$500 DACs - Audio GD, Peachtree, what else?
Oct 12, 2013 at 2:52 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
I'm in the market for a good DAC.   The main source is going to be the USB output from my Mac, but I also have a 160GB iPod on a dock with a coax out that I can use.
 
Does anyone know the difference between the various Audio-GD DACs in the $350-500 range - the NFB2.32, the NFB-3 and the NFB 17.32?   For the life of me, I cannot tell what the differences between them are.
 
Also, how does the Peachtree compare?  
 
I am leaning towards one of these, as the former would stack well with my Audio GD SA-31SE amp, and the latter with my Mac Mini source.   But I am not married to them and am ok with an alternate product if one is better.
 
TIA!
 
Oct 14, 2013 at 10:40 AM Post #3 of 19

steve2151

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Posts
505
Likes
22
NFB-3: 2x PCM5102 chips
NFB-2.32: 2x WM8741 chips
NFB-17.32: 2x WM8741 chips, balanced output
 
Compared to the more expensive Audio GD DACs, these use a higher number of SMDs (surface mount devices), which reduce size and manufacturing cost by mounting components directly onto PCBs.
 
However, some think the older through hole construction (components with wire leads that are soldered onto the PCB) DACs sound better.
 
Oct 14, 2013 at 5:03 PM Post #4 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
^^ Thanks for that, Steve.    Is there a general consensus on the sound difference between those 2 chips other than the fact that the WM8741 is a lot quieter?
 
Also, what is the opinion on the sound quality of the 3.32 vs 2.32 - the latter has premium caps and resistors but i dont know if this really makes a difference.
 
As for surface mount vs hole mount - hmm, I am not sure I buy that there are audible differences there, so if that is the main difference, I am very happy saving money.
 
Oct 15, 2013 at 4:37 PM Post #5 of 19

steve2151

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Posts
505
Likes
22
The PCM5102 units are relatively new and I haven't had a chance to hear them yet.
 
Kingwa indicates that there is an improvement in going from the 3.32 to the 2.32, but that that difference is not as big as the price gap indicates.
 
I'm not sure if the difference in going from SMD to through hole construction is audible, but keep in mind that all of the Audio GD flagship gear is mainly through hole.
 
Oct 15, 2013 at 6:35 PM Post #6 of 19

Baxide

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
May 7, 2012
Posts
423
Likes
32
I bought the TI PCM5102 evaluation board to try out. The one problem that I found with this DAC chip is that it compresses the signals that are close to the maximum output level rate. I have been told that my TEAC DAC uses the same PCM5102 and I noticed that problem on the Teac as well. Originally I thought it was the Teac design team who had slipped up, but going by the TI original EVAL PCB it looks more and more like the chip itself. My Arcam rCAD is also supposed to use the same DAC chip and that to has this compression problem.
 
Oct 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM Post #7 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
I think I am going to pull the trigger on the 2.32.   Those chips have a significantly better S/N ratio and that's a tangible difference.
 
Objectively, I realize that the 3.32 is likely to have more or less the same sound, but I might as well pay $150 more and not second-guess myself later.    Yes, even us objectivists can be insecure.   :)
 
That gives me an all Audio-GD SS setup.   Now the quest for a tube amp rig continues.
 
Oct 18, 2013 at 10:44 AM Post #9 of 19

steve2151

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Posts
505
Likes
22
If the OP is willing to spend $500, he might also want to look into the new NFB1-1P, which looks like the NFB-1.32 with more SMD components to cut the price down to $500.
 
The NFB-11.32 has a very high SNR due to the ESS9018 chip, but there is also something to be said for the bigger power supplies and implementation in the dedicated DACs. The PCM1704UK is weaker than the ESS9018 in SNR unless you stack 8 of them, but a lot of people do prefer the smooth sound of the older chips.
 
Oct 18, 2013 at 3:58 PM Post #10 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
  Did you consider NFB-11.32?
 
It has higher S/N ratio than 2.32, lower output impedance, 200$ cheaper and includes a very good pre-amp.
The Sabre 9018 chip sounds great with any headphones I throw at it.

 
I did, but the 2.32 has 32/384 transfer and a beefier power supply.  Since my budget allows it, I figured why not get what appears to be the better DAC, as opposed to getting one where the price is split between the DAC and other features I dont need (amp, preamp).
 
  If the OP is willing to spend $500, he might also want to look into the new NFB1-1P, which looks like the NFB-1.32 with more SMD components to cut the price down to $500.
 
The NFB-11.32 has a very high SNR due to the ESS9018 chip, but there is also something to be said for the bigger power supplies and implementation in the dedicated DACs. The PCM1704UK is weaker than the ESS9018 in SNR unless you stack 8 of them, but a lot of people do prefer the smooth sound of the older chips.

 
I have to admit, looking at the specs, I am really confused as to the differences between these 2 DACs, other than the balanced design.  I dont really need a balanced DAC, as my amp (an Audio GD SA-31 and an en-route 2A3/45 SET) dont have a balanced design - the amp has a balanced out, but it is a regular single-ended signal terminated on a balanced plug.   
 
I've just sent the payment for the SA 2.32, and have a narrow window to change my order:   would appreciate any inputs.
 
Also, can someone also explain to me how both these DACs list 384K transfer, yet also list a max sampling support of 192KHz?  What am I missing here?
 
Oct 18, 2013 at 4:16 PM Post #11 of 19

steve2151

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Posts
505
Likes
22
The USB chip supports up to 32/384K, but the DAC chip doesn't go that high (24/192K for WM8741 and PCM1704UK, 32/192K for ESS9018).
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
I've just sent the payment for the SA 2.32, and have a narrow window to change my order:   would appreciate any inputs.

 
You mean the NFB-2.32, right? The SA-2 is probably the best single ended DAC Kingwa makes, but it's $1550. But hey, this is Head-Fi, so don't let your wallet stop you from thinking big.
 
Oct 19, 2013 at 5:24 AM Post #12 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
Doh, sorry, yeah i did mean NFB 2.32. $1550 for a DAC aint gonna happen - I'd rather put that towards a Red Wine amp.

And thanks for that clarification re DAC vs USB speeds. I guess in hindsight, I could have saved myself a couple of hundred bucks and gone for a cheaper all-192 DAC, unless Kingwa is going to provide the possibility of a DAC upgrade later. Anyway, too late now to be sorry about my waller :)

Ok, NFB 2.32 it remains, then.
 
Oct 19, 2013 at 5:36 AM Post #13 of 19

vkalia

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 18, 2013
Posts
600
Likes
116
Thanks all for your help, btw, Steve, SoupRKnowa and Baxide.
 
SouprKnowWa - I did look at the Schiit but to be honest, barring a significant performance difference, I'd rather get a brand with a less juvenile name.  Poop puns stopped being funny when I was 18
 
Baxide - thanks for that tip on the compression.   That helped swing the pendulum in favor of the WM.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top