If you music is only important enough to listen to it through an AVR, then you don't need a better DAC.
I also contend that you don't need a better DAC for movies either.
So it seems as though you are set.
Separate DAC is one practical way to tweak the sound if needed or desired. ITs that simple. If built in DAC already in use sounds good enough, then no need.
If you like the amazing sound of Arcam AVR. Keep it and enjoy. Separate DAC only enables you to change the sound to music the way it was intended to be heard:
To answer the question a player is a mechanical transport and a DAC in one unit. If either half breaks, and cannot be repaired, or is not worth repairing, the other half goes out with it. Mechanical devices being, very broadly, more subject to failure than electrical ones.
The other half of the story is that there is a perception that DAC technology is less mature than say LP replay, and some believe that DACs can easily be bettered, at any given price point, in just a few years. Not so transports. So, if you subscribe to this theory, the easiest way to upgrade your older player is by adding a new DAC that has newer/revised technology, or prettier blue lights.
If you went up a few levels in price, your player could, most likey, be bettered sonically by either a better player, or by adding a DAC to your player. After all, if spending more money did not, generally, buy better sound, why would there be a robust market in more expensive goods?
I purchased separate DAC-pre that has multiple digital inputs as one of the reason. It's all I actually need ONE input for analogue and rest of inputs are digital.
Another reason you can find cheap player with good transport and digital out, mate it with good dac and save lots $.
The extent that you would benefit from an external DAC would depend on use of system for music vs. video and what sources you listen to, CD vs. DVD/BD vs. computer.
If your AVR does not have room mode correction or if it does, but you're not using it, then assuming the AVR's analog inputs are not digitized an external DAC could be beneficial to you.
It may that if the DAC (like a Benchmark) does asynchronous sample rate conversion (which avoids jitter), then it could be beneficial even if the AVR's analog inputs are digitized.
Thanks folks - this confirmed what I thought. When I was researching I wanted to build a system with a tilt towards HT, but could be somewhat HiFi too. Arcam had the lowest THD I could find, and the wattage, sensitivty(?), etc seemed pretty good. That said I feel like Bluray (DTS-MA/Dolby TrueHD) content sound amazing, but I feel like the music is not as good as it could be. Perhaps I'll give one of these a go. Stick with Arcam, despite the mild scoff above, or try something else? Mainly using for iTunes content (the humanity!).
Oh and btw, can't overstate how amazing movies sound without separate components.
It might help if you tell us exactly what AVR you have, how you have the BR player connected to it, how many channels is your HT and any subwoofers?
I think the mild scuff above was regarding AV equipment in general. I wouldn't let that bother you. Modern AV gear offers several advantages over conventional analog components.
I am not familiar with your AVR however it is likely it can be used as either multichannel HT and 2 or 2.1 channel audio for music. Many BD players are not at their best when used for CD playback. Your player could be used as a transport into a stand alone DAC for listening to music. Use the spdif digital output from the player. Use the same player as currently connected for video.
A BR player will spin a CD as well as any other disc, but on low end models their analog output sections are likely poor since almost everyone will be using the HDMI output.
So if you're using the analog outputs for music that would be a reasonable explanation for lacking music playback. I know of no reason not to use HDMI as the only connection between the player and the AVR.
It's the AVR360, lowest wattage in the bunch from Arcam, at 75watts per channel (small apt). All of the circuitry and processors are Identical across their entire AVR range, only difference I can tell is wattage. As for speaker configuration, I have two KEF R300's bi-amped, with their slim center. No rear or sub. Cables are Signal.
Running music through it, I just Airplay over Appletv, which I think is my weakest link, which is why I've been investigating a DAC with Airplay. I will try burning a CD and playing through the BR as an experiment. Kind of curious if that will affect anything. HDMI can transport more data than SPDIF as far as I know, so I shouldn't lose signal there. I'll reply back if it makes a difference.
As for the DAC part - I'm keen to have something easy to use with Airplay or Bluetooth, but prefer Airplay.
Thanks for replying back!
Your weakest link is your source material. I speak from personal experience. I most frequently listen to spotify through my Sonos, which is similar in sound quality to airplaying itunes music. I hooked my Sonos to an Audio Research DAC8 (pretty high end DAC)margin difference if any at all. The bottom line is my music source (like yours) is not going to sound any better with a new DAC. If you are looking for a sound improvement it should start with your source material.
Bob - just saw your other post about room correction, etc. my AVR actually isn't using room correction because it's not supported in bi-amp mode. That said the input is via HDMI, so it is surely digitized going in.
Interesting question though if the DAC is actually being engaged though since room correction is not happening... I'll check with the manufacturer. Appreciate all the feedback :). Hopefully I can contribute something back!
Thanks Skyflyer - I know of the Sonos stuff, and think we have a similar situation on the content issue.
I just assumed that you were using the BR player for movies and music. Sorry, but I don't know anything about Airplay or AppleTV.