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What made you want to use an external DAC?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by 70'sMusic, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

    Messages:
    209
    Hi Everyone,

    Was curious and wanted to ask this forum about your experiences with external DACs. I have to admit that for years I was a non-believer and thought all of the external DAC talk among audiophiles was just another snake oil con. My experiences with the CD players that I had listened to were very good and their internal DACs sounded great! It wasn't until I entered the world of professional voice overs and a fellow sound engineer/musician recommended that I use an Apogee Duet for my DAWs DAC and interface. I use to volunteer as a sound engineer and digital editor at my church and the recommendation came from the guy who trained me and who's opinion I respected. I had also seen the Duet used as an interface with many of the keyboardist and a few of the guitarists at my church but didn't know what it was and why there were using it. I even talked to some of the musicians who used it and they all raved about it. So, I grabbed one and paired it with a set of Yamaha HS8 monitor speakers and after three years of use I am still amazed at just how good this little devise sounds. I no longer use my tube mic preamp as the built-in mic pre's are great. And whatever I play through this little guy always sounds really, really good through these speakers. In fact, I enjoy it so much that if I could connect it to my 2-channel stereo system and use it as a system-wide DAC I would. The sound and quality far exceed it's price point. After this experience I am a "believer" in an external DAC, but not just for a CD transport but for my whole 2-channel stereo's system signal.

    So, I am curious - how did you come to use an external DAC for your 2-channel stereo system? Was there an experience with one that changed your mind or did you always want to have an external DAC in your system? Let's talk about it, would love to know your DAC journey and experience.

    Oh, this is the little wonder if you're not familiar with it...

    https://www.apogeedigital.com/products/duet

    Here's one guy's review of it from YouTube:

     
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  2. bigx5murf

    bigx5murf Super Member

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    1,329
    Location:
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    I bought a behringer umc202hd interface to record vinyl in hires. Turned out it's a really good DAC for playback as well.
     
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  3. Audiofreak71

    Audiofreak71 Boerboelicious Subscriber

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    Location:
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    For me I used to use my oppo Bdp 105d with its Sabre 32 dacs and it worked for the most part and I like the sound of Sabre dacs . But It wasn’t until recently when my system took a drastic change in gear quality that I realized that my oppo Dac was extremely bright with the upgraded gear , so the hunt for an external Dac was on.

    My amp is a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista m3 Integrated and it uses a Tube pre and SS amp so with the help of a good friend we both came to the conclusion that a Tube Dac just might work for the sound I was trying to achieve . A Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 Tube Dac was just what the doctor ordered , it is seamless perfection with the NuVista M3 with a sound so buttery smooth you forget your at home listening to music sometimes because it takes you to another place , it’s that good .

    After living with my Mf Dac I could not go without having an external Dac and since the TriVista 21 is a limited edition with only 1500 made I think I’ll be holding on to this for quite sometime not just because it’s fairly rare but because of how it gives you a window directly into the recording studio .
    447A52F9-5BE8-454B-9825-AEC7206D2F9F.jpeg




    Audiofreak71
     
  4. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,384
    Location:
    NW Pennsylvania snow belt
    My first foray into an external DAC was a USB only DAC for the purposes of digital music playback from a laptop that I was using as a music server/streaming device. Internal computer DACs and sound card outputs, tend to not be of very high quality, and there was a tremendous improvement in sound quality via the external DAC vs the analogue audio out directly from the computer. Same applies to smartphones/tablets.

    A DAC--whether it be external or internal is actually comprised of two components--the actual digital to analogue conversion, followed by some sort of analogue preamp output stage to bring the newly converted analogue signal up to line level. A CDP is just a drive to read the digital media which is then processed by an internal DAC/analogue output stage. IME, it is this final analogue output stage that has the greatest effect on sound quality--it is essentially a preamp--just like a phono preamp or the preamp stage of the overall system. It could be a single IC chip, opamps, discrete components or even tubes, so it is a critical element in sound quality.

    Since then, I have acquired a few more external DACs with USB, SPDIF and TosLink digital inputs for greater flexibility. One is all opamps in the output stage, one is discrete SS components and one has a tube output stage. They each have their own "sonic signature" and can allow you to use any digital source as an input. Even a $5 yard sale "junker" CDP (with a digital output) can sound like a $1K unit, because only the drive is being used--the digital out goes to the external DAC which does the "heavy lifting" in terms of sound quality.

    Another advantage of the external DAC is that it is just a further extension of buying "separates". If you want to upgrade something, you just swap out the individual component, rather than "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". If you buy a $1K CDP and want to upgrade to a better transport, a different DAC chipset or an upgraded/different analogue output stage, you have to buy a whole new unit. With an external DAC, you can change transports and DAC chipset/analogue output stages individually without replacing the whole thing.
     
  5. WobblySam

    WobblySam Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    585
    Location:
    Middle of NC
    I got my first CD player in 1984 and really did not care for the sound. A dozen CD players later in 1994, I went the transport/separate DAC route and finally found something I could listen to.
     
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  6. RichPA

    RichPA Don't drive angry Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

    A salesman I knew at a local store said "take home this Audio Alchemy DAC and give it a try." It didn't go back to the store, and in the intervening years I've upgraded to new DACs more times than I like to admit.
     

     

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  7. motorstereo

    motorstereo AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    10,519
    Location:
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    In my case I upgraded to a Mcintosh D100 from a Grant Fidelity tube dac for computer streaming. I liked it so much I bought another D100 for cd playback and streaming in my main rig.
     
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  8. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,201
    Location:
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    I blame my Sony CD Jukebox for my initial foray into external DACs. ;)

    I was tired of waiting for that 200 CD capacity tray to rotate to the next CD & track. I was also tired of programming the maximum 32 track playlist into it when I had over 2000 tracks available to me. So I decided to rip my CD's, put the digital files on a computer, put the CDs in a crate and sell off the jukebox. It was clear that in order to hear the tunes I was going to have to purchase a DAC.

    My first DAC was a Musical Fidelity M1 DAC. I liked it but there was something shrill in it's presentation. I was in the process of upgrading my system from top to bottom and had selected some Emotiva monoblocks, a Sherbourn pre-amp/processor (Sherbourn was owned by Emotiva at the time) and so it followed I replaced the M1 with an Emotiva XDA-1 DAC. It was an improvement but as the volume increased on the DAC, the sound quality suffered becoming wayyy bright for me.

    Letting go of the XDA-1 unit, I ran across Grant Fidelity's website and the Yulong Sabre D18 DAC. This one really opened my eyes and my ears. The gear I had was the same as what I had when I tried the XDA-1 Emotiva DAC but the sound was so different. Smooth, but not rolled off. Detailed, open but not harsh. Bass had it's own place as did the mid-range. That DAC introduced me to the ESS Sabre line of chipsets and I was hooked.

    I hung on to the Yulong as I upgraded almost all my gear once more, this time to McIntosh monoblocks, tuner, pre-amp/processor, multi-channel amp and, eventually, a D100. The D100 is built and marketed as an all-dgital pre-amp, headphone amp and a DAC. I use it as a DAC and occasionally as a headphone amp in my system. It too features the ESS Sabre chipset which I very much prefer. I'm done swapping in DACs and, while it was tough to do, I finally passed along the Yulong to a fellow audiophile and AK member.
     
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  9. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

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    209
    Thank you for sharing! The McIntosh D100 and D150 look interesting...
     
  10. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

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    Nice setup!
     
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  11. Audiofreak71

    Audiofreak71 Boerboelicious Subscriber

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    Thank you :thumbsup:

    Audiofreak71
     
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  12. Old Guy8

    Old Guy8 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I bought a Schiit Multibit for USB feed from PC for internet radio streaming. Fedd into Rogue Cronus M. or Sphinx amps. Experienced noise from PCs brick through system.
    I bought a Chromecast Audio streamer to feed by optical to Multibit. PC noise of course was gone.
    Bought a second CCA streamer for bedroom system. Bought a SMSL Sanskrit 6th edition dac ($107), on recommendations.
    With use of optical toslink splitter I was able to AB by amp selector, between Multibit and Sanskrit. Sanskrit was slightly prefered by its extra bass and warmth, to my ears.
    Bought a second used Sanskrit from an Aker. Replaced Multibit for now.
    I use a toslink switcher with remote in bedroom system. Feed Sanskrit from CCA or toslink from an older Sony CD/SACD player. Again I noticed increased bass over Sony internal dac when AB compared. More body to sound? Words to discribe sound quality is like describing smells.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  13. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Australia
    I have several external D/A converters. I am yet to hear any external D/A converter, regardless of price, that matches the performance of a single box, high quality CD player. But my digital source is only CD- I'm not interested in streaming/USB/computer audio etc.

    Other people are into that, and good luck to them, I say. :)

    My D/A converters get use attached to my HTPC for SPDIF PCM streams of TV and movies via Toslink.
     
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  14. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

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    209
    Hi restorer-john, always good to hear from you my friend!
     
  15. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    And this is the scenario in which an external DAC can shine. With the advent of higher resolution digital files, beyond the resolution of 16 bit/441 kHz standard CD specification, an external DAC that can process those digital files from a computer can create a whole new listening experience.
     
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  16. Alobar

    Alobar Pulling out of the Last Chance Texaco.. Subscriber

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    I switched to an external dac when the ipod and the 99 cent song on 128kbps just wasn't cutting it anymore.
     
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  17. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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  18. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

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  19. 70'sMusic

    70'sMusic Active Member

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    Since we've been talking about external DACs and players, I found this on YouTube and thought you all would enjoy it.

     
  20. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

    Messages:
    3,067
    Location:
    Manassas, VA
    About....10 years ago I made a switch from desktop to laptops. This made the decision for me; if I was going to have decent sound out of it, I needed a USB DAC.

    2 years ago I went back to my first desktop PC in years. It was nice not having to devote a PCI-E slot to a sound card and instead use the precious real-estate for other upgrades. If I need to record something in high quality, I have a dedicated hard-disk portable recorder for that.
     
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