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DAC makes a difference

Discussion in 'DACs' started by RTally, May 10, 2018.

  1. RTally

    RTally Speaker addict Subscriber

    Messages:
    610
    Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    I have been using the analog output from my Mac Pro into a Yamaha R-9. I connected the headphone output with a good quality cable to my receiver. Sound was good. I had no complaints. I've been looking for a DAC, but was hesitant to spend the bucks without knowing if there would be noticeable improvement.

    A few days ago my R-9 went KABLOOIE! The main fuse popped and I don't have time to troubleshoot it. So I replaced the R-9 with a spare Yamaha RX-V793. The 793 has digital inputs and I just happened to have an optical digital cable that fit my Mac Pro and the Yammie. Plug in the cable and change the audio output of the Mac Pro and I have music. :D

    I notice a marked improvement in SQ. The bass is punchier, the highs are brighter and crisper. Overall, the sound is very much better. I often wondered how well the DAC was in my 2009 Mac Pro, which is a 2 processor high end Mac often used for pro audio work. Now I know. The Mac Pro DAC is not nearly as good as the DAC in my Yammie.
     
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  2. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,092
    Location:
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    Don't you love the opportunity for discovery in this hobby? I'm not surprised that you like the change. I've tried quite a few sound cards and DACs with the audio component DAC always winning out over the sound cards.
     
    RTally likes this.
  3. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,447
    Congratulations on your discovery. It can get even better.

    The Toslink optical standard involves fairly high (4000 ps) jitter as well. S/PDIF and USB digital connections from source or renderer to DAC can be substantially lower to further improve resolution and clarity.

    My preference is to use a laptop or desktop merely as file server. I use LMS (Logitech Music Server) on the desktop which is located far from the music systems with small renderers connected to DACs in separate systems. They get the music content via Ethernet or WiFi from the server. That further isolates computer borne noise from the audio system.
     
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  4. sbaradaran

    sbaradaran Active Member

    Messages:
    128
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    The DAC absolutely makes a difference! Like you I started out with the digital inputs (toslink) of my old Denon AV Receiver, which sounded fine. Then came the Cambridge audio DAC Magic and a veil was removed. Dynamics and clarity increased substantially. Since then I went to a benchmark DAC1 USB and now I'm settled in with a PS Audio DSJ. The audio journey continues and with each change an in increase in musical enjoyment. The returns have begun to diminish some, so there definitely is a sweet spot in there somewhere.

    My advice to you is keep your eyes peeled for used gear. Products from Schiit, Cambridge Audio, etc. have screaming value. Once you get the upgrade bug that is.
     
  5. Valrak66

    Valrak66 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    France
    Yeah DAC are important, even with the cheaper ones it still is better than any mobile phone / laptop or computer built in dacs.
     
  6. MoreBeer

    MoreBeer Money + Money =More Money

    Messages:
    625
    Location:
    New Jersey - It Sucks Here
    Yes, the headphone jack output from a computer is usually abysmal as its using the crappy sound card. The DAC's in many of the Yamaha AVR's are very good. I stream to a Yamaha TSR-7810 using AirPlay from a laptop and the sound is fantastic. I think better than my Cambridge DAC, or at least more pleasing.
     

     

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  7. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,169
    Location:
    NW Pennsylvania snow belt
    Glad things are working out and you learned the significance of an outboard DAC, but what is missing from this discussion is the significance of the analogue preamp stage that takes analogue output from the actual DAC chipset and brings it to a line-level analogue signal.

    A CDP is three components in one box (so is your computer in terms of audio)--a drive (or other digital source), a DAC chipset. and an analogue preamp stage to provide a line-level analogue output signal.

    I realize there are different levels of performance of different DAC chipsets, and different levels of performance of digital data transfer (USB, TosLink, SPDIF), but ultimately what makes the greatest difference amongst different DACs (internal or external) is that final analogue preamp stage handling the analogue signal at the end of the line. Some are a single IC chip, others use opamps, discrete components or even tubes--and they can/do perform dramatically differently.
     
  8. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,349
    Location:
    PODUNC USA......
    Just remember, optical and COAX are both synchronous connections and USB is asynchronous. USB uses the clock function of the DAC chip while the optical and COAX do not. This causes smear and timing issues with those connections that USB does not have.
     
  9. twiiii

    twiiii Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,184
    Location:
    west Texas
    The big thing about digital was digital is perfect you never loose any information and so on and so forth. But where the tire meets the road in sound is the DAC. Its like buying phono cartridge. Everyone says DAC's should sound the same well they don't. I'm not going to recommend one. I use the one in my current HT processor and I'm happy. It so much better than my previous HT processor. Will I get one some day, probably, I had to buya stand alone MC/MM phono pre-amp to get the sound I want. Maybe some day I will get a separate DAC.
     
  10. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

    Messages:
    3,106
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Best DAC's I've come across use AKM chips
     
  11. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,349
    Location:
    PODUNC USA......
    Remember, that a DAC is just more that the chip. It is the PS, Analog output, and how the input is done. That is why everyone is different (also the ears listening makes the biggest difference).
     
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  12. bimasta

    bimasta Super Member

    Messages:
    2,566
    I thought an external DAC would be a waste of money; I was thrilled with my Marantz and Philips CDPs. Then I found an oldish Adcom GDA700 at a thrift. Since the price was a hefty $7, wasting money didn't concern me. A world of difference! The Class A audio stage by Nelson Pass didn't hurt. I began listening to more CDs, even after the novelty of the new toy wore off, because the music was less "digital", and so much more enjoyable.

    Surprisingly, changing to a proper digital cable between transport (the old CDP) and DAC, yielded an equally big improvement. I started with just a good interconnect, a "high end" Tara Labs, and it even said "Digital Series" on it :) — but a dedicated 75-ohm cable with full 360° shielding added another world of difference.
     
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  13. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

    Messages:
    3,106
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Matches my experiences so far too. I never expected different digital cables to make a difference They do though
     
  14. EngineerNate

    EngineerNate AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,086
    I think you hit on the most important aspect with the Nelson Pass Class A statement. My personal feeling (I say feeling as I've never done any real experimentation to back it up) is that the analog "preamp" stage built into the DAC on any given piece of gear is going to have more impact on the sound than the digital side of things. I think most DAC chips at this point are well into the realm of indistinguishable for 99% of us given the same analog topology.
     
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  15. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,447
    Agree. Which is why I prefer those with robust and separate power supplies for digital/analog sections using discrete output stages.

    Another variable, however, has to do with the choice of filter(s) employed and execution. This is especially true with Redbook where you must compromise something - either flat frequency response up top or level of ringing present.
     
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