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What DAC?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema & Hi-Fi' started by j00lz, 17 Jan 2006.

  1. j00lz

    Associate

    Joined: 22 Dec 2005

    Posts: 3

    I've been reading past forums and have had read quite a few mentions of people using DACs to improve the sound quality of their PC Hifi.

    My current setup is an E-MU 0404 which outputs to a Nad c372 powering my mordaunt short avante 908's.
    The 0404 is a resonably good sound card for the price but I doubt the quality of the Op amps and the DAC. The 0404 also has both types of digital outputs giving me more options of what kind of DAC I can connect to it.


    The bitrate of some of my mp3s are as low as 128kbps, making me consider some of the hong kong tube DACs, as the tubes may be able to give some warmth to the digital harshness.
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Lite-Audio-DA...5854502503QQcategoryZ3272QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    My budget is £250max..........
     
  2. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    I've never heard a tube DAC in my life, so i cant comment there.

    I have Derek Sheks 1543 N.O.S Dac - it's 160 ish including delivery which is a bit of a bargain as it is ready to go from the off (need to buy coax cable).
    I'm about to order something from DIYparadise.com called the "Monica 2" - it's a 1545 based N.O.S dac, which is a superior chip, and I have read it's better than the DShek version but obviously this is personal opinion. The best part is that it's a steal @ $150 (about £85). You'll need to buy a £3 plastic box & also buy 3 RCA connectors, a DC jack & a 12v dc supply, but it's really not to complicated at all & it can be done for £100 + cable :)

    Others to check out are the Arcam Black Box 1 and Meridian 203.

    What amp/speakers do you have?
     
    Last edited: 17 Jan 2006
  3. Bill101

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,550

    Location: Liverpool

    nothing will improve the sound of MP3s @128, if anything a DAC will show up just how bad the sound is.
     
  4. j00lz

    Associate

    Joined: 22 Dec 2005

    Posts: 3

    The majority of my music collection is @192, is it still worth using a dac if im not using lossless audio? I'm trying to use FLAC when ever possible now.

    My amp is nad c372 which I brought only a few weeks ago so I'm still breaking it in, but is a huge huge improvment over my cambridge audio a300, even my girlfriend notices!
    And my speakers are the floorstanding mordaunt short avante 908s. I just replaced the tweeters on them last weekend, as some damm dj had his mixer in the red for half of his set...

    I've found quite a few websites with those DIY DAC kits, how do you tell if one is better than the other, does it come down to the DAC chip? I also hear that the DC power supply is a very important factor to the sound....
     
  5. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Hmm..
    Re: DIY DAC kits - there is no "better" in hifi really (except for the ridiculous obvious). As I said, I'm getting the monica2 and I'm hoping it'll be just as good if not better than the Derek Shek model.
    As far as the dac chips go: 1541>1545>1543, but of course it depends on the circuit.

    Tbh - buy yourself a good CD player first and see where you go from there.
     
  6. 9designs2

    Mobster

    Joined: 5 Jan 2003

    Posts: 3,418

    Location: Somewhere in the middle

    How is the Monica2 plan working out, had read of the site, looks interesting, the bit about surface mount being a must, and they build it for you !!! cool ....
    What PSU are you going for. That's the bit that always puts me off having a play with one, as I have the opinion the PSU is probably more important than the DAC !!!! So many site say "just wire up a transformer" err crap !!! I see Russ Andrews sell modded "Wall-warts" .... at true RA prices !!! or one from screw fix for £6.5 LOL !
     
  7. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    I'm still waiting for charlize to come back in stock so havent ordered yet :(

    The PSU I'm using will be a high quality 10-14v 10a SMPS power supply (something like £150+ new) which I got from a friend. The power supply sent with the Derek shek DAC is a cheapy and it sounds fine. I believe Mr_S is experimenting with Power supplies at the moment, but if you can, get a cheapish SMPS PSU, go for it :D Dont let it put you off - it's not hard at all to build one :)

    I'm also going to have a play with CD-rom transports when it arrives :)
     
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    Capodecina

    Joined: 4 Nov 2004

    Posts: 13,655

    Location: Aberdeen

    Id love to here how you get on commited. My arcam amp sounds amazing through my B2's, playing 320AAC tracks. I think my next upgrade will be either the delta 290P (power am, for bi-amping), or il save up for an arcam CDP then a DAC to go with it. WIll a DAC with a nice CDP like the alpha 7se improve the SQ a noticable amount?

    Actually... i hope the DAC is rubbish, as my £40 emu0404 --> amp breakout cable is arrving next week from america, so i might have to stick with that for a bit :p (kidding)

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  9. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Hey adfinni,
    Nice choice on the amp ;)

    I actually just sold my 7SE - I didnt see the point in having such a nice player with an external DAC, as the transport stage will do *roughly* the same job as a cheaper less desirable player. I also got a decent price ;)

    If you want to go the CD & Dac route, but a cheapo used CD player (such as low-end sony/phillips) and then use the DAC.

    Or - if you want to have everything matching, you could go for and Arcam Alpha 5/6 which go for about £50-130... The arcam 5 is a modders favourite so I'm thinking about picking one of those up. Going to play with a CD-rom transport first though :)

    I'd definately buy a CD player before buying a power amp :)
     
    Last edited: 20 Jan 2006
  10. Mr_Sukebe

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 23 Dec 2002

    Posts: 9,117

    Location: London

    I'll go along with Committed ref the ideas on using a 7se as a transport. I never rated it as that great a player once I'd heard other options. An OK DVD player as transport into a decent DAC will sound a lot better and be cheaper than a 7se.
     
  11. Matblack

    Capodecina

    Joined: 23 Jan 2004

    Posts: 15,628

    Location: On my Boat, Drinking

    Be careful with buying old Arcam 5/6s mine recently befell the dreded cog rot and the drive spindle sheared. Theres a chap on Ebay who sells replacements but the hassle of taking it apart just wasn't worth it to me. Apparently the grease they used on the cog rotted the plastic after a few years!

    MB
     
  12. j00lz

    Associate

    Joined: 22 Dec 2005

    Posts: 3

  13. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    I actually quite liked the 7SE, wasnt bad for my first CD player :)
    Agreed though, cheap used CD or ok dvd player into a N O S dac WILL sound miles better than a CD player at the same price.

    Do you still have your player? Is the replacement you talk of just the little spindleytype thing ? I've never been afraid of some hassle, so would you be willing to sell it at a reasonable price? :)
    On a side note, we have an Arcam 6 which is still doing a fine job. It's used quite rarely though.
     
  14. Matblack

    Capodecina

    Joined: 23 Jan 2004

    Posts: 15,628

    Location: On my Boat, Drinking

    Bin'ed it, sorry dude, it was my pride and joy for many years and I must say I was very sorry to see it go :(

    MB
     
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    Capodecina

    Joined: 4 Nov 2004

    Posts: 13,655

    Location: Aberdeen

    Ok il scrap the power amp idea. Would it make that much difference if i hook up the 290p to my setup, in a bi-amp configuration?

    I think il leave the CD player and DAC route, as £100 on the emu and custom cable is a fair amount of student dosh which i want to get the use out of. I have been reading a number of threads on head-fi, and im looking at modifying my emu, by bypassing the output caps and output buffers, and possibly replacing the opamp with an 8620. Apparently there is a noticable difference, and by the time i have done that, my custom cable will have had some burn in time.

    I want to a monica 2 and CDP to play with, but id rather spend that cash on going out after exams, and on the lady :rolleyes:, but id love to hear how it oes commited.

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  16. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Dammit :(

    Bi-amping is always a good idea, but you might get better gains from spending the money in other areas.
    Can you do SMT soldering? I assume that's what's needed for modding the EMU0404.
    If only you'd asked before - the CDP & dac would have been so much better :(

    I'll keep you informed :)
     
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    Capodecina

    Joined: 4 Nov 2004

    Posts: 13,655

    Location: Aberdeen

    I just thought about bi-amping as i have found a delta 290p for £70 at the moment, which seems pretty good.
    I don't know what SMT soldering is, so just looked it up :D But bypassing the output caps involves just putting some solder between the caps legs, and bypassing the output buffer involves bridging some of the pins on a couple of chips. But replacing the op-amp seems a bit harder, as it's easy to pull up the traces.
    I think il get a cheap antex soldering iron from an online component place, a fine 0.5mm tip, and some silver solder. will that be all i need to do SMT soldering of a new op-amp ?

    b.t.w. i think il look into a CDP and DAC either at easter or around the summer time, as my modded emu and custom cable should sound a lot better than the stock parts i have at the moment.
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  18. commited

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,369

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    I think that bi-amping is pointless with yout PC source personally.

    Save for a CD/DVD player and dac ;)
     
  19. Yewen

    Capodecina

    Joined: 9 Nov 2003

    Posts: 17,719

    Location: Leeds

    Listen to commited there. I have so far and I aint gone wrong at all!

    The difference from a £100 sound card to a £30 dvd player is HUGE, in a good way.

    The DVD player lets the music sound so much better than through a pc's soundcard with all the useless frequency messing and compression.
     
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    Capodecina

    Joined: 4 Nov 2004

    Posts: 13,655

    Location: Aberdeen

    Ye, i think the bi-amping was just a fad for a few days, that i thought could make a noticeable difference.

    I think that il look for a CD with the most features, and best reliability. Any ideas for a good 2nd hand CDP to pair up with a good DAC???
    I'm considering a sony CDP to pair along with a monica 2??

    @Yewen. I'm definately with you and commited on this one, but a £30 dvd player wouldn't even come close to a modded emu card and a custom cable, playing lossless quallity files. If it was paired with a DAC then it probably would. The emu 0404 is a good source, but becomes great when the buffers are bypassed, and the op-amp is replaced. Further replacement of caps with better ones further increases the SQ, but too a lesser extenet than the op-amp and buffer bypass upgrades.
    At the moment my 320AAC files sound great through the arcam and B2's, and the speakers have only been burned in for around 10-20 hours. I'm waiting for them to loosen up near the 80-120 hour mark. Your 128kbps mp3's will sound worse with a DAC, as it will bring out the flaws in the compression even more. 128kbps files sound poor through my system (without my custom cable and emu modding), so i can't imagine what they would sound like on yours with a nice DAC.
    Also, compared to the full arcam setup i demo'd these speakers on, my pc source holds up pretty damn well. Plus it's a lot easier using a pc, so custom playlists can be be, and the need to change, and carry cd's to and from uni isn't there.

    But i will get a CDP and DAC asap (depending on funds) for my cd collection.
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