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  1. #1
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    Looking for a DAC or upgrade CD player?

    Hi audio fellows, I'd like to receive opinions/advices about the following topic.
    Much appreciation for any help.

    Here's the story;
    I'm considering to buy a used DAC to plug to my system. My budget here is around the 350$.
    I've been reading different posts on the forum and the picture I got is that a DAC can improve the CD session as well as the mp3.
    Some members on older threads about this topic (some are about 6 years old) commented that you don't need an expensive CDP (as some already have a good DAC magic on board), rather invest in a qualitative DAC.
    Is this still valid considering the progresses of technology?

    I have also some questions regarding the CDP:
    - The CA CD6 I own is about 15 years old and at the moment is still doing his job. So no worries right now, but I wonder how long a CDP can perform? Is it wise to invest in a DAC or rather in a modern CD player?
    - The CD6 I own is provided with balanced and digital output, should I look for a DAC with balanced output too?

    Thank you, cheers.
    audio2enjoy


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  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    Hi audio fellows, I'd like to receive opinions/advices about the following topic.
    Much appreciation for any help.

    Here's the story;
    I'm considering to buy a used DAC to plug to my system. My budget here is around the 350$.
    I've been reading different posts on the forum and the picture I got is that a DAC can improve the CD session as well as the mp3.
    Some members on older threads about this topic (some are about 6 years old) commented that you don't need an expensive CDP (as some already have a good DAC magic on board), rather invest in a qualitative DAC.
    Is this still valid considering the progresses of technology?

    I have also some questions regarding the CDP:
    - The CA CD6 I own is about 15 years old and at the moment is still doing his job. So no worries right now, but I wonder how long a CDP can perform? Is it wise to invest in a DAC or rather in a modern CD player?
    - The CD6 I own is provided with balanced and digital output, should I look for a DAC with balanced output too?

    Thank you, cheers.
    The main reason for a DAC versus a CD player is that you will use it to play music files from computer, (FLAC, MP3, whatever). If you intent to play only CDs then a separate DAC makes much less sense.

    Since you CDP is very old, you will almost certainly experience some sound improvement feeding from it to a DAC. On the other hand if it's old it might be reaching the end of its useful life.

    There are number of DACs under US$350. People here mention the Grant Fidelity and the Maverick; there is also the well-know Musical Fidelity V-DAC MkII that has good reviews.

    Personally I bought an astonishingly good DAC from an eBay sell for only $60 plus shipping; see HERE.



    This DAC has no right to sound as good as it does! I did replace the opamps inside for a modest improvement, but I'd say this strictly optional.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The main reason for a DAC versus a CD player is that you will use it to play music files from computer, (FLAC, MP3, whatever). If you intent to play only CDs then a separate DAC makes much less sense.

    Since you CDP is very old, you will almost certainly experience some sound improvement feeding from it to a DAC. On the other hand if it's old it might be reaching the end of its useful life.
    Thank you Feanor for your prompt reply, I understand the picture.
    Indeed I intend to make the best out of my CD collection. I'm very happy with the match Sugden/Tannoy for the purest listening pleasure.
    I play the iTunes music library for entertaining-easy listening purpose.
    So I'll think about your recommendation for a not expensive DAC and eventually consider to upgrade the CD.
    About CD players, what technical properties should I take more in consideration? The kind of DAC chip they have built-in for example?
    What about SACD?

    Greetings.
    audio2enjoy


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  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    Thank you Feanor for your prompt reply, I understand the picture.
    Indeed I intend to make the best out of my CD collection. I'm very happy with the match Sugden/Tannoy for the purest listening pleasure.
    I play the iTunes music library for entertaining-easy listening purpose.
    So I'll think about your recommendation for a not expensive DAC and eventually consider to upgrade the CD.
    About CD players, what technical properties should I take more in consideration? The kind of DAC chip they have built-in for example?
    What about SACD?

    Greetings.
    Given you CDs ripped to a lossless format, computer play-back has the potential to sound just as good as a CD player, perhaps better. However full computer audio is a pretty big subject.

    There are quite few DAC chip manufacturers in the market place and most of them make very good, late generation chips. It so happens chips by Wolfson are popular at the moment. But the glamour chips a the moment are the Sabre32's from ESS; unfortunately they are quite expensive. Other than the DAC chip itself, major internal componentS of a complete unit is the S/PDIF receiver and/or the USB to internal format chips. There is a lot of interest in "asynchronous" USB interfaces since they have the potential to reduce "jitter" which is a time domain type of distortion.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Given you CDs ripped to a lossless format, computer play-back has the potential to sound just as good as a CD player, perhaps better. However full computer audio is a pretty big subject.

    There are quite few DAC chip manufacturers in the market place and most of them make very good, late generation chips. It so happens chips by Wolfson are popular at the moment. But the glamour chips a the moment are the Sabre32's from ESS; unfortunately they are quite expensive. Other than the DAC chip itself, major internal componentS of a complete unit is the S/PDIF receiver and/or the USB to internal format chips. There is a lot of interest in "asynchronous" USB interfaces since they have the potential to reduce "jitter" which is a time domain type of distortion.
    Think I'll need to chew on this a "bit" ...
    Very interesting, thanks a lot for now.

    PS : I had a look to your system configuration and that's where my question about SACD comes from...I actually didn't know about their existence...
    audio2enjoy


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  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    ...
    PS : I had a look to your system configuration and that's where my question about SACD comes from...I actually didn't know about their existence...
    I suggest you Google SACD, or see the Wikipedia HERE. It is a high resolution format; it's bit rate is about 4x that of CD. Also, it supports multi-channel -- and there's nothing like multi-channel for simulation of a real concert hall.

    Unfortunately, SACD didn't receiver the popular support it deserved, (thanks partly to poor marketing by Sony, its inventor). Presently SACD is modestly popular only for Classical music.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    This DAC has no right to sound as good as it does! I did replace the opamps inside for a modest improvement, but I'd say this strictly optional.
    Now all it needs is a Ron Sutherland-styled battery power supply. While he uses banks of D cells with his phono preamps, you might put together an array of 9 volt batteries given its voltage requirement. Replacing the wall wart on my Squeezebox Touch with a linear made a tidy improvement.

  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    Now all it needs is a Ron Sutherland-styled battery power supply. While he uses banks of D cells with his phono preamps, you might put together an array of 9 volt batteries given its voltage requirement. Replacing the wall wart on my Squeezebox Touch with a linear made a tidy improvement.
    I gave some though to a PS upgrade but didn't get very far with it. The idea of a battery supply is intriguing.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Given you CDs ripped to a lossless format, computer play-back has the potential to sound just as good as a CD player, perhaps better. However full computer audio is a pretty big subject.
    Maybe I misunderstand what you write here and I'm not literate with the meaning of lossless format or computer play-back, but I was on the bus this morning and I had this thing crossing my mind ... Here's my consideration: if the music imported and then played on the computer comes from a CD, then is the CD the main source. In this case it would seem logical to me to play the CD=original musical source straight from a CDP, isn't it?
    Besides when importing from CD to PC you can choose different import settings. I use for example the AAC encoder at 192kbps optimized for MMX/SSE2. I used for a while 320kbps but the file size was too big. So I made a practical choice (as technically I don't know which format is the best) as the file size is smaller and I can eventually import music files on my mobile phone.
    But still, given that you can choose between several different import settings (AIFF, Applelossless, MP3 and WAV), I'm creating a passage (CD to PC) in which the audio quality of the original source might eventually be affected and at the end of the day if I have in my hand a good CD recording why not playing it directly in a decent CD player?

    Well, that was it and at end of my trip on the bus I managed to get off at the right bus stop...cheers
    audio2enjoy


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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The main reason for a DAC versus a CD player is that you will use it to play music files from computer, (FLAC, MP3, whatever). If you intent to play only CDs then a separate DAC makes much less sense.

    Since you CDP is very old, you will almost certainly experience some sound improvement feeding from it to a DAC. On the other hand if it's old it might be reaching the end of its useful life.

    There are number of DACs under US$350. People here mention the Grant Fidelity and the Maverick; there is also the well-know Musical Fidelity V-DAC MkII that has good reviews.

    Personally I bought an astonishingly good DAC from an eBay sell for only $60 plus shipping; see HERE.



    This DAC has no right to sound as good as it does! I did replace the opamps inside for a modest improvement, but I'd say this strictly optional.
    Feanor, I guess what your saying is that your Sony SACD Player isn't very good if a $60 DAC outperforms it.

    Have you ever been able to compare it to any decent CD Players like the Rotel 1072 or even an OPPO 93 or 95?

  11. #11
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    Maybe I misunderstand what you write here and I'm not literate with the meaning of lossless format or computer play-back, but I was on the bus this morning and I had this thing crossing my mind ... Here's my consideration: if the music imported and then played on the computer comes from a CD, then is the CD the main source. In this case it would seem logical to me to play the CD=original musical source straight from a CDP, isn't it?
    ...
    Not necessarily. I have virtually all my music ripped to computer file -- I use lossless formats, mostly FLAC -- I can then quite easily locate and play any performance of composition from my whole library from well over 1000 CDs with a few mouse clicks.

    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    ...
    Besides when importing from CD to PC you can choose different import settings. I use for example the AAC encoder at 192kbps optimized for MMX/SSE2. I used for a while 320kbps but the file size was too big. So I made a practical choice (as technically I don't know which format is the best) as the file size is smaller and I can eventually import music files on my mobile phone.
    But still, given that you can choose between several different import settings (AIFF, Applelossless, MP3 and WAV), I'm creating a passage (CD to PC) in which the audio quality of the original source might eventually be affected and at the end of the day if I have in my hand a good CD recording why not playing it directly in a decent CD player?
    ...cheers
    192kbps certainly will sound inferior in quality to a CD. On the other hand, a lossless file can sound as good as the CD. The most common lossless format is FLAC, but there are others such as Apple Lossless, a.k.a. ALAC. From lossless file you burn a CD-R with no loss of the original CD. The cost of computer hard disk capacity today is so low that it is literally a waste of time to rip to anything less than lossless

    If you happen to to need a more compressed file, (say 192kbps), to load on a portable device, first rip the CD to lossless to store on your computer, then create a lower resolution copy for the portable. Ripping is slow but creating copies at any resolution is very quick.

  12. #12
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi View Post
    Feanor, I guess what your saying is that your Sony SACD Player isn't very good if a $60 DAC outperforms it.

    Have you ever been able to compare it to any decent CD Players like the Rotel 1072 or even an OPPO 93 or 95?
    The above DAC easily outperforms the Sony and other, older CDPs and DACs that I've owned. I would enjoy comparing it with, e.g., the OPPO 95 but haven't had the opportunity.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    192kbps certainly will sound inferior in quality to a CD. On the other hand, a lossless file can sound as good as the CD. The most common lossless format is FLAC, but there are others such as Apple Lossless, a.k.a. ALAC. From lossless file you burn a CD-R with no loss of the original CD. The cost of computer hard disk capacity today is so low that it is literally a waste of time to rip to anything less than lossless.
    Hi Feanor, I have imported some CDs on the PC using lossless format and then played both 192kbps and lossless music files. Indeed the last one sounds more airy and detailed.
    I then compared lossless music files on the PC with the music played from a CD player and to my ears the CD still sound better.
    I have to say that, because the PC is not in the same room of the audio system, the music on the PC is played via an AirExpress Wi-Fi network.
    Might be that this passage affects the audio quality?
    Would then make sense the installation of a DAC?
    I've just found something about this topic. I'll post here the link and eventually hear some comments (I'm also curious to on feedback about the DAC mentioned in the article).

    Using Apple's AirPort Express with a DAC: A how-to guide | Crave - CNET

    Cheers.
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  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio2 View Post
    Hi Feanor, I have imported some CDs on the PC using lossless format and then played both 192kbps and lossless music files. Indeed the last one sounds more airy and detailed.
    I then compared lossless music files on the PC with the music played from a CD player and to my ears the CD still sound better.
    I have to say that, because the PC is not in the same room of the audio system, the music on the PC is played via an AirExpress Wi-Fi network.
    Might be that this passage affects the audio quality?
    Would then make sense the installation of a DAC?
    I've just found something about this topic. I'll post here the link and eventually hear some comments (I'm also curious to on feedback about the DAC mentioned in the article).

    Using Apple's AirPort Express with a DAC: A how-to guide | Crave - CNET

    Cheers.
    Your CD player could very well sound better than the PC playback that you described. The AirExpress might or might not be the reason, nor the fact that the connection is wireless. A simple explanation would be that your CD player has a better DAC than the AirExpress but there could be other factors.

    If you are content with your CD player sound and the mechanics of playing physical CDs then there is not reason to go to computer playback. On the other hand if you acknowledge that there could be advantages to the latter, then be assured that PC playback CAN sound as good as the CD player. Getting it that way can be a minor challenge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Your CD player could very well sound better than the PC playback that you described. The AirExpress might or might not be the reason, nor the fact that the connection is wireless. A simple explanation would be that your CD player has a better DAC than the AirExpress but there could be other factors.

    If you are content with your CD player sound and the mechanics of playing physical CDs then there is not reason to go to computer playback. On the other hand if you acknowledge that there could be advantages to the latter, then be assured that PC playback CAN sound as good as the CD player. Getting it that way can be a minor challenge.
    Thanks for sharing your thinking and knowledge Feanor, this discussion helped me to understand and find clarity on the issue I originally posted.
    Enjoy your music
    audio2enjoy


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    I have a Marantz SA8004 which on playing SACD is my best source. It replaced a top loader MHZS 66 with a Telefunken tube stage. I can't imagine the most sophisticated PC playback to come close to SACD.

    The Marantz has an excellent accessible internal DAC which allows playing PC files. It has optical, coax, and USB inputs.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    I can't imagine the most sophisticated PC playback to come close to SACD.
    How do you think any digital source originates? Hint: it's not a shiny disk.

    As for resolution, DXD has triple the data rate of DSD.

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    E-Stat, I'm all ears for you to tell me how I can get SACD sound with my PC as a source.

  19. #19
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    To my knownledge, there is no SACD drives for PC's, as the format did not catch on enough to mass market along with copy right/protection issue's. So there is no way a PC/MAC can compare in playback to a SACD player. Now you can download Hi res files from some sites, but are they equal to SACD standards? and the limited selection of music choice of both SACD and Hi Res music make them both only a nitch. I own a few SACD and DVD-A disk hoping the format would catch on. I have read that there are a few programs that can rip DVD-A since they do have a 2 channel mix encoded. SACD will have to stand on its own.
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  20. #20
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    E-Stat, I'm all ears for you to tell me how I can get SACD sound with my PC as a source.
    That's a different, format specific question. Sony''s copyright protection prevents that.

    My response was about what you "couldn't imagine". I think you'll find the answer to my question illuminating.

  21. #21
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    E-Stat, I'm all ears for you to tell me how I can get SACD sound with my PC as a source.
    About the closest you can come in practical terms is a downloads from HDTracks. They have many downloadable files, typically at 24 bits / 88.2 kHz, stereo, that are ripped from SACDs (with publishers' permission).

    Yes, there is equipment that will rip SACDs but it is illegal for consumer use.

  22. #22
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Yes, there is equipment that will rip SACDs but it is illegal for consumer use.
    I know there is equipment that can process a copy, thats how they make copies for sale.........

    But the question was is there software available to buy/comsumer use to make your own copies/rip to computer for playback.
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    Format aside, E-Stat. How bout sound equal to SACD with my pc as a source? I'm ready to be illuminated.

  24. #24
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    How bout sound equal to SACD with my pc as a source? I'm ready to be illuminated.
    I guess I must repeat the question since it continues to elude you.

    How do you think any digital source originates? Or, perhaps in simpler terms, what is the "master"?

  25. #25
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    In todays music the Master can be digital, and thus the term Digital to Digital transfer. So if you are eluding that all Masters are analog you would be wrong.
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