Oh noooooo... another $$$ pit? I.e., help for a DAC noob
Mar 6, 2010 at 5:01 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 21

chzplz

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Wow, I thought I was there... great amps, great phones (check my profile, maybe I'm deluding myself, but I'm happy as a canned clam), and feeling on top of the world... until all that great stuff made clear how sorely I need a better source. My Denon DVD-2200 universal player croaked, and I replaced it with a cheapo Oppo universal player while I figure out what to do... and a dirty confession: I spend as much time listening to my stock 6G Ipod through all this other wonderful gear as I do anything else.

So, time to get a source to match the rest of my stuff. But I'll admit it- I don't have the first clue about "modern" stuff like DAC's, soundcards, optical this or Burr-Brown that, and no offense to the well-informed, I really don't want to learn about it. I know I'm leaving myself open to spend a bunch of $$$ and still be unsatisfied, but I've put way too much time into this hobby already and I've got a few other things that keep getting in the way like working, raising some kids, being a good citizen, you know... life.

There are a few things I know I want/don't want from my next purchase:

-Bass. Good bass. I love crisp, tingly highs and lush mids, but if the bass is sloppy, or worse, absent, I can't listen to it.

-I bought into the high-res hype early and heavy... probably 1/4 of my collection is SACD or DVD-A. I'd hate to be unable to play those at their intended bit/sample rates (not that I know what that really means). I'd also REALLY like to be able to rip them so I can make playlists and stop having to swap discs in & out.

-Portability isn't necessary.

-If I sell off the unused stuff in my basement, and some of my Phillies season tickets, I can probably come up with around $1000 or so, with the hope that that'll be the end, not the beginning, of my investment.

Here are some ideas I've had, maybe some kind soul(s) can tell me if they make sense in light of the above:

-Mac mini or Macbook as the "player" (I don't even know what you call it) - but can it record and play back the high-res material?

-Meier StageDac because I appreciate Dr. Meier's good manners and generosity answering questions (this coming from one with 4 Singlepower amps-- customer service goes a long way with me), and because I like the crossfeed on my Opera, and have heard it's way better on the StageDac

-OR Cherry Bomb's Adcom GDA-700 that's for sale -- but does that rule out the high-res material?

-OR a Valabs DAC because it seems everyone thinks they're great, mod-able (I wouldn't be doing the mods but I do have a great tech who could), and they're super cheap (and high res? No idea)

-OR none of the above.

I don't need anything exotic or top-shelf, just something that I can listen to and be simple-minded and happy. I love my current set-up, just feel that I need to close this last loop.

Anyone want to point me in the right direction? Thanks for listening.

Ira
 
Mar 7, 2010 at 6:36 AM Post #2 of 21

chzplz

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ok, i'm wordy and clueless- a deadly combo to start a thread - but I really could use some help here- i'm making myself nuts trying to figure this out with my peanut-sized brain.

anyone?
 
Mar 7, 2010 at 8:55 AM Post #3 of 21

Ozer

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Sorry can't really help you... I'm not good at it either, but what price-range do you have in mind ??? I think Cambridge Dacmagic is good (I'll be buying one soon), But I have no idea if it has good bass and all that... It's not too expensive either... But you have to wait for an expert on this
biggrin.gif


As I said you most tell us what budget you have.... There are many good DAC:s, but in different price-range...
 
Mar 7, 2010 at 12:31 PM Post #5 of 21

EddieE

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Audio straight from the computer, which necessitates a DAC, is a major jump up in audio quality, but I'm not sure how much difference different DACs make to that equation themselves, at the budget level at least.

When you get to the "serious money" realm it probably does, but trying the D10, the AUNE and the DAC Magic with the same Amp/Headphones combo did not produce clear audible differences. So I'd guess at budget level a DAC is important, but which DAC used less so. I'm looking to buy a Pico DAC now as they are reputed to be better than the D10 in the same sort of price range. Will see.

So base it on what else you want. Do you want a portable DAC/Amp? The D10 is great for this, it can be a headphone amp, dac or dac amp and is very convenient. If you want something more desktop, the DACMagic has every input/output option you could want and is therefore a better option. The AUNE is cheaper although it has less options.

At a budget level, worry more about the features than the DAC as I don't think the DAC itself will make a major difference.
 
Mar 8, 2010 at 5:01 AM Post #6 of 21

chzplz

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Quote:

Originally Posted by EddieE /img/forum/go_quote.gif
At a budget level, worry more about the features than the DAC as I don't think the DAC itself will make a major difference.


Are the DAC's I mentioned (StageDAC/Adcom GDA-700) budget DAC's? From the reviews I've read of both, they seem to have their own sound sigs, pros and cons and whatnot.

Anyone have any concerns/comments about this:
Macbook->StageDAC->some Singlepower amp->decent cans (HP-DX1000, Ed 9, or something)

in particular for someone who loves warmth and solid bottom end, likes detail as well, but can't stand a hint of sibilance or harshness? Sound like a decent rig? And how about the possibilities of playing high-res files from either DVD-A's, SACD's, or downloads - any limitations there?

Thanks y'all
 
Mar 8, 2010 at 5:55 AM Post #7 of 21

Olias of Sunhillow

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Quote:

Originally Posted by chzplz /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Anyone have any concerns/comments about this:
Macbook->StageDAC->some Singlepower amp->decent cans (HP-DX1000, Ed 9, or something)

in particular for someone who loves warmth and solid bottom end, likes detail as well, but can't stand a hint of sibilance or harshness? Sound like a decent rig? And how about the possibilities of playing high-res files from either DVD-A's, SACD's, or downloads - any limitations there?

Thanks y'all



A MacBook won't play SACDs and DVD-A is not natively supported but (I'm told) can be played with third-party applicaitons. High rez downloads are fine, but you have to manually change the computer's audio output settings to match the recording.

My rig is MacBook Pro > DACMagic or Little Dot DAC_II > KICAS Standard or Woo Audio WA6. I also have a Marantz DV7001 handy for SACD and DVD-A playback.

High resolution limitations notwithstanding, I think your suggested rig looks fine.
 
Mar 8, 2010 at 10:20 AM Post #8 of 21

UncleFestive

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Please, seriously explore the Audio GD Fun! I was pretty much the same as you, looking for a simple solution and good sound. I have the Compass, the predecessor to the Fun and I love it. The sound is as you describe, detailed, tight, accurate and rich without a hint of sibilance. Bonus, it's a simple one box solution! High quality DAC, headphone amp and preamp all together.

The Fun is both a replacement and an upgrade from the Compass. If you're feeling adventurous, there are a kajillion configurations you can try, but you can keep it stock and it'll still trounce the other stuff in it's price range. Price for the Version A with an OPA comes in at about 400 clams including shipping.

Read the reviews on the Compass and Fun here in the forums and be sure to pick up an Earth OPA when you order.
 
Mar 8, 2010 at 9:57 PM Post #10 of 21

lordsegan

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You should definitely take a look at the Little Dot line up. Littledot.net

It is good for the price range you are discussing.

Another excellent unit for the price range you are discussing is the Musiland 02. It is actually a DAC and amp in one, although the Amp is not very "high end." I was, however, rather pleasantly surprised by it when I received it. It sounded more clear and detailed than my LD MK III amp.

Note, I don't think the Musiland works with macs yet..
 
Mar 8, 2010 at 10:01 PM Post #11 of 21

OPTiK

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Pico USB DAC is a good start for a DAC, at least it is for me. I can definitely hear a difference on my comp rig (currently using for computer -> powered speakers) with not so great speakers. Waiting for my amp to come in to use it as my daily rig at work with my x10's. I'd keep a look out for one in the sale forum.

EDIT: Also check http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/dac...5/index22.html to see what people are buying in terms of popularity
 
Mar 9, 2010 at 12:58 AM Post #15 of 21

Lil' Knight

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ozer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I think Cambridge Dacmagic is good (I'll be buying one soon), But I have no idea if it has good bass and all that... It's not too expensive either... But you have to wait for an expert on this
biggrin.gif



If you are looking for a tight, deep bass DAC then the DacMagic is not a good choice. Its sound is quite laid-back, smooth and soft in bass. Keep in mind that the DacMagic performs much better with optical input than USB input. It's great all-rounder though.

Another good choice is the PS Audio DLIII which I liked pretty much last time I tried it. Also, it can be modded to have better performance (not sure about this though because I only tried the stock one).

With $1,000 budget, you can have a lot of choices. Personally, I'd go with DIY options. The AMB Gamma-2 is an excellent choice for less than $500, I'd go for it if I were you. To go higher, if you're lucky enough, you could score a dual-mono OPUS DAC or even the Buffalo24. I have the Buffalo32 and I'm totally satisfied with its sound.
 

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