Question How much to spend on a DAC?

Page 2 - Seeking answers? Join the What HiFi community: the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products.

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
448
301
19,270
I currently have a Cambridge CXA60 just with a Chromecast audio puck connected via toslink and Dali Zensor 3 speakers. I also use a Sony BDP-S7200 Blu-ray player for CD duties, but these days it’s mostly streaming. I also connect my TV to the Cambridge via optical.

If I was to go down the completely analogue route, something like a Rega Elex-R, and some appropriate speakers in the same £1000 ballpark, how much should you spend on a dedicated DAC before the rest of the system is actually holding it back?

Someone recently posted on here that they couldn’t hear a difference between their Ares 2 and Node. What type of gear do you need to actually get the benefit of DACs in the £750 price bracket?

Thanks.
Hi,
I have said this before, but if you pay a lot og money for a DAC (or other equipment) then you will psychologically be looking (hearing) for the "betterness" of the equipment.

I built my own DAC, and heard no difference between that and the Cambridge Audio DVD player rendition of the same music.

DAC IC's are very cheap, as are the other components to make a working design.

I would use ASR or the magazines to select the relevant DAC based on performance, and select that which had the relevant features, which includes selectable filters.

If you like distortion, then maybe go for a discrete R2R ladder DAC which may be to your liking.

In the end, spending lots of money is no guarantee of purchasing a better DAC or design.

Regards,
Shadders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

skinnypuppy71

Well-known member
Aug 10, 2021
220
116
970
If you don't want to spend as much on the denafrips ares ii. I can whole heartedly recommend njc audio's reference dac...the 192khz version is around £450, comes with a three year warranty and is specifically hand built for the customer. Your dac comes measured and tested with the paper work supplied along with the instructions which have your own name printed on the front (hand built for..........). Build time is around two weeks with regular updates from the lads at njc audio on the progress of your unit, cannot speak highly enough about the service from njc audio...oh and it sounds bloody good to boot.
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
448
301
19,270
I genuinely admire it when someone can be that hands on with such things, though it could be argued that you could have set the bar just a little higher! (Apologies for cheekiness in advance.)
Hi,
Well, it proves to me that there is no magic about DAC design etc. I completed the design before i was aware of the Bob Carver experiment. I always knew that foo existed in hifi (green pen for CD's etc). I spent a lot of money (comparatively) on the DAC due to the design. No sonic benefit at all. A basic implementation of the DAC IC and output stage is really all that is required, and will cost very little.

Regards,
Shadders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
1,423
846
2,070
I was thinking something like the Zen Stream, though I am aware many have had issues with it
And many, many more have not,...(me included) 🙂
I agree separates give you much more flexibilty. I bought the SMSL M400 for £630 from HiFi Express website (£180 cheaper than Amazon UK ...and it was still delivered by Amazon!) For me it is an 'endgame' DAC. 👍
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
1,443
425
19,570
Just remember the dac chip in a DAC is but just one component. As for DVD and Blu-ray players, well my Cambridge Audio 751BD played CDs ok, but better than my Arcam Solo Mini slot loader? Definitely not! I had the 751 connected to my Arcam, so testing was pretty much on a level field.
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

Oxfordian

Well-known member
Mar 20, 2021
297
226
1,270
Not a good idea as far as the digital part is concerned:
Very very happy with my H95, it sounds superb, at least to my ears and that is what counts as far as I am concerned. My purchase was made after listening to a number of different amps driving the same set of speakers after receiving the feed from the same CDT and cables.

Charts and graphs tell me very little about the sound that reaches my ears, but i'm sure that for some these things are important and form part of a decision making process.
 

shadders

Well-known member
Nov 19, 2009
448
301
19,270
Charts and graphs tell me very little about the sound that reaches my ears, but i'm sure that for some these things are important and form part of a decision making process.
Hi,
That is exactly the point. The measurements have never been stated to tell you how the DAC will sound. Any well designed DAC will sound the same as another well designed DAC.

The claim that the great sounding DAC's (as per a subjectivist statements), which are then shown to be the worst performing (measurement wise), where the measurements or measurement website are denigrated, is because people like distortions. As per the Bob Carver experiment - the distortion profile is what separates the equipment differences.

There are some excellent performing DAC's for quite a low cost (as per ASR website table).

Regards,
Shadders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
217
127
10,970
And many, many more have not,...(me included) 🙂
I agree separates give you much more flexibilty. I bought the SMSL M400 for £630 from HiFi Express website (£180 cheaper than Amazon UK ...and it was still delivered by Amazon!) For me it is an 'endgame' DAC. 👍
Hi Tinman

Would you recommend HiFi Express in terms of service? I’ve seen a few very negative reviews. How long ago did you use them and how long was the delivery time? I’m looking at the new D300.

Thanks
 

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
1,423
846
2,070
Hi Tinman

Would you recommend HiFi Express in terms of service? I’ve seen a few very negative reviews. How long ago did you use them and how long was the delivery time? I’m looking at the new D300.

Thanks
Hi! I understand SMSL are part owners of the site and I had no problems whatsoever. Mine came in 2 days from their 'UK warehouse' (which turned out to be Amazon...) I am not sure how many of their products are stored in the UK but you usually choose the supply point at the checkout. Saved me some cash and I would use them again. 👍
 
  • Like
Reactions: doifeellucky

A-Line

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2022
53
12
45
I currently have a Cambridge CXA60 just with a Chromecast audio puck connected via toslink and Dali Zensor 3 speakers. I also use a Sony BDP-S7200 Blu-ray player for CD duties, but these days it’s mostly streaming. I also connect my TV to the Cambridge via optical.

If I was to go down the completely analogue route, something like a Rega Elex-R, and some appropriate speakers in the same £1000 ballpark, how much should you spend on a dedicated DAC before the rest of the system is actually holding it back?

Someone recently posted on here that they couldn’t hear a difference between their Ares 2 and Node. What type of gear do you need to actually get the benefit of DACs in the £750 price bracket?

Thanks.
Everything starts will the actual recording.
A reference recording played back on a budget system will sound better than a okay recording played back on a reference system. Garbage in garbage out is the rule here.

Most people desire a playback sound as close to the master recording as possible, or so they claim.
With this concept in mind, you'll need to audition components within your budget that achieves your sonic goals.

Sound is subjective. What sounds right to one person may sound wrong to another.

The glossy mags & showrooms offer only a introduction to components. How certain components will sound in your living environment is a different matter altogether.

While most people claim that they purchase components based solely upon the sound the reality of it all paints a very different picture.

At least 50% of people purchase components based more on looks, tech specs, glossy mag reviews, cool factor, friends opinions, ect.,than sound alone.

For me I only look for 4 things when making a purchase of a new component:
1. Sound
2. Is it prone to break often?
3. Is it reasonablely priced for what it offers among other world class components in the same category?
4. Is it a component that will last at least 20-30 years with reasonable care?

Good luck with your auditions.
 
Last edited:

doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
217
127
10,970
Hi! I understand SMSL are part owners of the site and I had no problems whatsoever. Mine came in 2 days from their 'UK warehouse' (which turned out to be Amazon...) I am not sure how many of their products are stored in the UK but you usually choose the supply point at the checkout. Saved me some cash and I would use them again. 👍
Thanks, much appreciated.
 

doifeellucky

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2016
217
127
10,970
Everything starts will the actual recording.
A reference recording played back on a budget system will sound better than a okay recording played back on a reference system. Garbage in garbage out is the rule here.

Most people desire a playback sound as close to the master recording as possible, or so they claim.
With this concept in mind, you'll need to audition components within your budget that achieves your sonic goals.

Sound is subjective. What sounds right to one person may sound wrong to another.

The glossy mags & showrooms offer only a introduction to components. How certain components will sound in your living environment is a different matter altogether.

While most people claim that they purchase components based solely upon the sound the reality of it all paints a very different picture.

At least 50% of people purchase components based more on looks, tech specs, glossy mag reviews, cool factor, friends opinions, ect.,than sound alone.

For me I only look for 4 things when making a purchase of a new component:
1. Sound
2. Is it prone to break often?
3. Is it reasonablely priced for what it offers among other world class components in the same category?
4. Is it a component that will last at least 20-30 years with reasonable care?

Good luck with your auditions.
I appreciate the feedback. I’m definitely sound first, but not at the expense of enjoying the music. My Dad’s old 80’s system could make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Never had that since.
 
  • Like
Reactions: A-Line

A-Line

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2022
53
12
45
I appreciate the feedback. I’m definitely sound first, but not at the expense of enjoying the music. My Dad’s old 80’s system could make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Never had that since.
I can see how your dad's system may excel in the analog domain, but not in the digital realm. There has been lots of improvents in digital since the 1980's.
 

mgmasterv2

Active member
Mar 3, 2022
22
4
25
This was the key part of my question, the balance of the spend. I’m considering separates for flexibility in the longer term. Realistically how much do you think you need to spend on an amp and speakers to justify, and hear actual benefits of, a DAC in the £750 region? Having said that based on some recent reviews I was specifically looking at the SMSL D0300, which is about £400. And then potentially how much better might this be with an amp like the Rega Elex-r (£1000) or Exposure 2510 (£1600) compared to something like the Hegel H95 or NAD C700, or any other all in one up to £2000.

I appreciate the only way I’ll know is to audition for myself, and in my own home, and I still need to allow for a streamer. I was thinking something like the Zen Stream, though I am aware many have had issues with it.
At any price you will hear the difference, I have tested my amp integrated dac , ifi nano , Cambridge cxn v2, ifi neo , neo was the best sounding dad and then in scound place was cxn and if you want decent sound forget about the rest of them
 

mgmasterv2

Active member
Mar 3, 2022
22
4
25
I currently have a Cambridge CXA60 just with a Chromecast audio puck connected via toslink and Dali Zensor 3 speakers. I also use a Sony BDP-S7200 Blu-ray player for CD duties, but these days it’s mostly streaming. I also connect my TV to the Cambridge via optical.

If I was to go down the completely analogue route, something like a Rega Elex-R, and some appropriate speakers in the same £1000 ballpark, how much should you spend on a dedicated DAC before the rest of the system is actually holding it back?

Someone recently posted on here that they couldn’t hear a difference between their Ares 2 and Node. What type of gear do you need to actually get the benefit of DACs in the £750 price bracket?

Thanks.
i bought a ifi neo dsd and it clearly make a difference to the sound coming out of my kef q750(cxa) ang taga plat b40(hta800), even better i used my ifi neo as a preamp for advance paris power amplifier driving canton floor stands and sound was way better than using APs own preamp.
ifi dacs are phenomenal, neo and pro dsd are highly recommended
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts