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Best ~$200 DAC for Apple Lossless >>Airport Express

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Hey folks,

I have been reading this forum for some time now, but this is my first post.

I am curious which DAC you folks recommend for my setup. Is there anything in the $175-$200 price range that will make a noticable improvement?

I have ~85CDs encoded in Apple Losssless and another 15 or so CDs that I re-encoded to Apple Lossless from FLAC downloads. The rest of my music is in ~192kpbs MP3 format. I stream the music wirelessly to an Apple Airport Express and currently use a Headphone-to-RCA breakout cable to connect to my Harman Kardon 3480 Receiver. I am running Ascend Acoustics CMT-340SE speakers bi-wired, but I am posting this question here because so many here are using DACs.

I am hoping to use a Dayton GOC-3 Glass Optical Cable with a Mini-TOSlink adapter to connect the Apple Airport Expresss to the DAC.

I am considering the Lite DAC-AH and Behringer SRC2496, as well as various others (Art DI/O, X-DAC, etc.) on AudiogoN. I would like to spend $200-$220 total for the DAC + cables + mods.

If I choose the Lite DAC-AH, where should I buy it? What mods are recommended? As far as I can tell the 6V and output bypass mods are the most important.

Thanks!~
Nick Ofall
post #2 of 30
Thread Starter 
Anyone?
post #3 of 30
Headroom Microdac.
post #4 of 30
that is 300 buck...
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickofall View Post
Hey folks,

I have been reading this forum for some time now, but this is my first post.

I am curious which DAC you folks recommend for my setup. Is there anything in the $175-$200 price range that will make a noticable improvement?

I have ~85CDs encoded in Apple Losssless and another 15 or so CDs that I re-encoded to Apple Lossless from FLAC downloads. The rest of my music is in ~192kpbs MP3 format. I stream the music wirelessly to an Apple Airport Express and currently use a Headphone-to-RCA breakout cable to connect to my Harman Kardon 3480 Receiver. I am running Ascend Acoustics CMT-340SE speakers bi-wired, but I am posting this question here because so many here are using DACs.

I am hoping to use a Dayton GOC-3 Glass Optical Cable with a Mini-TOSlink adapter to connect the Apple Airport Expresss to the DAC.

I am considering the Lite DAC-AH and Behringer SRC2496, as well as various others (Art DI/O, X-DAC, etc.) on AudiogoN. I would like to spend $200-$220 total for the DAC + cables + mods.

If I choose the Lite DAC-AH, where should I buy it? What mods are recommended? As far as I can tell the 6V and output bypass mods are the most important.

Thanks!~
Nick Ofall
I have a similar setup and streaming definitely loses quality to below levels that a DAC may make a difference. I would buy something I could return just to make sure you get something that would help.

Fubar II is cheap and sounds nice.
post #6 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojo777 View Post
I have a similar setup and streaming definitely loses quality to below levels that a DAC may make a difference.
Isn't the Airport bit perfect? How would streaming over a wireless network degrade the sound?

See ya
Steve
post #7 of 30
I also thought the Airport Express was bit perfect.

If using with Windows, does it still go through KMixer (though probably doesn't matter if bit perfect at optical out(?)
post #8 of 30
Yeah the Airport Express is bit-perfect. It just doesn't sound that good without a DAC. Depending on the DAC you use, this setup can sound amazing. I just got a Electrocompaniet ECD-1 yesterday and I'm completely blown away. I was using a Audio Mirror DAC2 (modded Dac Lite) before which still was pretty great, but this new DAC takes it to a whole other level.
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mshan View Post
I also thought the Airport Express was bit perfect.
Yes.

Quote:
If using with Windows, does it still go through KMixer?
No.
post #10 of 30
Well....I just tried the AE streaming to my Hornet and to the E500. While an upgrade to the internal SC in the Mac for sure it still falls behind the EMU in almost everyway.
post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojo777 View Post
Well....I just tried the AE streaming to my Hornet and to the E500. While an upgrade to the internal SC in the Mac for sure it still falls behind the EMU in almost everyway.
Well the internal DAC and analog output in the AE is horrible but it's optical out is bit-perfect and has relatively low jitter. The analog output should not be used if you want highend sound.
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamoneagain View Post
Yeah the Airport Express is bit-perfect. It just doesn't sound that good without a DAC. Depending on the DAC you use, this setup can sound amazing. I just got a Electrocompaniet ECD-1 yesterday and I'm completely blown away. I was using a Audio Mirror DAC2 (modded Dac Lite) before which still was pretty great, but this new DAC takes it to a whole other level.
Great to know that you're enjoying your setup. I picked up an AE during the Black Friday sale with the intention of building a setup with that and my Powerbook. I could use some DAC suggestions myself, although I've been eyeing the Stello DA100 for some time now.
post #13 of 30
I actually think the DAC in the Airport Express is decent, but it certainly can be beaten. I think all the answers except the original has been given, but just to add voice to those, yes the Airport Express is bit-perfect thru the optical/digital out for Macs or PCs.

As for a decent $200 DAC, I'm afraid I don't know one. Maybe a used Zhalou?
post #14 of 30
For $300, I'm putting my Audio Mirror D2 on sale soon. I just need to get around to taking some pictures. I don't know how it compares to the Zhalou though. For the most part it's a modded DAC Lite with the discrete bypass, upgraded RCA/coaxial outputs, and gold case with cones on the bottom for vibration control. It has some other mods as well but I'm not sure what they are. I'll have to research that.
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamoneagain View Post
Yeah the Airport Express is bit-perfect. It just doesn't sound that good without a DAC. Depending on the DAC you use, this setup can sound amazing. I just got a Electrocompaniet ECD-1 yesterday and I'm completely blown away. I was using a Audio Mirror DAC2 (modded Dac Lite) before which still was pretty great, but this new DAC takes it to a whole other level.
Congrats! There are a few of us using this combo (AX and ECD-1). Just got mine last week. Isn't that a great DAC?

And, yes, AX is bit-perfect with low jitter.
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