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  1. #1
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    Standalone DACs?

    I really need to ask, what is the reason of the existence of such products. I mean arent amplifiers supposed to do that? Isn't it enough that some guys have to buy seperate pre-amp power-amp for that extra bit of performance, now there are seperate DAC solutions?

    What's the point? So that the signal received by the pre-amp/receiver is more precise? BTW if analog signal is received by an amp then there's no DAC performed on the part of the amp right?

    I just want to know if i'm getting this right.

  2. #2
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    The only amplifiers that have built-in DACs are home theatre receivers, usually. Stereo amplifiers usually don't.

    The whole point of a stand alone DAC is to get a better quality analog audio signal to feed to an amplifier by isolating the digital to analogue conversion, and by using higher quality components to do the conversion.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  3. #3
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    Thanx for the reply.

    Is it worth it though? I just saw a review on a magazine for a DAC costing 18.500 Euros. I mean how good can that thing be so that it costs so much just for handling the DAC?

    BTW is it better for the DAC to come before or after the amp?

    Scenario 1. Source delivers signal to DAC digitally,Signal is converted to analog by the DAC and is delivered as analog, finally the amp handles the analog signal and drives the speakers

    Scenario 2. Source delivers sound digital to amp, amp processes digital signal and sends it digital to DAC and Dac final does the conversion but is the one driving the speakers.

    Which one is more preferable and why may i ask?

  4. #4
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    Is it worth doing? Well, you could ask that question about any money spent on hi-fi. Is it worth paying more for better speakers, or for a higher quality amplifier, etc? Each person will make their own judgement on that.

    Incidentally, I am considering purchasing a stand-alone DAC myself. I would like a better CD player, but for the money I would have to spend, I can buy a standalone DAC, which should give me a better result.

    Out of the two scenarios you mention, only scenario 1 will work. That is the way you would connect it.

    Scenario 2 doesn't make sense. There is no point in the amp 'processing' a digital signal then passing it to a DAC. Also, a DAC is not an amplifier, so is not able to drive speakers, which is the reason why scenario 2 won't work.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  5. #5
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    The DAC can be fed a digital signal from an existing CD player in a system allowing one to upgrade the sound quality by adding a better DAC than the players internal one. Some HT fans may want better music playback, they can feed a DAC from the digital output of a DVD player into a DAC and the analog outs of the DAC into the analog inputs of the receiver and use the "direct" mode to bypass all the internal processing and achieve some pretty nice sound.

    And, as stated, isolation can be the reason. One may decide to buy a transport and DAC opposed to a single box player.

    Some guys would buy those big 300 or 400 jukebox CD players which, usually had very entry level DAC's, add an external DAC for higher quality playback sound.

    They are becoming popular now because of the growing practice of putting music on some type of harddrive whether computer or music server. A DAC again just gives an option of better sound quality.

    Bottomline, the purpose of "adding" a DAC is to upgrade whatever you are currently using for a DAC to achieve better sound.
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  6. #6
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    Additionally, some DACs have multiple inputs, sometimes including USB, which will allow it to accept digital input from a computer.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by therock003
    I really need to ask, what is the reason of the existence of such products. I mean arent amplifiers supposed to do that? Isn't it enough that some guys have to buy seperate pre-amp power-amp for that extra bit of performance, now there are seperate DAC solutions?

    What's the point? So that the signal received by the pre-amp/receiver is more precise? BTW if analog signal is received by an amp then there's no DAC performed on the part of the amp right?

    I just want to know if i'm getting this right.
    1) DACs have been around for a very long time (from early CD player days).. they've just become a lot more popular as a result of music servers (whether computer based or otherwise)...

    2) Their purpose is simply to improve sound... you can upgrade any part of your setup (right down to the power cords) if you think it will improve the sound...

    3) DACs are very much like a separate pre-amp, in that they are aimed at very specific customers... Absolutely no disrespect intended, but usually if you have to ask what its purpose is, then you're not part of the intended market... DACs are not really aimed at people who use HT Receivers... they tend to be aimed at people who use integrated amps or amp/preamp combos... People who believe (whether right or wrong) that spending a lot more money on a separate pre and power amp, DAC & Transport will sound much better than a HT Receiver and DVD player...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by emesbee
    Is it worth doing? Well, you could ask that question about any money spent on hi-fi. Is it worth paying more for better speakers, or for a higher quality amplifier, etc? Each person will make their own judgement on that.

    Incidentally, I am considering purchasing a stand-alone DAC myself. I would like a better CD player, but for the money I would have to spend, I can buy a standalone DAC, which should give me a better result.

    Out of the two scenarios you mention, only scenario 1 will work. That is the way you would connect it.

    Scenario 2 doesn't make sense. There is no point in the amp 'processing' a digital signal then passing it to a DAC. Also, a DAC is not an amplifier, so is not able to drive speakers, which is the reason why scenario 2 won't work.
    Oops you're right about that, i completely forgot about it. But on the other hand since it comes after the receiver wont it receive an already amplified signal?

    Scenario 1 is the way to go, but this way the amplifier needs to prcessor an analog signal, so how can it apply DSP on such a signal? That way i guess it could only apply analog amplification?

    Additionally, some DACs have multiple inputs, sometimes including USB, which will allow it to accept digital input from a computer.
    Well amplifiers have all kinds of inputs including digital, so that isn't it.

  9. #9
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    Rock, you're just making this too complicated.

    Some people are more interested than others in pursuing the last ounce of sound quality they can get out of their system. Using an external DAC is one more way of going after that goal. For some people it is worth it, for some it is not.

    In my case, my stereo tube amp does not contain an internal DAC. While an analog output is available from my Squeezebox player, I get much higher quality using my external Lavry DA10.

    In your case the only thing to do is try an external DAC and see if it improves your sound quality enough to justify the cost. If it works for you, great! If it doesn't, you saved yourself some money.

  10. #10
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    Anyway sorry if i appear cranky in this matter or something, i didnt mean no disrepesct to peopel prefering DACs,all i need to do is understand how external DACs work and what they have to offer so that i can consider if its something that will be of use to me.

    How can i try such expensive stuff? Is there any way to demonstrate these products before you buy? I mean, specific high end stuff, not the low-end stuff you find at the nearest store.

  11. #11
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    Will DACs remove jitter from the incoming digital signal during the conversion, or will it pass it as an artifact, such as the signal coming from my old Panasonic DVD-F87 changer's digital coax out?

    (Sorry therock. Not trying to hijack your thread, but I need that question answered.)
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich-n-Texas
    Will DACs remove jitter from the incoming digital signal during the conversion, or will it pass it as an artifact, such as the signal coming from my old Panasonic DVD-F87 changer's digital coax out?

    (Sorry therock. Not trying to hijack your thread, but I need that question answered.)
    No problem, let us address every concern about DACs here, since this a DAC exlusive topic meant to help us understand this concept. Everyone is free to ask and answer questions here and shed light to this matter.

  13. #13
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    Tex,

    Some DACs will remove the jitter others won't. Some handle the jitter in different ways too, but for those that don't, the same manufacturer typically also makes an additional jitter filter that, coupled with their DAC, makes a very good combination. Monarchy Audio makes one of these called the Digital Interface Processor.

    Rock,

    You don't need an 18K Euro DAC to hear what it can do. Just purchase a decent digital cable and a $1000 DAC (Benchmark makes a good one), or even a $300 DAC (Cambridge makes a good one) from a reseller like AudioAdvisor.com that has a 30-day return policy. Just remember to turn off all processing (a.k.a set it for bypass mode) on the receiver's input that you will be plugging the DAC into. I'm pretty confident this will sound better than anything the receiver or your disk player will be able to do for the music. And if you don't think it was worth it, just send it back.

    Most of us here agree that an external DAC is an improvement, sometimes a significant one, especially with inexpensive players.

  14. #14
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    Rock, for listening to music through my system, I have a Musical Fidelity E11 stereo integrated amplifier. It drives my front speakers, and has a Pioneer CD player connected to it. The amplifier is a very straightforward, simple stereo amplifier which accepts analog signals only. There is no digital signal processing built into it whatsoever. The purpose of connecting a standalone DAC to this system would be to feed a better quality analog signal into the amplifier than what is currently being generated from the DAC built in to my CD player, all with the aim of getting the best out of my amplifier and speakers in order to make the music more enjoyable to listen to.

    I also have a home theatre amplifer which I use when I play DVDs, but I'm not considering connecting a standalone DAC to that. I listen to music in stereo, and that is where my focus is.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  15. #15
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    It sounds to me like there still may be some misunderstanding of where in the chain a DAC goes. Remember it's digital in, gets converted, then analog out. The DAC does not go after the receiver. Think of it as an extension to the CD player or whatever you want to use for a transport (plays the disc). If you had a HT receiver the DAC would be plugged into an analog input period.

    Think of how many things have a digital output, you can plug various things into the DAC, for better conversion, filtering and analog stages but it is only analog out and will be connected to your receiver/preamp analog input.

    Basically and generally a CD player has two main parts, the transport, which is where you put the disc, control the playback etc., then the digital to analog converter (DAC) which you can think of as the back of a CD player where the output jacks are. Transport/DAC is just breaking apart a CD player into stand alone components as preamp/power amp are separate components of an integrated amp. When you separate the components out it gives room to embellish to hopefully achieve better sound performance.

    This isn't to say a DAC will always out perform a single box either. You have to compare DAC to DAC, it's just a single box has the transport attached to it.

    If we aren't answering your question try putting it a different way.
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  16. #16
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    Well of course a DAC would be better most of the times than the one included in CD players but when you have an amplifier/receiver that costs 1500+ euros with all of his luxurius digital inpus and DACs why would you need a seperate DAC to feed an analog signal onto a receiver, when you could instead just feed the digital signal to the amplifier and let him do the Digital analog conversion.

    (By the Way why do peple continue to use CD-players when there are computers to do this job (feed the audio). Especially getting high-end cd players make even less sense than purchasing an expensive external DAC.)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by therock003
    Anyway sorry if i appear cranky in this matter or something, i didnt mean no disrepesct to peopel prefering DACs,all i need to do is understand how external DACs work and what they have to offer so that i can consider if its something that will be of use to me.

    How can i try such expensive stuff? Is there any way to demonstrate these products before you buy? I mean, specific high end stuff, not the low-end stuff you find at the nearest store.
    Without access to high-end audio stores, some people buy used equipment online and then re-sell it if they don't like it. I almost bought a preamp from a guy who had bought three preamps on Audiogon with the intention of keeping only one. The others were up for sale within two weeks.


    As for the original question, it's mostly a matter of breaking things out into separate boxes and concentrating on the quality of that particular part. If the mere presence of a DAC in a receiver meant there would be no need for separate DAC units, then it would also seem there's no use for separate tuners, amps and preamps. After all, they're already in the receiver.

  18. #18
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    Gasp.... as he looks across at his $3k boat anchor. And..... the answer is.....PASSION
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    If the mere presence of a DAC in a receiver meant there would be no need for separate DAC units, then it would also seem there's no use for separate tuners, amps and preamps. After all, they're already in the receiver.
    That's a valid point my friend. So i guess the answer to all this, is that you need it if the one you already got is not very good or not good enough! (Meaning that an internal DAC is not good at all, or it's not as good as you want it to be.)

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by therock003
    (By the Way why do peple continue to use CD-players when there are computers to do this job (feed the audio). Especially getting high-end cd players make even less sense than purchasing an expensive external DAC.)
    Because some people (like me) have a large CD collection. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I have no desire to rip my 1000+ CD collection to lossy mp3 format, with the associated reduction in sound quality, just so I can fit it onto a hard drive. And even if I don't compress the audio, playing a CD is still a lot easier, in my opinion.

    I also don't want to boot up my computer and wait for software updates, virus checks, etc, etc every time I want to listen to music. Plus, computers are inherently noisy devices, both mechanically and electronically. Now don't get me wrong, I have a computer, and I have it connected to my hi-fi system, but I don't use it as my primary music source.

    I am looking at the possibility of getting a DAC as an alternative to purchasing a high(er) end CD player, by the way. If I do, I will probably use my Pioneer DVD player as a transport, as my CD player doesn't have digital out (its old).
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by emesbee
    Because some people (like me) have a large CD collection. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I have no desire to rip my 1000+ CD collection to lossy mp3 format, with the associated reduction in sound quality, just so I can fit it onto a hard drive. And even if I don't compress the audio, playing a CD is still a lot easier, in my opinion.

    I also don't want to boot up my computer and wait for software updates, virus checks, etc, etc every time I want to listen to music. Plus, computers are inherently noisy devices, both mechanically and electronically. Now don't get me wrong, I have a computer, and I have it connected to my hi-fi system, but I don't use it as my primary music source.

    I am looking at the possibility of getting a DAC as an alternative to purchasing a high(er) end CD player, by the way. If I do, I will probably use my Pioneer DVD player as a transport, as my CD player doesn't have digital out (its old).
    Well i know that (people own huge disc collections) and i respect it, but using a computer is a small price to pay when you can simply use a cheap cd/dvd player on a computer as a transport and instruct the software to transfer the sound via usb losslessly or via spdif if it exists. I'd definitely go for that anytime when it saves me buying a 2000 worth of euros for buying a disk transport...

    On the other hand a DAC really does something if you're an audiophile. From what I gather here, no matter how could a DAC is on an integrated overall solution, there's always chance to do one better, by getting an external solution dedicated for this purpose.

  22. #22
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    emesbee wrote:
    but I have no desire to rip my 1000+ CD collection to lossy mp3 format, with the associated reduction in sound quality, just so I can fit it onto a hard drive. And even if I don't compress the audio, playing a CD is still a lot easier, in my opinion.
    I have my entire collection on a computer that is a dedicated music server. I use FLAC which is a lossless compression, which feeds a Slimdevices Squeezebox that in turn goes to my Lavry DA-10 DAC into my Image 65i tube amp and on to the Spendor SP1/2E speakers.

    It is a wonderful way to enjoy the 38,000 plus songs in my collection with no loss of quality. My server is always on, so other than the warm-up time for the tube amp, the music is always ready to play. And with the Squeezebox remote, I don't have to go near a computer to listen to music. The entire collection is accessible from the remote with search abilities by music folder, album, artist, genre, year and so on. It is actually easier than fumbling through a large collection of CDs trying to find the one song that was on a compilation disk, where you remember the name of the song or the artist but aren't quite sure where you filed the sampler CD.

  23. #23
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by therock003
    Well of course a DAC would be better most of the times than the one included in CD players but when you have an amplifier/receiver that costs 1500+ euros with all of his luxurius digital inpus and DACs why would you need a seperate DAC to feed an analog signal onto a receiver, when you could instead just feed the digital signal to the amplifier and let him do the Digital analog conversion.
    1500 Euros is about $2K USD for a HT Receiver.... Some Audiophiles spend more money than that on cables... My point being that a $2K HT Receiver is not likely to be regarded as High End (Audiophile quality sound) and the built in DAC is likely inferior to a $400 Cambridge Audio DACMagic, much less a $10K Chord... As I've said before: people who are content with the sound of a HT Receiver are generally not the market that DACs are aimed at...

    My suggestion is to go out and listen to some 'audiophile' products and then determine if you think they are worth the money... You may feel that they are not or you may end up, like many members of this site, looking to upgrade your setup... you might even ditch the $2K HT Receiver in favor of a $4K Integrated Amp & a $2K DAC

    Quote Originally Posted by therock003
    (By the Way why do peple continue to use CD-players when there are computers to do this job (feed the audio). Especially getting high-end cd players make even less sense than purchasing an expensive external DAC.)
    Some people still like CD players (I don't)... Others are afraid of the transition and have convinced themselves that the process is too difficult (even though they could do it in stages or even pay someone to do it, if they are that 'busy')

  24. #24
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    Whether or not audiophile products are worth the money is an entirely subjective judgement. What is good value to one person might be a waste of money to someone else.

    Some people spend lots of money on golf clubs. Now THAT, to me, is a huge waste of money. Why should I spend loads of money on some expensive metal sticks, when I could just walk up to the hole and drop the little white ball into it.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  25. #25
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by emesbee
    Whether or not audiophile products are worth the money is an entirely subjective judgement. What is good value to one person might be a waste of money to someone else.

    Some people spend lots of money on golf clubs. Now THAT, to me, is a huge waste of money. Why should I spend loads of money on some expensive metal sticks, when I could just walk up to the hole and drop the little white ball into it.
    100% agree

    While I know that I can put together a thoroughly enjoyable 2 channel setup for just $1K, I would never claim that a $100K 2 channel setup is a waste of money... If I had $100K to spend on a stereo, then I just might (or invest in some land or give to charity)... Yes 90% of audiophile gear could be classified as luxury goods, but if you're willing to extend your budget, you can always find better performance....

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