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Need help interpreting pro reviews of DACs.

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I have to ask, "Has the community of pro hifi writers and critics ever met a DAC they did not LOVE?"  Seems to me that I have not read a review that panned a DAC.  So, what's up with that?

Can they all be not good but very very good?  I doubt it.  So, please if you know of a pro review that pans a DAC, toss me a link.  Or, if you have similar thoughts on this issue, give us a piece of your mind, please.


I also would like opinions on an inexpensive, as far as DACs go, DAC, the Maverick DAC 1 Plus.

I don't know why this DAC has a tube and an op-amp.  Seems to me it should have one or the other for amplification purposes.


At any rate, my purchase of a DAC is six to twelve months away.  That's plenty of time to cut through the smoke and mirrors.  Right?

post #2 of 3



I think a DAC is about the hardest thing to review. How do you isolate it's exquisitely subtle effect on the end result of the sound? Realistically a DAC should have the least impact on total effect of sound. You'll find the same chipset floating in cheap electronics and expensive products. They up the cost by adding higher quality components that are in between these chipsets. Some DAC's cost more because they have more pre-amp output options (such as the Maverick's you mentioned). Some cost more simply because they're fully balanced. But at the end of the day, when I read a review about how someone changed their DAC and it was like night and day, I can't help but giggle from the blatant exaggeration. How can that person even say it was the DAC? The last thing the signal touches before it goes to the amplifier, is the pre-amp stage on the DAC where the line level signal is sent. Who's to say that they're not hearing a slight difference due to a different pre-amp stage on each device? You can hear a difference on chipsets? I doubt it. Each chipset outputs the same analog signal from 0's and 1's to a minute degree that our dull ears would never even know. It can only even be measured with super precise instruments. Even then, where's the real world application of that beyond graphs for marketing purposes? Find someone who is real and willing to try several DAC's blindly and see if they can guess which is which over and over without any error. Good luck on that. And if they do, again, can they prove they are hearing the DAC? Or just the pre-amp output stage?


Anyways, off the soap box I go. DAC reviews are virtually pointless in my mind. The only part of the review for a DAC I find useful is in one that mentions the features and specifically talks about pre-amp stages and how they sound, because frankly, no one knows how a DAC chipset sounds and the signal doesn't just go as a raw analog sine wave to an amplifier. It goes through a minor pre-amp stage where the signal is further conditioned.



As for your other question, tube DAC's like the Maverick D1+ have both a solid state pre-amp output stage, and a tube pre-amp output stage. This is not for amplification. This is for generating the line level output that will go to an amplifier. You get to choose solid state transistors for output, or you can choose to go through a vacuum tube. They have different sound because they are pre-amp output stages and condition the signal differently. Tube DACs are popular because they give you a way to introduce tube sound to a signal while still using an external solid state amplifier.


Very best,

Edited by MalVeauX - 11/25/13 at 8:45pm
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thank You MalVeaux,


I thought DACs might not contribute much to the sound of a system.  Because, as you state, the same chipsets show up in DACs of all different prices.  And, I agree that analog stages must contribute more to the sound of a system.


I guess the moral of the story is not to go overboard on a DAC.


Again, Thank You.

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