I have no issue with an integrated (pre/power) for my main system, but personally I'd not get a DAC/pre combo. I'd prefer to keep the digital signal separate from the analog for minimal signal disruption. ALso, DAC technology seems to change rapidly and thus I'd like to keep the option of changing out the DAC part in the (near?) future.
I agree with Rockadanny's post above and also suggest you separate your pre-amplifier (or integrated amp) from your DAC for the best sound quality and flexibility. This means you can select the right unit for your application and upgrade, if needed, in the future. I do not like combining a DAC and preamp in one box.
Of course, I understand that having another piece of equipment on your shelf is a concern. Maybe a smaller size DAC's might solve the problem. I do feel that a separate DAC would improve the sound quality of your system. I suggest you borrow a DAC and give it a test.
Thanks Rockadanny and Hgeifman. The problem is I'm staying in a very remote area and there are no shops here. It's 175Km to the nearest hifi shop and also there is no such thing as "home audition". The people here does not understand it.
I bought all my gears "blind", basically all feedback from forums and web site reviews.
I am thinking of the Bel Canto 2.... or Teac UD503 as they are within my budget and also very highly regarded. Both also can serve as preamp. Looks like I've to get it blind again.
My current system is a30 from accuphase, with passive preamp. Source is sa8005 sacd (with lap top hot wired to sa8005 through musical fidelity vlink 192) and speakers are harbeth shl5+. The speaker was the reason for the start of my gear hunting again.
"I'd prefer to keep the digital signal separate from the analog for minimal signal disruption."
Uh?? Half of a DAC IS analogue... hence the name.
Separates vs integrated is a question of system sophistication and how well your speakers discern the difference in things like signal separation etc.. It's my opinion that you get a very good bang for the buck in moderate systems.
And the home audition thing sounds great on paper but not very practical for most. I would suggest taking your time and buying used at a good price. It's kind of a pain in the arse to resell but the best way to build a system of components that sound good in your home at about half the price of new.
OK, looks like most people here in favour of keeping the dac as a separate.
TEAC is coming up with the latest UD503 with the latest DSD capability etc. and this would give me some years to hold on, problem is, it's so new that there isn't any review at all. Any dac around $1500 price recommendations?
I am a retiree and cannot keep changing gears like before. The digital era has almost mature, based on what has come out in these 2 years. Everyone is talking about PCM and DSD, doubt there would be anything new for the next 5 to 10 years.
"dloubt there would be anything new for the next 5 to 10 years"
Oh, boy; I think you'll be shown wrong on that one. ;) The pace of change is accelerating, not decelerating. I would venture we may have more than one technology/application for audio not even conceived of yet. Ten years is a long time for technology now.
I'll take the contrarian position in that one of the most stunning rigs I have ever put up, either as a private listener or reviewer, currently utilizes DAC with preamp function run directly into - who would guess? - a pair of class D amps! It's a wild audio world, and changing all the time. You simply cannot make a system which will be largely impervious to the performance erosion due to technology advancing. However, to your point in the OP, you can build very satisfying systems either way, with pre and DAC or DAC with pre function. Of course, the result depends on the quality of the gear. With good selection of gear and system building one method can trump the other. There is so much variance in performance in systems that it is not possible to ensure that one method over the other is superior.
Rockadany, "minimum signal disruption"? I would suggest that adding an unnecessary component and set of cables could be considered unnecessary signal disruption, which is why integrated DACs are becoming more popular! ;)
Agree, in certain sectors, thanks for pointing out.
However, for the average enthusiast like me on a budget, things don't look rosy as amplification are moving towards D or its hybrid, dacs are moving into higher resolutions and dsd, speakers are getting titanium and diamonds, cables are making its debut in every connection ....... AND prices are moving into the skies, sign :-(
I guess I better learn to get contented with what I have after this dac purchase. Cheers and enjoy the music everyone.
Cusco69, I can relate to the audiophile on the budget, for I was one for a long time. Shoot me a message here and we'll talk.
Well I'm a bit old school so I have a good CD player (Vitus) which is essentially a full dac with a transport & an integrated amp. I'm not a fan of dac-preamps as conversely they tend to be full preamps with a dac 'board' tacked on.
In my opinion I would get a dac that has output level control done in the digital domain, and connect direct to your amp. As this will be the most transparent/dynamic sound you can get from source to amp.
It would be nice to get one that you can set the max volume level, some have two/three or four setting done inside that give you a choice of output level, 0-2v or 0-3v output and I've even seen some that do 0-8v
What this means is you set it for your system so you can use it's digital volume control at and above 75%, so you don't run the risk of "bit stripping" it's not bad but can lower resolution if below 75% of full, on some cdp or dacs
Do you really need a preamp? Meaning, if your only source is digital and you are on a budget, get the essential as good as possible.
BTW. An optimized laptop connected to a good DAC will generally sound better or at least the same as a budget CD player, for less money.
Also BTW, if you can assemble look into Hypex NCore amp modules for extremely ood performance for a relatively low price in class D amplification. Then focus all your budget on a good DAC with a good analog section.
Thanks to all your feedback.
I am using a reasonable sacd player, Marantz SA8005. My digital system now is, USB from computer to VLink 192 then to SA8005. The sound quality is not as good as playing the cd direct with the player. This is what started me to look into a dedicated dac.
I was hoping a dedicated dac with preamp would be better and can replace my passive preamp so the system,basically stays the "same number of pieces". No need for new rack and arrangements of the space. I still love the Accuphase A30 power amp for its smooth delivery and unfatique sound. No slams, no bells, just smooth music. It's the passive pre that is the bottle neck now in my system. To get a good preamp would cost another 2 grands or so more and I still need to get a proper dac in due time.
I would suggest that adding an unnecessary component and set of cables could be considered unnecessary signal disruption
Doug - good point!, although would not agree that separate components are "unnecessary". They have their advantages as well.
Half of a DAC IS analogue... hence the name.
Lokie - Doh! Perhaps I should have thought this out better.
Was thinking what you meant when you said bit stripping. Did some reading and now fully understand. Thanks.
Rockadanny has a point about individual components has its benefits, if I'm in the ultra end. Mine is a simple budget system, don't think the difference would be a deal breaking, especially the new dacs are getting better with their preamp implementations.
I have basically narrow down to 3 dacs, Bel Canto dac2.5-used, Benchmark dac2 HGC-used, or a NEW Teac dac UD503. All 3 units have preamp function and very close in price (within my budget).
Once again, thanks to all your input. Cheers
Interesting to read a thread about using the Oppo 103 to dac and remove the computer away from the system as the Oppo 103 could read direct from an external hard disk. There I would have taken 2 components from the system, namely the computer and the sacd player. Interesting.
Believe, the sale of the sacd may be enough to purchase the 103 :-) ;-)