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  1. #1

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    Default Bit Depth and Sample Rates

    Having compared MP3's to raw CD's, I've started to rip my CD collection into lossless FLAC format. I understand that the ceiling for CD's is basically 44Khz/16 bit. I've heard a lot of talk about sampling to 96Khz (or higher) and 24 bits. Is there any advantage at all in doing this with CD's, or is it basically just a waste of space?

    I've also heard some talk about DAC's that support higher resolutions as well. Again, if the source files are 44k/16 bit, aren't these advanced DAC's overkill? What advantage am I going to enjoy from these as opposed to piping my music directly from the iMac mini digital port to a converter and TOSLink, then to the AV receiver?

    Maybe there's some logic to all these higher sample rates and DAC's and so on, but to me, it feels a bit like reserving a hall for 500 people even though only 80 are coming to dinner. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    On a side note, is there a source of music files--maybe other than original masters--that are beyond the sample rates of CD's? I have downloaded a copy of Dream Theater's A Dramatic Turn of Events in 24 bit FLAC, but I'm wondering again if this is overkill--re-sampling CD-quality sound at a higher rate just for the heck of it.

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    There is a lot more to the benefits of an external DAC than just the sample rates they support or the fact that they may upsample. Many more things in a DAC that contribute to the overall sound. Your method doesn't sound optimal but without knowing what your listening habits are it's hard to say what might be best for you. All things equal a very good external DAC will beat most receivers but unless you do critical listening, meaning having the rest of your system optimally placed, sit in the sweet spot and listen critically, it's probably a mute point. There are many online sites that sell downloadable hi-res music (I like HDTracks). Whether or not there is a discernible difference is a whole nuther can of worms but you can Google 'hi-res vs' and probably get a months worth of reading and debate. And even then, it probably goes back to how discerning a listener you are, what types of music you listen to, how resolving the rest of your system is, how optimal your listening area is, etc.
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    Everything plays a part or offers its own unique way of improving the sound. A lot also has to do with the original quality of the recording. In other words there's just no polishing a turd no matter what.

    Now, using an external dac over the one built into your receiver, depends on the dac and the quality of that too. A 150 buck dac I doubt will out perform a decent midline receiver. It's all about the quality of the parts used. A receiver is a compromised piece in the sense that it does so much and to meet a price point, the quality of the parts used usually won't be as good as a separate quality dac. Which btw, goes for the pre-amp section and the power amp section in a receiver also.

    Always download a lossless format first off, if your using your receivers dac and your tickled pink, don't fret over anything else. If you want to explore taking your sound to the next level, invest in a separate pre amp and dac. It is just that simple, lets not make it any more complicated than need be.

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    Some good points.

    I suppose my question is really this: if my source files are FLAC's created from CD's, isn't a DAC just a placebo?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by dragon1952 View Post
    There is a lot more to the benefits of an external DAC than just the sample rates they support or the fact that they may upsample. Many more things in a DAC that contribute to the overall sound. Your method doesn't sound optimal but without knowing what your listening habits are it's hard to say what might be best for you. All things equal a very good external DAC will beat most receivers but unless you do critical listening, meaning having the rest of your system optimally placed, sit in the sweet spot and listen critically, it's probably a mute point. There are many online sites that sell downloadable hi-res music (I like HDTracks). Whether or not there is a discernible difference is a whole nuther can of worms but you can Google 'hi-res vs' and probably get a months worth of reading and debate. And even then, it probably goes back to how discerning a listener you are, what types of music you listen to, how resolving the rest of your system is, how optimal your listening area is, etc.
    All music will be either CD ripped to FLAC or stuff from HDTracks. I'm using a Pioneer SC-67 receiver with Polk RTi's and an SVS sub.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pretorios View Post
    Some good points.

    I suppose my question is really this: if my source files are FLAC's created from CD's, isn't a DAC just a placebo?
    i persoanlly have to say no.I use lossless files, from a network drive through my HT Striker , DAC to pre amp.
    I have had a Matirx Mini, a Schiit Bifrost, and a DAC-It. i have used a Tributaries TOSLINK and a Grover Huffman digital IC. all three DACs had a different sound signature. none were truly neutral, and each were pleasing in their own way.
    so i am not entirely sure by what you mean by "placebo".
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretorios View Post
    Some good points.

    I suppose my question is really this: if my source files are FLAC's created from CD's, isn't a DAC just a placebo?
    As humans, it is possible that we canít lie to nobody like we can lie to ourselves. The other side of that coin is you can be brutally honest with yourself. Where we run into problems is someone who doesnít hear a difference will tell someone who does hear a difference they are lying or fooling themselves.

    Toslink can add jitter, and jitter makes digital sound bad. I prefer S/PDIF via coax or I2S input.

    Digital is a complex process that results in some nasty artifacts that must be dealt with. Upsampling digital files takes advantage of different filters in the DAC; Simpler and less sharp filters. Different manufacturers do not implement upsampling the same way so it is possible to have one upsampling DAC sound better than another brand upsampling DAC.

    It could be system dependant too as I had a DAC I modded that sounded great in my system with upsampling turned on but didnít sound as good in a friends system with upsampling on; upsampling off it sounded great in his system. After that experience one could say (and some do) that upsampling sucks or is evil. Since I heard it both ways I prefer to say buy a DAC that has a switch where you can turn upsampling on or off. Or if at all possible, try the fixed upsampling DAC in your system before buying it, like deal with a place that has an option to return.

    Just one example, analog out design of DACís can differ, therefore you can get different sound qualities.
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  8. #8

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    Placebo ?

    Digital to analog conversion is NOT placebo. Everything digital has to be converted to analog.....your speakers are an analog device. That process of converting to analog, as Rich stated, can be a complicated one. The quality of the parts used, dac chips, design, and the ever so important analog output stage all combine to deliver a specific sound characteristic.

    Much like the difference in a 500 buck receiver or a 2000 buck one......the same applies to any piece of audio gear but like I said, don't look to better the dacs in that top of the line Pioneer receiver with a 200 buck dac.

    Having said that, if I had the coin to do it all over again, it would be a lot different. A separate HT processor like a Cary or Anthem or even a Classe, with separate amps. Those top of the line HT processors are sweet when using for a dual purpose system of music and movies. Expensive....but worth every penny. Kinda like drinking fine wine. Once you taste the good stuff it's hard to go back to those gallon jugs of Gallo wine.

  9. #9

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    Toslink can add jitter, and jitter makes digital sound bad. I prefer S/PDIF via coax or I2S input.
    Thanks. I was wondering about the merits of the digital fiber cable versus the coax. I will most likely try both and pick one. I will have to look into the 12S as well.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Placebo ?

    Digital to analog conversion is NOT placebo. Everything digital has to be converted to analog.....your speakers are an analog device. That process of converting to analog, as Rich stated, can be a complicated one. The quality of the parts used, dac chips, design, and the ever so important analog output stage all combine to deliver a specific sound characteristic.

    Much like the difference in a 500 buck receiver or a 2000 buck one......the same applies to any piece of audio gear but like I said, don't look to better the dacs in that top of the line Pioneer receiver with a 200 buck dac.

    Having said that, if I had the coin to do it all over again, it would be a lot different. A separate HT processor like a Cary or Anthem or even a Classe, with separate amps. Those top of the line HT processors are sweet when using for a dual purpose system of music and movies. Expensive....but worth every penny. Kinda like drinking fine wine. Once you taste the good stuff it's hard to go back to those gallon jugs of Gallo wine.
    By placebo, I simply mean myself thinking the sound as better merely because I've spent money on a different solution. That is my concern, how much money would it be necessary to outstrip the performance of the SC-67. From what I'm hearing, it would be fairly significant.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by pretorios View Post
    , how much money would it be necessary to outstrip the performance of the SC-67. From what I'm hearing, it would be fairly significant.
    Could be enough money that it would better spent on upgrading speakers than a DAC. The questions are:

    1. What is the weakest link
    2. What is the biggest return on investment
    3. How much $$ are you willing to toss at this?

    I haven't heard anyone either saying the Pio doesn't do a good job or a direct SBT comparison of your receiver vs external DAC. Just purchase from a place that has a solid return policy.
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by pretorios View Post
    By placebo, I simply mean myself thinking the sound as better merely because I've spent money on a different solution. That is my concern, how much money would it be necessary to outstrip the performance of the SC-67. From what I'm hearing, it would be fairly significant.
    Yes and no, depends. We all use our gear to accommodate different lifestyles. Many have bought used gear that was top notch a few years ago for a fraction of their costs new only to discover that it sounds better. Why ? Again....the sum of the parts used. It's not always about the latest dac chip or circuit design. Look at it like this, if you had a 300 buck receiver and someone was telling you about this Pioneer elite receiver that costs mucho more, would you ask yourself the same question ? Would that Pioneer just offer a placebo of perceived performance because you spent more coin on it ? You tell me, you have a nice Pioneer receiver now, was it worth it or did you waste your coin ?

    Look, we all have our own individual limits on the wallet, if your satisfied with what you have and your wallet says stop, cool.....be happy and enjoy the tunes. Some others with deeper wallets may want to explore taking their audio to the next level however, no placebo involved in that. The game of audio is played on many levels my friend. Only you can decide if your wallet and your ears are willing to venture out into another level.

  13. #13

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    Don't forget a DAC has an analog output stage....this is where most of them do their magic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Yes and no, depends. We all use our gear to accommodate different lifestyles. Many have bought used gear that was top notch a few years ago for a fraction of their costs new only to discover that it sounds better. Why ? Again....the sum of the parts used. It's not always about the latest dac chip or circuit design. Look at it like this, if you had a 300 buck receiver and someone was telling you about this Pioneer elite receiver that costs mucho more, would you ask yourself the same question ? Would that Pioneer just offer a placebo of perceived performance because you spent more coin on it ? You tell me, you have a nice Pioneer receiver now, was it worth it or did you waste your coin ?

    Look, we all have our own individual limits on the wallet, if your satisfied with what you have and your wallet says stop, cool.....be happy and enjoy the tunes. Some others with deeper wallets may want to explore taking their audio to the next level however, no placebo involved in that. The game of audio is played on many levels my friend. Only you can decide if your wallet and your ears are willing to venture out into another level.
    Best post I have seen in a while on this subject. It honestly comes down to how much you can invest in your system, and its not just how much money. Invest a lot of time researching and learning can play a big part. Like what was mentioned above spending the most $$$ does not mean its the best. Synergy within the system and the quality of the components plays a bigger role.
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    IMO, if someone has a "placebo effect" with audio gear then they are not very bright to begin with. There are three possibilities that can happen with new audio gear; it sounds better, it sounds worse, it sounds the same. Now if it sounds the same, or sounds worse, and you convince your self it is better then that is not a "placebo effect". That is just pure delusional. The ones touting the "placebo effect" in audio are those with an agenda trying to rationalize their lack of trying better <fill in the blank>.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueFox View Post
    IMO, if someone has a "placebo effect" with audio gear then they are not very bright to begin with. There are three possibilities that can happen with new audio gear; it sounds better, it sounds worse, it sounds the same. Now if it sounds the same, or sounds worse, and you convince your self it is better then that is not a "placebo effect". That is just pure delusional. The ones touting the "placebo effect" in audio are those with an agenda trying to rationalize their lack of trying better <fill in the blank>.
    It's a preconceived notion is all, the belief, perhaps, that a new solution trumps an older one. In terms of placebo effect, I made that remark entirely from my own perspective, within the limits of my own equipment. I wanted to hear other opinions on whether or not a DAC offers better performance over my receiver, and if so, at what price point. Further, is there an advantage to up sampling source material that is limited to 44k/16 bit.

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    Pretorios---IMO, 16/44 has the potential to sound very good, but we're at the mercy of the recording engineers. I personally would NOT upsample CD rips. Again, IMO, I wouldn't waste my time with DAC below $1grand. The largest improvements with more expensive DAC's is the analog output section and jitter rejection.

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    Audio Advisor is a great place to buy from. 30 day, no hassle customer satisfaction guarantee and a good choice of DAC's including the Benchmark, NAD, PS Audio Perfect Wave and NuWave, Rega, Peachtree and Schiit to name a few. I just auditioned the Gungnir for 3 weeks and all it cost me was the $32 to send it back. The NuWave would be a good choice because it's under a grand, has both native and upsampling modes, a great USB input and it's one of the newer DACs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinaz View Post
    Pretorios---IMO, 16/44 has the potential to sound very good, but we're at the mercy of the recording engineers. I personally would NOT upsample CD rips. Again, IMO, I wouldn't waste my time with DAC below $1grand. The largest improvements with more expensive DAC's is the analog output section and jitter rejection.
    I thought another member here really loved the Apogee Duet 2 and I haven't checked out the thread to see if there is an update on the TEAC UD501. Both under $1K and one is certainly well regarded.
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  20. #20

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    What about bitstreaming via HDMI to your receiver/pre/pro?
    And then adjusting the output sample rate and bit depth via player?

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