Should I PURCHASE AN EXTERNAL DAC


I  have been debating on whether or not to purchase an external DAC and/or update my CD/SACD equipment. Honestly I am not very knowledgeable about DAC chips and I am in need of advice. Currently I have the Pioneer DV-47A Elite for my SACD's and a Rotel RCD 990 for my CD's. All being feed thru my Marantz AV8802A pre amp. When I purchased the Pioneer and Rotel new they were considered very good equipment and  had the better DAC chips at the time. I am using the DAC chip set in the Marantz for my Rotel and the DAC chip set in the Pioneer for SACD. I am considering the Oppo 205 if i decide to update, for SACD and CD's and Blue ray, (I also do home theater). Will the chip set in the Oppo or an external DAC be superior and noticeably different than my current equipment? How does it compare to the DAC in my Marantz? My budget is about $1000 for an external DAC. I am open to suggestions for equipment and any advice. I also use my computer to stream music from Amazon and Spotify (no Tidal or Roon streaming yet).  thanks  
don_1

Oppo 205 uses twin ESS 9038 chips (the top DAC chip currently), tho I do not know how they are implemented - I have one

why not try one and then return it if you don’t like it?
(go thru your music collection first to find the best tests)

you may not want an external DAC - if you do, a used benchmark DAC2 will be a good one; otherwise, it may cost a lot to get much better SQ than the oppo
Go with the OPPO 205 or 105, both are very good! You will be very glad u did  when you can replace two players with one! Also, built in dual ESS Saber DAC's with stereo RCA or XLR outs, will blow away what your old units are doing. This is a giant killer of a product for the money.


Matt M
I have your Pioneer Player.  I used to use it in a two channel system but it’s been in a multichannel system now for years.  I now use an Oppo 105 in the two channel system
I also have a lot of SACDs. 
In your case I would Second the recommendations for the Oppo 105 or 205.  The DAC is an improvement over the Pioneer, which still is a good player, but you will notice and increase in treble quality and a much more detailed sound, with some improvement in bass.  The picture quality will no doubt improve.  The Oppo can be configured to output the DSD layer of SACDS, if you were to add a DAC that can accept HDMI in the future.  The Oppo can be used to play 2 channel or multichannel downloads via it’s USB port.
Sonic differences will be very small. The main benefit of an Oppo UD205 instead of both your disc players (why have two?) would be on the video side, where you would be able to play Bluray and UHD Bluray discs for far better picture quality than just DVD. But that also presupposes that you have UHD Bluray source material (there is still not much) and a 4K screen.
You may want to look into Mod for the 205. Exemplar audio (John Tucker) did mine. Really special !!!
  1. If I get the OPPO 205 I will actually replace 3 players. My 3rd player is the Samsung M8500 which is what I'm using for 4K movie content. although it seems crazy each of my players have their designated roles, CD's, SACD's, and Blue ray. It's tough to surrender the Rotel and Pioneer as they have been loyal in giving me hours of pleasure.   Sounds like the Oppo is well regarded by all of you. I thought there would be a few other pieces suggested.  thanks for your input Oppo it shall be.
     To tfl303---what exactly did you get upgraded and what did it cost?  
Just was wondering, how you set up the OPPO for CD's ? did you use the digital outputs and /or the analog outputs? I'm getting myself confused about using the chipset in the Oppo I should use the analog outputs..correct?  and for SACD the only choice would be the 7.1 analog outputs?  
To Randy -11
I have read about the Benchmark DAC, and is another consideration. thanks

Until you upgrade your sources to lower the jitter, the differences will be small.  I continue to hear audiophiles say that a $200 DAC sounds the same as a $2000 DAC, or that all DACs sound the same.  This is why I highly recommend upgrading your source or reducing the jitter from it.

Here is typical jitter from a transport:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

If you intend to use a transport, then you have 2 choices: buy a very expensive transport to lower the jitter ($5K+), or use your current transport and lower it's jitter with a reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh ($599).

Once you have a low jitter source, only then can you properly audition DACs and S/PDIF coax cables.  Then you will hear the real differences and be able to make an informed choice.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to do SACD with an external DAC.  You will still need the analog outputs from your CDP.  Nothing much can be done about SACD jitter, except to mod your DAC, which will reduce jitter, but not nearly to the level of a good reclocker.  If you don't have a large SACD collection, don't bother.  Your CD collection will probably sound better than the SACDs anyway.  Treating CDs with coatings and other tweaks to reduce CD jitter are not necessary if you use a Synchro-Mesh reclocker.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


@don_1 
I own the Oppo 105, not the 205, but I think they are similar in that they use the same DAC chips in their digital and analog stages.  I use the 105 in a two channel system.  SACD is played through the analog outputs.
  I also have the 105 connected to the Bryston DAC 3 which accepts the DSD from SACDs over HDMI
to audioengr and mahler123:    
thanks for the advice. I certainly will consider the syncro-mesh at $599 it's a reasonably priced upgrade. I had forgotten I can use the HDMI for SACD. I've been using the 7.1 to the Pioneer for so long.  I'm pretty satisfied with my current set up but i felt it was time to upgrade and tweet it some to get better sound. The rest of my system consists of maggies 1.7i's powered by Bryston 6BSST2 via XLR,  up front for 2 channel,  mmg's for side surround and rear,  and B & K 7250 and a Sunfire cinema Grand for surround duties. HSU for sub duties.  It seems like what I read on this forum the vast majority are not into home theater set ups , just 2 or multi channel music. I love my music but I enjoy a bang up movie too working that sub! 
It seems like what I read on this forum the vast majority are not into home theater set ups , just 2 or multi channel music. I love my music but I enjoy a bang up movie too working that sub!

l am in the 2-channel biz, but I prefer HT myself.  I also have a dual system.

I have a tweak for you that will lift your HT system to new heights:

Jitter from the OPPO is again the issue, as well as jitter from your smart TV or cable box if you use one.

The fix is like my Synchro-Mesh reclocker, but this IFI SPDIF iPurifier reduces jitter for Dolby Digital and DTS:

https://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/accessory-spdif-ipurifier/

At $149, it's a no-brainer.  Just buy it.  It has coax and optical in and out, so compatible with any system.

The Synchro-Mesh is the one to beat for 2-channel, but the iPurifier is the best thing for HT.

If you have a flat screen between your front left and right speakers, you would greatly benefit from diffusors between the back of the speakers and the screen.  In my system, I use 1/4 round tube-traps to scatter the backwave from the speakers.  This improves depth and width of imaging and improves focus.  Putting a quilt over the screen does not cut it.  Check out tube-traps from ASC:

https://www.acousticsciences.com/products/fractional-tube-traps

You can find 1/4 rounds used on ebay sometimes.  See how they are used in my older setup:

http://www.empiricalaudio.com/about-empirical-audio/

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@don_1 
There is a Home Theater Forum in the Agon Forums.  Have you posted there?
   I have both two channel system and 2 HT systems in my house.
The two channel system is my "high end" setup and the two HT systems are mid fi.  Both have 10 year old receivers that I've been wanting to replace but I keep sinking the $ into the two channel....
I do think that one can get great results in a surround sound with mid fi equipment.  It's discouraging that surround sound has such a limited following and for that matter it is discouraging that any kind of system seems to be terra incognita for the 30 and under crowd
I have been using DACs since the early days of digital.  Audio Alchemy,  California Audio Labs, Theta, PS Audio,  etc....I've had many, some great and some not so great.   Most of the time it was a decent upgrade.  And then DACs went out of fashion,  but I kept using them because my digital sources sounded better and I valued the DAC as a hub for those devices.  

But if you buy a 205 you will get a player with the latest chipset and a good analog stage.   Down the road if you want to add a DAC it will still be a good disc spinner.

It's hard to find a universal "transport" that doesn't break the bank which led me to buy an OPPO 103D.  It is a great machine that sounds pretty good but the reason I bought it was to pair it with my DAC.    I would buy another OPPO in a heartbeat, most likely a 205.....or a "305"   because I will run the 103 til it dies.  
my Maggies sit out about 40" from the back wall (built in entertainment center) so I dont have the room and considering the wife acceptance factor also. the flat screen does sit behind but in between the Maggies. 
What I would like to do is have my room analyzed for room treatments. think that would be the most important upgrade. 
@audioengr  I ordered the spdif thru Amazon this morning for $149, thanks for your suggestions. 

You guys are the best! thanks for all your assistance. 
My Rotel 990 is built like a tank and has a great transport, to use it with the Synchro Mesh for 2 channel. and get the Oppo for surround-SACD, and blueray.   Would I benefit from this set up for CD's or is it a minimal gain and just the Oppo for CD's as well.
It’s hard to find a universal "transport" that doesn’t break the bank which led me to buy an OPPO 103D. It is a great machine that sounds pretty good but the reason I bought it was to pair it with my DAC. I would buy another OPPO in a heartbeat, most likely a 205.....or a "305" because I will run the 103 til it dies.


I too use an OPPO for 2-channel, SACD and blu-ray, but it needs some help:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

With Synchro-Mesh, the transport does not matter. Achieves jitter of a $20K transport. ANY transport will do.  The SPDIF iPurifier lowers jitter for blu-rays.  For SACD, there is nothing you can do except for modding it, and that will yield only small improvement.  I modded transports and DACs for 10 years myself, but I don't mod anymore.

My Rotel 990 is built like a tank and has a great transport, to use it with the Synchro Mesh for 2 channel. and get the Oppo for surround-SACD, and blueray. Would I benefit from this set up for CD’s or is it a minimal gain and just the Oppo for CD’s as well?

The OPPO will be necessary for SACD and blu-ray. I would highly recommend the SPDIF iPurifier to reduce jitter for blu-ray movies.

You can use either transport for 2-channel if you have a Synchro-Mesh. It literally does not matter what the source is for the Synchro-Mesh. It will sound identical if you use a Sonos, cheap transport, expensive transport, ipod dock, computer laptop. Does not matter.

It also galvanically isolates the transport from the DAC BTW, so eliminates that ground-loop.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


ROFL STEVE buddy ur killing all of us here! SO according to you Stereophile is full of *&^$ and the OPPO is not a class A rated audio device for 2 channel? It sounds like *&^% because of all this jitter coming from the highly re guarded ESS saber DACS? I think you need to realize that most people dont care about owning some expensive esoteric re clocker, they care about getting great sound and if its packed full of future proof stuff well all the better. I dont think making the OPPO sound like it needs something (or is missing something)..for $1200 it has everything it needs and then some!

P.S. And if you want a great re clocker jitter reducer try a Monarchy Audio DIP. These work very well and are not expensive. Another highly praised product.

http://www.monarchy-audio.com/Products.htm

Matt M