If you have that DAC you owe it to yourself to get their PWT and connect them via the I2S ports. I guarantee this will be the best CD you have heard. I have a PWT and a Wyred 4 Sound DAC 2 SE with that same connector it sounds very good.
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And everyone has their own opinion as to what to do.
Ricred1, looking at your set up I would probably consider a higher end CDP and/or a transport.
I would select the CDP or dedicated transport at this time over a preamp.
There are so many very good brands out there I hate to make a suggestion.
Receed1, I agree with others that a better transport will make a world of difference, what I don't agree with is that there are many good ones. My experience tells me otherwise, irrespective of price most are bad.
As Jfrech mentioned mentioned care should be taken in selection of the digital cable.
You can also benefit from a preamp upgrade. What I wouldn't spend a penny on are power cords and overpriced wires.
The difference depends on what your sonic priorities are and whether the upgraded transport does things that you find make the sound more enjoyable. I really think you need to actually try one to find out. Either buy something new with a return privilege, or buy something used at a good price that you can sell at a minimal loss if you're not happy with it.
These days, with modern gear, if things are done well, it should not affect the sound much at all. At least that is what I have been finding in recent years. Most newer "transports" are more than adequate. ALl the rest matters more. If you rip and play files rather than CDs, then most any modern computer optical drive will do, as long as you use good fail safe software for the ripping.
The Transport and specifically the jitter in the digital signal is actually more important than the DAC.
What you have is a major mismatch in performance. You have two options:
1) buy a really expensive transport, say $3K+
2)add a Synchro-Mesh reclocker to your transport $600 plus power supply
The reclocker is not a Band-Aid and will make your transport totally important. The cable from transport to the reclocker is also unimportant. You can use the cheapest plastic toslink does not matter. 30-day money-back guarantee, less shipping.
The biggest advantage of the reclocker is that it isolates the clocking from the DAC and transport noise. It is powered from its own isolated power supply. IT is designed specifically to isolate both inputs and outputs and provide signals with minimum jitter. You can use a really good low-noise, fast-reacting DC supply like the Dynamo to power the reclocker and you will get world-class results. Reviews and customer feedback:
Also I recommend to replace your coax cable to the DAC with one that is unbeaten in the market place, my BNC-BNC with AC adapters. I make very little money on this cable. I created it so that I could provide my customers with a reasonably priced solution.
Transport and jitter is important, but gear has improved in general at all price points in recent years and practically I just have not heard much difference between most good quality players. Not theat they are are equally good in regards to jitter, just that most seem good enough to be one of the last things to worry about after all the rest. Theoretically, we know no two designs are exactly the same and some will measure better than others.
Ripping to files and playing from those takes it completely out of the picture. Anyone who spends a lot of money on a transport these days rather than ripping to file and using a music server is mostly throwing away good money these days compared to the alternative technical approaches possible.
If you must play CDs and are willing to pay to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of things once you have mastered all the rest that goes into good sound, then there is a case to be made to pay more perhaps for a transport, even if just as an insurance policy more so than anything one is ever likely to hear.
But that's what obsessed audiophiles do quite often though I suppose, so why should transports be any different.
wow some great replies above. my opinion...for what it's worth...is I'd step up the entire digital front end...maybe a used dCS Puccinni...has a pretty good volume control built in. Then down the road a preamp.
I do like a preamp vs digital volume control...but again...in a priority I'd do something like a used dCS Puccini first...get the source as best as you can first.
Since it apears you play CD's, I also would try the PS Audio transport and use the is2 connection, as Stevechamp suggested. I purchased one for under $1500, and am happy using it with a Yamamoto dac( thanks charles1dad)
I have not tried computer audio, but if it's something you are eager to get into, it seems now would be the time.
11-21-14: Ricred1As Charles and Rja indicated, this is best determined by trying it both ways. And before reaching any conclusions, you should preferably try both the balanced and the unbalanced connections which are supported by each of the three components.
FWIW, though, after looking at the specs and descriptions of the PW DAC II and your Parasound A-21 power amp, and measurements of your Aerial 7T speakers (the sensitivity of which will affect what part of the range of the volume control that is used), in this particular case I see no technical reason for a preamp to be necessary. Whether or not it would be subjectively preferable to include one is another question, of course.
FWIW, my own instinct in cases of doubt is to keep the signal path as simple as possible, by not including in it anything that has no clear basis to be included. And if that turns out to be the alternative that is less preferable from a subjective standpoint, to try to determine the reason, and to correct the issue by changing a component rather than by adding a component.
Good luck, however you decide to proceed. Regards,
Ricred1, I have eliminated the preamp in my own system since last Winter: currently I have Esoteric X-01 transport via SPDIF into Rowland Aeris DAC.... into Rowland M925 monos via XLR.... into Vienna Die Muzik speakers. The sound is marvellously refined... And not at all edgy. All wiring is Nordost Valhalla II.
I connected the DAC directly to the amp and listened for a couple of hours. I strongly prefer the sound with the preamp. With the preamp, the music is simply more musical, detailed, and effortless. Trying to get a home audition of a decent transport to hear if it makes a difference in my system. In addition, I'm going to listen to a couple preamps and compare them to what I hear when I change transports. I'm really trying to determine the best way forward. I only want to spend 3-4K.
Hi RicRed, not all DACs are well suited for direct-to-amp operations... Hence, your mileage may vary.
you can also try a subtly different strategy... Combine DAC and preamp into a single box. E.g. Jon2020 has reported astonishingly good results with his Rowland Capri S2 preamp combined with its DAC card. Total investment just below $4K list. See this short thread:
11-22-14: Ricred1I would keep in mind the possibility that a "better" preamp might, by virtue of presumably being more transparent, bring the sound closer to what you did not like when you tried using no preamp. For that reason among others I suspect that a new transport is likely to be the better choice. Alternatively, I would also give serious consideration to Steve's (Audioengr's) suggestion of his reclocker. Although I have no experience with it, I have heard good reports about the benefits it has provided to at least one audiophile friend whose ears, opinions, and system I particularly respect.
Interestingly, also, I note the following statement about the PW DAC II at the PS Audio site:
It hasnt escaped us that many of our customers rely on the PerfectWave DAC as their primary music source feeding a power amplifier directly. In fact, that is our preferred method of connection.Just speculating, but perhaps you found inserting your preamp into the signal path to be preferable because its less than perfect transparency is masking the shortcomings of the NAD CDP you are using as a transport.
I had a PS Audio PWDMKII and it's an excellent DAC. I found the bridge was the best digital input. This was confirmed by several reviews on the PS Audio Direct Stream. The problem is bridge stability requiring frequent power restarts/recycles.
Volume is in digital domain so I prefer using a high quality pre with volume set to 100%.
Aerial 7T are very nice speakers.
If it was my system, I would start replacing your preamp. In your budget, there are many high quality units especially used. VTL, Doshi, Aesthetix, VAC ... Then get the Synchro-Mesh reclocker. It has a 30 days money back guarantee so only risk is shipping cost. If the reclocker works as advertised, it should be agnostic to anything feeding it.
Hi RicRed, here are some questions for you...
* what sonic characteristics are missing, or you want to enhance, maximize, or simply modify, through the addition of a preamplifier?
In general, what are the most important audible parameters to you?
* What music do you mostly listen to?
Depending on your answers, we might come up with different preamp suggestions.
My priorities are spacing between instruments, imaging,and soundstaging. I want it all done with a neutral, natural sound. The Aerial 7T are very good accomplishing my priorities; therefore I want to maximize their capabilities.
When I added the PS Audio PWD II, my aforementioned priorities improved 30 or so percent. Music that I'm very familiar with had significantly more space and tonality to it. On one CD the lead guitar appeared in the middle, now it's outside the left speaker. My thought process is adding the PS Audio PWT should bring my system to the next level. Why the PWT? I already have the PWD II and it's in my price range.
I'm assuming changing preamps will take me to yet another level. The Parasound P5 performs many functions, but I just need a simple line stage. Why a preamp, because with my current configuration, with the preamp in, I find the music to be more detailed and natural sounding. I've heard significant differences between preamps, that's why I thought that should be the last step. My concern is finding something in the 2-3K range. I always set a range regarding what I'm willing to spend for a specific component.
I listen to Boney James, David Sandborn, Michael Franks, Joe Sample, Jesse J., Najee and many more contemporary Jazz artist.
"I'm assuming changing preamps will take me to yet another level"
It certainly can, but probably not for $2-3K. Good preamps start at ~$10K unfortunately. You might consider a passive transformer linestage. The Music First is very good at around $4.5K.
The fact that driving your DAC direct to amps does not sound better is probably due to either:
1) the DAC does not have low enough output impedance to drive amps
2) the preamp provides a level of isolation between the DAC and amps
3) the volume control technology in the DAC is inferior to the preamp
The likelihood is that the problem is #3.
The best possible of all worlds is to eliminate the preamp without using software volume control. Instead, use a volume technology in the DAC that does not add distortion or noise, such as this:
This volume technology is like no other DAC. There are actually no parts added for the volume and no analog circuits being adjusted. No bit decimation either.
The DAC is expensive, but replaces preamp, computer interface and DAC. All you need is a computer, amps and speakers. It recently won a multi-DAC shootout on Audiogon, beating out PWD, Directstream, Mietner MA, Lampizator, APL and others:
There may be a demo unit for sale soon BTW, at a discount.
Ricred, you seem to listen to music which has a combination of rapid leading edges that need to be handled without intermodulating the treble -- lest they become harsh, and lots of sostenuto in the melodic lines, which instead need mounds of harmonic exposure to sound emotionally involving.
The above, in combination for your need of a well defined three-dimensional space and images,, and a transparent sense of "natural", or '"organic" seems to spell once again the name of the Rowland Capri S2... It can be had with -- or without -- the DAC card.
Others on the thread will have other suggestions... Sonic descriptions in words can go only so far... In the end, you might need to try things out, and see what best fits your musical taste.
If the instrument went from middle to outside the left speaker something is, or was, seriously wrong. A proper set up system regardless of components will never misplace instruments like that. Before you spend another penny you should figure out what is or what was wrong. Calling this an improvement is misplaced.
Unfortunately I don't have the opportunity to audition a new transport or preamp. My other thought was add a JL Audio sub for now and down the road upgrade my source or preamp. All three options are within the same price range. With the exception of my speakers, I've changed everything over the past two months. Whatever option I choose will be the last change for awhile.
11-24-14: Ricred1Since you indicated that your P5 preamp has been sold, I assume you are envisioning the possibility of driving your power amp with the balanced outputs of the PW DAC, and the sub with its unbalanced outputs. And as is usually the case with powered subs, the input impedance of the unbalanced line-level inputs of the JL subs is low, e.g., 10K for many or all of them, and IIRC most of them do not provide speaker level inputs.
Given that, before purchasing a sub I would suggest asking PS Audio if the balanced and unbalanced outputs of the DAC are independently buffered (i.e., driven from separate output stages). If they are not, adding the sub could very conceivably have adverse effects on the sonics you hear from your main speakers.