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Dedicated DAC vs Audio Interface?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I've spent the past 6 hours or so reading up on DACs here. 

 

I'd like to start producing/mixing music and a friend of mine said I'd need speakers, an audio interface, and software. I've decided on going with either a pair of KRK Rokit 6's or 8's and Ableton. 

 

As far as the audio interface part--from what I've gathered, DACs are a subset of audio interfaces and I need some sort of controller with more inputs/outputs than a dedicated DAC (I hope I'm using that term correctly...).

 

Any recommendations? My budget's probably $500.

 

Would a dedicated DAC produce better sound that one included in a controller at the same price point? I'd really like to be able to produce music without sacrificing quality when I just want to relax and listen to my library.

 

Would I be able to get a dedicated DAC like the Bifrost and get some additional controller type thing that doesn't include a DAC? 

 

Sorry if my question's not that clear. It's 5am now and I've gotten a bit lost in all the research. 

 

Thank you. Any help would be appreciated :)

post #2 of 12

Just use the audio interface for D/A.

 

Boutique audiophile manufacturers often have boutique pricing that reflects the small volume of sales and fancy casework, bolstered by a lot of user reviews by people that mostly hear what they want to hear and don't make the high effort to make fair comparisons (but that's not to say that there are no good products or that all reviews are bogus, but beware).  Also, some of those products are not really intended for high fidelity, instead seeking to tweak (alter, enhance, degrade?) the sound, which is not what you want for producing and mixing.

post #3 of 12

I would opt for an audio interface designed for mixing and producing music purpose. A boutique DAC is more intended for serious audiophile music playback. The software you will be using probably works better with the audio interface and the supplied custom ASIO driver. Take a look at RME for example.

 

http://www.rme-audio.de/en_index.php

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

Just use the audio interface for D/A.

 

Boutique audiophile manufacturers often have boutique pricing that reflects the small volume of sales and fancy casework, bolstered by a lot of user reviews by people that mostly hear what they want to hear and don't make the high effort to make fair comparisons (but that's not to say that there are no good products or that all reviews are bogus, but beware).  Also, some of those products are not really intended for high fidelity, instead seeking to tweak (alter, enhance, degrade?) the sound, which is not what you want for producing and mixing.

 

Yeah, I figured I'd need to use the audio interface as the DAC. The main concern I should have conveyed was whether I'd lose SQ through an interface as opposed to a dedicated DAC. 

 

I'm a bit confused by your post because it runs counter to the countless number of threads I read about DACs here last night; everyone seems to SWEAR by the quality differences between $300 level, $500 level, and $1000+ level devices. For example, the AudioGD Reference 7 is something like 1700USD and would blow a Matrix Mini-I out of the water (or so they'd say). Now, if we're talking SQ only, I'd like to think YOU are right in that people are only hearing what they want to hear... because isn't a DAC's job to relay a neutral, uncolored replication of the audio the consumer wants to listen to? Are you saying those extra $1400 are for the casework, features, longevity, etc.? 

 

I'm not disagreeing with you at all and I really appreciate your reply. I'm still trying to get a better sense of the seemingly gigantic world of DACs :)

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cky8 View Post

I would opt for an audio interface designed for mixing and producing music purpose. A boutique DAC is more intended for serious audiophile music playback. The software you will be using probably works better with the audio interface and the supplied custom ASIO driver. Take a look at RME for example.

 

http://www.rme-audio.de/en_index.php

 

First, thanks for your reply and the link!

 

That's the problem for me, I guess. I want both audiophile music (and movie) playback WITH the ability to mix and produce music. Any recommendations? 

 

Or is there something I could add to my chain? Computer (Has SPDIF and Coax) --> boutique DAC --> ??? --> Speakers/Instruments

 

I realize having as little in a chain as possible is the best, but I want extreme SQ as well.

post #6 of 12

Also if you wanna use something that doesn't have ASIO drivers, you could always use Asio4all in its place. Tho it isnt perfect, it wasnt giving me any issues when i was using My onboard  Digital out into my Audio-GD NFB-12 when I was using Asio4all.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by genclaymore View Post

Also if you wanna use something that doesn't have ASIO drivers, you could always use Asio4all in its place. Tho it isnt perfect, it wasnt giving me any issues when i was using My onboard  Digital out into my Audio-GD NFB-12 when I was using Asio4all.

 

Or K.S (XP). or Wasapi (for Vista/7) .

post #8 of 12

I was meaning Asio4all for use with music producing programs that the op mention what he will be doing with the dac or audio interface. Since I sure most of them have Asio and waveout for options.

post #9 of 12

Hi-end DACs will sound slightly better than a cheaper interface; but some of the interfaces these days are excellent value for what they can do, and their quality levels are very good.

 

My Metric Halo ULN2 had very decent DA conversion (among all the DACs I've owned, I believe it produced the best vocal sound - and I've been searching for similar since), and superb AD conversion. It also had pretty nice SPDIF and AES output, in case you'd want to connect to an external DAC.

 

A new ULN2 would be beyond your budget, but you can get them second-hand for around $700. Very highly regarded recording and monitoring tool. Mac only though.

 

Having said that, I've heard a few $1000+ DACs that sound better, but not by a lot.

 

TC Electronic make very high quality interfaces at good prices. Their included mic pres are superbly good (as are the Metric Halo ones).

 

You might like to check out their Impact Twin, depending on the number of ins and outs you'll need.

 

I'm sure there'd be plenty of other good choices out there too, where you wouldn't be sacrificing too much playback quality (such as the RME suggested above)


Edited by Duckman - 8/20/12 at 7:49pm
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duckman View Post
 

Hi-end DACs will sound slightly better than a cheaper interface; but some of the interfaces these days are excellent value for what they can do, and their quality levels are very good.

 

My Metric Halo ULN2 had very decent DA conversion (among all the DACs I've owned, I believe it produced the best vocal sound - and I've been searching for similar since), and superb AD conversion. It also had pretty nice SPDIF and AES output, in case you'd want to connect to an external DAC.

 

A new ULN2 would be beyond your budget, but you can get them second-hand for around $700. Very highly regarded recording and monitoring tool. Mac only though.

 

Having said that, I've heard a few $1000+ DACs that sound better, but not by a lot.

 

TC Electronic make very high quality interfaces at good prices. Their included mic pres are superbly good (as are the Metric Halo ones).

 

You might like to check out their Impact Twin, depending on the number of ins and outs you'll need.

 

I'm sure there'd be plenty of other good choices out there too, where you wouldn't be sacrificing too much playback quality (such as the RME suggested above)

 

My problem is, that I have a focusrite 2i2 which is nice and has output for monitors. But Now I'm getting a pair of sound magic HP100, which I hear need a little more power to drive well, and I'm afraid, that the focusrite can't deliver the needed power to drive them well. So now I'm thinking about maybe returning, my focusrite and getting a Fiio E7/17, as it's a way cheaper solution than getting and extra headphone amp for the focusrite. But then again it doesn't have any TRS jacks for monitors (future monitors), and is it even suitible for music production? 

I guess I could combine it with a E9 somewhere down the line.... Though I've read less than awesome things about the E9. (edit) oh yeah, and getting a E9 would be about the same price, as just keeping the focusrite + headphone amp. 

 

Fiio E17: cheaper, smaller (but maybe not suited for music production, and has no monito outputs?)

Focusrite: lacks amp.


Edited by NinjaVsNinka - 1/28/14 at 7:13am
post #11 of 12

At least wait until you actually have the headphones to hand. Listen and make up your own mind. There is no obvious reason why you need an amp.

post #12 of 12

Hey, im facing the exact same conundrum as you are (word for word!), and was wondering if you came down to a solution? just like you im still unsure, but recently came across this beautiful piece of work, let me know if you people have any info on this particular audio interface.

 

http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/track16

 

there is also the focusrite saffire pro 24 but he track 16 just looks right :p

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