DAC Image/Stage Differences?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by Todd Dodds, Jun 18, 2018.

  1. Todd Dodds

    Todd Dodds AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have a NAD C510 DAC/Preamp, and a Mac C2500 w/DAC. They're both perfectly fine, but I like the totally clean, uncolored sound from the NAD, and generally only use the MAC for turntable duty (the NAD has no analogue inputs). But I like them both, no complaints at all.

    So I'm reading a review from a couple years ago, https://www.audiostream.com/content/nad-c-510-direct-digital-preamp-dac , and the reviewer mentions another, more expensive, DAC that has a larger, deeper soundstage. It dawns on me that I've never really considered the DAC as having much influence on imaging and soundstaging, figuring all that stuff was more the result of recording, amp and speakers.

    For those with a lot of experience in DAC world, have you any opinions of DACs with superior image and stage presentation?
     

     

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  2. corbin

    corbin Active Member

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    All I can say is that's one of the main differences I noticed when I moved from a cheap DAC to a slightly less cheap DAC.
     
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  3. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I've heard differences between chipset brands. I've owned DACs with Burr Brown, TI, Analog Devices and ESS.

    I much prefer the sound of the ESS chipsets.

    It wasn't a matter of more expensive chipsets sounding better, it was a matter of chipsets sounding different to me.
     
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  4. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    First the differences, THEN the preferences.
     
  5. fredgarvin

    fredgarvin AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Chips aside, it's the quality of the analog output stage and the power supply that contribute the most in a better sounding DAC.
     
  6. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Amen!

    The vast majority use op amps in the analog stage which I find less desirable than using discrete devices that don't require corrective feedback. I replaced the OPA2134s in the garage based Music Hall DAC 25.3 with Burson FET modules for a decided improvement in sound quality. The Audio Research DAC8 upstairs uses hand matched JFETs in its balanced circuitry driven by separate power supplies for the digital/analog functions.
     
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  7. fredgarvin

    fredgarvin AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I remember a few years back when the Burson mod was popular with the Music Hall.
     
  8. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I bought mine as a demo only a year ago and recently discovered the Burson devices.

    Installation was quick and easy since the op amps were socket mounted. I posted about the experience here.
     
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  9. pete_mac

    pete_mac Super Member

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    Yes indeed. Regardless of the chip you have, a non-optimal implementation will yield a poor result.

    Attention also needs to be paid to the digital input stage and any clock circuitry - despite the hyperbole presented by some DAC chip manufacturers regarding their chips being immune to jitter of having jitter elimination circuits, they remain sensitive to the quality of the input and the clock.
     
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  10. RichPA

    RichPA Don't drive angry Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

    I've had many DACs over the years (currently using a Benchmark DAC2 HGC), and I've found that differences in soundstage are one of the main things that distinguish them. On several of them that had external power supplies, I've found that upgrading the power supply often carries benefits in this aspect of the sound.
     
  11. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    I agree with the above posts, but mostly so with the importance of the analogue output stage. A DAC performs two functions--converts a digital signal to an analogue signal and then amplifies that signal to a useable line-level.

    There are variations in the performance of different DAC chipsets and their implementations, as well as method of transmission of the digital signal (synchronous vs asynchronous); however, IME, the most immediately audible differences are a result of the differences in the analogue output preamplifier stage.
     

     

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  12. fredgarvin

    fredgarvin AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Dan of ModWright instruments has just announced a mod for the Pro-ject Pre Box S2 Digital, a DAC which he likes, It will be an external box with power and an output stage.

    "AC into external box, DC into Project box.
    Audio signal from Project box to external box, audio out from audio box.

    Umbilical will just be a very short cable with the appropriate micro-usb connector at the DAC.
    Signal connections between boxes will just be short RCA cables."
     
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