DACS...

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there seems to be alot of talk about them on here lately, some say they differ greatly from one another, and some not, i've only compared two, the dac in my airport express and a vdac that i had.

i couldn't really find any difference between them, so i sold the vdac, so being an inquisitive so and so i've been thinking, how can they differ? i mean how would an arcam rdac have arcam "house" sound and a rega dac the rega house sound?

if the actual dac chip just converts the digital data to analogue, how would there be a difference in sound? how can one dac give better bass for example? because anything that's added would have to be done so after conversion, how could this be done? how would the other electronics (actual dac chip aside) be able to influence the analogue output?

i don't get it.....
 
A

Anonymous

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maxflinn said:
there seems to be alot of talk about them on here lately, some say they differ greatly from one another, and some not, i've only compared two, the dac in my airport express and a vdac that i had.

i couldn't really find any difference between them, so i sold the vdac, so being an inquisitive so and so i've been thinking, how can they differ? i mean how would an arcam rdac have arcam "house" sound and a rega dac the rega house sound?

if the actual dac chip just converts the digital data to analogue, how would there be a difference in sound? how can one dac give better bass for example? because anything that's added would have to be done so after conversion, how could this be done? how would the other electronics (actual dac chip aside) be able to influence the analogue output?

i don't get it.....
the difference between my laptop soundcard to my beresford 7520 DAC is staggering. I believe there is a difference between DACs, i dont know enough about them though to answer ur questions though.
 

CnoEvil

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maxflinn said:
chebby said:
Because there is a lot more going on than just the DAC chip.
what else goes on?
Alright Max, I'll bite.

Given my knowledge is totally superficial here's some issues that effect the sound: how it deals with jitter; is it as asynchronous; does it over-sample/upsample; filtering; power supply;isolation; quality of componants; are tubes used; connection type (usb/coax/optical/phono);24 bit compliant etc. etc

Will that do for starters? :)

Cno
 
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Anonymous

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CnoEvil said:
maxflinn said:
chebby said:
Because there is a lot more going on than just the DAC chip.
what else goes on?
Alright Max, I'll bite. Given my knowledge is totally superficial here's some issues that effect the sound: how it deals with jitter; is it as asynchronous; does it over-sample/upsample; filtering; power supply;isolation; quality of componants; are tubes used; connection type (usb/coax/optical/phono);24 bit compliant etc. etc Will that do for starters? :) Cno
that's a decent stab at it cno :)

what i'm wondering though is how the analogue waveform can have anything added to it? i wonder if it's more a case of the better dacs causing less distortion of said waveform? and thus having a better sound.

that seems more plausible to me, though it still doesn't answer how different dacs could have a house sound :O
 

CnoEvil

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Where is an expert when you need one? :~

Here are some more thoughts:

When Linn introduced their new Dynamik (switch mode, I think) power supply, there was a big improvement in the sound of the DS.

One of the big differences between Linn Akurate and Klimax is the casework and isolation of componants.

Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note, would argue that all the oversampling and filtering ruins the heart of the music. His dacs are NOS tube dacs, with 18 bit chips.

DCS don't use the "off the shelf" solution to the chip, but have designed their own and keep the signal in the analogue domain as long as possible (or something like that)....their website explains better.

If the handling of jitter/timing is off, it ruins the sound.

That's about my lot

Cno
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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I have experience of two stand-alone DACs...

Firestone Audio Fubar II DAC + dedicated Supplier PSU.

Beresford TC7520.

Obviously there is a DAC inside my Marantz M-CR603 (a jolly good one I would say) and one in my old Naim CD5i-2 and in my Sony BDP-S370 and my telly. (The Sony S370 DAC is bypassed by connecting it optically to the Marantz.)

The Naim CD5i-2 used some pretty ancient DAC chips, and opamps I could have bought for much less than a quid. However, whatever was going on - with the application of these cheap chips - was very impressive despite their lack of bang-up-to-date credentials.

As mentioned, the Marantz M-CR603 DAC is excellent (whether employed with internet radio, AirPlay, or DVD/BD sound, or just playing CDs) but I have no idea what DAC is used.

In the case of both the Beresford and the Fubar II, I upgraded the opamps in both of them and there was an improvement in the sound with both of them.

With the Fubar, I upgraded from the basic 'wall wart' PSU to the £120 dedicated 'Suppler' PSU and that improved the sound too.

So in the last two instances - where I could improve key components myself - the DACs in question had improved sound afterwards.

Therefore I know first-hand that - at least in two instances - improving/upgrading opamps (and a PSU) can improve the sound of a DAC.

So in my opinion that logic can, in principal, be extended to any DAC at any price. They are all improvable even if the actual DAC chips are the same.
 

Mr Morph

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I'm so glad Chebby wrote all of that. And he's quite right!

The Dac Chip itself is greatly responsible for the general sound by my estimation. After this the number of power supplies and amount of regulation comes into the equation as far as clarity is concened. Jitter also comes into the equaltion, and whether the DAC clock locks back to the transport.

The point Chebby makes about opamps is also valid. However, I've yet to be convinced that expensive caps and resistors make any sonic difference at all. Sorry if people find this aspect controversial, but I can only tell you what my experience has been. I can site a number of examples (like the PS1) which everyone agrees sounded fantastic. Do you really think Sony fitted audio grade components to the PS1? Yet it insisted on sounding pretty darn good.
 

Craig M.

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the differences between dacs can be subtle, especially if you are swapping from one straight to the other and back. how noticeable the differences are will be influenced by the rest of your system - if, for instance, you had an amp and speakers that bordered on too warm, adding a dac that tended in the same direction could push it too far making the difference seem bigger than it is. i had exactly that situation when i added a dacmagic to a moon amp and dynaudio speakers, the bloated bass of the dm brought out the worst in the moon/dyn combo and the result was huge amounts of bass compared to the beresford that replaced it. having heard the beresford and dacmagic in a more neutral setup, the difference in bass output is not as great as i first thought.

even when it's a slight difference when swapping from one to another, it can be a lot more significant in the long term.

some dacs do sound quite different though, the chord qbd76 i had matched my atc gear very well but with my opals the bass was a bit heavy, the benchmark i now have would have sounded lean and maybe even clinical with the atcs but matches the opals very well. the difference in bass output and overall sound between the dacs is almost on a par with a change of speakers. given that most dacs and cdplayers measure ruler flat in frequency response, the differences must lie somewhere else.

in terms of jitter i think most modern dacs have pretty good jitter rejection. my benchmark shrugs off just about any amount.
 
A

Anonymous

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Actually, the convertion stage is not the most important part of an external DAC or CD player. Right after a DAC chip, the power of converted audio signal is not enough to feed an amp input. In order to bring up that signal till a required amplitude, there's a analoge stage which is responsible for pre-amplification of audio signal.

Makers usually save money on analog stage where the most expensive parts are applied. In pre-amp stages the most common parts are OPAs, coupling caps and resistors where makers save money. For example, there're ordinary 10p and boutique 150 pounds capacitors (MKP's or paper in oil caps are used in signal path in high-end projects instead of cheap caps) depending on brand and model. And the same is valid for resistors (0,1% film resistor is very expensive), OPAs (there're many models retailed at many prices), retifying diodes (the best are schottky types) and eletrolitic caps (back gates are the famoust), transformers (can be quite pricey), etc.

Then, there's no miracle. By saving on those parts, audio signals will be degraded thru the path till DAC output.
 

Overdose

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The differences in sound from one DAC to another, if there are any, is down to the design of the DAC assembly and not the DAC chip or OPAMP individually.

An NE5532 OPAMP well implemented will sound far better than 'superior' LM4562s for example, if they are in a poorly designed circuit.

The practice of OPAMP 'rolling' produces different 'sounds', because you are altering the values of a carefully setup and designed assembly. Remember that perceived sound quality differences are actually just different levels of distortion which may or may not be to the liking of the listener. So an 'improvement' may just be providing the type of distortion that is liked the most.

For me, accuracy, detail and soundstage are my favoured character traits, but DACs, just as much as other hifi equipment, can be tuned to give a house sound by altering the values of the components within the electronic circuit of the equipment in question.

So a well implemented DAC should not sound much different from another regardless of manufacturer, unless the manufacturer has elected to add something to the sound, ie distortion, through corner cutting or by design.
 
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Anonymous

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Overdose said:
So a well implemented DAC should not sound much different from another regardless of manufacturer, unless the manufacturer has elected to add something to the sound, ie distortion, through corner cutting or by design.
Sure, but you could make the same argument really for any component, if neutrality is what we're looking for. Cables, Amps. well, maybe not speakers. :)
 
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Anonymous

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That would include speakers, actually. If neutrality is to be achieved, and it depends how you define it, then once it has been there is no need for the plethora of equipment currently available. A neutral system would reproduce every aspect of the sound as it was played, thereby rendering everything else both coloured and, dare I say it superseded. Needless to say, that's the last thing the HiFi ndustry wants to happen.
 
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Anonymous

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I have the Rega dac. The other day I sat down to listen to some music and it did not sound quite right. Nothing major but just not as involving as it previously had been. At first I thought there might be something in this 'burn in' mularkey, but for me negatively. Then I realised someone had moved one of the filter settings. I put it back and everything was as it had previously been. So if there can be a difference between filter settings then why not whole dacs? My squeezebox duet and cd player both sound better through my new dac.
 

Thaiman

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Power supples in DAC unit make a big different. A well build and money no object rrp DAC normally have 4 or 5 power supples (or many more) to look after indivual states of signal path. Chipsets, normally, determind the house sound so sometime you can guess the overall charactor of each DAC by looking that the module. I like 16 bit or 20 bit DAC because it's easier to design and build, however when a highly upsample machine, done right will sound more accurate.
 

pete321

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The the type of DAC chip has less of an effect on the sound than the opamps used, some giving a more analytical sound than others. Replacing opamps in hifi can produce quite large changes in way it will sound.
 
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Anonymous

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RMutt said:
I have the Rega dac. The other day I sat down to listen to some music and it did not sound quite right. Nothing major but just not as involving as it previously had been. At first I thought there might be something in this 'burn in' mularkey, but for me negatively. Then I realised someone had moved one of the filter settings. I put it back and everything was as it had previously been. So if there can be a difference between filter settings then why not whole dacs? My squeezebox duet and cd player both sound better through my new dac.
There defintely is difference. That was not the point I was making. It was just a theoretical point about all perfectly made dacs would sound alike.
 

CnoEvil

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Thaiman said:
Power supples in DAC unit make a big different. A well build and money no object rrp DAC normally have 4 or 5 power supples (or many more) to look after indivual states of signal path. Chipsets, normally, determind the house sound so sometime you can guess the overall charactor of each DAC by looking that the module. I like 16 bit or 20 bit DAC because it's easier to design and build, however when a highly upsample machine, done right will sound more accurate.
Hi Thaiman

Given your wonderfully musical taste in the selection of a system, and your extensive knowledge of high-end gear, would it be possible to "pick your brain" about Dacs/Streamers for a moment?

What Dacs do you rate as being musical and analogue like with their presentation (up to say £10k)?

Have you heard any of the Audio Note range, and if so, have you heard them outside an AN system?

What is your view on NOS/Tube dacs and do you prefer their presentation?

Are there any conventional dacs that you rate, say from Linn or DCS (I've yet to hear DCS sound good, but it may have been what it was paired with)?

Sorry for all the questions, but I couldn't think of anyone better to ask.

Many thanks

Cno
 

Overdose

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Grottyash said:
That would include speakers, actually. If neutrality is to be achieved, and it depends how you define it, then once it has been there is no need for the plethora of equipment currently available. A neutral system would reproduce every aspect of the sound as it was played, thereby rendering everything else both coloured and, dare I say it superseded. Needless to say, that's the last thing the HiFi ndustry wants to happen.
And that is the crux of the matter. For true hi-fi, accuracy, detail and clarity are prerequisites, after all that's what hi-fi means. Any tonal differences are there by design ( or lack thereof ) and do not constitute 'better' or 'worse', merely different.

Anyway, back to the OP, I'm still looking for any differences with DACs and once I've made a few modifications to my DIY DAC, I'll be even better placed to comment on the varying DAC 'sounds'.
 

CnoEvil

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Overdose said:
Grottyash said:
That would include speakers, actually. If neutrality is to be achieved, and it depends how you define it, then once it has been there is no need for the plethora of equipment currently available. A neutral system would reproduce every aspect of the sound as it was played, thereby rendering everything else both coloured and, dare I say it superseded. Needless to say, that's the last thing the HiFi ndustry wants to happen.
And that is the crux of the matter. For true hi-fi, accuracy, detail and clarity are prerequisites, after all that's what hi-fi means. Any tonal differences are there by design ( or lack thereof ) and do not constitute 'better' or 'worse', merely different.

Anyway, back to the OP, I'm still looking for any differences with DACs and once I've made a few modifications to my DIY DAC, I'll be even better placed to comment on the varying DAC 'sounds'.
I would have a slightly different take on "neutrality". For me, it's acurately reproducing the recording itself...warts and all. This may not sound like how it originally sounded live.

Cno
 

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