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View Full Version : Why Do I need a DAC?????



Varun
30-08-2009, 09:48
Hello Forum and Toga wearers;

Mike Reed called me the most Prolific thread cobbler- I did not take an offence as I do not think Mike will ever offend anyone. All the threads I had initiated-atleast most of them had a purpose- and a personal one.

Now- the question I put to the benches- is Why on earth would I ever need a DAC? I was listening to the TEAC half sized box last night. And DSJR would be pleased to know that it had all the info- that I knew was to be heard on the tracks- whether it be the Eagles 'Greatest Hits' or 'Miles Davis' a kind of Blue. Everything- details plus a thumping bass-so much so that I had to reduce the listening volume.

I will let it run- but I need to do nothing to improve what it is doing. Of course the sound stage is flat- and the images also all very frontwards in a single plane.

Do I then want to make it sound like my TT? I do not think it should be necessary- because if I did then I would end up spending big bucks. It is not so good on classical though- but I have to do more listening before I jump to conclusions.

What say you Dalek Supremo!

Comments/advise/opinions welcome

Werner Berghofer
30-08-2009, 10:44
Why on earth would I ever need a DAC?Not that long ago Iíve been asking myself the same question. A friend of mine (running a fine music and movie shop in Vienna) which is very familiar with my music and listening preferences and my audio equipment suggested adding a DAC as a definite improvement to music playback.

I followed his advice, and it didnít take long until I owned three DACs (two Beresford TC-7520 and a Caiman). I started with adding a Beresford TC-7520 between my Mac mini (http://www.apple.com/macmini/) and the Fatman iTube valve amp (http://www.fat-man.co.uk/docs/product_07/iTube_ValveDock.shtml) on my desk. After I was convinced, another TC-7520 was inserted between the Airport Express (http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/) and the Yamaha AX-592, driving the Triangle Esprit (http://www.triangle-fr.com/english/gamme-esprit-ex.php) speakers up the stairs in my living room. Eventually, the Caiman was added to the Airport Express in my bedroom, where I use my AKG K701 headphones. (See here (http://theartofsound.net/forum/showthread.php?p=53240#post53240) for detailed photos of my setup in case youíre interested.)

After Stanís advice I swapped the TC-7520 and the Caiman, since I spend most of my time near the desk in my home office (Iím self employed). Now the Caiman is connected to the iTube amp on my desk.

In short, the main purpose of a DAC is to convert the input of any digital source (CD player, computer) to an analogue signal which then can be feeded into an amplifier or active loudspeakers. I have no technical background and certainly avoid touching devices like screwdrivers or soldering irons, but after my own listening experiences I share the opinion that stand-alone DACs perform much better than DACs built into CD players, computers and other equipment.

Kind regards,

Varun
30-08-2009, 11:22
Hi Werner,

The question facing me is:- what am I upgrading to the DAC for? I have to realize a need to improve the sound- and have to know which areas the sound needs improving in? So far I do not see such a need making itself manifest- that was the point.

I shall have to wait and see- I have said it before- that many times changes result in shifts and balances in sound reproduction- and people may prefer A to B or C to A but in the end-that is a personal choice which others need not follow. It remains open to question at the best of time whether changing from A to B to C makes all that difference to the sound as it was meant to be heard?

I would love to have a Sony X999???

Werner Berghofer
30-08-2009, 11:32
what am I upgrading to the DAC for?Are there any digital music sources in your playback chain? If yes, try an A/B comparision of the music, first connecting the digital source directly to the amplifier, then after inserting a stand-alone DAC between source and amplifier. If you do not notice a difference, then you certainly donít need to upgrade the DAC.

If have no clue about that Sony X999 you mention, so I canít comment on this.

Spectral Morn
30-08-2009, 11:53
Hello Forum and Toga wearers;

Mike Reed called me the most Prolific thread cobbler- I did not take an offence as I do not think Mike will ever offend anyone. All the threads I had initiated-atleast most of them had a purpose- and a personal one.

Now- the question I put to the benches- is Why on earth would I ever need a DAC? I was listening to the TEAC half sized box last night. And DSJR would be pleased to know that it had all the info- that I knew was to be heard on the tracks- whether it be the Eagles 'Greatest Hits' or 'Miles Davis' a kind of Blue. Everything- details plus a thumping bass-so much so that I had to reduce the listening volume.

I will let it run- but I need to do nothing to improve what it is doing. Of course the sound stage is flat- and the images also all very frontwards in a single plane.

Do I then want to make it sound like my TT? I do not think it should be necessary- because if I did then I would end up spending big bucks. It is not so good on classical though- but I have to do more listening before I jump to conclusions.

What say you Dalek Supremo!

Comments/advise/opinions welcome

Well Varun

In the past before small audio companies had access to fancy cd transports or even basic ones the only way they could enter the digital game was by making Dacs. In those days it was thought that one could get the biggest jump in performance by keeping your CD player as a transport and hooking up a Dac which had better or more up-to-date technology. It is true that early cd mechanisms are better than more modern ones (such as the Philips CDM1 mineral loaded mech), but adding a Dac did not always get you a jump in sound quality.

The thing that prevented this was jitter. Now over the years many ways have been found to combat this improvements in transmitter and receiver, re-clocking, buffering and even using an external clock and slaving transport and Dac to it. All of these went along way to giving you that improvement in sound, but and there is always a but....the actual transmission cable could be the week link (see Mike Homar's Digital cable thread for some of this). Digital cables for what ever reasons can and do give changes in sound for the better and the worse (I have heard this myself over the years). some of this is down to bad impedance matches, i.e not being 75ohms. The BNC connector and the WBT next gen plugs sort this out, but cable materials and configuration still change the sound. So for awhile manufactures for the most part decided it was easier, cheaper and better sounding to keep the digital signal chain simple and inside the player, some companies decided it was better to try external power supplies instead of external Dacs.

With the advent of PC and higher digital information rates the Dac is back as away of helping upgrade the sound quality of a PC/Mac...lets be honest as far as I can tell computer manufacters are not audiophiles and therefore sound quality has been bottom of the list for what a computer can do. The Dac sorts this out and acts as a digital switching hub as well.

So why should you get/have a Dac...well you don't have to but it will offer you a possible way of improving the sound of your digital playback units, be they computer, legacy red book(CD), MP3 etc.

The star of the affordable Dacs is any of the Beresford units though as with all things system matching is vital and one Dac version may suit your set up better than another, also if you need a USB you will have to go for the 7520 or Caiman over the 7510. However IMHO the 7510 latest version is fantastic for the money...not heard the 7520 or Caiman yet.

Your humble Teac is okay and may well make a good transport(maybe not though if it only has an optical out rather than Rca or BNC, it will IMHO/E be a bit hobbled). During my test of the 7510 I found it to be fussy about Transports, cables, Isolation and mains. The more you pampered it the better the sound. You have read the review so you know what my conclusions were....not definitive, as the results only apply to my set up at that time, but a good guide to what is possible.

As long as the signal going into any Dac is as good as it can be and the nasty jitter is kept away or is absent, then two separates can offer better sound than an all in one.


I will let it run- but I need to do nothing to improve what it is doing. Of course the sound stage is flat- and the images also all very frontwards in a single plane.
Very good digital playback while lacking analogue in this area is far from flat good digital can and does have excellent soundstage height, width and depth. The quality of digital bass is different to analogue and indeed it can be that if a system has been set up for analogue that the addition of digital can upset things and bass is one area that may be out compared to before. Re-setup your speakers to give the best compromise between the two formats.


Hope this helps.


Regards D S D L

Varun
30-08-2009, 12:50
Thanks Neil,

I am not too worried about the sound at this stage. I have to improve the support it is on. It is sitting on a ceramic tile atop the power unit for the VPI. Room-I mean space is proving a limitation. I will fine tune that. The outputs on the TEAC are:-1) a single TOSLINK connection and 2) two Phono type RCA connections. At the moment it is connected to the line level Preamp CD input using the VPI phono leads which I had advertised.

I am sure Mike's digital leads will be excellent and that is very much on my mind- if I went that way. I do not regard any computer as ever coming into the system I use for my listening-so streaming etc is out as is head phone use

I also think Mike's underpricing his products- too cheap I mean for what he is putting in and yet I noted people complaining. Not going to get any WBT connected product for less than 100quids anywhere else.

Alexxus
03-09-2009, 22:29
I can only tell you what I thought I needed a DAC for.

I chucked out all my 5.1 system (a Nakamichi receiver and 5 Mission speakers) and used the DAC for the DVD to my stereo amp, to start with. I then amplified my laptop via the DAC (before I had the DAC I never felt the need of amplifying whatever crap signal I was gonna get from its sound card). I use the DAC for my satellite receiver. I also use the DAC as a headphone amp for the CD player and all the other sources.

Now that's why I went out and bought one. Been ever so happy since :gig:

John
04-09-2009, 05:15
I guess for me using a DAC has 2 advantages
1) It provides a cheap upgrade path
2) It gives me lot more variety I can plug in my laptop and listen to internet radio or music saved on my hard drive
I used to have a audiocom mod nu-vista a stunning player but to my ears the dac Laptop/transport is capable of a bit more resolution This is via a old philips transport Cost £40 on ebay and the DAC £250 from Duncan (Tubehunter) and can use the DAC via the laptop too.
So the value is pretty good and can give more flexiabilty

The Grand Wazoo
30-10-2011, 17:45
From The Grave

goraman
30-10-2011, 18:27
Varun,

Your audio system is never better than it's weakest link.
It was explained to me that starting with the best source is key.
because a low grade lack luster music signal will only get worse as it makes it's way through the inter conects,amp,speaker cables and speakers.
like a rocket if it's 2 degrees off at the launch pad it will miss the moon by thousends of miles, but if it's 2 degrees off at landing it may only miss it's target by a couple of hundred meters,but it will still be on the moon very close to it's targeted landing spot.
Audio is alot like that.
So improve your source, an amp should just be transparent,then work on your speakers.
At 45 years old I bought my last pair of speakers,my system is finished at last,have patience.

Or do nothing at all,choice is yours.

Puffin
30-10-2011, 19:15
You don't. But the fact that you don't need something doesn't stop you from buying it.

The Grand Wazoo
31-10-2011, 08:29
So I wonder if anyone has decided that, after trying adding an external DAC, there is no improvement? Or if anyone has gone back to using an internal one & not regretted it?

goraman
31-10-2011, 11:32
3 or 4 years ago I bought a Music Hall 25.2 and had a level 1 mod done.
last year I got a Little Dot DAC around $250.00 to use with my music server and decided to do an AB with my upscale Music Hall. That CDP still sounded so much better with the stand alone DAC it was unbelievable.
A good DAC can make or break any digital music source and if you think it won't make a difference - your only fooling yourself.
The little Dot and the Cambridge DAC Magic both use the same Wolfson chip set and sound very similar both are a good choice in my opinion.

Rare Bird
31-10-2011, 21:03
I use a DAC to bypass the computer Sound Card, the DAC lets me listern to high quality sound from the Computer i could never get from any soundcard i tried! secondly a duplicate DAC is used with an 80's CD player which again is an improvement although i don't bother with the CDP anymore.

Puffin
31-10-2011, 21:10
So I wonder if anyone has decided that, after trying adding an external DAC, there is no improvement? Or if anyone has gone back to using an internal one & not regretted it?

I've got loads of Dacs. These days I am mostly listening to an old Audio Innovations CD player (the spaceship shaped one). Murderously stubborn with CD-Rs, takes ages to load a CD and the drawer sticks like shit to a bl...... but it sounds really good to me.

michaelhigh
31-10-2011, 21:30
So I wonder if anyone has decided that, after trying adding an external DAC, there is no improvement? Or if anyone has gone back to using an internal one & not regretted it?

I've been experimenting with conputer audio for roughly a year now, ripping CD's and listening to free test tracks from various sources online, and, to be honest, as much as I'd like to purchase a Caiman or equivalent (in price), my 2 computers, one running 7 and one running XP, both sound great without an outboard DAC. Despite my usual willingness to purchase gear from listening to suggestions and consensus choices, I haven't taken the plunge. I'm listening to Supertramp Crisis What Crisis right now, a CD full of low level information such as dynamics, various instrument timbres, and lots of good songwriting devices. I know that a good DAC would reveal much more details and fine sounds than my computers playing without outboard gear, but I'm satisfied with sound that doesn't chatter, blink out or have bad anomilies in any way. Is ignorance bliss? I may have to claim that in this case, because I can find no fault at this time, and when I do take the plunge, I'm sure to report a noticeable improvement. Until then I'm going to anxiously await that occurrance and concentrate on purchasing more hirez files, ripping more CD's, and maybe even delving into ripping mint LP's and cassettes from the archives. In the meantime I'll be following the most recent developments that y'all are experiencing in terms of new value-based products. I'm intrigued by the Beresford line and will no doubt jump in there, or with HRT.

bobbasrah
01-11-2011, 09:03
Mike, I think you are in for a surprise down the road, and will kick yourself in retrospect. I know that I certainly did, but my need to do so was originally driven by my then amp having no onboard DAC. This is not your own scenario.

I currently use optical from the mobo direct for films, and usb to the DAC with coax to the amp for music. Playing flac via usb is noticeably better in my own case.
I tried using the usb DAC with RCA out, but the audio side of my cheap chinese usb DAC is sometimes crap by comparison to the amp's DAC implementation. I do not know whether it is filtering or the op-amp, as sometimes it is so musical, othertimes slightly distorted at high frequencies. Ah well, as I have read many times, the devil is in the implementation.

There are so many DACs out there nowadays, and certainly Stan's devices enjoy considerable following and respect on this forum, and others, for good reason.
Tweaking of these and many other commercial designs seem to occupy acres of webspace, as the last ounce of musicality is sought. All interesting stuff.

With so many highly skilled, knowledgable and critical DIYers messing around with DACs on other forums (quite a few from this forum I note on diy-audio), it is very tempting to give one of the less esoteric DIY jobs a try. Fumble fingers meet SMD.....

Maybe that avenue may be of possible interest as much of this predomiates over your side of the big puddle?

StanleyB
01-11-2011, 11:33
As much as I like the convenience of USB as a connecting method to a DAC, I prefer to have no metal to metal contact between PC and DAC. The bachground noise from the PC switched mode PSU has always been noticeable to me on the USB method of connection. That's why I prefer to use the Caiman+, which has no USB, with my laptop.

Whether you need a DAC is not easy to answer. Price of the DAC shouldn't even come into it. When I started developing a possible replacement for the TC-7510/Caiman+ type of approach I was surprised how cheaper it is to make a far better performing DAC these days compared to say in 2008. So instead manufacturers are trying to add all sorts of more expensive technology to the DAC so that they can keep the retail price up. This must be having a negative effect on the take up of a DAC in many systems that would benefit from one. Few of us want to risk more than £150 on a DAC when there are more pressing financial commitments to worry about. Even fewer of us want to spend that money, only to feel short changed with the outcome. This is one area that has been badly served by quality DAC manufacturers. The low cost end of the market has been left to the Chinese sellers on eBay, many of whom supply some truly ghastly sounding products. Maybe we need another revolutionary approach in the quality DAC market that would deliver better solutions at shopping trolley kind of prices. That's one reason I regret dropping the TC-7510 from my range, instead of further perfecting it. It introduced a lot of people to the pleasure of using a high performance DAC in their system, without requiring permission from the bank manager to buy one. Many used that as a stepping stone to try out far more expensive DACs, once they had heard what a difference a DAC makes.

I don't have all the answers to the question, but that's not through lack of trying. Who knows what tomorrow might bring...

bobbasrah
01-11-2011, 13:05
Nicely said Stan. In an age of eBay chinese specials, I would suggest that your products are on a quite different level. Your customers get the quality and sound experience expected, at what I consider to be a remarkably good price point.

My straying into the eBay minefield followed a specific demonstration by a mate who reckoned this device could resolve my old desktop problem rather than buy an inferior sound card. It worked better than anything I expected.
The problems with usb you mention I never found, so I don't know what these guys did wrong, or whether their screwup in QC (really?) was my benefit.
I am now on a stepping stone itching for improvement, and perhaps instead of Beresford being the initiation, you may well be the next step....

Commercial markets aside I am constantly amazed at how much the DIY side of hobby electronics has advanced, particularly the appreciation of the younger generations to design detail, the effects of components, and more importantly the recurring reference to sound quality.
Having been an avid hobbysit many moons ago before career took over, the breadth of knowledge and expertise out there is stunning, and the fact that this is bound to high standards of audio fidelity I find wonderful.

michaelhigh
01-11-2011, 18:46
Mike, I think you are in for a surprise down the road, and will kick yourself in retrospect. I know that I certainly did, but my need to do so was originally driven by my then amp having no onboard DAC. This is not your own scenario.

I currently use optical from the mobo direct for films, and usb to the DAC with coax to the amp for music. Playing flac via usb is noticeably better in my own case.
I tried using the usb DAC with RCA out, but the audio side of my cheap chinese usb DAC is sometimes crap by comparison to the amp's DAC implementation. I do not know whether it is filtering or the op-amp, as sometimes it is so musical, othertimes slightly distorted at high frequencies. Ah well, as I have read many times, the devil is in the implementation.

There are so many DACs out there nowadays, and certainly Stan's devices enjoy considerable following and respect on this forum, and others, for good reason.
Tweaking of these and many other commercial designs seem to occupy acres of webspace, as the last ounce of musicality is sought. All interesting stuff.

With so many highly skilled, knowledgable and critical DIYers messing around with DACs on other forums (quite a few from this forum I note on diy-audio), it is very tempting to give one of the less esoteric DIY jobs a try. Fumble fingers meet SMD.....

Maybe that avenue may be of possible interest as much of this predomiates over your side of the big puddle?

I keep prioritizing other aspects of my rig over a DAC, as much as I want one, and I definitely will give the Beresford a try eventually, if and when I find a reasonable source. Even at it's reasonable price, it's slightly beyond my monthly allotment, as I'm on a fixed income with a certain amount of responsibility to achieve each month as well. In the meantime, until I find a suitable unit, I'll be living vicariously through those of you here who have made the unit a daily pleasure in their computer setups. Someday...

StanleyB
01-11-2011, 18:55
I keep prioritizing other aspects of my rig over a DAC, as much as I want one, and I definitely will give the Beresford a try eventually, if and when I find a reasonable source. Even at it's reasonable price, it's slightly beyond my monthly allotment, ...
You never know what the future might bring, including an solution within your budget ;).

The Grand Wazoo
01-11-2011, 19:05
So do we know at what sort of level of integrated CD player we would be looking at that would not benefit from one of the cheaper DAC's on the market?

michaelhigh
03-11-2011, 00:36
You never know what the future might bring, including an solution within your budget ;).

Using this less-is-more theory, I could see the development of something really useful, affordable and great-sounding. Maybe you should resurrect the line you dropped and make it comparative with the lower-level HRT, which is another consideration of mine. I'm sure that you're working all angles and I'm anxious to see the outcome. Thanks for responding, Stan.

StanleyB
03-11-2011, 00:55
The Bushmaster is coming, and a few lucky AoS visitors have already heard and seen it;). Have you ever seen a DAC reproduce 1Hz? No? Hang on to the furniture :eyebrows:

goraman
03-11-2011, 03:07
The Bushmaster is coming, and a few lucky AoS visitors have already heard and seen it;). Have you ever seen a DAC reproduce 1Hz? No? Hang on to the furniture :eyebrows:

1hz. at 120 db.
Better bring a change of underwear and a warm wet towel.:eek:

Batty
03-11-2011, 03:57
I use a cheapo 1543 NOS DAC I build from a kit between the optical out on my motherboard and the CD input on my aging Denon PMA 250 II. Works fine for me and much better than just using a 3.5mm to RCA cable.

Covenant
03-11-2011, 08:45
The Bushmaster is coming, and a few lucky AoS visitors have already heard and seen it;). Have you ever seen a DAC reproduce 1Hz? No? Hang on to the furniture :eyebrows:

Whoo! Can't we have a few details Stan?

StanleyB
03-11-2011, 10:11
Not in this thread :). It's not my intention to hijack it.

goraman
03-11-2011, 21:37
Varun,
If you are in the U.K. I highly recommend this.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180685017032&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT#ht_500wt_898&clk_rvr_id=280011556336

I love mine and it sounds so much like the Dac Magic as it uses the same Wolfson chip set but it has a much,much better transformer and having heard both I think the little dot had a slight edge over the Cambridge Audio Dac Majic.