Originally Posted by darinf
I know this has been asked before, but no one really answered the question, so I'll ask again...
I know some of you are using external DAC's with the Realiser. Can anyone comment on comparing the Realiser built-in DAC's with their external DAC's?
The Realiser's internal DAC is excellent. Hard to really compare objectively with an external DAC, as there are also "volume" settings in the external DAC as well as in the Realiser which have to be adjusted so that the "loudness" is the same, in order to avoid the natural tendency to describe "louder as the better sounding".
I prefer the external DAC (my Audio-GD NFB9) because it has XLR outputs to feed my Stax SRM-007tII amp via XLR, which I feel to be superior sounding to the RCA inputs... but again, maybe that's just not objectively true.
I've got the RCA headphone output of my Realiser going to INPUT2 of the Stax amp. I've got the XLR output of the DAC (fed via optical headphone output from the Realiser) going to INPUT3 of the Stax amp, with the volume level of the DAC set so that it sounds as loud as the Realiser (with volume set at -10db) does from INPUT2. I have the unbalanced RCA output of the DAC (which is 1/2 the level of its balanced XLR output) going to my DBX 14/10 EQ (where I have a preset to increase the level and tone of its output to match that of the XLR path on INPUT3 of the Stax amp) which feeds INPUT1 of the Stax amp.
So I can literally A/B/C compare by simply pushing the input buttons on the Stax amp.
Comparing the XLR output of the DAC to the RCA output of the DAC (both of which are being produced from the optical output of the Realiser) is "unfair", because I have specifically built the DBX EQ preset so that the two sound identical. And they do sound identical (even though the RCA output is 1/2 the level of the XLR output) once the tonal and level differences are compensated for by the EQ. There's certainly no question that the RCA output of the DAC is "lower", and tonally different, than the XLR output.
But comparing INPUT2 on the Stax amp (which is coming directly from the RCA headphone output of the Realiser's DAC with volume -10db) to INPUT1/INPUT3 pretty much yields a wash. If there is any discernible improvement from the DAC/XLR path, it's small. Absolutely not "dramatic".
The Realiser's DAC is excellent... and I have a relatively expensive external DAC to compare against. I think it's psychological, that I have "pure" Realiser to DAC (via optical) to Stax amp via XLR... and prefer it.
Edited by dsperber - 10/2/12 at 4:11pm