Would a DAC drastically improve my system?
May 2, 2006 at 12:06 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 46

hyamaiata

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 29, 2005
Posts
414
Likes
0
First of all, sorry if this question looks a little noobish but I had to ask it. As you can see in my signature (again) I'm running my Micro Amp straight out of my Mac Mini. I know I need a DAC for it and I right now have exactly $110 so I think my best option is a Silverstone EB01 and a Straight Wire IC to go between the Micro and the EB01.
Now, I've heard the K 701 unamped and they sound really awful, I think the addition of the amp is worth every dollar. Is it going to be the same with the addition of the DAC? Is it a drastic improvement? Is the DAC going to improve the sound of this system as much as the Amp improves the sound from an unamped source? Or is the amp the central piece of an audio system and the source also contributes to the improvement of the sound but to a lesser extent?

Thanks in advance.
701smile.gif


PD: If you think the EB01 and the Straight Wire cable is not my best option considering my budget, please let me know.
 
May 2, 2006 at 1:29 AM Post #2 of 46

SonicDawg

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 28, 2005
Posts
1,135
Likes
12
I am pretty sure that the weakest link in your signal is the source, and the Ensemble doesn't look too bad at all, not to mention the price !!
biggrin.gif
 
May 2, 2006 at 2:35 AM Post #3 of 46

glenmorangie

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 28, 2005
Posts
161
Likes
0
confused.gif
would a 110 dollar dac be that much better than the one on a mac mini? a dac is a good upgrade but if you are bypassing the one on a fairly expensive peice of gear (from a big company that puts decent dacs even in their ipods) with the cheapest external dac u can buy(from a small company) ..it might be not much of an improvement if any at all.
 
May 2, 2006 at 2:39 AM Post #4 of 46

PeeeMeS

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 22, 2004
Posts
1,238
Likes
10
Quote:

Originally Posted by glenmorangie
confused.gif
would a 110 dollar dac be that much better than the one on a mac mini? a dac is a good upgrade but if you are bypassing the one on a fairly expensive peice of gear with the cheapest external dac u can buy..it might be not much of an improvement if any at all.



x2, don't get the "upgrade"
 
May 2, 2006 at 3:31 AM Post #5 of 46

xand1x

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 1, 2005
Posts
903
Likes
13
Garbage in, garbage out! For me, a source upgrade was the second most dramatic upgrade, apart from headphones that is.
 
May 2, 2006 at 3:41 AM Post #6 of 46

TheSloth

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Aug 3, 2005
Posts
2,377
Likes
13
Quote:

Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
x2, don't get the "upgrade"


He's talking about a $110 upgrade to what is just about the worst sounding source on the planet. Even if the DAC section in the mini is reasonable, the output stage certainly isn't. Just about any dedicated DAC will sound better than the current set up. I haven't heard the particular DAC in question, but it should be an improvement.

To the OP, remember that you spent $300 on your headphone amp. You are planning to spend 1/3 of that on your new source, so don't expect anything nearly as dramatic. Source upgrades can be as dramatic as amp upgrades, but not in this case. If you were buying a Micro DAC or something similar, I think you would notice a large difference.
 
May 2, 2006 at 3:50 AM Post #7 of 46

hyamaiata

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 29, 2005
Posts
414
Likes
0
Thanks for your replies guys. The Sloth, yes I remember you told me the outpout stage on the Mac Mini was very low quality. You're telling that if I was to get the Micro DAC I would hear a huge difference but you haven't heard the EB01. In this thread devwild compares the two DACs and obviously the Micro outperforms the EB01 but not by a big margin. I think that If I should notice a big change with the Micro DAC I should also notice it with the EB01 but to a lesser extent. Am I right here?

EDIT: Here, even Jude talks good things about the EB01, so I think I'm choosing the correct DAC for my budget.
 
May 2, 2006 at 4:43 AM Post #8 of 46

Uncle Erik

Uncle Exotic
Joined
Mar 18, 2006
Posts
22,597
Likes
498
What kind of Mini do you have? The G4 models only have mediocre audio out. The Intel models, however, have an optical out which is quite good. If you have an Intel Mini, you might want to look for a DAC that supports TOSLINK.
 
May 2, 2006 at 5:43 AM Post #9 of 46

glenmorangie

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 28, 2005
Posts
161
Likes
0
"He's talking about a $110 upgrade to what is just about the worst sounding source on the planet"

well..i stand corrected....i didnt know the mac mini was that bad...and i am not a mac guy at all
 
May 2, 2006 at 5:51 AM Post #10 of 46

Meyvn

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Mar 5, 2006
Posts
1,989
Likes
11
I can't say from experience, but I personally think it would be, particularly with the Mac mini and the requirements for keeping the footprint small. I mean, just think about a couple things that we already know:

Sound cards are ill-equipped to drive most good headphones, because the "amp" is integrated into the sound card; it's just an add-on that happens to be necessary for it to basically function.

Ever heard of integrated video? Why do you think people buy 256 MB, overclocked video cards to play the newest games? For kicks? Perhaps, on the highest of the highest end. However, if you've ever played any of the latest games, you know integrated simply can't handle it; sure, the game will usually run, but it's always slow, always requires low settings that do not look nearly as good, and always has a horrible framerate. Using a soundcard's onboard DAC is generally equivalent to using an integrated video card; it may be decent for what it's designed to do, which is fit into the Mac mini, and basically play music and movies; it is not designed for audiophile quality listening by any means.

What remains to be seen is: is the Silverstone designed for such things either? That, I cannot tell you.
 
May 2, 2006 at 6:53 AM Post #11 of 46

glenmorangie

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 28, 2005
Posts
161
Likes
0
you are comparing apples and oranges so badly i dont think i can even respond.

"Using a soundcard's onboard DAC is generally equivalent to using an integrated video card"


no.that is soo way off, bad analogy
 
May 2, 2006 at 6:56 AM Post #12 of 46

scrypt

Head-Fi's Sybil
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Posts
2,382
Likes
125
Quote:

Originally Posted by glenmorangie
well..i stand corrected....i didnt know the mac mini was that bad...and i am not a mac guy at all


TheSloth was talking about the analog output stage being bad, not the CPU at the pre-output stage. That shouldn't surprise you or make you doubt your purchase: I've yet to hear a stock computer with decent analog outs. He's simply affirming that the answer to your question is yes -- yes, the sound will improve with an EB01; yes, the upgrade is worth it.

The problem isn't that the Mini is "so bad," or that its output stage is dramatically worse than most other consumer cpus (you might as well complain about a CDP you're going to use as a transport). The problem is this: the Mini, being generic, lacks a decent soundcard and/or dedicated DAC. That's why a USB or Firewire DAC is necessary and will offer full frontal improvement (sadly, without actual nudity).

Correct me if I'm dung, but I don't believe the Mini has dedicated optical IO: It has combined A/D IO. I can't see any reason to avoid bypassing the issue entirely with a decent USB DAC.

In my experience, good PCI sound/interface cards and ADCs/DACs have always been separate purchases even for desktop models. My IO issues from my PCI 424 card, not my desktop's optical ports; from there, a 2408 mk III and Lucid ADC/DAC carry on conversion duties.

The idea that the mini is "the worst" source you can buy (or that Apple is "the worst" company -- tell that to the myriad artists who have recorded albums with a G4/5 and their external solution of choice) is preposterous. If flexibility were your primary concern (i.e., not being limited to USB and firewire -- to be able to add drives, cards, RAM and perhaps a new motherboard), you might have waited to buy an Apple Intel desktop whenever Jobs bothered to offer one. Since you didn't, I'd investigate the FW/USB DAC upgrade path and fret more over properly encoding your music than the mini's limitations.

BTW: My MOTU 424 PCI and Lucid converters were important additions for years no matter which Mac I happened to own. Even my ART DIO sounded far better than stock DAC when I brought it to a client's house.
 
May 2, 2006 at 10:12 AM Post #13 of 46

Yen

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Apr 18, 2006
Posts
461
Likes
10
I have tried to find out, if these USB-DACs, especially this Silverstone, outperform analog-soundcards such as M-Audio Audiophile 2946, Esi Juli@, EMUs etc... Is there a difference? Which one is better?

They all costs about the same (~100 euros) here in Finland.
 
May 2, 2006 at 11:05 AM Post #14 of 46

Chri5peed

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 16, 2005
Posts
3,611
Likes
12
I have a Juli@, I'm thinking about getting the MicroDAC, lol well I've ordered a TOSlink cable for it!

I've asked this elsewhere, but got no answer. Like the previous post asks about the EB01 is this DAC substantiaslly better than my soundcard?
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top