Sound improvement with DAC, or Amp update

Hi there, i am a newbie to audio equipment. I recently got an upgrade of speaker from a 20 years old Mordaunt short MS10 to a B&W 606 S2. I am really enjoying the new sound and music that resulted from the update, and found myself drawn to listening more and wanting more.

I am currently using an old AV surround receiver Yamaha (HTR-5830) that is  delivering 110 Watts per channel on stereo to drive the 606 S2. My streamer source is - youtube music / Amazon prime HD music, running on Ubuntu PC with on board sound card, feeding via S/PDIF optical to the Yamaha Amp.

Looking for advice on what I could do for better sound quality with another small investment, should I consider my next upgrade on a DAC (e.g.Cambridge Dacmagic 200), or swap out the Yamaha  HTR5830 to a more modern integrated Amp with DAC (e.g. CXA81), or a new streamer device ?, which would have the most positive impact on the sound quality with my new 606 S2 speaker ?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Best Wishes, Paul




Congratulations on the new speakers. You have started the right way. Your challenge is going to be that you want to make a “small investment “. With the price of gears nowadays, it’s not going to be easy. Clearly, your best investment is going to be a more modern integrated. Later, you can look at your source. Not sure how good your PC is as a source, but I know you can squeeze some good sound out of a Mac-mini with the right software (think Audirvana). Depending on what kind of music you listen to, the addition of a good subwoofer might be just what the doctor ordered. Good luck and have fun getting to your sweet spot.

I also believe an integrated amplifier would be the way to go. Many have built in DACs. Then check out the many threads here on AG regarding streamers. There are better ways to go on a budget.  Get an integrated that does justice to your speakers 1st.

At what budget is your 'small investment' ?

Cambridge Audio CXA81

Available under a grand used. Should match well with your speakers,

Check out TMR search integrated amps.

I believe DAC update will involve more performance increase instead of amp update, in relation to the money spent.

Of course if you can afford it, best choice is good amp with good integrated DAC.

@mesch  +1


Surround processors do not make good audio components. An integrated amp… stretch to buy the best possible will put you on the long term path to better sound. 

Normally I would say DAC, but it's your AVR that is the weakness piece right now. I had a top-end Denon AVR which I replaced with a Luxman integrated first and it made a significant, and easy to hear difference. I doubt you'd hear that much of an improvement with a new DAC/Streamer first. If you can afford a separate integrated and DAC, that's great, but there are now many high quality integrated amps with high quality built-in DACs. In my experience, replacing the AVR is first on your list. One other item, talk with other B&W owners/sellers (forum or where you buy your equipment) for a good amp to match your new speakers.

Thanks for the valuable input guys. Based on your feedbackj, I have decided to get a new integrated amp with DAC . Am contemplating between CXA81, Yamaha A-S801, Rotel A14. Seems to have mixed reviews from reviewer comparing specs. Wondering if any had experienced the above options, or anything else. What would be a good fit if I enjoyed classical, new age classical and piano music, and occasionally R&B.


Best Wishes,

I’m far from an expert, but after looking at the specs on your B&W speakers and Yamaha receiver, I would think that you’d benefit more from a better amplifier than a DAC.


The Cambridge Audio integrated lists for $1,500. It looks to have preouts that would allow for a power amplifier upgrade in the future (Good). It’s rated at 4 ohms (Good). Is Class AB (good).

The Yamaha integrated lists for $900. It looks to have preouts (good). It’s only rated for 6 ohms that should work with your speakers, but a 4 ohm rating is a strong indicator of a better amplifier. Looks to have a decent DAC (good).

The Rotel integrated lists for $1,600. It looks to have preouts (good). It is rated for 4 ohms (good). Looks to have a great DAC feature set (good).

I don’t have experience with any of these components, but have had a couple of Cambridge Audio amplifiers briefly and really didn’t like the sound. It was "grainy" to my ears. I looked for another Yamaha a little farther up the line, but the next jump is significant. I suspect the Yamaha would be a fairly high value item. Out of these options, I’d probably go with the Rotel. You might also look at a Marantz PM8006 that retails for $1,500. I tend to think that you can sometimes get a higher value from a bigger company that has buying power and manufacturing capability.

The primary features that I’d look for is preouts and 4 ohm capability. Specs are not everything, but I consider these two be reasonable indicators of a decent amplifier. Hope this helps.

Update: I just realized that the Marantz doesn't have a built-in DAC, so not quite the same as what you're looking at.



Well, if your budget extends to $1600 you have more options. What budget are you considering? 

I have read very good things on this forum and a Stereophile review about the Outlaw receiver mentioned by Yogi. I have not heard it however.

I happen to own a Yamaha A-S701 which I use to drive a pair of B&W 685s in a secondary system. The amplification stages in the 701 are the same as for the 801 (100wpc). The difference between the two units is the DAC. Use this system outside and can tell you it drives the 685s well. The 685s are an earlier version of the 606S2 in the 600 line. Both are 8ohm however drop a little below 4ohms in the mid bass region. The 701 retails at $750 - $799 new with free shipping.  The 810 is $100 more and was reviewed in The Absolute Sound. 

I have also driven the 685s with a NAD C356BEE (80wpc) which is discontinued. This unit lacks internal DAC however.  A good buy used at ~$350.

I can't speak for either the Cambridge or Rotel units you are considering as I have no experience.