If possible I would use Vista for your USB Dac. It's just much simpler to configure. XP does sound just fine using an ASIO to bypass the Kmixer though.The Vista just gives you more sampling options than XP.
I've had both Mac and PC in my setup..I for one prefer the PC. nothing wrong with Mac, but if ain't broke why fix it?
The player you use is very important as well. Pound for pound..the best player sound wise I've used is Foobar. It doesn't have all the glitz of WMP, Winamp or Itunes. Too my ears it just sounds a bit better.
NON OS Dacs have a certain sound to them that oversampling Dacs do not. They aren't as detailed on top. What they do give you is a more gestalt sound IMHO.
Similar to what the right tube amp can do for a system. If you're after absolute detail retrieval..look else where. They're are made more for the music lover than a stringent audiophile.
OK, I just received my new USB DAC yesterday and have auditioned the Benchmark DAC1 USB in my home studio...
Here is my brief analysis:
~Dell 3.06 GHZ computer with 4 GB RAM
~Three Western Digital "MyBook" 1 Terabyte Hard drives for music file storage
~Benchmark DAC1 USB
~Crown K2 Amplifier (a spare from my professional system equipment)
~Monster Ultra 600 THX Speaker cables with 24K Gold Banana Plugs
~Four Yamaha NS-1000's (two per channel wired parallel)
The Benchmark DAC1 USB is recognized by Windows XP as an external sound card and I have it set to bypass Windows XP kmixer. The specs are incredible with .00045% THD. The SNR and Dynamic range are also astounding.
What my ears are hearing, is the best sounding digital music I have ever heard. I have already cued a variety of music from various classical and opera (Sarah Brightman) pieces to Diana Krall, Miles Davis, and Frank Sinatra to Pink FLoyd's Dark Side of the Moon (just to name a few).
I feel like I am rediscovering the music and "hearing" it for the very first time. This is after stepping up from a $300 M-Audio Audiophile external USB sound card.
The difference in transparency, dynamic range, the sound stage with spatial characteristics of individual violins, oboe, drums, etc, is incredible.
The Benchmark DAC1 USB has made a vast improvement in an already good sounding system. It is certainly breathing new life into my $45,000 CD collection (which is all now in digital wav format on WD hard drives).
I am astounded and going back to listen to more. Although I am certain the sound quality could continue to be improved somehow, I am amazed at how my ears are able to percieve the music in this elevated level!
oh, i see. Thanks for the info.
So, just to make sure of one of the most basic ideas here... when everyone is talking about connecting their USB DAC to their computers, they are just using the stock USB ports that are built into the computer's motherboard, right? Or is there some additional sound card hardware people use to output USB?
So, would I be wrong in saying that a little $200 laptop running Vista would sound just as good as my $2000 editing workstation running Vista?
Any opinions on this Musiland MD-10? Its at a nice price... And apparently boasts the ability to toggle bit-depth. Wouldn't this be the best of both worlds b/w NOS and OS?
Hi - hard core Mac guy here. Yes in theory the laptop and the mega tower will sound the same since the point of the exercise is to get the data off of the drive so it can be "reconstituted" into music away from the PC.
If you have a built in USB port (even 1.1) that's all you need. Do be aware that if you are doing a lot of things at once you may have some port sharing issues resulting in drop out or burps - easy to fix, stop working and listen =)
Don't know squat about all the hoops MSFT puts you through but have read a few million posts here and on AA. The net, net is you have to get by the ASIO/Kmixer quagmire to get anything decent at all. Not sure the XP vs Vista issue here , you probably know this from your none too happy experience with your editing software.
iTunes which is the weapon of choice for a Mac, does not seem to perform as well in the PC environment. The preferred mix is EAC for ripping and FooBar. However this requires considerable expertise and research on the part of the individual to optimize.
Do take a look over on the Audio Asylum PC Forum.
A very popular line of inexpensive DACs is built by Scott Nixon. They don't last long when they come up here. Hate to be brutal but if you are squeezing the trailing edge of the price/performance envelope I would not bother with oversampling. Less is more - first and foremost what you need is the best Burr Brown DAC chip you can get.
BTW you can oversample in software or hardware - all the usual trade-offs apply.
Deuce... good to hear... I'm excited man. I actually can't believe I have gone this long without a nice home theatre system. Granted I have nice headphones that I edit on and listed to music on... I think I am definitly in for a treat once I put this stuff together.
Ckorody... great, that cleared up a lot of the haze in front of me. I have heard the Scott Nixon stuff mentioned quite a bit... So I am assuming this would sonically be superior to the Musiland MD-10...?
Is Scott Nixon's Tube DAC generally considered the best USB DAC under $500? It looks perfect... just one USB in... I wouldn't use any additional digital inputs (not planning on it anyways).
Ya, I've heard great things about the Benchmark DAC 1... just a bit outside of what I want to pay though. How would the Scott Nixon compare to the Benchmark?
You know, I saw that he had these kits available at the bottom of his page, including a USBTD kit. Anyone have any experience / know anything about this?
i have a musiland md-10 and run it with an optical in from an airport express, coax from a dvd player and usb from a computer straight into an amp. it shounds very good, although i think it will sound better with a preamp to bypass the volume control. for $200 its a great buy, however if you dont have an amp the outlaw could be a better solution as i have heard good things
Hey Sailor, thanks for the input. Based on all the reviews I have gathered thusfar and what I read about different models and the difference between NOS and over-sampling, I seem to be settling nicely on the idea of picking up a Scott Nixon USB DAC. I like the idea of only having the one port I need, USB, and keeping the circuitry minimal as well. Converting straight from USB to I2S sounds advantageous too.
So, now I have another question - How long can I run a USB cable? From where I have my workstation hooked up now I am guessing I would need about a 30 foot run... which may be a bit too long, but I'm not sure if it matters or not with USB... I also don't know if there are any USB cables made in this length. I'll go see if I can find any.
I am ultimately planning on picking up a cheap laptop, but I'm thinking that may not be an immediate purchase.
USB standard is 15ft. (Get the Belkin gold plated - nice cable)
From there you can add USB multipliers or better yet add a Opticis USB fiber optic cable and go as far as you want - but the rig will cost you about $150 with an improved battery pack which is out of scale at this time
I have not compared Scott's stuff and the Benchmark. If you are DYI able the kits are probably a good way to go
Hey, wow alright thats good to know that I should be able to run this cable about 30ft... there wont be any loss, right?
Would there be a difference b/w a fiber optic and a standard USB at this length?
Its confusing b/c... I understand loss with analogue cables and fiber optic cables, but how could there be with a digital data connection? It seems like as long as those numbers get there ok.. it would all be the same... no?
I actually read a bad review on Scott Nixon's DACs just now... which turned me away. Then I started looking into the Paradisea+... Based on reviews in forums here and scattered about different websites... it sounds ridiculous. I think I might go with this one (I have changed my game plan about 40 thousand times as I progress with my research). Any off-hand opinions on the Paradisea+?
I wouldn't take one bad (or good) review on anything too seriously. As noted I have no first hand experience with Nixon's gear - but I can tell you for sure that when it comes up for sale, it flies off.
You might check headfi dot com and the Audio Asylum PC Forum
Here is the thing to keep in mind about USB. USB not only carries data, it carries power from the computer to the peripheral. That's why the cable is only good for about 15 feet before you need a repeater.
The Opticis, being fiber does not carry power. Instead you add a power pack at the end. Most of us like to replace the standard wall wart power pack with a 5v USB battery to avoid any possibility of switching noise from the power supply. You can listen then decide.
I for one think that the Opticis sounds better, though this is a subject of some debate. (And I have never A/Bed with a 30' USB repeater rig) What cannot be debated is the ease of working with it and the total electrical isolation it provides between computer and DAC.
The Paradisea is a very nice sounding NON OS Dac. I've owned two of these.The first version and now the second model.
Nothing wrong with the SN gear either. I wouldn't let one review stop me from buying one.
Also you may want to look at the Audio Sector NON OS Dac. Peter has started making these with a single USB input. You can get one with no chassis for $350 from him direct. Just go to the audiosector.com website and email him. Pic below of a no chassis version. This Dac sells for $1300 in its retail form.
The MHDTs pretty much speak for themselves. Look at the 500 plus feedback on Ebay and then look how many are for sale on the used market. Audio Sector Dac 1
Ckorody... ah, good to know... thx for the info. So, if a USB also carries power, does that mean that there are differences b/w 'high' and 'low' quality USB ports on a computer?
This is especially interesting because I know a company that modifies cameras to output an uncompressed video signal via USB. They chose to write their software specifically for Macs because they knew the quality of their USB ports would be consistent where as with PCs they are outsourced everywhere and made my many different manufacturers with varying quality... apparently. Is this room for concern?
I am planning on picking up a laptop at this point, so cable length of a standard USB line isn't an issue now... but whether I should buy an ibook or not is the question now. I would in a second, but I heard 'tiger' is sonically inferior to 'leopard' osx... and any ibook with leopard seems more expensive than what I want to pay... which makes me just want a PC with Vista to avoid worrying about it.
Hmm, many considerations.
Gmood1- Aw, great... thats good to hear another positive input about the paradisea.
I am especially interested in the Audio Sector you mentioned. Do you have any idea how this would perform side-by-side to a paradisea?
I've owned both. I didn't have the USB version of the AS Dac however. The one in the photo was actually mine. They sound very similar. I thought the Paradisea was a tad more immediate and dynamic. The AS Dac was more laid back. Both are good. Look for a review on 6moons under Audio Zone System: DAC1, PRE-T1, AMP-2
. the reviewer does a good job describing the Dac. The Audio Zone Dac-1 is the commercial version of the Audio Sector Dac..built by the same man.
I'm the guy that told the reviewer he needed a dejitter device while using the Audio Zone Dac..since he used a basic cd player as a transport. These NON OS Dacs are VERY sensitive to jitter.
First USB is ubiquitous. Meaning that it is friggin everywhere on everything. Billions of USB ports and devices out there. Obviously implementation is a concern but at the end of the day it either works or it doesn't work.
When you start to think about all this, you need to get your head around this idea of a world market that is all based on standards - no one can sell crap that doesn't work... and outsourcing and out assembly is the name of the game - not just for price but for speed and flexibility and shipping considerations...
As far as why people develop for a Mac it is most likely not because of the USB implementation. Developing for Mac means walking on about 95% of the market. Unless the application is so specialized that the customer is going to buy a computer just to run it.
Much more likely that the Mac OS offers other benefits as a platform, certain APIs etc. You need to take that kind of stuff with a big grain of salt - the Blue Side is filled with misinformation and urban myths.
Don't know about hi and lo quality ports. There are two standards USB1.1 and USB2.0 Difference is in bandwidth and rate. For audio 1.1 is fine
The other difference I am aware of is that not all USB ports have sufficient power for all units. For instance the Mac keyboard has USB ports but they won't run everything - you get a warning and then you move back to the tower.
Hard to say if Leopard will deliver better audio then Tiger. You'll do just fine with Tiger.
From what I have read, though it handles the drivers differently, Vista is not a particular improvement on XP in the audio space. But its all what you're used to - and what else you want to do with the machine.
Audio playback doesn't take much computational power, lots of people use their oldest machine as a music server and save the horsepower for where they need it.
Another Paradisea+ owner here. I do not have the USB version however. Currently just have it connected to the CD player via coax. Leaning towards the Trends UD-10 with the battery pack for connecting to the computer.
An Acer running Windows Vista. Vista improves on XP, and all older versions of Windows, by eliminating k-mixer which was what all the driver workarounds focussed on. Basically Vista is just XP without the extra hassle audio-wise. I've been using Vista since July without any complaints. If you can go Mac do it. I'd also go I2S, but the solutions here tend to be very expensive for what you get.
Some more expensive DACs including the USB Benchmark use I2S eliminating the need for an external connector. BTW the Paradisea is preferred to my $1k NuForce processor. I am using the Bendix tube and a tube damper rather than the cheap stock tube. It's also worth noting that the consensus view is that the Benchmark is very good but somewhat analytical, some people prefer the Lavry DA-10 or Monarchy NM-24. Also, you mentioned the SN DACs as well, just didn't make the cut for me, but the price is pretty good.
GMood- Hmm, tough choice b/w the two then. Thanks for the info.
Ckorody- I went and checked my source about what the developer of that camera mod said about PC USB vs Mac USB. Here is an excerpt:
"To elaborate on the PC support issues in the past, our current Andromeda system for the DVX works over USB2.0. This is one of the main reasons why we could bring this system to market for such a low cost. The main 'PC' problem with USB2.0 however, is that there is no minimum required data bandwidth to be supported by USB2.0 hardware manufacturers(the 480Mbps number is just marketing).
Apple machines(with a few older exceptions) have a fast enough USB2.0 bus to support Andromeda. PC's, on the other hand, have all sorts of varying performance and the only way to find out if a system performs fast enough is to test it. It then becomes a significant problem if we need to test even a few of the hundreds(and ever-changing) PC models out there for compatibility."
But, of course, this is just one person and one subjective opinion. Also, this is in reguards to uncompressed video... which needs a much fatter pipeline as the datastream is much larger. With audio, even if there is more "varying performance" on a PC, it may not be an issue as having the maximum data potential may not be as crucial. But, you know, I'm sort of just shootin' fish in a barrel here.
Also, this application is so specialized that someone would buy a computer to run it.
I'm thinking I might try a used mac whether the USBs are superior or not... partly because I am entertaining the idea of picking up the camera mod being described in the quote... partly because people seem to really like the audio quality on them... partly because they are cheap on Ebay... and partly because I have never used one and it could be fun to try :).
If I upgraded to leopard from tiger, what is the install process like for a Mac OS. I know and have done many windows installs from scratch... is it the same process? Or is it like trying to understand another language completely...
Ok, I have another question too... this is shifting gears quite a bit, but here we go. After the Dac, I will only have about $400 to spend on an amp. Do you think my best move would be to buy an integrated or go with just a power amp?
Just running a power amp raises a few concerns for me. First and foremost, it seems kind of dangerous, doesn't it? I mean, if you have a sudden system error and the OS plays an 'error' sound... it could come through your speakers at full power and damage... something... right? Another concern is not having any other hookups to run a DVD player or something into the amp. Also, I heard if you lower the volume on digital audio, the resolution it's self is decreased, is this true? That would mean that if I used a laptop not at full volume, I would get sub-quality sound from what I could when all the way turned up, right?
Man, a lot to know with this stuff. I appreciate all the help guys.
Trying to record uncompressed video is a big drive problem and USB - while cheap and ubiquitous - is not fast enough to support it. There is nothing more I/O intensive then video.
Not to razz your buddy but a quick Google suggests that the camera is not ready for prime time... Clever idea, funky, buggy software says one review.
Install - and everything else on a Mac - is very straightforward. Tiger was nasty so make sure you buy a unit with a Tiger OS installed. Most of the hassle is upgrading software to take advantage of each new OS. This consists of clicking Download, the Install. Unless its Adobe stuff and you need passwords. I think you will find pretty much everything about a Mac easier and more intuitive.
As far as next moves. Free advice - you get what you pay for - bag the Andromeda no matter how deep the discount.
Better IMHO to do less better... You can run DAC to power amp and control it from the computer just fine. It's not the system sounds that get you - its the stupid stuff from the Internet that comes torching in when you click on a site that has some Flash into that gets you.
No discussion about speakers here...
Yeah, do an integrated - chances are you can get one for the same money - take a look at the Chinese stuff - a lot of bang for the buck. Or do something in a gainclone or even a Trends package of USB DAC and amp trendsaudio dot com
So dude you have done an awesome job thinking this through. You are done. Go do and have fun
Musicman... I'm not sure what I2S is... I mean, its a protocol of some sort I gather... but what medium is it carried across, etc..?
It's good to hear you like the paradisea. Ya, I heard a couple not-so-appealing things about SN DACs... and they would actually be basically just as or more expensive than the paradisea anyway. Thx for the info.
Ckorody - Ya, I know what you mean about the andromeda. I dismissed it for a long time... now just recently I started to look at it again. Your probably right though, I will probably stay away. It is appealing though... the results people get out of it when it does work look amazing. He's in the middle of making a new system that uses a firewire connection.. that should be much better.
Ya, I know I've researched like crazy at this point... I always do this. I feel I'm nearing an end.
I'm not sure what you meant by "Better IMHO to do less better"... meaning just use amp and no integrated or were you referring still to not getting the andromeda... hmm, im guessing the latter b/c then you recommend just picking up an integrated...?
Not sure what you meant about 'No discussion about speakers here...' either...
Anywho, ya an integrated was what I was leaning towards too. Then I can hook up an el cheapo DVD player and what not as well if need be. I know that there are so many times when somehow my PC audio was turned all the way up... that would be a total bummer to have that happen on my new system... on small speakers, nonetheless.
Would a Trends USB DAC be comparible to a paradisea?
I saw those chinese amps on Ebay... they are like 12 dollars plus 200 for shipping. They looked nice, but I couldn't find any reviews on them anywhere. They are pretty good though? I wonder how they would compare to NAD stuff...
Here is what I have landed on at this point:
Ibook -> USB cable -> Paradisia+ -> Monster 1000i RCA interconnects -> Nad 325Bee integrated -> Monster Z2 reference speaker cable -> 2 Paradigm Atoms v5.
What u think?
I just found a used paradisia for sale... It's about 6 months old but this is the second owner... think I should stay away? He said its in great shape... has about 600 hrs on it... and is including like 5 tubes... "NOS 1954 WE396A, NOS 1950s Tungsol 2C51, NOS Bendix JAN CEA 2C51, NOS GE JAN 5670W and GE 5670 stock tube".
I know I'm full of questions... I just dont want to pull the trigger on anything and feel like I should have done something else all of a sudden.
If reliability is what your worried about..no need with the Paradisea.I keep mine on at all times. Up until vacation recently it had been powered up for at least 6 months non stop. Also it is well known enough at this point. You would have no problems selling it if you needed to. He's including a lot of tubes!
I also owned a Trends UD-10..it is great as a USB converter when using other Dacs. It isn't in the same league as the Paradisea as a stand alone Dac.
Actually the only way to figure out what you're looking for is to listen and experiment with different gear. As time goes on, you'll try different gear until you sort out what you like best. That's just the nature of this hobby. It will become a disease. Once infected..there is no real cure and no going back.
Heh, I think I have early symptoms of the disease... as you can tell by all my posts recently.
Well that sounds good then... I think I am going to settle on the system I described in my last post. It took *tons* of research and comparing each and every component from source to speaker to get to that point... I was basically coming from knowing nothing about any of this, so its been quite a journey I would say.
Djembeplay, yeah sounds like you're well on your way to a full blown outbreak of "the disease", lol. Anyway as mentioned you really do need to listen and figure out over time what it is that you like and go forward from there. Your proposed setup looks decent, choked a bit on the Monster cabling, but as long as you don't pay retail they aren't bad.
Also as mentioned the Trends UD-10 is primarily a USB converter that can be used as a DAC, but it will not compete with something costing at least 3x the price like the Paradisea. If you get a USB DAC you'd have no use for the UD-10.
Check out http://www.empiricalaudio.com/ for more on I2S and the linked 6 Moons review.
Basically I2S is an "electrical serial bus interface standard used for connecting digital audio devices together. The I2S bus separates clock and data signals, resulting in a very low jitter connection. Jitter can cause distortion in a digital-to-analog converter."
Cool, I'll read up to see what I2S is all about.
Hmm, so you don't think monster cable is that good, huh? Man, I researched cable like crazy... people said the Z2 was really good. I also had some audioquest starquad type 4... and I couldn't get a straight answer out of anyone which would be better. The Monster Cable Z2 looked better, so I just kept that one... but I still haven't hooked it up yet... lol, too busy trying to get the rest of my system together.
The fun starts after you hook it all up - I know you crave certainty but there is a certain alchemy to bringing together a bunch of components into a great sounding system that makes you nod your head and tap your feet.
Don't even try to judge it until everything has been installed and run in together for about 100 hours. That's when you'll start to get a feeling for what you have.
Do spend a good amount of time fiddling with speaker placement - a lot of times it is a game of an inch or two to lock things in. Also try to get all your components on solid support, try to route your wires clear of the AC cords etc. And get an enhanced wall duplex when one comes up (PorterPort, Furutech, Oyaide are all names that you will see come up frequently at reasonable prices)
As you get to know your system you will hear the results of these changes - which is why you want to take your time and make them one at a time. Some things won't matter at all, some things will completely change your system (good or bad)
With that done, you can start trying different ICs, power cables, speaker cables and components (tube rolling falls somewhere in between)
Enjoy and keep reading to expand your knowledge
Here's one for you, it's a Hybrid Tube Integrated Amplifier/DAC.. PeachTree Audio Decco
. I just got to see one of these today. it looks better in person. I have no idea how it sounds though! This should simplify things quite a bit for you!
It is a non os dac,op chip mp and tube preamp all rolled into one! Hook up your USB cable and your done man!
Wow, that looks amazing.
I wonder how it would sound next to a Nad c352 paired with a Paradisea+...
Ckorody... whats an enhanced wall duplex?
Not sure..I do know what NON OS Dacs and Scott Nixon's mono blocks sound like. This is a very very good sounding combo.Transparency of Op chip amps is hard to beat!
From what I was told Scott Nixon had a part in designing this integrated. It is his design used for the preamp/Dac and amplifier sections of this unit.. if I'm not mistaken.It has sub out/pre outs and so many different ways to be configured. You eliminate so many things in the chain. Eventually I'll buy one..maybe this week..the suspense is killing me lol!
For a small and expanadable system..this one will be hard to beat! The pics do not do it justice..this piece really looks classy in person!
Wow, Scott Nixon helped design it... sounds promising based on the positive feedback I've heard about his DACs.
I mean, if the sound compares well with the combination of a Nad or Jolida integrated with a Paradisea+ or Scott Nixon's own DACs... this would be a serious consideration for me.
I hope you do buy it so I know what it sounds like :).
One thing that concerns me is that giant slot for the Sonos... I wouldn't be interested in a Sonos at all, so I would have a giant hole back there... plus I wonder if there were any compromized in design / performance having to work around the slot...
Wait... Maybe I WOULD be interested in a Sonos... I was just planning on buying a cheap ibook for playback, but... a Sonos would be just as expensive and give me the same quality of sound as a solid USB connection if I bypassed the Sonos DAC, right?
hmm, actually the sonos is a bit more expensive than I thought... Oh well, I'm still interested in the ibook to decco...
The Decco has a cover on the back. So there's not a big hole back there. You'll have to remove this cover before sliding the Sonos in place.
Oh, ok I see.
Another thing that worries me a little is that they are very vague with their product description, whereas their other amps they list s/n ratio, etc...
Did you find someplace with a more detailed description?
Nope..I haven't found the s/n ratio so far.This product is fairly new. Hopefully they'll post something eventually. It would be nice if they gave a 30 day trial period. This would allow a person the chance to try it out before a full commitment.
Oh, you think maybe they just haven't tested all the specs such as s/n ratio yet? Does that happen w/ new equipment sometimes?
Ya, agreed about the 30 day trial thing...
So, I don't get it... they are not the same company as whoever makes Sonos, right?
As far as I know they are not Sonos owned or operated.Looks like a joint project they've designed though. I'm sure someone has specs for this unit.Specs can be helpful..not in all cases though. Most of the specs on this sort of stuff is misleading..good specs don't necessarily equal good sound.
Ya, good point.
Well... this thing is intriguing.
The closest dealer that they list to me is like 500 miles away, lol... so testing before I buy is not much of a realistic option... not one that I want to do at least.
Hey Gmood, u get to listen to the audio decco yet?
Nope not yet my friend. I did post on Audio Circle
asking about the unit. I got a few replies.
Sweet... I'm sold. As soon as I can gather the funds... I'm pickin' one up.