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First dac . Topping d30 - Audioquest dragonfly black vs red .

Discussion in 'DACs' started by Listnnthdark, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. Listnnthdark

    Listnnthdark Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    502
    Location:
    West Lebanon NH
    Hello ( and thanks in advance for input )
    . I have never heard a dac but through reading up a bit am convinced it will improve my enjoyment of music . . I have recently moved to a rural area with no FM reception so have started streaming local radio through my Toshiba satalite laptop .a cable to my Nad receiver and on to my Kappa 6.1 .( I get all my music from my computer . Usually via youtube .) Cant help but notice that the live stream from Classical public radio does not sound great . Based on reading i am hoping for better via dac . (
    There are so many options it is confusing so im trying to narrow down in prep for purchase . In mind are :
    Topping d30 ( only because i read so much good about it and its small .) ( Want small and $100 - 200 ) Also noticed the Audioquest dragonfly black + red . I like that these plug right into usb and are tiny and look cool . I am leaning toward audio quest ., because the very first review I read Said " The sound will Blow your mind "
    As I read the review the first thing I noticed was that the writer was refering to his Infinity Kappa 8.1s and that it made a big improvement . This was for the Audioquest Dragonfly Red . So caught my attention .
    First question . Is the "Red " just better sounding than the "Black " ( or what )
    Does it sound twice as good as per $100 vs 200 price tags ? Dont want to spend double if not worth it .
    Second question . Would sound from topping d 30 be as good , or better . ?
    Would all of these be a solid bet to achieve better sound from computer ?
    Anything else i should consider . ?
    Thanks !
     

     

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  2. invaderzim

    invaderzim AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    648
    Location:
    California
    If the classic public radio sounds worse than other things you stream it likely won't improve that much with a good DAC. It may even sound worse as you get more detail.

    I go back and forth on if I prefer the Topping D30 or the JDS Labs Ol DAC more. The Ol Dac seems to have a more spacious sound while the D30 seems more detailed. To me both are a step better than a dragonfly. But just like the review that said " The sound will Blow your mind " these are all just opinions and they may be completely incorrect.

    Schiit also just made some improvements to their entry level DAC, I haven't heard it but it would be interesting to get a 3 way DAC shootout. The Modi3 tested really well on audio science review
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2018
    Leebob and Listnnthdark like this.
  3. JoeESP9

    JoeESP9 ESL's & tubes since 83

    Messages:
    16,628
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    You have to remember that most streaming music is lossy compressed (MP3 quality). The premium options for many streaming services offer CD quality. However, none of those options are free.
     
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  4. Listnnthdark

    Listnnthdark Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    502
    Location:
    West Lebanon NH
    Thanks for the responces . . I am illiterate when it comes to these things so thanks for helping . I did notice the public radio stream is mp3 so maybe worth it to consider premium option . Not that I really understand what mp3 means but at least now I understand that they are " Lossy " and that can not be good .
    So is it a true statement that someone who gets all music from laptop would be well served by having a dac and missing something by not using one ?
    So to understand better . What is it that dacs make sound better ?
    Does it have to do with how old a recording is ?
    Old analog recordings vs digital ?
    Some things are improved by dac and some are not ? .
    What is and what isnt ? Sorry for clueless questions .
     
  5. bigx5murf

    bigx5murf Super Member

    Messages:
    1,329
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    There are also bitrate settings in most streaming apps, increasing the bitrate will help as well. Most lossy compression formats, when set to their maximum bitrate, are almost indiscernible from the original.

    To get the most out of a quality DAC, you'll want to forgo streaming altogether, and use a lossless compression format. This usually means ripping and compressing CDs. You CAN stream a library you ripped and compressed into lossless. You'll need to setup a NAS, and a Plex server to do so. Plex server is only necessary if you want to stream your collection outside of your network.

    The main benefit of using an outboard DAC, is that it does the digital to analog conversion outside of your noisy laptop. Most laptops will output some low noise artifacts when say a hard disk drive is seeking, or there's a lot of wifi activity.
     
  6. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

    Messages:
    2,024
    Location:
    Lobster Pot
    If most of your listening is online radio, get a CCA and just cast. The CCA's DAC is totally ok for that.

    Later on you can use the optical out on the CCA and add a DAC if you feel like you need one.

    Edit: Youtube can cast directly to the CCA as well.
    https://store.google.com/us/product/chromecast_audio

    Eric
     
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  7. Splatter Pak

    Splatter Pak High-End Scrounger

    Messages:
    3,916
    Location:
    Independence, MO
    If you're out in a no-FM area, try Radio Garden. It can connect you with ANY station in the world, and with good SQ.
     
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  8. Guido57

    Guido57 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    CT
    Any time you listen to sound from a digital source it goes through a DAC somewhere. When the DAC is bundled into something else, be it a computer, receiver, CCA or whatever there are compromises to get it to fit physically and fiscally. An external DAC reduces the compromises. As with everything, a some point one hits the point of diminishing returns. How high or low you want to go depends on your budget and the ability of your system to bring out the difference. That being said, your system will probably show the difference between an mp3 file at 128 kbit/s and the same music from a CD no matter what is doing the D/A conversion. You need to find a source with quality suitable for your equipment.
    Hope this makes sense.
     
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  9. AdlerW

    AdlerW Active Member

    Messages:
    137
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA
    All of them would be a good bet for getting better sound of a computer.

    I have the Dragonfly Red; I've never tried the others. The Dragonfly Red is sometimes said to be more bright than the Black, but a lot more detailed and more powerful. I would recommend it.
     
  10. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    5,508
    Location:
    Northern TX
    Any DAC with $100-200 price tag will not be better than average AV received in processing digital audio. Most modern receivers have radio streaming feature built in, all have digital input that can be used to send stream from computer too.
     
  11. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,940
    Location:
    EspaƱola NM
    My Dragonfly v1.2 bent at the USB plug junction with the body, after a slip of my laptop. At first it didn't seem to affect it, but now the left channel is very intermittent. A simple USB cable would likely not have the leverage to bend the connector as badly, and would be cheaper to replace if it did. Just something to consider.
     

     

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  12. bill114

    bill114 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    284
    Location:
    Seminole, FL
    Now that is pretty cool!
     
  13. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,313
    Location:
    MI, US
    To the OP--keep in mind that the Dragonfly DACs are designed more as headphone DACs, so they have on-board amplification for those also. I have never tried one into my main audio system but an additional amp could create a small amount of additonal noise, as well as be tricky to keep the volume level where it needs to be on a typical line input on an audio component. My Dragonfly Black gets plenty loud with my planar headphones, and I imagine that output would be too strong as a line input. And turning the volume down could work, but at the risk of higher noise.
    For my laptop and my phones/tablet, I purchased right-angle USB cables so there would be little stress on the ports. I have two USB type A cables which are a "left" and "right" angle, a micro-USB for the tablet and an older phone, and USB C cable for my two pixel phones. These convert to the female type-A cables needed for the Dragonfly. I'm OK if the cable gets damaged--for $5 I can just replace it. I can't replace a USB port in a laptop so easily, can't replace a phone's USB port at all, nor do I want to risk my Dragonfly Black either. Cheap insurance IMHO! :)
     
  14. wyn palmer

    wyn palmer Active Member

    Messages:
    346
    Why will the DAC be inferior as a matter of course?
     
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  15. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    5,508
    Location:
    Northern TX
    Good DAC requires complex circuit and carefully selected components. That does not come cheap.
     
  16. wyn palmer

    wyn palmer Active Member

    Messages:
    346
    So, what, specifically, in your opinion, is the problem with something like, say, the Topping D50 which measures excellently and comes in at c.$200.
    https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...iew-and-measurements-of-topping-d50-dac.2403/
    The ESS DACs are pretty complex- I've known Martin Mallinson, ESS's CSO and designer of the SABRE products since his days in ADI- and the components are very carefully chosen. What could be done to improve the performance and what would be the end result?
     

     

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  17. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,313
    Location:
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    A lot of the sound of a DAC has to do with the circuitry on both sides of the DAC, in addition to the sound of the DAC chip itself. Low jitter and a clean power supply prior to the DAC chip is helpful. But post-DAC, the analog circuitry can make a big difference, which explains the difference between the cost of a generic DAC like the Topping, and something like Oppo's recent line where a lot of attention is paid to the circuitry and components used in the output stage. Likewise, the Modwright modification to the Oppo 205 and Sonica DAC removes the Oppo circuitry and introduces a pure class A tube-driven analog output stage, and an outboard power supply that exceeds what is built into the Oppos. So with the Topping, the Oppo units and the Modwright Oppo units, there are three distinct price points, all based around the same DAC chip.
     
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  18. wyn palmer

    wyn palmer Active Member

    Messages:
    346
    Interestingly enough, many golden age recordings, and even present day audiophile recordings, were made using tape machines, such as the Studer A820, that have pretty crappy power supplies and multiple NE5532 opamps etc. in the recording playback path.
    These tape machines and the LPs generated from them still sound glorious- and for example, the "Chasing the Dragon" series of LPs and R2R tape issues which are loved by TAS etc. use them.
    I have audiophile friends that love driving their SET amps from their tape decks and enjoying the soft HF roll off and the high 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion levels, so it's all pretty subjective.
    The question is, what, specifically, is better about these upgrades in terms of what is heard, and why?
    Incidentally, the ESS Sabre DACs are designed to deal with jitter in the input data stream.
     
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  19. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    5,508
    Location:
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    If HF roll off and additional harmonics are needed - that should be done in mastering process. Final playback has to be done as transparent as possible. Though some records were made with assumption of imperfect playback system, and for them you need to re-crate conditions which were in mind of producer. That is why SET amplifiers and single driver speakers do have a place when playing old records. But forget old, some recent records sound much better through boombox or car stereo than through perfectly aligned high-end system. They were made that way.
     
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  20. wyn palmer

    wyn palmer Active Member

    Messages:
    346
    Yes, there are certainly recordings that sound better on boom boxes etc. than on high end systems. However, not all recordings have added distortion and not all are indeed modified to the producers taste as defined by the limitations imposed by the presumed playback system- sometimes it's an "artistic" choice (indeed I have designed pro CLX, PEQ and Aphex like "sound processors" that do exactly that)- and sometimes it's simply to accommodate the limitations of the recording medium involved. Many recordings, for example are de-essed to cover up imperfections that include the performer, the distortion/frequency response of mics etc. Hardly "perfect sound forever". Many classical music recordings are overly bright compared to the real listening experience, so a gentle roll off is often beneficial. LPS need specific frequency limitation and compression levels to overcome the inherent dynamic range limitations of the medium. Ultra low specd/measured distortion is not necessarily perceived as superior musically to a higher distortion alternative. SET amps are not just for old records- and "transparency" is a strange term as it can often be generated at the expense of musicality by providing a flat/raised HF response.
    It was interesting that a prior commenter added the use of a " pure class A tube driven output stage" to the upgrade of the DAC which is pretty well the description of a SET design.
    Besides, transparency per se. should be able to be measured in terms of the output S/N ratio and distortion, should it not. This prompts the question- do these superior solutions actually provide superior specs? If not, well surely the answer lies elsewhere or the distinction is moot. Indeed, why is it that many people prefer the sound of LPs to most, if not all, digital formats, when without exception the digital formats all measure better- lower distortion, flatter frequency response, probably better dynamic range.
    So once again I ask, what are the attributes of these "high end" DAC solutions that makes them worth the extra cost- which can be 1-2 orders of magnitude greater than the measurably excellent Topping D50?
     

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