Is an external DAC really worth it?

filipplord

Well-known member
Mar 16, 2021
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Hey all,
I was browsing the other day just kinda skimming through some hi-fi pages and I came to question something:
Is an external DAC worth it for digital media on a Hi-Fi ?
For example, if I want to upgrade my existant CD player (considering it has an digital out) could I use an external DAC to upgrade the sound that goes into my amplifier?
Would it make a huge difference? Would it be noticable on a pair or Elac Debut 5.2 and a good Yamaha amplifier?
Thanks in advance!
 

filipplord

Well-known member
Mar 16, 2021
31
4
45
Yamaha R-N303D
Elac Debut 5.2
and my cd player is a Used but refurbished Technics SL-PG490
Dont care if its used or not as long as it is in good shape I am all in and willing to do stuff!
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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I think it would be easy to find an external DAC that will sound different. The latest DACs almost universally perform impeccably, unless they are deliberately eccentric designs ( look up NOS, meaning ‘non-oversampling‘, for example). Many report tonal differences, and you may or may not prefer the new sound. If you buy wisely, or borrow one from a dealer, you can find out with little risk.
At a modest price new, consider ifi or Topping brands.
 
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abacus

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Sep 24, 2008
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Your player is around 20 years old and DACs have moved on considerably in that time, so my guess is that there would indeed be quite an improvement with an external DAC, however your amp has its own inbuilt DAC which is way more modern (And of high quality according to reviews) than the one in the Technics, so just connect the digital out of Technics to digital input of your amp and it should be all you need. (No need for a separate DAC just a short digital cable for no more than £5 or so)

Bill
 

nopiano

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Bill is right, and I had completely overlooked that your amp had a DAC, so you can indeed connect your CD as a transport via the digital out, to digital in on the Yamaha.
 

stevee1966

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Sep 21, 2007
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I've just tested a Qutest connected to my Cambridge Audio Azur 752 bluray player and could tell no difference in sound at all between the built in CA DAC and the Qutest.

Now considering all the reviews i've read which say the difference using a Qutest is night and day, and that it's considered to be a highly recommended system upgrade, i can only conclude that i must have cloth ears.
 
D

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I've just tested a Qutest connected to my Cambridge Audio Azur 752 bluray player and could tell no difference in sound at all between the built in CA DAC and the Qutest.

Now considering all the reviews i've read which say the difference using a Qutest is night and day, and that it's considered to be a highly recommended system upgrade, i can only conclude that i must have cloth ears.
It's never night and day, nothing ever crushes this and that it's more like adding seasoning if you can taste its great, if you can't then go to the next thing. The differences are tiny at best.

Boils down more to the output stage maybe the qutest has a very similar sound. or the Cambridge is a giant killer

You also have to remember that everything in your Bluray is designed to work with it from the ground up. I found with my NAD C540 CD player actually sounds worst going into an outboard DAC, lost all its drive so either its digital output is rubbish or the transport isn't great probably both! those deficiencies are tuned out when used standalone/how it was intended.

As ever not as clear cut, but at least you know and you saved yourself some pennies.
 
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nopiano

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I've just tested a Qutest connected to my Cambridge Audio Azur 752 bluray player and could tell no difference in sound at all between the built in CA DAC and the Qutest.

Now considering all the reviews i've read which say the difference using a Qutest is night and day, and that it's considered to be a highly recommended system upgrade, i can only conclude that i must have cloth ears.
Was that while replaying CDs? It’s possible the Chord DAC would be better on high resolution material, but I guess the CA player isn’t designed for that, and definitely not streaming (?) or does it play SACD?

As others have said, I’m still a fan of CD players as their maker designed them, I sing their own DAC. There are quite a few Chord DACs regularly on sale used, so either they're very popular, or not everyone’s cup of tea, or both.
At least you’ve saved some money!
 
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stevee1966

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Sep 21, 2007
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I only gave it a quick test with some cd's but my CA bluray will play hi-res (SACD, bluray audio, dvd-A disks).

I've do own some of those format disks and still have the Qutest with me so will try it again, though i'm not expecting to be blown away after my first impression of it.
 
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nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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I only gave it a quick test with some cd's but my CA bluray will play hi-res (SACD, bluray audio, dvd-A disks).

I've do own some of those format disks and still have the Qutest with me so will try it again, though i'm not expecting to be blown away after my first impression of it.
I realised after I mentioned SACD that very few products can output SACD to a DAC because of the protection mechanism designed to prevent copying.
 
D

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I only gave it a quick test with some cd's but my CA bluray will play hi-res (SACD, bluray audio, dvd-A disks).

I've do own some of those format disks and still have the Qutest with me so will try it again, though i'm not expecting to be blown away after my first impression of it.
The Dac really comes to life with locally stored digital files through the USB it is the highest res input short of the dual BNC for the Mscaler or their own disc transport. But the USB is really what this DAC is all about. Though Rob watts says the optical offers the best performance of all the inputs, it is the best optical input I've heard, it's also one of the highest bandwidth ones I've come across.

What I will say about the chord is that everything sounds effortless, nothing is overblown it's the most analogue sounding digital device I've ever heard. Nothing jumps out at you so maybe that's the disappointment you are feeling.

Try a laptop with audirvana and some locally saved tracks, or even an iPad or something.
 
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Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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I've just tested a Qutest connected to my Cambridge Audio Azur 752 bluray player and could tell no difference in sound at all between the built in CA DAC and the Qutest.

Now considering all the reviews i've read which say the difference using a Qutest is night and day, and that it's considered to be a highly recommended system upgrade, i can only conclude that i must have cloth ears.
I had a Qutest for a few months. It’s an excellent DAC and a technical ‘tour de force’…but to be honest it didn’t sound any better to me than a Chord Mojo…so it went on eBay…
 

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