More expensive DAC the answer?


I am still trying to get a decent sound quality out of my system. Currently I am running an Audio Engine DAC and not really happy with sound quality. Would investing in a more robust DAC be of benefit?
mfdamon
It's doubtful a DAC change will do much unless the rest of the system & acoustics are sorted out...
 What are your system components upstream?Room size & treated?
What exactly don't you like about the sound?
I have a rather modest system. An Yamaha A-S2100 integrated amp, Klipsch Cornwall III load speakers. The room is a bit odd shaped but 30' x 30' with tray ceilings.
The sound is distortion... and a kinda hollow sound.
Have you thought of trying swapping over the speaker leads on one speaker just in case you have a phase problem.
A single-end triode amp like my Sanei SA-560A (2A3's and Tango transformers) would be a lot better than the SS Yamaha! Those Cornwalls have a sensitivity of 100db/1watt. Most of your listening is at or below 1 watt. SE tube amps are "magic" at the 1 to 7 watt level! Provided of course that the speakers are of high enough sensitivity (Heresy's, Khorns, Cornwall's ...). So changing to another DAC is IMHO not a good idea!
Yeah Klipsch with tubes is a great combo
have to agree with the suggestions for a good tube amplifier with your  Klipsch speakers. 

What is your source?  The jitter of the source is usually more important than the DAC.

If you are using a transport, then this is probably the weak point.  Reclocking with a good resampler like the Synchro-Mesh can make a huge difference, assuming that the DAC does not resist the reclocking.

Jitter from a typical transport:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

What is your source?  The jitter of the source is usually more important than the DAC.

If you are using a Transport, this is likely the problem.  Reclocking with a good resampler like the Synchro-Mesh can make all the difference.

Here are plots of typical transport jitter:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Sounds first like a speaker placement/room treatment issue.  You need to experiment with that--and optimizing that--before shelling out more money on gizmos.
Mfdamon , state what your system is made up of , including cablesto determination be what are your weak nesses.
and appropriate cost upgrades, speakers and room size .
your only as strong as your weakest link.
Mfdamon , state what your system is made up of , including cablesto determination be what are your weak nesses.
and appropriate cost upgrades, speakers and room size .
your only as strong as your weakest link.
The system is made up as stated above with the addition of Yamaha
CD S300 cd player, Technics SL 1600 Mark II with Dynavector 10x5 MkII turntable and cart. The weak link are my cables which are basically just copper. The room is not square in shape, hard to describe.
30' x 30' room. You really need to dampen the room with acoustic treatments. There may be reflections off the walls and ceiling.

<The sound is distortion... and a kinda hollow sound.>

Try the "slap echo" test. Stand in the center of the room and clap your hands once, listen for an echo.

mfdamon,
maybe feed your integrated a descent analog source. Will quickly show you if you have a fork in the road. 
The Klipsch are never going to sound great. It sounds like you are describing the honk that horns always have. Try some Paradigms, at whatever price point you can swing.

IMO, your weak link is your digital source.  This is just as important as the speakers and their placement.

I would not expect miracles from a $169 DAC and a cheap transport by itself. Time to upgrade if you want to get better SQ. Expect to spend $1K for a decent DAC and keep the transport, but change to a good BNC S/PDIF coax cable with RCA adapters and add a reclocker between the transport and DAC.

I would not mess with acoustics until you do these things. Only then will you achieve a focused stereo image with vocalists not being 2 feet wide.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I agree that you should start at the source. The distortion you speak of may really be jitter from the DAC presenting as harshness thru the speakers.

Additionally, as I stated above, a hollow sound may indicate that you need acoustic treatment added to your room.
Without any treatment, soundwaves carrying the frequency spectrum, IOW bass, midrange, highs are not being directed to your listening position.

The room is a major factor in reproducing audio. But your primary upgrade should be the DAC/transport digital chain.

I agree that you should start at the source. The distortion you speak of may really be jitter from the DAC presenting as harshness thru the speakers.

Additionally, as I stated above, a hollow sound may indicate that you need acoustic treatment added to your room.
Without any treatment, soundwaves carrying the frequency spectrum, IOW bass, midrange, highs are not being directed to your listening position.

The room is a major factor in reproducing audio. But your primary upgrade should be the DAC/transport digital chain.

Thanks for the great ideas gives me a few paths to follow.
Based on ideas and advice given above I am going to try an Schiit
Gungnir DAC, and go from there.
Your wasting money if the room acoustics are not sorted out..Your going to likely change tone a bit but a "hollow"sound will still be there...
I will also be addressing room acoustics... I think you're right about hollow sound!
Several path's to explore.
Several path's to explore.
Have you talked to GIK Acoustics? They give great advice and have awesome products.


Another vote for a tube amp. I have had Klipsch Heresys since 1984 (now in a second system). For many many years, I powered them with SS amps. Sounded fine, but when i got a tube integrated (Jolida), I experienced a huge jump in sq. I really think those speakers are made for tubes.
Addressing the digital question only (amps & room treatments are worthy side topics, as others noted)--I found a very large increase in my appreciation of digital audio just by ditching delta-sigma DACs and going to multibit, especially NOS (non-oversampling) multibit. After doing so, all that subtle harshness, hyped transients, and shallow 2D note bodies are pretty much gone; music has its true weight & impact restored. The cheapest really good sounding NOS DAC I know of is the Audio GD R2R 11, a combination unit (DAC + headphone amp). You can easily use it as an amp only, however, using USB input/RCA output pair to preamp/amp. You'd get one of the most praised inexpensive NOS DACs around + a bonus (and rather good/strong) headphone amp--for <$300. Just sayin'...
correction: "You can easily use is as a DAC only, however..."
While upgrading your source will probably give you an improvement, and going to tubes will most likely sweeten up the sound, it sounds to me that you need to work on speaker placement.  Klipsch speakers can get a little shouty, especially when paired with a brighter integrated like the Yamaha.   Good speaker setup is crucial. 
Post removed 
You have to spring for the current model, R-1 (link below), &799 + shipping. That's not dirt-cheap, but it's still way less than most balanced output DACs. 

BTW, Schitt may have something cheaper w/balanced outs. Not sure about that.
Agree with everyone about the amplification. A tube amp of any type will transform the problem and open your eyes and ears.

Putting those dollars into a DAC is a waste. DACs are a dime a dozen and a commodity with their overall ability for less than a $100 these days. You will discover this yourself. 

Try a decent tube amp and you'll get your answer fast.
Honestly there are many things you need to address.  You have to make a legit budget and then stick to it. Since you love your speakers, go from there.  To me, the two most important things are source adn speakers.  There are some awesome amps on the market that won't kill you.  A single ended amp will tame some of the harshness that a horn can throw. I agree with Steve at Empirical. I do have the Synchro Mesh.  I use it to connect my TV (optical) and Blu Ray player to my DAC via it's BNC connection.  The difference between optical to the DAC directly and through the SM is staggering.  It really made that big a difference.  

I'd be looking at a new DAC after the amp.  No offense, but the Yamaha is just not up to speed for the system.  It's a choke point right now I feel. There are some great DAC adn servers on the market right now.  I am actually selling Steve's former server with the Paul Hynes power supply as I have made a tremendous upgrade (costs MUCH more too, lol).  You don't need to break the bank to get great sound.  You have a nice start with your speakers.  Keep us up on your thoughts.