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USB DAC suggestions needed for Senn 650 / KICAS amp?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

My DAC is the weak link in my current rig and I hope to upgrade it to meet the level of the other components.  It also broke down on me recently, and while I may be able to have it fixed by a buddy, I'm still thinking about a new DAC.  I currently am running a Super Pro DAC707 DIY paired with a KICAS amp and Sennheiser 650 cans.  I use the USB rather than optical, and the DAC is only connected to my desktop PC.  To give you a price range, $400 is at the maximum.  I'm generally looking in the $150 to $350 range.  


I don't know about you, but I like to experience the music as the artist intended as much as possible (no eq or excessive colorization), so I seek a neutral sound, although I'll admit that I enjoy a little warmth overall.  The KICAS amp is setup to be the "vanilla" version, which is supposed to be extremely neutral.  I could set it up to be the "caliente" version, which is warmer, but given the fact that the 650's are already slightly on the warm side, it's too much, so I keep it "vanilla" style.


My ideal DAC would not color the sound in any way.  I hope to buy a DAC that is simple and clean.  While I would appreciate the options for connecting optical and others, I really only need USB.  Also, I am not too familiar with different DACs, and I am wondering if upgrading to one of the ones I mention below will improve upon the my current Super Pro DAC707 sound, or if it will be a waste of money and just stick to the cheap $100 DAC options.  Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!


Some options that I have come across:


Musical Fidelity V-DAC

Musical Fidelity V-DAC II

Keces DA-151





post #2 of 3

There's definitely something to be said for a balanced rig in terms of amp/dac/headphone capability. I've tried using an Audinst HUD-MX1 in place of my Audio-GD SA-1 dac in an Apex Arete/Volcano -> HD 800 on occasion and the sound suffers quite a bit. Soundstage is less 3-D and the bass doesn't reach quite as far down.


If you're planning on using the USB only, Audio-GD does have a new USB-32 implementation that gets good reviews. Someone was comparing it to the Audiophileo in the SA-2 thread here.


Originally Posted by FauDrei View Post

...a few thoughts about USB-32 and SA-2...

USB-32 is SQ wise in whereabouts of audiophilleo2. It does some things slightly better (clarity, focus) and some things slightly worse (soundstage depth), but they are, IMO, on the same level.

Note that my comparison was done on NFB-11.32: BNC SPDIF coax input on NFB-11.32 is connected directly to ES9018 (no SPDIF to I2S converter chips like DIR9001 or WM8805 required; ES9018 has it's own on-chip SPDIF input) and it seems that ES9018 has an excellent PLL on it's SPDIF input which makes it's whole SPDIF input excellent. PCM1704 based DAC like SA-2 would require SPDIF to I2S converter (DIR9001, WM8805...) before digital filtering so the audiophilleo vs USB-32 comparison could differ here.

That said - details, dynamics with "liquid" (musical?) presentation and extraordinary low end response is the "signature" of all 3x r-core transformer based multi PCM1704 A-GD DACs. If diamond differential gain stages in SA-2 are similar to SA-31 head/preamp ones - then add harmonics to the described "signature" sound. And "good harmonics" at that - huuuge "out-of-your-head" stage and possible slight detail increase... Everything is listenable, almost everything sound good... and if you are into dead neutral that may not please you... but it sure is addictive and fun. biggrin.gif

Thing with diamond differential, as I understand/hear it, is - it works best single ended. I have tried feeding differential (balanced) signal to my SA-31 and beside increased input levels and, perhaps because of that, slightly more pronounced details - the "harmonic magic" was not much there as when the same source was connected in single ended fashion. Bad thing with that is - you "hear" RCA cables and your system is not so immune to interferences as with ACSS.

There. cool.gif


While the SA-2 is about $1400, you can get something Wolfson based like the NFB-3.32 for a little less than $400 shipped.  

Edited by steve2151 - 10/4/12 at 7:14pm
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I'll take a look at those DACs.  I'm currently leaning toward a used V-DAC with pyramid power supply since it received great reviews for a budget DAC.

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