DAC makes a difference

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

  1. RTally

    RTally AK Subscriber Subscriber

    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.
    judsonw and abpeep like this.


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  2. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    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 Addicted Member

    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.
    asilker, awillia6 and ldatlof like this.
  4. sbaradaran

    sbaradaran Active Member

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

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