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Marantz HD-DAC1

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
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Does anyone buy a standalone dac anymore?
Judging by the number of queries on Facebook groups and some other forums I’d say yes. I think everyone imagines their five years old CD player will sound way better with a new DAC, but then when it’s too bright they sell the DAC and try again!
 
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Hawkmoon

Well-known member
Feb 19, 2020
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Does anyone buy a standalone dac anymore?
Why wouldn't you? If you buy an amp with a DAC then you lose your DAC as well if your amp fails and typically DACs in amps are not as good as standalone DACs. Similarly, if you buy a streamer with a built-in DAC then these tend not to have great DACs built in unless the streamer is £1000s. Surely buying a separate DAC just keeps to the age-old hi-fi separates philosophy? I can see the attraction of very high end one box solutions from the liks of dcs etc but for more moderately priced kit it still seems prudent to consider keeping amp, streamer, CD transport and DAC separate. Not only does that provide some protection against failing equipment it also allows easier upgrading in the future. Just my take.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Why wouldn't you? If you buy an amp with a DAC then you lose your DAC as well if your amp fails and typically DACs in amps are not as good as standalone DACs. Similarly, if you buy a streamer with a built-in DAC then these tend not to have great DACs built in unless the streamer is £1000s. Surely buying a separate DAC just keeps to the age-old hi-fi separates philosophy? I can see the attraction of very high end one box solutions from the liks of dcs etc but for more moderately priced kit it still seems prudent to consider keeping amp, streamer, CD transport and DAC separate. Not only does that provide some protection against failing equipment it also allows easier upgrading in the future. Just my take.
Yes dacs in amps may not be the best, but I was thinking more streamers. I would argue streamers at >= 500 quid will have excellent DACs. When you mention DCS you're talking very high level.

So I still don't see much value in a standalone DAC anymore.
 

Hawkmoon

Well-known member
Feb 19, 2020
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Yes dacs in amps may not be the best, but I was thinking more streamers. I would argue streamers at >= 500 quid will have excellent DACs. When you mention DCS you're talking very high level.

So I still don't see much value in a standalone DAC anymore.
Depends. For example I have a Node 2i streamer. Recently upgraded my DAC to a £880 Mytek Liberty (similar to the Mytek Brooklyn) - it sounds phenomenal with the 2i and is a noticeable improvement on the internal DAC in the 2i. Also allows me to use my CXC CD transport with it. What's not to like?
 

fazalmajid

Member
Jan 6, 2020
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Does anyone buy a standalone dac anymore?
I have 5:
  • A Benchmark DAC3 DX for the living room system (paired with a Benchmark AHB2 power amp, with a Roon Nucleus as the source and B&W 804S speakers)
  • A Questyle CMA400i at my home office, connected to my Mac, with AKG K550 closed-back headphones
  • A Fostex HP-A8 connected to a Rock64 (sort of like a RaspberryPi) running Roon streaming software, and Focal Elear headphones
  • A Fiio K3 connected to a Raspberry Pi 4B+ 4GB and a B&W Zeppelin for my daughter's bedroom.
  • An Oppo HA2-SE for use during travel (remember travel?)
If you do most of your listening on headphones, a DAC combined with headphone amp like the Marantz is near ideal.

In theory, a combined streamer/DAC/amp unit would be even better, but hifi companies are not software powerhouses, and an inexpensive RPi based streamer (around £50 for a RPi 4B with 4GB and Ropieee, Volumio or one of the other dedicated streaming Linux distributions) will work as well as a proprietary system, and is future-proof.

If there is one reservation I have with this Marantz, it's that it's still using the CS4398 they've been using in various incarnations for over a decade (e.g. my SA8260 SACD player circa 2005). There has been progress since, it's time they upgraded their DAC and DSP game to the level of the competition, e.g. AKM or ESS DACs.

Oh, someone mentioned CD players. I would venture the vast majority of DACs today are not used in combination with a CD transport but with a computer or streamer. As far as I am concerned, it's 2020, and CD transports belong on the dustheap of history with vinyl and SACD, but of course to each his own.
 
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manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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There are many all in one streamers/amps/DACs on the market, the obvious ones being Marantz.

I suppose if I were to go as high end as you in the living room, I perhaps would have got a standalone DAC, but on second thoughts no - I appreciate what Roon has done, but I don’t believe it leaves ultimate sound quality untouched. Which brings me on to why and your opinion on CDs...

Roon may offer album art, and info etc. but while you say there’s no room in the 21st century for CD players, I will argue doubly so for the turntable. I do miss the ritual and the large artwork, but it’s like the short-lived charm of living with a classic car - for some yes, for me thanks but no thanks.

I too rip my CDs to listen through USB in the living room, and on my PC when working. But I still love buying CDs for the artwork and album info. And occasionally I still like spinning CDs because sometimes it has an inexplicable sparkle that rips sometimes lack.

So horses for courses really,
 

fazalmajid

Member
Jan 6, 2020
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There are many all in one streamers/amps/DACs on the market, the obvious ones being Marantz.
IIRC Marantz was fairly late to the game of compact DACs with headphone amps, compared to, say, Cambridge Audio.

Roon may offer album art, and info etc. but while you say there’s no room in the 21st century for CD players, I will argue doubly so for the turntable.
I heartily agree. I am old enough to have witnessed the introduction of CDs, some of my CDs date from 1984 and I do not miss vinyl one bit.

I still like spinning CDs because sometimes it has an inexplicable sparkle that rips sometimes lack.
Are you using a precision ripper with C2 error channel support like ExactAudioCopy (EAC) on Windows? That makes a huge difference with old discs that are starting to pit. Unfortunately, I only discovered that about halfway through ripping my CD collection so I would need to go back and redo about 300. Fortunately I have been fairly disciplined about recording the provenance and ripping tools used for my files, so I know which 300.
 

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