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Are soundcard DAC s really better than receiver DACs?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I was reading a thread over at hardocp.com where this person was poo-poo-ing all over receiver DACs and claiming they were far inferior over soundcard DACs. Why would a decent quality receiver cheap out on the DAC when DACs bought in bulk do not even cost much? This is a test I did on a friend a couple of years ago.

 

Emu0404 as a DAC only >audiolab 8000A headphone out

 

Emu0404 as a DAC only > headphone tube amp

 

spdif from mb>Denon 789 headphone out

 

...and the winner was...drum roll please...Denon789

 

So, how can that be if receivers have crap DAC?

 

EMU has some AKM DAC and Denon I think is a Cirrus Logic.

post #2 of 11

Do a search bro.

post #3 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schonen View Post

I was reading a thread over at hardocp.com where this person was poo-poo-ing all over receiver DACs and claiming they were far inferior over sound card DACs. Why would a decent quality receiver cheap out on the DAC when DACs bought in bulk do not even cost much? This is a test I did on a friend a couple of years ago.

Emu0404 as a DAC only >audiolab 8000A headphone out

Emu0404 as a DAC only > headphone tube amp

spdif from mb>Denon 789 headphone out

...and the winner was...drum roll please...Denon789

So, how can that be if receivers have crap DAC?

EMU has some AKM DAC and Denon I think is a Cirrus Logic.

Some manufacturers really watch the pennies

I would guess the Denon receiver comes with better DACs then some of the bigger name (mass market) brand receivers.

When I worked at an audio video store (ok, back in 1985-88), Denon was considered our premium receiver brand.

post #4 of 11
If you buy a $700 computer without a sound card and it comes with a crappy DAC, why expect that a $200 receiver would have some fancy DAC built in it?

That being said, my experience with $200 receivers is that they sound better than a lot of motherboard audio I have heard. But certainly, the DAC/DAC implementation gets better as you go up in receiver models, just like with sound cards and external DACs.

Meanwhile, receiver headphone output probably also partially gets a bad rap because it's typically not suited for low impedance headphones.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

Do a search bro.


OK. But there is no harm in starting a NEW discussion even if it has been posted before. That's what keeps forums going.


Edited by Schonen - 8/1/13 at 10:53pm
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schonen View Post


OK. But there is no harm in starting a NEW discussion even if it has been posted before. That's what keeps forums going.

 

Well, these kind of questions are asked A LOT. You should have plenty to read through while waiting for replies in this thread.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Well, I just searched and there is not one thread on soundcard DAC vs Receiver DAC . Yes, there are threads on using a receiver as a headphone amp but not my question specifically. As I suspect the guy was talking out of his rectum and my own ears tells me that too because I mostly use my Denon 789 to listen to my headphones and it sounds good, even though I do have an EMU0404 and tube headphone amp. Really don't need it and if I didn't come here and read all the hyped up BS I could have saved myself $500.00 and just used the Denon receiver to begin with, much simpler setup and it powers both speakers and headphones and sends signal to multiple devices. It just doesn't make sense that company that wants to put out a decent receiver would cheap out on the DAC section, no sense at all.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schonen View Post

Well, I just searched and there is not one thread on soundcard DAC vs Receiver DAC . Yes, there are threads on using a receiver as a headphone amp but not my question specifically. As I suspect the guy was talking out of his rectum and my own ears tells me that too because I mostly use my Denon 789 to listen to my headphones and it sounds good, even though I do have an EMU0404 and tube headphone amp. Really don't need it and if I didn't come here and read all the hyped up BS I could have saved myself $500.00 and just used the Denon receiver to begin with, much simpler setup and it powers both speakers and headphones and sends signal to multiple devices. It just doesn't make sense that company that wants to put out a decent receiver would cheap out on the DAC section, no sense at all.

 

Its not about the DAC alone. A DAC is always paired with an amp, and unless the specs are stated, not all amps are suited for all headphones.

Soundcard DACs can suffer from higher noise due to EMI, so there are a lot of factors, but depends on the card as well. I'm pretty sure a high end card like the Xonar STX can compete with a lot of receivers out there.

 

However, receivers are generally not the 'go-to' device for headphone listeners because they have a lot more functions apart from a simple DAC/Amp and not everyone has a need for it. 

 

In a nutshell, there's no definite answer.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

The SQ of  the EMU is nice but the receiver serves me better because it allows me to use Paradigm Titan speakers as my computer speakers instead of self powered computer speakers. On my bedroom computer I use an Onkyo receiver with Energy RC1 speakers and Energy sub. Personally, I really do find spdif from mb>receiver is the ideal computer setup for me.

 

I still have the EMU and tube amp setup but it is hooked to a laptop near my couch in the living room. No EMI issue because it is an external USB Emu.


Edited by Schonen - 8/2/13 at 7:17am
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schonen View Post

I was reading a thread over at hardocp.com where this person was poo-poo-ing all over receiver DACs and claiming they were far inferior over soundcard DACs. Why would a decent quality receiver cheap out on the DAC when DACs bought in bulk do not even cost much? This is a test I did on a friend a couple of years ago.

Emu0404 as a DAC only >audiolab 8000A headphone out

Emu0404 as a DAC only > headphone tube amp

spdif from mb>Denon 789 headphone out

...and the winner was...drum roll please...Denon789

So, how can that be if receivers have crap DAC?

EMU has some AKM DAC and Denon I think is a Cirrus Logic.

So you're comparing different amps and different DACs at the same time and trying to draw conclusions about the DACs?

You would have absolutely NO idea in that situation if what you are hearing is the result of your preference for your receiver's DAC or a preference for it's headphone output.

Most of the people who make these threads are just looking for people to agree with them about the conclusions that they have already formed, but if you are at all interested in doing comparisons that are actually meaningful, this is where you could start:

You need to test your other headphone amps while using your receiver as a DAC, and you need to test your receiver while using your EMU 0404 as a DAC.

To test your other amps using your receiver as a DAC, run an RCA cable from a Tape output on the receiver to the input on your headphone amp.

To test your receiver using your EMU 0404 as a DAC, run an analog cable from your 0404 into any of the analog inputs (AUX, etc) on the back of your receiver. The only possible issue being that some newer digital receivers will convert anything on the analog inputs back to digital meaning it would ultimately be using the receiver's DAC anyway. Hard to say without knowing more about your specific model if it will do that or if it will pass along the unmolested analog signal like it should.

I am not surprised that you found the built-in headphone amp from a higher-end receiver to sound better than your headphone amps. You'll notice that no one over at HardOCP was saying that receivers aren't good for powering headphones - they were discussing the DAC specifically. You on the otherhand have tried to compare too many variables simultaneously to be able to draw any meaningful conclusions about the underlying DACs.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

OK, maybe I will do that some day but that requires tearing apart all my setups as they are now and is more work than I really want to do. All I'm saying is that I don''t buy the receiver DAC is garbage compared to a PC soundcard and the person was being elitist.

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