A DAC to help overcome compressed music?


I have found after upgrading my system, to a much higher level then I ever had before, that with some of the music I enjoy I can now really hear how compressed the music is. I could always tell, but now it’s really obvious to the point of wondering what I can do about it - from a digital source perspective. Would perhaps a certain type of DAC or DAC’s that have various different settings as some do, help “improve” the compression in some way? Or do I simply need to live with it? I am sure there are many others that have had this happen to them. I use a Bluesound or Qobuz currently. 
deadhead1000
If you mean loudness wars, a DAC ain't gonna fix it. You can remix with reLife or expand with a RG Sig One. Good luck finding that. I got mine in Roger's basement and he is long gone.
You could try a dBx 117 or 119. There are some on Reverb and Canuck A Mart.

I'm using a Bluesound Vault 2i with Ayre Codex Qobuz
with great results nice open sound stage 

Enjoy the Music
Tom
What are all the components in your system currently?  
The rest of my system is a Luxman 590AX II (class A) and Harbeth 30.2. So for a clearer idea of what I mean by compressed, compare an Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith album to Alicia Keys or Diana Krall album (ignoring genre for now). The former sounds flat, bland, the later so alive, open and natural. So I am guessing the former is due to being compressed, as mentioned, the loudness wars, so it was made for listening from FM, cassettes, or cheap record players and I'll have to live with it. I actually have used DBX in a past system, but never liked what it did. I appreciate the suggestion of the Ayre since you have a bluesound also. So, perhaps upsampling like the Ayre does will help? Perhaps an R2R rather then FPGA? Or maybe I'm just trying to just improve (not fix!) something that can't be. Wouldn't be the first time.
So, you’re using a Node 2i for both streaming and DAC?
Hello deadhead

I don't want to disappoint, but how great it would be to have at least some control over these recordings. When I was a musician, and even now when I need a bit of EQ I always lower the frequencies that do not need change, so the freq. range I want to boost a db or so, is going to sound as though I boosted that freq. However, applying EQ the way I described prevents any unwanted gain leaking into the music or instrument sound due to not raising unneeded db in a freq. range. Well, this got me thinking, I do not know your source, but if you use software such as JRiver for music playback, you can try a DSP compressor and perhaps a bit of EQ. So for example, if you wanted the compression in the mid to lower bass to sound as loud as the other instruments, you could use a method similar to what I described in using EQ. A bit of EQ may help you achieve the desired results for the culprit recordings. A few friends of mind enjoy some dsps made by FabFilter. I've seen them work with an EQ this company makes, and you can do almost anything from traditional EQ use, to sound designs. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but it did not seem all that complicated. I just checked and they do have a compression dsp. It doesn't look like their dsps are the 5k plugins i'm aware of, maybe $150  to $250. It is professional software to be sure. 

Other than some creative dsp work, I can't think of way to 'simulate' a compressed recording to not sound so. I don't think hardware EQ such as Schiit's EQ would work too well, as each knob will move large chunks of frequencies. No pinpoint work that you can achieve with a good dsp. 

This may be a stretch but Ottoman Lab, which is Ken Uesugi, has a curious tube based EQ of sorts which you can ask him to make. It's basically a EQ that takes the signal from most digital devices and runs it through the RIAA vinyl EQ standard in hopes of giving the digital signal a 'record/vinyl' sound. You can find it at his website: Soundgate.net.

If you are not familar with him, he is a amplifier builder that is starting to gain a lot of traction in the audio world. He just had a 300b amp on Audiogon that has sold. People are reporting great results from his amps and seem to like them a lot. I'm thinking of buying a 45 SET from him due to his use of the 717 drive tube. This is the same tube that Yamamoto used in his highly praised 45 SET. I'm going off topic, but this piece of gear he makes may, just may, take the edge of high compression sound on your recordings with it.

Good luck in your quest!

robert
Sounds like you’re using a Bluesound player on its own. Adding a DAC will probably make a huge difference as the DAC in the Bluesound is mediocre and maybe lifeless as ones system is more revealing., Lots of options out there and most manufacturers or vendors offer a return policy, so you can try at home and return if you don’t like.

I added a RME ADI 2 fs DAC which is  a very flexible with multiple filters to pick from, EQ and loudness settings so can be fine tuned to one’s preference. I run my RME dead flat with everything set to fix with the sharp filter and in my system find it incredibly revealing, open but with no harshness or fatigue. Some time ago I did add a Teddy Pardo linear power supply which improved the player but even without the LPS it sounded great.

I think you’re really hearing the limitations of the DAC in the Bluesound. Also try a different power cord on the Bluesound as I found it helps a little as well.
There have been more than a few forum threads of folks adding upgraded external DACs to a BlueSound Node2I with success.  
There have been more than a few forum threads of folks adding upgraded external DACs to a BlueSound Node2I with success.


this ^^^^^

op -- search is your friend
I was not specifically looking for a DAC. I was overall looking to improve sound of some favorite music that, as another poster mentioned, was purposely recorded a certain way to sound “good”for lower quality sound systems. Which ends up sounding pretty bad on a better system. That being my quest, if a better DAC would do it, so be it. However, perhaps I should keep another system for that, one of those 80’s receivers, Bose 901 or Cerwin Vega speakers or some such (jk). 
Agree with the other posters here.  If the recording is damaged at the source—badly compressed recording—there isn’t a fix.  The irony, as the OP is discovering, is that as the rest of the system improves, the defects in the recording become more obvious.  I recommend listening to the badly compressed stuff with a $50 Bluetooth speaker because it hides more of the warts and you may enjoy it more
I seem to recall that many years ago DBX made a CD player (DX5?) with processing features that claimed to do what I think you’ve seeking.
Thread Title: "A DAC to help overcome compressed music?".

@deadhead1000

..."I was not specifically looking for a DAC."

Ok. That clears it up.  
I definitely do not recommend it, but a preamp with a high 2nd order distortion profile like Primaluna will give you an added sense of depth/space but even then, compressed dynamics will still be present and it would be a case of the "cure" being worse than the disease. 
Thanks all, some good suggestions that I will look into.  Mahler123, you nailed it. I was wondering if others found that happening to them and it wasn’t just me - or if there was, perhaps a magic bullet. 
Totally agree with @mahler123. You might consider trying a tube DAC as they can sometimes inject some life into lesser recordings without ruining good recordings and also be a big improvement over the Node’s DAC. I’d try an MHDT Orchid DAC that you can order from the company and I think they offer a return period so you can try at home. I think that’d be well worth a try, and if it helps you’d also have the flexibility to try different tubes to custom tailor your sound even further. Anyway, just my $0.02 FWIW, and best of luck.
As others have noted, once a recording has been mixed, processed and released to the public, it is what it is. What you are talking about is unscrambling scrambled eggs. Good luck. 

The other problem is that if you do stumble across a piece of equipment that, to your taste, improves the sound quality of bad recordings, it is also going to mess with what you hear on good recordings. 

Pick your poison
You’re discovering an unintended consequence of having an upgraded, and revealing, audio system. The higher up the audio food chain you go, the more likely you are to notice that some recordings just sound bad. If you were to upgrade your DAC you could expect the good recordings to sound better, and the poor recordings to sound potentially worse.
I don't know what DBX product you used in the past that you didn't care for, but these units seem to address your concerns:

dbx CD player with built-in compression and expansion (technofileonline.com)

DBX DX5 Compact Disc Player Manual | HiFi Engine