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Best Head Unit USB DAC or Alternative...

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm currently trying to build an audiophile quality system in my Genesis Coupe. I currently have two JL 10 W7 subwoofers powered by an HD 750 amplifier. Within the next month I will be purchasing Focal KRX3 3-way speakers and amplifier. This is some high end car audio equipment so I want to have the best source possible. My music library is over 60 Gigs, not including all of my lossless music. I was planning to use my iPhone via USB to play play audio files, since I have all of my songs organized in playlists. But after communicating directly with Focal they informed me that most modern car head units do not use their main DAC when using a USB input, but rather a secondary "USB pre-amp/DAC". They said almost all aftermarket head units use similar, cheap USB pre-amp/DACs. 

 

So now my question is what is the best solution for playing back my large music library in my car? I'd rather not burn a hundred CDs and if I could still use my iPhone's interface that would really be the easiest for navigation. But above all else my priority is sound quality. So hopefully you guys can help me out.


Edited by NateZ28 - 9/30/13 at 1:43pm
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

Ideas anyone? Is there not a head unit with a decent USB DAC/Pre-Amp?

post #3 of 6

I have bought components to put together an SQ system in my car as well. From my research, *the* head unit to get for SQ is the Pioneer DEH-80PRS

 

http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Car/CD-Receivers/DEH-80PRS

 

At this time, it is the only aftermarket component installed in my car; I still need to install the amps and speakers. But, I can already tell it is a fantastic unit. I don't know how any head unit handles a USB input, but this head unit has 3 24-bit Burr Brown DACs, one for each set of RCA outputs (highs, mids, lows). Considering the components used in this unit, I highly doubt there is any cheap, alternate DAC for USB devices.

 

However, the unit does play SD cards, officially up to 32GB (I don't know if you can somehow get larger ones to work). I originally was planning to use my 60GB iPod Video as my primary source, but dealing with wires and setting up and putting away the iPod is something of a hassle, so just leaving an SD card in the unit is far easier. Besides that, it is a simple matter to have one or even two or three extra SD cards sitting in the car. It's like having an entire big ass CD wallet in your head unit at any given time, with extra big ass CD wallets that actually are only about the size of a Listerine breath strip. Plus, you can always hook up your iPhone via USB anyway. Even though I am still using the stock Bose speakers and amplifier, I can tell you that the sound off of the SD card is superb (having listened to CDs, iPod Video via USB, and my Nexus 5 via bluetooth [the only one that has proven lackluster to my ears]).

post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by NateZ28 View Post
 

I'm currently trying to build an audiophile quality system in my Genesis Coupe. I currently have two JL 10 W7 subwoofers powered by an HD 750 amplifier. Within the next month I will be purchasing Focal KRX3 3-way speakers and amplifier. This is some high end car audio equipment so I want to have the best source possible. My music library is over 60 Gigs, not including all of my lossless music. I was planning to use my iPhone via USB to play play audio files, since I have all of my songs organized in playlists. But after communicating directly with Focal they informed me that most modern car head units do not use their main DAC when using a USB input, but rather a secondary "USB pre-amp/DAC". They said almost all aftermarket head units use similar, cheap USB pre-amp/DACs. 

 

So now my question is what is the best solution for playing back my large music library in my car? I'd rather not burn a hundred CDs and if I could still use my iPhone's interface that would really be the easiest for navigation. But above all else my priority is sound quality. So hopefully you guys can help me out.

 

It doesn't really matter if you get the right processor, which is assuming as proper an install as can be done was already done, can make a good system really great. Even a Focal Utopia won't fix the fact that it's a Hyundai Genesis and not a McLaren F1 (ie you sit off to one side, something you don't do at home unless you have Magnepans or Duevels) but a processor can introduce time delays to the relevant speakers to make sure that the signal from the driver side tweeter and midwoofer arrive at the same time in your ears as the signal from the speakers on the passenger side and the subwoofer as well.

 

As a first option, an integration processors when used with an analyzer can automatically correct the response of the stock receiver and its amplifier as these take an input from the speaker outputs of the stock system to minimize ripping out stock GPS systems and the seamless dash aesthetics. Don't worry about the GIGO principle with these because, like I said, time alignment is the primary tool if you want to correct the imaging and the response (ie if all speakers are a few microseconds off arriving in your ears you get sharp treble and undefined bass). If however you really are willing to go with replacing the receiver, I suggest picking up an Alpine X305 (or the current model if it has a replacement) and the PXA-H100 processor. The X305 is purpose-built to be a media server and AFAIK takes some lossless formats through its various connectivity options. The PXA-H100 meanwhile takes the digital signal off compatible Alpine Ai-Net receivers for lossless transfer to the processor, skipping the GIGO issue with using integration processors.

 

Also, check out the Pioneer 80PRS. I'm not sure if its USB input is as good technically as the X-series Alpine multimedia transports (file format compatibility, circuit, etc), but at around $350 and all the features of the PXA-H100 (if not more) in the same box, it will save you about $150 or so.

post #5 of 6
It's worth noting that the 80PRS has a higher quality circuit board and capacitors than conventional HUs, and can be had on amazon for $250. I haven't played with the time alignment or 16 band eq or other settings because I want to get the rest of the system installed first. I can't speak directly about the X305, but typically what I've read is that the only thing really better than the 80PRS is another Pioneer unit that sells for like $1200, and even then the consensus is that it's only worth it if you are doing SQ competitions. Of course, another good HU hooked up to an external processor could be better, but I just can't look past the quality of the components in the 80PRS.
post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by f4phantom2500 View Post

It's worth noting that the 80PRS has a higher quality circuit board and capacitors than conventional HUs, and can be had on amazon for $250. I haven't played with the time alignment or 16 band eq or other settings because I want to get the rest of the system installed first. I can't speak directly about the X305, but typically what I've read is that the only thing really better than the 80PRS is another Pioneer unit that sells for like $1200, and even then the consensus is that it's only worth it if you are doing SQ competitions. Of course, another good HU hooked up to an external processor could be better, but I just can't look past the quality of the components in the 80PRS.

 

Yup that's the thing, if I'm going to swap out HUs I'd always take the 80PRS (I'm still using my 860MP and still love its sound by the way). The X-series Alpine multimedia receivers though are intriguing - all USB inputs, no CD transport, and they made a cheap processor that works through Ai-Net. Took them a while though - wasn't there one or two years when they phased out the 80PRS competitor and the H100 processor wasn't out at the time? I think that was around the time the P880RS was still Pioneer's HU.

 

In any case, yes install the tweeters and midwoofers properly before time alignment, but of course if you're getting the receiver now, make sure you get one that has that feature. I installed Vifa tweets that went on sale from an eBay dealer for $20 to go with a pair of Focal 165VR midwoofers I got for around $120, paid a local shop $60 to fabricate the tweeter mounts (doors were already deadened at that point), and I got sweet music while in traffic. It was then that I fully appreciated what time alignment can really do, and now I can't imagine being without both such a processor and properly installed tweeters. Neither could do the job by itself. For my next car I'm going to go all Parts Express for the speaker drivers since I'll put the midwoofers in kickpanel pods. Still thinking on whether I should keep my Digital Designs C4 amplifier or switch to Class D amps.

 

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