New DAC Not a Dramatic Improvement?

Ok, So after much thought and asking questions here on audiogon as to whether I should get a new cdp or DAC, I decided on a DAC because I plan on implementing a music server with a Mac Mini. I got it last week and hooked it up so that I could do A/B comparisons with my cdp as is, and through the DAC. My cdp is a 1-2 year old Onkyo dv-sp405 dvd/cd player. At first I was impressed. The bass and vocals were more defined, and there seemed to be more space. Not a lot more space, but just a little bit more openess. The vocals were also moved forward in the soundstage and had more thickness. The thing is, none of these things were very dramatic. THe more time I have sat and listened and done comparisons on many cd's I find the results vary. On some cd's there is significant improvement, and on others, hardly noticeable. In a blind test, do I think I could reliably say whether I was listening to the cdp directly or through the DAC? Let's just say I wouldnt bet my life on it. I probably wouldnt even bet 20$ on it, unless I could hear the two back to back, and on some recordings, not even then.

Now I know about diminishing returns, but I would think the difference between a 150$ dvd/cdp and a 2K$ DAC would be pretty obvious. On top of that, My DAC is hooked up with Transparent Cables (MW Super) and my cdp with 50$ Monster Cables.

Continuing.. I expect some people with say that a good dac needs a good transport. Some will probably say that the dac is being held back by the onkyo as a transport. I have also compared the cdp through the DAC against apple lossless files played from my computer through USB. They are identical.

What could be the weak link? I do not want to say what DAC I am using but lets just say it is a very recent one and around 2K. It is from a very respected company and very well reviewed. My other gear is a McIntosh MA6450 integrated, gallo ref 3.1 speakers, transparent cables. Could it be that my amp is not very revealing? I am thinking about selling the DAC and getting a cheaper one (DAC MAGIC, PS AUDIO DL3) since I will need one for my Mac Mini anyway. Honestly, I just dont think I can justify having 2K in my current DAC for the minimal difference.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.
I think you have confirmed one theory that many believe in: that modern digital gears sound pretty similar to each other. Modern 24 bit DAC chips from BB/TI/Wolfson are dime a dozen, and some of the budget players nowadays share the same DAC chips that used to be reserved for high end CDP a decade ago. In order to hear any major difference in sound, I think you need to go above $2000 mark, or go with some unconventional design (non-oversampling, no-filtering, tubed output). Otherwise they all pretty much share the same off the shelf DAC chip and filters, and the small design difference in the rest of the circuits in power supply and output stage yield small audible differences.
There are several possible explanations, but the bottom line is that you don't hear much difference and you don't think you can justify the $2K expense.

Seems to me you've answered your own question. Sell the DAC and move on.

No regrets.
Jylee may be right, or it could be that other things are also holding back your new dac's potential. Regarding your comparisons, I don't mean to instantly digress to a different subject, but I think Apple lossless is an inferior sounding codec. This has been discussed at length in other threads with diverse opinions voiced. Who knows if our different perceptions are the result of our imagination or different equipment? In any event, I'd suggest comparing WAV files to the cd player just to eliminate a variable. I've upgraded cd players several times and my Assemblage DAC2.7 Platinum has sounded demonstrably better with each upgrade. So, don't discount the transport's contribution. You don't mention anything about your power conditioning, are you using stock power cords and wall power? Attention to this factor can also contribute to a cleaner sonic window that allows for differences to be apparent. There may not be a "weak link" per se. It could be your entire system is not synergistically combined. I'm not saying it is. Just simply stating that sometimes it takes replacing more than one link in the chain really optimize sound reproduction for your room and tastes. If you are basically happy with the sound you are getting, your instincts to get something less expensive and spend resources elsewhere are probably well founded.
Tvad, as always the voice of terse reason and the bottom line. I think he's right, but I'm also in your camp and would scratch my head at the seeming inconsistency of cost/benefit. I ran into a similar experience recently where a recently bought PS1 (the one everyone's talking about) indeed was not significantly worse to my ears then my +$3k player. Really makes you crazy and wonder about the marketing engine behind it all.

IMO is if it doesn't sound right now, no cable, tweak or the like will change it dramatically enough in the right direction.
Thanks for the responses.

Do you think something such as the the MHDT Labs Havana or Paradisea DAC would sound different? Both are non-oversampling and tubed. They are much less expensive though I have read very good things about them. (Although I have read very good things about my current DAC, and while I am not dissing it, I just am not seeing what the rage is about)

Photon46. I will try ripping some cds in WAV format and trying again. Yes, I am using wall power and was actually thinking of getting something such as the PS Audio Quintet down the road, but I am skeptical about such things. I was skeptical about cables, and the difference that a cdp could make being that cables are well "just cables" and cd's are digital. It seems that my current situation justifies my skepticism. The way I see it, if a 2000$ DAC (an active component) does not make an obvious difference, how can a passive component such as a cable or power coditioner make an obvious difference. I could be wrong. Also, since everything in the system is using wall power (through a surge protector ofcourse) shouldnt it all be relative?
That you can't reliably hear differences is not surprising for a lot of reasons....and Tvads advise is sound.

Consider that 1) Your equipment may not be resolving enuf to reveal subtle differences that exist in many ss digital devices.
Consider that 2) Your present listening skills are not attuned to the differences and/or that different devices can make, or that these differences are not important to you (yet).

The more advanced your equipment in general and your listening experience the easier the differentials become. At some point in time most everyone hears no difference, then they hear some difference which may or may not be important. Then they hear every difference, and lastly they not only hear every difference but the differences are all meaningful to them.

Take Tvads advice and don't worry about the fine points. :-)
02-26-09: Farjamed

Do you think something such as the the MHDT Labs Havana or Paradisea DAC would sound different?

They would sound different. No question about it.

The issue is whether they would offer a substantial "improvement" over your present DAC or CD player. I believe the answer lies in the fact that you report hearing a small difference when using your $2K DAC versus your CD player.

The Havana and Paradisea are less expensive, can be found used, and have pretty good resale, so you have little to lose by buying a used one and trying it.

You may like it, but based on your comments using the $2K DAC, I wouldn't count on an "Ah-Ha!" moment.
Farjamed, it's healthy to sustain skepticism. Good for both mental and fiscal health. I was in the same camp as you, very skeptical of the effects of power conditiong/cables. Now, I couldn't imagine using stock power cords. However, every situation, system, and set of ears is different. There is no universally applicable solution. When I had equipment with less robust and well engineered power supplies, I found power conditioning very worthwhile. After upgrading cd player and preamps, I found power cords upgrades to be much more worthwhile than the power conditioner and ended up preferring things without the conditioner. In the end though, it is true that no tweak, cable, or conditioner is going to dramatically change the character of a component. They can add small, but audible, increments of improvement though. To one listener, that is worthwhile money spent. To another, a colossal waste of money.
dumb question (and i read through the other responses quickly so sorry if i missed this point)... but is the DAC brand new?

I know that my Dac3 sounded significantly different out of the box than after 500 hours of burn in...
There is a school of thought expressed by some, most notably the reviewers at HIFICRITIC, that there has been an actual regression in sound quality from that of 15 years ago. They think that most modern CD decoders and players have opted for parts that measure well but do not sound particularly good. I cannot entirely reject this as most of my digital equipment is from this period and holds its own against some expensive modern gear. They recently tested several players in the $3000 range and were disappointed with the sound quality. They also tested an MSB Platinum DAC 111 whose price there was 10,000 pounds. It scored considerably better but at almost exactly the current rating [ they adjust the ratings for older equipment] for my Audio Synthesis DAX from 1992. They find that there has been considerable improvement at the very top of the market but not necessarily in most of it and an actual regression toward the bottom. I neither endorse nor reject these opinions as my own experience has been too limited to form an accurate assessment.
Agree with previous posters. Would add that you should consider your speakers. I finally broke down and upgraded mine. The new speakers have allowed me to hear more nuanced detail in all of my music, and to hear differences in different configurations of my other components and cabling that I couldn't hear before.
Tvad: Thanks for your advice. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about the "Ah-Ha!" moment. I was expecting that when I got my current DAC and it just wasnt there. I'm not sure I want to go back to just the onkyo cdp, but I'd like to find the DAC out there that makes me go Ah-Ha!. My suspicion, and worry, is there may be nothing (at least in my price range) that will be do that.
Don't listen to these guys telling you your system or your listening skills are not good enough. That's a load of crap, the Gallo speakers are plenty good enough and I'm sure you are, too.

Generally speaking, one-box players have much less intrinsic jitter to deal with than transport-DAC solutions. Nevertheless, I'm surprised at your results. What sort of cable are you using between the transport and the DAC?
Objective1: Not a dumb question and honestly.. I am not sure. It is not brand new in that I am not the first owner. I bought it here on Audiogon. 2 mos old I believe. How much its first owner played it I am not sure, but in 2 mos. it is very possible it wasnt used much. Actually a very good point... I am going to start leaving my cdp playing when I am not at the house to break it in, just in case it hasnt been already. Thanks.
Farjamed, in all honesty I believe there's a lot of performance in your $2K DAC that your system is not allowing to come forth. Spending more money on a more expensive DAC is not going to yield results.

IMO, your McIntosh integrated amp is probably limiting your system's resolution. If you want to hear more resolution...the "Ah-Ha!" moment is going to come with more refined amplification.

Sorry if this seems too blunt. I was trying to avoid commenting on your system in general, but your last post regarding not hearing a benefit unless you spent more money on a different DAC indicated to me you were headed down the wrong path.
If you want to hear a serious difference, go to ebay and purchase a VALAB DAC for $200. They come up for sale avery couple of weeks. Then drive it with a low-jitter source. Not your CD player. Simple, NOS DAC's are superb, but only if driven with low-jitter digital.

Jitter is #1 problem. D/A converter distortion and noise is #2 problem. Preamp noise and distortion is #3 problem. Lick all of these and you will have amazing sound quality. Not HiFi anymore, but music.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
What CDs are you using as a benchmark? If you're using some super-compressed commercial recording, you may not have any additional resolution to gain. I bought a reissue of the Vanilla Fudge record on Sundazed and it sounded no better than a CD. The air, space, good stuff has to be in the source in the first place for the better player to show its mettle - IMO, of course.
Audioengr makes excellent points. He knows what he's doing.

He should probably disclose that he manufactures and sells low jitter digital source and DAC products.
Tvad: You mention that I need better amplification. No offense taken. That had actually crossed my mind and is why I asked in my original post if my amp was not revealing enough. I do not want to stray away from integrateds though as I have space requirements, and frankly, I dont want more pieces to be wondering/worrying about. I do however like what I have read about the Bel Canto REF 1000s, and are probably the only seperates I would consider. Other than that I was thinking the Bryston B100sst, Plinius 9100, or Mark Levinson No 383. I guess this is the start of another thread, but what do you think?

Chayro: I have been using some Sigur Ros, M. Ward, Fleet Foxes, and Radiohead cds. The M. Ward albums seem to be recorded especially well. I am trying to stick to newer stuff.
Farjamed, there are many excellent integrated amps available today. Those on your list are pretty good. There's good buzz about the LFD integrated amp. There are many others.

The Bel Canto Ref1000 are the only separates you'd consider, and this is based solely on what you've read? There are many options as good as, or better than the Bel Canto Ref1000 based just on what I've heard in my system (NuForce Ref9V2SE being one option). But, you still would need a preamp.

Frankly, I'd stay with your KISS approach and consider an integrated if that's the direction you want to go.
one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is the trick of taking out the component being 'auditioned' after about a month and see if you miss it.
The "hot" $2K DAC that comes to mind is the Bryston. If that's what you've got and you are not hearing a difference, I really am surprised as it's a stunningly good product IMO.

Steve says, "drive it with a low-jitter source. Not your CD player." Such as...?
Low jitter source:

Empirical Audio Off-Ramp Turbo3 w/ Superclock 4 and maxed out battery.
Apple lossless is exactly what the word says: Lossless. Period.

It is like a zipped file. When you unzip it, nothing is lost.

Next thing we will start a discussion about whether the earth is flat or not.
The archilles heal is the digital cable....
It is observations like Farjamed's that cause people to leave the hobby or non-audiophiles to think we are all nuts. You spend thousands of dollars to get something that cannot reliably be said to be much better than what you had before you spent the money. So why bother?

I am in no position to tell people to buy this or that. I am not familiar with enough equipment or swapping to confidently say what might happen. I'm more of a single system that doesn't change much type of person.

However, I can give some cheap advice. Cheap in the sense that it won't cost anything, or not much. It is this. Ensure that you room is properly set up or treated. I find that something as simple as opening or closing drapes can affect sound more than spending thousands of dollars on certain types of equipment changes.
Markphd, to comment on your point compared to Newbee's earlier. Newbee nutshelled that the OP's system may not be good enough to hear differences, and/or that the differences are there and he just doesn't/can't appreciate them.

You state that the nature of the OP's question goes to the heart of what I read as the difference between an experienced listener and a non-experienced one. Your point about room treatments I won't argue with.

I think where many of us newer to the game (not impying the OP is a newbee) may think long time audiophiles are 'nuts' is the point of the OP's question -- that money spent is very real (and usually a lot) but the perceived improvement is nowhere near the level consistent with cost. To that end, we invariably ask ourselves "what am I supposed to be listening for, since any improvements or differences aren't immediately obvious?" Because what we reasonably think is – THE DIFFERENCE SHOULD BE OBVIOUS – and hopefully, system-willing, a very real improvement. If this doesn’t happen, the only logical course of action is to continue the feverish quest, thinking perhaps ANOTHER upgrade elsewhere in the system will give us the ah-ha moment. Reviewers and their lingo only add to the confusion, as I have never, ever been close to my jaw hitting the floor from any upgrade. Neither do comments like Newbee's, where for some reason he gets it and we don't, even though we may be listening to the same exact thing.

Seems to me audio can be many things to many people but with one goal -- to move one with the presentation of music. That a major equipment upgrade doesn't improve the sonics immediately and obviously is counter intuitive to what one reasonably expects to experience -- a major and immediate sonic upgrade. If it's about degrees, then I feel that there should be a disclaimer on all equipment packaging stating so, and/or we all need an Audio Appreciation 101 class before we get into this hobby so we know what to expect, what to look for, and more importantly what not to.

if there is a thread(s) on this I'd love a link to it as I realize this isn't really the thread for this discussion. Apologies to the OP, hope you're not mad at my post, though I have a feeling you can relate to it.
I did not catch which external DAC you are now using and comparing?

Assuming jitter is not the problem (since you say you have two sources that sound similar, this may not be a bad assumption, but an assumption nonetheless)just using any external DAC does not guarantee better results. That DAC may be better, worse or just different sounding than the built in one. Cost alon eis not an indicator. It depends on exactly which two DACs are being compared.

I would expect, in general, less differences could be heard between most SS DACS than if comparing a SS DAC to a tube DAC, like the mhdt's. A tube DAC will surely make a bigger difference.

Frankly, as lower cost DACs go, the only ones that I would consider for possibly making a clear big difference is the Benchmark for SS, due to its reputed jitter immunity and highly detailed presenation or one of the better known tube DACs.

IS the Mac amp really a likely culprit at this point?

It would help to know what DAC we are talking about for $2000. PRice alone does not guarantee a difference when it comes to digital processors.

I changed to the paradisea tube DAC from my Denon's internal DAC using a lowly Carver pre-amp at first and heard a clear and huge difference despite the fact that that pre-amp was still not letting everything shine through. i even heard a big difference just using different tubes in the Paradisea.

Then, when I finally changed to the ARC pre-amp everything finally seemed to come shining through!
Markphd and Tholt make some very good points. Audio Appreciation 101 is absolutely necessary.

The lack of bang for buck is at the heart of why I'm slow to change out components, way too confusing and endless circling. I tend to keep components for a long time, tweaking and modding to get the sound I want. Minimizing expenditures and maximizing individual component performance is the proven path for me.

Having said this, I will agree that equipment changes in the early days of building one's system is often necessary. There may be many wrong paths one may go down, you have to expect it so you don't get too bummed out.

I also don't hear the huge differences in digital equipment some claim. I've heard 64k prototype, Esoteric and Wadia GNSC modded digital, and while there are real improvements, not the best bang for buck improvements IMO.

You may simply be expecting to hear too much improvement, live with the DAC for a longer period of time, moving it in and out of the system, perhaps the improvements will grow on you, perhaps not. Also, at 2k you are really at the bottom of what it takes to hear obvious improvements, you may have to spend more to get the kind of improvements you're looking for. I know, not what you want to hear.

And then, it could be overall system resolution, I can't comment here.

I am a big fan of the philosophy "if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But, if you are listening, and think it is "broke", then for all practical purposes it is and something needs to change. The hard part is figuring out what it is that needs to change.

I would agree that if one starts by carefully selecting speakers you like that fit into the target room, then you are in good shape moving forward to get it fixed without incurring unneeded expense.

If the $2000 solution doesn't work though, then think twice before trying the $5000 solution next. You better be sure.

Or, buy used and don't overpay or buy only equipment with an in-home trial policy wit money back guarantee. Then if you are wrong you can try something else without a financial hit by reselling and moving on.

Focusing on overall system synergy will get most where they want to be a lot faster and cheaper in most cases than just throwing money at the problem.
Interesting thread...

If I were offered a choice between the best DAC in the world and the best transport mechanism in the world, I would take the transport any day of the week. Until you hear a DAC with a great transport, you really do not know what it is capable of. The digital cable also makes a big difference.

I have a MSB Plat III DAC/with volume control fed by a Empirical Audio Off Ramp Turbo2 connected to a music server I built (the USB cable I use is a Wireworld UltraViolet). This combination is quite amazing. And I strongly suggest using a computer/music server to anyone who can. You have to spend really big bucks to get better sound from a traditional CD transport to beat my setup (I'd estimate at least $10k used, $20k retail). Especially when you rip with EAC. One thing about the EA Off Ramp Turbo: This device takes forever and a day to break in (30 days of continuous play... seriously) If you buy one and hook it up, you might cry as it sounds bad new out of the box. It does sound amazing fully broken in.


Technically, a music server is not the same as a transport, but I hear what you're saying. I've also found that a feed from a music server can sound very very good.

In my case I use a Toshiba Vista laptop with Windows Media Player that connects to a Roku Soundbridge with external tube DAC over a wireless connection.

It has exceeded all my expectations going into the music server world with my system for the first time.

I also use the transport section of my Denon player/recorder to the same DAC. It too sounds way better than ever with the mndt Paradisea tube DAC compared to the internal DAC.
Tholt, Fundamentally I think your comments result from some fairly honest observations. I'm sorry my comments were unhelpful. They were nothing more than MY reflection on MY experience in coming to audio and learning how to listen critically.

I won't catalogue my audio experience, but
it was a slow and expensive process. I would have been, and in fact was, no less frustrated then by trying to understand what more advanced audiophiles were experiencing than the newbees you talk about. If it wasn't obvious I didn't hear it, even though in retrospect I've certainly had enuf high quality equipment to have allowed me to hear many of the real extant differences.

Hell at one time I didn't appreciate the full value of 'imaging' as they were discussed in the high end magazines (by Harry Pearson for example) - not a clue, in fact I thought it was a bunch of bull shit until one day I actually heard a system set up by a pro with excellent sources in a great room. It was amazing! Replicating that 'sound' has ever since been my main audiophile goal. That was the day I first really stepped onto the learning curve. The rest was incidential to that goal. It was no longer just about things like tone, dynamic range, big bass etc, not that they did not contribute.

All I intended by my post was to counsel patience for newbees who were begining the climb up that relatively steep learrning curve. We all have to establish measurable goals and learn how to assess our systems potential performance with changes we might make as well as why things we try cause us to succeed or fail.

It can be, and I expect ordinarily is, an expensive and long climb up the curve, until we either are satisfied (if not estatic!) with out progress, or we just settle and take up another hobby. Photography anyone - oop's another steep curve unless all you want, really, is nice snap shots everyone marvels at. That is relatively easy and its all in a book some where.

However, for the record, I do take exception to Drubin's remarks about equipment and listening skills being a load of crap. He must have been born complete or has remained ignorant of the growing process, I don't know. I could assume many things from his comments, none of them either favorable or productive. They may have been posted to make the OP feel better so I'll just stop at saying they were rude.
Oh, I stand by my remarks. It struck me as arrogant audiophile snobbery (and rudeness, if you ask me) to suggest that the OP's system is not resolving enough or he is not attuned enough to hear the differences in question. Which is exactly what you did. We're talking about adding a $2,000 DAC to a $200 CDP in a system built around the very good Gallo speakers. The differences should be quite apparent in this system.
I'm actually surprised that no one is holding back their comments pending original poster stating what dac it is. We're all working in the blind here. Isolation, source material, it is a crappy transport (but a $2k dac should STILL be better). (even with that digital cable, unless cable (terminatio?) is at fault??? Help us help you. Power cable, balanced or single ended... And, what music are you listening to? Rap? Fritze Reiner?

Is it just me? (AND I AM PREPARED TO BE... FLAMED)

Not to mention, help a fellow audiogoner not make the same mistake and buy it?

Yes, it would help to know what DAC it is in question.
Cerrot, This is NOT a flame. It just happens to occur after your's and Mapman's posts, but is driven by a collection of reasons not assignable to either of you.

FWIW, I actually thought the OP had said all he had to say in the original post. He compared the two seperate digital units, heard some differences, questioned the value of these difference especialy in view of the cost spread involved, and asked, if anything, why he wasn't hearing more substantial differences as he had, for what ever reason, expected.

Folks (including me) offerred a variety of possibilities - 1)inadequate equipment, 2)poor synergy 3)inadequate developement of listening skills, and ultimately 4) unrealistic expectations.

When it is all said and done, IMHO, if I were looking for a dramatic change in the sound of my digital front end the last thing I would consider is an expensive transport connected to an entry level CDP. I'm not saying there is no difference, only that the difference would be relatively small. Important to those who already have their ducks in line for sure, especially the appropriate DAC, just like wires, cables, etc, but consider that there are many experienced audiophiles who claim that with their DAC's the use of a 'cheapo' transport, like some of the universal ones, are perfectly adequate.

Then I think it is reasonable to conclude that his equipment was transparent and synergistic enuf for evaluative purposes, that his listening skills were adequate. He did hear differences afterall. All that is left is were his expectaions excessive. I would suggest that they might have been.

Interestingly, consider that he apparently came to this site and discussed the issues and based his decision to go with the @2000 transport on the resulting encouragement. I was not a part of that thread but would ask, did any of the responses point out that, at least arguably, a $2000 purchase of a CDP or DAC would in all probability substantially exceed the value of a $2000 transport and an inexpensive DAC?

To my way of thinking the original premise that he could get value out of a $2000 transport and an entry level DAC was faulty and the results predictible. Now if some one raised this issue and he chose to ignore it and take the advise of other more seeming knowledgable posters without further exploration of the alternatives then he has perhaps learned a lesson in critical analysis, but can take some solace in the fact that many of us have preceded him. :-)

Needless to say, IMHO his money is best spent, not on new/different wires, a different amp, different speakers, etc, but a much higher quality CDP which is capable of producing the sonic's he is looking for. They exist.

These comments may be too blunt for some here, and too redolent with 'arrogant audio snobbery' for others, but is my honest, unvarnished, opinion. The OP stands in the shoes of a lot of folks who came here looking for gold advise and left holding nothing but fools gold.

The better CD player theory versus the better integrated amp (preamp/amp) theory would be an interesting test.

I don't think anyone can be certain one choice would be superior to the other.
Tvad, I agree, sort of.... Normally I would always recommend getting the best pre-amp/amp or integrated first, in fact this is what I always do. I would never build a system around a source.

But my point was that he didn't need to change his present integrated to assess the value (or lack of value to him) in combining a $2000 transport to an entry level DAC (or CDP). The obverse, or a CDP, would likely be of far more value and in the future that could be enhanced by improving the amplfying components. IMHO.
Newbee, somehow you got upside down. The OP bought a $2k DAC, not transport. He's comparing the expensive DAC to his cheap Onkyo universal and not finding much difference.

In general, I do think a change in amp makes a bigger difference in sound than a change from one SS DAC alone to another.

I try a tube DAC and if that doesn't improve things enough then it may be time to consider another amp with those Gallos.
Newbee: I am not sure if I am misunderstanding you, or maybe you are not speaking to me in your recent post. You mention a 2000$ TRANSPORT and a cheap DAC, when in fact my situation is the other way around. I have a 2000$ DAC and cheap transport. From everything I read I figured this would be the better way to go, especially since my goal is to build a music server around a Mac Mini. The reason I feel the transport is not an issue is because the quality of sound I am getting from the DAC using my Laptop/apple lossless is to my ears, the same as the cdp into the DAC.

Cerrot: The only reason I do not mention the DAC I am using is because I really dont think it matters. Chances are most people responding to this thread have no experience with it and will only go by what they have read about it (which is all very very positive). Also because I do not want to start negative hype on a product when it may not be the products fault whatsover, but something else in my system. I have also dealt with the people at this company and they are extremely helpful and responsive and do not want to start any negativity towards them at all.

There is no good reason to not tell us which DAC! No one is going to treat any more or less fairly than any other product that gets discussed on this site. More specific information can only help, not hurt!

Also the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to think that the Mc integrated may not be the best match for the Gallos and that could well be the bottleneck as Tvad suggested.

If true, that just means that the amp might be matched better to the speaks, a synergy issue, not that there is anything inherently wrong with either DAC or amp alone.

WHat is the Mc integrateds rated power output into 4 ohms compared to 8? I'm guessing it may not be that much higher, ie not close to double. If so, that alone could be your issue that keeps the $2000 DAC or any source from realizing full potential.
Thickness in vocals = jitter, IMHO. It is quite possible you have more jitter from your digital out of your CD/DVD player than if you were to use it as is with its analog outs. If you had a Benchmark DAC1 you would not have to worry too much about jitter from a low cost transport. In your case, perhaps you need a re-clocker. Not all DAC's are equally good at jitter reduction - this aspect of a DAC can vary significantly.
Assuming the Mc integrated driving the Gallos is the issue, here's one cost effective solution that could work for significant improvement at perhaps even lower cost.


DAC - $2000
Mc Integrated- $1000

Buy (used):
Juicy Music Peach Tube Pre-amp - $800
Musical fidelity A3CR amp - $600
mhdt Paradisea tube DAC (more analog sounding/reduced/low jitter)- $500 or
Benchmark SS DAC (high detail/low jitter SS) - $900

This leaves as much as $1100 dollars to play with from there if needed (probably not).

Or you can try to tweak source and amp further one step at a time and perhaps still get where you want eventually.

Or as has been mentioned earlier, sell the DAC and the Mac and buy a ~2k integrated and perhaps the MHDT.

Maybe, but I do not know a good high current integrated for the Gallos that could do as well as the A3CR + pre-amp combo for that price?
Well, I have never heard the Musical Fidelity A3CR, but I have heard the Juicy Music Peach and MHDT Paradisea, and these are both outstanding products. The Juicy Music performs well beyond the $800 price.

Good suggestions, IMO.
The A3CR performs way beyond the $600 it goes for used. It is over 100 w/ch and almost doubles into 4 ohms ( exact specs available online at the MF site). I bought it a year ago half expecting to move on to something bigger immediately but it has been a bif time overachiever. It drives my big OHM f-5s with ease in a fairly big room. That tells me it will handle the Gallos as well with ease. It was also Stereophile Class A rated I think, for whatever that is worth.
Farjamed, You are right. Somehow between my first post and my second post I got completely turned around - I think Drubins comments jerked my chain, more than it should have. I have reread your post and it is perfectly clear. My appologies to you and anyone else I may have offended in my diatribes. Really! I feel like an absolute fool.

At least I sort of validated to some degree at least your conclusions that the transport may not be as important as has previously thought.

Again, I appoligize for putting you thru all my 'crap'.