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Advice sought on DACs/amps...

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by mo06, Aug 29, 2010.
  1. Mo06
    Hi, I have been listening to music via headphones for years, have a Rotel amp which gives me very nice sound, an ancient pair of KEF speakers, as well as an old Luxman turntable and a Cambridge CD player.
     
    I recently bought a pair of Shure SRH 840s, I like the sound of the 840s now that they have a couple of hundred hours listening on them (I really thought they sounded very thin out of the box).
     
    Question is this - I find I'm listening to music from my PC more and more, stuff I have ripped from CDs (I'm using WAV format)  I either plug the headphones directly into the h/p socket on the crappy PC speakers, or I route the PC signal to my Rotel amp and plug the headphones into that.
     
    I am wondering how much of an improvment in sound quality I would get by adding a DAC/headphone amp, something cheap and cheerful like the Nuforce UDac 2:
     
    http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC-2-Black-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B003Y5FRNS[​IMG]
     
    I also listen to the WAV files on my (new) PC via the Rotel amp & speakers (headphone output from PC connected to the amp via a Y cable), again, would I hear a huge improvement using a dedicated DAC ?
     
    Thanks in advance.


     
  2. tomb


    Quote:

    Yes, I believe so.  Without getting into the myriad choices and examples of DACs available, IMHO, the sound is purer - even compared to the best of CD players.  I've listened to many high-level CD players, because that seems to be what many people use at a typical headphone meet.  This includes very high-level Meridian CD players.  A good DAC is better.  Regardless of the quality of CD player, IMHO, they all have a mid-bass "fog" that's not present in a good DAC (or vinyl, either).  It's like an aritificial, yet non-descript hump in the frequency response that applies an overall bass-weight to the music - but it's not supposed to be there.  Someone once told me that the large capacitors typically present in major CD players are what cause this, because I'm often a little bit shocked when someone at a headphone meet asks me to listen to their setup.  That mid-bass fog is most of what I hear.
     
     
  3. Mo06
    Thanks for the reply.
     
    "This includes very high-level Meridian CD players.  A good DAC is better.  Regardless of the quality of CD player, IMHO, they all have a mid-bass "fog" that's not present in a good DAC (or vinyl, either).  It's like an aritificial, yet non-descript hump in the frequency response that applies an overall bass-weight to the music - but it's not supposed to be there."
     
    I'm confused now - surely a CD player incorporates a DAC ? It has to doesn't it ?
     
  4. mrarroyo Contributor
    Using a reasonably good dac/amp combo being fed via your PC will yield very good to excellent results depending on equipment and to a large degree expectations. USB out is a very convenient way to achieve this, however its use and that of a coaxial out may allow the nasty PC power supply to interfere with your listening pleasure. A way to isolate the PC power supply from your external dac/amp is via the use of an optical cable. I listened the uDAC and for the money it is a very nice sounding unit, it has since been modified/improved and I have not listened to it yet. Any chance you can go to a meet to listen to the gear before deciding?
     
  5. tomb


    Quote:

    Yes, of course.  The problem is that there's a lot more filtering going on with the power circuit handling things like the drive motor, the laser pickup, etc.  Either that, or the major mfrs simply tune a bass hump into their equipment to meet their judgment of market demands.  I'm only conjecturing, not truly knowing which it is.  Some sound cards have this bass fog, too, so who knows?  I just know that those at headphone meets with stand-alone DACs invariably have better sound than those with CD players - and the stand-alone DAC doesn't have to be very expensive at all.  IMO, a separate DAC is much cleaner - whether the source is a bare CD drive, USB, or SPDIF.
     
     

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