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Help Choosing a computer DAC

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I've been looking at the Devilsound ds DAC v2.1 and have read some good reviews. I have a Denon AVR 1500 receiver hooked up to original series Bose 301s which I re-foamed a few months ago. I have a Denon DCD 1500 CD player hooked up that sounds great. I usually use my Macbook Pro to play music (usually lossless files) through a basic headphone jack-auxiliary cord hooked up to my receiver, but it sounds like something is missing to me. When I play CDs though my system it is much louder, fuller, more spacious, et cetera. Will an external DAC make streaming music from my computer sound as good or better than my CD player? Is my system/setup good enough to benefit from an external DAC?

 

Big thanks to all of the people who answer these questions. I always try to do my own research first. This is actually the first thread I've posted because I can't find any info on the specific setup I have. I know its pretty old, but it was given to me for free, so I'm trying to make the best of it. I'm on a pretty tight budget here.. Thanks for your help.

 

Cheers

post #2 of 24

Looks like you are on the right track. I'm not a Macbook user, but if you are experiencing these differences between computer output and a CD player, a reasonable quality DAC should improve the sound radically.

 

I'm not familiar with the Devilsound so I won't comment on that, but in this price range you can find several really good DACs. If you want my recommendation check the Matrix M-stage:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/616771/new-matrix-m-stage-dac

post #3 of 24

Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC, $52, I think it uses the same DAC & USB interface chip as the ODAC.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/140847495065?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649

post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input. I also forgot to mention that I am really partial to warm, vinyl-like sound. I don't like the overly-bright sound that is too often heard in digital music today. Most of what I listen to is Grateful Dead, but I also listen to a lot of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and reggae. One reason I am looking at the devilsound is that it uses non-oversampling to produce what they claim to be an extremely warm sound. I'm having a hard time finding other DACs that don't upsample. Almost all of my music is in 16/44.1, so I don't really feel the need for a 24/96 DAC. Any thoughts? 

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackStraw90 View Post

[..] One reason I am looking at the devilsound is that it uses non-oversampling to produce what they claim to be an extremely warm sound. I'm having a hard time finding other DACs that don't upsample. Almost all of my music is in 16/44.1, so I don't really feel the need for a 24/96 DAC. Any thoughts? 

 

That's an interesting claim. In my experience upsampling somewhat reduces harshness in high frequencies, but DACs in general are pretty neutral - unless tweaked on purpose. 

The reason I mentioned a different DAC at all is that the Devilsound appears to be powered via USB, and I wouldn't want any of my analog gear (note that DAC has analog output) to be powered by a computer's PSU.

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input. $300 is my absolute max budget, but I am definitely considering the Matrix m-stage now..

post #7 of 24
Have you considered the Audioquest Dragonfly? I'm very pleased with the performance of this USB sized DAC on my desktop and laptop. You can find it from 220-250 from a wide variety of retailers and there are already plenty of reviews on line (probably here) like Computer Audiophile, Stereophile, etc. it is towards the high end of your budget, but worthy of consideration, for sure.
post #8 of 24
By the way, the Dragonfly, while capable of 24/96, doesn't automatically ups ample your files. It stays true to the encoding.
post #9 of 24
Here's one review here: http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=456298&highlight=Audioquest+dragonfly

I also remember a good review from a member named jude here on the forum.
post #10 of 24
Here is the review and thread from jude I mentioned previously: http://www.head-fi.org/t/617241/audioquest-dragonfly-review-affordable-outstanding-tiny-dac-amp
post #11 of 24

The Native Instruments Audio 2 is a terrific bargain.

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/dj/traktor-audio-2/?page=1919

 

The converters are top notch. Clean sound, sharp and punchy.

 

!00 Euros would be a good price for a simple stereo out DAC but the Audio 2 offers 2 separate stereo out channels with individual gain controls!

 

Not only that but you get a free copy of Traktor into the bargain. Imagine your favourite media player... on steroids. easy to use too.

 

It's a real steal. Don't miss.
 

post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackStraw90 View Post

Thanks for the input. I also forgot to mention that I am really partial to warm, vinyl-like sound. I don't like the overly-bright sound that is too often heard in digital music today.

 

What PleasantSounds said. A good DAC should have virtually no impact on the sound signature. It should be fairly neutral and accurately covert the audio without coloring. If you want warm sound, it's better to choose speakers that have that kind of character. Differences in good DACs should be minimal in this regard. 

 

I haven't heard the Matrix m-stage, but it definitely seems like it could meet your needs. 

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post

The Native Instruments Audio 2 is a terrific bargain.

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/dj/traktor-audio-2/?page=1919

 

The converters are top notch. Clean sound, sharp and punchy.

 

!00 Euros would be a good price for a simple stereo out DAC but the Audio 2 offers 2 separate stereo out channels with individual gain controls!

 

Not only that but you get a free copy of Traktor into the bargain. Imagine your favourite media player... on steroids. easy to use too.

 

It's a real steal. Don't miss.
 

 

Thanks Ronald, I'll check that out.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

 

What PleasantSounds said. A good DAC should have virtually no impact on the sound signature. It should be fairly neutral and accurately covert the audio without coloring. If you want warm sound, it's better to choose speakers that have that kind of character. Differences in good DACs should be minimal in this regard. 

 

I haven't heard the Matrix m-stage, but it definitely seems like it could meet your needs. 

Ah that makes sense. I have a pair of the original series Bose 301 bookshelf speakers from the 70s and really enjoy the sound they produce from my CD player. I found a used Music Fidelity V-DAC (the original one; not the MKII) on ebay for around $130. I couldn't find any reviews on here for the original V-DAC.. Anyone have an opinion on that? Or buying something like this used?

post #14 of 24

Here's a review of the original V-DAC. Stereophile is a pretty good review source. Seems pretty good for $130 since the MSRP was $299, although I don't know the going rate on used DACs. I sometimes buy used electronics (just picked up a used Antimode 8033C a few months ago). I'm guessing your Denon CD player is an older model. Still works fine, right? And it has mechanical elements that are more prone to failure than electronics. 

post #15 of 24

Just gonna throw in the obligatory ODAC recommendation. I have no idea why it hasn't been recommended yet, or why anyone would want to buy something with similar technology, but half the price. Why not pay 50ish more dollars and get the real thing?

You don't want a warm dac, you want warm speakers, or maybe a warm amp.. never a warm dac. You want an accurate dac :) At least, that's what I think you should want :)

http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=39

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