No. But you can get close. R2R is the way to go if you want analog sound from a DAC, IMHO. I have a Totaldac D1 core. It's very analog sounding.
Distinctly Digital Forever?
Something always made me believe that a decent tube preamp could "mellow" or "naturalize" the sound of digital sources. But this doesn't seem to be so. OTOH, maybe there are DACS out there that not only convert to analog, but actually make digital source components sound like analog sources? So, just to further my understanding: assuming price no object, does there exist any DAC, or DAC/Pre combo, capable of making my streamer (or the best streamer in existence, for that matter) sound indistinguishable from an FM radio signal, given each "playing" the same recording at the same volume with the same EQ?
One can have digital sources sound as good and natural as analog. Getting there just requires careful choices… as in choosing analog equipment.
A preamp cannot correct for a feed that is not natural, just like DAC cannot make up for a streamer that does not sound natural. My great analog end sounds the same as my digital leg… natural, dynamic, detailed and very musical. You can see my system under my UserID.
My digital leg is an Aurender W20SE streamer —> Audio Research CD9SE DAC —> Audio Research Reference 6SE phonostage. One can use the Berkeley Reference Alpha 3 DAC as well. I had one of those in my system as well. Virtually indistinguishable from the ARC… only a tiny bit more detailed and less musical.
Inferring from what you have said about your tastes, it sounds like my components likely to be good recommendations for you.
To, be more helpful. What is the rest of your system as the sound you get out is going to be the result of every component… and the venue.
You can make digital audio sound like anything you want to. There are various plugins for sale for use with digital audio workstations that emulate famous recording consoles, preamps, reel-to-reel tape machines, etc. Some software players have support for these plugins. For example, I think there's a foobar2000 component that can use them as part of the output pipeline.
@ghdprentice, given your absolute top-end system, I can readily accept that your digital stream sounds as natural as your analog side. This assures me that yes, it CAN be done. But can it be done at, say, half the expense? I note that the ARC DAC 9 is upsampling (as is my DAC), while @jgoldrick and @soix recommend R2R DACs which I have never auditioned but are nearer my intended budget. Also recommended for my lesser Aurender model has been the T+A DAC 200 whose technology I don't pretend to understand.
I am sorry if you feel I have suggested that you must purchase a W20SE. But, I think you said something about making the best streamer sound great. I assumed you were saying you had a top tier streamer. Well, then to get the most out of it you need a top quality DAC… and preamp, and amp.
None, of this stuff is absolute. I have owned $1K streamers and $1K DACs… and $3K, $5K, $10K etc. This is not a yes or no thing. You get closer to what you want by careful choice and greater investment. So, the take away should be an individual streamer and DAC, at as high a level as you can afford that is compatible with your other equipment. If you would show us your system we could be more helpful.
Lots of great choices in DAC’s….you’ll get more meaningful responses if you state your budget and the streamer your future DAC being paired.
@erik_squires Please let me never smell kenjity. If it weren't a question of interest TO ME, I wouldn't have mentioned it. What I asked was CAN it be done -- NOT "how can I improve" -- and @ghdprentice answered this to my full satisfaction. As to whether I personally can make digital sound more analog (please!) there are several useful answers which I am very plainly NOT ignoring! @lalitk the streamer I have, which is as far into streamers as I am likely ever to go, is the Aurender N200. All preamps are tubed with multiple connectivity. ARC 28 is next up, and that's likely where the preamp train will stop.
@hickamore I am certain based on your many posts of merit and insight you are serious. BTW the Pandora SIG feeds a REF5se and the Lampizator feeds an….. suprise… ARC SP-17…
Good on ya man
N200 is pretty awesome….no need to look elsewhere. Your timing for considering a pre and DAC couldn’t be any more perfect. I suggest a hard look at offerings from Lampizator before picking up LS28. Even a mid-range DAC with volume control from Lampizator will blow LS28 out of the water. I have owned quite a few pieces from ARC, like LS28, DAC9, VT-80, GS150, Ref6 and LS28 was the least impressive!
I am inviting @charles1dad to weigh in on Abbas 3.2SE DAC. I am not sure if they can be ordered with VC.
To the best of my knowledge the Abbas DACs aren’t available with an on board volume control. I will report that the Abbas 3.2SE DAC I recently acquired is stunningly good sounding. If the desire is naturalness and sonic purity this is a fabulous choice.
If you’re looking for a very natural R2R/NOS dac that is capable of reproducing great detail without being overly sharp/harsh check out the Aqua HiFi products.
I’m using the La Scala Optologic MKII with a Naim source and ARC amp/pre and it’s really very good. I can’t make the “equal to/better than analog” statement because I haven’t owned a record or turntable in over 30 years BUT I love the way it sounds as a system and never get tired of it!
That FM radio signal comes from a digital source at a low bit rate and is compressed/limited to boot. So, if you’re only getting FM quality from your digital gear, something’s wrong. It should be very easy to better an FM radio signal. There are people who prefer low bit rate music into ear buds over CD quality or hi-res digital on a good system, though.
Dgital sources can sound natural and even mellow, if that’s what you want. I prefer just natural and there are many choices for that.
If your digital is sounding harsh or bright, you’ve got the wrong player. What CD player or DAC are you using?
@tomcy6 For purposes of this question I am defining "better" as "making acoustic music performed in real space and recorded via microphones to tape or direct disc sound more like acoustic music performed and heard in real space." The FM radio signals are from a high-end tuner delivering programs playing vinyl recordings, so if the source is compressed/limited low-bitrate digital, it doesn't sound that way. Granting the many audible virtues of digital reproduction, I just don't find realistic representation of acoustic music recorded via mic in actual space to be among them.
I think Audio Note DACs your description of what is desirable more than do most other high end digital gear. The prices of their gear goes pretty high and that range is almost entirely the result of using higher quality parts for the analogue post-conversion sections of the DAC; the digital section does not change much and is deliberately simple—no oversampling, very simple filters.
There are many excellent recommendations from others where you will not go wrong. I use a Wyred 4 Sound 10th Anniversary DAC with an Aurender N100H and feel the results very “analog” like with dense, three dimensional images, deep/wide stage, excellent micro and macro dynamics, extended bass, and detail without edge or glare. Remember good power cords, USB interconnects, and vibration isolation. I use WyWires Platinum and Symposium Platforms/Rollerblock Jrs. to optimize performance. The Aurender N200 will outperform my N100H which is no longer available. Read reviews on the Wyred DCC that also characterize it as “analog like”. Of course you can go cost no object up the Aurender line and with DACS like the Chord Dave … or DCS Bartok without need for a server, the latter being the best I have heard for which I am saving my pennies (a lot of pennies)
I doubt that you can find philosophically and design any more opposing approach/execution than Audio Note and Mola Mola. 180 degrees for certain.
@charles1dad …indeed, add Chord and DCS to that….
Not my cup of tea but i do try to discern strengths and weakness… as i know you do as well.
Best in music - Jim
@kota1 apparently I typed "upsampling" when I meant "oversampling." Most or all here seem agreed that "R2R/NOS" is the way to go for a more analog-like presentation.
hickamore, Why not just listen to FM and vinyl if that's what you like? it's unlikely that someone on a forum will come up with the DAC that's going to give you the exact sound you want in your system given all the variables. You'll get a lot of suggestions but you won't know till you bring one home and try it.
If you don't have access to the millions of albums available through streaming that way, well, life's a bitch.
Much like jonwolfpell, I settled on an Innuos Zen MKIII thru an MDHTOrchid with "Grannyring" upgrades. I don't think I'll ever try to build out my vinyl collection any more. Sounds amazing. Virtues of streaming been covered aplenty here. No more scrounging for "clean" albums, disappointing purchases, cleaning, etc. Indistinguishable from same CD thru Orchid. MHDT DACs are R2R. Tube roll (1) for your preferred flavor. Using tube integrated with tube pre stage. YMMV.
tomcy6, that's the problem -- these days my listening is 90% streaming, for all the obvious reasons. It's just that on CERTAIN material -- acoustic folk rock, chamber ensembles -- the difference between analog and streaming is pretty glaring. (CDs, it happens, fall in between. Albinoni, Mondonville, Dave Carter & their ilk sound convincing enough in that format). Also my current DAC, the Musical Fidelity M6S, a decade old and discontinued, is not a good match for my new Aurender N200 (sounded fine with more primitive streamers).
“It’s just that on CERTAIN material -- acoustic folk rock, chamber ensembles -- the difference between analog and streaming is pretty glaring. ”
Well, this goes back to provenance of files came over to streaming platform. For most part, Streaming via Qobuz is very satisfying but you do come across certain recordings that are not good. This is one of the reason why I still continue to collect recordings sourced from original master tapes and maintain a decent library of rips on my Aurender SSD drive. I don’t squander any opportunities to grab Analog Productions SACD’s and XRCD’s. Yes, the cost is high at $30-$40 but man, these recordings are worth every penny and made me gave up on Vinyl.
@lalitk Thanks, I have been postponing that approach but now is a good time to start acquiring my absolute favorite recordings from Analog Productions!
I do think there are DACs that can get you where you want to go. But one thing I've not seen mentioned is the signal chain from your internet provider to your DAC or streamer. You can find abundant SQ upgrades by employing something like an Uptone Audio ER or Network Acoustics filter (they make three, see their website). Also replacing the wall wart power supplies for your Router, modem, etc. will yield big gains as well as Network cable. There are a number of recent threads on the topic as this is very much on the minds of folks in the digital forum.
I'm digital forever (haven't had a TT for over 30 years) and all of these items I mentioned above have helped me as well as a multitude of people in their search to get better sound from their digital front ends. You'd be surprised how much of a difference the network connection from the wall to your streamer can make in the hunt for better sound.
@hickamore the challenge with digital is not how to make it sound like the FM radio or a vinyl record (you don’t want to do that anyway). It is how to make digital sound less digital and more natural.
@pokey77 Recently upgraded my Ethernet to streamer, but nothing upstream of that. Will check the websites you recommend to see what might be done at that level. As you can see, I am only now learning how to navigate this digital audio universe that popped into existence while I was busy doing other things.
What I meant to say was you'd be surprised how important the network side of the system is; meaning from where the internet enters your house, to the router, through walls or however it gets to your streamer. All the cable, all the power supplies for routers, switches, etc, are all important. And the power cords for the power supplies, etc. Good luck.
@mahler123 Talk about coming full-circle in 30 years. If only Harry Pearson were around to read that comment. True, HP never got to hear the latest in streamers and DACs introduced since 2014. But he certainly knew the broadcast stations with the highest engineering standards, and the high-end tuners that were once common (Magnum Dynalab is still made today). Prior comments agree that the very best digital components, carefully matched in the right playback environment, can now MATCH the naturalness of analog. Others say "not quite, but you can get close" using certain DACs. You seem to be all by your lonesome in the extreme comparison of digital reproduction (generically) to Michelin 3-star cuisine, or FM broadcast reproduction (generically) to junk food.
I am not sure why I should care a fig what Harry Pearson thought about anything.
I find his whole concept of “Absolute Sound” interesting in the abstract but completely divorced from real world considerations. If you live in a concert hall, then yes, aspire to have equipment that can approximate the sound of real musicians playing acoustic instruments in that space. Most of us live in less spacious quarters which renders that criteria of dubious value. Also, since most popular music depends heavily on what a mixing engineer cooks up, his criteria again are of little value in the genre preferred by 98% of the listening public. My preferred genre is Classical, but it isn’t immune to recording trickery as well.
For the record (pun intended),I greatly prefer the enhanced dynamic range and quieter background that digital offers. I began to yearn for this during the late seventies. When I heard my first CD, I was in ecstasy. I believe that people who prefer analog sound are in fact enjoying artifacts.
Having said that, I recently bought a turntable so that I can play lps that are unavailable (or were poorly transferred) digitally. For me it is the first turntable I’ve owned that approximates the virtues of digital. It is a Direct Drive, and when I posted about it in the analog section here, some people told me that it was a bad thing because “Direct Drives sound digital”. To which I say, bring it on.
However, your preferred ideal seems to be FM radio. We all have the right to enjoy what we like, but this incomprehensible to me. And yes, I have heard high end FM tuners. They can sound warm and fuzzy like cuddling up with a nice soft throw on a cold winter day, but you might as well stick a pond of cotton in each ear if you like to hear musical detail. If that is your ideal, why are you bothering to listen to digital at all?
"If that is your ideal, why are you bothering to listen to digital at all?"