Originally Posted by ag8908
As I understand, perhaps the most important determinant of how a DAC sounds is its chip. Higher end DACs have very fancy chips, 32 bit 384k etc. Lower end DACs don't. Each chip also has its unique sound signature. So . . .
Will these sound significantly different from the pricey versions?
I have compared quite a lot of dacs by now.
You are starting from a right (but flimsy) proposition using faulty premises and thus ending up at the wrong conclusion. And so you are asking the wrong questions.
Yes, a dac chip is important. But it heavily depends on how it is fed, implemented, filtered and amplified. In my opinion what happens after
the dac chip determines most of the sound. You can use the most advanced chip using the highest samplingrates (why is/should 32/384 be audably better than 24/96?) but if you filter to early or to steep and use (cheap or knockoff) opamps you will not attain the same quality as that high-end dac that uses the best input (chip+protocol to avoid jitter), the best powersupply and discrete filtering and I/V conversion.
I love nothing better than finding a cheap version of high priced high-end stuff, but there are may caveats. There are lots of great products coming from China, but you cannot trust any or every Chinese seller that comes along. Often they will sell samples that did not pass QC. I know, I'm getting quite an expert in purchasing from China (>7y). You have to know more about audio than just what chip they use. There are many variables, not just technical. I buy as many dacs as I can from China, preferably the cheap promising type, and see what can be modified. My biggest success is also the cheapest and simplest dac. I own several types and compared them with others types and output filters. I organize meetings for ppl to listen to as many different dacs as we can find. My favorite is still the simples NOS dac. Second comes my heavily modified tubed sigma-delta dac. Another good dac I heard was a very expensive Lampizator DAC. I can't really compare with what I heard in shops and shows since amps and speakers have to much influence. My biggest disappointment was an SMSL dac with, what I thought was, a very good dac-chip and decent opamps. Sound was disappointing. And when I started swapping opamps it started eating opamps and finally broke down completely without ever living up to its promise.
My NOS-DAC uses a cheap bulk chip that keeps 100% of the signal-quality while a good SDdac might produce a 'better' signal but loses all or most of it's advantage to the outputstage. SD dacs produce a lot of high frequency noise that must be filtered why NOS dacs do not (not much). SD-dacs are made for cheap and easy production and need amplification of their very weak (V) output signals (hence I>V).
So, my advice: start by leaning about the differences in conversion methods, fi nos or ladder-dacs vs. sigma-delta dacs, output filtering and amplification. Avoid opamps. And then start looking around.
Edit: another caveat: Chinese love name-dropping. They think it sells if there are a lot of expensive names in the product description. The more the better. They have no idea how to make it sound good though.
Edit 2: This
is my educated guess for a good dac. I was thinking about the VALAB version, but it's not really that cheap (and my wallet to thin).Edited by ]eep - 3/10/14 at 10:03am