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Opinions needed: DAC for my active speakers, under 500 dollars.

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

Hello guys, I haven't been here for a while. But I'm at a dilemma.

 

I want to get a DAC to use with mainly my computer as source, but also with my Onkyo ND-S1. My speakers are a pair of Yamaha HS80M's. They both have 3 pin balanced inputs and phono trs 1/4" jack inputs. Currently I'm using a 3.5mm jack to dual trs phono's, plugged directly into my computers audio out. So almost anything will be better than what I have now, I experience computer generated buzzing constantly, but not always.

 

Now, I'm willing to spend $500 maximum, but I'm also willing to save up more to say around 700-800 if there is something that absolutely blows everything else out of the water at the price range, if you get what I mean. I'm not in any rush but I feel that something at $500 would more than likely fulfill my wants.

 

I'm fond of the Yulong D100, and by the reviews I feel like it would compete fairly against my Bel Canto DAC2. Since it's main competition was Lavry, Benchmark and Grace combo Dac + Amps. It is also good because it has Balanced outputs, the problem is that there is no pre-amp out.

 

I'm also very fond of the new Audio Gd NFB-10's and NFB 1, 2 and 3. The NFB-10 always comes to mind because I have always wanted to run a fully balanced setup, but I'm not sure if it would be worth it, it mighn't be very much better than my current Bel Canto DAC2 and C2-C setup. If it is better I might wait for it and just use the DAC2 as my DAC for the speakers and perhaps the C2-C to develop a turntable record playing setup later on.

 

My question there is, in your opinion, would the NFB10WM or ES be a decent upgrade from my current setup (Modded DAC2 + C2-C)?

 

Another question, is it really worth going balanced with speakers? The only thing that is stopping me from getting the NFB 2 - 3 vs the Yulong D100 is the fact that the cheapest DAC/DAC-Amp I could get with balanced outs in the Audio Gd line would be the NFB10/NFB-1 respectively.

 

In your opinion, would the NFB-2 be better in sound quality (neutral wise) to the Yulong D100, even if it is single ended?

 

If I go single ended I'll have to get RCA x2 to Phono TRS x2, I don't know if that will effect sound quality greatly or not.

 

I appreciate any input regarding my questions,

 

Thanks guys,

 

- Trump

post #2 of 31

While I haven't heard any of these and they might be slightly over budget. I'd still like to throw in the Eastern Electric Minimax dac and the MHDT Labs dacs. 

 

Regards

Jonatan

 

post #3 of 31

The Matrix Mini-I has balanced outs and functions as a pre-amp. I am actually going to hook it up to a set of powered monitors tomorrow so we'll see how that goes!

post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by panda-R View Post

The Matrix Mini-I has balanced outs and functions as a pre-amp. I am actually going to hook it up to a set of powered monitors tomorrow so we'll see how that goes!



 When you do tell me how it goes, the DAC sounds intriguing, I'll look it up.

post #5 of 31
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jona.p View Post

While I haven't heard any of these and they might be slightly over budget. I'd still like to throw in the Eastern Electric Minimax dac and the MHDT Labs dacs. 

 

Regards

Jonatan

 

 

The Eastern Electric dac looks nice, but looks less promising than the NFB-1 and NFB-10 with it's lack of balanced outputs to be honest.

 

The MHDT Labs dacs looked alright to me, but I don't believe in non oversampling dacs because I read what Dan Lavry wrote about them a while ago, I can only believe him in the quality of products he makes and the fact he's a skilled electrical engineer.
 

Thanks for your opinion though!

post #6 of 31

NFB-10 is an excellent DAC/amp combo ........ for headphones.

I think the major feature is actually the balanced headphone amp and preamplifier.

The DAC section alone doesn't really touch the older, single ended, DAC-19 DSP. But not far behind either.

[ * I have the ES version of NFB-10, the WM version might behave differently ]

post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input audiofil,

 

If you think that way I'll have to scratch that off my shortlist, I believe my headphone setup sounds amazing as it is, and I'm content with it. So even if the NFB-10 was an upgrade over it, it wouldn't make me much more happier than my current setup because my current one I'm very very happy with.

 

I need to stay on track here, the DAC is only for the speakers. My main requirement is that it is. 1. good value for money 2. works with my speakers via either Balanced input or Phono input My wants list would be. 1. Balanced output 2. Good USB input (Don't want to have to buy another USB to SPDIF) 3. Is in the same league or better league than my Bel Canto DAC2.

 

Preamp would be nice, but my speakers have their own volume levels, and I just put them to a max level that I'm comfortable with.

post #8 of 31

IMO preamp function is quite important because how else do you plan to control the volume of your active speakers. I don't think you'll like adjusting the volumes on the rear of each speaker whenever u want to change the level. 

 

Just wanted let you know I have my monitors hooked up to my Matrix Mini-i with XLR cables and everything works great. Great unit for the price except I'm having grounding issues with the USB connection on my unit.

post #9 of 31

If a DAC has everything you want except for preamp volume control, then maybe consider getting a passive attenuator to use with it.

 

NanoPatch+ balanced/single-ended passive attenuator.

http://www.smproaudio.com/index.php/en/products/monitor-controllers/nanopatch

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post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone,

 

Yoga Flame that looks like a really good product, and if it's only 60 dollars I should be able to fit it in. I find that it is a good idea because it is small and I could place it right infront of my computer monitor for easy access.

 

So if I decided to get one would it be setup like this:

Computer -> DAC -> NanoPatch+ -> Speakers

 

How would I set volume levels independently?

 

Computer 100%, DAC (No volume control), NanoPatch+ (Whatever I feel like), Speakers (How should I set the gain?)

 

Thanks guys,

 

I'd like some more input on some DAC's

 

To make the list shorter, I guess I'd want to go Balanced, and maybe perhaps have a USB input.

post #11 of 31

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrumpOrMonkey View Post

So if I decided to get one would it be setup like this:

Computer -> DAC -> NanoPatch+ -> Speakers

 

How would I set volume levels independently?

 

Computer 100%, DAC (No volume control), NanoPatch+ (Whatever I feel like), Speakers (How should I set the gain?)

 

 

For the cleanest audio signal, volume control should be done in only one place, with the rest set at 100%. A tiny bit of noise is introduced whenever the signal passes through a volume pot. But when the pot is set to 100%, the signal just bypasses it cleanly. So in your example, I suggest setting the speakers to maximum.

 

(In some cases where the DAC has a built in preamp output, setting its volume to 100% can produce distortion. FWIR the NuForce uDAC does this. If so then just turn it up as high as it will go before distorting. My guess is that this is not a common problem. And obviously DACs with fixed volume output also do not have this problem.)

 

When you have analog volume control (i.e. a volume knob on the amp/preamp) then the computer volume should be set to 100%. That allows bit perfect output from the DAC and prevents the loss of dynamic range that can happen when lowering volume digitally. But if all your audio is 24-bit or higher (meaning you don't listen to normal CD quality music), then digital volume control is not bad. If you have such a system, then you can control the volume with your software media player and leave everything else at 100%.

post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 

Alright thanks Yoga Flame, that was very helpful, Once I get the DAC I find is most suitable for me I'll also get a NanoPatch+, use that primarily for volume control with everything else at 100% and run everything balanced, I've decided against single-ended since I may as well take advantage of the XLR inputs on my speakers, also the RCA to Phono TRS conversion bothers me.

 

Anyone have any opinions on a good Balanced DAC under $500 other than the Yulong D100 and Matrix Mini-I?

post #13 of 31

The NFB-2 seems to get a good reputation not just here but elsewhere. Check out John Darko's review. 

post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 

If I go single ended would there be any loss of quality if I had to use an RCA to TRS cable?

post #15 of 31

Are those cables like the ones that come with the Lavry DA11? If yes then I would say no. 

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