Finally converted to server based music

DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
edited March 2014 in Going Digital
The sonic gains of this move are absolutely phenomenal. Not one thing has fallen off and almost everything about the presentation has greatly improved. Transients, control, imaging, tonality... All while maintaining the dynamic Usher sound.

I bought a 3tb drive and installed it in an old computer. Bought jriver and jremote and $200 later, I've got a system that rivals the best systems I've heard. After this move, I must say I'm even more impressed with the Essence Audio HDACC dac. I feel like it's finally getting to strut its stuff and it's definitely got the walk down.

I've been seriously looking at speakers for the past two weeks because with the multiple speakers I've heard in this room on the same gear, I had come to the conclusion that the issue was too big a speaker in too small a room. I don't feel that way anymore. I have to thank the Wilson Alexia demo for this transformation. Hearing something of that caliber knock out some of my reference tracks wasa. Huge wake up call and pushed me to swap gear around like never before. I think I got comfortable with the mainstays and just assumed the synergy was still there.

I wish I had figured this out 2 months ago because it sounds like a completely new system now.
Post edited by DSkip on
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Comments

  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    Congrats man, looks like your moving in a good direction. Can you elaborate some on that Essence dac, especially on digital files. Warm, neutral...any digital glare, etc. How your sources are hooked up....
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  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    I'm just using a spare computer hooked up via USB and running the controls through my iPad. Once I get everything ripped, I can remove my monitor from the loop and just have the computer. Jriver opens up at start-up, so I never need to access anything I can't get to via the iPad.

    The Essence is the warmest DAC I've tried with this level of detail. I might have lost a touch of musicality moving from the BDP/HD-DVD players, but everything else went up in spades. This could also just be me getting used to the new sound as it is not a subtle change by any means. Some poor recordings are still easier to listen to on the players, but decent recordings and better get knocked out of the ballpark. I've been thinking about trying to run the DAC via an HDMI out on my video card, but I'm still undecided.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,817
    edited March 2014
    Skip... glad you finally dived into the digital realm. Its where I am and loving it.

    Now you just need to get some outdoor speakers so you can jam while grilling out (they are on my list for fathers day for sure :smile:)....
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    It took so long because I wanted a capable DAC that I could actually listen to. I've been wanting to try it since I got the HDACC, but time has been hard to come by for setting up the computer. I finally got around to it Saturday and was amazed by the difference. So far, its the best $200 I've spent on audio.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,817
    edited March 2014
    DSkip wrote: »
    It took so long because I wanted a capable DAC that I could actually listen to. I've been wanting to try it since I got the HDACC, but time has been hard to come by for setting up the computer. I finally got around to it Saturday and was amazed by the difference. So far, its the best $200 I've spent on audio.

    Yup, the thing you've also got going for you is that the signal is digital until the very end. I love my DacMagic but wonder what would happen if the signal stayed digital till it went from the pre to amp. But I am in a good place and quite happy so I dont anticipate changing my DAC's or anything other than possibly my pre-amp.
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    ... but wonder what would happen if the signal stayed digital till it went from the pre to amp. .

    Huh ?? How can the signal stay digital up to the amp ? Or am I reading that wrong ? That conversion has to take place before the amp. Unless you have an all digital Meridian setup, even the speakers are digital.
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  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,817
    edited March 2014
    tonyb wrote: »
    Huh ?? How can the signal stay digital up to the amp ? Or am I reading that wrong ? That conversion has to take place before the amp. Unless you have an all digital Meridian setup, even the speakers are digital.

    Sorry, his pre has a DAC built in. So he is sending a digital signal up until he uses his RCA pre-outs to his amp, and then speaker cables.

    Meaning he has one less set of analog IC's in the mix than most of us who use a DAC w/ RCA outs (because it has better resolution than our existing pre) to a Pre-amp to RCA outs to an amp to Speaker cables.
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    edited March 2014
    A music server configuration is ultimately going to be better than a CD player, at least at what most would consider to be reasonable prices. There's just less going on, things are much simpler and there's just less to get in the way of the music. As you go higher up in price CD players become more capable but IMO even at their very best they only sound as good as your $200 music server.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    Sorry, his pre has a DAC built in. So he is sending a digital signal up until he uses his RCA pre-outs to his amp, and then speaker cables.

    Meaning he has one less set of analog IC's in the mix than most of us who use a DAC w/ RCA outs (because it has better resolution than our existing pre) to a Pre-amp to RCA outs to an amp to Speaker cables.

    I'm only using the HDACC as a DAC. Everything sounds better when my preamp is in the mix. Everything.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    A music server configuration is ultimately going to be better than a CD player, at least at what most would consider to be reasonable prices. There's just less going on, things are much simpler and there's just less to get in the way of the music. As you go higher up in price CD players become more capable but IMO even at their very best they only sound as good as your $200 music server.

    What convinced me was simply hooking up my main computer and throwing a CD in the drive and playing it through iTunes. I was on my way to Fry's 30 minutes later.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    A music server configuration is ultimately going to be better than a CD player, at least at what most would consider to be reasonable prices. There's just less going on, things are much simpler and there's just less to get in the way of the music. As you go higher up in price CD players become more capable but IMO even at their very best they only sound as good as your $200 music server.

    Another HUH ?

    Your not really going to tell me a 200 buck music server sounds as good as a Jolida 100, MF CDP, or a Cary 303t-306 ? Heck, I have a hard time getting 16/44 to sound the same as a Pioneer cdp.

    No music server is going to compete with a GOOD cdp without a dac...a GOOD dac in the chain. 200 bucks won't buy a good dac, period. Maybe something like the MF clic might get you close on around 500 clams with it's dac built in but that's a horse of a different color.
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  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    I believe hes specifically talking about the transport aspect. My $100 Pioneer BDP sat in its throne for 2 years before I found a viable option. This option (DAC + computer) would've cost about $1200 retail though. Luckily, I'm only out about $200.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    DSkip wrote: »
    What convinced me was simply hooking up my main computer and throwing a CD in the drive and playing it through iTunes. I was on my way to Fry's 30 minutes later.

    I started the same way...but and that's a big BUT...I still preferred the cdp for overall SQ. After rolling a few sub 500 buck dacs, it became apparent a better dac is needed, to please my ears anyway. The convenience factor of digital is off the charts, but don't think the SQ is going to replace a good cdp for 200 bucks. Too many variables involved.

    If your just talking as a transport....then I agree. A cdp however is more than just a transport.
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  • StantonZStantonZ Posts: 393
    edited March 2014
    I'm still confused (and not familiar with the Essence Audio HDACC): are you sending digital (SPDIF) out to your pre/amp via USB or are you sending an ANALOG out via USB DAC? I can't see where a $200 DAC would sound as good as whatever is in your amp (unless it's not a very good amp).
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  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    edited March 2014
    I was obviously referring to the transport function, clearly I don't think a $200 computer is going to sound as good as a good CDP. Geez, give me some credit! Skip already mentioned using an external DAC, so I was commenting within the context of the actual conversation taking place here.

    You let me pick a DAC and run both lossless files and a low to middle end CDP thru it and the the lossless files are going to sound as good or better every single time - if they don't then you're doing something wrong. Playing files directly from a computer does introduce an extra layer of complexity because you have USB issues to handle, I prefer playing directly from an attached USB drive or streaming from a local NAS.

    The initial SETUP is more complex for lossless files, but once you get it done the actual playback of music has less parts in the chain and less to get in the way of the sound.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,817
    edited March 2014
    StantonZ wrote: »
    I'm still confused (and not familiar with the Essence Audio HDACC): are you sending digital (SPDIF) out to your pre/amp via USB or are you sending an ANALOG out via USB DAC? I can't see where a $200 DAC would sound as good as whatever is in your amp (unless it's not a very good amp).

    If I am reading Skip right it goes like this: Computer -> USB -> Essence DAC-> Douglass Connection RCA cables -> Shuguang S845MK pre-amp -> Douglass Connection RCA cables -> Shuguang S200MK mono block pre-amps -> Audioquest CV-8 speaker cables -> Usher CP-6311 speakers
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 12,028
    edited March 2014
    tonyb wrote: »
    Another HUH ?

    Your not really going to tell me a 200 buck music server sounds as good as a Jolida 100, MF CDP, or a Cary 303t-306 ?

    No music server is going to compete with a GOOD cdp without a dac...a GOOD dac in the chain. 200 bucks won't buy a good dac, period. Maybe something like the MF clic might get you close on around 500 clams with it's dac built in but that's a horse of a different color.

    Put me in the camp of a music server versus CDP. However, you are not going to get excellent performance for less than $5K. First, you need a dedicated file player, optimized with digital and analog power supplies, no moving parts, using external drives, reading/uncompressing music into memory before playing, and an enhanced sound card for minimal jitter. Then you need a DAC capable of taking the signal, and making music, not sound, out of it.

    Then to tie everything together you need a quality digital cable, and two quality power cables, and two open ports on a quality power conditioner. At this point we are approaching $10K, but very few CD players can touch it.
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  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    The Essence DAC is not a $200 DAC.... its $699 new. I recently won it from a drawing Essence had and, despite my reservations about its expected performance, I've been VERY happy with it. My skepticism completely diminished the first time I hooked it up.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    I was obviously referring to the transport function, clearly I don't think a $200 computer is going to sound as good as a good CDP. Geez, give me some credit! Skip already mentioned using an external DAC, so I was commenting within the context of the actual conversation taking place here.

    You let me pick a DAC and run both lossless files and a low to middle end CDP thru it and the the lossless files are going to sound as good or better every single time - if they don't then you're doing something wrong. Playing files directly from a computer does introduce an extra layer of complexity because you have USB issues to handle, I prefer playing directly from an attached USB drive or streaming from a local NAS.

    tThe initial SETUP is more complex for lossless files, but once you get it done the actual playback of music has less parts in the chain and less to get in the way of he sound.

    Normally I do give you the credit you deserve, maybe I just read too much into that. If I did, then I apologize.

    Now, onto your last statement......"...less parts in the chain and less to get in the way of the sound." I can agree to an extent but that's not always the case in audio. Less...it appears is more....as some suggest. Less to get in the way of the sound. Yes and no because everything colors the sound to our own preferences. Isn't that why we all have different gear ? We actually prefer coloration in audio to some degree. That too is why we switch out cables until we find our huckleberry...the right combination of coloration to each set of ears.

    Be it computer files or a cdp...each gives or takes away a degree of coloration only to be added back in farther down the chain in your system. As a transport alone of data, minus the noise issue of a computer, I'm with ya man.

    I think sometimes we in a round about way suggest that plopping a cd in a computer and running ITUNES into the dac of a mid line receiver or 200 buck dac trumps any cdp out there. Which in my view couldn't be further from the truth.

    Again, apologies if I read too far into your last post, maybe this 'effing Folgers crap coffee the wife bought is taking it's toll on me.
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  • cnhcnh Posts: 13,310
    edited March 2014
    I'm gonna have to side with tony here. I've heard DACs from $500-1500 and, yeah, they're good. But NONE are as "warm" as my Jolida. None! Do they have a little more detail, sure, but they're just not as musical as the old tuberino CDP. (Of course there are DACs with tube stages and that is a complicating factor, perhaps).

    They're certainly more convenient and there are fewer moving parts, that's true. And I'm tempted to add one in order to catalog my CDs on a HD. But I'll never stop using a tubed CDP. If anything, I'll upgrade there.

    Tony is right about coloration, Tube coloration that is. Now, you can get some of that by using tube amplification and a tube pre with a DAC, but then is it just the DAC or the tubes that are the real "musical" factors? Aren't you really cheating? Let the DAC stand on its own with no tubes in the chain, none. And let's hear it then.



    cnh
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  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    cnh wrote: »
    I'm gonna have to side with tony here. I've heard DACs from $500-1500 and, yeah, they're good. But NONE are as "warm" as my Jolida. None! Do they have a little more detail, sure, but they're just not as musical as the old tuberino CDP. (Of course there are DACs with tube stages and that is a complicating factor, perhaps).

    They're certainly more convenient and there are fewer moving parts, that's true. And I'm tempted to add one in order to catalog my CDs on a HD. But I'll never stop using a tubed CDP. If anything, I'll upgrade there.

    Tony is right about coloration, Tube coloration that is. Now, you can get some of that by using tube amplification and a tube pre with a DAC, but then is it just the DAC or the tubes that are the real "musical" factors? Aren't you really cheating? Let the DAC stand on its own with no tubes in the chain, none. And let's hear it then.



    cnh

    A system is about balance, plain and simple. What parts are adding the tonal landscape of your system doesn't really matter as long as the end result is pleasing. The HDACC is the warmest, most detailed DAC I've heard yet that you can get for under $1k new. I don't have as much DAC experience as say Danny does, but still, the fact that it beat out my Pioneer says a lot.

    I've said before that its damn near impossible to find a DAC under 4 figures that is both musical and detailed. This is the first one that I've tried that didn't suck the magic out of the music for the sake of detail. Yes, its not QUITE as musical as the Pioneer, but what else it brings to the table makes that small margin very acceptable in my system. You have experience with Usher speakers and consider them to be sharp on the top end. It takes a lot to tone down that top end, and I feel like they got too warm before the computer was added. Now, I'm getting air to the music that I wasn't getting before. The highs are back in the rig, but they aren't bordering on sharp. They're just clean sounding now.

    For what its worth, I've turned down many a DAC because of cold sound. This is the first DAC I've tried that kept the warmth while adding a huge amount of detail.
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    edited March 2014
    Different strokes I guess, I want my source material to be as pure and uncolored as possible. Component synergy is already difficult enough as it is, I want as few pieces as possible to have their own coloration. I prefer my source to be very neutral and instead use my preamp and/or DAC to get the coloration that I like in the music, that way I have one component I can swap in and out.

    Anyway, I think you guys totally took my post in another direction and don't quite get the spirit of what I'm saying. I'm saying take the SAME DAC and plug both a CDP and lossless files that the files will sound as good or better than the CDP.

    I'm sure your Jolida sounds wonderful, but I guarantee you there's a DAC out there (maybe the Jolida DAC?) that has the same sound signature.
  • sucks2bemesucks2beme Posts: 4,883
    edited March 2014
    The signature sound of a cdp or dac comes from the combination of the chipset, and analog section.
    The analog section (including power supply) is the primary source of the sound, good or bad.
    So if the DAC has that good design, you're golden. If not up to par, then not so good.
    Chipsets make a difference, but nowhere as much as the analog design. Jitter?
    yes a factor, but nothing like the analog section. My take on tubes in a cdp or DAC?
    Not important. That's what a good tube preamp is for. As long as the cdp or DAC does it's job well,
    The tube adds nothing that the preamp can't. Now if you're preamp is isn't up par, then it's
    time to remove the weak link.
    My signal path past the DAC is all glass, so your mileage may vary!
    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,430
    edited March 2014
    I'm saying take the SAME DAC and plug both a CDP and lossless files that the files will sound as good or better than the CDP. .[/QUOTE

    In that scenario, most will agree with you, including myself. The cdp is just used as a transport. Whats missing is the analog output stages built into a decent cdp, and fairly lacking on anything under 1000 bucks in a Dac. To me, that's where the differences are most noticeable and why most cheaper dacs just don't seem to quite get you there to what a good cdp delivers.

    I wish more higher end cdp's had digital inputs, I know a few Cary ones that do and on the used market not too bad. I like the sound of higher end cdp's, maybe because of the build quality, the analog output stages inherit to higher end gear. Finding a dac to match that is key but if you can and coupled with the convenience of digital 'puter music, life can be heaven again in the audio world.

    Digital music is a road one must travel to appreciate what it offers, and to appreciate the steps involved to best a good cdp. It isn't as easy as you may think, but it can be if gear is chosen well.
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  • sucks2bemesucks2beme Posts: 4,883
    edited March 2014
    The real time to jump is when you are looking at cdp upgrades.
    If you already have $$$ into a cdp, it's hard to justify a DAC.
    And if you get a multiple input DAC, you should be able to
    run it with your CDP and your pc. Note: usb is a sticking point.
    Digital out, or usb3/firewire is a better choice. At some point
    this world is going to step up, and usb2 needs to die.
    PC audio is stuck in a hole because usb2 doesn't support
    higher bitrates. And it has other issues as well.
    The world of DACs is improving all the time.
    I'm sure a sub-$1k DAC with great analog is coming.
    I'm sure waiting for it. My current DAC is holding things
    back and I'm not ready to drop $$$$$$ on one that
    takes it up to the next level.
    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 18,999
    edited March 2014
    Dskip...
    Good for you man. The ONLY thing that matters, is that the sound is exceeding your expectations. Sound is as subjective as most anything. It's all about personal preferences, and the emotional impact the system has for you. Some people are detail fanatics, some want tubey warmth; some like accuracy, others like a more "user friendly" sound. I prefer the sound of my SQB Touch via flac files, when compared to my CEC transport---but it is an extremely subtle difference. We're slicing gnat nuts here, IMO. I like my DAC "accurate" because it compliments my "warm-side-of-neutral" Harbeths. You can attempt to inject some emotion into your system at the source end, or the speaker end---it really doesn't matter which approach you take, if you're satisfied with the end result. I've been told that my speakers "lack" due to their thinwall construction; I don't care what people think, Harbeths' sound like harbeths because of the way they are built, and what is obvious to me is, the sum of the parts WORKS for ME.

    I drop some Karen Carpenter @ 24/96 and my speakers melt into the room, and I into my listening chair, and all is good in the Kingdom. That is the purpose of this hobby, right?
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    edited March 2014
    tonyb wrote: »
    In that scenario, most will agree with you, including myself. The cdp is just used as a transport. Whats missing is the analog output stages built into a decent cdp, and fairly lacking on anything under 1000 bucks in a Dac. To me, that's where the differences are most noticeable and why most cheaper dacs just don't seem to quite get you there to what a good cdp delivers.

    Digital music is a road one must travel to appreciate what it offers, and to appreciate the steps involved to best a good cdp. It isn't as easy as you may think, but it can be if gear is chosen well.
    Again, I'm only talking about the TRANSPORT function of a CDP vs playing a lossless file. But since you want to discuss the other point I'll bite.

    Show me your favorite CDP at $200, $500, and $1000 and I'll show you a DAC that sounds as good or better. Remember, a DAC is basically just a CDP without the transport section, stands to reason that at a given price a DAC will sound better because it has less components and the stuff that is in there should be higher quality.
  • sucks2bemesucks2beme Posts: 4,883
    edited March 2014
    Reality check-once the price gets up to a certain level, the price is set
    by the guy making it. The cost to make is is a LOT lower that the selling price.
    Small custom guys have to have a big mark up because sales volume is low.
    So the difference between 1 $1k or $2k CDP (or DAC) might not mean much.
    A $2k DAC may or may not sound better or worse than a $2k cdp.
    I'm sure there are awful $$$$ cdp's and DACs. until you get your ears on
    one, you don't know. Getting to listen to a $$$$ DAC is much harder than
    finding a $$$$ cdp at a showroom to audition.
    There is the big problem. Good news, at most head-fi meets there are at least a couple
    of stellar DACs. Other than that or a fellow Polkie's house not much ability to
    audition. Big crap shoot.
    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,110
    edited March 2014
    The big thing with DAC's in my experience is to build relationships with as many people in the hobby as you can. Once you get a solid network, things come in and out and most are willing to give you a week or so to demo. Another thought is that if you want to host a gathering and expect a pretty good showing, you can reach out to a dealer or company and request demo items. It might or might not work, but you can at least try. Best part is you get to hear gear in your own house that otherwise would never make it through the door. Hell, even the people who bring gear to the party gives you a stronger knowledge base to work with than you normally would.

    Most DAC's I've heard have been through networking.
  • polk500polk500 Posts: 1,181
    edited March 2014
    Hello Dskip,

    Glad you're enjoying your new set up. I recently make the same move with Jriver and a DAC magic. So far so good.

    Cheers
    Roger
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