More money toward better speakers or a better DAC?

Speakers need quality content to play.  Great recordings sound very good on low end speakers.  Crappy recordings sound bad from great speakers.  Seems focus is well served on improving quality of incoming sound.  The Dac is a huge part of the equation.  
Are we all ‘cheaping’ out by not spending more for a better dac? 

Showing 8 responses by thyname

And ladies and gentlemen ---- Robert, aka Atdavid, is now back in the forum!!! Under a brand new user name! Welcome back and what happened with your most recent account?
Dow Jones: name them. From your own experience. Thanks 
Hey @lalitk : who said $200? Try $2 (two American dollars)

Our genius contributor to the community 😂😂
More from Charlie on the "competent" China DACs:


I have never even heard of the brand before so I did a brief web search. They are a pure Chinese company (not Hong Kong or Taiwan), have no US distribution or warranty service and the internal photos of the MA-DA003 just plain scare me. I've no idea why someone would purchase something like this, from 10,000 miles away with no warranty support, their web site doesn't even show their latest products, and it looks like typical Chinese "high-end".


By that I mean that they pick out a few parts that fit people's check boxes - in this case ESS DAC chips and Cardas RCA jacks, and Nichicon capacitors. They put it into a decent looking chassis made of machined or extruded aluminum. Then the rest of the stuff they just copy either from application notes or competitor's products. All of the other parts in there are the cheapest possible Chinese things they can find - the power transformers, the film caps, the PCB-mounted heatsinks, the PCB itself, and so forth. The PCB quality is very low - they use a black solder mask to hide as many of the problems as they can, the layout is very poor with many of the electrolytic capacitor up off the board because they didn't leave clearance for some other parts underneath.


Then there is the entire issue of fake parts. The photo that shows the two ESS DAC chips looks like the parts have been removed from another board - the leads are not straight, they look hand-soldered instead of proper reflow oven, the markings on one of the chips appears to be rubbed off. Who knows if those are really even ESS chips or not? Or if they are NIchicon caps or not?


I have ordered parts from Hong Kong only to get completely fake things. In this case they had removed dual monolithic Toshiba bipolar transistors from existing equipment, somehow removed the original markings and re-lasered them with markings showing them to be dual monolithic Toshiba JFETs. Putting them on the curve tracer revealed them for exactly what they were. It is hard to comprehend that somebody would go to that much trouble and use fairly sophisticated equipment to sell a$20 worth of fake parts to someone in the US. But I guess if you are starving to death, trying to feed your family on $1 a day, $20 is a fortune and you will do whatever it takes to make that money.


Even if some of the parts are "real", the rest of the parts are the cheapest Chinese junk that will make the circuit work. I'm sure that the suppliers of the passive parts changes each time they build a batch, depending on who has the lowest price that week. This is as far away from the "high-end" philosophy as you can get, but by putting it in a milled aluminium chassis and checking all the buzz-words of the day, they can always find someone who wants a "bargain". As PT Barnum said, "There's one born every minute."


But don't forget about the hidden costs also. China has no EPA nor OSHA. All of the chemical waste is dumped in the closest empty spot of land, or gutter, or river, or ocean. Workers have no safety protections and are using toxic chemicals for cleaning and finishing that will give them liver and brain cancers. I've been there and seen it and have no desire to support it or participate in it. If you want something decent for a low price, just buy the Schiit. Or maybe wait for that Pro-ject DAC. I wouldn't touch an LKS anything with a 10' pole. That's my opinion - YMMV. I just think there is a lot of much higher quality stuff out there than the "Chinese high-end" equipment, from companies around the world who actually know what they are doing and actually care about it, as well.


Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen

And guess what Dow Jones did? Went to the AudioScienceReview, and copy / pasted something someone else wrote on that Codex "review". LOL!!!
For those among us with no practical experience of ownership, and only "skill" internet reading, below are some words of wisdom from the late Charlie Hansen (Ayre) on DACs. And why the DAC chips themselves are a very small portion of a DACs quality (or lack thereof):


The thing that I see over and over and over in this thread is an irrational belief in the importance of the DAC chip itself. Just about everything affect the sound of an audio product, but when it comes to DACs, I would rank (in order or sonic importance the general categories as follows:

1) The analog circuitry - 99.9% of all DACs are designed by digital engineers who don’t know enough about analog. They just follow the app note. The specs on the op-amps are fabulous and digital engineers are inherently seduced by the beauty of the math story. There are minor differences in the sound quality between various op-amps, but it’s kind of like the difference between a Duncan-Heinz cake mix and a Betty Crocker cake mix. 99.8% of the op-amps are used a current-to-voltage converters with the inverting input operating as a virtual ground. This is probably the worst way to use an op-amp as the input signal will cause the internal circuitry to go into slewing-limited distortion.

With discrete circuitry, the only limit is your imagination. You are free to adjust the topology of the circuit, the brands of the parts, the active devices, the bias current in each stage - anything you can think of. Think of this as going to a world-class patisserie in Paris and seeing all the different things that can be made.

2) The power supplies - 99.9% of all DACs use "3-pin" power supply regulators, which are pretty much op-amps connected to a series pass transistor. Everything in #1 applies here.

3) The master clock - jitter is a single number assigned to measure the phase noise of an oscillator over a fixed bandwidth. It is far more i important to know the spectral distribution of the timing variations and how they correlate to audible problems. 99.9% of all DACs use a strip-cut AT crystal in a Pierce gate oscillator circuit. It’s pretty good for the money but the results will depend heavily on the implementation, particularly in the PCB layout and the power supplies (#2).

It’s hard to rank the rest of these so I will give them a tie score.

4) The digital filter - 99.9% of all DACs use the digital filter built into the DAC chip. About a dozen companies know how to make a custom digital filter based on either FPGAs or DSP chips.

4) PCB layout - grounding and shielding, impedance-controlled traces, return currents, and return current paths are all critical. For a complex digital PCB, 8 layers is the minimum for good results.

4) The DAC chip - almost everything these days is delta sigma with a built-in digital filter. Differences between different chips is one of the less important aspects of D/A converter designs. Both ESS and AKM have some special tricks to reduce out-of-band noise, which can be helpful, but not dramatic.

4) Passive parts - the quality of these can make a large difference in overall performance, especially for analog. Not many digital engineers sit around listening to different brands of resistors to see what sounds best.

These are just a few of the things that make differences in the way that a DAC will sound.

Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen

dannad4 posts09-16-2020 1:15pmIf you are going to tell someone else they lack experience and are only capable of "reading" it is probably best not to follow that up by quoting someone else and using none of your own words to attempt to prove a point. Even worse, is quoting someone else, who themselves quotes someone else to prove their point ... but not really, they just provided a link to an article.

And you missed a big point, or maybe just misquoted me by mistake. I said:  "no practical experience of ownership". Not just "lack experience". 

OK Danna? Or AtDavid? Or Robert? How should I call you now on?

dannad6 posts
09-16-2020 4:04pm
Mr Thyname,

djones51 may tolerate your childish name calling and baseless insults that are indicative of poor character. I will not. I suggest trolling elsewhere. Your posts reveal you don't have remotely the "cred" to be puffing your chest as such.

Mr. Dan / Mr. David / Mr. Robert / Mr. Whatever Name You Get After Getting Kicked Out: I don't give a flying ruck what you say.

Answer the question: why do you have to change the username and post here under different, several aliases ?