Questioning the need for a DAC

I have a modified Oppo 103 that was a huge step up from my $2K Consonance tube CD player.  I also have a Jolida FX Tube DAC, maybe the II version, which I have had for many years.  I ran the Oppo directly into my system (I have a Don Sachs tube preamp and various amps, tube and SS, and Spatial Audio Hologram M4 Turbo S speakers) and then through the Jolida.  I honestly didn't hear a difference.  Some months later,  I demo'd a Schiit Gungnir and did the same comparison.  I really couldn't discern an audible difference with the Schiit in or out of the system.  I will admit that I sent the Schiit back for a refund after only 30 hours or so of burn-in so maybe 100 hours of burn-in might have lead to a different outcome.  A boatload of audiophiles rave about the sonic improvement with the pricey DAC's in their systems, no question about it.  With my ears, not so much.  

A "cheap and cheerful" audiophile friend of mine, who doesn't listen to much digitally-reproduced music, posed an interesting question.   If one invests in a modern quality CD player (i.e., like the Oppo 103 or 105, which make the Stereophile list of "Class A" products or many others between $1K-$5K), why is there the expectation that one needs a separate DAC to improve the sound of the DAC?   It is not trivial question.  As a matter of fact, I called Oppo while I was auditioning the Schiit DAC, nonplussed, asking why I wasn't hearing some significant improvement with the addition of an external DAC of the caliber of the Gungnir.  In response, the Oppo rep suggested, quite casually, that maybe the internal DAC in the modestly-priced Oppo 103 was quite good.  Indeed, because that is what my 63-year old ears told me.

I'd be keen to hear feedback from others who ponder the same question.   As I age, I am aware of the desire of sellers of many audio products to strike a deal with me that frankly might benefit them more financially than I  benefit sonically.  Cheers, Mark 

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You don't need anything that doesn'at actually sound better to YOU. That's for sure. Still, with proper care your ears will last a long time. :)

I’ve heard both. The Schiit is a very smooth DAC with tons of low level detail. The 103 (which I own) is pretty hard on the top end and lacks the decay and ambience.

I would say chances are your system is naturally pretty dark. Rather than blame your ears, next time get a nice set of headphones and compare the 103 to a DAC directly or compare the 103 to what is coming out your speakers. I personally like the AKG 7xx series for being reasonably affordable and great to listen to, if a little hard to drive, which may make lesser amps sound a little lean.

Also if you try another Schiit, make sure you are using it’s built in de-jitter process.

Lastly, you may be having a lot of room acoustic problems. Set up your speakers so they are about 2' from your chair and listen. If you hear a huge leap in detail, it's your room acoustics.



whitestix in what ways is your Oppo modified and by whom?
whitestix, you're mentioning the Oppo 103 and 105 in the same sentence concerning the use or need of an external DAC. Only the 105 model has the "ESS SABRE32 Reference Audiophile DAC" and that is largely the reason the 105 costs twice as much as the 103. 

I'm waiting on their UDP-205 :)
OP, you say you have a "modified" Oppo 103 maybe the DAC in your Oppo is really very good indeed. Any response you'll get from current "regular" Oppo owners will not be relevant to your question. If you're asking a general question, I'd say why not just get a good transport and an external DAC instead of spending $ oink a good CD player and an external DAC.
The mods to my Oppo were done my Stereo Dave's Audio in Portland and involved some propriety changes to the power supply and DAC.  They cost $375 and were a significant improvement.  My room has two layers of sheetrock with Green Glue in between with significant absorption treatment on the walls and corners but I don't know that it would be considered "dark"   Well-damped, for sure.  I mentioned both Oppo's in the same sentence because they of course both have an internal DAC, are relatively low priced, and both are on Stereophile's list of Class A DAC's.  

I forgot an experience i had at the CA Audio Show a few years back.  I was listening to nice VSA speakers in a room that had a Bricasti CD player.  The music sounded great, indeed.  The exhibitor, an East Coast audio store, also had a Jolida FX Glass DAC which I was keen to hear.  They set it up so they could alternate the music through the Briscasti and then the Jolida with a switch.  This they did no less than a dozen times with three different recordings.  Towards the end of the session, I looked at the two guys doing the demo at the back of the room and simply shrugged by shoulders because I could discern no noticeable difference in sound with either DAC.  They too came to the same conclusion. The Bricasti DAC was $8500 and the Jolida, which I bought on the spot, cost $500.    

@whitestix It sounds like you are happy with what you have that's a great place to be! So relax, don't worry about Dac's and enjoy the music. Cheers!
Hotel rooms usually suck. 

Regardless of dac, how are your room acoustics?? I'd spend money there if you haven't already before any more gear at all.
We audiophiles are all on a question of sonic improvement, me being no exception.  As Jond rightfully observes, I am at a great place to be with my system, more so that I have been in many years.  Still, not to belabor the point, I am intrigued with what folks are experiencing with the addition of a DAC to a system with an already modern CD transport (i.e., an Oppo or something even better).  I will say that the benefit of the modest upgrade that Stereo Dave did to my Oppo 103 was absolutely evident within the first few notes of playing a CD after I got it back.   A profound difference for a modest cost, no question.  However, in contrast, with or without the Schiit Gungnir in my system, I perceived no difference.  Just my take.  Cheers.   

You don't say how you tested nor on what equipment, or music.

I would expect the OPPO DAC to be very good.  I'd also expect the type of speakers (and the ability of the amps to control the speakers) to be fairly critical.  We might be at the dawning of the Age of A-DACiness (an Aquarian analogy where most DACs are pretty durn good; A quality and A+ or A- but no D- DACs).

I did some preliminary testing on a stock Oppo 103 vs. my ancient Cal audio Icon and did not find a different or much difference.  I didn't have time to make up a good A/B set of discs, but RS, Floyd etc. did not sound much different to my 64 year old ears using a Sonic Frontiers Line One > Sunfire Cinema Grand bi-amping Maggie 1.5Qs. I did try hard to listen to the initial attack impulse on drums and perhaps there was something there??

IF I'd used Jazz at the Pawnshop maybe I could have heard a big difference - maybe.  But I don't really like that CD all that much.
Hi Randy, 
My test of the addition of the Schiit Gungir to my system was rather straightforward.  I played the Oppo straight into my preamp and then inserted the Schiit into the system.  My preamp is a Don Sachs 6SN7-based preamp and an upgraded CJ MF-80 amp, with Spatial Audio Hologram M4 Turbo S speakers in a well-treated room.  I had a Consonance tube CD player before the Oppo 103 and the improvement in sound with the Oppo was absolutely immediately noticeable and profound.  I think the inescapable conclusion, to my 63-year old ears, is that the Oppo is a very worthy CD player.   

In defiance of my own logic, I bought a Channel Islands DAC/power supply today to see if I find some improvement with it.  I will report back on this thread if I hear some improvement with the new DAC.  

Two final thoughts.  My frame of reference for upgrades is that if I don't hear a noticeable sonic improvement with the substitution of a new piece of gear within a few notes then it probably isn't worthwhile (allowing for break-in, of course).  Some might see this as an imperious judgment, but I have experienced it with the Oppo and with lots of tube rolling in my system, and with a couple of IC's.  My sense is that if I have to work to hear the "improvement", it probably doesn't exist.  Secondly, I think that current CD players even the price point of my Oppo, and tons come to mind, all have pretty good internal DAC's, for which the addition of an external DAC might be superfluous.

Randy, you note that you don't like CD's much.  My audio pal has $10K Brodmann speakers, VPI TT with a fine tone arm and $2K MC cartridge, and the $20K top-of-the line ARC amp/preamp combo.  His digital source is a ~$5K Modwright-modified Oppo CD player.  We recently did an A/B comparison of the same music comparing the analogue and digital versions, back and forth between the same cuts in real time.  Lots of the music was new analogue Blue Notes issues, 45rpm, and the same PCM recordings and a few SACD's.  We did at least a dozen comparisons and the uniform conclusion we reached was that there was no perceptible difference between the formats... not on one recording, not on any recording.  I have an upgraded SOTA TT, with a very fine tonearm and Dynavector MC cartridge, with a thousand jazz LP's, but I haven't played it in months as I find no sonic improvement over my digital versions of the same music.  

Anyway, that is my take.  Cheers.    

if you are addressing me then you didn't understand my comments
Hi Randy,
Sorry if I misunderstand you comments.  I thought your post and my response was pretty straight forward.  What did I miss?
For one, I like CDs.

I prefer them to the snap/pop/crackle of vinyl.  The CD does need to be properly mastered tho.

I also agree that the Oppo has a pretty good internal DAC.
Regarding dac differences/upgrades, My experience is that AC isolation and conditioning - addressing both common and differential noises - will always make a 'significant' improvement to any decent hifi system; vastly surpassing a simple dac upgrade. I recommend you look into the video on the new Audioquest Niagara 7000 to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. I hope you find this interesting as the results of isolation and conditioning are indisputable and worthwhile. (I don't own any Audioquest products or have any interest; merely found the presentation effective.)
Hey Randy, 
I did miss you point about CD's... it was just one particular CD you didn't like.  I share the same views on vinyl, my friend.  I will report back on the usefulness of the CIA DAC.  Cheers, Mark

Thanks for the information.  I have used a pricey PL conditioner for years for my non-power components.   I can't say that I notice any difference straight into the wall vs. through the conditioner.  
Whitestix, I assume you were using the SPDIF input from the Oppo to the Gungnir?

Hopefully not using the USB interface in the Gugnir?

If you were using the USB interface then the Gungnir was not performing  anywhere near it's full potential.

I have the Bifrost and found that by bypassing the USB interface, i.e. using a V-Link192 for USB conversion to SPDIF, elevates the performance of the Bifrost to a whole new level of detail.

It should work wonders on the Gungnir.

FYI - the Bifrost and Gungnir utilize the exact same USB interface.

Then again, the Oppo is a very good digital source.


Do you need a different dac ? Who knows . They all have a slightly different presentation no ? What do your system and your ears need ? Claims have been made that pro audio dacs will be the least colored of the bunch . Maybe you like colored though ? So who knows ? Only you do .I also am using a Oppo 105d as a dac currently . Sounds great to my ears . Still i will be buying different dacs in the future for comparisons . Have in the past as well . But the Oppo is a lifetime product for me in that i watch my cable tv and movie . netfix with it as well . Enjoy .
I a guess a few folks agree that the Oppo is pretty good kit, me included, probably with younger and better ears than I have.  I used a Toslink connection when I demo'd the Gungnir, no USB.  BTW, with my Jolida FX DAC, I noticed no difference when streaming from my external HD>iMac to my system except that I never had an issue with hum with the Toslink IC, but often did with the USB.  

I received the CIA DAC/Power supply a bit ago so I am going to give it a listen on this rainy Friday night in Sacramento.   I will get back to you with my impressions.  Cheers, Mark

By gosh, I got the CIA DAC hooked up in a flash and my initial impression, listening to a great Peter Beets CD and the venerable Getz/Gilberto CD in the last hour, I sense that I am hearing a degree of clarity and detail that I did't with the Oppo alone.  The articulation of some double bass notes struck as something I hadn't heard before on the the Getz recording.  Nothing profound, but my initial impression, quite clearly, is that that the diminuative Channel Islands DAC and power supply combo is quite worthwhile indeed.  

A point to note in my comparison with the Gungnir.  I am hearing nothing like what I was hearing when auditioned the Schiit piece, but then smart guys say it needs a lot of time to break-in.  My CIA DAC is already broken in so that may explain why my experience with the Schiit was unimpressive.  Cheers, Mark


how does a Schiit DAC like the yggy remove jitter?  
@whitestix You are correct, you didn't really hear the Gungnir since you didn't give it 100 hours to break-in. I was fortunate to have a friend bring his broken-in Gungnir over for demo vs. my Oppo 105D and another friend's Chord Hugo. I bought a Gungnir and have been impressed with the improvements I hear. Others who've heard both here agree. 

Separately, I respectfully disagree with the conclusions that @williewonka presents about the using USB with Gungnir.  It really depends on the source and its USB implementation! Yes, most USB outputs suck and that's why USB-SPDIF converters make an improvement with those devices. But that's where the facts end. 4 or 5 years those converters made much more sense than they do today.
The better approach IMHO is to use a source that already has a superior USB output such as the microRendu and its server performance via USB will negate the need for additional expenditures on the bandaid USB-to-SPDIF converter. If you read up on John Swenson's work on Regen and the microRendu you will understand my conclusions better and then make your own considering the whole picture. Cheers,
I'll repeat what I mentioned to a presenter at the recent Audio Show in New Port Beach -- T.H.E. Show. The presentation was about reducing distortion. During the presentation, the presenter demonstrated various forms of distortion and possible solutions. The funny thing was --- as a 71 year-old dude who has been an audiophile for the past 30+ years --- I could not hear any differences in the demonstrated approaches. At the end of the presentation I thanked the presented and mentioned that as I've gotten older the amount of distortion I can hear has been greatly reduced --- and therefore the amount of money I have [recently] spent or would otherwise need to spend in the coming years on higher-end gear that produced less and less distortion -- will be considerably less.  So I'm now saving money, and my wife would tell you that's a good thing. Also, I have an OPPO 103D and also a BenchMark Media DAC2 HGC. I have connected both of these Toslink and Coaxial outputs to my BenchMark Amplifier AHB2. I could not distinguish an differences in sound quality, although I believe that these [high-quality] components are the last I need to purchase.

Ben, Grass Valley, Ca.
I reckon you are correct about my experience with the Gungnir.  With a few hours on the Channel Islands DAC, I sense I am hearing more detail and clarity than without it.   Very happy with this little gem and power supply.  Mark
Wait a few months and see what the new $800 Oppo dac has to offer . Hoping it is equally as good as a 105 . Better would be nice .

they are saying better SQ than the 103/105 players, and they are highly regarded, so....
Sbank, The USB port circuitry on the Bifrost/Gungnir both utilize power from the computers USB port

DAC's that use power from their own onboard power supply tend to perform so much better than those that use the power from the computers USB port simply because the power being supplied is so much cleaner that that supplied via the computers USB port

So my listening test was as follows...
1. the Bifrost DAC was connected via its USB port to my computers USB port, then...
2. I connected the Vlink192 to my computers USB port, but connected it to the Bifrost with via a digital coax.

#2 was clearly superior. 

Was I wrong to conclude that the USB implementation of the V-Link192 is superior to the that of the Bofrost/Gungnir?

The V-link192 simply converts USB to Coax Digital - and if its USB interface was not superior wouldn't the sound be the same when played through the same DAC?

Both interfaces were powered by the same power supply.
The source USB interface on the computer did not change

The only thing that changed was the USB interface from that on the Bifrost to completely circuitry of the Vlink192

What else could explain this?

I stand by my findings until I am educated otherwise :-)
I happen to think that the Oppo gear is really quite good and the 103D, with a bit of mods or even stock, is just very good.  Oppo gear seems to be like Schiit gear, everybody likes it.  It is grand that here are lots of $500-$1000 CD players around today that just sound wonderful.  I am thinking that good DACs can improve the sound even more.  It is amazing the sort of fine system one can cobble together for, say, a couple of grand, that will fill your room with great sounds.  The new ELACs might be part of that kit. Cheers, Mark

 "On top of that, Sonica DAC is a high-resolution audio player and can decode files directly from a connected USB drive, network shares or NAS drives."

From OPPO website . Does this mean a hard drive full of downloaded music will just be able to be plugged into the oppo ? What might the interface look like i wonder ? 
Hi @psickerson

I’m not sure if all have it, but some Schiits have ASRC. Adaptive Sample Rate Conversion. Most of these processes work by throwing away the original data and recreating it. They map the data coming in to a (hopefully) much more jitter free clock and recreate it, but whether going from 44 to 96 or 96 to 96, the data is completely re-made and the concept of bit-perfect upsampling is thrown out the window. The Wyred4Sound Remedy works like this. It works rather nicely too.

Almost all ASRC processes trade sample accuracy for timing accuracy.

Schiit is unique AFAIK in using "closed form" ASRC, in which they keep all the original samples, while adding interpolated data attempting to gain the timing accuracy without loosing the bit-perfection of the original signal. .

Google "closed form" and "Schiit" and you should find it.

Even so I went with Mytek. :)



P.S. Vendors often call ASRC something more cool sounding, like upsampling, resampling or, supreme de-jittering jitter jail. You have to read the details to find out if this is what they are doing.
My final post, lads. I had some pals over today whose ears I trust, much younger than me,  all with a mortgage-load of audio gear.  It was easy to switch between the Oppo 103 straight-in to the Don Sach's preamp vs. run through the Channel Islands DAC.  I provided the "ear lube" via a local micro-brew pub for the fellas and it was much appreciated by the feedback.  

The conclusion is clear:  On an A/B test, no listener was able to identify the difference in sound with or without the DAC in any consistent fashion.  Often as not, a listener who thought he could perceive a difference, was surprised to learn that the DAC was out in the loop.  I  personally, switching the selector, might have perceived a 5% difference in improvement in the performance of my system with the DAC, but that might be my desire to validate my expenditure for the DAC.  As I continue to perform this comparison after my pals left, I do think there is a maybe 5% improvement in the sound overall, with maybe a bit more clarity, but it is quite subtle.  

So, the conclusion I have reached is that you have a pretty good DAC, or an Oppo upgraded by somebody (mine was upgraded by Stereo Dave and the upgrade was instantly apparent), the sonic value of a DAC in the sub-$1000 price range might be an expense of dubious value.

BTW, I upgraded pair of Mundorf Silver Oils output caps for Jupiter Copper caps in my preamp at the same time I hooked up the CIA DAC so that might have swayed my initial favorable impression the DAC.  The Jupiters caps are a 10% improvement in the sound of the already excellent Don Sachs preamp -- by far the best I have heard in my system.

Cheers, Mark

@williewonka Your findings make perfect sense given the gear you tested, but I am trying to explain something further(i.e. ComputerAudio301 vs. ComputerAudio201which you've already aced!)

"DAC's that use power from their own onboard power supply tend to perform so much better than those that use the power from the computers USB port simply because the power being supplied is so much cleaner that that supplied via the computers USB port" That is true with a PC or mac, but not true with a single purpose low power designed with a better USB output implementation, linux operating system not running a bunch of extra non-audio processes,  and not plugged into a noisy high voltage power supply like a typical computer. For example, a Sonore microRendu or even a $35 Raspberry Pi powered by any decent linear power supply will run fewer processes which could generate noise, and will draw less current which generates noise or attracts EMI noise. What goes via USB to the DAC is far better than what went out of the full function PC or Mac to the Vlink adapter in your test.  

"So my listening test was as follows...
1. the Bifrost DAC was connected via its USB port to my computers USB port, then...
2. I connected the Vlink192 to my computers USB port, but connected it to the Bifrost with via a digital coax.

#2 was clearly superior. " Yes, makes perfect sense!

Was I wrong to conclude that the USB implementation of the V-Link192 is superior to the that of the Bofrost/Gungnir? Yes, wrong conclusion. The proper conclusion is that the V-Link 192 & coax cable allows the DAC to receive better/quieter signal vs. the noisy USB output of your noisy computer.  

"The V-link192 simply converts USB to Coax Digital - and if its USB interface was not superior wouldn't the sound be the same when played through the same DAC?" I think you meant to type that USB is Inferior, not superior? In any case, the issue is more about the computer or other source and less about the DAC. 

That's why aftermarket tweaks like the VLink, uber expensive Berkeley USB-SPDIF adapter, USB cleaners Regen & Intona are popular. That's partially why audio software packages attempt to shut down unnecessary processes running on Mac O/S or Windows O/S. That's why people try all kinds of A/C filtering, power supplies etc on their computers. Because all these things attempt in some way to fight the crap that degrades digital audio signal going to the DAC. If you win that battle (by eliminating the multi-purpose computer!) and pair with DAC you prefer you stand a good chance of winning the war. Cheers,
Whitestix I'd be interested to hear which 'pricey' power conditioner you use and of course how you use it.
Was I wrong to conclude that the USB implementation of the V-Link192 is superior to the that of the Bofrost/Gungnir? Yes, wrong conclusion. The proper conclusion is that the V-Link 192 & coax cable allows the DAC to receive better/quieter signal vs. the noisy USB output of your noisy computer.

OK - so after reading your last post - here’s how I see it...
  1. the V-link USB interface is processing the very same signal as the Bifrost’s USB interface
  2. Somehow, with the V-link in the mix, the Bifrost sounds significantly better
  3. From what you have said this is more due to the ability for the V-link to "clean up" the digital signal, as opposed to the quality of the USB interface employed in each component.
  4. OK, I can see how that is probably the more significant cause for improvement - but perhaps not the only one :-)
In my defence, I guess my conclusion may have been tainted by the fact that I had previously installed the SCHIIT USB Upgrade board which improved SQ somewhat, so I assumed the V-links’s USB circuit alone was providing the benefit.

FYI, in my system I use a dual lead USB cable - one lead carries only the signal and the other lead carries only the power and they are joined at the end of the cable that plugs into the DAC (or V-link). I have also implemented a separate, very stable power supply in order to eliminate the USB power related issues.

However, the difference the V-link made was also easily noticed even when using a standard USB cable that provides power from the computer.

So when the original poster stated the Gungnir did not provide too much of an improvement I figured I’d post my findings. which I believe still stand ...

  • To get the very best out of the Gungnir (or Bifrost), you have to bypass its USB port


@williewonka That's all very interesting and insightful. I also tried a dual-headed USB from computer to DAC and it did help on its own to decrease noise from the computer to a small degree. Glad to hear you are using an upgraded LPS on the computer.

I am not doubting the benefit you hear from the Vlink, but my conclusion is that "To get the very best out of the Gungnir (or Bifrost), you have to" feed it from a good single purpose source component. Then you don't need to bypass its USB port. I would assert that Vlink would provide little improvement between my microRendu and Gungnir  Bring it over sometime and we can test it out. Cheers,
Spencer - where do you live ? I'll be right over :-)

Anywhere near Toronto, Canada?

Kidding aside - given the opportunity, I'm always willing to  get together with other Audio enthusiasts to "compare notes"

There are so many different things to try and time prevents us from trying all of them - that's why Audiogon is the perfect place to share information and approaches taken by its members

Good chatting with you

I did a A/B test with the CIA DAC/power supply vs. straight in from the Oppo (it was just twist of the selector knob on the preamp) and honestly I didn't find any noticeable difference in sound in a 100+ comparisons with lots of different music.  It is what it is.  

I'm not saying there is no difference between CIA DAC and Oppo, but there is a point where the quality of the interconnect (as well as power cord, resolution of the preamp/amp, etc.) becomes a limiting factor.  I have experienced comparing two DACS with, for example, an old Harmonic Tech interconnect.  I could not hear any difference between the two.  However, when using a self-constructed OCC copper solid-core braided interconnect, I could definitely hear that one DAC was highly superior.  In this case, the Harmonic Tech was limiting the resolution from the DAC source.
Good point, Aux, I might have to swap some IC's around to make an apples-to-apples comparison.  

Whitestix -  FYI - over the last 4 years I have found that IC's and PC's can degrade or enhance the performance of any component.

Trying to perform a comparison of two components connected with different IC's and PC's can result in an inaccurate assessment

Quality PC's in particular, can have a huge impact on the performance of a connected component but it also depends on how good the power supply of that component is.

I found that the better the power supply, the less "noticeable" impact the PC had, but I hasten to add that the improvements of a good PC on a component with a good power supply, the improvements became more subtle and refined (i.e. I had to listen more intently initially)

An example of this ...

- my Bifrost DAC (with an OK power supply), when connected with an excellent PC and IC provided a most noticeable improvement in dynamics, imaging, bass depth etc..

- whereas attaching the same cables to my Simaudio Moon phono stage, (that has a better quality power supply) provided more subtle improvements in the extremely fine details and clarity

- my amp. having the biggest power supply, seemed to improve the least, but the improvements were there in the acoustics of the venue, hence a more realistic overall presentation 

When I experienced just how much difference cables made, it became apparent that my components were capable of performing so much better than I had realized and to get them all performing at their best, I decided all my cables had perform to the same level.

Good luck with your comparisons
@williewonka You're welcome anytime you come down Philadelphia way. Off topic, I love Toronto and used to spend many weekends there when I live just "across the lake" in Rochester. One of my fav record store towns back in the day. Hope vinyl still thrives there. Cheers,
Spencer, if you know where to look there is plenty of vinyl, especially around the Queen/University-Spadina area.

One of the nicest stores for previously enjoyed albums is called Around Again (nice play on words). Most of their stuff is top notch and you can trade your old albums in for a store credit. They also have a couple of TT’s with headphones so you can listen before you buy - do you remember those days? We had a store in the UK with actual listening booths - when I was a kid :-)

I picked up a 1958 Chris Barber album in great condition a few years back from Around Again for around $8 CDN

You should bring your US$ up some time for a visit :-)

Toronto is also a great area for audiophilia, with lots of high-end stores that also carry a selection of high quality vinyl as well.

It’s a really good place to live if you are into audio, but alas, my wife retires soon, so we are moving 100 miles further north to the ski areas, which means I gotta get out and hi-fi shop before we move :-)


Thanks to all who provided their views on this issue.  I used Morrow IC's all the way around in my system and with or without the CIA DAC and external power supply in the loop, the sound from my Oppo was indistinguisable.  Same same, no difference that my ears could perceive. I have employed a dozen different power cords in various components in my system and was never able to perceive a difference with any of them.  Zero, nada.  However, my tube guru Don Sachs, who is a denier about a lot of tweaks, claims he can perceive power cord differences and his ears I trust so I don't discount that younger, better trained, ears than mine do find improvements with various power cords.  I have a Powervar 12 amp power conditioner to which all my gear, except for the amp, uses as a power source, the same power conditioner that Don uses in his system.  

Whitesix, discerning a difference between two components is something I also found to be very difficult in the beginning..

It wasn't until I got into reviewing some high priced cables/RCA's for the manufacturer and devoting a lot of time to what I refer to as "the art of listening", that I was able to notice small, but discernible improvements.

I started with a collection of about 20 tracks that I thought might indicate improvements in an audition. Over time that list changed, as I heard other tracks in which I heard sounds that were never before noticed, or were more pronounced. The number of my audition tracks is now over 50  and some of the original tracks are no longer used for evaluations.

I've listened to those tracks over and over and I am now very familiar with their various subtleties.

The other thing about auditioning - you have to allow time for the cables to settle and the components to burn in (if they are new).
- I've auditioned cables that took 3 days just to settle and over 300 hours to burn in - painful!

It's not what i would call f fun and I would recommend that if you are happy with the sound/components you have, then don't bother chasing nirvana unless you have endless cash :-(

I know people in this hobby tend to look for the next best sounding components, but I do not, I just like to get the best performance out of the components I have.

All of my cables are DIY and they provide amazing fidelity, bettering some very high priced commercial products out there.

For now - I am extremely happy with my system and no longer chase after better components or cables.

I'm just enjoying the music - finally :-)

I respect your methodical approach to listening for nuances and details regarding cabling, but that isn't the way I roll.  I have a stressful career in which I have to remain focused on every detail, and the last thing I care to do is have to bring that same focus and concentration to discerning nuances between cables.  Just the opposite, in fact.   And goofy expensive cables are not going to grace my system as a matter of principle, as I am very aware of the law of diminishing returns.  For my CIA A/B test, all the Morrow cabling was the same and run in for a couple of years.  I stand by personal observation that the DAC in my Oppo 103D is not going to be much improved upon by a sub-$1000 DAC.  However, if one hears an improvement with the addition of a DAC, then good for them and my observations are irrelevant.  

My audio credo is very simple, if a bit peremptory:   If it don't hear a significant difference within a couple measures of music, it probably isn't worth it.  (This after 100 hours of break in for cabling and for new electronics).  If I have to labor to hear a difference, then it takes the joy out of the experience and I am probably deluding myself into thinking I am hearing an improvement. I have SR fuses and honestly can't tell a difference in sound over a cheap fuse.  I tried Shakti blocks and SR "dots" on the wall (and subjected myself to a lot ribbing from my audiophile pals who participated in the test of efficacy of the dots), and a boatload of other tweaks and sent them back for a refund.  However, in the mid-80's, I was one of Mod Squad's first customers for Tip Toes (spikes for speakers), and the improvement in sound was immediate and profound.   Now Art Dudley says spikes detract from the sound so everybody has to figure it out for themselves.  Fooling around with these tweaks is a lot of fun and can sometimes be very worthwhile, but in my experience, mostly not.   Look for a money-back deal if you try them.

To wit, I added a used McCormack DNA .05 amp to my system yesterday and OMG, the improvement in sound was thoroughly evident within 30 seconds!  It just blows me away how detailed and dynamic the music now sounds, with amazing LF slam, fading away to dead silence.  It is the finest amp I have ever heard in my system and I have had some very good ones (Modwright, Moscode 300, Berning, H-K II & V, various CJ, Belles, Bel Canto, etc.)   

Thanks again for your contribution to this thread.  Cheers, Mark


@whitestix - I know you have just said you are not going to look at different cables.  I wanted to point out that a cable that has limited resolution will not be able to reveal differences between DACs.  I have experienced this directly.  Using one cable when comparing DACs did not reveal any difference at all.  However, when I used a second (different) cable, it became obvious that one DAC was significantly superior to the other DAC.  I'm not going to mention brands, just that you may have experienced this and not known it.
Fair enough, I reckon that increasingly pricey IC's might reveal some nuances to my chain of audio gear.  No question, many experience this and good for them.  The difference between a Radio Shack IC or power cord and the same from Morrow Audio is a no-brainer, the clarity and definition is quite apparent. Moving to the realm of cabling beyond that price point, in my experience, is of dubious value.  

There are two adages that come to mind.  First, you get what you pay for.  Second, you pays your money and takes your chances.  My view is that you ought to try every tweak you have available... so long as you get a money-back guarantee. Let your ears be your guide. Cheers.