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post #1 of 93 Old 12-26-2018, 08:09 PM - Thread Starter
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What to Look for in a DAC

Currently streaming Tidal from MacBook Pro > Oppo 205 > Anthem MRX-720 and find the sound good but not as detailed or as large of a soundstage as I had hoped. I’ve been listening to other integrated amps with streaming capabilities and they sound much more detailed with a larger soundstage so I’m curious what specs I should be looking for in a DAC chip?

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post #2 of 93 Old 12-26-2018, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
Currently streaming Tidal from MacBook Pro > Oppo 205 > Anthem MRX-720 and find the sound good but not as detailed or as large of a soundstage as I had hoped. I’ve been listening to other integrated amps with streaming capabilities and they sound much more detailed with a larger soundstage so I’m curious what specs I should be looking for in a DAC chip?


I would say the specs of the integrated amplifier you liked the sound of


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post #3 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 04:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
Currently streaming Tidal from MacBook Pro > Oppo 205 > Anthem MRX-720 and find the sound good but not as detailed or as large of a soundstage as I had hoped. I’ve been listening to other integrated amps with streaming capabilities and they sound much more detailed with a larger soundstage so I’m curious what specs I should be looking for in a DAC chip?
DAC chips are only part of the story. It's the entire analog output stage to be concerned with. A lesser dac chip can sound better than a more coveted one, if the output stage is designed better.

Are you hooking up the 205 with the dedicated stereo analog outs to the Anthem and are u running the anthem in analog bypass mode? Make sure you're not coloring you chain in a negative way somewhere along the way with the Anthem. If you're doing that along the way what you need is what airsculpture suggests, an integrated you like the sound of, not just the specs of a dac chip.
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post #4 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 05:07 AM
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it needs very poor equipment/DAC to degrade the soundstage!
if the soundstage is not as wide as it should be, it means the channel separation is bad. And even the worst "normal" equipment is several power of tens better than a phono turntable.

from my experiences the soundstage is defined (beside the source material of course) by the speakers, the room (acoustic) and their placement therein.
you will never get a decent soundstage with less than 3ft free space all around the speakers or the listening position.

from your equipment the weakest link seems to be the speakers by far!
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post #5 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 06:31 AM - Thread Starter
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What to Look for in a DAC

Quote:
Originally Posted by glangford View Post
DAC chips are only part of the story. It's the entire analog output stage to be concerned with. A lesser dac chip can sound better than a more coveted one, if the output stage is designed better.



Are you hooking up the 205 with the dedicated stereo analog outs to the Anthem and are u running the anthem in analog bypass mode? Make sure you're not coloring you chain in a negative way somewhere along the way with the Anthem. If you're doing that along the way what you need is what airsculpture suggests, an integrated you like the sound of, not just the specs of a dac chip.

Thanks...I’m running the 205 output via RCA to Anthem which is in “direct” mode (no processing) to Focal Aria speakers. The integrated amps/streamers that I really liked was the Naim Uniti Nova and Hegel H190.


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post #6 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 06:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Mouse View Post
it needs very poor equipment/DAC to degrade the soundstage!

if the soundstage is not as wide as it should be, it means the channel separation is bad. And even the worst "normal" equipment is several power of tens better than a phono turntable.



from my experiences the soundstage is defined (beside the source material of course) by the speakers, the room (acoustic) and their placement therein.

you will never get a decent soundstage with less than 3ft free space all around the speakers or the listening position.



from your equipment the weakest link seems to be the speakers by far!

I’m using the Focal Arias for 2 channel listening and they are currently 4 1/2 ft away from one another and my listening position is 8-10 ft away.


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post #7 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
I’m using the Focal Arias for 2 channel listening and they are currently 4 1/2 ft away from one another and my listening position is 8-10 ft away.


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It seems like you need to either move the speakers further apart or you need to sit closer. I would aim for more of an equilateral triangle. You could also play around with toe-in and positioning of your speakers as well.

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post #8 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
I’m using the Focal Arias for 2 channel listening and they are currently 4 1/2 ft away from one another and my listening position is 8-10 ft away.
that's bad enough (wrong by factor 2) but how far are they away from the back and especially the side wall? THERE you need >9ft and a symmetrical environment at both sides.
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post #9 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Mickey Mouse View Post
that's bad enough (wrong by factor 2) but how far are they away from the back and especially the side wall? THERE you need >9ft and a symmetrical environment at both sides.
Yep. OP has a nice system but a bad setup. Maybe he has physical limitations to his listening room but those speakers should be close to 9' apart and probably toed in a bit to get a proper soundstage.

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post #10 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 09:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Mouse View Post
that's bad enough (wrong by factor 2) but how far are they away from the back and especially the side wall? THERE you need >9ft and a symmetrical environment at both sides.

What’s bad enough by factor of two? They’re 2 ft from the back wall with a front firing port and 1 ft from the side wall.


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post #11 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 09:45 PM
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for my laptop setup I have a topping d10 from usb at laptop. the topping d10 connects to my balanced geshelli labs enog2 pro dac via toslink. my dac outputs balanced xlr cables to 2 different balanced amps via single to dual xlr cables. the loxjie p20 balanced hybrid tube amp and the balanced thx aaa 789 amp. I like the different amp sound signatures. there are different all in one amp/dac combos that also can power desktop speakers. emotiva makes one for 200 bucks i think and topping makes a dx3 pro along with countless other chi-fi models that are under 300.

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post #12 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 10:01 PM
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http://emotiva.com/collections/amps/products/a-100
http://www.amazon.com/DX3-Pro-Headp...07KG9P3X3?th=1


schiit audio and many others have options...its a highly competitive space right now and best deals can be made
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post #13 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 10:04 PM
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ohhh what dac chips....these top o line imo


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post #14 of 93 Old 12-27-2018, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
what specs I should be looking for in a DAC chip?
None. They pretty much are all the same to human perception. [Except for a few clunkers in the early years.]

The way we know this is because not only are modern DACs "perfect" to the ear but so are the reverse, A to D or ADCs, for the most part.
Even as far back as 1984 with the very earliest of DACs careful testing found that inserting an ADC and then an DAC [such as the SONY PCM-F1] into the signal chain was inaudible to even expert listeners in level matched, double blind tests using an ABX comparator switch box:


http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/ba...x_testing2.htm

Even before this a similar device used in recording studios called a DDL, digital delay line, was also found to be completely innocuous when inserted or deleted from a signal path when the delay was set to "none". The Ampex ADD-1 released in ~1979 was the first widely used one.

http://reel2reeltexas.com/vinAd79AmpexATR100ADD1.jpg

Of course this notion that cheap ones can be fine doesn't sit well with the manufacturers that make pricey ones, nor the magazines which make their money from the manufacturers' ad dollars spent in their magazines, so this secret is known only to scientists but not the general public.

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post #15 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 12:39 AM
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Look for one that has a discrete 1 bit DSD section. It sounds better than PCM, and you will have the option to use much better and more powerful filtering algorithms on your PC via software (HQ Player, Roon) than what comes in DACs relying on a chip or FPGA.

This will also future-proof your DAC much better than others, as computing power scales with Moore's law and filtering on the software side will continue to get cheaper and easier.
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post #16 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 01:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
What’s bad enough by factor of two?
the relation between the distances!

you should have an equilateral triangle between speakers and listening point, e.g. 9ft each.
you have 4 1/2ft between the speakers and 8-10ft to the LP, what makes it wrong by factor 2.
and this is in the worse direction as well. If you can't reach the equilateral triangle for a better sound stage it's better to have a wider triangle (distance between speakers larger than the distance to the LP instead of the other way around).

Quote:
They’re 2 ft from the back wall with a front firing port and 1 ft from the side wall.
especially the 1ft to the side walls are extremely bad for the sound stage imaging!
the human hearing uses the first 5ms (roughly) to determine the exact origination of a sound.
if the speakers are located that near to the side wall the direct sound interferes with the (strong) reflections from the wall. The reflections make a detour of about 1ft forth and back = 2ft. That makes a delay of nearly 2ms and "destroys" the sound stage imaging completely.

please don't get me wrong!
you may still listen music with this kind of setup but it is really far away from being good and under these bad conditions it's completely useless to think about the DAC.
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post #17 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 02:19 AM
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well let me share a simple test on dacs. I bought a $20 signstek dac to use with my laptop which took in a usb cable and outputted spdif to my amp. I kept hearing short faint buzzes in one of my earpads. after switching cables and other elimination testing I ended up replacing the dac and now the problem is gone. the signstek dac has a ton of 5 star reviews...but in my case I heard very light noise intermittently. you can say it was broken, but to my ears I just heard noise at various times...and I dont have perfect hearing. so to say you cant hear differences just depends. many can hear differences and life goes on. just like saying all 12megapixel digital images are the same...far from it. maybe your eyes cant tell a difference, but there is definitely a difference. all pixels arent the same

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post #18 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 04:08 AM
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I bought a $20 signstek dac to use with my laptop which took in a usb cable and outputted spdif to my amp.
very funny
S/PDIF is a digital signal, you didn't use any DAC functionality of that stick at all!
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post #19 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Mouse View Post
the relation between the distances!



you should have an equilateral triangle between speakers and listening point, e.g. 9ft each.

you have 4 1/2ft between the speakers and 8-10ft to the LP, what makes it wrong by factor 2.

and this is in the worse direction as well. If you can't reach the equilateral triangle for a better sound stage it's better to have a wider triangle (distance between speakers larger than the distance to the LP instead of the other way around).





especially the 1ft to the side walls are extremely bad for the sound stage imaging!

the human hearing uses the first 5ms (roughly) to determine the exact origination of a sound.

if the speakers are located that near to the side wall the direct sound interferes with the (strong) reflections from the wall. The reflections make a detour of about 1ft forth and back = 2ft. That makes a delay of nearly 2ms and "destroys" the sound stage imaging completely.



please don't get me wrong!

you may still listen music with this kind of setup but it is really far away from being good and under these bad conditions it's completely useless to think about the DAC.

I see what you mean...measured the speakers and they are 65 inches apart. I went and test drive some B&W 702s yesterday and they sounded very nice. My space will not allow me to have the proper listening space that you suggest so I’ll have to make do and hope for the best. Thanks!


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post #20 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
I see what you mean...measured the speakers and they are 65 inches apart. I went and test drive some B&W 702s yesterday and they sounded very nice. My space will not allow me to have the proper listening space that you suggest so I’ll have to make do and hope for the best. Thanks!


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Sounds like you need a good headphone rig then. Check out Schiit products to get started if you want to explore that route.

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post #21 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torii View Post
ohhh what dac chips....these top o line imo


http://geshelli.com/enog2-pro
Featuring the AKM 4493 DAC chip paired with the TIOPA 1642 Output Driver Circuit

Currently looking at a Hegel H190 integrated amp with the AKM AK4490 chip. How does it compare to the oppo 205’s ES9038PRO SABRE DAC chip?

http://www.akm.com/akm/en/product/d...artno=AK4490EQ

http://www.esstech.com/index.php/en/...acs/es9038pro/



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post #22 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 08:31 AM
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http://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...d-player.3660/

Oppo 205 with 9038PRO is one is the best out there. You'll likely have a hard time beating it.
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post #23 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 08:36 AM
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As others have said, the problem is not the DAC, it's your setup. The DAC in the Oppo is good. You need to sit at the apex of an equilateral triangle to solve your sound stage issue. If you can't get your speakers further apart, sit closer to the speakers for critical listening. You are in a situation similar to small recording control rooms I worked in where I could only have 5' between speakers. That means to get good imaging and sound stage, I had to sit 4.3' feet back from the center line between the speakers. Trigonometry of triangles says the apex is .86 times the length of any side (or the distance between speakers).


Don't waste money on different DAC's. Some may say they can hear differences, but it is a component that should have no sound and most good DAC's should sound the same or at least very similar. DAC technology has not changed for many years, they figured out the problems and solved them.
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post #24 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 09:41 AM
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Dac performance really scales with the rest of your gear. Properly sized and placed speakers come first, forget about Dac differences until that is sorted.
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post #25 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 10:16 AM
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I've been using a Behringer UCA202 DAC off and on for about 4 years now. I say off and on since I have bought a couple of DACS in that time. I had an Emotiva DC-1, and currently I'm using a Cambridge DAC Magic 100. I've yet to hear a DAC that is 'night and day' different. That el cheapo Behringer is a very decent performer IMO. I 'think' the DC-1 delivered a bit more bass, but I haven't, and won't, measure for differences. IMO DACs are very much like amps, when they are well designed and have decent analog output they work just fine with minimal audio differences.



I just bought an Emotiva XDA-2. Why? Convenience! It doesn't use a wall wart to power it, and I can turn it on/off and use for either one of my Yamahas, one being an RX-A2070, the other the A-S1000 int. amp. As for sound stage, that is almost completely a function of room and speaker interaction as long as your audio gear that drives the speakers are working as they should. Others may disagree, and that is fine. But I have had more experience with audio gear than many posters here. I bought my first audio receiver when I was 18, been at this hobby ever since. I'm currently 71yo.
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post #26 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 10:37 AM
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with my DAC I can switch between three different digital filter settings.
honestly it's really hard (for me) to distinguish between "fast roll off" and "short latency", where "slow roll off" is more easy to detect.
but even these differences are extremely small, you need suitable source material and loop it several times while switching between the modes.
i bet nobody would notice if anybody else changes the setup under the counter.
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post #27 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 11:09 AM
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that Geshelli ENOG 2 looks great and has a great price
I am totally leaning towards the NAD C658 that is just arriving
uses the ESS Sabre chip (MQA-DSD) and has netwrok streaming, XLR and subwoofer out
wanted the TEAC NT505 for the AKM chip but the C658 just makes so much sense
I have not heard either unit
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post #28 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 11:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbroadus View Post
what specs I should be looking for in a DAC chip?

Have you noticed not a single person so far has been able to answer your question? Instead all they can do is say "Buy one with an XYZ super engine" or "This one is really good."

What does that tell you? Your question was perfectly legit so why aren't they giving you an answer? [A specific performance spec]

Usually when challenged for an explanation the cop out we often get for this is "What makes them different can't de described by any one spec because what makes them audibly different exceeds our current scientific understanding." Watch.

And of course the boogeyman they always like to fall back on oddly hasn't been mentioned yet (I don't think): jitter. Convenient for them is that just like reading tea leaves, any two DACs have slightly different levels of jitter (and jitter spectra) so they can always say, "See, this number is different from that number so this proves the two things sound different". This is analogous to using a very precise computer controlled stopwatch to measure the 0-60mph acceleration of two cars on a fair test track. If car A is 3.004 seconds and car B is 3.003 seconds does that prove that a human could tell? No. Of course then we get "I'm more perceptive than you and have a better system so I can tell." and this argument can't be tested over the web so many fall for it. Don't fall for it.
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Last edited by m. zillch; 12-28-2018 at 11:51 AM.
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post #29 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 12:10 PM
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here is a company that makes dacs for a while. http://www.akm.com/akm/en/product/detail/0021/


I use the newest one ak4493 x2 balanced


http://www.akm.com/akm/en/product/d...artno=AK4493EQ

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post #30 of 93 Old 12-28-2018, 12:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Have you noticed not a single person so far has been able to answer your question? Instead all they can do is say "Buy one with an XYZ super engine" or "This one is really good."

What does that tell you? Your question was perfectly legit so why aren't they giving you an answer? [A specific performance spec]

Usually when challenged for an explanation the cop out we often get for this is "What makes them different can't de described by any one spec because what makes them audibly different exceeds our current scientific understanding." Watch.

And of course the boogeyman they always like to fall back on oddly hasn't been mentioned yet (I don't think): jitter. Convenient for them is that just like reading tea leaves, any two DACs have slightly different levels of jitter (and jitter spectra) so they can always say, "See, this number is different from that number so this proves the two things sound different". This is analogous to using a very precise computer controlled stopwatch to measure the 0-60mph acceleration of two cars on a fair test track. If car A is 3.004 seconds and car B is 3.003 seconds does that prove that a human could tell? No. Of course then we get "I'm more perceptive than you and have a better system so I can tell." and this argument can't be tested over the web so many fall for it. Don't fall for it.

There isn't always a specific performance spec that explains the difference between 2 components. It's not necessarily just about "scientific understanding". This is particularly true when it comes to a DAC. We know that turning a digital signal into analog is not just about the chip. It's also about how the data between the bits is interpreted.

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