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Do DACs make a difference?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey guys... I'm about to start an internet fight with somebody who says DACs don't make a difference (on another online forum of course).

 

I'm of the opinion that they do. So... do they, or do they not make a difference?

post #2 of 12

They make a huge difference.

post #3 of 12

Depends on what you're coming from.  Take, for example, my 2009 iMac.  Going from its onboard to HRT Music Streamer II or ODAC.  The difference is very subtle-- might as well not mention it.

post #4 of 12
Yeah pretty much depends on where you come from. Most onboard sound cards are crappy (like Realtek). The difference between good DACs once you upgrade though are very subtle. As usual, YMMV.
post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzybaffy View Post

Hey guys... I'm about to start an internet fight with somebody who says DACs don't make a difference (on another online forum of course).

 

I'm of the opinion that they do. So... do they, or do they not make a difference?

 

You can use a very colored DAC vs an on-board DAC where the designers' idea of "flat response" forgot all about "dynamic range." Between good DACs  designed to be as clean as possible it gets harder to hear a difference; either way it also depends on how transparent your amp is. Consider all sorts of digital sources (which have DACs) and not just dedicated DACs - the USB input on my Cantate.2,Cambridge 651C, Rega Apollo and Planet, Cayin CD100i and CD50, Cocktail X10, iPad analog line out, D-Zero, etc all sound audibly different, and surprisingly enough my personal choice is the USB input followed by the D-Zero. This might change when I finally get the screws loose and switch to hi-gain (which is actually the normal setting for the circuit) ; the D-Zero's output seems cleaner, with less bloat and yet deeper bass, but I can't be sure given I have to pump up the volume on the Cantate with it. However consider also that it will also pass through a cable several inches long, instead of just from one part of the circuit board to another.

 

BTW as much as headphones are better with detail than speakers owing to their proximity to your ears, and are less dependent on room acoustics (trade off is what condition your pads are in), sometimes the audible differences with DACs and other sources is the soundstage and that's harder to hear through headphones than speakers.

post #6 of 12
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

/

BTW as much as headphones are better with detail than speakers owing to their proximity to your ears, and are less dependent on room acoustics (trade off is what condition your pads are in), sometimes the audible differences with DACs and other sources is the soundstage and that's harder to hear through headphones than speakers.

 

Yes, nice point.  The differences between DAC's can sometimes show up on speakers where they don't in headphones, like holography etc.  Naturally this depends on the DAC, amplifier, and speakers in question.

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

Hey guys... I'm about to start an internet fight with somebody who says DACs don't make a difference (on another online forum of course).

 

I'm of the opinion that they do. So... do they, or do they not make a difference?

 

Are you sure you really want to waste your time on a fight? Perhaps that person just has cloth ears. Of course DACs make a difference - the biggest improvement in my system has come from cleaning up my DAC. Of course the differences don't show up in measurements, but that's just a sign we don't yet make the right measurements for DACs.

post #8 of 12

There was a pretty noticeable difference when I switched from using my E17 as a dac to using my decco2 as a dac. 

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzybaffy View Post

Hey guys... I'm about to start an internet fight with somebody who says DACs don't make a difference (on another online forum of course).

 

You may want to try the Sound Science forum instead of this one.

post #10 of 12

If there is a difference, it is extremely subtle. They're never worth the money compared to an amp or a new pair of headphones. 

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Voldemort View Post

If there is a difference, it is extremely subtle. They're never worth the money compared to an amp or a new pair of headphones. 

 

I'd agree with your "extremely subtle" with a caveat: They should be extremely subtle except when comparing a good DAC with a crummy DAC. But really I agree with you: With even a reasonable DAC, the best avenues for improvement are headphones and then amp.

post #12 of 12

I am of the opinion that yes they do make a difference... but also feel the effects of diminishing returns far quicker than replacing the headphone/speaker, or amp. Makes more of a difference than cables though (yeah I just went there tongue.gif).

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