Sorry to ask but I NEED DAC help!
post-7595686
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
First off, I have to say I am astounded that any of you guys are able to make decisions on DACs! There are so many, at such different prices with few comparisons, not a lot of info and a lot of big statements about how good they are!
 
I have been trawling the internet for a while now looking for a very affordable DAC. Any help that people could give would be GREATLY appreciated.
 
I mainly want it for my laptop and to connect to my Pioneer A300r amplifier, but also have IEMS (westone um2) that I would like to occasionally use with it if it doesnt add much to the price. Also I would love an optical input so that I can connect my cable box and dvd player etc to it.
 
Main priority is the sound quality with the Pioneer Amp, next is the optical output and finally is the ability to use it with my westones (preferrably without too much hiss.) The last two can be forgotten if they add much to the price.
 
My budget is cheap! I havent set a price but have been looking at the musiland 01 USD and Musiland MINI (which I still dont know the differences between them!) Also the AMB Gamma 1. Also the CYP AU-D3 (but I presume you can get better for the money or a little more!) PLEASE HELP ME understand the world of budget DACs and make a decent decision.
 
Thanks
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596204
Post #2 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
Most of it is just hype.  The rest of it is mostly DACs that deliberately introduce distortion just to sound different.
 
These threads might be of some interest.  Here's some background on the issue of where these massive "differences" can come from.
 
As for what to buy, what do you have now and why do you want to upgrade.  What are you hoping will improve?
 
     Share This Post       
  • Like
Reactions: kingofbeans
post-7596261
Post #3 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11


Quote:
Most of it is just hype.  The rest of it is mostly DACs that deliberately introduce distortion just to sound different.
 
These threads might be of some interest.  Here's some background on the issue of where these massive "differences" can come from.
 
As for what to buy, what do you have now and why do you want to upgrade.  What are you hoping will improve?


Thanks for those links. Im gonna get reading them right now!

In terms of what I have now, all I have is an old samsung mp3 player and various other bad sources! I used to have a Onkyo SR875 receiver which just sounded great when i took audio from my PC through HDMI. I had to sell that and now I have a Pioneer A300R Precision AMP. I was told that an amp like this should be a better amp than the onkyo receiver, so I would have thought that a good DAC and this amp could be better for music than my late Onkyo.
 
It isnt even an upgrade for me as I have no decent sources whatsoever. Just my laptop which sounds bad in about every way possible.
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596331
Post #4 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
If your laptop's onboard sound is one of the stereotypicaly bad ones with lots background noise, static, humming, buzzing, or just a ton of distortion then a decent external DAC will certainly help.
 
I don't know a whole lot about exactly what DACs will have all the features you're looking for.  I'd look at pro and semi-pro brands to find something with the feature set, inputs, and output you need and not worry so much about differences in quality between competent models.
 
Since you want a headphone out for your IEMs an important spec to look for is the headphone amp's output impedance.  You want it to be as low as possible, preferably under 1 ohm so it doesn't change the frequency response of your IEMs.  Unfortunately, its not always specified.
 
Off the top of my head I can't think of anything cheap that meets all you requirements.  What's your maximum budget?
 
     Share This Post       
  • Like
Reactions: kingofbeans
post-7596346
Post #5 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
I have been working my way through those articles. That's a great collection you've put together and VERY interesting. Im guessing your opinion is closer to all DACs are the same? I don't have one, but just wanted to get something as cheap as possible, as I would generally agree with at least a model of diminishing returns in most audio equipment. I guess I would go up to $250ish but would prefer closer to $100.
 
Thanks
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596389
Post #6 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
Quote:
I have been working my way through those articles. That's a great collection you've put together and VERY interesting. Im guessing your opinion is closer to all DACs are the same? I don't have one, but just wanted to get something as cheap as possible, as I would generally agree with at least a model of diminishing returns in most audio equipment. I guess I would go up to $250ish but would prefer closer to $100.

It would be huge generalization to say they all sound the same I would say that most DACs that aren't intentionally colored to sound different usually sound very similar.  That's what measurements and blind listening test say and that's what I've heard myself at meets.
 
At the low end of the market there aren't as many DAC that try to sound "different" but you still have to watch out.  I've read good things about some of those musilands but I've also read that other people have issues with the drivers.  I've got one of these, which will fit most of your requirements but you'll probably have to use digital volume control in you media player with your IEMs because it has a lot of gain and its volume pot is stepped.  Mine's very well balanced between the channels though.  Its also a good way to hear what I mean by "coloration" if you switch between the solid state output which is pretty neutral and the tube output which isn't.  On the other hand you probably don't want to spend that much on something that has features you don't need.
 
I don't have much advice to give you other than to try not get caught up in the hype.  If you think you find something that looks good you can run it by me and I'll tell you if I see any red flags in the specs though.
 
     Share This Post       
  • Like
Reactions: kingofbeans
post-7596428
Post #7 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
Thanks maverickronin,
 
You're Brilliant! In fact, this has probably been the most educational interesting couple of hours geeky reading I've ever done! But it's also confusing... I always suspected that high end stuff wasn't much better, but I thought the differences would only start being unnoticable at quite a high price (and certainly would never have guessed that, often, the more expensive, the more coloured!)
Having said that, I guess it doesn't suprise me, as I have always believed there is no difference in output from digital cables and yet WhatHifi, the main home audio magazine here, every week seems to have a new review with crazy discriptions for why expensive HDMI cables are worth it!
 
I believe a lot of the driver issues with the musilands are sorted. But the DAC you have does look good in that it is very feature rich, has a decent headphone amp AND I might enjoy the tube pre-amp. Do you use the tube setting much? What is the headphone amp's output impedance on this? Also (and sorry for so many questions) how bad a thing is it having to use digital volume control with this?
 
I can't thank you enough for all this maverickronin. I know it's easy to ignore newbie questions on forums like this (and I dont think Im guilty of Newbie questions in most things), but the world of DACs is especially complicated. THANKS
 
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596471
Post #8 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
I mostly just use the headamp on mine and not the line outs.  The tube is only in the circuit of one of the line outs.  It doesn't effect the headamp at all.  I tried running the tube out to another amp and I like it at first.  I tried a few other pieces of tube gear and eventually discovered that although it was almost magical with some things I listened to it was only so-so or just plain bad with others so now I don't use the tubes at all anymore.
 
I don't know what the exactly what the output impedance is but its low enough that it doesn't give me any issues with my SE530s.
 
Practically, the digital volume control won't matter much unless the player happens to have a piss poor implementation.  I've heard that some do, but I've never used one myself.  If you use something good like foobar or Jriver it shouldn't be much of an issue.  If its done right, all it will really do is raise the noise floor of the DAC section a little bit which shouldn't be very noticeable.
 
Also as far as diminishing returns go, DACs hit the wall pretty fast.  There are expensive DACs out there that measure spectacularly and aren't marketed with any BS but the question of if those improvements matter to a human ear.  Amps hit the wall a little later or a lot latter depending on how hard your headphones are to drive.
 
Once you've got a decent DAC and a decent amp, the best place to spend your money to get improvements is on the headphones or speakers.
 
Of course, don't just take my word for it.  Read up on it when you get the time.  After all, according to some people, my opinion is invalid because I watch anime.  

 
     Share This Post       
  • Like
Reactions: kingofbeans
post-7596499
Post #9 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
Thanks maverickronin,
 
When you say it gives no issues with your SE530s do you mean there is no audible hiss at any reasonable volume level? If so then Im guessing my westone um2s should be safe?
 
Overall if I get something this (which I think I may) I think I will be well set up. I have a Pioneer A300R precision amp which sounds good to me with records and ps3, A decent DAC, some Dynaudio Contour 1 mkII (which are brilliant speakers), and my headphones are westone um2 and Grado SR60i. Hopefully I will be happy and can keep this DAC for a while!
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596515
Post #10 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
     Share This Post       
post-7596543
Post #11 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
Quote:
When you say it gives no issues with your SE530s do you mean there is no audible hiss at any reasonable volume level? If so then Im guessing my westone um2s should be safe?
 
 
There's a little bit of hiss with my SE530s but its less than most of the rest of my gear has with them.  The SE530s hiss with **** near anything though. The UM2s have about the same sensitivity and impedance, but that's not always the whole story.  I've heard the 530s are more susceptible to hiss than other IEMs with similar specs but I've never tested that.  I've heard more full size 'phones than IEMs.
 
I just meant the the output impedance wasn't enough to noticeably affect the frequency response as explained here.
 
The closest thing I have to a reason to think about replacing my D1 in the future is if I get one of the newer and not so efficient orthodynamics in the future and just need more power from the headamp.  I think its power ratings might be a little exaggerated but I've got no way to test that myself.  Its still plenty fine for your current headphones and probably 99% of headphones on the market though.
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596599
Post #12 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
Thanks Again maverickronin, You've definitely been the most helpful person on a forum I have ever come across! I will do some reading and investigating and let you know what I decide on / run it past you.
 
     Share This Post       
post-7596811
Post #13 of 25

maverickronin

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
7,390
Reaction score
420
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Posts
7,390
Likes
420
No problem.  I'll stay subbed here.
 
     Share This Post       
post-7601588
Post #14 of 25

khaos974

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Mar 19, 2008
Messages
2,085
Reaction score
116
Joined
Mar 19, 2008
Posts
2,085
Likes
116
I would also recommend Vincent Kars's Well Tempered Computer as a good source of information. He usually relates the objective information and doesn't tell you the usual audiophile BS contrary to computeraudiophile.com .
Of course, since he can't really alienate the audiophile crowd, he stays "neutral" on subjective impression.

A lot of information on his website.:D
 
     Share This Post       
  • Like
Reactions: kingofbeans
post-7612004
Post #15 of 25

kingofbeans

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Posts
20
Likes
11
Hi maverickronin,
 
How does the XiangSheng DAC-02A Upgraded version look to you? They seem to be the creators of the maverick audio D1 and this is their newest one that it just out.

They have an upgraded version that has the 5670 tube instead of 6N3, but ALSO has other upgrades (capacitors, resistors etc that can be seen on their website). They also appear to have 2 types of both the normal and upgraded version (ie 4 models total)... the difference being CS8416 or DIR9001 receiver interface. It seems the CS8416 can accept 192kHz signals, but the DIR9001 has much lower jitter... although their spec says sampling frequency only goes up to 96kHz... so Im unsure about this.

Another difference is the headphone output of 100mW to 500mW compared to the DAC-01A which was 300mW to 1000mW.AND opamp socketed for easy opamp rolling.
 
I would love to hear our thoughts on this, and especially on whether the CS8416 compard to the DIR9001 could make any audible difference. Also, how bad a thing is it to not be able to receive 192kHz signals? Because the also have an upgraded version of the DAC-01 (like the maverick audio D1) which can accept 192kHz signals.
 
Thanks
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top