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NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC Impressions - Page 68

post #1006 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by skandy View Post
 

Hi all, another newbie just started out on digital audio. I have had my M51 for about 3 months and I am quite pleased with it. I have a Synology NAS connected to the M51 with a Cardas usb cable and play music via the NAS audio software which is very convenient. But I have gone through a few sites including here and get the general opinion that the usb input of the M51 is only average compared to the spdif input and that the use of a good usb to spdif converter would help to further improve the sound quality of the M51. The OR5 and other high end converters are out of my reach so I ended up trying JK's Ciunas converter. I have it running it for about 2 weeks now and to be honest I can't hear too much difference. Is the M51's usb input chipset of the same level as JK's Ciunas which is why I am not hearing much difference? My M51 firmware version is 1.42 if that helps. It does not seem to be mentioned here.

 

For those who are still using the M51 with a usb-spdif converter any advice on what I can try or is my hearing going south? I am using an old Audioquest VDM-1 cable from converter to the M51. Would a better grade digital cable help to improve the sound or should I use a laptop with a different player for my files? Thanks.

Everything matters. Media player, USB to SPDIF converter AND cables. I use Audiophilleo2 with PurePower and Transparent Premium USB. Both items made a huge impact in sound. BTW I run JRiver in Wasapi mode.

post #1007 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by skandy View Post
 

Hi all, another newbie just started out on digital audio. I have had my M51 for about 3 months and I am quite pleased with it. I have a Synology NAS connected to the M51 with a Cardas usb cable and play music via the NAS audio software which is very convenient. But I have gone through a few sites including here and get the general opinion that the usb input of the M51 is only average compared to the spdif input and that the use of a good usb to spdif converter would help to further improve the sound quality of the M51. The OR5 and other high end converters are out of my reach so I ended up trying JK's Ciunas converter. I have it running it for about 2 weeks now and to be honest I can't hear too much difference. Is the M51's usb input chipset of the same level as JK's Ciunas which is why I am not hearing much difference? My M51 firmware version is 1.42 if that helps. It does not seem to be mentioned here.

 

For those who are still using the M51 with a usb-spdif converter any advice on what I can try or is my hearing going south? I am using an old Audioquest VDM-1 cable from converter to the M51. Would a better grade digital cable help to improve the sound or should I use a laptop with a different player for my files? Thanks.

 

I've run my NAD M51 predominantly on USB, but sometimes venture to use the Coax and the Optical. Sometimes, I think I hear something different in the other inputs, but when I return to USB, it is also there. If there are differences, I would say they are not that much to be of much consequence to your overall enjoyment. 

 

Whilst I cannot claim to have heard high-end USB to SPDIF converters, I would venture to say perhaps invest initially on different headphones with different sound signatures that you enjoy. Then on a secondary amp to have a point of comparison. If at that time, you still feel the need to fiddle with the chain, then look at cabling and converters. By that time, your experience with different phones and configurations would help you appreciate the difference these latter tweaks will make.

 

Just my 2 cents of course and YMMV, and LOL, and all that. :L3000:

 

For my part - extremely happy with Mac>Audirvana>NAD M51>USB>Soloist>. 

post #1008 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lappy27 View Post
 

Everything matters. Media player, USB to SPDIF converter AND cables. I use Audiophilleo2 with PurePower and Transparent Premium USB. Both items made a huge impact in sound. BTW I run JRiver in Wasapi mode.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NZheadcase View Post
 

 

I've run my NAD M51 predominantly on USB, but sometimes venture to use the Coax and the Optical. Sometimes, I think I hear something different in the other inputs, but when I return to USB, it is also there. If there are differences, I would say they are not that much to be of much consequence to your overall enjoyment. 

 

Whilst I cannot claim to have heard high-end USB to SPDIF converters, I would venture to say perhaps invest initially on different headphones with different sound signatures that you enjoy. Then on a secondary amp to have a point of comparison. If at that time, you still feel the need to fiddle with the chain, then look at cabling and converters. By that time, your experience with different phones and configurations would help you appreciate the difference these latter tweaks will make.

 

Just my 2 cents of course and YMMV, and LOL, and all that. :L3000:

 

For my part - extremely happy with Mac>Audirvana>NAD M51>USB>Soloist>. 

 

Thanks for your comments. This seems to be the confusing part for me. As already mentioned by many others in this thread, the addition of a quality converter has improved the sound quality of their system. I have only done a short comparison between converter/spdif input vs the usb but with initial impressions I do find the differences to be small. I should also mention that the M51 is feeding a Goldmund 390.2 integrated amp and a pair of B&W 805S. I will try some of the other players mentioned from my PC to see how it compares to the NAS player before looking at cables. The sound from both inputs are by no means poor. I'm just not getting the huge improvement that others have expressed. All part of the learning curve I guess. Thanks!


Edited by skandy - 2/10/14 at 9:03pm
post #1009 of 1540

I've had great results by going though a specialty computer to send the files to my NAD via USB:   http://www.computeraudiophile.com/section/c-p-s-489/ 

 

QNAP -> CAPSv3 Carbon Computer w/Red Wine Audio Black Lightning Power Supply -> Cardas Clear USB -> NAD M51 -> Balanced Kimber KCAG -> spl Auditor -> Beyer T1.

 

 What I get is a setup that copies the music file from NAS to the music server (keeping in RAM), which in turn streams the music to the NAD via a clean, dedicated USB card (SOtM tX-USBexp) using NADs' own ASIO USB driver.  The CAPS computer's audio card is disabled & the audio services are also disabled.

 

To my ears, I don't need a USB to SPDIF converter.  It's been almost a year since I've completed my setup and still don't feel the need to change a thing, of course YMMV.

post #1010 of 1540

Hi guys. New to this forum. Joined because you seem to have the most active NAD M51 thread.

 

I'm also interested in finding out the best inputs/converters to use on the M51 for optimum SQ.  From my perspective, though, I'll be starting a new music library and distribution from scratch. How best to do that probably covers >5 threads of topics, I know ;-)

...but the constant for me is that I already bought the M51; so perhaps I can choose the system that best matches the M51's input "preferences".

 

e.g. if I go via a Mac Mini, I guess I'd keep open the options of using optical, HDMI, USB or USB-SPDIF converter. My gut feeling is that where you have the direct optical option available, a USB-SPDIF converter is unlikely to be beneficial.  Comments or corrections very welcome...before I invest in the wrong gear.

 

For my 2c contribution, I've done a lot of comparisons of CDs played from an Oppo 103D to the M51:  I find zero difference between coax and optical. HDMI sounds "different". Still deciding if it's better or worse; difficult because HDMI is louder so initial impression is to favour that. In longer listening, I have a suspicion it might be a tad more fatiguing; a slight loss of distinction between instruments...perhaps.

 

Cheers

post #1011 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by JDOz View Post

 

e.g. if I go via a Mac Mini, I guess I'd keep open the options of using optical, HDMI, USB or USB-SPDIF converter. My gut feeling is that where you have the direct optical option available, a USB-SPDIF converter is unlikely to be beneficial.  Comments or corrections very welcome...before I invest in the wrong gear.

 

If you will run a Mac Mini into the NAD, be aware that it will only output 24/96 - although to be honest, it is not really a limitation at this point for me as I only have less than a dozen tracks at higher reso. Plus I've always believed that red book, properly recorded, can sound as good as hi res. It's the music and the skill put into the recording that gives us the goosebumps. 

 

Although it does seem like it might not be beneficial, I cannot personally vouch that it is or it is not. I will try and find a kiwi owner of a good SPDIF converter at the Auckland meet in a few months, and maybe we can work out a way for me to borrow it and test = Mac Mini USB with converter VS. Mac Mini optical out into the NAD.

post #1012 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by skandy View Post
 

I'm just not getting the huge improvement that others have expressed. All part of the learning curve I guess. Thanks!

 

Been in this similar situation early into my time in the hobby. There was once upon a time when I considered returning my LCD 2.2's because I could not get the hang of the sound signature and thought that a pair of HD598's are close to it in sound quality.

 

Time came though - through lots of listening to favorite tracks and new ones - you learn to pick out the differences in soundstage, how the kick drums in specific passages sound, how further away the cello should be in relation to the piano, how much your adams apple wobbles when you get rocked by low notes and the like. It's come to the point where the same song is a totally different experience based on what gear you use. Totally enjoyable with different gear, but a different way of enjoying each time. I guess my long winded point is enjoy the journey and don't rush with fiddling too much that you neglect really listening to your treasured music through your gear. Instead of chasing improvements, chase experiences, then stick with the experiences you love the most. 

 

Oh and BTW, your gear is really cool. Wouldn't mind seeing a photo here.  

post #1013 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by NZheadcase View Post
 

 

If you will run a Mac Mini into the NAD, be aware that it will only output 24/96 - although to be honest, it is not really a limitation at this point for me as I only have less than a dozen tracks at higher reso. Plus I've always believed that red book, properly recorded, can sound as good as hi res. It's the music and the skill put into the recording that gives us the goosebumps. 

 

Although it does seem like it might not be beneficial, I cannot personally vouch that it is or it is not. I will try and find a kiwi owner of a good SPDIF converter at the Auckland meet in a few months, and maybe we can work out a way for me to borrow it and test = Mac Mini USB with converter VS. Mac Mini optical out into the NAD.

Cheers for that; very helpful.  Great if you can do the comparison and I was not aware of the 24/96 limitation so that was a very relevant warning.

 

Do you know if the HDMI on the Mac Mini has the same limitation?

Also, I'm curious what you are currently using and whether you have you already tried your own comparisons of HDMI vs optical from Mac Mini to M51?

 

I've read some of the dogma, like; HDMI being generally bad; optical being bad for jitter, USB better for jitter but bad in other ways like noise transfer. I also have no doubt that USB-SPDIF converters improve SQ in many systems. The real question is how this all ranks when using the M51. NAD claim that their digital conversion method overcomes jitter from the source...and I seem to recall one reviewer liking the HDMI connection the most.  Thinking the M51 may not follow typical rules when it comes to input types.

 

So thanks again for the relevant input. Hope to hear more.

post #1014 of 1540

earlier I had commented on the parts,or lack thereof in this dac. I did not realize it is a software dac. hence, it is just a little computer doing a dedicated task. it does it pretty nicely in fact. this could be future proof but no doubt nad will abandon it once a new product comes out. I am wondering if a pc/mac running a software upsampler and a good sound card with nice op-amps could actually best this. since we are mainly using this with computers. why not cut out the middle man? I do not know what the results would be. I am also not insinuating a cheaper route. a good soundcard such as rme is at least as much money as the m51. I suppose it depends on the software. I feel much higher end dacs 24/192 with a redbook transport will best all of this new fangled stuff anyways other than that I am sure someone compared this to the 121 and I missed it. I do prefer the idea of a hardware dac but things may be heading this way everywhere. if the hdmi could decode sacd from a transport I would pay much more than 2 grand for this! listening nad?

post #1015 of 1540
Huh? How is the NAD just a "software" dac?

What differentiates it from typical dacs is the conversion from PCM to PWM (for precision and jitter reduction) and the 35bit digital volume control that alleviates truncation. It's still a digital to analogue converter, not a cheap processor in a box.
Edited by olor1n - 2/12/14 at 8:41pm
post #1016 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by music_man View Post
 

earlier I had commented on the parts,or lack thereof in this dac. I did not realize it is a software dac. hence, it is just a little computer doing a dedicated task. it does it pretty nicely in fact. this could be future proof but no doubt nad will abandon it once a new product comes out. I am wondering if a pc/mac running a software upsampler and a good sound card with nice op-amps could actually best this. since we are mainly using this with computers. why not cut out the middle man? I do not know what the results would be. I am also not insinuating a cheaper route. a good soundcard such as rme is at least as much money as the m51. I suppose it depends on the software. I feel much higher end dacs 24/192 with a redbook transport will best all of this new fangled stuff anyways other than that I am sure someone compared this to the 121 and I missed it. I do prefer the idea of a hardware dac but things may be heading this way everywhere. if the hdmi could decode sacd from a transport I would pay much more than 2 grand for this! listening nad?

Not sure what you mean by hardware DAC vs software DAC.  The big differences in the M51 is that it converts the PCM input to PWM and this, they claim, removes jitter. Id imagine most DACs are full of expensive circuitry to reduce jitter in other (probably more expensive) ways.  Also the M51 has 35-bit...a lot.  With a digital volume control you effectively lose bits when you turn the volume down and the M51 has bits to spare so they were able to use a digital volume control without losing SQ. Again this provides a cheaper solution (and a more vacant looking inside) compared to the far more extensive analog circuitry needed in most DACs.

 

In essence, NAD came up with a novel and less expensive way to overcome some of the key "weak links" in DAC design.

 

As for using a computer DAC;  another huge factor in DAC performance is the way electronic circuitry adds noise to the signal output and degrades its signal. Probably fair to say that when you buy a $5k DAC, about half that money is paying for the expensive components and design put into minimising that noise and degradation.  This is also why audiophiles favour using a separate box for source, transport, DAC, preamp and amp. This physically separates the noise generating circuitry that is not essential to the task in hand.

Locating your DAC and analog sections within something that generates as much electronic noise as a computer, is like asking a symphony orchestra to play at the speedway  :-)

post #1017 of 1540
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Huh? How is the NAD just a "software" dac?

What differentiates it from typical dacs is the conversion from PCM to PWM (for precision and jitter reduction) and the 35bit digital volume control that alleviates truncation. It's still a digital to analogue converter, not a cheap processor in a box.

Took me ages to say that :-D

post #1018 of 1540

i could be wrong. my understanding is that the zetex chip(the dac in this case) is a programmable chip running "software code". or in fact it could be a hardware pcm-pwm pulsing chip. what i have read has been unclear. i did not mean anything by this. i meant to ask as i am uncertain. regardless it sounds pretty good. as does their amp which apparently uses the same chip as it's heart.

 

just noticed they are replacing it now. a lot more expensive though. certainly looks the part. it has been out for a while. if it is in fact software based they could always upgrade it. apparently it also accepts a dsd stream but it converts it to 35/844. which math in my head tells me is actually a wider data path than native dsd. need a calculator for 2x-8x dsd lol. the nice thing about pwm at 35 bit I am guessing is that they are not moving the noise up the ladder either. anyways if you want a m51 now id wait. they might go on sale soon with the new one here. okay, a lot of guesses on my part.

 

http://www.stereophile.com/content/nad-m12-dacpreamp


Edited by music_man - 2/13/14 at 2:29am
post #1019 of 1540

C'mon M51 owners.  A bit more discussion would be good ;-)

 

Downloaded by very first HD (192/24) FLAC music yesterday...along with Audirvana to play it.  Used my Mac Pro with HDMI vs USB (the latter using a super-cheap and nasty USB cable as it's all I had on hand).

 

First impression...WOW!  Was ready to do an A/B comparison with the original CD from my Oppo 103D but that was not necessary. The FLAC file was way, way better and this was obvious within a few seconds:  Far more bass, more detail and clarity. Can't believe what I've been missing ...and will continue to miss for most of my music that's not available in HD.

 

I then tested USB vs HDMI from Mac to M51 and detected quite a difference in sound. Not sure I speak audio well enough to describe but...

 

The USB had more impact when first listening and focussing on vocals; brighter? warmer?. Very pleasant for vocals but a bit fatiguing on the high frequencies from some instrumental sections. The HDMI had better clarity; more controlled. Drums sounded a bit tighter, separation of instruments was a bit better and the high frequencies...that was the biggest difference...Less distortion, I believe. Could have been trimming or de-emphasising the HF I guess but the end result was that I preferred HDMI for extended listening and found that I'd venture louder with HDMI without fatigue.

 

As mentioned, I only had a cheap USB cable so don't know what impact a better cable may bring to USB.

 

Would love to hear which M51 inputs the rest of you use.

post #1020 of 1540

I've used them all; they sound good.

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