To DAC or not to DAC?


I’ve been very happy with my system for a few years now and hadn’t thought much about any additions. It’s not the best but respectable and enjoyable. (Mcintosh MC 207, MX122, MR85, MB100,OPPO 205, Dared MC-7P tube preamp for Marantz TT15s1 with B&W 803’s & 805’s) I have no intention of giving up any media source and have large collections of LP’s CD’s and DVD’s, but have recently been spending more time with streaming. I enjoy HT and 2 channel music listening. I recently stopped in to my local retailer, who tried to explain what hidden gems I was missing by not having a separate and dedicated DAC. I run my Oppo with HDMI to the MX122 and the MB100 with XLR’s. The retailer was directing me towards a Mytek or Moon DAC. I’m looking for other’s opinions on whether it might make a dramatic difference over my present system. Please let me know your thoughts.


gwbeers
IF the dealer is a long time relationship to you, and you have bought stuff there for years....
Ask the dealer for a LOAN of what he recommends. If he cannot allow you a free loan to try at home... for say five days? Then he is just selling stuff.
Mu long time dealer, who suggested to me, out of the blue, That I take home a Marantx SA-10 SACD player to try.. OK I did. I decided to buy one.
SO if the dealer thinks it’s like THE THING you need. Why is he not handing it to you asking you to try it out? Does he not know you? is he new to being a Dealer? If like he does not have one in store that he uses to demo....
Ask if he will let you buy it (if he can’t for some reason loan it to you) And guarantee a 100% refund (NOT store credit) if you do not like it?
If he is so sure you will love it, then he will take the chance. If he is ’just selling you something’ ... then he will not.
Isn't there a DAC chip in your Oppo player?
Both the Oppo and the MB100 have a DAC in them. The one in the Oppo 205 is pretty good. I’m not familiar with the MB100.  An external DAC may provide an improvement in sound quality.

I use an Auralic Vega DAC instead of the internal DACs in my Oppo 203 and Blue Sound Node 2. I’m very happy with the sound quality. I think it’s very close to being on par with my Marantz KI-Pearl CD Player.

Will the difference you experience be night and day? Probably not. Will the investment be worth the difference in sound quality? Only you can make that call.

Can you get a loaner from the dealer and compare so that you can decide for yourself whether it’s a worthwhile investment?
Yes Yes Yes!!!! Go with a non oversampling DAC, and you will never turn back.
To state the obvious, the primary goal of a DAC is to make digital files sound analogue. Which ever DAC, CD player, streamer, etc... does this effectively is, in my mind, doing what's expected. Which then brings in to question the characteristic qualities of the DAC, i.e. detail, color or neutrality of tone, depth and width of sound stage, and so on.

I agree with Elizabeth that an actually listening test of the component connected to your personal hifi is optimal however, you still might be able to tell a lot by listening to it at the store.

What I cannot understand are the price tags on current DAC's given that they're all over the place. I'm still happy with my Ayre QB 9 DSD DAC (with tweaks) even though it's antiquated and it retailed for $3,500.00 new. A reference DAC in today's market, from what I can tell, could retail for as high as $20,000.00 or as low as $1,500.00.The question being, will the high priced DAC produce a better analogue sound than the low priced DAC?
An important part of the DAC is not just the filters but the quality and design of the output stage. This is the part that many less expensive DACs compromise on simply because well-executed power supplies and quality mosfets are expensive.
You can do your research and find out that something like an SMSL SU-8 is already on the verge of being totally transparent (if looking at measurements, look at version 2 of AudioScienceReview’s review). Unless doing heavy DSP, there really is no reason to spend >$500 on a stereo DAC. The SU-8 balanced is already super close to the Benchmark DAC3.

Thanks for all the quick and informative feedback. My local audio dealer is an elitist and generally condescending - not the best qualities for a retail environment, but I accept his personality and use his establishment as a well stocked, window shopping destination. So the prospect of a loaner or purchase at MSRP plus tax, aren’t very encouraging. Usually, after I experience the gear I’m interested in, I go online and hunt down the lowest price with no tax and hopefully no shipping. 

I chose to direct my digital outputs (MB100, OPPO 205) to the DAC in the MX122 because it was the newest/latest and I have good faith in Mcintosh gear. So, to refine my question - is a $3000 dedicated DAC going to make an obvious improvement over the internal Mcintosh DAC? 


@gwbeers 
 
The ~$1800 Benchmark DAC3B is basically totally transparent; so no, a $3000 DAC is wasting money. And again, there are DACs almost as good as the DAC3B that’s much cheaper.
One wonders, is the "condescension" earned or a reward???

My local audio dealer is an elitist and generally condescending - not the best qualities for a retail environment, but I accept his personality and use his establishment as a well stocked, window shopping destination. So the prospect of a loaner or purchase at MSRP plus tax, aren’t very encouraging.

Usually, after I experience the gear I’m interested in, I go online and hunt down the lowest price with no tax and hopefully no shipping. 

Using any bricks and mortar store to demo and then buy elsewhere cuzz it's cheaper is just plain wrong.....IMO
Instead of ’cuttin’ the op for his private comment in the thread about his purchasing habits, which IMO are his own business, not mine! For those who think they are the "Audio Morals Police Force." I suggest you take it offline.)                         
I will go back to the other question raised in the responses..Which is: is there a difference in DACs, and why such a big price spread? I have to say all audio components have a ’big price spread’. So do cars, homes, vacations, watches.. You name it the item can cost litle or a lot. DAC are no different.
As for sound... I have a DAC I paid $250 for, used. had it around fifteen yeasr? anyway, I finally found something I thought was enough better to buy. $250 vs $7,000 to gain a small improvement in sound. It was no earthshaking oh my gawd change. Just sounded better ENOUGH.

@mzkmxcv

Thanks for the direction. I ordered the Benchmark DAC3b from their site. $1695 with free shipping and 30 day money-back trial. I’m anxious to see what differences it may produce. 


@david_ten

One wonders, is the "condescension" earned or a reward???

Words to ponder… you should meet my local dealer, I think you would enjoy his company ;-)


"Audio Dealers" should be a whole 'nother thread.
OP raised it and was very specific, both in terms of how he described his dealer and his own behaviour.

We can take his word, which may well be on the mark. Or...

In my experience, ’dealers’ come in all types but they do have this common wonderful ability to sniff out and react to those that are wasting their time.

With respect to the OP’s query, I suggest reading up on the myriad threads related to DACs to find your answer(s).

As stated:

I’m looking for other’s opinions on whether it might make a dramatic difference over my present system.

No one but the OP can address this.
The Benchmark is perfect since it is tax free, ships free, and is returnable...and in the Holiday Spirit you are not harming a dealer in the process. : )
@gwbeers 
 
🤘 
 
And yes, I wouldn’t buy from anyplace that didn’t have a good return policy. Now, return shipping is something I’d pay if I knew it was amazing for the price (or else it would get factored in to a degree anyway), but I’ve seen places charge large re-stocking fees, even brick and mortar ones.
Just got my Jan. 2019 "Consumer Reports" in yesterday. I will refrain from directly quoting from the piece as I don't know if that would be considered kosher or not. The SVP representing a firm being interviewed for the article (about consumer dissatisfaction over the typical car buying experience)  made the following observations "almost" verbatim.

Car buyers don't want to deal with salespeople. (next sentence) They just want to be assured that they're getting a fair deal and that if they have any questions about the vehicle, the salesperson will be knowledgeable enough to address them.
Car dealer salesmen... I have to say it is sad about how ill informed they are about the cars they are selling. I would think they might spend time keeping track of inventory? nooo, what features on models? nooooo, what current rebates? noooooo My last purchase I asked at my favorite (of 10 Ford metro area dealers) Focus ST.. after They seemed to be confused I wanted to actually buy a car.. no responsive reply ...I left. They had no interest in even selling me a car. Went to second most favorite dealer, guy greeting, supposed to be a salesman, Jeesh dumb as a stump. I left called asked for General Manager, and raised H. He connected me to a ’rising star’ (salesman family member of owners!) and with zero hassle I ordered the car I wanted, $3000 off list Zero interest financing., plus I got a good price on my trade in. (It was funny.. they wanted to give me less for my tradein since it was a stick shift. I said then give me another couple thou off the new car since it too is a stick. They caved.
I was hoping that my above post would help people see the hypocrisy of using the dealer's resources and then shuffling off to buy online. I know, it's not a new concept.
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i come here not to bury DAC
but to braise them
So... you are saying braising my DAC will improve the sound quality way more than burying it? Any special sauce??? Is this with Hickory? or can I use any fuel?

Oh Elizabeth… the fuel to braise a DAC is as integral as a power cord. The hickory with its massive sound stage, the burled walnut with its almost tangible bass and the maples with those seductive mid-tones. But, when it comes to braising tuners - I just toss them in a pan with some pine cones.


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Any chance you live in NC?  Sounds a lot like a local dealer I know of.

There's only one way to know what you're missing... try a few.  I'd recommend a highly regarded used one off this site.  If you don't love it chances are you can sell it on and not lose your shirt.

For digital products I'm a fan of Ayre and Esoteric for the higher end, and if you're on a tight budget check out the Micromega MyDac, I've owned one for years and it's a great place to start IMO.

Good luck.