New to DAC, need advice.


I recently purchased a Parasound ZDAC here and it worked well for a short time but then started acting up with short, intermittent bursts of static while streaming Tidal. Then for a day wouldn't play certain parts of the music such as missing a guitar or piano notes. After contacting Parasound they tell me it's a circuit issue. It's out of warranty and they are offering to have me ship it there for repair. It's been error-free for a few days now and in the mean time it's been recommended to me by Jim Williams of Adcom modification fame that I should consider the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital DAC. It's roughly twice the price I paid for the ZDAC but if I send it in for repair, with shipping, I'll be right around the price of the Pro-ject DAC new, and it can decode MQA files where the ZDAC can't. So I defer to the community here. What's my best option on a limited budget?
ratboysr
I _really_ like the sound of the ZDAC. For the price, and when it was available, it is a really nice piece of kit! 

If you are going to upgrade, you want to look at Schiit or Mytek. 

On the other hand, the ZDac can make a nice DAC for your desktop. :) 

Best,


E
Erik thanks for the reply. I really like the ZDAC as well but I'm hesitant to listen to anything at volume because when the static kicks in it's REALLY loud and I'm afraid of damaging my new speakers. Everyone seems to agree Mytek (well out of my budget sadly) is amazing but I've heard mixed reviews on Schiit.
If the price is right, try the Pro-ject DAC box. I like Parasound but the MQA alone makes the Pro-ject better.
Thanks for the input. I was leaning that way as well for the MQA but wanted to see if anyone felt very strongly about repairing the ZDac or had a third option/suggestion.
What source component are you using for streaming Tidal? If a computer using USB, you may want to just get a dedicated streamer/DAC like Bluesound Node2 and go completely wireless. I suspect the built-in DAC in Node2 is on par or maybe even better than a zDAC and you get MQA quality sound from both analog and digital outputs. Just a thought. 
I would consider a Schiit Gungnir or Yggy. Sorry no MQA on those, but I am not a proponent of that tech.
To be more cost comparative, a Schiit Bifrost Multibit is more in line, but the other models really go way beyond the Multibit, unfortunately, at a greater expense.
B
Just out of curiosity was any of the stuff you were streaming when you got static higher resolution i.e. 24/96 or 24/192 or MQA?
jond- good question! I don’t think the ZDAC will play MQA or hi-res files. If the OP is not trying to playback redbook quality he might?? be getting problems with the device. Try spotify or other streaming services orbtry Tidal non-hirez material and if DAC is playing fine, that is the problem.
@jond i'm fairly new to Tidal and I don't see where you can determine the resolution of the song you are streaming. I have the HiFi membership and play Master recordings when available. But I'm fairly certain the files it acted up on were not Master versions.
@gdnrbob unfortunately the Gugnir and Yggy are out of my price range for now. But thank you for the suggestion.
@kalali and @ amg56 I’m using my Windows 10 PC as the source with USB. I’ll check out the Bluesound, thank you both.

@jond  Hires will be played at the next viable resolution down.

@kalali +1 go the node 2, inexpensive and does all you need.

@2psyop I'm definitely playing HiFi and MQA files and did not consider that the ZDac could not handle those correctly. Well I did discover in my troubleshooting that MQA files are out but didn't know about HiFi. That may be my decision right there to move away from the ZDac.
Ratboysr- I am wondering about your setup. I think the Project Pre-box S2 will only input a digital audio MQA signal via usb. Optical or coax will not. I don’t know if you are using a computer with Tidal app via USB as a source, but that might be something to consider. Also it does not incorporate a digital out, which would not allow you to add a better DAC later, if you wanted to do that. But I like that Pro-Ject uses a dual-mono design. That is incredible at it’s price point. I am one here, among a few, that use a Bluesound Node 2 that I like very much. In my rig, it works very well.
ratboysr what you are hearing is your dac not being able to play hi rez files I had the same thing happen to me. Anything in Masters you should avoid or you will get static. If regular 16/44.1 recordings work there is nothing at all wrong with your DAC.
Well, if you wanted to upgrade for cheap, the ZDac 2? 
I think moving away from PC/USB source combo by itself will give you better sound quality and is the right way to go. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the sound quality and ease of use switching over to Node2.
@2psyop I'm streaming Tidal HiFi from my Windows 10 PC to the ZDac via USB then into a Micromega IA-100 integrated. So I'm ok with USB to the Pro-ject. I like the dual mono as well and it's certainly in my price range. I'm curious about your comment about digital out from the Pro-ject into another DAC. What is the benefit of using two DACS in series?
“@2psyop I’m streaming Tidal HiFi from my Windows 10 PC to the ZDac via USB then into a Micromega IA-100 integrated. So I’m ok with USB to the Pro-ject. I like the dual mono as well and it’s certainly in my price range. I’m curious about your comment about digital out from the Pro-ject into another DAC. What is the benefit of using two DACS in series?”

Well you would not be using the DAC in series. With a dac or streaming/dac device that incorporates a digital out connection you would be able to BYPASS the internal DAC in that device to output the digital signal to the external DAC for better sound. An example woud be: The Bluesound Node 2 connected to the Ayre Codex DAC. In the settings menu of the Node 2 one can choose to send the digital signal unconverted to the Ayre for full DAC process. If, as in the case of the Ayre, the external DAC is MQA capable then the complete MQA signal will be handled by the Ayre.

BTW the Ayre Codex is a $2000 DAC, therefore it is sure to sound better than the internal DAC of the Bluesound!
@2psyop Thank you very much. I appreciate you educating me without being condescending to my lack of knowledge. You wouldn't have an Ayre lying around that you'd sell to me for the price of the Pro-ject would you? Figured I'd ask...
haha!! Thats great! I can send you the Ayre Codex via fedex. Oh wait I dont have one, even for myself to use. I would either try to Pro-Ject and let us all know how it sounds....or save a few bucks and get the Bluesound. But hey don’t forget the Meridian Explorer 2 for $199.00. It is a USB DAC stick that will handle Tidal MQA. Great for testing the waters...