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How much difference good DAC makes? - Page 2

post #16 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by codeninja View Post

I'm pretty damn impressed of my system of ipad -> Little Dot I+ with EF91 tubes -> Senns HD598 listening to music with acoustics. Eagles Hotel California sounds amazing to me.  However, other rock music is missing a bit of thump in my chain.  Probably, I need to re-buy M50 for it, or a DAC can help the issue?

 

I don't intend to go all the way, but the temptation of addressing what's missing is definitely there as I'm happy with the majority of my music collection.


To add my two cents, I don't think getting a new dac to improve the bass is a good idea. After all, although DACs do sound different, but their focus isn't about adding much flavor to the music it's processing, at least not to the extent of adding a big "thump" in the music. Also, getting this bass-adding DAC would mean you'd be living with the sound signature for whatever headphone or speaker you might be getting. I think a better and simpler solution would be buying a headphone known for stronger bass.

post #17 of 67
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice, Juman231. It makes sense.  I think ultimately it's matter of whether external DAC will bring improvement over iPad's internal DAC.  I'm sort of getting mixed messages, especially for cheaper one like E7.

post #18 of 67

i've been looking for some budget level dacs too and according to what I've read so far, my candidates are HRT Music Streamer II, Audio GD NFB-12, Audinst HUD mx1, and Fiio E7/E9 combo. I also heard Fiio is coming up with a DAC/amp combo called E15, which is going to have 24/96 DAC function and will be better than the DAC of E7. 

post #19 of 67

In my experience a good DAC helps a lot but it's usually more cost effective to get a high-end headphone first because the diminishing return curve is pretty steep for DACs above ~$500.

 

- FW

post #20 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankWong View Post

In my experience a good DAC helps a lot but it's usually more cost effective to get a high-end headphone first because the diminishing return curve is pretty steep for DACs above ~$500.

 

- FW


You mean flat? =]

 

post #21 of 67

 I just tried this for the first time. I used my Oppo BDP-95 as a transport feeding my iBasso D10 with digital through coax, essentially using the D10 as a DAC only. I then fed the analog output from the D10 to my HP amp then to my HE-6. The D10 uses a single WOLFSON WM8740 DAC chip. I played a CD. On first listen, I could not discern any difference between the D10 as a DAC only and the BDP-95 as a DAC. The BDP-95 uses a SABRE32 Reference ES9018 DAC chip.

 

So from UE's post, the source is more important than the DAC. In this case my source is the BDP-95 as a digital transport.

post #22 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuwhere View Post

 I just tried this for the first time. I used my Oppo BDP-95 as a transport feeding my iBasso D10 with digital through coax, essentially using the D10 as a DAC only. I then fed the analog output from the D10 to my HP amp then to my HE-6. The D10 uses a single WOLFSON WM8740 DAC chip. I played a CD. On first listen, I could not discern any difference between the D10 as a DAC only and the BDP-95 as a DAC. The BDP-95 uses a SABRE32 Reference ES9018 DAC chip.

 

So from UE's post, the source is more important than the DAC. In this case my source is the BDP-95 as a digital transport.


No, the source, at least in the context UE is using, is the musical recording you were playing back.  In this case a particular CD.

 

And I would agree with him that the recording and the transducers (headphones or speakers) are far and away the most important components regarding the sound.  The amp should be chosen to match the needs of the transducers in terms of power and impedance, and the DAC, well, even basic stand-alone ones today do a pretty damn good job.


Edited by BlackbeardBen - 3/23/11 at 7:45pm
post #23 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackbeardBen View Post




No, the source, at least in the context UE is using, is the musical recording you were playing back.  In this case a particular CD.

 

And I would agree with him that the recording and the transducers (headphones or speakers) are far and away the most important components regarding the sound.  The amp should be chosen to match the needs of the transducers in terms of power and impedance, and the DAC, well, even basic stand-alone ones today do a pretty damn good job.


 

I re-read his post again and agreed. Still from what I just did, the DAC, did not make a big difference which really surprised me. I know that there are other things involved here. After the DAC, the analog section has to be well designed also. It is a fixed output voltage that must be really good and clean to feed an amp. So a well designed and executed DAC, regardless of price, should perform well. Honestly I didn't want to do a DAC shoot out here. I'm sure if I really wanted to, I may be able to discern some difference, maybe. So, in the spirit of the OT, no it does not.

post #24 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankWong View Post

In my experience a good DAC helps a lot but it's usually more cost effective to get a high-end headphone first because the diminishing return curve is pretty steep for DACs above ~$500.

 

- FW



I don't know.  I had a dacmagic and an xdac with the xpsu and when i listened to a modified PSaudio digital link dac i went out and got one modded way out.  It is one of the improvements that helps every headphone i own immensely.  When i plug in the others dacs there is an obvious drop in sound quality.  They sound way flatter, 2D and less dynamic.  So improving this part improves everything you own as far as headphones go.

 

Edit- of course looking at your equipment list to see what you own so i can evaluate you comment i note that you don't list any of your equipment. blink.gif


Edited by dallan - 3/23/11 at 8:22pm
post #25 of 67

I'm curious as to what other head-fiers take on this subject, experience-wise. The good thing about the iBasso D10 is that it has an SPDIF coax/optical input. I wouldn't use USB because of its inherent limitations?

post #26 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by dallan View Post

I don't know.  I had a dacmagic and an xdac with the xpsu and when i listened to a modified PSaudio digital link dac i went out and got one modded way out.  It is one of the improvements that helps every headphone i own immensely.  When i plug in the others dacs there is an obvious drop in sound quality.  They sound way flatter, 2D and less dynamic.  So improving this part improves everything you own as far as headphones go.


Similarly I've heard the DacMagic and other cheap op-amp based DACs and found the PS audio digital link III (stock) made a big difference to all my headphones and more importantly my music.

post #27 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Graphicism View Post


Similarly I've heard the DacMagic and other cheap op-amp based DACs and found the PS audio digital link III (stock) made a big difference to all my headphones and more importantly my music.

Are you sure the volume was matched when you compared the DACs? Volume plays a big part how one perceives something as better
 

 

post #28 of 67

My 2 cents is that there are badly designed DACs, some color the sound intentionally by rolling off trebles for example, others simply have channel imbalance (if a volume control is included), and other could simply not work within specs.
Often those DACs are either marketed as "audiophile" DACs with exotic components in the first case or found in devices not intended for audio, such as laptops.

 

I would say say entry level "pro" DACs provide an excellent value, brands such as Behringer, E-MU, Edirol have excellent gear at very low costs.

 

At much higher costs, Lavry and Benchmark have engineered DACs with 0 distortion, an imperceptible noise floor even extreme conditions, matched channels at 0.05 dB... But you are paying more for peace of mind than additional audible quality.

 

In order of influence

Quality of the recording = Tranducers (headphone or room+speakers) > Amp > Dac > transport


Edited by khaos974 - 3/23/11 at 11:23pm
post #29 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

In order of influence

Quality of the recording (and/or encoding) = Tranducers (headphone or room+speakers) > Amp > Dac > transport


This has been my experience as well.

 

1a) A good recording/well mastered will sound good (obviously).

1b) There's a lot of hooplah about higher bitrates, 48/96/whatever, but a lot of that is beyond the scope of typical human hearing

1c) modern lossy encoding are pretty darned good compared to stuff from a decade ago and virtually transparent for most people

1d) incidentally, a lot of the high defintion tracks recorded at whatever crazy bitrates also happen to be very well recorded and mastered, which I personally believe has a greater effect than the high definition aspect itself

 

2) If you're looking for a different sound, new headphones will make the biggest difference. My hard rule is that my maximum casual spending per month (or per toy) can not exceed a mortgage payment, and no I can't bank that from month to month. Slippery slope and all that. I also know from experience that I enjoy the "budget" items just as much as the expensive ones; I only lust after the expensive toys because they're less obtainable.

 

3) Amping makes a difference, although I believe once you reach a certain point (ie: the power necessary to achieve desired volumes and control the drivers to the limit of human hearing) any further money is just paying for build quality and aesthetics and miniaturization/portability, plus a good power supply. For most, a home receiver is more than enough power. Pick up a vintage receiver from a garage sale for $20 and be surprised at how good it sounds. Amps with a good power supply can easily clock in under $200.

 

4) I've heard a reasonable share of dacs, and to my ears it has the steepest diminishing returns. Onboard sound cards are meh, with their biggest problem being noise from the power supply or interference from other devices. A cheap $30 usb sound card sounds better assuming you aren't picking up noise from the usb (not running devices off the same usb bus and/or having an externally powered usb hub will help). A $100-200 dac with an external power supply is nice, and that's typically where I'll stop if I were getting a standalone unit. I haven't heard much difference in performance beyond that. Once again, I'd maybe pay a bit more for features/connections/miniaturization and adding an amp section.

 

5) Power cables and interconnects... I just get something that feels sturdy and is shielded so it doesn't pick up interference. Beyond that, I have never heard a difference.

 


Edited by Armaegis - 3/24/11 at 12:11am
post #30 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by kite7 View Post

Are you sure the volume was matched when you compared the DACs? Volume plays a big part how one perceives something as better

 

Of course, I've told people this myself in the past.
 
I'll even build on the issue of volume in that with the DLIII I find myself listening to music much louder than I would normally, this comes down to the music being more layered and dynamic. With my upgraded Zero DAC (with preferred op-amp) for instance the sound is congested in comparison, I never noticed until I upgraded.
 
In regards to order of influence, if you're only considering sound signature than a DAC won't change that very much if at all. If on the other hand it comes down to sound quality, the DAC comes immediately after the music it's self.
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