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Replacing my M-DAC

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

So I have the Audiolab M-DAC and it's just an amazing piece of equipment but for some reason I am feeling like I just have to get a better DAC. Now I have searched the forums a bit and shortlisted a few DACs that also have a built in hp amp. These are:

 

DA11

Antelope Zodiac 

Weiss DAC

 

OK so that Weiss one is just a pipe dream and waaaaay out of my budget but you can see what I am aiming for. Info on the base model Zodiac is very scarce in this forum and from what I can gather the M-DAC is a total giant killer so my question is, are these DACs going to be much better than it or is the increase going to be fairly marginal? What kind of money are we talking about if I do want to have a huge difference over my M-DAC? Of course other recommendations are welcome and thanks to anybody willing to help me out.

post #2 of 45

First you would have to say what's your gear.

post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 

Oh ya sorry about that. m-dac -> v200 -> lcd-2. That's what I'm using now but I basically have no space on my desk at all so wanted to get a good all-in-one. I know the built in amps are not going to be as good as what I have now but I'd gladly take a little hit on that end if the DAC part is very good.

post #4 of 45

With the LCD-2 I don't believe you will get that much of an improvement with a new dac.

Not saying they suck but they aren't just that transparent, with stax for example I'm sure you would really benefit from a better dac but with the LCD.2 you are going for a different type of sound at best.

post #5 of 45
Thread Starter 

It's true it's not the most transparent hp but it seems you're short changing it. I also have the HD 800 (Probably going to sell this) and I'm planning to get a T1 and who knows, I might use it with speakers in the future so that's also why I'm really interested but ya, the LCD-2 has most of my time.

 

I think I would get an improvement with any of those but as you said it may not be that great, not because of the hp but because of how good the m-dac is said to be. I personally just don't know how this and other sabre dacs compare with the more well known ones. From what I can gather they are giant killers but there must be something that beats it silly right? I mean if the be all and end all hifi dac was just £600 I'm pretty sure it would be by far the hottest topic on here and pretty much everywhere.

post #6 of 45

Looks like you have caught the upgrade/exploration fever. It´s a fun, but very expensive trip. Welcome to Head-Fi, and sorry about your wallet :D

post #7 of 45


Have you heard a DA11, Antelope Zodiac to even know if spending another $1000-2000-3000 will make any difference in quality to your music?  Have you done any testing where you were not told which device you were listening to and did not know the price tag of the item and be able to distinguish whether the Zodiac sounds better than your M-DAC.

 

Hey it's your money.  Personally I would want to be able to definitively be able to tell and say the upgraded DAC sounds better than your current M-DAC without looking at either item or knowing which one is the expensive/inexpensive device before buying it.  Maybe you can get a Zodiac loaner.  Have a friend hide the equipment around the corner behind a wall with the headphone plug through only a hole just wide enough for it to fit through and then test it.  I'm not going to argue about ABX or not, just saying, personally I would want to be able to say definitively, the upgrade is better EVERY time easily.

 

It doesn't seem like AudioLab are incompetent or don't know how to engineer a DAC with the ESS 9018.  ESS 9018 is only the most sophisticated 32 bit D/A with nearly zero jitter.  Asynchronous USB and the digital reciever is top notch.  Build quality looks fantastic.  Has a power source well beyond it's needs.  What more could anyone ask for in a DAC?  How do you improve upon that?  Besides getting surgery to acquire some voodoo golden ears?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleepaphobic View Post

So I have the Audiolab M-DAC and it's just an amazing piece of equipment but for some reason I am feeling like I just have to get a better DAC. Now I have searched the forums a bit and shortlisted a few DACs that also have a built in hp amp. These are:

 

DA11

Antelope Zodiac 

Weiss DAC

 

OK so that Weiss one is just a pipe dream and waaaaay out of my budget but you can see what I am aiming for. Info on the base model Zodiac is very scarce in this forum and from what I can gather the M-DAC is a total giant killer so my question is, are these DACs going to be much better than it or is the increase going to be fairly marginal? What kind of money are we talking about if I do want to have a huge difference over my M-DAC? Of course other recommendations are welcome and thanks to anybody willing to help me out.



 


Edited by mbd2884 - 1/14/12 at 1:25pm
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 

Ya I tried calling a few places today to see if I could demo a unit but they were both closed. I don't think I could possibly drop that cash without listening to it first (I auditioned the m-dac before buying it) so I will try hard to find one that I can try. I was just asking for some advice to see if I was going in the right direction.

 

Maybe I understated the importance of the built in hp amp before but at this moment it is very important. I'd stick with the M-DAC if it's hp amp was better but it's not that great with anything other than my hd650. If I sell my gear I will also not have to pay that much at all so if the new DAC is just a little better but the built in hp amp has the m-dac's beat then I'd call that a very worthwhile upgrade.

post #9 of 45

For LCD-2 why not Burson HA-160D? People seem to realy like the pairing.

post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Szadzik View Post

For LCD-2 why not Burson HA-160D? People seem to realy like the pairing.



Thanks for the reply. Ya I was thinking about that for a second but I believe the amount of digital inputs are on the thin side. I currently connect my xbox, ps3, laptop and tower PC to the DAC but that's not really essential so I may think about it. It's true that high price doesn't mean it will be of a higher quality but would the Burson's DAC really match up well with those mentioned ones? The amp bit may be really good but not sure how the DAC section holds up.

 

BTW I never did give a price range but I was thinking around £1500 or maybe even 2k. Another one I added to the shortlist is the NorthStar Essensio Plus.

post #11 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleepaphobic View Post

Thanks for the reply. Ya I was thinking about that for a second but I believe the amount of digital inputs are on the thin side. I currently connect my xbox, ps3, laptop and tower PC to the DAC but that's not really essential so I may think about it. It's true that high price doesn't mean it will be of a higher quality but would the Burson's DAC really match up well with those mentioned ones? The amp bit may be really good but not sure how the DAC section holds up.

 

BTW I never did give a price range but I was thinking around £1500 or maybe even 2k. Another one I added to the shortlist is the NorthStar Essensio Plus.



If you choose to go separates, you will also face the problem of component matching, which means that eventually, you will spend more money than you are planning to spend, because it will be difficult to compromise.

 

In my opinion, the Burson DAC is ver ygood and for the price you pay, this device provides a lot of quality. 

 

It will not provide the same quality as Zodiac DAC-wise, but I have no ide how the Zodiac works as an amp.

 

For LCD-2s, there once was a huge thread about choosing the right amplification for it. Find it and I bet you wil find your answers.

post #12 of 45

Just because the burson is an amp/dac doesn't mean its a magical pairing. In my opinion you shouldn't go that route because you will regret later and then if you want to upgrade the dac or amp you can't.

post #13 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeadBeats View Post

Just because the burson is an amp/dac doesn't mean its a magical pairing. In my opinion you shouldn't go that route because you will regret later and then if you want to upgrade the dac or amp you can't.



I did not recommend it because it is a combo - I recommended it, because people tried this before and say the Burson pairs very well with LCD2s.

 

If the OP WANTS an amp/DAC combo, why would you start to try and make him not buy it? Who said he has space for two pieces of equipment?

 

post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 

That's true and after a little looking I don't think the DAC part of the Burson will even be on par with what I have now. Of course I'm not looking for perfection or an amp section that will beat or be on the same level as my V200, I'm just looking for something that will drive my hp quite a bit better than the M-DAC itself while also having a better sounding DAC section. Now Maybe the differences in the DACs will be very small at that price range but the hp out is still a huge thing for me right now.

 

When I do get a bigger place I'll totally get another amp to complete it but that's another story for another day.

post #15 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Szadzik View Post



I did not recommend it because it is a combo - I recommended it, because people tried this before and say the Burson pairs very well with LCD2s.

 

If the OP WANTS an amp/DAC combo, why would you start to try and make him not buy it? Who said he has space for two pieces of equipment?. 

That's true I don't have space for separates hence why I'm selling my stuff and looking for a good all-in-one.

 

Maybe I should clarify my intentions because tbh I've been all over the place and I apologize to everyone for this. First and foremost I would like a very nice DAC. I will use this with speakers in the future and maybe it might even be the last one I will ever buy (Ya right but it should keep me happy for a few years at least). I think we have concluded that the DACs I mentioned would probably be better but the difference would be very small. 

 

At this moment in time I'm using my headphones 90% of the time. Problem now is that the hp out of the M-DAC is not great at all with the LCD-2 so a DAC that is even on par with the M-DAC but has a better hp out is still going to be a worthwhile investment for me. Of course if the new DAC section is also better then I'm not going to complain.

 

I've read about the Burson and thanks for the suggestion but I think it would be too much of a step back. Hey I may even be wrong about this and it's still on my list so I'll try and audition it if I can.

 


Edited by Sleepaphobic - 1/15/12 at 7:17am
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