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Why a DAC - Page 2

post #16 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

If you are fine with your Xonar D1/DX DAC then OK, but OP meant external DAC for playback only and in this case you can't compare 100USD sound cards with 1000+USD DACs. I started with DAC19MK3 (500USD) and it was mind blowing experience (as I wrote: bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details, better separation, analog sounding, and so on ) then after three years of happy listening I've moved to Reference 10.32 (1850USD) lately and it is thrilling to listen to it - it blown DAC19MK3 out of the water - I have never had a feeling being so close to the music before. This is not to say that ridiculously overpriced Hi-End audio gear doesn't exist, but you can still buy reasonably priced DACs and hear the difference. 

 

If you are really sure you hear a large difference, why not take the test I suggested ? After all, if the sound card DAC is degrading the quality, it should be audible on its recorded sound, too, unless the recording somehow magically undoes the damage (in reality, it most likely just causes even more degradation, therefore making the difference appear greater). In subjective evaluation of audio gear, if the comparison is not done under well controlled conditions, it is hard to know when one really hears a difference and when it is imaginary, under the influence of price tags, aesthetics, and other non-audio factors. You may feel sure you really hear an improvement between your DACs, but so do those who buy the "high end audio gear" you consider ridiculously overpriced, $10000 power cords, etc. Perhaps in reality a $1850 DAC is already in that category ? There is technically no reason why a $100 sound card DAC cannot be good enough that it does not audibly affect the sound stage, imaging, details, or whatever else.

post #17 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post
 
If you are fine with your Xonar D1/DX DAC then OK, but OP meant external DAC for playback only and in this case you can't compare 100USD sound cards with 1000+USD DACs.

 

A DAC doesn't perform better simply because it costs more. A number of inexpensive DAC's outperform their $1,000+ cousins, both objectively and subjectively; they just aren't optimized for the adherents of the "You Get What You Pay For" or the "The Flavor of the Month is the Most Delicious" cults.

post #18 of 56

 

With the DX, you're certainly in the sweet spot.

post #19 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

 There is technically no reason why a $100 sound card DAC cannot be good enough that it does not audibly affect the sound stage, imaging, details, or whatever else.

 

Well I am not here to defend my purchase. I was just trying to explain why external DAC is better than soundcard's DAC for _playback_. From thechnical point of view: Better PSU, better DA chips and their impementation, better audio quality parts, better shielding and so on. 

 

When you plug output of your soundcard into the Head Amp with good phones your listening experience won't be the same like when using good external DAC instead of your soundcard. The difference is so huge that even my wife noticed wink.gif

 

I am not into snake oil stuff. I don't believe in cables' magic. Neither I am an audiophile, I just like good sounding music. I am aware of placebo and psychoacoustic but the difference is so huge there are no doubts about it. But if you are happy with your sound card then it is good for you. 


Edited by PiNa.cz - 1/21/13 at 8:32am
post #20 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by HamilcarBarca View Post

 

A DAC doesn't perform better simply because it costs more. A number of inexpensive DAC's outperform their $1,000+ cousins, both objectively and subjectively; they just aren't optimized for the adherents of the "You Get What You Pay For" or the "The Flavor of the Month is the Most Delicious" cults.

 

Indeed, you are right. 

post #21 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

 

Well I am not here to defend my purchase. I was just trying to explain why external DAC is better than soundcard's DAC for _playback_.

What would you use a DAC for other than playback?

 

 

Quote:
From thechnical point of view: Better PSU, better DA chips and their impementation, better audio quality parts, better shielding and so on. 

External doesn't guarantee any of these things. In fact, cheap external DACs are usually a lot worse than similarly cheap sound cards.

 

The DX uses a CS4398 (120 dB, 24-Bit, 192 kHz Stereo D/A Converter with DSD Support), a newer part than the PCM1704 (24 bit, 96 kHz), which is not recommended for new designs according to the manufacturer.

 

But all of these things (PSU, DAC chip, implementation, other parts, shielding etc.) are reflected in the measurements. I haven't seen any of the audio-gd 7.1 DAC nor have I heard one so I cannot say how it performs.

 

 

Quote:
When you plug output of your soundcard into the Head Amp with good phones your listening experience won't be the same like when using good external DAC instead of your soundcard. The difference is so huge that even my wife noticed

A lot of people report problems with external DACs, like noise, audio glitches etc. but I don't think I've seen someone complain with a sound card. The PCI Express interface is as good as it gets.

 

Once you hear a good pro PCI express audio interface you'll never want to get back. See, anecdotes don't help..


Edited by xnor - 1/21/13 at 9:57am
post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post


I use the W4R mostly and the UM3X everynow and then for when I want a change in my music. The issue with sansa clip+ is that i don't think it's in production anymore so anything I buy will be second hand and I can't be guaranteed of the battery on them. Also, don't most people use a portable amp with the sansa clip+? im trying to avoid carrying too many things with too many cables.
I'm sorta looking at the Sony F805 or the Cowon Z2 to use as my DAP but...i'm open to other suggestions

Nah man I'm pretty sure they are still available, my friend from work just bought one off of amazon the other day. With all the portable amps I've owned, I've preferred the Sansa clip+ with IEMs alone by itself!
Edited by kskwerl - 1/21/13 at 11:04am
post #23 of 56

They're definitely still available. I bought one a little over a month ago, had problems with it and got a replacement from SanDisk very recently. 

post #24 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

 

External doesn't guarantee any of these things. In fact, cheap external DACs are usually a lot worse than similarly cheap sound cards.

 

The DX uses a CS4398 (120 dB, 24-Bit, 192 kHz Stereo D/A Converter with DSD Support), a newer part than the PCM1704 (24 bit, 96 kHz), which is not recommended for new designs according to the manufacturer.

 

But all of these things (PSU, DAC chip, implementation, other parts, shielding etc.) are reflected in the measurements. I haven't seen any of the audio-gd 7.1 DAC nor have I heard one so I cannot say how it performs.

 

 

 

I see what you mean. I am not talking about cheap DACs, the DACs I mentioned in my previous post are DACs I have and I know. They both are designed and built by Mr. Kingwa. His implementations of DAC chips are top notch and very well known for their almost dead neutral sounding. The PCM1704UK is used by some of the best DAC designers and the chip can be found in some of the most expensive DACs. This chip is legendary, it is considered the most neutral and "sounding like real" DA chip by lot of audiophiles. Yes it is almost obsolete, TI has no plans to continue its manufacturing. That is why they cost 90+USD each (Reference 10.32 has 4 of them, Reference 7.1 has 8 of them). But the D/A chip and its measurements are irrelevant to judge a DAC unit sound quality, what really matters is its’ implementation. Soundcards tend to sound bright and digital, while DACs with good DA chips are more neutral and real. The more neutral and real the more expensiver. But this is the point where you need to hear it to believe it (placebo and psychoacoustics aside).

 

I understand why you all like you Hi-Fi soundcards, but good sounding external DAC is in another league. No offence. 


Edited by PiNa.cz - 1/21/13 at 12:51pm
post #25 of 56

PiNa.cz, it sounds like you enjoy the sound of R2R DACs rather than the more modern delta-sigma DACs. I haven't heard the PCM1704UK, but I can understand why you'd say it's more natural sounding, because a lot of people share that opinion. However, others would disagree. My point is that it's a matter of preference, so saying that sound cards are inferior is subjective, not to mention there's nothing stopping a sound card from having a R2R chip AFAIK. In terms of measurements, a sound card could perform just as well as a dedicated DAC. The difference in sound is usually from the chip. That's the only reason you'd want a DAC (assuming your sound card is well implemented), OP; for the change in sound, but it's not necessarily better.

post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

 

I see what you mean. I am not talking about cheap DACs, the DACs I mentioned in my previous post are DACs I have and I know. They both are designed and built by Mr. Kingwa. His implementations of DAC chips are top notch and very well known for their almost dead neutral sounding. The PCM1704UK is used by some of the best DAC designers and the chip can be found in some of the most expensive DACs. This chip is legendary, it is considered the most neutral and "sounding like real" DA chip by lot of audiophiles. Yes it is almost obsolete, TI has no plans to continue its manufacturing. That is why they cost 90+USD each (Reference 10.32 has 4 of them, Reference 7.1 has 8 of them). But the D/A chip and its measurements are irrelevant to judge a DAC unit sound quality, what really matters is its’ implementation.

It doesn't matter who designed it. What I don't get is that you say the DA chip is important but then you say what really matters is its implementation and measurements are irrelevant? I'm sorry but a horrible measuring DAC is just that. No matter how fine and expensive the DAC chip, or how many chips used, or how great the implementation, if the measurements suck the designer clearly made a mistake.

 

Now there are no measurements available for the audio-gd 7.1 dac so I'm not making any judgments here. Personally I'm usually not buying technical equipment without proper specs, measurements or benchmarks.

 

 

Quote:
Soundcards tend to sound bright and digital, while DACs with good DA chips are more neutral and real. The more neutral and real the more expensiver. But this is the point where you need to hear it to believe it (placebo and psychoacoustics aside).

 

I understand why you all like you Hi-Fi soundcards, but good sounding external DAC is in another league. No offence.

Have you heard the DX with a nice headphone amp? The STX? The Titanium HD? These have absolutely neutral DACs (pretty flat from 20 Hz - 20 kHz, but extending way beyond with higher samplerates), multiple measurements (and of course loads of reviews) are available that disprove your "bright and digital" claim and they are also priced reasonably.

It's the same with professional PCI (Express) audio interfaces, but those are of course more expensive. Are you saying those soundcards, used to make music, also sound bright and digital?

 

DACs that sound unnatural to me are non-oversampling ones. They roll-off the high end and distort. Some also have weird filters that cause lots of phase shift in the audible range, oh and I guess I don't need to mention aliasing.


Edited by xnor - 1/21/13 at 2:13pm
post #27 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post
 
I understand why you all like you Hi-Fi soundcards, but good sounding external DAC is in another league.

 

Absolutely, but ... Bad external DAC's are in the same league as bad internal DAC's. Good external DAC's are in the same league as good internal DAC's. That's how the leagues work: Good with good and bad with bad.

 

Can you tell a good DAC from a bad one because it's Internal vs external? $20 vs $20,000? Magi-Brand XV9999 64bit @ 384kbps IC? Nope. It's all marketeering designing to trap the gullible.

post #28 of 56
Thread Starter 

Let's hypothetically concede that there could be an advantage in external DAC, the second part of my question was, at what price point does this all become overpriced. From the 3 DAC that I originally mentioned, it's not until you get to the DACMagic Plus @$600 in australia, that you can see the design having more options eg buttons to change the inputs and outputs. Potentially it could be useful if i considered buying a pair of speakers which would attach to the DAC as well. However, even at that price it seems too much to spend.

post #29 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post

Let's hypothetically concede that there could be an advantage in external DAC, the second part of my question was, at what price point does this all become overpriced. From the 3 DAC that I originally mentioned, it's not until you get to the DACMagic Plus @$600 in australia, that you can see the design having more options eg buttons to change the inputs and outputs. Potentially it could be useful if i considered buying a pair of speakers which would attach to the DAC as well. However, even at that price it seems too much to spend.


I'd say $150-200. Anything beyond that, you ought to getting something extra, heck you can get a properly neutral/well performing dac+amp combo for less than $300. 

post #30 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post


I'd say $150-200. Anything beyond that, you ought to getting something extra, heck you can get a properly neutral/well performing dac+amp combo for less than $300. 

So then, what kind of profit margins are these companies making if they can and it seems they are able to persuade people to spend an arm and a leg to buy these devices?

My V100 amp, loved the purchase, the dual headphone plug, the excessive amount of power still available for use @$400 (used) i thought was still an impulse buying decision

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