get one that offers multiple types of inputs that you can use your streamer together with pc and other digital audio components.
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The problem with a lot of DACs is that they don't offer too many inputs. Most that I've seen offer one each of coax, toslink and USB. Some only offer a single input.
This is why I often mention the Emotiva XDA DACs to those that do not yet have a DAC. No, it isn't the best of anything, but it does sound good, nonetheless, and is very flexible and makes for a solid backbone to a digital system. It offers two each of coax and toslink inputs, plus one USB and one AES input. At $339 it will get you started. Later, you can add a "better," less flexible DAC for those components that you want to improve the sound for.
If you only have one or two sources, then there are many to choose from. What will you need the DAC to do? Will you be playing hi res files?
Here's another endorsement of the Emotiva XDA-2 DAC/Preamp - plenty of inputs, very good sound, and it even has a very capable headphone amp built-in. This is quite a bargain at the sale price of $339 delivered. And you have 30 days to evaluate it in your system...
I just received my Schiit Bifrost yesterday - it has the USB and Uber upgrade - total cost $520
I spent a week+ auditioning the Mytek $1500, Chord QutHD $1700 and the Wadi a $1300
I decided on the Bifrost because it has good reviews and within budget
Right out of the box it impressed with its dynamic presentation, sound stage and superb audio reproduction. Today it's sounding even better.
Played some 24/96 tracks and it's the first time I could tell the were High Res - my old dac made them sound the same as 16/44 because it up sampled - and not very well
Playing some 24/192 as I type and the sound is approaching analogue.
I would say this DAC has the smoothness of the Wadia with about 85% of the dynamics of the Mytek.
I particularly like opera on this DAC - it's the first time the sopranos haven't sounded shrill. The old DAC made me avoid digital opera recordings.
The sound stage is very deep and wide,especially on classical - and Bob Marley :-)
I think it can handle anything thrown at it - I was drawn into a sax solo yesterday - so smooth and orchestral pieces have so much width/depth to them
It's a bare-bones DAC - three inputs + L/R outputs and a selector button on front - but holy smoke can it turn digits into music.
Get a good power cable - I use a furutech and I think it contributes greatly to its smoothness
I would say this DAC has brought my digital music several steps closer to my analogue music - maybe not a giant leap, but a pretty bloody good jump
The Bifrost is tied with the W4S uDAC as my next thing to try, after I get a new amp. I've heard the Bifrost and in comparison to my XDA-1, I think the Bifrost sounded better. Sound stage was a bit deeper and the mids had more body.
I stuck with the XDA-1 because I needed the flexibility at the time.
Cost is always a factor, but since my first look at the Gungnir I noticed that the Bifrost had the Uber upgrade, which is the same audio stage as the Gungnir apparantly.
Seemed like an opportunity to save $300 without loosing too much in performance.
It would be Interesting to do a side-by-side with the Uber Bifrost and the Gungnir
I was just reading of some other models in the works, so the saga will continue:-)
For now I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy
One thing about the Gungnir - it doesn't just have balanced outputs - it is a completely balanced design - it's almost like having a bifrost for each channel
Although I'm a fan of Cambridge Audio - I have their latest phono stage - after this experience I'm not a fan of the up-sampling they employ.
I much prefer the Schiit method of processing the sample rate of the actual source signal
The stream magic 6 is a very competant piece of kit and one I had considered very seriously a while back.
If you are considering HD streaming you might want to rethink wireless.
I had a terrible time with wireless streaming WAV files using Apple products - in the end I ran cable to the router. That was one of the reasons I looked at the stream magic 6.
I now have music on a NAS drive wired to the router and my iMac wired to the same router - 24/192 playback no problem
We do have several wireless routers in the area, so perhaps this contributed to the frequent dropouts?
Lots of people did not experience the same problem - maybe it was my router.
Anyhow, water under the bridge now :-)
FYI - I have no experience with "hi-fi streamers" - I first used an Apple TV2 and used it until I discovered its shortcomings. Ended up putting in cable to overcome those.
Then fate dealt a blow and I ended up moving my iMac to perform streaming functions.
I've always thought that hi-fi streamers should be more robust than appleTV-like solutions, but I've never tried one
Could someone with experience with any hi-fi streamers help out here please.
I did a 5hr. each way road trip yesterday, lots of time to think. Came to the conclusion that unless the Stream Magic 6, or something like it, if there is something, has a DAC of the level I'd like to get, I want to get a DAC with USB input for a streamer, and regular inputs for the CDp. That would cover all the inputs I need I think. So a 1-2k$ DAC and a Dragonfly would cover my needs, right?
Doggitter - the best advice I can give you is to...
- first list your requirements in detail, then
- compare the specs of the dacs you are considering
- try to audition them - at home if possible
- then make the decision.
Schiit has a 15 day return policy and charges 5% restock fee and you have to pay the retun post - so you can audition in house, but there is cost associated to that.
Both Bifrost and Gungnir are no frills DACs i.e.
- they have no remote to change inputs
- the do not display sample rate currently playing
- they have no volume control
- they have no filters (like the Cambridge Audio DACs)
If you require any of those features, then they are not for you.
Wadia, Mytek and Chord have great DACs in your price range and all sound very good and some has those features.
Of those three I thought Mytek was probably the most dynamic and was priced around $1500 here in Canada
There are many more out there also, so take your time in selecting.
At least you have narrowed your search to a Streaming device and a DAC - this will probably give the the most flexibility for future upgrades
Just make sure the streaming device is able to send the raw files and does not "upsample" in some manner.
I know nothing of the Dragonfly so I am unable to comment.
Just another option....If you order the Schiit (or any DAC) from audioadvisor.com you get a no-hassle 30 day return policy, free shipping, no re-stocking fee and just pay return shipping. You can also often find returns there for a substantial discount (go to 'Clearance', then 'Demo Clearance Items'). I demoed a Gungnir from them and all it cost was the $32 return shipping. BTW, PayPal isn't listed as an option on their site but they will take it if you order by phone. I have no affiliation with them.
What is dsd?
The problem with listing what I want is that I don't really know what I want, other than a simple, no frills unit that sounds fantastic, has a usb and a digital input for the cdp. Flashy and busy won't cut it.
I'm guessing by your post upsampling is bad? Seems lots of text I've read about it before led me to believe it's desirable.
The buttons on the cdp remote is all(and more than) I really care to have a remote for. Not really into bells and whistles.
Doggitter - ask yourself some simple questions.
What sampling rates do you want to listen too
- 16/44, 24/96, 24/192, 24/384, or better...
- you get what you pay for and for the best you pay lots
Do you want to get up off your butt to change sources?
- some people do not
Do you want to know the sample rate of the file playing?
- some people find it handy
Do you want upsampling?
- if done write then it can be appealing so some DACs
- My issue was how the Dacmagic upsampled
- go listen to both - if you can't tell it becomes moot
DSD is Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) is the trademark name used by Sony and Philips for their system of recreating audible signals, which uses pulse-density modulation encoding, a technology to store audio signals on digital storage media that are used for the Super Audio CD (SACD).
- if you have a SACD transport then you would need it for best results
- it is out there in many DACs
- It is out there in HD tracks
- most other digital formats are there also, so at present you are not limiting yourself too much if you don't have it
Doc77 makes a good case - check it out
Dragon1952 - has a great audition option
Other DACs to consider - the PS Audio Nuwave and Perfect Wave - great product also - Dragon1952 likes the NuWave (from another thread :-)
I've never auditioned them, but I know other PS audio product and they are very well built and they use a big toroid transformer for the power supply - provides for great dynamics
I was able to have a nice extended listen with my wife (much better ears) a couple weekends ago and we listened to several DACS (peachtree iDac, rega dac, Ayre QB9, Mcintosh d100, and one ohter that escapes me) and what really surprised me was that with everything but the dac identical the dac to dac difference was plain as day. Other surprises were that with a "modest" system composed of a mac mini (ammara), rega brioR amp, some kind of speaker cables :) and peachtree D5 speakers we could easily tell differences in several different aspects of the music. Takeaway for me was that you owe it to yourself (I wont say you need to because you dont) to listen to as many as possible with music that is representative of yours (quality included). For me the enjoyment did not track with the cost as I had expected walking in. I dont really understand component karma but that system liked a couple of the units, treated one poorly, and made one almost difficult to listen to. all music was ripped lossless 16/44 while I was there with DBpoweramp.
Dodggitter - currently , 764 is close to the top for consumer product - commercial may go higher
File size becomes a factor - 24/192 files can start around 250-350 Bytes an go up from there - I've seen some downloads over 1 gig.
My plan is to stop at 24/192 - if I want higher - I switch to vinyl
Paulsax hit the nail on the head - price is not an indicator of how good your ears tells you a component sound
Dragon1952 auditioned the Gungnir and preferred the NuWave. I heard the Bifrost and it sounded better than Wadia chord and Mytek in the $1300_$1700 range - to my ears
Different ears, differing preferences, in different systems
This hobby has never been black and white, but sometimes the shades of gray can overwhelm.
In the cabinet now is oppo 981hd DVD player for my 2ch use, Nak Ca5, NAD 2040, and Paradigm Mon7's. My interest is almost only stereo. Music is Jesse Cook to Alison Kraus to Joe Sample to Stevie Ray Vaughn to Latin pop to 3 Days Grace and beyond. No classical, no rap.
I have a Nak 420 I want to put in and try it, along with a second 2040 I want to try by going bridged.
Doggitter, Mrvco is correct - any of these dacs will perform.
Which ones suites your ears we just don't know
Better than the oppo? -I would have to hear it, but probably.
I was surprised exactly how good my Pioneer Elite D_45a sounded considering it's not really "hi-fi" - but the Bifrost really is in a different league - and now the dvd sounds as good using the s/pdif output into the DAC.
I also like Jesse Cook, but even better is his band member Nicholas Hernandez - a great guitar player. Sounds great through the Bifrost :-)
What you will get from the dacs mentioned here over the Oppo is the dynamics - but use a really good power cable.
The question here maybe is - will the performance attained be worth the outlay? - only you can answer that one :-)
So, audition a couple - if its difficult to get a home audition take your Oppo to the store and ask them to do an a/b compare to some DACs
At least you'll get some idea of any performance gap.
Go for a higher priced DAC just to gauge how the Oppo's performance compares.
Other than that I'm not sure what else to suggest?
Maybe what's getting in my way here is that I'm kind of from the school of thought that I want a system that produces the most accurate reproduction. If a component changes the sound in any fashion then it really doesn't fit that desire. I understand that some recordings aren't what we would maybe want to hear, I'm fine with that.
Most of what I am striving for will come from cd's until I get situated with a HD stream setup of some sort. At first the streaming will be for convenience. As such I don't know what bit rate, sampling rate, clocking speed, or any of these other tech terms mean. I'm still of an analog thought process, trying to learn.
Power and IC cables are in the plan, as is anything else that comes to mind that is the weak link. Of course it will take quite some time to do with the funds I will have available. In fact one of the reasons I've thought of upgrading the pre and amp is the fixed, small, oe power cables the current pieces have.
Your comment about your Pioneer and the Biifrost is exaclty why I'm looking towards a DAC, along with my picking one with USB will bring in the Pandora streaming that the wife is into.
I'm sure I'm not close to making a decision soon as I has way too much I want to learn about it still.
So, another question to get me closer. What does bit rate have to do with this?
Names Loren by the way..
Loren - Bit -rate - as it applies to internet radio streaming is the speed at which the radio station transmits at - higher the bit rate the better quality music.
While on the quality topic - an example of the audible difference as it pertains to bit depth and sample rate e.g. 24/96
- a 24 bit depth file should have better dynamic presentation than 16 bit
>>> drums should sound as though they have more punch
- a 192 kHz sample rate should have finer details than 44kHz rate
>>> I tend to notice sibilance sounds more detailed and smoother on a couple of higher sample rate files I have
Alas - The higher the bit depth/sample rate - the bigger the file
Re: your knowledge - I hear you - I'm still learning every day and had several failures, but I learned a lot.
Everything in this hobby is a series of choices governed by budget. -
- Investing in a dac will give you the ability to get into streaming later and give you the enjoyment new kit brings :-)
- a streaming device will be another learning experience - I hope Pandora works for you.
- I started with an Apple tv since it was affordable but soon learned it's shortcomings, so research your streamer
- I now use my iMac because it is available - I think using some kind of computer may be the best way to go because it appears to be versitile in that it's controlled by software and can grow with new development
- you don't need a very powerful computer either, but ram helps - 4 gig is good.
Take some time to research cables - there are many good ones out there and price does not dictate quality.
If you can make your own you'll save a bundle and have quality cables.
If you are not DIY inclined I have found DHLabs has great quality cables at reasonable prices. They also sell bulk cable for diy projects
Re: the attached power cables
- if you can find a technician that can install an iec socket that would give your gear an extended life and allow you to upgrade power cables
Alternately - good sounding gear that is reasonably priced and performs very well with good cables is Cambridge Audio - there are many others to choose from
Don't be put off of integrated amps - there are extremely very good ones from companies like Naim and Cyrus that are loud for their modest rating and produce high quality audio.
Ihave a Naim 5i mkii that is 50 watts and bloody loud. Sound quality is very good.
Hope I answered your questions
I thought about putting the iec, I don't doubt I can do that if there's room enough. Same with the cables, just need the info.
The streaming will be from the home wireless network already running.
I'd rather wait and get more money to spend on better gear than get cheaper and wish I hadn't.
Sampling. So what you're saying tells me that a 32/384(?) rig should def outperform a 24/96, right? Is the 32 bit stuff the later, more advanced gear?
loren personally I'd forget i heard anything about rates. if you digitize your plain old cd its 16/44. if you download some high definition stuff its mostly 24/96 with some 24/192. not sure any even is selling any 32 bit stuff, same with DSD. if you have 16/44 material and upsample (which puts bits in where there are none, using some algorithm, it will use up more storage space and may not sound much different. I have 2gb of music and none of it is beyond 16/44. im waiting for the wonder 64 bit system personally. that one will cook your breakfast in the morning as well.
I did what someone above suggested. my local dealer had my speakers (I was going to bring them anyway) and i had him put on his cheapest decent amp and let it fly. I had the ayre qb9 added to provide a "high end" dac for comparison. Not perfect bu you can drive yourself crazy. take your best shot, listen to what you can and dont sweat rates and dont look back.
Loren - Paulsax is right about rates - I have a hard time telling the difference between 16/44 and 24/192 with a decent dac - I would not consider 24/384 - files are just too damn BIG!
Will 32/384 out perform 24/96? - to my ears it would be very hard for me to tell the difference. If you played 32/384 track in its entirety, wait a couple of minutes then played the same track but a 24/96 version most people would be hard pressed to determine the difference. Most of the difference would be in the dynamic range - but again there would be very little difference to many peoples ears
I certainly would not let it effect my enjoyment of the music. But then I listen to vinyl with all its pops and crackles
I set my upper limit to 24/192 once I saw the file sizes.
Many download site have multiple sample rates available and probably will do for many years to come.
If you think that by choosing a dac with a higher sample rate you are avoiding obsolesence - think again - within a couple of years there will be some other technology to knock it off its perch.
Nice thing about the Schiit - they have designed it to handle upgrades as technology change - will they have a 32/384 upgrade at sometime? Who knows - it might take a whole new model
Again - as Paulsax says - take your best shot and move forwards.