Why a separate DAC?

Hello, I have a 3 yr old Yamaha CD player with Burr Brown DAC chip. What are the advantages of having a separate DAC? What would you recommend to compliment and upgrade this for under $1,500? Thank you.

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An upgrade is only worthwhile if it actually is an improvement. Problem is that the medium itself is intrinsically flawed. Garbage in gives garbage out as the old saying puts it. 
An external DAC might be an upgrade or it might not. I'd recommend choosing an external DAC with a multibit (sometimes called R2R) chip and substantial power supplies, preferably one free of opamps in the audio chain.
What model of Burr Brown chip does it have? There are tons of really good DACs on the market in the $1000 range. But if your Yamaha's existing BB chip is good, then you may not notice too much a difference.
Wow, a lot of sincere advice given. I would agree with some but find that I think differently from several points in the previous responses. In my opinion,
  • There is nothing wrong with digital (at least nothing worse than is wrong with analog). The medium is fine for listening to music.
  • The brand or type of chip in the device doesn't matter as much as the overall quality of engineering.
One thing I do agree with is that you can't know if a given DAC will be an improvement until you try it.  This is an area where auditions count for a lot.

In your price range, the Audiolab MDAC+ has gotten good reviews and (if you are in the USA) is available by mail order with return privileges. I have not heard it myself.
Plain and simple; one box CD players are becoming obsolete as streamers are taking over. I have both a decent digital and analog setup and in my opinion digital has caught up or passed up most analog setups unless you have a lot of money to invest in it and even then is it really worth the effort? I feel that most people that quickly toss out digital is crap don’t know what they are talking about because they haven’t spent the time or money on digital recently or are just grumpy old men. The fact is, stand alone DACs have advanced a lot recently and I’d say it’s because of streaming and not CD sales. If you’re Yamaha has digital out then experiment and listen for yourself but apparently something is going on because DAC sales and streamers are probably the main components that are keeping this hobby alive at the moment.

$1500 to spend? Room treatment if you haven’t already. If you must buy a DAC then visit your local brick and mortar shop to try in your own home or if that’s not an option then buy used so if you don’t like you can resale and not lose much if any. If neither is an option then look for a company or store that will offer a trial return if you don’t like.

Plenty of flavors of the months here so read old post and hopefully something will catch your interest. Denafrips, MHDT, Border Patrol, Schitt and others seem to be popular. Will any of these $1500 DACs be better than your three year old Yamaha? Maybe if you’re system is capable of revealing the difference. I’d recommend try something half your budget used to see if you hear the difference if you don’t have any local shops. No one here knows your system, room or what your reference is so be cautious of recommendations. Best advise is trial and error. 

If you’re looking to get into streaming and your Yamaha does not have digital in then a DAC definitely makes sense. Hot affordable DACs right now are the Denafrips Ares then a little more, the MHDT Orchard.

Good luck.
@simao - I have the Yamaha CD-N500 CD Player, 192KHz/32-bit Burr-Brown DAC with Ethernet port for connection to network.
@ mike_in_nc the  Audiolab AAV-MDACPLUS Digital Audio Converter Pre-Amplifier looks interesting, but as everyone has indicated. best to try before I buy ! @ adg101 room treatment is not an option as my wife wants me to keep my system in the living room ro she will never see me (her words :-) ) so I will have to live with the decor. As for my system; Cary Audio LSI-80 Tube Amp, Chinook Phono pre Amp, Linn Sonedek LP12 turntable with Fritz Carbon 7 MkII speakers and  Kimber PBJ cables to system with Cullen speaker cables. Just learning about the new digital world and agree that there have been many updates to the technology. Thanks everyone for your repsonses. 
DAC's are evolving quickly. I would say that if you can output your CD player to an external DAC, do so.
Two companies are my favorites, since they offer upgrades- Ayre and Schiit.
The latter offers the Gungnir and the Yggy, which I think compare nicely with the Ayre Codex. Both are relatively inexpensive. Under $2K used. 
As you obviously enjoy tube and analog sound, I'd recommend the Mhdt Labs Orchid R2R NOS DAC.  Cost $1100 sold through Linear Tube Audio.  I'd contact them and ask about their return policy to see if you can do an in-home demo.  I think your system will reveal significant differences between this and your Yamaha.  Here's a recent review on 6moons...


If you don't have a digital cable, I'd highly recommend starting with this one as it's very good and very cheap.  You'll need some burn-in time and pay attention to directional arrows. 


Best of luck in your digital journey. 
@gdrnBob I agree the DAC technology is changing quickly. I believe that I can use the Yamaha CD as output to DAC. @soix I really appreciate your advice on the try and buy. Thanks!
I am streaming TIDAL hard wired CAD6 from my modem in my family room to my Apple TV in the living room and have the Apple TV hardwired to my ARCAM AVR550.  I just found out I have not been even hearing 16 bit quality sound.  ARCAM makes a streamer that sells for $250.  Wonder if this can really play 16 bit and 24 bit.

I agree with the person who said he streams TIDAL.  Can't understand why anyone would spend the money on CD's anymore.  TIDAL is really so convenient.
DAC signal decoder may be an upgrade or may not. I recommend you choose a DAC signal decoder with multibit chip (sometimes called R2R) and a significant power supply, it is best to have no opamp in the audio sequence.
There are several factors into building into a quality sounding dac ,
it is not just about the dac chipsets. My BurrBrown 1792 chipsets in my Belcanto  2.7 dac sound betterthen many that sell for much more money the powersupplies,and isolation is very important ,
as well as the word clocks which mine have Dual Femto clocks 
which is class leading coming from a designer that has over 25 years working with digital ,as well as having his roots in Vacuum tubes and designs his Sonics with that in design .by having a seperate dac it can have the isolation needed as welssthe parts quality . http://www.belcantodesign.com/home/eone/dac-2-7/
OCG HiFi (you tube channel) just compared 15 different DACs from $850- 23k+ 

I am currently using a Audio Alchemy DDP-1 (preamp/dac) + AS 5 (outboard power supply) It's a freakin bargain. No loner available new as AA introduced a new line, but I have seen the combo (the PS 5 is a must) used for $1700. Jump on that
+1 Mhdt Labs Orchid R2R
Might want to check out the Mirror Audio Tubadour III. $1500. Tube output stage.
If you're looking for a separate DAC, I would echo those that recommend the MHDT Labs Orchid.  I'm listening to mine right now and it is my favorite out of some 10 or so that I have if you count all the CD players, and receivers/integrateds with DACS. 
I would like to thank everyone for their input, for someone who has gone from the solid state to tube experience with multiple amps and is now on the digital journey it looks like I will try to get a 30 day trial for the Mhdt Labs Orchid R2R NOS DAC! Will let everyone know how it works in my system. 
I agree with adg101 - digital is now as good as the best analog. If you want to spend $1,500 for an upgrade - please boost it to $2,000 and buy a LUMIN D2. I have been streaming a LUMIN D1 for over 4 years. I use Tidal HiFi as my source - once MQA encoding came out I am amazed at the sound quality. I control Tidal on my I pad mini and the available music is overwhelming. My Tidal subscription is $25 per month.

i have just upgraded my CD player to a Yamaha CD S2100 - a great improvement on my Marantz UD 7006. I have a large CD collection and it sounds better. The Yahama has a better DAC and great build quality.

please try streaming! LUMIN has mated the DAC to a computer and done all the hard work for you. MQA digital files will amaze!

Happy listening!
Try Mojo Audio Mystique V2+
excellent R2R Ladder Dac 
Because DAC tech has advanced very quickly. DSD/MQA/HiRes DAC was not available 10 years ago.
A BLIND 10 DAC TEST will be performed Saturday August 24th, 11-3pm
at Acoustic Designs in Scottdale, Arizona courtesy of the Arizona Audio
Video Club. $10 admission.

  • Schiit =  Yggdrasil
  • Chord = Hugo TT
  • Benchmark = DAC3
  • iFi Audio =  Pro iDSD
  • PS Audio = DirectStream DAC
  • Holo Audio = Spring DAC2
  • Jolida =Glass FX DAC + FOZ unit
  • NuPrime = Evolution DAC
  • L.K.S. DAC = MH-DA004
  • Line Magnetic =Latest model ? if it arrives on time.
Priced from $1,000 to $6,500. Most $2-$3k.
Attendees will hear them blind 3 played thru SAE amp.Preamp
and Focal Sopra 3s in a custom built Room holding 20 people
per session. RSVP @ AZAVClub.com.

You are Invited!!!
My own view on the seperste DAC issue is that a lot of it comes down to the resolution and character of the set up you have - particularly speakers. When people like the audiophillac say that a pair of $100 pioneer speakers and a nad integrated sound enjoyable, they arent wrong, they are just fine not hearing every detail. The more resolving your system, the more the purity of the source matters. I have never heard the Fritz Carbon 7 MkII s so I couldnt tell you my opinion on the value add with them. I recectly purchased a PS audio DSJ after auditioning that, a gain cell by PS and a Yiggy by Schiit. In my setup each sounded different. PS and Schiit both offer demos fwiw. Best of luck -
@Jeffseight I would love to be there but I am on the other side of the US! @WC1 thanks for your input. The Fritz Carbon's are about 87db sensitivity, great speakers, amazing reviews cuts out the middleman selling direct. Overall system is very revealing in terms of dynamics, soundstage, etc.
The Marantz streamers seem to be a pretty good value. All I know is streaming Tidal Masters actually sound better using my Node 2 sent out to the Marantz NA6005! Supposedly the Marantz isn’t even capable of the final MQA unfolding but to my ears it still sounds superior to just using the analog outs on the Node 2.

The Marantz NA6006 is the newer version using the ESS chip and has HEO’s. You can pick them up for around 600 bucks.
My favorite is the Weiss Medea !!! Unbelievable good!


MYTEK LIBERTY DAC is in your 1k price range. Comes with 12V power input

With a very good 12-V low rippel power supply. It will give you what DAC’s in $2,500+

sound gives. Going 12V bypass all the AC circuit. Results MUCH warmer sound,

blacker back ground. Plus 12v supply lowers the noise floor to SUB BASEMENT.

Separate DAC: you can try different DAC without replace other components.
@tube444 I tend to agree with your comments and others; when looking to buy new components within your existing system it is best if you can try and buy but just as good buying the best gear within your budget...used. I have read great reviews on MYTEK LIBERTY DAC and others and will probably buy used. Dont have a lot of places in my neighborhood to try and buy....thanks again.


  I home trialed several high end Streamers with their own

built in DAC. price range $2,700 and one @ $ 4,200.

And the Liberty DAC $1,000.00 powered by a Astron RS-12Aa

AC to DC 12v converter About $100 bucks. I had Cardas

cable from their Specialty made to customer Specs.

Pig tail Y 24" L shielded 24ga sliver wire banana ends

from the Astron to Mytek DAC pin. Played Hi-Rez Tidal Jazz,

Rock and  *Classical piano" (*When streamed the upper key

notes tend to lose some attack and sound clipped off tops.)

The high end DAC's were running 120-v AC ( Our local audio club

gear.) After 4 hrs of switching. 8 ears found it confusing on clear cut absolute take all winner.