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Old Feb 20, 2013, 11:34 AM   #1
netdog
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DAC Recommendations?

Okay, the system is close to ready. Brought home a Rega Brio-R and hooked it up to my Bowers and Wilkins CM1s, so now it's just a question of which DAC.

The dealer recommends the Rega DAC to go with it, but also suggests that an asynchronous USB DAC would help to minimize jitter.

So who has recommendations for something pretty current, so therefore with the latest generation of chipsets?

One friend suggested the new Meridian but I did read one review that, while very positive, suggested that as a DAC it didn't quite get the finest details.

Another friend, who does a lot of recording, recommended an EMU that is pretty reasonably priced.

Other suggestions out there? Anyone who really knows their way around DACs? Obviously I don't need a lot of feathers. This is a two channel system and I am not going to introduce microphones or the like into the mix. It's just for playing ALAC files out of iTunes.

Ideas?
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Old Feb 20, 2013, 01:06 PM   #2
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Nuforce Icon HDP

It's a Dac/Headphone amp/Pre-amp
http://www.nuforce.com/index.php?opt...hdp&Itemid=189
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Old Feb 20, 2013, 11:03 PM   #3
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The HDP is a great piece of kit. If you're looking for something cheaper, I recommend the uDAC-2 (also from NuForce).
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 12:01 AM   #4
WharfRat1971
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Audioengine D1
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 02:28 AM   #5
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Heard what these guys offer are supposed to be alright, but not actually 'heard' them.

http://www.schitt.com/
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 04:19 AM   #6
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Could you ask the dealer if you could trail various DACs in your system for a few days? It is such a subjective thing and your existing equipment/ listening environment will have a big impact on how it sounds.

I've had various DACs in the past- Apogee Duet (FW400) Lavry DA11, Cambridge Dacmagic, a 20 year old Marantz and a portable Headamp Pico. My favourite was the Apogee. If I was looking to buy again, I'd probably consider a second hand Apogee Mini for around $500 or spend considerably more (over $2000) and get something from Bel Canto or a Bryston BDA-1, although after reading the reviews of that new Meridan, I definitely consider buying it and selling it if I didn't like it.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 09:33 PM   #7
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The HRT is pretty good and currently using it to power a pair of Genelec 8030s in the bedroom with no issue at all.

I've also used the Wyred4sound and Benchmark in the past with no complaints but you should try it in your system before buying as personal taste is music reproduction is important.

Currently using the Bricasti M1 in the main system and totally happy.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 25, 2013, 11:31 AM   #8
netdog
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Thanks for the excellent recommendations.

In the end I went for the new Meridian Explorer. If it doesn't measure up, I'll just make it my portable rig, but by all accounts, this little piece of kit will make a really nice dedicated DAC.
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Old Feb 25, 2013, 12:04 PM   #9
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edit: doh, just saw that you bought already.
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Old Mar 5, 2013, 02:16 AM   #10
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The Meridian is probably a very decent DAC, but it's too new for any real reviews. My gut instinct is that it will be selling the rest of your nice mid-fi system short. It's a portable DAC, and a computer/headphone DAC first and foremost.

If you like it, great. If not, check out the highly regarded Audiolab M-DAC. It's likely much closer to the level of the rest of your gear, and with XLR outs, it's got room to grow, when you upgrade to separates.

http://www.audiolab.co.uk/M-DAC%20Series.aspx?lang=En
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Old Mar 17, 2013, 12:23 AM   #11
raw8725
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How about this one:

http://www.naimaudio.com/hifi-products/dac-v1
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Old Mar 17, 2013, 12:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by raw8725 View Post
I'm using one of these:
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FireStuMobile/

It will do 24-bit depth and 96K sample rates. Balanced or single ended in and out. Sounds very clean. No gimmicks, it is marketed to engineers and musicians. The built-in headphone amp is pretty good too.

If you are into only HiFi listening and not recording you still have a uses for the mic inputs: Buy a "measurement microphone" like this
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/RTAM/
then put it up on a stand at your listening location then you can (with software) measure system response, any way you can think of. You can move speakers around and change out gear and actually measure the result.
I use this
http://www.faberacoustical.com/produ...stics_toolbox/

With the above and a box like the presonus you can measure distortion in the amplifier and in other parts of the system (like speakers)

Is the idea any good? This is a very common brand of studio gear, much of the recored music you listen to has been through this or something like it. The build quity is good. There is a video some place where they literally run a truck over the box, both front and rear axels.


The best place to buy stereo gear is from places that sell to the recording industry. Prices are more reasonable and there is less voodoo science.

Last edited by ChrisA; Mar 17, 2013 at 04:52 PM.
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Old Mar 17, 2013, 03:25 PM   #13
netdog
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Very interesting
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Old Mar 19, 2013, 10:24 AM   #14
Irishman
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I'm really surprised noone recommended the Audioquest Dragonfly.

It really is the value DAC to beat right now, at $250!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SWwe2X5kfA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSVu-ZeBH-A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x4ZvMaBey4
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Old Mar 19, 2013, 10:47 AM   #15
netdog
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I've actually wound up with a product that is very similar to the Dragonfly.

It's a USB dongle DAC made by Meridian called the Explorer. While it has issues driving lower impedance headphones, it is really lovely as a dedicated DAC, and is a huge improvement over the AE's DAC.
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Old Mar 19, 2013, 11:22 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by netdog View Post
I've actually wound up with a product that is very similar to the Dragonfly.

It's a USB dongle DAC made by Meridian called the Explorer. While it has issues driving lower impedance headphones, it is really lovely as a dedicated DAC, and is a huge improvement over the AE's DAC.
How much did you get it for?
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Old Mar 19, 2013, 01:24 PM   #17
netdog
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249. It's $299 in the USA.
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Old Mar 20, 2013, 12:30 AM   #18
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Arcam rDAC

I am using an Arcam rDAC with Asynchronous USB. Connected to my Mac using USB to then to a Marantz Receiver with Monitor Audio Floor speakers and Polk Audio Floor speakers. The Arcam "lifted the veil" on my audio AIFF music and opened up the small instruments. It's an upsampling DAC to 24/96 and I think it's strength is more on its USB. It also has coaxial and toslink connections as options. It made the separations between the musical instruments more apparent and close to a CD player sound. Price is around $480.

I have also auditioned the REGA Dac and the NuForce DAC but it's the Arcam the I got attracted to. The sales staff advised me the Rega is a pass thru Dac and does not do any upsampling.
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Old Mar 22, 2013, 09:35 PM   #19
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I'm using the Benchmark Dac1. Here's a link
http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac/dac1
Unbeatable under a thousand bucks IMO

My front end is a Cary Audio SL98--F1 tube preamp with a Rega P25 table and Cary CD303/200 deck
Two channel system with B&W Nautilus 802 mains and McIntosh MC 452 (just recently upgraded from Krell monoblocks).

I've tried a dozen plus DACs and the Benchmark is IT! It truly is an awesome converter and perfectly neutral. An awesome match for your CMs.

Good luck! Any questions on B&W, drop me a PM. I've been a huge fan of theirs for 20 years now!

Jeremy
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Old May 31, 2013, 10:03 PM   #20
GregPQ
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I recently read a positive review of the Meridian Explorer in What HiFi and it got me wondering if I could hear the difference a DAC makes. I have been using hearing aids for about a year, mainly so I could understand speech better.

When I listen to music over my Bose Q-15's on the train or trusty old Sony MDR-V6's at home, I hear just fine without the hearing aids. I listen mostly to classical, usually vocal including opera.

The convenience of these dongle DACs is intriguing, IF I could hear the difference.

I have recently discovered Spotify, the best $10/mo I'll ever spent!

Greg
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Old May 31, 2013, 11:14 PM   #21
ChrisA
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The convenience of these dongle DACs is intriguing, IF I could hear the difference.
One way to know how good your ears are is to take a test. Listen to both a 320K AAC files and then listen to a lossless file ripped from a CD. Can you hear the difference. Here is one way to find out
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abxt...27554135?mt=12

If you can't hear the different between AAC and lossless then you can't hear the difference between two DACs playing the same losses file.

Some people claim they can hear the difference between DACs but I've yet to read about anyone passing a double blind test. (please send links if you have any.) So they can tell you which one they are listing to only if they can see the DAC. I don't know if they can still tell the difference when the DAC is switched in the other room. In other words, people pretty much hear what they want to hear. This is good, no one thinks they wasted any money.

One other thing is the source material. If you listen to streaming media there is just no way a DAC can help you. Compression artifacts just can't be removed. But if you listen to lossless files ripped from CDs maybe it might.

Bottom line: (1) If you can pass the ABX test with a MUCH better than 50% score (remember, a deaf person can score 50% by guessing) and (2) you listen to uncompressed music, then you have a chance of noticing if a DAC was upgraded.
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Old May 31, 2013, 11:59 PM   #22
GregPQ
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...If you listen to streaming media there is just no way a DAC can help you. Compression artifacts just can't be removed. But if you listen to lossless files ripped from CDs maybe it might.
Bottom line: (1) If you can pass the ABX test with a MUCH better than 50% score (remember, a deaf person can score 50% by guessing) and (2) you listen to uncompressed music, then you have a chance of noticing if a DAC was upgraded.
I'm interested in taking that test soon! However, what really got me interested in dongle DAC's was a review in What HiFi which described how much better Spotify sounded with the Meridian Explorer. Most of the music I actually listen to nowadays is compressed, and I got the impression that the Meridian would improve their audio quality. Thanks for the link to that App: I'll see if it's worth while pursuing this, as a hearing impaired person...
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Old Jun 1, 2013, 06:52 AM   #23
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Alas, I only scored 20 'persent'. Listening to a WAV vs a 320 AAC. I guess I'm a lost cause...
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Old Jun 1, 2013, 08:36 AM   #24
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How much high end it needs to be? A friend of mine has developed one and sells a few of them a year. I think price is about 2000 a piece. Many go to Japan. It's constantly developed further and there are probably not two that are the same.

Some talk about his:

http://www.stereomojo.com/ROCKY%20MO...t2008part5.htm

And an older was for sale here:

http://app.audiogon.com/listings/twi...-one-of-the--4

Design looks quite different now though.
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Old Jun 1, 2013, 09:14 PM   #25
ChrisA
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Alas, I only scored 20 'persent'. Listening to a WAV vs a 320 AAC. I guess I'm a lost cause...
Take the headphone off and guess. You should be able to score 50% if you flip a coin enough times.

Another fun project is to reduce the quality of the compressed tacks try 64K MP3, at that bit rate MP3 is truly horrible.


Notice how no onw has found even one case where a person was able to tell one DAC from another just by listening. People will pay big $$ but it makes no difference if they can't tell a $200 unit form a $2000 unit except by reading the label.

Last edited by ChrisA; Jun 1, 2013 at 09:43 PM.
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