Looking for first DAC

Discussion in 'DACs' started by concertfiend, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Hi, I'm looking at getting my first DAC. Once I get it I'll probably be getting Tidal to go lossless, right now for digital files I'm just using Spotify premium... Which kind of saddens me with the rest of my system. It doesn't sound bad, I just want to get the best out of what I have. Right now I'm streaming from my Surface 3tablet headphone jack to Sansui Eight as preamp to Heathkit AA 1600 power amp to Tannoy 615 speakers. There is an Arcam rDac listed nearby that seems well liked, but I'm wondering if there's anything better out there in the sub-250 range. Obviously I want a USB input, and a coax input for my CD player would be nice too, but not necessary. I know the Arcam is older, so I don't know if technology has advanced enough to where something a couple years old but used would set me up with either a comparable DAC for less or a better one for the same price. I've noticed a lot of people like the basic ones from Schiit and Topping for being priced low and having decent SQ.
    Any thoughts? Thanks
     

     

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  2. Hyfi

    Hyfi Addicted Member

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  3. DirtFarmer

    DirtFarmer Active Member

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    I'm in the same boat as you, and just ordered a Topping D30 from Amazon (not MassDrop), coming via the Slow Boat from China. I'll report back once it arrives, but others here really like it.
     
  4. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    I have the rDac, imo not a bad choice for the first Dac if you can get it cheap. I wouldn't pay more than $150 for it though. One thing to be aware of it's limited to 96kHz on the Usb input. Based on my experiments it is not the cleanest sounding DAC out there, but it is quite enjoyable. I preferred its overall presentation over Schiit Modi Mutibit at the time which was much more detailed but also more sterile.
     
  5. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yes the D30 was the one I was looking at, seems very favorable and budget friendly at $100 or less. What are the thoughts on FX Audio DAC-X6 at $65 on amazon? Is it comparable to the D30? Since it'll be my first DAC I don't mind getting a good yet inexpensive one - I'll wait another year or so for a way to stream to one wirelessly using aptx-hd on the Sony Xperia XZ1 compact phone I plan on getting once they drop in price more. I love the idea of being able to play lossless Bluetooth straight from my phone :)
     
  6. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

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    https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...c-compared-to-topping-d30-and-fiio-e10k.2097/

    And you can stream from a CCA instead of using Bluetooth.

    Eric
     
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  7. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    That looks like a great review, I have to keep working but I'm definitely going to finish reading it on my lunch of I have time. Thanks! :thumbsup:
     
  8. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    A decent DAC is just a part of the story. For the best sound quality the DAC must see an unmodified (called bit-accurate or bit-perfect) digital stream from the source. Unfortunately on Windows, as well as other platforms, this is not the type of operation you get by default, as the sound flows through the operating system audio stack and gets modified along the way for volume control, mixing with system sounds, etc. You need to have an audio player application that can use a shortcut to your DAC, i.e. direct exclusive hardware access. On Windows there are 2 ways to accomplish this - ASIO and WASAPI interfaces. While there is a good number of stand alone audio players that can do one or the other or both (Foobar2000, JRiver MC, etc), situation isn't as great with streaming. Tidal is probably the only Windows streaming application that can do Wasapi out of the box. Spotify can't do any of those and there is a noticeable quality loss because of it. If you see yourself using Spotify Premium in the long run the simplest way to get bit-perfect playback of, well, otherwise lossy but still decent quality, Spotify content is through a Chromecast Audio device. Due to this and the fact its internal DAC reasonably good, you will likely get big improvement by just using a CCA instead of your Surface tablet output for starters. You can later add a better DAC to its optical output. CCA works with Tidal lossless as well (just can't do MQA pass-throgh I believe). Avoid bluetooth if your goal is to achieve the best SQ.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  9. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yes I do intend on using Tidal lossless once I actually get a DAC. I just don't see the point using one as much with Spotify Premium... I'm sure it'd make a difference using CCA, but I'm thinking I'll get one of those for the living room (so I can stream while cooking, cleaning, etc) and use the other DAC for the bedroom where I do my critical listening. So as long as Tidal can do this for me without being tainted, I'll be plenty happy. With how much I listen to music and have invested already, less than $100 for a decent DAC and $20 a month is totally liveable. I listen to music all day while working too (between work and home, I'd estimate I listen to music minimum of 50 hours a week), and fortunately streaming from music apps like Spotify and Tidal doesn't count against my data. The XZ1 compact phone I mentioned is one of the first phones to have aptx HD codec, which samples at 24 bits...I already have the z3 phone and Love it, so getting an upgrade that is essentially a Galaxy S8 in a smaller body with an updated OS and with semi-audiophile capabilites definitely appeals to me :)

    But I digress...so if I use my Surface with Tidal and one of those two DACs (Topping D30 or FX DAC-X6), I should be able to stream unfettered lossless audio? While looking up some of that info on Tidal, I read a how -to on setting it up with a DAC. it said to choose the HiFi setting, then select your DAC and under settings select "exclusive". Does this sound like the way to go, or do I still need to use WASAPI?
    Thanks again for the input, I'm becoming a little less lost in the DAC/streaming area... Hopefully with your help, I'll be totally lossless soon (couldn't resist the bad joke)
     

     

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  10. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    Setting "exclusive" in Tidal uses WASAPI behind the scenes, so that's all you need to do to get bit-perfect to your DAC. One inconvenience with Tidal is that there is no equivalent to the Spotify Connect feature but the CCA fills that gap. Without a CCA you'll have to get to your tablet in order to change albums, adjust volume, etc. Bluetooth can work, but it is very sensitive to the distance between devices and may switch to a lower bitrate as you move around. Something to consider. As for Spotify Premium sound quality, it is very close to lossless if things are set up properly. The CCA will play a 256kBps AAC stream which sounded better in my limited experiments than the 320kBps OGG you get on the desktop app, but there were other variables at play so I can't fully be sure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  11. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Well I'm happy to know Tidal is so easy to use with DACS! After much review, I think I'm going to go with the Topping D30. I've noticed occasional longevity problems with the power supply and a couple other things, but other than that it seems pretty solid. I like how the DAC X6 is plug and play with Windows, but it seems to have a lower USB sampling rate and more noise. As far as installing a driver for the Topping, from what I gather the driver is a piece of software I download from their website to allow use with Windows on my Surface 3 tablet, yes? Please correct me if I'm wrong. Hopefully Tidal catches up with Spotify with the connect feature, but until then I don't mind having to control everything with my tablet. The CCA seems a good choice for the living room setup since it's more casual listening, I just need to look into it more
     
  12. DirtFarmer

    DirtFarmer Active Member

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    Expect 4-6 weeks for delivery for the Topping.
     
  13. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

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    Just remember that the D30 does not do MQA, you will be capped at 24/96 on MQA titles.

    Eric
     
  14. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    Not familiar with Surface, is it running vanilla WIndows? Not Windows RT? What version?
     
  15. isotopesope

    isotopesope Active Member

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    I just scored a opened box D30 off eBay, local to the USA, for a good price. Hooked it up today via coax to improve the SQ from my cheapo Sony DVD player. Gotta say, it was a PROFOUND improvement. Really really impressed, based on my initial impressions. I was not expecting such a difference, but I am using a pretty low end player...

    Mainly I play records on my 2 channel, as well as FM and some tapes, but semi recently added this old thin DVD player for occasional cd duty. It sounds so great thru the D30, now I need to drag all my CDs out of the garage. I had parked CDs 10 some years ago...
     
  16. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    4-6 weeks? That's crazy, I assume you mean off Mass Drop... I knew it wouldn't be immediate shipping but that's a long time. The surface runs on Windows 8 I'm pretty sure, I don't think I updated to Windows 10 but I can check.
    Eric, are there any good affordable DACs for MQA? The cheapest one I saw when I was looking was still $200. Is there a significant difference between the sampling?
     
  17. DirtFarmer

    DirtFarmer Active Member

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    Nope, Amazon via Shenzhenaudio.
     

     

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  18. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    From what I see there are five sellers with Prime shipping, and they all have the same price as Shenzhenaudio. So no Mass Drop discount, but at least it wouldn't be a long wait. But if there are any MQA DACs at a good price I'd consider getting one of them instead
     
  19. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

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    Personally I'm going to wait and see where we are with MQA in a year or so as I'm totally fine with 16/44 and 24/96.

    Probably the best deal atm for a MQA DAC is the Pro-Ject: https://www.amazon.com/Pro-Ject-Pre-Box-S2-Digital/dp/B073WCRZ79

    Eric
     
  20. concertfiend

    concertfiend AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yeah that's way out of my price range right now. I'm starting a new job in a week, so I'm a year or so after I bust my butt and get some raises I'll have more money to play with. I'd rather put money toward making a couple bass traps for the bedroom, that's my next project. So I'm fine with a good respectable starter DAC for now
     

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