DAC - Most confusing component to upgrade
Feb 3, 2008 at 1:50 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

Brewmaster

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Hi,
I've been trying to decide if a source upgrade is necessary and have been watching the "computer as source" forum for some time.

I've never been more confused about an upgrade in my life. I think a lot of people are in the same boat given the number of "which DAC should I buy?" threads.

It seems as if there are fewer people that have heard many DAC's vs. the number of people that have heard different headphones or amps. It also seems that there are a lot of DAC's given how small the market is for these kinds of products. I think there are also a lot of people, myself included, that wonder if upgrading this component will make a big difference.

I know when I bought my AKG 701's it was very clear that an upgrade of amplification would make a big difference... and it did (DV336i).

I still haven't been able to figure out if upgrading the Chaintech 710 to something else is worth it... If external is better than internal... Will a $600 external DAC be better than a very good $200 sound card?

I'm just reluctant to go down this path ($$$) as there doesn't seem to be much solid information that upgrading the source makes a significant difference unless you are coming from something horrible (like onboard, Audigy, Audigy 2). There also seems to be big fan bases for some of the DAC's like Zhalou, 0404 USB, Keyces, but you see tons of these in the FS forums which makes me question if many people are unhappy with them and never really post about it.

Perhpas I just have to jump in, but i'm a little reluctant on this one.
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 5:10 AM Post #2 of 18

Gautama

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Commission someone to build you a Twisted Pear Audio Opus DAC with the Ballsie output stage (assuming you want single-ended) and a SPDIF receiver.

Should run you $250 plus whatever you want to pay your builder, and will contend with some of the best commercial DAC's.


Problem solved.
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 5:38 AM Post #3 of 18

PhaedrusX

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actually, the market for DACs is quite vast. all digital media requires one, so if you consider the number of people listening to CDs and MP3s, that comprises a huge market.
the fact that DACs are referred to as a source should give you some indication of their importance. everything flows from it, and there's no way to correct it further down the chain. but i'm sure you know all this.
there are so many options at all price points, i don't see any reason not to experiment. it seems like you have put some consideration and money into your headphone and amp choice, and while i haven't heard your soundcard, i'd bet that your system could be noticeably improved with a source upgrade.
as for the FS forum, i wouldn't be worried about that. people sell their gear for all types of reasons, and i think it would be a mistake to read too much into it.
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 5:45 AM Post #4 of 18

RasmusseN

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most people on head-fi listen to music through high end cd players, therefore no need for an external dac

so they concentrate on headphones and amps..

DAC's are very important and can change the sound more than amps
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 5:52 AM Post #5 of 18

trose49

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musical fidelity a3.24 & the trivista 21 sound great with lossless computer.:

i have tried many and the vista wins out si far but only by a hair to the less expensive a3.24
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 9:26 AM Post #6 of 18

Cankin

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Gautama /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Commission someone to build you a Twisted Pear Audio Opus DAC with the Ballsie output stage (assuming you want single-ended) and a SPDIF receiver.

Should run you $250 plus whatever you want to pay your builder, and will contend with some of the best commercial DAC's.


Problem solved.



I was quoted for about $600 ~ $800
confused.gif
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 10:10 AM Post #8 of 18

hanalei mike

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If I had to smash one thing in my system with a hammer, it definitely would not be my dac1, Looking back it has probably been the best upgrade I have made. I love it. Sounds great with many headphones, can be used as a preamp with speakers, oooohhh the details. Some people find it too analytical, sounds great with the WA6. And, it has a built in amp, so you are never stuck without an amp when you are buying and selling on the forum.
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 10:42 AM Post #9 of 18

Nebby

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Cankin /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I was quoted for about $600 ~ $800
confused.gif



There's labor, casing, jacks, wiring, and who knows what else is involved in building a dac. Getting the actual boards is only the beginning of the process, as I've learned
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 2:34 PM Post #10 of 18

wquiles

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Gautama /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Commission someone to build you a Twisted Pear Audio Opus DAC with the Ballsie output stage (assuming you want single-ended) and a SPDIF receiver.

Should run you $250 plus whatever you want to pay your builder, and will contend with some of the best commercial DAC's.


Problem solved.



+1 on the Twisted Pear Audio Opus DAC. I just ordered my own boards as I will build mine as a DIY project. Should be fun!

Will
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 3:57 PM Post #11 of 18

Capunk

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Is it possible to build OPUS with Balanced output & Single-ended output? (Ballsie integrated) at the same time?
 
Feb 3, 2008 at 10:59 PM Post #12 of 18

PhaedrusX

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Capunk /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Is it possible to build OPUS with Balanced output & Single-ended output? (Ballsie integrated) at the same time?


the short answer is yes.
the Opus is a modular design. if you check out their website, there are a number of modules that can be incorporated into a wide range of configurations.
naturally, a more demanding system will require more stacking or paralleling of modules, and the build complexity and price will rise, hence the wide range of prices quoted.
look at the big Opus thread in the DIY forum for more information.
 
Feb 4, 2008 at 3:21 AM Post #13 of 18

Brewmaster

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Thanks for the feedback. I think I will just take the plunge and see where it goes. I'm sure I could sell a DAC if I wasn't happy.

I'm going to take a look at the OPUS thread, and consider that option.
 
Feb 4, 2008 at 3:37 AM Post #14 of 18

xand1x

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Brewmaster /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for the feedback. I think I will just take the plunge and see where it goes. I'm sure I could sell a DAC if I wasn't happy.

I'm going to take a look at the OPUS thread, and consider that option.



A fellow Ontarian
smily_headphones1.gif
If you want to know more about dacs there are a few nice threads in this section of the forum which list a sizable portion of them available (I forget the titles). I've owned a Stello DA220 & now have a Slim Devices Transporter, but I would agree with others that say that a dac takes everything to another level vs most other sound cards. You should also try and attend any meets if possible =P
 
Feb 5, 2008 at 1:58 AM Post #15 of 18

Maniac

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For anyone building a DAC, especially with modular kits... I've got a couple of advice...

#1 Never use any "easy" or "convenient" way to connect any digital signals. Terminal blocks, mechanical switches and so on, they wreck havoc on digital signals. Multiplexers exist for a good reason if you need to switch several digital signal wires at the same time.

#2 always use solder-on connections if possible, avoid sockets and other oh-so-easy to use connections. Most of those stuff are designed to pass low speed signals and power, not MHz level signals. (refer to #1).

If anyone saw the photos of DA-131 that I'm selling on ebay, you will notice the SPDIF input wire solder onto something that looks a LOT like a terminal block's soldering pad. Yup, we were thinking about using that, but gave up after we found out how much damage it could do to digital signals coming in.


For anyone who got a DIY DAC, try soldering the wires on and hear the difference for yourself.
wink.gif
SPDIF and I2S signal should make the most difference
wink.gif
 

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