USB DAC Choice: Klipsch Hi-Fi System
Oct 30, 2008 at 1:10 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

revco

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 29, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
Hello all,

I am quite pleased that I came across the Head-Fi forums - it is exactly the resource that I have been looking for. I am in the market for a USB DAC to replace my aging and troublesome DAC that I'm using now. PC Audio has nearly replaced my CD usage...I haven't even bothered to set up my Marantz transport with my latest move.

I'm sure all of you are tired of making recommendations - and I am tired of reading the countless, conflicting reviews. Most reviews that I have seen here are for headphone users - and that's great - but it's not my application. Unfortunately, in my town there are no hi-fi shops that carry DACs, so this will be a blind purchase for me and I need to get it right.

My hi-fi system is composed as follows:

Klipsch LaScala speakers - Horns (~$3-4K new)
Cary Audio CPA-1 Preamp (~$1300)
Bel Canto S300 Amp (~$1400)
Media Center PC / Vista
Decent interconnects & cable ($500ish)

The setup is very transparent, albeit a very slight edge to the warm side. I am specifically looking for a DAC that is warm, musical, clean and not overly analytical. I want a quality midrange (to show off my horns), but it can't be too powerful in that regard. It also needs to be fairly strong on the low end as the LaScala's are known for being weak in that area. (Not for quality, but for strength & depth...the woofer ends around 53hz)

My budget is around $1K...plus or minus...though not too high as I'm working towards the Bel Canto DAC3. I really like the idea of a balanced setup as my preamp and amp are currently using a balanced connection. I need RCA though as I haven't budgeted a new balanced cable with this purchase.

From what I've read (and rather extensively now), my primary choices are the Stello DA100 Signature and the DAC1. I've read good and bad things about both and have seen conflicting information too many times. (e.g. the DAC1 is warm, no it's not...the Stello is weak in the low end, no it's not...etc.) I don't need the DAC1's amp at all...though, I have considered future potential for it.

Personally, I'm leaning towards the Stello...but I want second opinions. Given my requests, do you think that's a good match, should I look elsewhere or can you sell me on the DAC1 in my setup?

Thanks so much...and good to be amongst a group of of audiophiles!
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 4:12 AM Post #3 of 13

revco

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 29, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
Thanks for the tip.

I suppose I could be flexible connectivity wise, but I like the USB option for flexibility reasons. (I've looked into the Lavry for that reason, and like what I've read) I would prefer a DAC with USB & a connection that allows a full 24/96 stream. Ultimately, this DAC's future will reside in my office system where USB connectivity would be a major plus and 24 bit, not so much.

After doing some research on the M192, I'm pretty sure it doesn't have balanced outputs. It's also out of my price range by a grand, in which case I'd probably be likely to settle for the trusty DAC3. (I'll cross that bridge when I get there...)

Thank you, though. And for the record, I've liked everything I've read about that DAC.
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 4:52 AM Post #4 of 13

wilsynet

Head-Fier
Joined
Apr 27, 2008
Posts
55
Likes
10
Warm, clean and not overly analytical, less than $1K.

How about the AudioSector USB DAC ($425 screwed onto a wooden plank) from Peter Daniel or the MHDT Laboratory Paridisea+ (with USB, coax and toslink @$600)?

Also for your consideration is the Wavelength Brick, which can be had used for about your budget price.

The AudioZone DAC reviewed by Paul Candy on 6moons is a close cousin to the AudioSector.

If you like oversampling, then the PS Audio DL III is not a bad choice.
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 5:22 AM Post #5 of 13

FallenAngel

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Mar 7, 2006
Posts
9,627
Likes
72
Location
Toronto
I picked up my m192 for $775 used on this forum so it should be right in your pricerange.

If you don't mind an interface other that USB, the m192 has I2S input so you can use an ESI Juli@ with a breakout cable (I'll offer a short one for free since I have an extra one).

There are also USB to I2S interfaces, like amb's Gamma and the TwistedPearAudio USB receiver; plus TwistedPearAudio has an I2S resampler called the Metronome which upsamples to 24bit 96kHz or 192kHz. The USB receiver only allows for 16bit 44.1kHz or 48kHz though. You can likely combine the Metronome with the Juli@ I2S output (which I just figured is a nice idea which I will likely build next). I did say build, it's comes as an assembled module.
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 4:29 PM Post #6 of 13

Bones13

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 21, 2005
Posts
1,579
Likes
43
Consider auditioning the Headroom Ultra Micro Dac. ~$600, with USB/SPDIF inputs. Get the astrodyne power supply and you find it hard to beat at the $1K pricepoint.
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 6:15 PM Post #7 of 13

revco

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 29, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
I like two things about you guys - you come in under budget and you know your gear.

wilsynet - I think you're spot on with your recommendations. The Paridisea+ looked very promising and I *loved* that it has a tube, though it lacks the balanced out which is probably OK. I had looked at that before, but I think I missed the USB connnection. The AudioSector looks like a great economy choice, but it may be a little more than I want to bite off at this stage...and I couldn't figure out how to order it. The Brick was the first USB DAC I looked at & I loved it (again, tubes)...but it may be difficult...didn't see any on the 'Gon and they appear rather coveted on the used market. The PS DLIII is probably the closest in my requested feature set, and I've liked everything I read, so far. Upsampling preference, to me, is dependent on the gear used.

The m192 is still out there...but it seems more complicated than I'd like with the converters and so forth. I'll do some research on the connectivity suggestions, though. When it comes to audio, though, I'm inclined to KISS as much as possible.

The Headroom DAC looks specifically geared towards headphone users and looks less like a hi-fi component, which frankly, doesn't matter if it sounds right. It appears discontinued though and the manufacturer doesn't have info on their webpage about it???

Thanks for opening up my choices so far...of particular interest now are:

Benchmark DAC1
Stello DA100 Signature
Paridisea+
The Brick (if it could be found used)
PS DLIII

I will continue to do my research on these. Thank you!!!
 
Oct 30, 2008 at 9:08 PM Post #8 of 13

revco

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 29, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
I've been diligently doing some research and the PS DLIII is starting to look like a very good choice. It fits all of my requirements to a T and I like the options that are available for this little gem.

I've looked into the Underwood Hi-Fi upgrade for this unit and from the reviews, this looks like the "hands down" way to go. At $1450, it's a little up there...but I'm willing to pay for quality. I spoke with Walter at Underwood and he told me it is *better* than the Bel Canto DAC3, which floored me. I've heard the DAC3 and it's an amazing DAC in it's own right.

Are there any comments on this DAC and the Underwood upgrade? I'm having a hard time finding any criticism of the upgraded model. Lastly, if my budget were $1500, are there any others that I should strongly consider, given my requirements?
 
Oct 31, 2008 at 3:27 PM Post #10 of 13

obobskivich

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Posts
11,206
Likes
589
Location
Barsoom
if you want balanced, the Channel Islands VDA-2 with VRX-1 will give you balanced from TOS or coaxial, even with the upgraded PSU, assuming you paid retail, it'd be under $1k

another option would be one of the M-Audio USB or FW interfaces, which take USB/FW from the PC, S/PDIF and various line ins, and can drive balanced output (gotta ensure it actually says it can before you buy), most of these will come in under $500, some of them under $200

another idea would be the E-MU 1820, which generally measures on-par with the LynxTWO or Lynx Aurora, or any combination of the above equipment (i.e: 1820 -> VDA-2 -> VRX-1 (if you roll your own cables, you can save some major dosh over this $150 pair of ICs), or something like that)

if you want the discrete D/A (non-USB) and need a digital source from the PC, look at the M-Audio Audiophile 192, AudioTrak HD2, E-MU 0404 or 1212, HT Omega Claro Plus (or XT, but if you're just going for digital out, why spend the extra cash for the XT's headamp??), Auzen X-Fi Prelude (this one will take some flack in terms of pure SQ, and if pure SQ is your goal, move this to the middle third of the list, it isn't the worst, but it isn't the best)
 
Oct 31, 2008 at 3:43 PM Post #11 of 13

Seaside

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 16, 2005
Posts
860
Likes
11
Carat-Ruby

This is the DAC I'm considering now.
It looks quite good to me and the price is affordable too. (approx $200 with PCM1796 + CS8416 + USB and optical input) Only one problem is... i am not sure if they sell it abroad or not. I think I should contact them first.
 
Nov 2, 2008 at 11:25 PM Post #13 of 13

revco

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 29, 2008
Posts
5
Likes
0
Thanks AZNracerx1989 - they are a choice pair of speakers. You either love 'em or hate 'em...and I LOVE 'em.

I still have to go through much of these options, but thanks for the input so far!

That Monarchy Audio looks very interesting - I particularly liked that you can float through the SS section only, or involve the tube if desired. That's awesome.

obobskivich - Quality is definitely important as my setup is capable of revealing it. I'm familiar with some of the stuff you mentioned (e.g. M-Audio) and would prefer something higher grade, but I'll check out the rest of your suggestions.

Seaside, I think the Carat-Ruby is probably a little short sighted for this setup...it just doesn't look as if it's in the same league as the rest of my gear.

Thank you all again for these excellent suggestions! You're making my selection work a LOT easier. I just wish I could get you all to come out and demo your stuff on my gear!!
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top