DJ Audio Interfaces vs. audiophile DACs
Nov 16, 2014 at 9:33 AM Post #31 of 40
Hey guys, interesting topic for me, thanks.
How is the situation now, at the end of 2014? Do DJ audio interfaces contain some higher quality DA converters? I am at the point where I have been thinking about upgrading my gear but not sure what to start with.
I listen to FLAC or 320 kbps mp3 format most of the time (as I sit in front of the computer good amount of time per day).
I started with some Sound Blaster sound cards and Sony VDR-M300 headphones which were good enough for me back in days - nothing more to say, just mentioning. When I was feeling I need a change, I got a new soundcard: Tascam US-100 ( ) accompanied with Sennheiser HD 215. Tascam US-100 was a big step upwards compared to a Sound Blaster stuff although HD 215 didn't suite me well so I decided to switch HD 215 to HD 555 which was a great decision. I was enjoying combo Tascam US-100 and Sennheiser HD 555 for about 3 years. I sold my Tascam US-100 about a year ago and got myself a Native Instruments Traktor Audio 6 dj interface ( ). When I plugged my HD 555 in for the first time, I was able to hear quite a big difference in sound quality - everything was much cleaner (like crystal-clear), nicely separated and textured. I upgraded my headphones 10 days ago and got Sennheiser HD 600. After first listening to these headphones, I decided to let them burn in for about 72 hours - they sound much better know - firmer and more controlled bass part; mids and trebl. are all around the place - in a good way. They are very spatial sounding, detailed and neutral.
I have to admit that the neutrality is attribute that I have to get used to - when I listen to HD 555, there is this warmth or how to call it which I lack with HD 600 at the moment. I can certainly hear like +100% clearer the sound quality (or better said - sound character) of each different song I listen to - some recordings sound very flat, low bass and some others are just opposite. It sounds in real life like I was reading it would sound like...:)))
My question is: would it make a (possitive) difference to upgrade my audio source? My current "sound card" is NI Traktor Audio 6 interface which combines DAC and headphone amp - it should be relatively good quality. Shall I look for headphone amp only which I would connect with Traktor Audio 6's output? Or should I get a different DAC as well? Stock HD 600 cable appears to be very low-end and I will upgrade it too but it has lower priority now.
Nov 26, 2014 at 3:26 PM Post #32 of 40
Hey. First post.

I found this thread searching out information on "better" DJ auido interfaces, but I might be able to answer Tajak's question....

By the numbers, DJ interfaces are firmly "good enough" and no better. There are reasons for this. First, no matter what the marketing says, they're not that common in actual clubs. Second, the vast majority of club sound systems sound like garbage. Third, club systems are so bloody loud that every single person in the room has serious hearing damage, is wearing earplugs, or both.

So, they only have to be good enough to sound alright to people who are wearing earplugs. Everybody else hears bass and snares and maybe some vocals/leads.

A lot of DJs think KRK Rokits actually sound good.

That being said, good DJ interfaces are really not bad.

I can ABX 320kbps mp3s vs. wav files on a good enough playback system. My reference the first time I did it was aPro Tools HD system with Genelecs. I can also do it on an NI A2 with HD-25s....but I fail with worse converters or speakers/headphones.
If your goal is to have a playback system good enough to show the flaws in mp3 encoding, DJ interfaces work just fine. Speakers and Headphones are where the real gains are to be made. I feel like the same is true if you're after coloration vs. a flat reference system (which is what I like).
That being said, if the room, speakers, amps, and everything else is good enough, I can sometimes ABX a prosumer (read: high end DJ) interface (NI, Rane, etc.) vs. a high-end recording interface (the likes of Avid, RME, Apogee). That makes me want to perform with a better interface when the system is really good. But it's a diminishing returns kind of thing.
Upgrade that after you get incredible speakers and a nice room. My personal next step is speakers.
Nov 26, 2014 at 4:56 PM Post #33 of 40
I like your reflections about "for djs" hardware gear vs. club sound systems - it is pretty much like you said and I especially agree with you on poorly sounding clubs, doesn't matter what country you are in (well, that is actually not true, but you know what I mean).
I was searching for information, reading a lot and I decided to go for US brand Schiit. I am going to get both separate DAC (Bifrost) and headphone amp (Valhalla 2). I feel like it is made right for me - even though I have never heard it before but you know that feeling. I will keep my NI Traktor Audio 6 anway - for my bedroom mixing sessions.
About the speakers - I have Mission 782SE with Pioneer A-91D and I am very happy with it...
Dec 5, 2014 at 9:31 AM Post #34 of 40
Be interesting to hear how that turned out for you Tajak.
The NI Komplete Audio 6 you already had is known to be audibly transparent to the human ear. SCAN even uses it as part of their Pro Audio testing suite. At least in part to prove to customers that they no longer have to pay RME, Apogee or Metric Halo prices to get pro Studio/Broadcast quality audio.
So if you have found you can tell the difference between the Schitt stack and the Audio 6 by ear alone then something must be wrong somewhere.
Dec 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM Post #35 of 40
  Be interesting to hear how that turned out for you Tajak.
The NI Komplete Audio 6 you already had is known to be audibly transparent to the human ear. SCAN even uses it as part of their Pro Audio testing suite. At least in part to prove to customers that they no longer have to pay RME, Apogee or Metric Halo prices to get pro Studio/Broadcast quality audio.
So if you have found you can tell the difference between the Schitt stack and the Audio 6 by ear alone then something must be wrong somewhere.

I am owner of the NI Traktor Audio 6 interface - not the Komplete Audio and not sure what is the difference between these ones in terms of electronics inside - do you know it?
My status at the moment:
- I have already got DAC Schiit Bifrost - second hand one, with both 1st gen analog and USB card
- I have got a new USB cable (curious to compare with a "normal" one): Chord USB SilverPlus
- I have got a pair of signal cables: DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix
- I am waiting for a new Schiit Valhalla2 amp + Uber Analog and USB Gen 2 cards in order to upgrade Bifrost (I wasn't aware of this and it is going to cost me the same price as if I would by the new one with these parts already installed inside - lesson for the next time)
I haven't tried the Bifrost yet - I am waiting for Valhalla2 (hopefully it is here before Christmass)... I will definitely perform some comparisons between Traktor A6 and Bifrost - and if there is no "you can tell by your ear" difference, I might sell it away (but I can tell you - it is beautiful piece of electronic - and MUCH BIGGER - than NI Traktor A6... Hopefully it sounds "MUCH BIGGER" as well). I will let you know about my opinion but it takes some days of listening before one can tell for sure...
One thing is for sure: the more I listen to the HD 600, the more I just LOVE them... Just wow.
Dec 5, 2014 at 12:43 PM Post #36 of 40
Dec 5, 2014 at 1:53 PM Post #37 of 40
Traktor Scratch A6 is designed for DJing whereas Komplete serie is designed mainly for production in studio, I think... Mine is Traktor Scratch Audio 6:
I hope that there is going to be hearable difference (in a good way, of course) when using Valhalla2 as an amp instead of Traktor A6 - I have volume at 75% and it is not that loud ... I wish it could be around max. 30-40% and get the same loudness level - not sure how it is with distortion at higher volume levels when using Traktor Audio interfaces... I wanted to upgrade because somehow I feel that the HD 600 needs more...:) It must be schiity, not ****ty - well, I will tell you soon how is it in real life!
Dec 8, 2014 at 1:20 AM Post #38 of 40
They're different cards, and the KA6 is decent but older. I'm not planning on ever owning one, but that's mostly because it's not nice enough to be an upgrade from what I already have, not because it's not nice.

The differences between a top end converter and a budget one like the KA6 are a game of inches, but they're there. And good ears can ABX them if the room is nice enough.

Based on all I've heard and what I've been learning more recently, the money is better spent on acoustic treatments, no matter your use case.

Everywhere I've critically listened has either had nice everything or budget everything. I finally got the chance to hear cheap electronics/speakers in a treated room, and it unquestionably has more in common with gear costing 30 times as much.

What this means for me personally is that the next thousand dollars I spend will be on bass traps and absorbers to even out the room, then speakers, then more treatments, then converters.

And I'll probably end up setting a cap that I'm never allowed to spend more on an interface/DAC than I've spent on treatments. I'd do the same with speakers except that my wife would kill me if I put $3000 worth of acoustic panels in a mixed-use room.
Dec 10, 2014 at 3:40 PM Post #39 of 40
If you wonder what kind of Cirrus Logic AD/DA converter(s) NI's hardware consists of, I got a reply from Native Instruments:
USB964/42xxxx x  2702009CS   5.69
Audio 8DJ / 4DJ
USB968/8/4/4xxxxx x  2502007CS    
Audio Kontrol 1
USB962/4xxx x  2x   2007      
USB9610/10           2011CS4270    
USB966/6      x     2011CS4270    
USB1922/2ixxxxx x  200       
Guitar Rig Session
USB1922/2xx  x xx   2008-CS
Dec 11, 2014 at 6:46 AM Post #40 of 40
I thought I would chime in on this since my experience is relevant here.
I have the NI Traktor Z2 mixer, the Z1 mixer, and the RME Fireface UCX. 
When I bought them, the RME was twice the price of the Z2 mixer.  And the Z1 is only $200 USD right now.  These Zx series mixers almost certainly have common DAC circuitry to Native Instrument's Audio 2/4/[A]6/10 interface line.
Here is what i have found in A/B/C tests: 
The Z1 and Z2 sound nearly identical, even though one is much more expensive (due to other features, not sound quality it seems).  The RME is better than both, but unless you have a lot of money to burn or use it for your job or need its other capabilities, it is not worth the massive price jump just for a minor increase sound quality.
I think that the headphone stage in the two Native Instruments boxes may be sightly different, but the DAC quality is probably similar or identical, and still good.
So here's my breakdown vs. cost:
- RME Fireface UCX $1600 (mad capabilities)
- Native Instruments Traktor Z2 $700 - 95% sound quality of RME
- Native Instruments Traktor Z1 $200 - 94% sound quality of RME
I hope this helps the young guys make a proper decision on cost/sound-quality ratio.  Buy a used Toyota Tercel for the cost of the RME bespoke stuff.

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