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Dac old compared to new

Discussion in 'DACs' started by vintage 5.0, Oct 27, 2018.

  1. vintage 5.0

    vintage 5.0 vintage 5.0 Subscriber

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    I have had some great older dacs. I had the Monarchy and a Theta. I also have some nice newer ones. It seems to me the new ones are much better. For one I can hook up USB to them. I also wonder how the older ones compare sound wise. I do still see the older ones going for some good money and was curious what others thought on old dacs. Are some of them better or is it more of a nostalgia thing.
     

     

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  2. sberger

    sberger Hard Core Geezer Subscriber

    I just purchased an SMSL SU-8 DAC this week, $250. What I'm hearing with my tired old ears is a few good notches above what I was hearing from both my Squeezebox Touch and Sony XA5400ES cd/SACD player. Both have internal DAC's that were considered excellent by any standard, but both are 10+ years old. I have no doubt that DAC technology has improved significantly over that period of time. It was worth it to me to see given that I have a very large cd/file library. I'm very pleased with my decision.
     
  3. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Smart Ass Sponsor Subscriber

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    Other than hookup and their capability to decode, when it comes to SQ that is something we need to do for ourselves. It's only a part of a system and everything comes into play at that point of what works good together for an individuals system, room and liking.
     
  4. louisjames

    louisjames The "real" Louis James Subscriber

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    USB has definitely gotten much, much better and I now greatly prefer that over Optical or COAX. I recently upgraded from my Audio-gd NFB-1 to a much more expensive DAC. The main difference being the Audio-gd is Sabre based and has the typical "energetic" sound versus the Metrum I got which is NOS and tends towards the "romantic" side. Both however were / are better than any of the older DAC's I had by a wide margin. Vintage is A-OK for many things although I think many folks get too caught up in nostalgia and / or what they had growing up. But I think there's is much to be gained by going with modern gear for things like DAC's. At least for my money. Just my 2c's. YMMV.
     
  5. Audiofreak71

    Audiofreak71 Boerboelicious Subscriber

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    I had an oppo bdp105 with the Sabre Dac and I really liked its sound then I bought an oppo udp203 and it was good if not a bit bright, then I got a Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 Dac and was in a whole different world of sound. The MF Dac is from 2006 and my oppos where from 2014&2017 respectively and they don’t hold a candle to the MF Dac , granted the MF retailed for almost $3k which is twice the price of an oppo bdp105 . But like @4-2-7 was saying above it’s the careful pairing with the equipment that is going to make your system shine . My MF Dac is paired with a MF NuVista M3 integrated and it’s a perfect match and makes very good music .

    Audiofreak71
     
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  6. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I agree that if you can manage the jitter in the digital stream, the USB connection works well.

    For me, it's not so much the age of the DAC as it is the chipset installed. Some just sound better to me than others.
     

     

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  7. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    I am not debating the fact--yes fact--that actual DAC chipsets have "improved" and expanded their capabilities, but I will still remind everyone that the biggest AUDIBLE difference amongst DAC units is the final analogue preamp stage that is necessary to take that "newly converted" analogue signal up to line-level output. I have harped on this many times. Once you convert the digital signal to an analogue one--how is it amplified up to a useable line-level output? A single cheap IC, a couple (or single) opamps, discrete SS components, or even tubes or tube-hybrid preamp stage?

    Everyone knows (or I at least think acknowledges) that preamp stages in ANY system are a critical element in the "sonic signature" of an entire system. A crappy phono stage can make a $2K cart on a $5K table sound like sh*t--expensive sh*t, but sh*t, nonetheless. A crappy preamp stage (overall, for the entire system)--whether it be the preamp stage of a receiver, integrated or a stand-alone unit can make the best of the rest of the whole system sound like sh*t.

    So are "old" DACs obselete, and new ones "better"? IMO--not necessarily. Much of it depends on that final analogue preamp stage component of the DAC unit. I have heard many "old", but higher-end (for their tme) DACs eat "modern" DACs for lunch and still want dessert. Low-end back then was low-end. High-end back then was high-end. The same applies now.
     
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  8. vintage 5.0

    vintage 5.0 vintage 5.0 Subscriber

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    That makes sense to me. I have in both my PS audio nuwave dacs a class a output stage and that might be what makes them sound so nice.
     
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  9. sberger

    sberger Hard Core Geezer Subscriber

    I made the decision last week to try to improve upon the two main internal DAC's in my system, the one in my Sony XA5400ES cd player, and the one in my Squuezebox Touch streamer, both 10+ years old. Both were considered very good to excellent when they first hit the market, but figured why not take a shot on a moderately(cheap to some..$250) priced external DAC? Went with the SMSL SU-8. There is no doubt that there's been an overall improvement. I'm not a big believer in these kinds of things, don't go in for fancy cables, etc, but this new DAC has really been a positive addition to my rig.
     
  10. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    Blind A/B tested? How would you characterize the "overall improvement"?
     
  11. sberger

    sberger Hard Core Geezer Subscriber

    Not blind testing, just normal listening. The change isn't dramatic, but on listening to recordings over the last few days that I'm well acquainted with, I'm hearing little things that weren't so obvious previous. Certain instruments being just a little clearer in the mix, stereo separation a little wider. Again, these are recordings that I know backward and forward.

    Take my experiences for what it is, but it's of no surprise to me that updating a 10+ year old DAC would bring about changes/improvements in sound the same way that recapping an amp might.
     
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  12. rwartner

    rwartner Super Member

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    DACs digital to analog / analog to digital technology has been around a long time. You could buy computer boards to use in laboratory computers for instance 40-50 years ago.
     
  13. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Newer technology provides the ability to play formats such as DXD (352/24) and DSD256/512. My eight year old Audio Research is limited to 192/24 and doesn't support DSD nor MQA. I don't find that to be much of a limitation. :)

    I'm with savatage - it's largely about the fundamentals - power supply and analog output stage.
     
  14. PPstereo

    PPstereo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Allot of good points have already been made.

    Completely agree on the notion, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And that can reveal itself at any point in the audio chain, within a component and or otherwise.

    As was said, the USB internal interface can be a HUGE weak point in older DACs if used this way. Theres allot in explaining this and Im certainly not qualified to weigh in on an expert level. But for those interested much has been written on other audio sites where digital is a big focus.

    With this in mind and owning several DACs that I like / liked I bought an audio toy that has been highly praised elsewhere and from a reputable company. The Mutec MC 1.2 Its a product that is mainly targeted for pro audio use but many have bought and enjoyed for their home use too. Its simply a Bi-Directional Digital USB interface. Aka not a DAC simply a digital come and go box for the computer to talk to. Its not alone in its purpose. Theres lots of devices that can perform this task. And vary widely in cost and complexity. And Im sure many will feel some are better justified for its use and price. I liked the fact this was VERY well made and Bi-Directional. Be fun to use some older more affordable AD DA boxes for some fun.

    And put the notion of age and performance in perspective. Some early efforts from companies like Lavry , Prism , Benchmark to name a few, which came out in the early 2000s are still in use to this day making and playing back beautiful music in studios and homes alike. Dont get me wrong, all the mentioned companies have made revisions and or newer models. However that doesnt mean these older efforts are terrible and Id venture could make great work within their technical limits for years to come.

    Now if using a good old CD player as a digital source the computer complication isnt an issue. Thats not to say there arent better ways to do this also. AudioNote or CEC dedicated transports.

    IME different DACs can be allot of fun and many bring something unique to the table. I recently bought a Prism Lyra 1 and completely see how it differs from other consumer DACs Ive gotten over the years. It does what it was built to do. Add and subtract nothing to what its fed. And theres even folks in the Pro world that hear differences from these mastering grade DACs and their makers. And I dont doubt it.

    Again as others have stated. So much goes into why something sounds a certain way. Example, one could reduce perceived glare by simply by adding room treatments. Possibly...

    Also FYI theres a seller on the bay I got my Mutec from. They have an offer option and I got mine for $450.

    Good info within this thread.
     
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  15. vintage 5.0

    vintage 5.0 vintage 5.0 Subscriber

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    I have to give this opinion. I got a deal on a California Audio CD transport and it came with a Sigma II dac. I wanted to use the cd player with another dac. I put the Sigma II with my all tube system I have. It sounds really smooth and nice. I think it will be replacing my peachtree audio. I like it but this dac with a 12ax7a tube is really nice sounding and it is not a new one. Just wanted to add this because I am finding I guess the older ones can sound good. I do not use the computer in the system so it should be great.
     
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  16. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Some of the older ones back when CD was king can sound really good. They may not have USB or support more than 48k without mods but on a CD player they can really shine.
    I use a Parasound D/AC-1000, has 3 power supplies, 2 for analog and 1 for the digital section, 2 Burr Brown PCM63P DAC chips and weighs about 20lbs if I remember correctly.
    It's older technology but that tech is now new again, witness the very high end R2R DAC's that are now the current craze. They can't or won't build the lazer trimmed DAC chips like the PCM63P so now all those resistors are soldered to a circuit board, drives the price way up.
    Remember that when CD's were king, the DAC builders were always trying to out do each other and no expense was spared.
    My Parasound listed for about $1000.00 back in 1990.

    BillWojo
     
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  17. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Super Member

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    My experience is that fundamentals always matter, no matter the mfg date. I also have found the bar is moving up with time in the DAC arena.
     
  18. Hawkeye83

    Hawkeye83 Super Member

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    I only have experience with "newer" DAC's...from least expensive to most - Fiio D3, Peachtree Dac-it, Dac-itX, Emotiva XDA-2, Peachtree Decco 2, Bel Canto 2.5, Bel Canto 3.3VB. I have found the sound does improve as you move up! It's still quite good, even with the Fiio D3 @ $30, but it gets better.

    I would love to compare an older DAC and also different DAC topologies.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2018
  19. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

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    Biggest bang for the buck?
     
  20. Hawkeye83

    Hawkeye83 Super Member

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    Man, that's a tough question! I don't think I have the appropriate formula to determine that, haha.

    Actually I realized I forgot one too - the Emotiva XDA-2. That one does have a very nice feature set.

    Intial thought was the Fiio D3! The cheapest! Because it still sounded good. Honestly I haven't used it in probably 3-4 years, but it's too cheap to be worth selling. I should insert it in place of the most expensive DAC I've ever had (the Bel Canto 3.3VB) and see how it sounds.

    I think maybe a lot of it has to do with synergy too. When I was using the cheaper DAC's, I also had less expensive electronics - amp, preamp (speakers were the same).
     

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