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Will a DAC make a big difference in sound quality?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by 80talisten, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

    Messages:
    249
    I mostly listen to analog music in the form of LP. Otherwise much on cd too. But thought about whether it's worth buying a DAC? Especially for the interference of FLAC files streamed from my phone via bubbleupnp (dnla) to my Samsung smart tv. To the TV, I have a Pioneer A-X550 Amplifier connected with an optical cable. As I hear, I think the sound is almost in line with the CD. Maybe my ears are untrained? But do you think an external DAC is necessary?
     

     

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  2. Condorsat

    Condorsat Audio Enthusiast

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    4,475
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    In your case .. probably not "necessary". Much can depend on what type of music genre you listen too.

    As for me .. I treat all digital technology (especially DACs) as ephemeral. IMHO .. there's always something better coming out next year. I have not reached a point where these ephemeral upgrades have not give me an improvement in sound quality on my main living room rig.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
    mjw21a and 80talisten like this.
  3. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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    I listen mostly to Rock, Blues, Jazz and Heavy Metal.
     
  4. corbin

    corbin Active Member

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    429
    In my experience the "sound influence" scale goes like this:

    Most difference<<<...speakers...preamp...power amp/DAC (tied)...>>>least difference

    DAC can make a noticeable difference, but only if your system is revealing enough.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  5. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

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    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    What you're describing is connecting digital out from the TV to digital in on the Pioneer, and then using the Pioneer's DAC to convert to analog and hear through your speakers. You could add a newer DAC to that, but I agree that you'd likely benefit more from other upgrades.
     
    80talisten likes this.
  6. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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    249
    So you do not think the difference would be dramatic with an external DAC instead of using the Pioneer A-X550 built-in dac?
     

     

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  7. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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  8. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I don't think the "difference would be dramatic..." but it would be different.

    In my opinion, you won't hear a dramatic difference until you stop processing the signal through a TV box and make a direct USB connection between a computer to a DAC, then the analog connection directly to your Pioneer.
     
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  9. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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    249
    So you mean, Amplifier with RCA cables to DAC, Usb cable from DAC to computer?
     
  10. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    Let's take it in the direction the data flows:

    PC/Music Server === USB cable ===> DAC === analog RCA or balanced XLR cable ===> Receiver
     
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  11. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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    249
    Can I connect my smartphone to the Dac instead of the computer?

    I do not like too much visible cables in the living room
     

     

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  12. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I personally would pass on using a smartphone. They weren't designed for audio and the processing compromises the quality of your music.

    You don't have to have visible cables in the living room. A little cable management goes a long way, IMHO.
     
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  13. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

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    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    I don't know the Pioneer unit you have, so I can't be sure, but if you want a dramatic difference, you want to start with your speakers, IMO.

    The TV shouldn't, in principle, be able to screw up FLAC too much as it passes it on to the DAC in your Pioneer, as long as the TV does support digital audio passthrough. If the TV is using an internal D/A converter, then taking that analog output and re-encoding it to the optical handoff, yes, that would be an issue.

    But even then, unless you've got very good speakers to start with, I'd think you'd probably be able to start with speakers for your biggest performance improvement - and that improvement would also be available to you on your LP listening.

    I don't know your speakers from having listened to a pair but I found this thread when I looked to confirm I understood your setup.

    http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/hh-scott-176bl.436496/

    If that thread reflects a common view of the speakers, I'd definitely look at the money for the DAC as being better spent on speakers, although other owners like them quite a bit, as this thread shows.

    http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/hh-scott-s-176.165103/
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
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  14. sKiZo

    sKiZo Hates received: 8642 Subscriber

    Using an external DAC with a built in just adds another conversion to the signal chain, possibly introducing noise and errors. An external DAC is best used for primary conversion from digital sources like an HTPC, laptop, or other straight digital source.

    If you want to play CDs or DVDs using an external DAC, rip them to a computer first, THEN play them from there. The right DAC in that sort of setup can work wonders for sound quality.
     
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  15. rxonmymind

    rxonmymind AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    So online I saw a guy have an external dac plugged into his tablet. I was scratching my head as I thought and I may be wrong isn't he limited to the amount of what the mother ship is streaming thus the dac won't make a difference?
    Google play 320kb
    Pandora 160kb
    Tidal 1411kb er cd quality(?)
    So whatever these formats stream in how does a dac "improve" what was already streamed? Does it up convert the signal? Boost it?
     
  16. 80talisten

    80talisten Active Member

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    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  17. fredgarvin

    fredgarvin AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    You wouldn't be using the external DAC 'with' the built in DAC. The coax out from the CD player bypasses the built in DAC and sends the digital signal to the external DAC. Which may or may not sound better, depending on the which player and which DAC.
     
    stish likes this.
  18. highend64

    highend64 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    626
    Location:
    Central CA
    Maybe. Depends on many factors. I have added a DAC to my system and made a subtle difference. It not night and day difference but is there. Then again this is my first DAC.
     
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  19. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    3,073
    Location:
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    Not necessarily true. I know a few people run a high end DAC directly into their power amp, using the DAC's remote to control volume and digital inputs. Sounds really incredibly good.

    If I didn't use vinyl I'd retire my Schiit Saga and use my Gieseler Gross DAC in this fashion :)
     
    fredgarvin likes this.
  20. saratoga

    saratoga Active Member

    Messages:
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    Cambridge Audio
    DacMagic PLUS
    Upsampling DAC
    CHEEP AND GOOD SOUNDING,
    AKG K712PRO , LOVE THAT DAC!!!!!!!HEADPHONE INPUT IS PERFECT!! GET IT, YOU WILL NOT REGRET.300%:music:
     
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