Question About DACs


My CDP runs an internal Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC, and a Crystal Semiconductor CS8420 sample-rate converter chip that upsamples the CD data to 96kHz. It’s an older CDP obviously, but are the newer external multibit DACs, such as the Schiit Gumby and Bitfrost, far superior to what I have now? Or, would any improvement be a slight one? Thanks.

rlb61
It depends on your current system...IMO If you can tell the difference between different cables then yes you will see better performance,especially in low level detail..
The newer high performing AKM and ESS chips are pretty amazing, of course they have to be properly implemented.
I think there have been big improvements in DACs over just the past few years such that it's possible to get sound quality from inexpensive DACs today that would've cost $5000+ not that long ago.  I'd have to think there could be significant qualitative improvements in one of the newer DACs from Schiit, Metrum, SW1X, etc.  It's certainly worth a look at this point. 
rlb61
but are the newer external multibit DACs, such as the Schiit Gumby and Bitfrost, far superior to what I have now? Or, would any improvement be a slight one? Thanks.

Your MF Nuvista cd runs Delta Sigma dacs PCM1738E’s it was meant to do SACD but there were huge problems at that time with Philips laser drive mechs as the MF Trivista sacd players proved also to be amassive lemon none have survived and can’t be repaired, so it was done CD redbook only with different Sony drive mech.

The Schiit Modi,Gumby, Bitfrost and Yaggy, all in their more expensive option run R2R Multibit dacs, these are the ones getting good reviews.

R2R Multibit is the better dac option to do PCM Redbook with, as it converts "bit perfect", Delta Sigma converts a facsimile of it.

So if your only doing Red book CD then the Schiit ones in R2R Multibit option should be better than your Nuvista, and use your Nuvista as the transport, or sell it and get a Cambridge Audio CXC transport only cd. 


Cheers George
Thanks for the excellent information, George. I'm debating between the Schiit Gumby Multibit and Bitfrost Multibit. Any preference between the two?
Haven't heard those two, but the Yaggy is very good and they all come from the same stables. 
Schiit's  Mike Moffat the designer is no slouch, he made Theta Digital no. in dacs when he was with them.

Cheers George 
Like you I had read about the huge improvement in dacs in recent years and wondered  if my 10 year old Exemplar/Denon player was out of date. I decided to buy a Topping D50 given the excellent measurements
 and reviews, together with an affordable price and assertions that it was as good as any dac costing around $1000. When it arrived and was hooked up I could hear little or no difference between the Topping and my older player. I then tried it against an Oppo universal DVD, SACD ,CD player . Again no real dissernable difference. So what can one conclude from that? Maybe the Exemplar and Oppo players are really good, the Topping is not as good as its cracked up to be or maybe you have to spend mega bucks on one of those stupidly named Daves, Hugos etc to hear a difference and that's not going to happen. I don't know anything about the Schiit dacs but I know if I'm tempted to try other dacs it will only be on a sale or return basis.
@ketchup

Even Schiit states their $100 DAC is their best measuring one; it’s also no coincidence that that’s the first DAC they made after getting an Audio Precision analyzer to actually measure the stuff they are selling.

The fact that George says R2R Multibit is bit-perfect and D/S DACs aren’t is just nonsense.
Wow ... those are some really troubling measurements on the Yggy. Glad I didn’t pull the trigger on either the Gumby or the Bitfrost. I will continue my research. Thanks.
My Peachtree Nova 300 has an amazing built in DAC that puts my 10yr old outboard to shame. Sounds like tubes with punch
++freedivers point. The difference an expensive dac makes is a bit overhyped for many people’s systems. I would review your overall system and be sure this is where you want to put your money. A lot of people would benefit more from investing the cost of a 2500 schiit yaggy in another part of their rig and going with a sub 500 dac like a dragonfly, halide or the cheaper schiit. Lots of decent options used as well in the lower price bracket. I have a 
You get what you pay for. I would only go for a FPGA dac. The 2 ps audio DS dacs are fpga based and have network cards built in so you don’t have to use the inferior usb connection and your music server/pc/Mac can be in a different room. Also, read the reviews for the psa DS dacs. You will notice each 6 months when the firmware gets updated for free, the SQ goes up and the dac is highly rated before each update. Most other dacs can’t do this. Most dacs can’t be updated to support MQA whereas the DS dacs did get a free update to support MQA a year ago
I couldn't see what the rest of your system is. I would not trust measurements very much for dacs, there are very good sounding dacs that don't measure that well and dacs with good measurements that don't seem to sound that well.

Try to find a dac with good reviews in the price bracket you are comfortable with. The Chord Mojo or the iFi Micro iDSD BL are for example probably better than your old cd player.

When I bought a better dac years ago it sounded better than my old (cheap) cdp even though I had a modest system. It is hard to say if that was the best upgrade I could do for the money.
The fact that George says R2R Multibit is bit-perfect and D/S DACs aren’t is just nonsense.
You need to read an learn a bit more. PCM is converted more "bit perfect" with R2R than with DS 
I have a Soekris dac1541 R-2r ladder DAC with internal differential signal paths. The output stage is fully balanced and is a zero feedback design. Its reproduction of redbook audio and high resolution PCM is fantastic.

While I have minimal experience with DSD and have no interest in MQA, I also have an extensive vinyl collection and a respectable turntable with an Ortofon 2M-Black. Point being, I know how to hear AND listen and I’m actually satisfied, SATISFIED! with what I get out of this DAC.

Having said that, I’m a big proponent of balanced differential signal transmission and processing from end to end in an audio system so I’ve also never bothered to hook it up to anything single endedNd cannot speak to its performance there.

Remember kids, when you’re listening to a signal that originated in an R-2r resistor ladder or a delta sigma chip, you’re also hearing the DAC’s output stage and all the other design decisions that come after whatever chip or D-to-A scheme you’re using. This is ehy no one should ever comment on a DAC (or any piece of gear) they haven’t actually listened to. Nor should you buy a piece of gear without demoing it or the right to return if unsatisfied!
Might look at a NAD C658. Network Streamer and DAC. Newly released. When they release the next software revision, it will include room correction software (DIRAC). I have one and stream MQAs from Tidal and my library on network shares. So far so good. 
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@headphonedreams 
 
I would not trust measurements very much for dacs, there are very good sounding dacs that don't measure that well and dacs with good measurements that don't seem to sound that well.  

 Measurements are 100% accurate in predicting sound quality in DACs if you listen to them blind. Knowing the brand, looks, price, etc. all influence your perception, high no one is immune to. If I play the same DAC, one costing $300 in a cheap plastic enclosure and the other costing $3000 in a nice metal enclosure, I bet most people here will say the latter sounds better. 

@georgehifi

I know how it works. The fact is I don’t belive there is any R2R DAC under $1000 that can compete with the $250 SMSL SU-8 for instance. And as an example, Soekris dac1421 measurements, if the performance of a $100 DAC for $1000 is was you call bit-perfect, then so be it. Even better: HoloAudio Spring "Kitsuné Tuned Edition" Level 3 D/A processor Measurements, a $2500 R2R DAC with jitter issues, great, as a comparison, a $750 DAC/headphone amp with Bluetooth from Arcam.
The fact is I don’t belive


That is your belief, and your entitled to it. 
@georgehifi - I’m afraid you need to learn more about DACs. The only DAC that would play the bits back as they’re stored on a compact disc is an R-2R with no oversampling. None of the Schiit DACs fit this description for 16 bit / 44.1 kHz program material as they use an oversampling filter, either 4x or 8x. That means 75% - 87.5% of the samples fed to the DAC chip (which, incidentally, isn’t even a straightforward resistor ladder) are interpolated.

Most of the R-2R DACs which do not use oversampling also do not use a reconstruction filter, which introduces its own set of sonic aberrations.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sigma-delta quantitatively or qualitatively.

After spending close to $10 k on my system I still wasn’t happy with the sound. I took a chance and ordered a PS Audio direct stream Dac and like magic every thing and I mean everything I ran through it sounded nearly perfect. The Dac before that was a dsd ps audio too for $1200 but it was just ok. I love this new Dac so much that I ordered the JR. Version for my office to play on my smaller system. They are pricey but well worth it. Also make sure you get the bridge. I ended up ordering it later once I realized how Roon worked and now stream tidal and Qobuz all night through it when I get home. 
Measurements are 100% accurate in predicting sound quality in DACs if you listen to them blind.
@mzkmxcv I think you will  have a problem proving that. There are many people hearing differences between dacs, even when listening blind. I have heard differences.

If it would be this easy all manufacturers could easily measure their offerings and optimize the sound. Most of them do measure and do optimize but I've almost never heard anyone saying that this is easy and that you can create a $100 dac that sounds exactly as the best dacs in the world. 

My guess is that we are measuring the wrong things or not enough things.
These forums are fun to read, but it’s just for fun with more opinion than fact.  Sometimes fantasy.
But still it’s part of the hobby. Addictive to some nice people that care to post and read. 

  My suggestion is to listen to
what you purchase first.  Measurements are useless compared to what you hear and like.  Like and pay for what you think sounds good.
 Today’s sales model stinks for those of us who enjoy shopping in a real world.


What CD player specifically?  How implemented matters often more than what chips are used. I can use chips well or badly, simple as that.  I have compared back to back a Schiit BiFrost multi-bit to the same designer's $4000 player circa 1994 9Theta DSPro) Closer than one might imagine, and the Theta, in all listener's opinion, was just a smidge BETTER. So much for today's stuff killing yesterday's. OTOH given he price delta its a great compliment to the modern day Schiit. So-so QC however.

@headphonedreams

Let’s say the frequency response is within +/-0.1dB, distortion below -90dBFS, crosstalk better than -90dBFS, no aliasing or images above -90dBFS due to the reconstruction filter, volume linearity within +/-0.5dB down to -120dBFS (20Bit), jitter suppression better than -90dBFS, etc.

I would like one reason as to how it could not be transparent.

If you have heard differences while blind listening, then it was an issue with the test (not double-blind, not level matched, and not quick switching), or it’s simply differences that don’t exist, which could be verified by also doing an ABX.

People just don’t want to hear that their $5000 DAC isn’t audibly better than a $250 one. 
 
How can we hear things that aren’t picked up by measurements? Solid state DACs aren’t like tube amps where the final sound output is based on the interaction between the tube amp and the speakers, a solid state DAC has a fixed output.
Think you've made your point, pal! Though nobody is interested in arguing it.
“People just don’t want to hear that their $5000 DAC isn’t audibly better than a $250 one.”

Not looking to land on either side of this argument, but from looking at the length and energy that goes into posting it seems that 

“people don’t want to hear that their $250 DAC isn’t as good as a $5000 one.”

is is an equal if not greater force in this debate.
@joshfilm

“people don’t want to hear that their $250 DAC isn’t as good as a $5000 one.”

is is an equal if not greater force in this debate.

Not really, measurements of the $250 Topping D50, I would like to know what stops it from being audibly transparent. Please don’t say “lacks breath” or other non-descript terms. The Benchmark DAC3 and Chord Qutest are better, but I would put money on wether one can hear a difference. I have nothing against buying expensive DACs if they perform better and look nicer, just realize even $250 will get the job done just as good as far as our ears are concerned.
i would say nothing stops it from being audibly transparent....
That said, I’ve never heard 2 DACs that sound the same (good or bad, cheap or expensive). I will add (controversially, I know) that the DACs that sound the most alike are the boring-as-cardboard ones that seem to exist at every price point. So it seems to me that DACs that fall short of sounding “real”, “musical”, “awesome” (take your pick) all seem to fall short in the same way or a very similar way. Which I suspect, is likely because they were being benchmarked by measurements alone or primarily (and with the same measurement criteria available to everyone).
It seems that getting beyond that predictable sound (which is achieved by few DACs and fewer still that actually do it well without distortions that become fatiguing over time) is a bit of an engineering art form.
Most $500 DACs fail the test, most $5000 DACs fail the test, and some $50k DACs fail too. So it would not surprise me at all that a $500 DAC could outperform a $5k DAC. But this does not prove the point you are trying to prove... and in making the point you are showing a tin ear to the real progress being made in digital, exemplified by a few examples of excellent engineering that are getting past basic benchmarks to achieve remarkable results. Feel free to stick to your guns on this, but the alternative is to go and listen to a few of the products that are being highlighted as truly superlative (which admittedly are hard to identify in the ‘everything-is-amazing’ audio press) and see if you can’t hear something fresh and new on the digital audio landscape.
either way, enjoy the music most of all.
joshfilm
Feel free to stick to your guns on this, but the alternative is to go and listen to a few of the products that are being highlighted...
This makes such common sense that it’s difficult to understand why anyone wouldn’t follow it. But we have users such as mzkmxcv who believe:
Measurements are 100% accurate in predicting sound quality in DACs
Listening is superfluous to such contributors - it apparently just doesn’t interest them. And - as I’ve noted before - their insistence that others conduct blind tests is odd given their refusal to conduct their own, or participate in that of others.
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mzkmxcv
A DAC sounding “boring” is a non-descript term, as useless as “lacking rhythm”.  
 
Some descriptions that can be used ...
Pardon me, but everyone here is free to use whatever language they like to describe what they hear, within the forum's terms of use, of course.  No one is bound to use the terms you prefer.
There is $10,000 reward if you can tell two amps apart ...
That kind of canard has been exposed here many times. There is no such reward.

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@mzk...(what follows is a sincere question without an ounce of rhetorical in it) im curious if you have been to an audio show or have tried a ton of equipment out a a dealer or auditioned a ton of gear in your own system? 

If so, do you like most of it? What percentage of it would you say does satisfy your taste for musical reproduction? I.e. allows you to enjoy the music?

one of my pet theories is that we all have very different thresholds for when music becomes enjoyable, I.e. how much we are affected by the technical quality of the sound. It doesn’t make someone a “better” listener, but it is an indicator how refined the gear will be before it is satisfying enough to lead to long listening sessions.

(people may also be sensitive to different parts of the spectrum and different audio parameters.)

it seems from your stance that you might be lucky enough to find a lot of audio gear very satisfying. You are lucky indeed.

A high threshold can be a curse until you find something that works. 

and p.s. I find “boring” a word that should be used more. I find it could be a wake up call to the industry if it was used more and more honestly. Do you not know what I mean when I say that when DACs don’t impress, it’s often because they are “boring”? It’s direct and fairly universally understood, no? Though I guess there are people incapable of excitement and thrill and awe that might think “boring” is kinda a common shade of everything. I didn’t use the word in regard to the DAC you are highlighting, btw.

what makes “transparent “ a better word to describe what you are talking about?

another point I might be making is that maybe we are measuring the wrong thing... I’d be interested to see (even your) brain scans listening to a well-measuring DAC that I consider “boring” vs the brain scans listening to a well-measuring DAC that I consider exciting, musical, etc... (in a sufficiently revealing system in both cases)... and then compare both to your DAC of choice. Then we’d have some measurements that would be interesting to consider. (Way off topic now...) 

Anyways, curious us about the questions above.

Doubly curious about that post that got deleted. We’re you insulting?

ymmv




...I also saw from cleeds’ quote that you were about to list terms that are acceptable to use. I’d be curious what makes your list.
mzkmxcv

I haven’t seen anything saying the reward isn’t real. If not, I’ll put up $10K of my own money under similar parameters.
You obviously haven’t been paying attention. Previous "offers" such as yours have been shown to be fraudulent and have been deleted by the moderators. I’m sure your "offer" will be no exception.
@joshfilm 
 
I was at the Florida Audio Expo last week, heard everything from the Vanatoo One Encrores to the KEF Blade 2’s, whatever Wilson model was there, and the Von Schweiker VR-55’s. And from decently priced amps to >100W Class-A monoblocks. The differences are not exponential.
Not for nothing folks, I had asked initially about old vs new DACs. This thread has gone off course somewhat, and I hope that we can get it back on track. Thanks.
@rlb61 
 
In regards to your inquiry, newer chips are much better. A state of the art DAC from 10yr ago is similar to a $100 DAC from Topping/Schiit/etc. 
mzkmxcv
... newer chips are much better. A state of the art DAC from 10yr ago is similar to a $100 DAC from Topping/Schiit/etc.
Have you proved this assertion with the same sort of double-blind testing protocols that you insist others must conduct to substantiate their claims?
... heard everything from the Vanatoo One Encrores to the KEF Blade 2’s, whatever Wilson model was there, and the Von Schweiker VR-55’s. And from decently priced amps to >100W Class-A monoblocks. The differences are not exponential.
Have you proved this assertion with the same sort of double-blind testing protocols that you insist others must conduct to substantiate their claims?

In any event, differences need not be " exponential" to be significant. The value of any difference is subjective.
@mzk...my question was: did you like them, find them musically satisfying?