Does DAC really make a noticable difference?
Nov 28, 2008 at 5:26 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11

orangehole

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I am running my Denon 1001's on a Zeroaudio portable amp and it sounds great but after hanging on head-fi for a little bit, it appears that I should upgrade to a AMP + USB DAC since I listen to alot of music on my desktop/laptop. Does DAC sound really sound alot cleaner? Is it noticable to the average ear? Would it better to save my money for better headphones?
 
Nov 28, 2008 at 5:33 AM Post #2 of 11

ambrosecarr

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Hi there,

You ask a very complicated question. There are members of this forum who would absolutely recommend you upgrade your source with an external DAC. However, the amount you gain depends a lot on how noisy your on-board soundcard is.

I personally upgraded recently, and while the difference is audible with some songs, I didn't notice a large difference. However, this is partially because my laptop runs on very low power most of the time.

I would recommend trying out a DAC and seeing what the difference is before going out and buying.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Nov 28, 2008 at 7:38 AM Post #4 of 11

Nebby

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I agree, depending on how good or bad your line out is, it might be better for you to upgrade the headphone vs getting a dac. Only you can decide if it's worth it
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Nov 28, 2008 at 8:03 AM Post #5 of 11

olblueyez

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ambrosecarr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Hi there,

You ask a very complicated question. There are members of this forum who would absolutely recommend you upgrade your source with an external DAC. However, the amount you gain depends a lot on how noisy your on-board soundcard is.

I personally upgraded recently, and while the difference is audible with some songs, I didn't notice a large difference. However, this is partially because my laptop runs on very low power most of the time.

I would recommend trying out a DAC and seeing what the difference is before going out and buying.
smily_headphones1.gif



The Keces is a marginal upgrade for you?
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 7:20 PM Post #7 of 11

jimmyjames8

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Also, the file type/resolution you are listening to. If you create/store files at MP3 resolution, then a dac upgrade won't help much. FLAC, Wav file resolution is where a dac will make more of a difference in SQ. An out board device such as a USB dac or amp/dac or after market sound card will have better quality dac than what comes stock in a laptop or desktop for the most part. You can obviously spec and buy up.
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 1:31 AM Post #8 of 11

billybob_jcv

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I think before spending $200 on a new dac/amp, it's worthwhile to try a standalone dac - like maybe from hotaudio.com or finding an Alien DAC on the buy/sell forum. I also think different headphones typically have a more significant effect on the sound than a DAC.
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 8:14 PM Post #9 of 11

_js_

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On a typical laptop there isn't really a line-out. There is a headphone/line-out combined output. At least this has been my experience. But in any case, the point is that there is still an amplifier circuit in addition to the DAC, and that circuit is the problem, more than the DAC. On my MacBook Pro, which has a not-below-par DAC/AMP headphone line-out, the sound is terrible, no matter how much or how little I demand from the amp part of the output. In fact, I have found that I get better sound if I lower the iTunes volume and increase the headphone-out volume. It's a noticeable difference in sound timbre and tonal balance. It still sucks, but it's better. And this is whether I am using AAC files or AIF files (or, presumably ALAC--but I haven't tried that format yet).

So . . . if you have an external DAC--even if it's not theoretically any better than the one in your laptop or desktop--the fact that it is a stand-alone DAC, or DAC/AMP combo, should trump the consideration of the DAC comparison. Plus, inside a computer is probably not the best environment for clean D-to-A conversion, although I don't know this for sure.

Now, there are computers with real line-outs, and in the case of the Macbooks, there is even an optical mini-toslink output available through the same 1/8" port for the headphone/line-out output, and I'm very far from being any expert on this whole world. I'm a rank novice. But, it still seems to me that it isn't a forgone conclusion that a standalone DAC won't make a big difference in your situation.

I could be wrong, of course . . .
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 8:35 PM Post #10 of 11

Xan7hos

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Coming off of a Asus on-board HD-Audio out and now currently using a Valab Non-oversampling DAC via USB, the difference isn't as night and day as I imagined; no veils were lifted, just slightly cleaner sounds. It makes you realize how much noise are in the recordings themselves.
 
Dec 5, 2008 at 6:00 AM Post #11 of 11

Moontan13

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Test out your computer's audio output with'phones first. I was going to buy somesort of USB audio device for my laptop. As it is, the crappy sound was due entirely to the lousy speakers. With phones it sounds very good.
 

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