DAC OR NO DAC???


I am a newbie here and just getting into hifi and I am sure this is a dumb question but if anyone can comment and help me out?

I am currently listening to a lot of youtube music videos(quality varies) and tidal from my hp laptop via hdmi connect to a marrantz 7704. the 7704 seems to be decoding the signal pretty well. I tried a audioquest dragonfly red and it gave me some interference or something. ( maybe I needed the jitterbug to go with it?) so I returned it and just using the hdmi. Happy with tidal also but really like the music videos. One question is hdmi sound quality not as good as I could get? Can a dac help from this source? a dac to try that uses an hdmi? or should I just forget hdmi? A dac to try for under 500 or should I just wait and spend more? Thanks


My startup system consists of bw 804 d3's ( I do see where people say they are a little bright but so far I am enjoying them:) Marantz 7704, McIntosh mc207, bw 805d3 and htm1d3 for movies, fathom 212 that I turn up for movies and back down for music, source as described above and audio technical at lp5 ( I know it is a cheaper one but wasn't sure how much vinyl I would listen to but I am impressed with the quality of the new vinyl and sound I am currently getting compared to digital) -room 13 x 15 no acoustic treatments yet




rwrightcpa
S/PDIF and USB will crush HDMI.  I would spend at least $1K unless you can find something good used.
An Ayre Codex, or a Schiit Gungnir Multibit would be my choice, but if you want to stay below $1K, get a Schiit Bifrost Multibit. You should be able to get one used for $400 or so. It won't be the end all, but it will give you an idea of what a good DAC can do.
Bob
NAD M5 is one if the best deals out there. $600 to 800 used. Retailed not that long ago for $2300., so it is quite current. I have one and it sounds great. 

Also Moon 100 D. $300 used. Not like the M5 but still good. 

And do you need a dac. Unequivocally YES
If your source is mainly Youtube videos, you are fine with your existing Marantz 7704 pre/processor as the DAC.  It uses 32 bit AKM 4458VN DAC.  I don't think a sub $500 DAC can be better if the source is not high quality.
I appreciate everyone's responses and I do want to try a DAC I just don't want to spend thousands. I like bang for the buck so I will look into the nad 45 and the schiit dacs.

Thanks again
About to list a bifrost multibit for sale.  Shoot me a message if u r interested.  Thanks.

Apologies for making a sales pitch here......
A friend uses the Schiit and it is quite good, although sounded not as good as my Hegel HD12, which to many ears sounds about as good as the more expensive HD25.

You can find the HD12 slightly used for $1K or less.

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/ca/reviews/Hegel-Music-Systems-HD12-DAC-Review/
Considering the amp and speakers you've got, if digital music from Tidal is an important part of your serious listening, I'd urge you to wait and get something more upstream.  Are you paying for hi-rez Tidal?

If you really want to stay at $500 or less, you might consider looking at a BlueSound Node 2 or Auralic Aries Mini.  They both can connect via WiFi to your home network and directly stream from Tidal, as well as blue tooth connection from your laptop and other devices.  There is also the Explorer DAC from Meridian in addition to the other DACs recommended by previous posters.

For a bit more ($1,000) the Meridian 218 is a Roon ready DAC with MQA decoding, though it doesn't offer blue tooth.  Moving up to around $2K there's the Mytek Brooklyn or the Shiit Yggdrasil.  The Mytek can operate as a preamp, and has a single analog input that can be configured as a phono input to use the onboard MM/MC phono preamp.  There are also similar products from Auralic, though they don't appear to do full MQA decoding if that's a current or future consideration for you.

And of course, from that pricepoint and up there are a whole lot of options.
bthartman

I am paying for hi res tidal since my daughter is in college we get half off:)

I don't mind spending more and would like to see what even better quality options sound like I just don't want to spend 5-10k as I see some go for:) at this point.

I have been starting to research the options everyone has been pointing out to get some idea in  what direction to go.

Once again thanks for everyones 


I agree with Bob in his recommendations above about the Ayre Codex (often available for $1200 used) and perhaps about the Schiit Gungnir.  I have had 5 DAC's priced under $1K and found no significant difference in their performance.  However, I got a used Ayre QB-9, retailing years ago for $2600, and OMG, I finally could see what DAC devotees were talking about.  It yields analogue-like sound!  I mostly stream Tidal Hifi and the addition of the Ayre has been amazing. I get impression that the Ayre Codex is as good or better than the QB-9.  The Schiit Yggy is universally praised and for good reasons, but costs over $2K.  

My opinion is that the starting price point for excellent performance in a DAC is about $2K.  As I said, my experience after trying a bunch of modestly-price DACs was that they failed to elicit the huge SQ improvement that I discovered when I got the Ayre QB-9.  My take is that "you gotta pay to play" insofar as DAC's are concerned.  All DACs function, but the pricier ones perform vastly better.  
I have been steaming for at least 15 years. The most important things are source, then speakers. You have good speakers already. I have a mytek Brooklyn DAC+.  Sounds great, and I wanted the pre amp abilities for watching movies in my 2.1. The best move I made was to get a streamer in order to by pass going through my Mac book air.  If I only needed a dac with out the pre amp I would get Schiit yygy 2. How ever keeping in mind with your budget the border patrol is a good place to start. 

I like Ike what bob, stiix, and Hartman had to say.
ok ok:) 

I think I am going to go with the yygy. That's seems to be the one everyone has been mentioning the most, It is backordered till 9-11. I just missed a used one that was gen5 but he sold it already for 1800 I believe. I think I will just buy new for only 600 more. It may a bit but will keep you posted. 


Thanks again
My experience from earlier this year: I've listened to a system that consisted of the B&W 802 D3's, The Bryston BP 26 pre-amp, Bryston 4B cubed amp, Bryston BDA 3 using high end HDMI cable fed from the oppo UDP-203.  then the DAC was removed from the setup.
Everything else was the same...I heard no discernible difference whatsoever. Now, I'm not saying S/PDIF or USB cable isn't going to make a difference - for they may.  But, after spending 3500 for the DAC and another 500-1000 for the cable...you'll have to be the judge as to whether your hard working dollars is worth the expense in the degree of difference you may (or may not) hear.
Also, I think how you're listening to the music matters too.  If you're critically listening to the music (studying the shyt out of it and not enjoying it but trying to hear the micro nuances) - or - merely relaxing with a glass of wine or favorite micro brew then (perhaps) those micro nuance changes will go completely unnoticed.
One last thought...any cable can start to sound good - after you've had it plugged in for countless hours (and happen to know the commercial drive behind the name) and price tag (IMHBAO)
Good luck.

I bet you would like the sound of the Denafrips Pontus ($1600 USD) as well as or better than the Yggdrasil and still have $800 in your pocket. 

Dave
@rwrightcpa

You should trade in your Marantz AV7704 for the new Marantz AV8805. The AV8805 will perform and sound better than your 7704. For stereo music playbacks you should use USB to connect your laptop to the pre pro. And use HDMI for AV or video sources.

Besides the Marantz AV8805, I would highly recommend the following AV preamp processors :
* Anthem AVM60.
* Classe Sigma SSP Mk2.
* Classe SSP 800 (discontinued last year and today can be had for around $3500 ish). The SSP 800 has no USB DAC input.
* Lyngdorf MP-50 if it’s in your budget.
* NAD M17 v2.

However, the most ideal scenario would be to get a very good quality stereo integrated amp with HT bypass for your stereo music listening. And you can add a very good quality DAC or a streamer/DAC or streamer + DAC for your stereo music playbacks.
Or some stereo integrated amps have very good built-in DAC and would have USB DAC input.
So, use your AV processor for HT (surround movies) with your McIntosh MC207 multi-channel amp. But the amplifier section of the integrated amp will still be powering your front B&W 804 D3 speakers. There are countless options out there in choosing a very good quality stereo integrated amp.

It will be pointless to add a high end DAC with your Marantz AV7704 processor served as your stereo preamp for your stereo music playbacks. While your Marantz AV7704 is decent for HT use for movies but its stereo performance when used as an analog stereo preamp is lacking.
I would suggest getting a very good quality stereo integrated amp that has HT bypass mode for your stereo music playbacks.

mbag

I hear ya. I just listen to relax with a glass a wine or two:) at the end of the day. I don’t want to be overly critical. If it sounds good to me I am happy. I definitely don’t want to throw money away. If I did go with a new dac there is typically a trial period so if I did not hear a difference I would return it.

Thanks for the input.
caphill

I was thinking of something close to what you have mentioned.

I don't know exactly of all the options I may have since I am not that experienced but I was thinking of leaving my existing setup as is for movies and upgrade my floors and go with a c2600 and a solid state amp ( or some combination that I can enjoy going and listening and researching till then at different shops) and set up another room that is available just for music where I could add the dac/streamer that you say would make a difference in a different setup or with an integrated rather than with my 7704. I will definitely research more.

Thanks for the input.
+1 @caphill -- never underestimate the importance of a good preamp, so it's good to hear you were already looking in that direction.  Goodonya!!!

Whenever you are ready for a DAC, I'll add the Metrum Onyx if you can find one used.  Lots of research and good engineering into these DACs, and the Onyx comes very close to their their much more expensive Pavane and uses a lot of the same technology.  It's an R2R NOS DAC (I think maybe like the Schiit Yggie?), which tends toward a more organic sound if that's something you're looking for.  Anyway, best of luck in your quest!
@rwrightcpa

Or if you want a single unit solution that performs really well for both stereo music playbacks as well as surround movies (HT) I would highly recommend the Classe Sigma SSP mk2 preamp processor ($6k) or the original version of the Sigma SSP ($5k original msrp) that can be had at discounts (maybe around $3k or less) since it’s been replaced by the mk2 version. The mk2 version has upgraded HDMI and audio video boards to accommodate supports for Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, 4k video pass through.

You can sell your Marantz AV7704 av preamp processor. The Classe Sigma SSP is optimized for use as a high end stereo preamp for music playbacks. In the end you won’t even need to add an external DAC with this Classe Sigma SSP. For digital stereo music file playbacks you can run USB cable to its rear USB DAC input and its USB input sounded the best compared to its other inputs.
This unit is optimized for use with its USB input for digital stereo music playbacks. Its USB input implementation and configuration is very well designed and engineered.
For your AV or video sources you can still connect using HDMI cables to its HDMI inputs.

It is a bargain especially considering the price point and all the capabilities and functionalities that this unit performs. It is an AV preamp surround processor/excellent stereo preamp performance/excellent sounding when used its USB input for $5k new or less than $3k used.

And you can still use your McIntosh MC207 multi-channel amp to power all your speakers.
Op’s original budget for DAC was $500. I completely agree the Marantz 7704 preamp/processor preamp section will be the limitation of the system. Most likely the AV7704 volume control is done by an integrated circuit. But with $500 budget, I don’t see how that can be addressed.

I suggest save until you have bigger budget, then consider adding a dedicated stereo preamp with HT bypass followed by adding an external DAC.

My own journey of combining 2-channel with HT was a painful one (money wasted).  Eventually I settled with semi-DIY passive preamp (fully balanced silver autoformers for 2-channel with another 3-channel copper autoformers for HT channels, working as slaves and will follow stereo volume).  I use Oppo 205 analog outputs for HT, started with Oppo 95 initially, XLR used for main channels.  HT signal processing and channel balance all done in Oppo.  Whether in HT or 2-channel, it's always pure 2-channel audio quality.
I have a Jitterbug and it works great. Of course, I didn't have any interference problem without it but the sound got better with it. You can also check iFi's filters. Or go all-out and get a re-clocker and then a not-to-expsensive dac. I have also tried a chep iFi nano and many people like the iFi Nano Black Label. Or you could go a bit higher in level and try the iFi Micro Black Label or the Chord Mojo. 

Youtube uses a pretty advanced codec which should be able to get good results if you have good gear. Probably not as good as red book but worth listening to if you're note very fuzzy.

caphill

Classe Sigma SSP mk2 preamp processor only has 5.1.2 so only two atmos speakers? I have four atmos and a total of 9, are there options to include all the atmos speakers? I guess I can just keep the 7704 and try a stereo pre or integrated. I like the idea of going with the classe and I amu not beed a  dac,


HDMI routinely gets dissed on Audiophile Forums, but I listen to an Oppo 203 via HDMI to a Bryston DAC 3, which has 4 HDMI inputs.  The HDMI is excellent, fully the equal, if not superior, to every other input on the Bryston 
@rwrightcpa 

You can save a lot of money by going with the Classe Sigma SSP preamp processor. Sell your Marantz AV7704. You won't need to add an external DAC. Run a USB cable directly to the Classe Sigma SSP's USB DAC input for your stereo music playbacks. 
Do you need Atmos? Your McIntosh MC207 is only a seven-channel amp. How would you be able to manage 5.1.4 setup? You would need another two-channel amp. 

caphill

I have an extra nuforce amp running the atmos speekers. I will keep track of your other discussion on the Lyngdorf MP-50 and wait and see if you think it is worth it.
I think I am going to hold off for a bit to research the dacs a bit more and maybe get a new pre.

I am pretty happy with my current setup for the time being, Its better than what I had before:)

Thanks again for everyone's responses.
I’m still waiting for my Lyngdorf MP-50 to arrive any day now. Can’t wait! Been using the Classe SSP 800 for almost 9 yrs now and it’s time to get rid of it as it becomes somewhat obsolete. And the Lyngdorf MP-50 with its Room Perfect will be breathtaking and will be a step up from the Classe SSP 800 when it comes to immersive surround sound movies (HT).

But I’m using my processor strictly for watching movies (4k UHD & bluray disc playbacks). I don’t use it for listening to stereo music. This is in my dedicated HT room. I have a separate dedicated two-channel setup and system in a separate two-channel listening room that consist of completely different gears.

So, I can only tell you how the Lyngdorf MP-50 performs for surround movies or HT. I have previously demoed the Lyngdorf MP-50 in a different HT setup and system before buying it. It was spectacular. With Room Perfect engaged and when properly calibrated it crushed the Classe SSP 800 for HT. I never tried the Lyngdorf MP-50 for stereo music playbacks though. I also only used my SSP 800 for HT, but I have tried the SSP 800 for stereo music playbacks before and it was great especially coming from an AV preamp processor.

The Lyngdorf MP-50 does not have stereo analog audio inputs, only digital inputs. This unit is purposedly built for HT. It only has XLR balanced analog audio outs, no single-ended outs.

You should definitely get the Lyngdorf MP-50. You can use its internal DAC for your stereo music playbacks. It has USB, HDMI, AES/EBU, spdif coaxial digital, Toslink optical digital inputs. This will be a major upgrade from your Marantz AV7704.

The Classe Sigma SSP is excellent for stereo music playbacks especially when using its USB input and especially considering its asking price but the Lyngdorf MP-50 is way better for HT or surrounds especially with its Room Perfect.
I just bought the classe sigma ssp mkII last night on ebay for 3250 delivered. I figured I can't go wrong a that price. I am anxious to try out the stereo play back from my digital sources to see how it compares. I guess I will just switch back and forth the preamp connections from the 7704 until I find another amp and try the ht hookups as well just to sample:)
caphill

If you don't mind me asking what you have in your designated listening room?

Your ht setup is to die for:)
@rwrightcpa

Congrats on your purchase!
The Classe Sigma SSP is an AV preamp processor, it isn’t a dedicated stereo preamp. It takes care both your stereo and multi-channels (HT).
And you won’t need your Marantz AV7704 any longer.
For your stereo digital music file playbacks just use USB cable to connect to the Classe’s rear USB DAC input. The Sigma SSP also has stereo analog audio inputs (XLR & RCA).


caphill

If you don’t mind me asking what you have in your designated listening room?

Your ht setup is to die for:)

@rwrightcpa

My main 2ch setup and system in my dedicated stereo listening room consists of the following :
* Magico M6 speakers.
* Naim Statement NAP S1 monoblock amps.
* Naim Statement NAC S1 linestage analog preamp.
* Digital front end consists of : DCS Vivaldi full four stacks (Vivaldi master clock, Vivaldi upsampler, Vivaldi DAC, Vivaldi CD/SACD transport).
My Analog front end rigs consist of the following :
* Kronos Pro turntable with dedicated Kronos stand specifically designed for the Kronis Pro.
* 12" Black Beauty tonearm.
* Air Tight PC-1 Supreme mc cartridge.
* Discrete linear class A PSU.
* Audio Research Reference 10 phonostage preamp.
* Shunyata Research Hydra Triton triple combo power products.
Speaker cables are Transparent Magnum Opus. Interconnects and power cables are Transparent Opus.

My bedroom setup consists of the following :
* Naim Uniti Nova.
* B&W 805 D3 stand-mount speakers.
* Audioquest Niagara 1000 power product.
* Shunyata Research Sigma speaker cables.
* Transparent Reference USB cable.
* Audioquest Diamond ethernet cable.
caphill

Wow that is impressive. You must be the very small percentage of people that are on this forum to have such a system. Enjoy:)

Thanks again for all of your input and sharing.
@rwrightcpa

Make sure you get a really good quality USB cable to connect to the Classe Sigma SSP’s rear USB DAC input for your digital stereo music file playbacks.
It makes huge difference. I recommend either the Transparent Premium, Reference, or Audioquest Diamond. The same with the Ethernet cable, HDMI, analog audio interconnects, speaker cables and power cables.


I received the sigma but unfortunately it had some issues and I sent it back. 

I am just going to stick with the 7704 for now and an leaning towards getting the mc 2600 and try a stereo tube pre. The 7704 has pure setting that I can pass through the 2600 rather than use the 2600 all the time.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated. 
@rwrightcpa 

what were the issues with the Sigma SSP? 

The McIntosh MC 2600 seems to be a fine choice and will probably mate well with your McIntosh MC207 power amp. 

I could not get any sound out of it. Tried alot of different Video fine, but no sound at all. Talked to support and did a factory reset and still nothing:(
@rwrightcpa

Sorry to hear about your recent Classe Sigma SSP Mk2 purchase which was a defect unit. 

All Classe AV preamp processors (Sigma SSP & SSP 800) require each speaker configuratio, inputs, etc to be assigned to each individual profiles and input names. Setting up Classe processors are very different from say your Marantz AV7704 processor. If you never had any previous experiences setting up Classe processors you might find it a bit confusing the first time, but once you know how imo it would be easier than most Japanese AV processors or receivers.

But it seems like you got it set up correctly and done your part cause you said you got the video to work but not the audio. And you tried factory reset and everything and still no audio. Obviously it’s a defect unit. Could have been HDMI switching or board failure, dunno.

No wonder you got it real cheap and you said it was the Sigma SSP Mk2 (the latest version) which supports the latest formats and codecs eg Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, 4k video pass through, etc.

It was suspicious in the beginning why an AV processor that supports the latest AV formats was being sold for less than half of its MSRP or retail price and obviously this is still a current model (Mk2 version).

@caphill  - I highly recommend using the iFi SPDIF iPurifier between your cable box or blu-ray player and your SS processor.  Lowering this jitter for $150 is a no-brainer.  Elevated my movie experience significantly.  It's the only reclocker that does Dolby Digital.  I do not sell it BTW.  Get it on Amazon.

For 2-channel, I recommend the Synchro-Mesh, which delivers 7psec of jitter.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@audioengr

This is not for me. It is for the OP.
The OP just recently purchased a used defective unit of the Classe Sigma SSP Mk2 AV processor on eBay. I do not own the Classe Sigma SSP.
I think you got it all mixed up.
@ caphill

Yes I was disappointed but he is going to let me know when it comes back from warranty.

Thanks for all your input.
How do you guys feel about the mc 2600 internal dac?

Do I need a dac with it?
@rwrightcpa 

Are you sure you had everything set up correctly and properly on your Sigma SSP? Cause setting up Classe processors are very different from setting up your Marantz processor or other Japanese processors. I had set up my friend's Marantz av receiver and it was easy and basically plug n play. Whereas with Classe processors you will have create a profile, input name, set up speaker configurations etc and then assign each profile & input name with each speaker configuratuo to each assigned input. 


@rwrightcpa 

When you asked about the internal DAC in McIntosh MC2600, did you mean the C2600 preamp? 
 yes the Mcintosh  mc 2600 preamp sorry:)
The C2600 has an ESS 9018 chip (about five years old technology). It is very good for a DAC built in to a pre-amp. The latest standalone DACs would be only slightly better.