Zanden transport and DAC or PC audio system

My digital front is a Zanden tranport and Dac, and as I did not ever heard a PC audio system, my simple question is: Can a good PC audio system(PC or Mac with one very good DAC)sound at least as well as my pair of Zanden?
I´m very interested , because I think that the PC audio has very good things as can be easy storage, easy to find one CD or song, no more CD´s at home...and if the sound is as good, I think that PC audio is the way
I have the same digital front end as you have and it is indeed wonderful. It easily bettered the dcs stack in redbook performance. I then bought Steve Nugents's (Empirical Audio) SPOILER USB dac with his PACECAR clock inside, which is synchronised with my laptop. On my big Sound Labs it easily beat the Zanden Combo in several parameters, throwing a much better sound stage both in width and depth. All in all, to my ears, the Spoiler affords the best rendition of Redbook CDs, ripped to my computer, I have heard so far and at much less cost.
Thanks for your post, at the end, perhaps, the question should be : what sounds better one great digital front(Zanden, dCS, MBL, EMM labs, Wadia...) or one very good digital PC front, that´s is the TRUE and REAl question
Exactly! I have just had occasion to listen to a ReQuest Server on my system and again evidence seems to point in the direction of a good digital PC front.

( on the other hand though, as an afterthought, last night I listend to a Brazilian pressed LP of the great Milton Nascimento through the analog side of my system (Goldmund Ref and arm, both modified, Clearaudio, Wavac Phono and later switched to the Zanden and afterwards the Spoiler. The difference was so shocking, that I stopped listening and broke off the session. I had not listened to vinyl for a while.... Next time around I'll start with digital and end up with vinyl, never the other way around again )
Not to go into fashionable digi-bashing, but I couldn't agree more
start with digital and end up with vinyl, never the other way around
A very simple procedure and one that gives a lot of pleasure, rather than get irritated and complain about digital, cd's, etc.
For those who have both sources: ALWAYS start music sessions with cd. After the daily cacophony any cd will offer great pleasure and musical serenity. Then, if necessary, switch to vinyl and you will get a new dose of pleasure and serenity.

Alternatively, you can spend a whole session listening to digital as long as you don't switch to analogue. If you do switch to analogue, switching back to digital is irksome and best avoided. This robs you of one of your sources!
Detlof, your comments regarding the Spoiler vs the Zanden front end are fascinating. I wonder if you can clarify if this is an older Zanden front end or the latest Zanden Model 2000 transport mated with a Zanden Model 5000 Signature DAC? If the latter, a very intriguing proposition seems to be be whether Steve's Pacecar (which is something I am looking to add soon) could be mated with the Zanden DAC via I2S (the Zanden Signature being one of the few DACs with an I2S input)? After all, one of the claimed selling points of the Signature DAC is the I2S input.

I suppose my question is whether you have any thoughts as to what the weak link in the Zanden combo is? Is it the Transport (vs the Pacecar) or the DAC (Spoiler vs Zanden)? Reading through Zanden's website, they claim that their I2S interconnect is proprietary but I wonder if that means that other transports (such as Steve's Pacecar) cannot be connected to the DAC via I2S?
Yes it was the latest Zanden combo. As to what the weak spot here might be, I really don't have the expertise to answer. But I can tell you this: I've tried the modest TRENDS USB converter with the Model 5000 Signature DAC and it sounded excellent, with very good resolution, timbre and pitch. The Spoiler sounded "richer" in comparison, voices , strings, were more natural and had more presence and body. Playing the same music from the transport directly was a tad more resolving with slightly better dynamic swings, but not very much. From that experience one could infer that the Model 2000 is the culprit but I would never dare to cast that in stone and I have not followed up that experiment in depth.
About the Pacecar Model 5000 combination have you already discussed that with Steve? I am afraid I cannot help you on this one either. But if you want to get one anyway, I suppose you could experiment and see or rather hear.....
Best saisonal greetings and happy listening,
Hi Detlof,

Seasons greetings to you too.

I will definitely get the Pacecar but am curious at to what DAC to get. I will not get a DAC immediately but intend to slowly acquire my stereo system. For the near future, I intend to hook it up to my HT processor, which is of course not ideal, but the other pieces to the puzzle will be acquired over time. After the Pacecar, a DAC and then a stereo preamp with HT bypass.

Out of curiosity, did you try the Model 2000 transport with the Spoiler DAC? If so, what were your findings?


No I didn't I'm afraid. Should have though, but I didn't feel like experimenting: Too lazy and happy with my rig, preferred to listen to music. (:
Hi Detlof,

Thanks all the same for replying. In any event, with the Spoiler DAC no longer being produced, I suppose it is a moot question anyhow. Unless someone offered theirs for sale. Which, considering how satisfied you are with it, seems highly unlikely.

Here's to hoping that Steve's Overdrive DAC trumps the Spoiler (at a fraction of its cost). Though I'm really eyeing the Formula One DAC that he has further behind in development. Should fit my acquisition timeline perfectly too.


Hi Emigene and Detlof,

Any updates on your digital? I am using the Zanden 5000Sig DAC, and have been happy for 5 years with no thought of any upgrade...other than my transport (Oppo).

I am however, now thinking about Stahl-Tek Vekian...any thoughts on your end? Any updates about your latest digital? Thanks!!!