recommendation to upgrade source


Would like to get some suggestions on my setup. Currently I have:

- squeezebox 3 connected to wired ether net to stream music on my server (NAS)
- used a TubeMagic headphone amp as my DAC
- Exposure 2010 integrated amp
- Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speaker

Recently i started to experiment the change of source and had a big surprise. In my current setup I always have unpleasant brightness in the sound. Intially I suspect it's the room but after I move the setup to another room the improvement is not significant. Listening to piano solo on this thing is quite tiring.

A friend suggested I changed the source to try so I took an old unused Panasonic DVD player (S55 model) and used that. And wow, what a big improvement in sound. It's hard to describe but music just sound right. Piano is a lot more pleasant. The difference is very significant as it has also been verified in a friends system comparing with Cambridge DAC magic. Sound is probably not as detailed as DAC magic but very musical and no brightness.

Since then I also experimented a few:
1. use Squeezebox internal DAC - not good
2. use Augioengine D1 feed through USB through lab top - not good.

It seems that my $100 DVD player beat all these. Just hard to believe but that's the case for my setup.

Now I only want to listen music through the DVD player. But in the long run I still want to do streaming as it's a lot more convenient. I did quite some reading on the DAC technology on jitter etc. and it seems that not only I need to have a better DAC but also a good transport to be able to compete the sound with a good CD player. Wonder what's your suggestions to upgrade for both DAC and transport ?

Anyone ?

I'm thinking just get a decent CDP for now as I think to achieve the same sound quality from computer audio would cost a lot more. The quality I'm looking for is 'musical' and smooth yet with more resolutions. Any CDP that may fit the bill for say < $1k ?
Why not just add a good reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh to your SB3? The problem is just jitter and can be addressed.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
A good start on a decent DAC is either the Metrum Octave, Audio GD or Wyred 4 Sound DAC2.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Thanks for suggestions, Steve. If I get a better DAC, I guess I still need to worry about transport, e.g., metrum octave seems only show its potential with a reclocker. Also many discussion about USB to SPDIF converter, and those DACs that has asynchronous USB often has better performance on optical/coax as opposed to the USB, which is hard to understand as I thought asynchronous USB address the jitter issues with source and DAC in separate box. All these makes feel that maybe I should wait a bit on these new DACs.

Of course I don't mind trying these new DACs but here in Canada the only way to do that is to buy it new or used and try.
K330 - You will wait until the cows come home. Async USB interfaces are only as good as the designs, just like anything else. Some are worse than other interfaces, but the best ones leave even the best CD transports in the dust.

Metrum Octave or Audio GD are safe bets. The Synchro-Mesh has a money-back guarantee. Much simpler than going the USB route and achieves the same performance. Only drawback is that it does not support native playback. If you want the 192 file to play as it was recorded, the SM is not for you. If you mostly do 44.1, it is perfect.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Thanks, Steve. It looks like there is no viable one box solution yet. Will look into Metrum Octave with a reclocker of some sort.