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Difference between cheap and expensive DAC

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by dead99, Jan 1, 2014.
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  1. krismusic Contributor
    Never trust anyone who says "trust me"!
  2. dead99
    Is't the goal of a DAC to sound as neutral as possible? and that the amp usually is used for colouring the sound? I have never seen a DAC that really colours the sound alot, trust me :p
  3. krismusic Contributor
    I've read that all amps sound the same. Except tubes.
    I've also read that the biggest difference is between headphones or speakers.
  4. dc-k
    I've read about Pixie dust...
  5. krismusic Contributor
    Fair point!
  6. dc-k
  7. krismusic Contributor
    Interesting link. I gave up with speakers because my room is so hopeless.
    I thought it would be easier to get a good sound with headphones.
    Then I found Headfi !
  8. dead99

    Yes, that's true but I meant it more in the way that you choose a amp to suite the headphones (and the music you're listening?) and not the DAC.
  9. xnor
    Well, audiophiles don't like to admit it but hi-fi DACs and amps are supposed to sound identical. If they don't, then they add lots of harmonic and intermodulation distortion, roll-off the frequency response, have a high output impedance that may change the frequency response of the headphones etc. But maybe part of the hobby should be relabeled "listening for differences" anyway, because it seems there's a strong urge in some people to hear difference, even if there are none.
    Before spending big bucks on DAC/amp, if at all, I'd make sure to have very, very good headphones (and those still usually need a bit of equalization, which most amps clearly do not).
    Gignac and abhishekSPS like this.
  10. kn19h7
    Here is part of my checklist when looking for DAC:
    - Linear power supply and at least decent regulation section
    - Self-powered USB section (which means it works without pin1&pin4 of USB), so that I don't even need to face the possibility of ground-loop or noise issue between DAC and PC. This criteria alone fails a lot candidates, even some expensive ones.
    - Asynchronous USB section with stable driver and wide format support (24/192 is a must, DXD/DSD are good to have). Yup I don't really have much hi-res files, but this is more of a 'why not' thing than a 'why must' thing to me.
    - Individual TCXO clocks for multiplies of 44.1khz and 48khz.
    - Fully balanced with both XLR out and RCA out. (Again, why not?)
    - Finished commercial product (No DIY, no half-finished products like Buffalo etc. To me the effort to deal with those cost more than the money it may save.)
    I didn't have too much choices actually.
  11. xnor
    Sure, you have some "why not" points, but if you gotta pay extra for it you have to ask yourself: why? [​IMG]
    I don't see self-powering a problem at all. Heck, even some recording audio interfaces are self-powered.
  12. kn19h7
    But I don't ask [​IMG]
  13. RonaldDumsfeld
    Things I have come to appreciate about the more expensive audio interfaces are the superb software, increased channel count and extensive routing options.
    It's great having multiple inputs. Not only are they usually better (mic pres especially) you can have everything connected simultaneaously. Ready for instant use.
    Likewise having multiple outs. Route audio via BT, or a satellite system, Different audio channels on speakers and headphones. Being able to use sophistacated EQ & effects on any channel.
    You can buy genuine pro grade gear from the likes of RME, Metric Halo and SPL for less than $1,000. You have almost certainly bought music or listened to broadcasts made on this grade eqipment. It's not worth buying 'better' since you cannot extract what was not there in the first place.
  14. Migou67
    For me, we can also expect less jitter and crosstalk from a good audio card.
  15. Gignac
    So...once again: the DAC chip architecture plays no importance here?
    My intuition says that the DAC chip shouldn't play much of a role at all...but then my knowledge of these things is rather limited.
    Looking for a little sense from the skeptics.
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