I'm not sure you will find a 300.00 DAC that will best the one in the Touch. It's not great, but it's pretty good.
my understanding is that the dac in the touch already outputs 24/96 via the analog outputs. for pandora and internet radio that should sound fine. has he listened to it that way yet? if he were using lossless files, he may want to look into an external dac, but if his main use is pandora and internet radio, i would imagine the onboard dac should be sufficient. i've used it and thought it was very good. fyi, the touch only outputs to a dac via coax and optical, not via usb. i thought i read that there's a "jailbreak" of sorts for this which would also enable usb output, but would probably not be anything your father would be interested in looking into. and i may have misinterpreted what i heard. :) anyway, this is a long way of saying i don't ave ay specific recommendations. the emotiva xda-1 dac at $250 might fit the bill, but i've never heard it. a fellow i communicated with via audiogon recommended it to a friend who was very happy with it, though, and it might be just the thing for your father.
Thanks so much for the info! I had no idea the SB could already up sample a pandora stream to 24/96 via the analog outputs.
Crooner, Thanks for the Schiit recommendation.
I guess at this point I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who's compared the SB's internal dac with other outboard DACs.
How high up in price does one have to go before one hears noticeable improvement? Perhaps an upgraded power supply would be a better direction (?)
i've mostly used it with the valab nos dac and the eastern electric minimax plus dac. i didn't spend much time listening to the analog outputs so can't offer much by way of comparison. i'll check the analog outputs again and let you know what i think. i seem to recall them sounding fine.
the whole issue of price around the touch is interesting. i bought it as a stopgap while i figured out exactly how i wanted to go from the listening i was doing while in front of my computer while i worked but i haven't committed to any other solution yet. so, this $300 stopgap may end up being all i need for a while. there are mods by bolder and there was this whole review on audiocircle about it:
i haven't explored any mods or power supply changes but they're out there and getting positive reviews from users and reviewers. CIA seems like an inexpensive entry point to the power supply and may be worth looking into. the full on bolder mods described in the audiocircle review can go over $1000. most people seem to notice the CIA power supply's effect, although no one has written anything as enthusiastic as this bolder review. the higher the price, the more the enthusiasm, it seems. :) i think i'll start with the CIA at some point and see how i like it. as yet, i've only used the stock touch with the stock power supply with the different dacs i mentioned and haven't really found myself wanting...which is why i've been hesitant to look into the power supply offerings. a great resource for touch related info seems to be john darko at digitalaudioreview out of australia. he seems to use it as one of his primary transports, along with a mac. you might check him out and decide what works best for you from his trials and tribulations and look more on audiocircle and computeraudiophile for touch info. i'll be curious to see what others on audiogon who have done more experimentation with the touch have to say. i've been so happy with it as is i haven't bothered to search the forums for any answers about it.
Been running my new Bifrost for close to 24 hours now. Sound quality is definitely superior to the DAC inside the Touch. Much more detail, and great imaging. Very smooth also, with no graininess that I could detect. Bass is a little on the light side, but this could improve with further burn-in. In all, very satisfied with this purchase.
It's probably worth weighing in here that an outboard DAC is only as good as the connection used. The right SPDIF cable can make a DAC you thought was "just OK" sound damned fine. The key is finding the right one. I usually pick the manufacturer's collective brain for a place to start. If they'll tell you what cable was used to voice the DAC, you can achieve some amazing synergy. This could be one reason the Squeezebox's internal DAC beats so many previously respected outboard DACs and why some disagree with others' comparisons.
I think the leanness was subjective because I happen to have switched from the Pioneer SP-BS41-LR that I have been using for a couple months to a pair of vintage 15 ohm Rogers LS3/5A's. And the Pioneer's bass response is a tad exaggerated compared to the more refined Rogers.
I made the switch shortly after hooking up the Bifrost so I had the wrong impression the Bifrost was responsible for the bass response change.
I have continued listening to the Bifrost and the bass is definitely there. No shortage in that department.
So, order with confidence. Nice DAC and huge bang for the buck!