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Am I Wasting My Time Searching for a DAC? - Page 2

post #16 of 27

You are probably not wasting your time. It's just that you haven't found the right dac yet.

 

I myself do not own an external dac yet (will own one soon). But I do know how my different sources do sound in comparision and how much better some are.

 

In my computer I have a Creative x-fi gamer soundcard. My mainboard has the newest Realktek 1155 sound chip. I have often read that the Realteak dac part is better than any Creative or Asus soundcard. The X-fi card is now about 8 years old and yes the current realtek chip wins in digital to analogue conversion. It is not much better, but I would consider it as an defenitive improvement.

 

Now the comparision between the onboard soundcard and my 25 years old cd player by Toshiba. This unit has a nice discrete build up and some weight (around 7kg). Did cost 1000 german mark back then, converted it's around 2000€. This is tons better, everything, really everything sounds better a lot. More details, clarity, more airy, bigger stage, goes lower and higher and sounds more neutral. I'am not talking about something subtle, it is really a night and day difference.

The da conversion does seem to be very important and can make a huge difference, I know that now. I'am not shure how revealing my amp or headphones are, I know that the amp is considered as being very neutral. It seems to be more then good enough to show differences between sources.

 

But since I haven't heard any external dac yet, I can't comment on when it's starts to get interesing. With the end of may, I will buy myself an Audio GD NFB-1.

post #17 of 27

This is quite peculiar subject!  :)

 

Here is simple and cost effective aural simulation, when audio chain upgrade is in process. Get some decent (2 way minimum) audio switch, use favorable player and stream to two simultaneous outputs with equalised volume leves ... say your present DAC and DAC you want to upgrade to. Now, important thing is that DACs are connected to the audio switch without knowing the actual physical port numbering (missus can help there) so when you flick the connection switch back and forth you are not aware what DAC is live. Simple blind test, of course. Outcome will be surprising to say at least ...

 

I would say to OP (or anyone else in the same boat) ... get some decent, low noise, transparent DAC with good (stable) drivers support and better save-up and invest in speakers (or headphones) and amps as that's where the magic happens. Especially when DAC blind tests results are, well, depressing. When you are confident that your speakers or headphones are revealing enough and hold back by DA conversion (that's a high bar to reach though) consider the DAC upgrade.

 

By the way (and if anyone is interested) for simulations output to multiple audio devices I'm using Virtual Audio Cable and Audio Repeater (PC/Win based software). Audio repeating is in real time with no cross latency so switching is not time delayed. Other option is Asio4All.

post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post


If that's the case, what accounts for the apparently audible differences between the Audioquest Dragonfly versions? Is the old one just sub par and what we hear isn't as transparent as it should be? And if that's the case, then there likely ARE differences between the cheap DACs to be heard, while after a certain price/quality point those differences become inaudible?

 

Ive not looked at those designs but based on my experience with DACs (I design them for fun) then the audible differences will almost certainly be down to noise (rather than distortion). DAC chips with on-board opamps are rather susceptible to the cleanliness of the power that's fed to them. I reckon even something as simple as the ODAC could be improved subjectively (this would make no difference to its numbers) with a lower noise power supply to its ES9023 DAC chip. There's good reason why higher end DAC designs tend to avoid 'all-in-one' DAC solutions where the output stage is on the same chip as the DAC part.

post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapientiam View Post
 

 

Ive not looked at those designs but based on my experience with DACs (I design them for fun) then the audible differences will almost certainly be down to noise (rather than distortion). DAC chips with on-board opamps are rather susceptible to the cleanliness of the power that's fed to them. I reckon even something as simple as the ODAC could be improved subjectively (this would make no difference to its numbers) with a lower noise power supply to its ES9023 DAC chip. There's good reason why higher end DAC designs tend to avoid 'all-in-one' DAC solutions where the output stage is on the same chip as the DAC part.

 

So something like the Audio-GD NFB-11, which tries to separate and clean the power as much as possible, could sound better simply because of that?  Is that what people mean when they talk about the implementation?

post #20 of 27

Yep, you got it. Anecdotally, it seems to me that there's a correlation between listening satisfaction and attention paid to power supply design, all other things being equal (which in practice, they never are).

post #21 of 27
I don't think it's a complete waste. My Xonar DGX doesn't sound as good as my Audioquest Dragonfly, but my Dragonfly sounds very similar to my iPod Touch 5G. So much so that I'm considering selling the Dragonfly.

In order for there to be a large difference between DACs you need to get a DAC that is much better designed than the one you have, and you have to have headphones that can retrieve that detail. Of course a $400 DAC isn't going to sound $300 better than a $100 DAC, as long as you have an okay DAC upgrading is mostly done to get the remaining performance out of your setup tongue.gif.
post #22 of 27
Thread Starter 

Well just wanted to come back and post a small update.  As I mentioned before, I could barely notice any difference between my Sound Blaster Omni and a Schiit Modi (which I subsequently returned).

 

Well I just picked up an Audio-GD NFB-15.32 to see if I could hear the improvement that people say should be there.  I got a good enough price that I figured I'd just resell it if I didn't get an improvement.

 

Well I'm happy to say that once I got everything setup and volume-matched and such, there was definitely an audible improvement from my Omni to the 15.32.  Comparing the two directly makes the Omni sound almost... congested.  The 15.32 sounds crisper and cleaner.  This has the added effect of making the positional cues more defined.

 

I should also note that I made sure to isolate the DAC section and listen to both out of the same amp and using the same source.  I'll further note that when I tried to A/B the inputs (USB vs Optical) on the 15.32, I heard no perceptible difference.

 

So yeah, my anecdotal experience seems to indicate that there is a difference to be heard at this price point.  The difference is dramatic by any means, but it's noticeable when listening back to back.  I was not wasting my time, I just hadn't found the right one yet.

post #23 of 27
DACs are some of the hardest devices for the novice to discern. If you've not been educated to the nuances of listening, learning on your own can be challenging. I had used the analog output of a Sony multi media laptop/dock into my headphone amp and thought it was fine. I had a tube DAC I'd bought to listen to laser discs and CDs in the closet that was retired when I bought a SACD/DVD-A player so I pulled it out on a whim to see if there was any improvement. Oh yeah. That DAC served me for some time through K-701s, RS-1s and HD-580s. Once I got my HE-6s, I felt there was still some gain to be had so started sampling DACs at meets with my rig. I was fortunate to have some Head Fi members close by with a healthy budget. I also got to review the A-Gd Ref. 7 and came away impressed but not enough for the price. Then I got to hear some of preproman's efforts with a good amp and headphones and I could notice differences between DACs. They were in the $2k range and I immediately noticed presentation differences. But the thing I noticed most was the quietness of the sound. Without the noise, I could hear more micro detail. If I had just stayed away from this, I'd of been blissfully happy. But I've put a lot of time into listening to DACs, amps and headphones and have found a point of satisfaction with my current rig. It took me almost 6 years of evolution to get to this point and I'm glad I took the journey. I was more of a "buy once, get quality and be done" crowd. This hobby teaches those interested in discovery. Numbers have limited help in such a subjective hobby. That includes cost.

In the end, I think we spend what we feel is comfortable and justify it. And there's nothing wrong with that. But don't judge others if they can swim in the deeper end. They don't spend it foolishly.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

.....
In the end, I think we spend what we feel is comfortable and justify it. And there's nothing wrong with that.  But don't judge others if they can swim in the deeper end. They don't spend it foolishly.

Great sentence ! :beerchug:.

post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 

It wasn't my intention to imply judgment.  Simply put, I have too many other things to spend money on to afford "the deeper" end of this hobby.

post #26 of 27
If you can't hear a difference, consider yourself blessed, and your wallet saved. smily_headphones1.gif Many things in audio are quite marginal and take practice/experience to hear.

Are you using well recorded/mastered music for your equipment evaluation? Checkout Chesky demo disk to learn what to hear for, and then compare it to the music you love to listen to.

Also, checkout DSPs like crossfeeds, TB Isone, Redline Monitor, and Out Of Your Head. They can give an easy to recognize improvement in almost any audio system.
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 

It wasn't my intention to imply judgment.  Simply put, I have too many other things to spend money on to afford "the deeper" end of this hobby.


Sorry, the positive comment about the "deep end swimmers" was just about itself, as an expression I never heard before.

No particular reference to you or how you spent your money, no ill intend ;).

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