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Tomyum's picture
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unsure which dac to get for my system

Arcam alpha 10 amp

B&W 685 speakers

B&W ASW750 sub

Computer with Flac files well ripped.

 

Hi all,

 

I have sacked my Nad c542 cd player off in favour of flac files from my computer as my main source.

I tried using a usb - digital out to the Dac of my Sony mini disc deck  MDS-JB930 but the quality isn't up to much compare to the nad cd play.

What would be a suitable dac be for my system?  I don't want it to be excessive but again I don't want it to be a limiting factor.

It's unlikely I will be updating my system for a while.

Would a HRT microStreamer be up to the job?

What would you recommend?

 

Many thanks, Tom

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Arcam blink great dac inside and aptx bluetooth I use flac from Qobuz streaming service much much better sound than spotify etc Cheers.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Oh! and if your computer does not support aptx you can buy a usb dongle to take advantage of the binks aptx 

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

When you say computer do you mean laptop?

Computer in same room as hifi?

... and yes the HRT microStreamer is very capable.

I wouldn't worry about aptX or whatever as it is never going to up to a wired connection.

 

Motto: Never pay full price for anything, there is always room to haggle!

Tom Evans Audio Design amplification / Acoustic Zen speakers.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Thanks for the replies!

 

Yes all on my laptop and will be used in the same room as my hifi.

If the HRT microStreamer is that capable and up to the job as my main source with my hifi then it would be the obvious one to go for I guess.  Half the price of the Arcam irDAC although it limited to just the computer if i did want to add anything at a later date.

Can you shed any light on the apple airport express?  stream music from laptop via wifi and has an optical out for an external dac.  Would this create inferior music quality? 

 

Many thanks, Tom

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Tomyum wrote:

Can you shed any light on the apple airport express?  stream music from laptop via wifi and has an optical out for an external dac.  Would this create inferior music quality? 

A great bit of kit, either feeding a DAC or utilising its own internal DAC.

I have a couple dotted around the house, my main system is fed by the Mac mini though.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Tomyum wrote:

Can you shed any light on the apple airport express?  stream music from laptop via wifi and has an optical out for an external dac.  Would this create inferior music quality

In my experience, the answer is undoubtedly 'yes'.  This is a similar question to another post, so here's a cross-link to what I said there:

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/which-dacfile-player-with-airplay#comment-2945458

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

BMFDrums wrote:

Tomyum wrote:

Can you shed any light on the apple airport express?  stream music from laptop via wifi and has an optical out for an external dac.  Would this create inferior music quality

In my experience, the answer is undoubtedly 'yes'.  This is a similar question to another post, so here's a cross-link to what I said there:

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/which-dacfile-player-with-airplay#comment-2945458

What evidence do you have for the sound being inferior and inferior to what? I have read your post and you don't seem to understand the technology, but persist with a lot of the myths surrounding digital.

An Airport Express, along with a great many other DACs is quite able to produce superior results and it's limitation of 16 bit/44.1KHz is not actually one a sound quality, but rather file type.

Generally, those involved in HiFi and who have invested a lot of money in the past in their systems, do not want to understand that a cheap device like the AEX can do all that is required for optimum CD quality playback.

A much greater focus and budget allocation needs to be given to the speakers.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Thanks for the replies.

I have ordered a HRT microStreamer so looking forward to hearing that.

My next question, Ideally it would be nice to be able to have the laptop away from the HiFi say 3 metres to be able to control what's playing.  Will this make a noticeable difference to sound quality?

Would a longer usb cable or longer 3.5mm to RCA cable be advised.  Which would deteriorate the sound more over a long distance?  I'm tempted to get a shorter USB and a decent jack to phono lead say a QED performance J2P Graphite or perhaps the QED reference Audio J2P if the system warrants the extra expense?

What would you recommend?

Thanks

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Tomyum wrote:

What would you recommend?

Thanks

I would recommend an AEX, which would allow connection without any wires to the computer at all.....

 

http://store.apple.com/uk/product/FC414B/A/airport-express-base-station-june-2012

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Hi, 

Sorry didn't even see your posts before asking about cables!

Ordered the HRT microstreamer for £150 off amazon which was the last one so might be able to try and sell again without loss possibly.

Then I could try both side by side.

Thanks

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Overdose, thank-you for your forthright response.  To tackle your points in turn:

Overdose wrote:

What evidence do you have for the sound being inferior and inferior to what?

If you had indeed read the previous post and the one that it linked to, you would have seen that I was referring to two elements:

1) There are better DACs available than the one contained within an Apple Airport Express, and;

2) There are alternative streaming solutions that offer advantages and disadvantages when compared with an AEx.

The sound from the analogue output of an AEx is inferior to that from a number of DACs, but the four others that I have at the moment and consider to sound 'better' (mainly in terms of presenting a more 'natural' and 'organic', i.e. realistic sound) are an Audiolab 8200CDQ, Audiolab M-DAC, Beresford Bushmaster, and HiFiBerry.  I'm sure you'll be able to find many others that agree that whilst the AEx delivers perfectly adequate analogue output, it is not up there with the best DACS, albeit many of those cost a lot more money.  As for other streaming solutions, even much cheaper options can produce benefits over-and-above the AEX, notably in terms of jitter, which can impact on sound quality.  The RaspberryPi + HiFiBerry DAC is a case in point, but the main down-side for me of the AEx is that it does not offer audio out via USB, which I have found to be preferable to S/PDIF (Toslink).  So, for example, the CuBox i2 Ultra that I referred to has both USB and S/PDIF output, so is more flexible.

Overdose wrote:

...you don't seem to understand the technology, but persist with a lot of the myths surrounding digital.

Strong words - perhaps you could expand?  I understand the technology sufficiently well to have implemented a multi-room AEx set-up and a number of alternatives, including a RaspberryPi running the Linux Volumio code, via USB to some of my current DACs, and also direct to analogue with the on-board HiFiBerry DAC.  Having done so, I took the time to write up my findings on these Forums in the hope that they would be useful for others.

Overdose wrote:

An Airport Express, along with a great many other DACs is quite able to produce superior results...

What evidence do you have for the sound being superior and superior to what?  Sorry, but I'm afraid you have fallen into your own trap there.

Overdose wrote:

...it's limitation of 16 bit/44.1KHz is not actually one a sound quality, but rather file type

I don't wish to get into a debate over whether hi-res files sound better or not, nor to split hairs over the difference between bit depth, sampling rates and file types, which I believe you have incorrectly conflated here.  I was simply advising the (other) OP that AEx cannot play files at higher resolutions than 16/44, whereas other DACs and streamers can.  As I said in my other post (that one that you claim to have read), "None of these may be particularly important to you, in which case please ignore this post and go with th AEx - it is a functional and relatively capable device that I have enjoyed for many years now."  That was referring to the three points that I had made above in that post, i.e. USB output, hi-res playback, and direct streaming from a NAS.

Overdose wrote:

... a cheap device like the AEX can do all that is required for optimum CD quality playback.

'Optimum' is a very contentious and unsubstantiated statement in this context, especially as I have pointed out previously that some AEx units have very high levels of jitter, so much so that I cannot use the Gen 2 AEx with my Audiolab 8200CDQ - it continually loses 'lock', causing drop-outs and pops from the speakers.  I don't consider that to be 'optimum'.  I have already covered the point about hi-res above, but you are correct - AEx is limited to 16/44, i.e. the same as a CD.

Overdose wrote:

A much greater focus and budget allocation needs to be given to the speakers.

The OP of this thread asked the question "What would be a suitable dac be for my system?  I don't want it to be excessive but again I don't want it to be a limiting factor."  He also went on to add, "It's unlikely I will be updating my system for a while."  So, whilst you may be correct in your assertion about the budget for speakers, he has some decent speakers already.  I really don't see how that point is helping to answer his question.

 

Anyway, I'm glad to see that the OP has now bought a seperate DAC and can connect via a number of methods, one of which may prove to be an AEx.  From my own direct comparison of a number of seperate DACs with the analogue output from an AEx, I am sure that he will find it to be superior.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Overdose wrote:

I would recommend an AEX, which would allow connection without any wires to the computer at all.....

Whereas I would investigate what the OP is asking about before writing down what you already have and think is great.

To that end, I would definitely NOT buy an Apple Airport Express, as it has an S/PDIF optical (Toslink) output, which is not compatible with the HRT microStreamer that the OP has just bought (and said so in the previous post), as it is a USB-connected device.  If you wish to ignore your recent purchase, then go ahead with an AEx.

Alternative streamers are available should you wish to pursue that approach - see the multi-room thread I referred to previously.

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Thanks for the replies!

I did read your link regarding the AEX and that's when I decided to go for the HRT microStreamer.  

I had noticed that the AEX wouldn't be compatible with the HRT.  I think that if I was thinking of going down the route of the AEX I would first start with a Dac that had more flexibility (i.e. varying inputs like the Arcam irDAC) so that something like the AEX could be added at a later date if wires were a pain.  However on reflection and peoples experiences adding an AEX wouldn't be much of an upgrade other than no lead to my laptop and might actually be weak link in my system regarding sound quality?

Just to clear up, however much I like the idea of convenience with regards to wireless and niceties for listening to my music I wouldn’t trade it for out and out sound quality.  That is the reason I spend my hard earned money on HiFi, I love my music to sound good, if it is detrimental to the quality regardless of it’s convenience I probably won’t be buying it for my system. 

Which brings me back to one of my questions haha, which cable, usb or analogue, would be better to have long to travel the distance from laptop to amp and can you recommend any to suit my system requirements.

 Thanks very much!

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

Tom

You mentioned 3m between laptop and amp - correct? I would probably go for a longer USB cable and keep the analogue path shorter (0.75m or so).  You may wish to take that with a pinch of salt, though, as I don't really understand the technology (apparently).

Depending on what laptop you have and how you play your music (e.g. iTunes), you could always put the DAC close to your amp and use a free app like Apple Remote to control the tunes.  That way, you can keep the signal path short and still enjoy the flexibility of being able to control the tunes from wherever you are in your house.  Just a thought...

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RE: unsure which dac to get for my system

I would say about 3meters.

I have been using iTunes but I have started ripping my cd's to Flac via dBpoweramp as I understood Flac files would be more flexable, so I have started to use FooBar2000.  Have to say I'm missing iTunes as I knew my way around it!

Sounds like a great idea I will have a look and see if there's something similar for FooBar.  

 

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