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Do I need to pay attention to my DAC choice?

willem

Well-known member
Thanks for the reference to the NAD. However, from what I can find, the volume control only works on the headphone output, so if you want to use it as a pre amplifier you still need and external volume control.
 

IMF+TDL

Active member
willem said:
Thanks for the reference to the NAD. However, from what I can find, the volume control only works on the headphone output, so if you want to use it as a pre-amplifier you still need an external volume control.
The headphone output can be used as a variable line output. It can drive a load as low as 600Ω.
 

willem

Well-known member
Things are even more disappointing and confusing. The volume control on the UD 501 does not control the line outputs, but only the headphone output, as with the NAD. On the UD 301 it does control the volume of the line outputs, if you want it to, but the UD 301 has only one optical and one coaxial input each. grrr
 

RobCastig

New member
Concerning your ideal DAC and your requirements for it, how about the Benchmark DAC 2. Volume control, plenty of inputs.
 

willem

Well-known member
Sure, the Benchmark DAC2 and now DAC 3, are technicaly as good as it gets, and have all the inputs one needs. THey are not audiophile snake oil., but real engineering products. But they are also rather expensive. I am not convinced that a much cheaper unit will not sound equally well in domestic use..
 

witwald

Active member
willem said:
Sure, the Benchmark DAC2 and now DAC 3, are technicaly as good as it gets, and have all the inputs one needs.
The Benchmark DAC3 appears to be designed to handle the issue of intersample overs that can occur when CD recordings are being converted back to analog signals. Benchmark have an article that describes what's going on an what they've done to address the issue. The article can be found here, and it was written by John Siau, VP and Director of Engineering at Benchmark Media Systems.

It would be interesting to know how the Rotel RC-1570 and Pioneer U-05 handle the presence of intersample overs.

The topic of intersample overs has on occasion been mentioned by sound recording magazines, such as Sound On Sound. Ideally, intersample overs should be avoided. However, I am unsure of how noticeable they really are on typical music program material.
 

willem

Well-known member
Thank you very much indeed. That Pioneer in particular is interesting, with a wealth of digital inputs and xlr and rca outputs. And it has a volume control on these outputs. The extensive headphone options are not for me, but who am I to complain? The price is nice too: I found one for 629 euro.
The Rotel shares many virtues but adds analogue inputs for almost 400 euro more. For me, getting a new pre amp with digital inputs would be part of a complete move away from the last analogue sources, so in my case the Pioneer wins on price.
Thanks again.
 

willem

Well-known member
I now also discovered the Marantz HD-DAC1. It is cheaper than the Pioneer, but lacks xlr outputs and measures a bit less perfectly (still very good), has one coaxial input less (but still two optical ones plus usb) and has one analogue input.
 

witwald

Active member
willem said:
From the same French source a test (with measurements) of the Marantz HD DAC1: http://www.audiovideohd.fr/tests/381-Marantz-HD-DAC1-3.html
An interesting link. I am somewhat concerned that "Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 kHz), -0.02 dB, -0.11 dB" is regarded as "very poor". Hopefully it's just a typographical error. I cannot understand why such a flat (measured) frequency response would be labelled "very poor". The label appears to be totally unrealistic, especially when the same device is rated "excellent" in so many other objective areas.
 

willem

Well-known member
It is not a typographical error, as the text elaborates quite a bit. Unfortunately the graph is not detailed enough to see where exactly the response starts to fall off significantly. By the looks a bit before 20 kHz, but by how much? Even if it is true, I would be surprised if it were audible for anyone other than a young girl.
 

tugbil

New member
Hi... I recently had a chance to listen different DACs with my Ayre AX5-Twenty amp and Harbeth 40.2s.

Benchmark DAC3 HGC, Mytek Brooklyn, PS Audio DirectStream, Audiolab m-Dac+, T+A DAC8 DSD and Hegel 30.

All of them are great electronics. Hegel and PS Audio were out of my budget and I could not detect audible differences over Mytek, Benchmark and T+A. Mytek has a MQA license and it is getting big on Roon...
M Dac+ was the best choice in terms of budget/performance ratio but I could not take myself from T+A's DSD performance which is perfect and fits with my taste.
While I am growing my Hi-Res library I decided to go with T+A and I began to rediscover my library. I couldn't try BorderPatrol http://www.borderpatrol.net/DAC.htm . and I am so curious how it would be with my system. But we do not have this brand in Turkey. I heard it in US last winter and yes it was fantastic too.
I should add that I believe the main source is the most important part of the musical satisfaction and it is the recording itself. Whether it is vinyl, red book 44.1 PCM/CD or DSD256, the quality of the recording is all matters and mathematics can not upgrade the sound of original recording. Now I try to find the best recordings rather than playing with the electronics or cables.
Regards,
t
 

willem

Well-known member
Three weeks ago I finally bought the Pioneer U-05 preamp/DAC and paid only 475 euro for it from a German shop. It replaces my old Quad 33 pre amplifer and the quite basic internal DACs in my ten year old plasma television, ten year old entry level Bluray player and the Chromecast Audio. The only bummer was that when I checked the Bluray player's manual it claimed both optical and coaxial outputs, but when I finally looked at the hard to reach back of the player it only had optical. So all three sources have optical digital outputs and the Pioneer has only two Toslink inputs. I solved it with a 20 euro converter box, but it is less than elegant. So this remains something to keep in mind next time I buy a disc player.
Built quality seems very good, as you would expect. Sonically, it is also an improvement, though more on some sources than on others. Short of doing proper tests it is of course hard to decide if this is really true, but it would not be that surprising since two of the internal DACs in my sources were of pretty ancient design, and none of them were ever anything other than pretty basic. The other factor in the equation would be the ancient Quad 33 that it replaces. Its measured performance was excellent in the days of vinyl and FM radio, but falls far short of what resolution is possible with digital sources. The end result is now really good and I cannot imagine that any further measured improvements could ever be audible.
 

willem

Well-known member
My Pioneer U-05 sadly died after three months and could not be repaired. Since this was a discontinued model the dealer offered me money back towards an alternative and I chose the RME ADI-2 DAC FS. I have now been using this for about a week and I can only say I am stunned by the quality. The sound is clean as can be, without any colouration, sonic signature or whatever. It sounds as if it does not exist, and that is how it should be, and how it was to be expected from the measurements.
What sets the ADI-2 apart from other excellent DACs is the wide range of useful options. With my previous Quad 33 analogue pre-amplifier I always had to use the balance control a bit, and the ADI-2 allows me to do exactly the same in the digital domain. I have now also set the variable loudness, because my wife does not like to play at higher and more realistic volume. It works fine, but I think I have to increase its action a bit more than the default, given my inefficient speakers and large listening room. The next and more laborious step will be to use the dsp parametric filters to tame low frequency peaks in the output of my mains speakers, but that requires measurements first. My subwoofer is equalized with an Antimode 8033 and that deals with the worst room modes, but the dsp eq of the ADI-2 will allow me to do the same for the main speakers. A measurement some years ago already showed me that there is room for improvement. I think these dsp facilities are a large part of the attraction of the unit, and I think they deserve more attention.
RME support is also excellent, as one would expect from such a well respected pro audio company, and part of that is their youtube video channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/RMEAudio The unit has so many features that this help is clearly welcome, certainly for me. It is not a cheap DAC at just under 1000 euro, but it is cheaper than many competing DACs that offer far less.
 

witwald

Active member
Sorry to hear about the sad failure of the Pioneer U-05; it's not quite what I would have expected to happen. It was nice of the dealer to support you in the manner that they did. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the RME ADI-2 DAC FS, which by all accounts appears to be a great DAC. The fact that it can do some EQ seems like a nice bonus. Hope you get to enjoy using the RME unit for many years to come.
 
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