I need to upgrade my DAC... thoughts please...

Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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Hi, I recently upgraded my system to a pair of Q Acoustics 3050i and a Rega IO as per great suggestion on this forum. Very happy with them but since then I had the suspicion that my IFI Zen is actually a weak link on the whole thing.

I also own a Topping D10 MkI and I plugged it in a couple of days ago. And here is what I get with both:
- Zen has the bigger soundstage, strong lows but might be too warm for the already warm speakers. Little details and background instruments meld and almost disappear into the more prominent stuff.
- Topping has clearly a smaller soundstage, less depth but separation is better and details are much more perceptible.

All these differences are very evident on a track like Koop Islands Blues. Spacious with the ZEN, almost can only tell what the vibraphone is doing with the Topping.

So, thinking from a synergetic point of view, I suspect that something with a more recent Sabre chipset would be a good choice. Geshelli Labs j2, Loxjie D30 V2, SMSL SU-8s? Someone suggested the Allo Revolution on another forum but I can't find much on it.

R-2R DACs are probably overkill for me and my system...

Thoughts, suggestions, etc?

OH, btw! Files are stored in a PC that connects via USB to the DAC.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I really don't think you'd be disappointed with a KhadasToneboard (used in the March Audio DAC 1).
Though I understand how many people would be put off by its skeletal need for an enclosure, some more so due to its 'low' price.
(Even though it's currently at the highest price I've seen it, at £110).
 
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Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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There's the Tone 2 with a... can't decide if it's a nice enclosure or not... :ROFLMAO: A quick search gets me one for £187.

It's the same chip but I think it's not the same board, is it? At least the 2 has a lot of tweaking through that very weird interface wheel.
 

Gray

Well-known member
There's the Tone 2 with a... can't decide if it's a nice enclosure or not... :ROFLMAO: A quick search gets me one for £187.

It's the same chip but I think it's not the same board, is it? At least the 2 has a lot of tweaking through that very weird interface wheel.
Yes, I thought the KTB2 looked a bit weird too (still, nobody would buy the KTB1 based on looks either).
In view of what you've said, maybe something by Topping would suit you.....
 
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Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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I considered the D10s or even the E50. I'm a bit afraid of their implementation though, I'm under the impression that their dacs tend to have a more narrow and shallow soundstage, that's something I didn't want to lose from the Zen.

I find it weird that there are very few reviews of the Loxjie D30 2021, that one sounds interesting. ES9068AS like the E50 but with an integrated low noise PSU. Probably because it's a recent one...
 
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Tinman1952

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Hi, I recently upgraded my system to a pair of Q Acoustics 3050i and a Rega IO as per great suggestion on this forum. Very happy with them but since then I had the suspicion that my IFI Zen is actually a weak link on the whole thing.

I also own a Topping D10 MkI and I plugged it in a couple of days ago. And here is what I get with both:
- Zen has the bigger soundstage, strong lows but might be too warm for the already warm speakers. Little details and background instruments meld and almost disappear into the more prominent stuff.
- Topping has clearly a smaller soundstage, less depth but separation is better and details are much more perceptible.

All these differences are very evident on a track like Koop Islands Blues. Spacious with the ZEN, almost can only tell what the vibraphone is doing with the Topping.

So, thinking from a synergetic point of view, I suspect that something with a more recent Sabre chipset would be a good choice. Geshelli Labs j2, Loxjie D30 V2, SMSL SU-8s? Someone suggested the Allo Revolution on another forum but I can't find much on it.

R-2R DACs are probably overkill for me and my system...

Thoughts, suggestions, etc?

OH, btw! Files are stored in a PC that connects via USB to the DAC.
Hi. Have you considered a separate power supply for the Zen DAC rather than the noisy/contaminated power from your PC? I would expect that to give you exactly the improvement you are seeking. In HiFi it's the electrical power that determines the sound....
 
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Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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Hi @Tinman1952 , no I haven't... I keep reading it makes no difference or very little difference. I'm inclined to believe it does something, the same way dacs don't all sound the same.

You mean a regular 5V power outlet or the linear power toroidal transformer units like the Topping P50?
 

Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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Hi @Tinman1952 , no I haven't... I keep reading it makes no difference or very little difference. I'm inclined to believe it does something, the same way dacs don't all sound the same.

You mean a regular 5V power outlet or the linear power toroidal transformer units like the Topping P50?
Well iFi sell their own iFi iPower low noise unit which they used to provide with the Zen DAC but now it has to be bought separately. Was £50 but is a bit more now... otherwise any 5 volt linear power supply will be an improvement. I even know of people who have used a battery pack used to charge up phones etc. Most reviewers stress the importance of a good clean PSU.
 
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Kutusov

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Was rummaging the house for a 5V charger just to try. All the 5V have smaller plugs but I found a Linear Power Supply with the right plug... but it's 12v :rolleyes::ROFLMAO: Had no idea I had one of those but apparently that's what my router uses.

I'll order a 5V one. If that doesn't improve the IFI, I'll then order a red (!) Topping E50 and use it on that one.
 

ThisIsJimmy

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Nov 11, 2020
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I considered the D10s or even the E50. I'm a bit afraid of their implementation though, I'm under the impression that their dacs tend to have a more narrow and shallow soundstage, that's something I didn't want to lose from the Zen.
Yes they the soundstage is impeccably linear and slightly narrower. That's usually a trend of Toppings products. If you want something different i'd recommend having a watch of this. It's not bad on comparing on how the different manufacturers perform:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCP63G8MYOI


I'll order a 5V one. If that doesn't improve the IFI, I'll then order a red (!) Topping E50 and use it on that one.
Topping E50 for a desktop DAC is a sound choice. Just be wary to get the balanced power output that it uses TRS rather than XLR. But if you consider the PA5 for an all round solution as the AMP, then it's not a bad way to go about it.

However you cannot argue against it's performance: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-e50-review-balanced-dac.26219/
 
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Kutusov

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That's an interesting video, thank you! It made me want a Bifrost or Gungnir :ROFLMAO:

Not really worried about balanced connections or headphone amps, I just want a DAC to bridge the PC and the amplifier.
 

Gray

Well-known member
It makes sense that a clean power supply would be an advantage.
I've supplied my DAC with 5 volts of 'dirty' USB power, switched mode power, linear power and, the cleanest, D.C. power from a battery.
I noticed no difference in sound.
Maybe I didn't listen hard enough ;)....but if you have to listen that hard to hear any difference, as far as I'm concerned, there's not enough difference for me to worry about .
 
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rainsoothe

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Personally, I would save the pennies and go for a Rega Dac. Had the original Dac on demo years ago, synergy with Rega amp should be great.
I'd save even more and check out a Denafrips Ares 2. Imo R2R is NOT overkill, why shouldn't a source be in the same pricerange as the amplification? :) If it's not a big jump in quality, I wouldn't bother with a sideways move. It is a slippery slope, though, next thing you know, OP might want a pair of Spendor floorstanders ^^
 
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Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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I actually bought a regular 5V charger while I was out today. It's not low noise AFAIK but I bought it anyway just to see if there was any difference at all. I can't spot one but it's a 20 quid charger that I bought just for kicks.

@plastic penguin I wasn't even aware they made DACs, probably because I though of them as CD players. I bet they are excellent but the cheapest USB one is around €1900. For that sort of money I suddenly don't have that big of a problem with my current dacs :ROFLMAO: And for quite a bit less money I would just go with an Ares II or something like that.

EDIT: What Rega DACs were you thinking? These ones? Rega DAC-R review | What Hi-Fi? (whathifi.com)

I shouldn't be surprised at this point but... I am still surprised how distribution of stuff worldwide is still affected. I can't even find 2/3s of the DACs that might interest me in Europe. Means that I'll have time to decide. I'm currently trying to educate myself on the Topping D30 Pro, that's a weird one with an unusual chip arrangement.
 
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plastic penguin

Well-known member
I actually bought a regular 5V charger while I was out today. It's not low noise AFAIK but I bought it anyway just to see if there was any difference at all. I can't spot one but it's a 20 quid charger that I bought just for kicks.

@plastic penguin I wasn't even aware they made DACs, probably because I though of them as CD players. I bet they are excellent but the cheapest USB one is around €1900. For that sort of money I suddenly don't have that big of a problem with my current dacs :ROFLMAO: And for quite a bit less money I would just go with an Ares II or something like that.

EDIT: What Rega DACs were you thinking? These ones? Rega DAC-R review | What Hi-Fi? (whathifi.com)

I shouldn't be surprised at this point but... I am still surprised how distribution of stuff worldwide is still affected. I can't even find 2/3s of the DACs that might interest me in Europe. Means that I'll have time to decide. I'm currently trying to educate myself on the Topping D30 Pro, that's a weird one with an unusual chip arrangement.
Yeah, the first gen Rega Dac came out around 2008 and was priced when new at £500. If you can find one, they'll probably around £200 at a guess.

You could be messing around budget Dacs and not getting a significant uplift in SQ. And the sound should chime nicely as they are sibling components
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
I'd save even more and check out a Denafrips Ares 2. Imo R2R is NOT overkill, why shouldn't a source be in the same pricerange as the amplification? :) If it's not a big jump in quality, I wouldn't bother with a sideways move. It is a slippery slope, though, next thing you know, OP might want a pair of Spendor floorstanders ^^
The synergy should be better with a Rega Dac (in theory). No issues with components the same price or higher than his amp.
 

Roog

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May 20, 2016
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For what its worth, I like the RME ADI-2 DAC fs, it has good headphone drive capabilities, it handles my oppo Planer Magnetic phones well, but mainly for the parametric EQ which comes in very handy for headphone EQ.
 
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Wilts Hobbit

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Sep 24, 2021
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I'd save even more and check out a Denafrips Ares 2. Imo R2R is NOT overkill, why shouldn't a source be in the same pricerange as the amplification? :) If it's not a big jump in quality, I wouldn't bother with a sideways move. It is a slippery slope, though, next thing you know, OP might want a pair of Spendor floorstanders ^^
I have the rega elex r and the denafrips ares 2 dac IMHO they work really well together. Cheers
 

Kutusov

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Sep 13, 2021
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I'd save even more and check out a Denafrips Ares 2. Imo R2R is NOT overkill, why shouldn't a source be in the same pricerange as the amplification? :) If it's not a big jump in quality, I wouldn't bother with a sideways move. It is a slippery slope, though, next thing you know, OP might want a pair of Spendor floorstanders ^^
You weren't very far off there, every time I ask for an opinion on something on a forum I end up blowing a lot more money than I initially was considering! :ROFLMAO:

Anyway, Ares II is now ordered ;)

As always, thank you guys, all the inputs were very helpful! 🙌
 
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Wilts Hobbit

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You weren't very far off there, every time I ask for an opinion on something on a forum I end up blowing a lot more money than I initially was considering! :ROFLMAO:

Anyway, Ares II is now ordered ;)

As always, thank you guys, all the inputs were very helpful! 🙌
It's an amazing DAC heavy little beast as well, I prefer it with os on and the slow filter but thats just my preference... Most importantly... Enjoy
 

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Kutusov

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Just a quick update as I got the Ares II only today (I asked for it to be shipped only on January). What can I say, it really is amazing and it makes a huge difference (to me) over the IFI. It's like suddenly there is more space and tridimensional position between the music elements. The whole system seems to have been released from something the Zen was holding back! Very happy!
 
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Wilts Hobbit

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Just a quick update as I got the Ares II only today (I asked for it to be shipped only on January). What can I say, it really is amazing and it makes a huge difference (to me) over the IFI. It's like suddenly there is more space and tridimensional position between the music elements. The whole system seems to have been released from something the Zen was holding back! Very happy!
So glad you like it, I think it's a wonderful bit of kit, enjoy.
 
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