Will a DAC make a marked difference in audio quality?

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.

CheshirePete

Well-known member
Oct 12, 2020
59
48
570
Nothing wrong with wanting change/improvement to your system. That's something we all suffer from! 😁 The only thing I would say is that for this type of purchase your 'local shop' will not have the models which are currently very popular....such as Topping, SMSL, Loxjie even iFi etc....
That's why I suggested Amazon where you CAN buy these items and try them at home for 30 days. If you are not happy then you can return them without loss.
For comparing speakers or amplifiers however there is no better strategy than visiting your local dealer.👍

Jeff Bezos would endorse this, use Amazon if you are so inclined and then return if you are not happy.
 

shipworm-archaism-recede

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2021
99
53
120
Thanks everyone, you've all been super helpful.

I just ordered a DacMagic 100 that I can return if it I don't notice a significant difference. I figure that the jump to the 200M from that would be marginal, I don't need the headphone jack, and I'm most interested to see if the TV receiver can be improved upon. I chose that over the Topping because I wanted to support my local dealer.

Thanks again.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Thanks everyone, you've all been super helpful.

I just ordered a DacMagic 100 that I can return if it I don't notice a significant difference. I figure that the jump to the 200M from that would be marginal, I don't need the headphone jack, and I'm most interested to see if the TV receiver can be improved upon. I chose that over the Topping because I wanted to support my local dealer.

Thanks again.
Good for you.
Let us know...
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
1,394
411
19,570
I know very little about Hi-Fi. It’s my first post, so I’m sorry if my questions seem naive.

I stream audio and video from an Apple TV via HDMI into an old Pioneer PDP-R06XE multimedia receiver that came with my plasma TV. The receiver plays the audio via an Arcam A90 amplifier and Monitor Audio Silver RS-6 speakers.
  1. Would using a dedicated DAC (e.g. a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M) instead of the Pioneer receiver give me noticeably better audio?
  2. Somebody recommended the DacMagic 200M to me, and it is at the upper end of my budget. I know you can spend a lot more or a lot less. What else should I consider given my existing equipment?
  3. I would connect the DAC using the optical out from the receiver. I notice that DACs often have a variety of inputs. Should I be looking for anything in particular for the future.
Thanks!
1. I'm not sure about that, for music duty it is generally and A/V amp that's compromised.
2. It's a good well-specified DAC, which I suspect leans a bit on the warm side.
3. I would use coaxial for guaranteeing maximum resolution, especially on your Pioneer.

I disagree with some here that say DACs in integrated amps are mediocre - unless you want the latest and greatest streaming options and technologies.

What you could elaborate on is your A/V scenario. I assume you're using your Apple TV for video and streaming duty.

Assuming you want to keep your Pioneer, I would look at a streamer instead of a dedicated DAC, only because some features like MQA playback would not be immediately possible in your scenario - depending on what Apple TV does.

Also, what TV do you have? I'm assuming you have Apple TV because you have a non-smart TV?
 

shipworm-archaism-recede

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2021
99
53
120
Thanks for your reply.
What you could elaborate on is your A/V scenario. I assume you're using your Apple TV for video and streaming duty.

Assuming you want to keep your Pioneer, I would look at a streamer instead of a dedicated DAC, only because some features like MQA playback would not be immediately possible in your scenario - depending on what Apple TV does.

Also, what TV do you have? I'm assuming you have Apple TV because you have a non-smart TV?
Yes, I use the Apple TV to stream all my video and audio content. I choose to use it for simplicity—almost all my family's devices are Apple. I can also include it in multi-room audio when I want it.

The Pioneer receiver is the TV. It drives a Plasma display which is perfectly adequate for my needs. I'll replace it when it goes bang, but I'm not that attached to it.

I've read about MQA. I'm aware of things like Tidal, Roon and so on, but I've never tried any of them. I subscribe to Apple Music, and I was interested in giving their new lossless formats a go. Apple say that you are unlikely to notice the difference from AAC. In any case, I would need to connect an iPhone, Mac or iPad to the DAC to experiment with the 24-bit/192 kHz resolution. The Apple TV only does 24-bit/48 kHz.
 

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
1,368
804
2,070
What exactly do you mean by 'run-in' please?
Well some say that electronics don't change with use...but I have to disagree. My experience is electronic components take time to 'burn in' and sound optimal. I have had this with amplifiers and DACs. Initial slight brightness and lack of depth can be solved once the electronics have 'settled in'. Don't want to be controversial here...just speaking of my own experience.....🙂
 

twinkletoes

Well-known member
Nov 16, 2021
92
61
120
Im late to the party and know you have ordered your DAC, But in my experience and in answer to your question "is there marked difference?" No. Is there a difference? yes, is it a difference you'll like only you will be able to judge. But you will have to listen hard to hear them, especially at the "budget" level. They're all much of a muchness.

I think if you hadn't already bought your DAC i may of actually suggested a bluesound node 2i 2021 version (dac streamer all-round media hub) or even the power node depending on what legacy gear you have.
It would have cut your box count in half and would have bought you bang up to date in regards to streaming if that's your cuppa tea.

Anyhow enjoy your DAC magic I'm sure you'll love it!
 

SeattleChris

Active member
Apr 15, 2021
19
8
25
My DAC experience with NAD 368 / B&W 606 s2 / dual SVS SB-1000 / Amazon HD:
Schiit Modi 3+ ($100 US) - excellent for the price
Schiit Bifrost ($700 US) - bigger soundstage, heftier bass & smoother midrange
The upgrade between the two DAC's was similar to a good speaker upgrade.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tinman1952

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Well some say that electronics don't change with use...but I have to disagree. My experience is electronic components take time to 'burn in' and sound optimal. I have had this with amplifiers and DACs. Initial slight brightness and lack of depth can be solved once the electronics have 'settled in'. Don't want to be controversial here...just speaking of my own experience.....🙂
As I come from a mechanical background, it is generally only things with constantly moving parts that need burning in. Items such as speakers with their drivers bounding and turntables where you have metal against metal.

Same with combustion engines, they need to burn or run in. Electric cars don't. Another example if you have a fluorescent lights fitted to your kitchen or a new fridge, they don't advise burn in. It's the same principle with electronic hi-fis: Amps, streamers and to a lesser extent CD players. Think it's more a case of your ears adjusting to the different sounds.
 

Tinman1952

Well-known member
May 19, 2021
1,368
804
2,070
As I come from a mechanical background, it is generally only things with constantly moving parts that need burning in. Items such as speakers with their drivers bounding and turntables where you have metal against metal.

Same with combustion engines, they need to burn or run in. Electric cars don't. Another example if you have a fluorescent lights fitted to your kitchen or a new fridge, they don't advise burn in. It's the same principle with electronic hi-fis: Amps, streamers and to a lesser extent CD players. Think it's more a case of your ears adjusting to the different sounds.
Yes I hear you. Definitely applies to mechanical devices. I don't think it is my hearing adjusting though... I know high precision clocks have to reach a stable temperature to perform optimally so I never turn my DAC or room correction box off. Similarly I think capacitors and other components will perform better after some hours of use. Naim engineers will tell you their amps can take weeks to burn in properly....who knows? 🙂
 

djh1697

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2008
127
21
18,595
If you can find one, a March DAC1 is a fantastic buy, it will connect via USB, and it will decode native DSD, without the need to change it to PCM. DSD is nearer to analogue than PCM because of the very high sampling rates. The Linn Sondek CD12 used DSD64 which SACD's are recorded in, the March DAC supports DSD256.
 

Gray

Well-known member
If you can find one, a March DAC1 is a fantastic buy
It probably is because, as far as I know it's just the Khadas Toneboard (that I own) in a fancy enclosure, except, mysteriously, without the coax input of the KTB.
However, one input he required was optical ....and he's already ordered a DAC anyway.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I am sure everyone has their own thoughts on the benefits or not that a burn-in period can make.
I have and I'm certain about my thoughts. More certain than anyone else is about theirs :LOL:
(If the OP finds as little difference between DACs as I have, burn-in will be the least of his worries).
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
452
259
1,270
I am somewhat Dacnostic.

I have a separate DAC, and 3 amplifiers with built in DAC's.

Some of them have switchable filters.

Whilst it all is a little fun the differences are (relatively) small compared to amplifier or speaker changes, probably more comparable to cable changes. - So, imho, if you have an already well sorted system, DAC (or filter) changes can make some minor differences.

I am talking about DAC's with off the shelf chips such as ESS and AK.

Unfortunately I have no experience with R2R or FPGA DAC's.

What I would say is if one wants to introduce some warmth and body to the sound for relatively little money, a tube buffer stage is a great way of doing so. I've used this with a class D amplifier which had a slightly lean/thin upper mid and treble to good effect and probably more so than many DAC's could have done.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts