What is DAC and Amp for computer?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by mavericks7913, May 30, 2016.

  1. mavericks7913 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 17, 2014
    Location:
    NY
    #1
  2. campyguy macrumors 68040

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    Mar 21, 2014
    Location:
    Portland / Seattle
    #2
    Absolutely, by a bunch. Headphones, computer speakers, even hi fi units that get music transmitted to them will see (or, rather, hear) huge improvements in sound quality - even MP3 files sound so much better.

    I passed on the Fiio, though I've read many good reviews of their products. My four set ups are a USB DAC called the Dragonfly Red DAC and Beetle DAC from audioquest, a combination of a Modi 2 Uber DAC and Asgard 2 from Schiit, and
    Apogee ONE.

    Paired with my Beyerdynamic T51i or made-in-Brooklyn and Long Island Grado SR80 or SR 325e or my Yamaha monitors any of those 4 DAC setups blow away just listening to music from a Mac or iPhone straight away.

    If I had to pick one it would be the Red. Works with Macs and iOS devices, futureproofing via firmware updates, and looks pretty cool too. And, made in the USA too (as are all Schiit products)...

    Read up more here: http://www.theverge.com/circuitbrea...dioquest-dragonfly-dacmagic-xs-usb-dac-review

    Once you've gone DAC, you'll never go back... :D
     
  3. cbautis2 macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 17, 2013
    #3
    If you want to improve your sound by realistically less than 10% by spending 30x the cost of the onboard cirrus/realtek chip in your Mac, get a DAC. To get above 10% improvement, you need to invest at least the cost of a retina iMac ($2300) on a DAC alone (Chord Hugo or Schiit Yggdrasil). To me, anything below $1000 on a DAC doesn't make it a compelling upgrade since the difference is very subtle. See here: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/high-end-pc-audio,review-32894-19.html
    A quote from it says:

    "Using world-class headphones, a $2 Realtek integrated audio codec could not be reliably distinguished from the $2000 Benchmark DAC2 HGC in a four-device round-up."
     
  4. bigpoppamac31 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2007
    Location:
    Canada
    #4
    I have the AudioEngine D1 and to me it's quite an improvement over the onboard audio on my rMBP. I'm using Sony MDR-10rbt headphones as well. To me there's more detail and sound separation compared to the onboard audio of my Mac.
     
  5. redshifted macrumors regular

    redshifted

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    Oct 10, 2014
    Location:
    Midwest
    #5

    Could not be reliably distinguished by who? The difference is very subtle to who? I went to the linked site and took all of the audio challenges. I was surprised by how good my hearing was given my 55+ year old ears. I could easily pick out 16bit vs. 8 bit audio. My 20 yo kids had no problems discerning this either. 0.5dB was no problem to discern - kids also. I could hear up to 19kHz reliably (much to my surprise) - kids 20kHz plus. Maybe we're just lucky genetically as far as hearing goes. My wife had her hearing destroyed at a loud concert we attended in the 1980s. Our ears rang for 48hrs after that show. I suffered no lasting damage but she never fully recovered.

    I currently use an OPPO HA-2 Amp/DAC from my 2015 MBPr USB 3.0 output and my iPhone 6+ lightning port output to drive powered speakers, Bose car audio system and my OPPO PM-3s and Klipsch S4i headphones with obvious sonic improvements over the native DACs or Bluetooth connections.

    The inability of some (or even most) folks to reliably hear the differences in audio quality shouldn't be a meme that says no one can hear the differences. The real question is - is the sonic improvement something that is worth the extra money to you?
     
  6. cbautis2 macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 17, 2013
    #6
    They're worth the money for me at least since I own a $600 desktop DAC myself. My point is that in my experience, there's only a minute improvement in sound quality from tiny portable DACs / DAPs at $300 or less price point. To me it's not worth it. I don't exaggerate improvements on DAC or Amp or even cable upgrades like many audio enthusiast do (I know I'm generalizing), but realistically, an improvement from a freebie earbuds to an entry level audiophile HP is 90% better than using a good pair headphones and just upgrading the DAC. However, upgrading to $500 or higher priced DACs, I do notice an acceptable difference and I believe even the most noncritical listener will hear without even focusing on the music: the sound becomes transforms from flat to alive, more depth, soundstage, detail, timbre, etc.

    TLDR: IMO, Cheap DACs are rip off (little bang for a lot of buck since they sound almost the same as a clean on-board audio that is now a feature of recent DIY computer kits) while mid tier DACs get reasonable bang for buck since I can clearly hear the improvements without feeling that I'm just being deceived by confirmation bias.
     
  7. redshifted macrumors regular

    redshifted

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2014
    Location:
    Midwest
    #7
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply,

    Cheap DACs are cheap DACs. Crappy headphones are crappy headphones. I don't bother with percentages because everyone has their own perception biases and values. There has always been a lot of hucksterism in audio so I get that. Right now, there are a couple of nice DACs in the $300ish range - the Chord Mojo and the OPPO HA-2 come to mind. Again, is it worth the money? Do you really want to carry these things around with your iPhone? I do, but...

    I completely agree with you... "I do notice an acceptable difference and I believe even the most noncritical listener will hear without even focusing on the music: the sound becomes transforms from flat to alive, more depth, soundstage, detail, timbre, etc." This should be the goal for hardware designers in audio.

    Everyone needs to approach this with a healthy skepticism - but an open mind (or ears). I just want folks to enjoy their music as much as the technology allows :cool:.
     

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