Budget DAC vs new Player


Hello,

I have a Rotel 855CD which has given me excellent service. Recently, I tried a new Emotiva ERC-1 ($400) with mixed results. While the soundstage depth on the Emotiva was superior, the Rotel bested the ERC-1 at the low end and for accurate timbre (a clarinet on the Rotel sounded more like an oboe on the Emotiva!)

So, given that I have limited funds to work with, I was wondering if I should try a DAC, such as the KECES DA-131 Mk II. Or, dollar for dollar value, should I look for another CD Player?

My working assumption is that the limitation on the Rotel is the chipset, not the transport.

Most of my listening is classical music.

Any suggestions or comments you might care to offer will be appreciated.

Rotel 855 CD
NAD T-163 pre/pro
Emotiva UPA 2 amp
Klipsch KG 4

Many thanks,

Jon
opteron05
your rotel's a well made player and should continue to serve as a good transport--i'd think adding a dac in the $300-500 range would be a more significant improvement than switching to a cdp in the same price range. the consensus rave on these pages seems to be cambridge and benchmark.
The new Musical Fidelity $299 one is one of the biggest bargains in audio. Get one from Audio Advisor , they have a trial period, or use to. No connection with them or MF.
Just curious: How's the DAC in the NAD? For $400-$500 you could get either the NAD or Rotel modded?
Post removed 
Well, once again I am grateful for the useful and quick answers this community comes up with.

Elevick's inquiry is on the mark: There was only a small difference between the Rotel's internal DAC and using the one in the NAD - which, I suppose is informative about both of them. Perhaps I am underestimating the quality of the Rotel, but I had expected a meaningful difference between the DAC's, given the fact that the T-163 is circa 2004 and my Rotel dates back to the late 90's.

DAC aside, though, the NAD is very musical to my ears and is a good compliment to the rest of my system.

I am also wait-listed for the Emotiva UMC-1 pre/pro (now some 8 months overdue), so it may make sense to wait for it and see if the DAC in it is noticeably superior.(As yet, I don't know what they will be using.)

While the NAD lacks HDMI connections, if I decide to keep the Emotiva, I'll try putting it up for sale here in hopes of realizing somthing for it..

In any event, thanks for giving me the options I was looking for.

Jon
What type of digital link are you using between the Rotel player and the NAD pre/pro?
I am now using a 1 meter digital coax cable to link the two.

It does seem clear, both from comments here and elsewhere, that I would do better to buy a DAC, rather than a new player at the same price.

You know, part of the fun with this hobby, reagrdless of how much money you have to spend, is the questioning, planning and learning that goes into each step along the way.

For example, I have read in a number of places that the length of the digital cable is a significant factor. Now I get to run that one down....
08-10-09: Johnnyb53
What type of digital link are you using between the Rotel player and the NAD pre/pro?

08-11-09: Opteron05
I am now using a 1 meter digital coax cable to link the two.
Uh, yeah, but what kind, what quality? You can use anything from a $6 composite video cable to a $350 Illuminati Orchid to a $650 AudioQuest Eagle Eye... and beyond. There are claims that some SP/DIF links hold true to the 75 ohm standard better than others, and therefore introduce less jitter into the digital datastream. My first experience with a digital cable that made a difference was the $99 entry-level Transparent. For me there was no going back. Currently I use a JPS Superconductor digital link.
Johnnyb53

It's been a few years, so I don't remember the brand, but I'm guessing that I spent about $15.00 for it. While I recognize that all cables and connectors can have a significant effect on sound, my limited budget forces me to look for the greatest dollar cost / benefit in my system.

Given my druthers, my system components would be very different and my 11 x 19 room would get acoustic treatment.

I do think that, as the components of the system improve, the effects of changes can be more easily discerned. But, in my situation, I am still sorting out the major components within my limitations. So, for now, at least, I feel that I would realize a more significant effect from a higher quality DAC at $299 (The Music Fidelity V-DAC) than I would from changing to a higher cost cable...

Thanks for your comment.
08-13-09: Opteron05
...While I recognize that all cables and connectors can have a significant effect on sound, my limited budget forces me to look for the greatest dollar cost / benefit in my system.

...So, for now, at least, I feel that I would realize a more significant effect from a higher quality DAC at $299 (The Music Fidelity V-DAC) than I would from changing to a higher cost cable...
Well, what I am getting at is that since you have a fairly recent DAC in your NAD pre/pro, and are contemplating getting an Emotiva UMC-1, which has an even later generation upconvertling DAC, maybe it's more cost-effective to upgrade the digital link to get the best use of the DACs you have or plan to have, rather than buying yet a third DAC in the V-DAC.

There are some good coax digital cables for significantly less than the V-DAC, such as the Analysis Plus Black for $75/meter, AudioQuest VDM-1 for $65/meter, or Cardas High Speed at $107.

That said, I've heard very good things about the V-DAC, not just from professional reviews, but from a long-distance friend who bought an Oppo DV-980H, a V-DAC, and Cardas High Speed digital cable rather than a $600 CD player. He's VERY happy with his choice.
Any update on what you're doing, Opteron?

-P