, 2022
Hey ijspear!
Essentially, the question I would have for you, is do you want a HiFi stereo pair while using your ROON music library, or are you hoping to upmix into a surround/processed array of speakers?

I looked at the inputs and outputs of the Esoteric and McIntosh products. I would expect that you could just use the MX180 as a preamp, but to enjoy the Esoteric’s DAC and have an analog chain throughout, I believe you would have to bypass the MX180’s DSP and DAC functions (and thus not use its room correction and other digital signal processing features). This should be fine for music, and the chain would look like SGM Server > Esoteric > McIntosh MX180 > McIntosh MC462 > pair of KEF speakers.

While consuming video and gaming content, it makes the most sense to directly send the video and audio content through the MX 180 on its way to your speakers and TV. With this media, you wouldn’t be using the Esoteric or SGM Server in your signal chain.

You could probably switch between these setups with a few buttons on a remote, switching inputs on the MX 180. I envy your financial means to make such a system a possibility, and I hope you have fun!!