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Settle a discussion: When do you need a DAC?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

We know for the PC, you can use a USB DAC. We know you can choose to use an external DAC when using a receiver. But what about things like and iPOD, CD player, MP3 player, turnable, etc?

post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cjp85 View Post

We know for the PC, you can use a USB DAC. We know you can choose to use an external DAC when using a receiver. But what about things like and iPOD, CD player, MP3 player, turnable, etc?



I am interested in this discussion as well. Anybody?

post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cjp85 View Post

We know for the PC, you can use a USB DAC. We know you can choose to use an external DAC when using a receiver. But what about things like and iPOD, CD player, MP3 player, turnable, etc?


It comes down to what you want from your music. You will notice that many recent CDPs actually give you the ability to use the box as a standalone DAC (usually above about 4-500 dollars), but it gets more expensive when you want to hook a DAC up to the other kit you mention, especially with players like the iPod because you need to bypass the iPod's own DAC to improve sound quality to the extent you would be aiming for with a dedicated DAC.

 

Best all-around option is probably still a CDP with digital out (either coaxial or optical [SPDIF]), but there are so many more options available now than there were 3 years ago. Take a look at this:

 

http://qlshifi.com/en/wzcapi/qa350.htm

 

The 'fun' part, and it took me a while to grasp this, is that all sources arent created equal, even when you are simply connecting something like the QA350 to a 'high-end' DAC, but thats a discussion for another thread.

 

post #4 of 17

You need a DAC for  a tired old computer which you want to repurpose as a music player. The DAC in the the old computer may be of poor quality.  But a  DAC within a new computer might be as good as or even better than the DAC in the Fubar3 which I use.

post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by fubar3 View Post

You need a DAC for  a tired old computer which you want to repurpose as a music player. The DAC in the the old computer may be of poor quality.  But a  DAC within a new computer might be as good as or even better than the DAC in the Fubar3 which I use.

 

Then the Fubar3 must be truly dreadful - my Tosh laptop has 'Intel HD Audio' and it sounds just as crappy as any other onboard sound I've ever heard, and worse than my 2008 Macbook Pro.

post #6 of 17
Buy a DAC if you're running computer-as-source and are getting noise off the computer.

I'm not talking about Golden Ears stuff where there's more "blackness" or "separation between notes." If you hear clicks, pops, static, hash, that sort of thing, get a DAC. You'll know it when you hear it, no special audiophile training necessary.

Do not buy a DAC for improved soundstage or because it has a pretty tube on it. All good digital sources sound pretty much the same. The good news is that good digital is really cheap today, just like how good computers are cheap. You wouldn't put some magical $3,000 10GB hard drive in your computer, would you? I'm sure one could be made of cryo'ed materials, special caps, a vacuum tube on there for somereasonorother, and assembled by albino Norwegian forest elves with a production of 50 per year and a three year waiting list.

If you are itching to spend money, think about some good stuff, like a turntable or speakers. Those pay off.
post #7 of 17

I ask myself the same thing.

 

I'm satisfied with the sound from my computer through a Cheapo X-Fi soundcard and into a mid tier Pioneer receiver for the headphone out.....it's not the best but it is a satisfying listening experience which is why I haven't stressed buying anything up to this point.

 

Now I'm considering the Fiio E10 for my computer setup due to it's low price and excellent reviews.

 

My stereo system isn't ideal for headphone listening but I make it work and it's pretty good....a little better than my computer setup. The digital preamp is highly rated for 2 channel sound which is why I bought it.... but theres no headphone out so I have to jimmy the signal to an analog preamp for the headphone out. The headphone jack on my CD player is flat sounding....but the DAC's do 96/24 while my digital preamp doesn't go that high which is a reason to justify an upgrade. Not that I'm going to listen to 98/24 per se....but a current DAC should have equal or better performance....plus my analog preamp is noisy...so I guess I can justify a new DAC....or 2.wink.gif

 

I guess you'll never know if you need an external DAC until you hear what you're missing on someone elses system that does perform better than what you currently run.

 

 

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

 

Then the Fubar3 must be truly dreadful - my Tosh laptop has 'Intel HD Audio' and it sounds just as crappy as any other onboard sound I've ever heard, and worse than my 2008 Macbook Pro.

Notebooks tend to have non-standard configurations for portability and battery life.  I was thinking of standard computer boards which have line outputs suitable for home theatre setups.  You will need a decent headphone amp to get good sound from a computer.
 

 

post #9 of 17

Uncle Erik, you are a serious pipe-and-slippers-audio guy. I respect that, but I fear you may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater here. 

post #10 of 17

Technically, you need a DAC to listen to any digital music files biggrin.gif

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head Injury View Post

Technically, you need a DAC to listen to any digital music files biggrin.gif



We have a comedian here guys.....

post #12 of 17

Well, he's right. What did you think was doing the job in your CDP - aliens ?

post #13 of 17


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

Well, he's right. What did you think was doing the job in your CDP - aliens ?


I prefer thinking it's tiny gnomes.

 

----

 

When do you need a [new/different] dac? When you're able to distinguish that what you've got isn't up to the task.  This is of course going by a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" viewpoint.

post #14 of 17

I'm wondering if there is a noticeable difference with a mp3 player run through a DAC?? I was thinking of upgrading from my Zen Vision M to possibly the Corwon in order to use an external DAC. Wondering if anyone can comment on the improvement in sound quality???

 

I use my mp3 player the most since I can listen to music all day at work. But I'm trying to figure out if the SQ improvement is significant - if not, I'm going to save for a new preamp for my TT system.

 

Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated!!

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cjp85 View Post

We know for the PC, you can use a USB DAC. We know you can choose to use an external DAC when using a receiver. But what about things like and iPOD, CD player, MP3 player, turnable, etc?



TMHO Apple has crappy DAC built in their ipods, ipads, ithings so having a late gen i-product, it is easy to get better quality sound when routing through an external DAC.

 

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