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  1. #1

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    Default USB DAC's - $1500-1800 NEW or less range

    I'm trying to do some research and see what is really out there in the world of USB DAC's. I'm not overly concerned about other inputs, just USB. I'm open to buying a kit and paying someone to build it if need be, I just want the best sound I can get out of that USB. I would like the price tag to reflect actual new price, not used as I will likely hold back actually spending that much on one.


    I prefer warmth over extreme detail, so I'm trying to get out of the "digital" sound as much as I can. DAC's are still a somewhat new frontier for me, so any input is appreciated here.
    Usher CP-6311, Shuguang S200MK, Shuguang S845MK, Pioneer BDP-51fd, Essence Audio HDACC, Douglas IC's, Douglas Alpha bi-wire SC's, Pangea/Douglas PC's, Epson 8100

  2. #2

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    Ck out the NAD M51. Great reviews. Im gonna demo one against the new Cary Dac100t which is a new tube Dac coming out in early June by Cary.
    "Everything I ever did in my life worthwhile I caught hell for"

  3. #3

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    You know, after some time at the audio shop the other day and doing some comparing, I'm starting to think an external USB to spdif converter is actually the way to go. I really like my Peachtree and if warmth is what you're after it has that in spades (assuming you get one that works). I'm quite satisfied with my DAC-IT, but am going to order a couple USB converters and see if I can't squeeze any more sound quality out of it.

    The good thing about going this route is you get a good DACand you're set for life, and you can upgrade USB converters as the technology in that arena improves. I see alot more changing in the USB world than in the DACs themselves.

    I've been out of the mix on USB converters for a year or so and am going to do some research before I pick a couple up for testing.
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    The only issue with that grant is it only supports up to 24/96, which is actually totally fine with me because I can't really reliably hear the difference between 96 and 192. I'm gonna add that to the list.
    Main HT
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    You know, after some time at the audio shop the other day and doing some comparing, I'm starting to think an external USB to spdif converter is actually the way to go.
    This has great reviews.

    http://www.berkeleyaudiodesign.com/products4.html

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    I'm with Assimilated on the USB > SPDIF converter. I've heard anecdotal accounts of very highly-regarded USB DACs (like the W4S DAC2 and Bryston BDA) still benefiting from adding a good external USB > SPDIF converter. I also agree that the USB technology is likely to change whereas the actual DAC technology is not. A good example of this is my old Parasound DAC-2000. That thing is 15 years old, and it's one of the best DAC's I've ever heard because of its awesome analog section. Add a USB converter and you're all set. Using a USB converter lets you use any number of DACs, including non-USB models, so you have more options.

    For USB converters, I like the Stello U3, followed by the Bel Canto mLink, followed by the Audio GD DI, followed by the Musical Fidelity VLink. Bel Canto also has a couple of higher end models that may be better than the U3, but I've never heard them.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  8. #8

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    The problem with alot of the converters (and DACs with converters built in) I'm seeing is that they use one hardware clock for all incoming signals, which means something is getting manipulated somewhere. Of all the models I listened to over the weekend, my favorite was a model that ONLY did the single redbook CD resolution, and now I'm not remembering what model it was. It won't work for me though as I have way too much hi-rez material to limit myself to 16/44.

    Skip, having talked to you alot and knowing what you're after this is honestly the route I'd go. It introduces another component into the mix, but ultimately I think it'll give you the most flexibility and sound quality. If I were you I'd buy a DAC whenever you're ready for it and then grab the converter when you're ready to jump into computer audio.

    The other option I guess is to hold out for that next Oppo like you're thinking. I've actually got a 105 coming in now (borrowed not bought) and am going to put it up against my other DACs and see how well it performs (over spdif not USB), though I'm a bit skeptical that a DAC inside a player sharing a common power supply and with a bunch of other components inside is going to hold up against a dedicated DAC at even 2/3 the price...
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    Ok now I'm getting confused I have all my music on my computer hard drives and I play that music via through a software program called Serviio and is streamed to my Yamaha via network so I'm guessing its the Burr Brown Dac in my Yamaha handling the music correct.?
    I'm new to this outboard Dac world, so I need some help/advice would something like a Cambridge Dac100 benefit me if so, where in the chain is this installed my computer is in another room and connected to the network for streaming.
    Would it be better to put the music on it own hard drive enclosure and bring it into the stereo room close to the rest of my gear?
    How can I be sure that when I hook up this Dac it's actually using the Cambridge Dac instead of the Yamaha?
    If Dac technology is not likely to change before USB technology then would it not make sense to just get a good Dac then add a USB to spdif converter?
    Whichmusic format is the better one, WAV or FLAC?
    Thank You

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    You've got some good questions there, but they're very broad and getting into answering those is going to take this thread way off track. Check out some other threads here in the Going Digital section, especially the 'getting started' thread that I created, which covers most of your questions, post any questions you still have in that thread or create new threads with any questions you still have. Let's try not to muck up this thread though if we can avoid it.
    Last edited by AsSiMiLaTeD; 05-15-2013 at 09:15 AM.
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  11. #11

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    Cool Thanks I will check there first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falconcry72 View Post
    I'm with Assimilated on the USB > SPDIF converter. I've heard anecdotal accounts of very highly-regarded USB DACs (like the W4S DAC2 and Bryston BDA) still benefiting from adding a good external USB > SPDIF converter. I also agree that the USB technology is likely to change whereas the actual DAC technology is not. A good example of this is my old Parasound DAC-2000. That thing is 15 years old, and it's one of the best DAC's I've ever heard because of its awesome analog section. Add a USB converter and you're all set. Using a USB converter lets you use any number of DACs, including non-USB models, so you have more options.

    For USB converters, I like the Stello U3, followed by the Bel Canto mLink, followed by the Audio GD DI, followed by the Musical Fidelity VLink. Bel Canto also has a couple of higher end models that may be better than the U3, but I've never heard them.
    I wonder how many DAC's are still converting the input, be it USB or SP/DIF, to I2S?
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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    The problem with alot of the converters (and DACs with converters built in) I'm seeing is that they use one hardware clock for all incoming signals, which means something is getting manipulated somewhere...
    The Stello U3 I mentioned uses (2) separate external clock generators: (1) for the 44.1 family (44.1, 88.2, 176.4) and (1) for the 48 family (48, 96, 192).
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSkip View Post
    I prefer warmth over extreme detail, so I'm trying to get out of the "digital" sound as much as I can. DAC's are still a somewhat new frontier for me, so any input is appreciated here.
    In this case you should also pay attention to the output stage. I prefer discrete or Class A type output. With DAC’s I find they mostly build to a price point and something is lacking to make it an exceptional DAC so I went DIY. You could build one really fine DAC including a fitting enclosure with your budget range.

    Check out Twisted Pear for kits.

    http://www.twistedpearaudio.com/landing.aspx

    Twisted Pear also opens up the DAC chip to all input formats (S/PDIF, I2S and DSD) and DAC chip settings. My vinyl still sounds better than digital but I am closer to it now than I have ever been. I did have to go balanced out to use the discrete output of the TP Legato I/V output stage, but their SE out still sounds very good.

    If you are going to feed a DAC S/PDIF, the ESS Sabre DAC chips do not rely totally on the embedded clock to decode it. See section III.

    http://www.esstech.com/PDF/sabrewp.pdf

    In my experience I2S input just sounds slightly better with the ESS Sabre where with other DAC chips I2S can exhibit a large improvement in SQ when they don't have to decode S/PDIF.

    If you are interested in DIY check out the digital line level forum at diyaudio to see what folks are building.

    http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/


    In regards to clocks, replacing the clock with a better one assures the lowest jitter possible. Nothing new here as DAC/player mods have long been using upgraded clocks to improve SQ.
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    The DAC that is getting a lot of attention right now is the Teac UD-501 (849.00) It is half the price of the Mytek, and seems everybit as good, if not better, as reported by most reviewers . If you'll notice, DSD DACs are arriving on the scene at a increasing pace. The Oppo BDP-105 just went DSD capable via it's latest firmware update because Oppo sees what's coming. DSD capability will future proof your DAC as most agree DSD downloads are the wave of the future. DSD is superior to PCM, and the HD download companies are paying attention. You don't see a lot of DSD material now, but you will. The Teac is the least expensive on the DSD DACs with now and it handles both 2.8mhz, and 5.6mhz DSD.

    Here are some sites:

    https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ta...d65b9a89ecd02a

    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue67/teac.htm

    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/0...1-usb-dac.html

    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/0...rformance.html

    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/0...rformance.html

    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6...59/#post225750

    Also, just wanted to give you guys a heads up, so you can get a good price on this unit, or a lot of other ger for that matter.

    There is a guy named named Ron that is an authorized dealer for everything he sales. He is very honest and very knowledgeable about DACs. He can be reached at ronaldbuffington@msn.com, 0r phone 704-953-6034. I am in no way affiliated with Ron or his company. I read about him from another guy on computerphile.com. When I purchase the Teac I will get it from him. His prices are below what you have been seeing on things. Devlon
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  16. #16

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    Excuse me, that first link on the previous post should have been:

    http://www.audiostream.com/content/t...alog-converter
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  17. #17

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    That Teac looks very interesting. I'm actually not a huge fan of those BurrBrown chips, but we all know the chip isn't everything

  18. #18

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    DSD sounds very exciting I will have to learn more, I though dsd was an sacd thing only that was encrypted by sony

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    W4S offers a DSD upgrade for the DAC 2 at $350.
    Speakers: SDA-1C (most all the goodies)
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    Amp: Wright WPA 50-50 EAT KT88s
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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by polkfarmboy View Post
    DSD sounds very exciting I will have to learn more, I though dsd was an sacd thing only that was encrypted by sony
    Some DAC chips share I2S (CD) and DSD (SACD) inputs from the transport, like the PCM1796 found in the Denon 3910. I2S is PCM Bit clock, Word clock and Data. DSD is Bit clock, Data left and Data right. So with only four wires plus a ground, I snag I2S and native DSD off my Denon 3910's board between the transport and DAC chip for export to my DAC. A manual switch on back of player determines which format gets exported. I also have a USB to I2S module in my DAC that will do DSD. Some DAC chips don't share circuits and that requires more wires to attach. Why the Denon mod? I host music meets occasionally and sometimes folks bring hard media to play.

    Make yourself necessary to someone. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    That Teac looks very interesting. I'm actually not a huge fan of those BurrBrown chips, but we all know the chip isn't everything
    It does look interesting. It appears a lot of companies are starting to do the 24 bit chips in coax/optical and run 32 bit chips for USB now. Any 'new' one I've seen has had it.

    Its one good looking DAC IMO, and the price isn't that bad. I just have a hard time taking Teac seriously for some reason though.
    Usher CP-6311, Shuguang S200MK, Shuguang S845MK, Pioneer BDP-51fd, Essence Audio HDACC, Douglas IC's, Douglas Alpha bi-wire SC's, Pangea/Douglas PC's, Epson 8100

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSkip View Post
    I just have a hard time taking Teac seriously for some reason though.
    http://esoteric.teac.com/
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    I'm the same way, but they've had a few very good products over the years...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SCompRacer View Post
    Some DAC chips share I2S (CD) and DSD (SACD) inputs from the transport, like the PCM1796 found in the Denon 3910. I2S is PCM Bit clock, Word clock and Data. DSD is Bit clock, Data left and Data right. So with only four wires plus a ground, I snag I2S and native DSD off my Denon 3910's board between the transport and DAC chip for export to my DAC. A manual switch on back of player determines which format gets exported. I also have a USB to I2S module in my DAC that will do DSD. Some DAC chips don't share circuits and that requires more wires to attach. Why the Denon mod? I host music meets occasionally and sometimes folks bring hard media to play.
    SComp, I would love to hear futher about your mods to your Denon 3910... I just picked one up and would love to see what you've done to yours and how its affected things.

    I wont muddy up the thread, so I will shot you my email address instead
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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    I'm the same way, but they've had a few very good products over the years...
    I owned a music store (musical instruments) for 21 years. Tascam and Teac are the same company. Many recording studios have, and still do, use Tascam gear. It's just some of the best money can buy, and state-of-the-art Sometimes I would hear things like Teac is the cheaper Tascam stuff. But that's not true. They were two different divisions within the company. Tascam was the pro audio division, and Teac was the home consumer division. We carried both Teac, and Fostex recorders. We also rented them out. There was a higher failure rate with the Foxtex units, but we carried them because musicians would ask for them.

    Tascam/Teac hav been making high quality gear since the early 70's if memory serves me right. Being a huge company with lots of financial resources, a big R&D department, and making high quality recording and electronic gear for over 40 years, I think they are in a prime position to design and engineer a great DAC at a competitive price.
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  26. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by polkfarmboy View Post
    DSD sounds very exciting I will have to learn more, I though dsd was an sacd thing only that was encrypted by sony
    SACD uses DSD, but that doesn't mean DSD files are SACD.

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    I know some around here don't care for spec sheets of any kind but the TEAC listed does up to 32/384 over USB. Teac also has solid drivers from what I have read.

    The Asus Xonar Essence One looks interesting for the money.
    So hot it burns twice

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    PCM, I2S, DSD, SPDIF... whatever. 24bit, 32bit, 96/176/192... whatever. Sabre ESS, Burr Brown, Wolfson... whatever.

    I'm still in the camp that the quality of the analog output section has more influence on overall sound quality than any of the above-listed digital specs do. Now, given a group of DACs with identical analog output sections... then the above-listed digital specs make all the difference.

    The point is that and old trusty DAC with a high quality analog section and over-built power supply will sound better than a new, cutting-edge unit with all the whiz-bang specs of the day that skimps on the important stuff.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  29. #29

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    Fakconcry72 correct me if I'm wrong, when you say the quality of the analog output section is the most important part of a Dac, would the same be true about an analog to USB converter being the same importance on the end step?

  30. #30

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    Many new Dac's do have good analog sections though, the ps audio perfectwave has a great analog section

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