The Cambridge has better S/N (and is said to have great value), but the Emotiva has better THD measurement.
Which of these DAC's with includes a preamp is better?
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What's important to me is how the DAC delivers the music. I like good and fast dynamics. The linear transformer in the DC-1 will deliver that without any stress. And the number or regulators in the design shows that they have considered signal powerline separation. These things all add up.
Don't forget that the DC-1 was $899 just a few months ago. At $499 it's a steal.
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That's not necessarily true. A lot of DAC manufacturers just stuff more components in because they look more expensive without testing how they affect performance. Take a look at the Concero and how simple the internal is. It rivals much more expensive DACs in sound.
Also straight wire has better S/N? Last time I checked a wire does not convert digital signals to analog. Of course with analog signals that's true but a wire also does not amplify which is where distortion and noise come from.
It's really hard to generalize components used in a DAC with sound (e.g. better power does not mean better sound). You have to use your ears and listen (equipment measurements help but they don't measure everything).