Do any Dacs have a selectable output?

dannycanham

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This is an area I have had no interest in the past but I would now like a DAC that can output to both an amp and a headphone amp. Any ideas?
 
A

Anonymous

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dannycanham said:
This is an area I have had no interest in the past but I would now like a DAC that can output to both an amp and a headphone amp. Any ideas?

Pro audio is more likely. You could also just by two Behringer UltraMatch boxes.. or just one if you don't mind using the supplied headphone socket. Or at a push a Y lead, but it is not clear how the extra loading would affect the sound.
 

Crocodile

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Just to add to Professorhat's post, the Caiman has both it's own headphone amp & dual analogue outputs. One is fixed line level & the other variable via the headphone volume control. So even if you don't like the inbuilt headhone amp you could still feed to yours.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2669/3757047349_1a3101e029_o.jpg

The Caiman+ is the one that substitutes USB for a second toslink.
 

professorhat

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Not sure if this is strictly what you're after, but the Beresford Caiman has both DAC and headphone amp built into it - very useful I find and keeps the number of boxes required to a minimum. There's also the Caiman+ which substitutes the USB input for a second optical connection.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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dannycanham said:
This is an area I have had no interest in the past but I would now like a DAC that can output to both an amp and a headphone amp. Any ideas?

if you have XLR ins on your amp you could use XLR outs from the DAC into your amp and RCA outs from the DAc into phone amp. provided you buy a DAC with both XLR and RCA outs. Cambridge Audio's DAC Magic or Nu Force's DAC-9 being two examples of having double analog outs. just my thought...

BTW, how do you rate your HA-160? I'm considering buying Burson Audio's DAC when it's out (HA! I've just noticed it's finally out! :pray: ) . so far heard only good things about Burson Audio, but was wondering what is your oppinion?

another option for resolving your problem would be switching HA-160 to HA-160D if you're OK with limited diigital input selection to just two (USB and coax). ;)

EDIT: just spotted that the new Burson Audio DAC-160 has double RCA type outputs. this might be a DAC for you.
 

dannycanham

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I haven't had enough chance to get used to the Burson yet. Although I've had a long time interest in Hi-Fi that didn't include headphones so I'm doing alot of catchup on the limits of headphone sockets on amps, the gains from dedicated headphone amps and the wildly varying driving requirements of headphones and how this can effect the viewpoint of a headphones qualities. I certainly have nothing negative to say about the Burson but I'm still getting to grips with what it can do.

The Burson dac looks like a great dac. Makes me look an idiot that the amp I'm trying to pair has a dac from the same company :). Going to have to keep an eye out on that one. I have only recently heard of the company but judging by their literature alone they really know what they are doing. I'm certainly going to aim to hear their range at some point.

Thanks for all the advice.

Yeah I don't know enough about how a y lead would affect the signal. I tend to want to keep kit simple and dedicated so it and the headphone dacs don't fall into the direction I want to go. I don't have XLR in my amps unfortunately.

Does anyone have any ideas why all the dacs mentioned output in parallel and don't have a selector? That appears to be the common way of doing things. I'm guessing there is a design reason.
 

Crocodile

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dannycanham said:
Does anyone have any ideas why all the dacs mentioned output in parallel and don't have a selector? That appears to be the common way of doing things. I'm guessing there is a design reason.
Simple cost I would imagine. Certainly at the Beresford price level I doubt it's something many would want/need, so not a lot of point increasing the cost to provide something that doesn't really add value for most users.

Must be plenty of 2-way phono switches around to do what you want? OK it's another box but not a very big one!
 

dannycanham

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Crocodile said:
dannycanham said:
Does anyone have any ideas why all the dacs mentioned output in parallel and don't have a selector? That appears to be the common way of doing things. I'm guessing there is a design reason.
Simple cost I would imagine. Certainly at the Beresford price level I doubt it's something many would want/need, so not a lot of point increasing the cost to provide something that doesn't really add value for most users.

Must be plenty of 2-way phono switches around to do what you want? OK it's another box but not a very big one!

Yeah I did consider a 2 way switch. OK to put it another way, why is it considered cost effective to have half a dozen selectable inputs on an amp as well as tape, pre outs, headphone out and possibly an A/B speaker out and why is it considered cost effective to have selectable inputs on dacs but not have selectable outputs? The companies are clearly aware that a dac is used for both headphones and speakers as they often come with a combined headphone amp. Most of the Dacs that appear to have multiple out only appear to have the option so a user can select to use XLR or unbalanced cabling for their amp rather than to connect two kinds of amp.

This might seem like a small point but I'm very used to having a switch to select an option. Maybe I'm a bit stuck in my ways.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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dannycanham said:
Does anyone have any ideas why all the dacs mentioned output in parallel and don't have a selector? That appears to be the common way of doing things. I'm guessing there is a design reason.

I don't really see a reason why they should have an output selector since regardles of the output used the outputted signal will always be the same. another story is with inputs, obviously. you need a selector because you don't want signals from different sources being mixed together (unless you work in a recording studio :)).

you can look at a DAC as if it was a preamp. you have input selector in a preamp (because you want signal only from one source being amplified and directed into power amp) but there's no output selector if a preamp has more than just one output (which is not uncommon).

besides, if you connect the DAC into your amp and phone amp I can't see how those devices would interfere so I don't see a reason for any output selector.
 

Crocodile

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Yep, a simple case of lack of demand I would think.

The DAC essentially becomes just another source device. Whilst I can think of a couple of CDPs with twin outputs ( 1 x fixed & 1 x variable like the Caiman), I can't think of any that offered a selector switch for these outputs.
 

theadmans

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For years I have been running the old 1990s vintage Camberidge Dacmagic 2 MK.II DAC (designed by John Westlake).

This DAC like the latest Dacmagic has XLR and RCA outputs. I use the RCA outputs to my Creek Integrated Amp and take the XLR outputs to my Little Dot III Headphone amp. The Headphone amp does not have an XLR inputs so I use a lead that converts from XLR to RCA (not balanced but still works fine).

The DAC also has 2 Co-Axial Digital inputs (one labelled CD and one DAT) and one optical input. You can switch between any of these inputs via a front panel switch. Regardless of what input I choose I get the sound available via my speakers or headphones. When listening to headphones I simply select an input on my Creek Integrated that is not linked to the DAC (so I don't get simultaneous sound through the speakers).

The old Dacmagic is bargain IMHO - it can be picked up for peanuts on eBay. Look out for the Dacmagic 2 Mk.II (the last and best sounding version).
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
I don't really see a reason why they should have an output selector since regardles of the output used the outputted signal will always be the same. another story is with inputs, obviously. you need a selector because you don't want signals from different sources being mixed together (unless you work in a recording studio :)).

you can look at a DAC as if it was a preamp. you have input selector in a preamp (because you want signal only from one source being amplified and directed into power amp) but there's no output selector if a preamp has more than just one output (which is not uncommon).

besides, if you connect the DAC into your amp and phone amp I can't see how those devices would interfere so I don't see a reason for any output selector.

You cannot look at a dac as a pre amp. A pre amp is designed for amplification into a speaker system whereas a dac should be designed to go into both a speaker and a headphone system. A speaker system is often design to run off multiple power amplifiers simultaniously. Some dac systems should be designed to run off a speaker and headphone system selectably.

The common advice online for adding a headphone amp into a speaker system is to add the headphone amp onto the tape loop of the speakers amplifier. Out of; increasing the number of possibly signal interfering components being passed through by 1 or having the main speaker system disconnected completely by a switch leaving the headphone setup as close as possible to a dedicated headphone system, or choosing a headphone amp with a line out again increasing the number of potentialy signal interfering components by one. I would have thought the hi fi purist would have wanted the middle option. I've googled this a little, there are threads entitled "how do you connect your headphone out" which contains several variants and "I hope my next amp has a good quality tape out" with people horrified by the quality drop when their headphone amp is connect via their current tape out, these threads shouldn't exist. It should be "my headphone amp is connected to the dedicated headphone amp out on my source" and that is it.

If you look at most AV source players. The option of a two channel out for a stereo and a seperate multi channel out for AV and the option to select between the two exists. I'm not 100% but I think all of a used to own DVD player, blu ray player, PS3 and Xbox 360 had this.

That is the only other area I can think of where a single source is often required for two types of amplifier. The AV hi fi geeks get selectable outputs but the headphone hi fi geeks make do with either an rca switch and extra cabling, tape out and loop through the speaker amp, rca out and loop through the headphone amp, seperate systems or splitter cables.

Alot of those options can be orders of magnitude worse than the jitter buzzword that people spend fortunes imagining they are fixing.
 

audioaffair

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Good question - its always a pain if you have a headphone amp and a normal amplifier and have to unplug one to use the other.

We aren't aware of many with a selectable output - but, providing it has 2 pre outputs, you can use either amplifier and turn the other one off when not in use.

Do you have XLR inputs on your amp or headphone amp?

If so, the new TEAC UD-HD1 DAC has both XLR and RCA outputs - although this has a headphone amp built in - the Musical Fidelity M1 DAC (a little more pricey) is also a good option with XLR/RCA outputs if within budget :)
 

oldric_naubhoff

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dannycanham said:
You cannot look at a dac as a pre amp. A pre amp is designed for amplification into a speaker system whereas a dac should be designed to go into both a speaker and a headphone system. A speaker system is often design to run off multiple power amplifiers simultaniously. Some dac systems should be designed to run off a speaker and headphone system selectably.

I think you misunderstood me. I was using comparison of DACs to preamps as a hyperbole, as both devices use multiple inputs and output the signal to other devices. I certainly wasn't saying that a DAC is a preamp. however, if you take things so literally, I hope it will not be so much of a surprise to you when I say that a DAC is infact very much like a preamp. both devices accept signal and amplify it (unless the preamp is a passive device). in case of a DAC; it accepts a digital stream which is then converted into week analog signal in DAC chip which is then amplified in analog output stage to line level signal (voltage gain). preamp deals with line level signal which gets first stage of voltage amplification before being sent down to power amp for further voltage gain and, more importantly, current amplification. infact, some DACs are also integreated preamps, i.e. Benchmark DAC pre. such DACs offer higher than average (i.e. line level) gain in analog stage to efficiently drive power amps or active speakers.

dannycanham said:
The common advice online for adding a headphone amp into a speaker system is to add the headphone amp onto the tape loop of the speakers amplifier. Out of; increasing the number of possibly signal interfering components being passed through by 1 or having the main speaker system disconnected completely by a switch leaving the headphone setup as close as possible to a dedicated headphone system, or choosing a headphone amp with a line out again increasing the number of potentialy signal interfering components by one. I would have thought the hi fi purist would have wanted the middle option. I've googled this a little, there are threads entitled "how do you connect your headphone out" which contains several variants and "I hope my next amp has a good quality tape out" with people horrified by the quality drop when their headphone amp is connect via their current tape out, these threads shouldn't exist.

whilst I agree that the most sensible approach to connect a headphone amp is to connect it to the line level out on preamp (i.e. tape loop out) as you get acces to any source connected to your preamp (be it for instance a DAC, A CDP, a tuner, a TT) I also acknowledge the fact it may not be optimal (the interference you're mentioning). but if you have a poor preamp which distorts signal you have to pay the price. I also acknowledge the fact that it's better to connect a phones amp directly to source. however, it was difficult for me to understand what you meant in most of the quoted paragraph. can you elaborate?

dannycanham said:
If you look at most AV source players. The option of a two channel out for a stereo and a seperate multi channel out for AV and the option to select between the two exists. I'm not 100% but I think all of a used to own DVD player, blu ray player, PS3 and Xbox 360 had this.

I hope you're not refering to sound output mode that you configure in player's menu. this is completly different matter as it's done on digital level through player's software and digital chips. in other words; in one case the digital stream is outputed in multichannel form, converted into multichannel analog signal, amplified in analog stage and outputted as multichannel line level signal through multichannel analog outs. in another case the multichannel digital stream can be downsampled to 2 channel stereo, then converted to stereo analog signal, then amplified in analog output stage and outputted through analog stereo outs. you get either multichannel or stereo. you don't get two modes being outputted simultaneously through analog outs so you can switch between them at a touch of a button. at least I have never heard of any multichannel player where you can switch between multichannel mode and stereo mode by chosing which analog outs are being used. and obviously that's what you're looking for. so in this light the AV world players would not be a good example to back up your view, of necessity for sources to having selectable outputs.

dannycanham said:
the jitter buzzword

I think there are a lot of knowledgeble people out there who would disagree with this statement. I too think that jitter is not a mere buzzword.

dannycanham said:
It should be "my headphone amp is connected to the dedicated headphone amp out on my source" and that is it.

I completly agree and therefore suggested that you choose a DAC with double analog outputs so you can integrate your main system with your phones amp. infact, if you read carefully, I wasn't the only one who suggested such solution. see theadmans's post or audioaffair guy's post. let me also quote what Burson Audio says about integrating its DAC into main sytem head phones system:

"Furthermore there are two sets of RCA outputs running parallel to make sharing the outputs of DA-160 between the two systems possible (eg, headphone amplifier and intergraded amplifier)."

surely, if a manufacturer suggests such a solution and doesn't see a reason for implementing any output selectors this must mean something, doesn't it?

I'll say it once again; if you choose a DAC with double outputs and use both of them; one into your main map and the other into phones amp it will not cause any interference! the only interference this combination might cause, that I can think of, would be when you wanted to listen to music on your headphones and also put the music on and crank the volume up on your main system. but in this case it would not be the devices causing interference but you to yourself by not switching the main system off.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
dannycanham said:
You cannot look at a dac as a pre amp. A pre amp is designed for amplification into a speaker system whereas a dac should be designed to go into both a speaker and a headphone system. A speaker system is often design to run off multiple power amplifiers simultaniously. Some dac systems should be designed to run off a speaker and headphone system selectably.

I think you misunderstood me. I was using comparison of DACs to preamps as a hyperbole, as both devices use multiple inputs and output the signal to other devices. I certainly wasn't saying that a DAC is a preamp. however, if you take things so literally, I hope it will not be so much of a surprise to you when I say that a DAC is infact very much like a preamp.

No I didn't misunderstand you. Two key words in the paragraph "simultaneously" and "selectably". I was pointing out that they have a key difference and you have misunderstood me. "Into a speaker system" implies to me that the pre amp feeds 1 or more power amps that play at the same time. Hence multiple outputs that output at the same time. "Into a speaker and headphone system" implies to me that a DAC feeds 1 or more amplifiers that are to be selected.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
however, it was difficult for me to understand what you meant in most of the quoted paragraph. can you elaborate?

My point was poorly put across. I am a long time hi fi enthusiast including training upto ElectroAcoustic degree level but I have never had the remotest interest in headphones. I have been skim reading forums as a catch up. My point was that in doing so there was alot of variation in the way headphone amps are connected with alot of varying results. For all connections I can think of off the top of my head we have standard options: pre, power, recording component, dac etc etc. As you have pointed out the headphone amplifier can have a standard as well but in comparison to other areas of hi-fi systems it is very much a minority. The Burson attitude is few and far between.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
however, it was difficult for me to understand what you meant in most of the quoted paragraph. can you elaborate?

My point was poorly put across. I am a long time hi fi enthusiast including training upto ElectroAcoustic degree level but I have never had the remotest interest in headphones. I have been skim reading forums as a catch up. My point was that in doing so there was alot of variation in the way headphone amps are connected with alot of varying results. For all connections I can think of off the top of my head we have standard options: pre, power, recording component, dac etc etc. As you have pointed out the headphone amplifier can have a standard as well but in comparison to other areas of hi-fi systems it is very much a minority. The Burson attitude is few and far between.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
dannycanham said:
If you look at most AV source players. The option of a two channel out for a stereo and a seperate multi channel out for AV and the option to select between the two exists. I'm not 100% but I think all of a used to own DVD player, blu ray player, PS3 and Xbox 360 had this.

I hope you're not refering to sound output mode that you configure in player's menu. this is completly different matter as it's done on digital level through player's software and digital chips. in other words; in one case the digital stream is outputed in multichannel form, converted into multichannel analog signal, amplified in analog stage and outputted as multichannel line level signal through multichannel analog outs. in another case the multichannel digital stream can be downsampled to 2 channel stereo, then converted to stereo analog signal, then amplified in analog output stage and outputted through analog stereo outs. you get either multichannel or stereo. you don't get two modes being outputted simultaneously through analog outs so you can switch between them at a touch of a button. at least I have never heard of any multichannel player where you can switch between multichannel mode and stereo mode by chosing which analog outs are being used. and obviously that's what you're looking for. so in this light the AV world players would not be a good example to back up your view, of necessity for sources to having selectable outputs.

The example is a good one. The level at which the switching is made is irrelevant. I was giving an improved example in comparison to yours. Maybe you are taking it too literally.

Again you have missed the key points.

1) If I wish my blu ray player to play stereo into my stereo amplifier-> I select stereo out. The signal is then output only through the stereo RCA connectors at the back.

2) If I wish my blu ray player to play multi channel into my multi channel amplifier-> I select multi channel out. The signal is then output only through the multi channel RCA connectors at the back.

The above example parallels very well with the headphone amp/speaker amp situation. I am certainly not suggesting that a stereo amplifier is an AV amplifier I am only commenting on the selection process when multiple amplifiers are involved.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
dannycanham said:
the jitter buzzword

I think there are a lot of knowledgeble people out there who would disagree with this statement. I too think that jitter is not a mere buzzword.

I am not saying the word jitter ONLY exists as a buzzword. I am saying that the word jitter for the MAJORITY exists as a buzzword. It IS a buzzword. Alot of very knowledgeable people would agree with me on that (and have). The digital domain is alot easier to word than the analog domain. An example is the resolution of a camera. The megapixels are quoted, commented on and the problem of a low megapixel range is discussed often but not in relation to the actual quality of the camera. Why? Because the average person cannot comment on the analog properties of a camera to equal degree so the requirements of a camera become distorted giving little relevance to one area and almost total relevance to another. There are knowledgeable people who understand a cameras qualities and to them megapixels is not a buzzword. To some the term has perspective and understanding, not just opinion and marketing. However "some people not using megapixels as a buzzword" is not mutually exclusive to "megapixels being a buzzword".
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
surely, if a manufacturer suggests such a solution and doesn't see a reason for implementing any output selectors this must mean something, doesn't it?

Unless I understand why. No. There is good design. There is bad design. There is compromised design. Rarely there is a design I don't understand. This is the latter and it will bug me until I find out why.

Good Hi Fi engineering follows the same principles as software engineering.

Decoupling: The term is used to identify the separation of software blocks that shouldn't depend on each other. Some building blocks are generic and shouldn't know details of others. Special design techniques allow software designers to have as few dependencies as possible. This typically reduces the risk of malfunction in one part of a system when the other part changed. It also forces the developer to focus on one thing at a time.

That goes hand in hand with engineering hi fi.

If we think of every peice of hi fi as a black box that shouldn't depend on anothers design, we know we have kit that will behave predictably when connected in the manner it was intended. We hit a problem in current DAC designs.

A DAC connected to one amp is predictable.

A DAC connected to to another amp is predictable.

A DAC connected to both amps cannot guarantee predictability without a switch.

The current DAC design goes against black box principles when both a speaker amp and heaphone amp are considered. I have rarely seen this happen in audio engineering without a detailed explanation as to why. Despite manufacturers enjoying documenting their theories and philosophies to distinguish their designs from one another, I have not found a reason for this.

We have a reason for your pre amp example. The system is designed so that multiple power amplifiers can run at the same time and switching between power amplifiers is not a requirement for a one room system.

That reason does not transfer to a dac. If there are people that wish their headphone and speakers to output at the same time I haven't read about it or witnessed amongst enthusiasts and esteemed acousticians alike. However switching between amplifiers is a requirement for a one room system. The current design leads to a dependance on the status of the other boxes in the chain.

It could be as simple as

"we have found that at DAC signal output levels a switch causes more deterioration to the audio signal than an always on connection causes even when any combination of the outputs 1 & 2 are being used which is why we don't offer an output switch"

"in an amplifier a switch causes less deterioration to the audio signal than an always on connection causes even when any combination of the outputs 1 & 2 are being used as the amplifier reacts heavily to the stress of controlling two sets of speakers at once which is why we offer an A/B speaker output switch"

The fact that it just is this way, isn't good enough for me and I will find out why eventually.
 

dannycanham

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oldric_naubhoff said:
dannycanham said:
This is an area I have had no interest in the past but I would now like a DAC that can output to both an amp and a headphone amp. Any ideas?

if you have XLR ins on your amp you could use XLR outs from the DAC into your amp and RCA outs from the DAc into phone amp. provided you buy a DAC with both XLR and RCA outs. Cambridge Audio's DAC Magic or Nu Force's DAC-9 being two examples of having double analog outs. just my thought...

BTW, how do you rate your HA-160? I'm considering buying Burson Audio's DAC when it's out (HA! I've just noticed it's finally out! :pray: ) . so far heard only good things about Burson Audio, but was wondering what is your oppinion?

another option for resolving your problem would be switching HA-160 to HA-160D if you're OK with limited diigital input selection to just two (USB and coax). ;)

EDIT: just spotted that the new Burson Audio DAC-160 has double RCA type outputs. this might be a DAC for you.

A review classed the headphone amplifier as all the headphone amplifier one could want under $1500 and all the headphone amplifier one could want for the majority of cans. I would agree completely. It has disappeared into my system and the audible criticisms in playback are down to the limitations and colouration of all my other kit. I love my Spendors and like my Dali's. Wouldn't get rid of them. I like my DACs and amps too but if I was in a position to clear them out and test Bursons pre, power and DAC I would.
 

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