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DAC's without/without XLR (Read 5007 times)
Dom
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DAC's without/without XLR
04/24/13 at 23:00:25
 
Hey guys....I need some advice,

In searching for a new DAC, I have narrowed my selection down to the following 4 DAC's...

PS audio NuWave DAC
Schitt's GUNGNIR and BIFROST DAC
W4S DAC1

All but the Bifrost employ XLR outputs.  My question is how many members here utilize the XLR outputs in their setup, and more importantly...how much of a an audible difference do you notice by using them over an unbalanced setup??  

Since all of the Decware gear does not employ XLR inputs, I am wondering if its worth the cost of  the extra feature.  

Honestly I am leaning more towards the NuWave and the Gungnir.  From what I have read online, they are a very close match by comparison.

If anyone personally owns and/or has listened to any of the aforementioned DAC's, your input would be greatly appreciated.  Keep in mind I am currently using the Peachtree Audio DAC-IT with my IMac, so whichever one I go with will probably sound a lot better  by comparison.

Dominick





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SteveC
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #1 - 04/24/13 at 23:16:58
 
I have a Bifrost for my desk.  I've read that the Gungnir is a significant upgrade (even compared using only RCA).  I'm waiting for their 3rd Statement dac.

I've never owned any xlr based stuff, so I don't really know.  I've read about it and understand how xlr's noise cancelling abilities are very useful when you're running long lines around stages at concerts.  But, for short distances in a home audio rack...I don't think it really matters.  

And, falling back on my "Just trust Steve" philosophy on amps, tubes, speakers, etc (cuz he put more time into this stuff than I want to spend money experimenting on)..  if there was a clear superiority in home audio application of various connectors, I'd bet he would have chosen to put them into his amps.   Everything else is top notch.

$.02
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« Last Edit: 04/24/13 at 23:18:23 by SteveC »  
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Donnie
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #2 - 04/24/13 at 23:39:03
 
I have the W4S DAC1. It has XLR outputs on the back, I don't use them.
I've been pondering the whole DAC upgrade thing lately and came to the conclusion that whatever is sitting on my desk is the best sounding unit in my house. As long as it isn't being A/B tested against anything else, it is perfect. Buy what you want, don't look back and enjoy life.
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Dom
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #3 - 04/24/13 at 23:48:40
 
Thanks or your input Steve.  I agree with you....if Mr. D thought that the XLR connection would be worth the addition, then they would have already been added to the Decware lineup.  Glad you like the Bifrost...gives me a reference point  in making my decision.  

The only time I have used XLR connections, was when I played out as a guitarist for an New Years Eve party.  They do work great, but we are talking Pro Audio, not home use.  

Schitt's upcoming statement DAC is out of my price range for now.  I am also gonna be buying Decware's ZBOX to round out my music.

Thanks again


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beowulf
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #4 - 04/24/13 at 23:54:30
 
Quote:
SteveC,
And, falling back on my "Just trust Steve" philosophy on amps, tubes, speakers, etc (cuz he put more time into this stuff than I want to spend money experimenting on)..  if there was a clear superiority in home audio application of various connectors, I'd bet he would have chosen to put them into his amps.


I agree, and I also recall Steve D. mentioning somewhere else in the forums that he did not include them in his designs as he thought there was no advantage to justify the added expense.

So, since the current line-up of Decware amps don't include them - you won't need a DAC that has them ... unless you plan on using balanced connectors with some different preamp/amp (or some other re-routing method in mind).

I believe that Schitt's Gungnir is the best bang for the buck in their line-up do to it's reclocking system (Adapticlock), and it's also hardware-summed back to single-ended at the SE outputs, so it retains many of the benefits of balanced operation.

Also a lot of guys use PS Audio's PWD and rave about it so I would think the NuWave would be a pretty safe bet as well.
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« Last Edit: 04/25/13 at 00:00:05 by beowulf »  
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #5 - 04/25/13 at 04:55:15
 
I agree xlr is not a decision point. Otoh, you can certainly do better than bifrost - great VFM but doesn't match the resolution and transparency of Steve's amps. After doing detailed comparison with a Meier Stagedac and Eastern Electric Minimax DAC mostly using the Meier Concerto (SS) amp, I found bifrost stood up well. Repeating some of these tests later with the Taboo though, I was surprised to find lack of separation and muddied harmonics with e.g. dense classical piano.

Haven't heard Gungnir but there is indeed good consensus it's a distinct improvement on bifrost and very good VFM too, even at its higher price point. Go visit changstar.com and find your way to purrin's spreadsheet-based review of gungnir and several other dacs for some interesting and astute impressions.
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #6 - 04/25/13 at 05:06:10
 
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Fireblade
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #7 - 04/25/13 at 06:25:13
 
IMHO, Resonessence Labs' Concero is the best bang for the bug and better sounding than many more expensive DACs out there. Just check out (Google) the various reviews. It is supposed to improve upon both the Schiit DACs discussed and then some.

Both USB (2.0) and Digital Coaxial inputs. No balanced outputs. Three different filters. Up to 192K sampling capability. If you choose sound over other things, and don't want to spend a fortune, this is the DAC to have.

The Concero is one of the two DACs in my upgrade plan, along with John Kenny's 'Ciunas' (a terrific DAC also, improving over the excellent JKDAC32, but with only USB as input).

Just my $0.02.

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« Last Edit: 04/25/13 at 06:33:48 by Fireblade »  

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beowulf
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #8 - 04/25/13 at 06:27:05
 
Quote:
AiDee,
In fact here is the review link I mention above:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0Ao9CyUbvb2nFdHZ4RlZaQ2JwX1JsZG
9vQlAt...


Thanks for posting that, interesting stuff and nice to see that the Schitt Gungnir (being the underdog in that review) held its own and came in 2nd to DACs that cost almost 2-3x more.

I was also surprised to see that the Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC did so poorly in that round-up, I thought this might be one of the better ones on the market and considering some of it's technical advances such as DSD playback, etc.  Maybe they really did have a defective one.
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #9 - 04/25/13 at 09:00:19
 
Great suggestions of Fireblade's. Haven't heard either, but have recently been reading a lot about them. The JK stuff has particularly clever design and a strong following.

There's a fair bit of talk on head-fi about both, without the usual hype too. Project86 is a terrific dac reviewer and rates the Concero. So does Nick Dangerous - a csp2+ owner.

Grunter72 in the Lynx Hilo thread commented very favorably about the JKDAC32 in the last few days - and he's heard some expensive gear.

Re changstar, take good note of purrin's comment that dacs are very personal, and those are just his (and anaxilus' and LFF's opinions).

In my view, the market's getting a bit flooded with good quality dacs ATM. All good, except it makes it harder to see the (reasonably priced) ones that truly stand out for their SQ.
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Dom
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #10 - 04/25/13 at 15:09:32
 
AiDee......that is by far the best piece of info I have seen regarding the Gungnir.  I can't believe how detailed it was by comparison to other DAC's.  

Fireblade...I will check out the other DAC's you mentioned....thanks for your input.  Definitely worth the consideration.  

Like Donnie said.....buy what you like and don't look back....just enjoy!!  

Dom
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beowulf
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #11 - 04/25/13 at 23:17:17
 
Quote:
Dom,
AiDee......that is by far the best piece of info I have seen regarding the Gungnir.  I can't believe how detailed it was by comparison to other DAC's.  

Fireblade...I will check out the other DAC's you mentioned....thanks for your input.  Definitely worth the consideration.


Interesting how subjective DACs are.  From the comparison on ChangStar, the Gungnir is heads above the Resonessence Invicta and besting it in many catagories, yet Fireblade mentions that he read reviews where the Resonessence Concerno seems to best the Schiit offerings.

I would think that the Invicta being $4K (and the most expensive of the bunch) would have stomped all over the others (or at least from a price performance perspective gave a good lead over them) but it didn't, and because it didn't that would lead me to logically believe that the Concerno would be even less a performer as their most expensive Invicta.  But clearly they preferred the much less expensive Gungnir on most occassions, so how could the Concerno (being less expensive than the top of the line DAC) best the Gungnir who bested the Invicta?

Things that make you go Hmmm Huh Grin

Anybody else agree with me that DACs, along with Power Conditioning and Cabling (Power/Speaker/Interconnect) have to be the most subjective components in the Audio Chain?  That's why there seems to be a lot of snake oil out there (especially in the Conditioning/Cabling area).

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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #12 - 04/26/13 at 01:44:14
 
As I noted above, purrin claims 'DACs are very personal'. I guess that means "subjective". And he applies the maxim to all to his findings in that chart.

Of course this includes Invicta, where interestingly his conclusions diametrically oppose project86's. (Btw, PWDII lists at $4000 as well, although purrin et al. consider $2500 more realistic).

I'm a researcher and statistician, and with DACs I think the term "hard to measure" might be more accurate than "subjective". Yet, I agree, the former invites the latter.

In all this the only thing I am sure about is that DACs do sound different. After some degree of brain-washing by Head-fi 'objectivists' that 'all DACs sound the same, if competently executed', I was shocked at how readily reliable and repeatable differences between DACs could be heard with some material.

But this "some" material comprised - in my own comparisons - perhaps 3% of tracks and then only fragments of them.

Is this small difference important? Until you notice it, absolutely not!

Worth worrying about? Emphatically not!

As to price difference per se, given the same engineering approach and topology, costlier = better (in general).

The rub comes when the engineering approach is a different one. Different cost/payoff equations apply, sometimes very different.

For example there's a DAC I bought a few months ago - the Beresford Bushmaster - which is cheaper than Bifrost yet sounds shockingly good (to me, so far). Snakeoil, I guess!
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Donnie
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #13 - 04/26/13 at 02:03:42
 
AiDee.
That is what I am trying to get at. In your system, right now, nothing sounds better. If we can all get off of the "next one will be better" merry go round, we will all be happy. I fell into this trap with motorcycles. Next year was always a bit better, making this years model somehow a bit lacking. All I am saying is be happy with what you have. I bet it is pretty darn good.
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beowulf
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #14 - 04/26/13 at 02:10:50
 
Quote:
Donnie,
I fell into this trap with motorcycles. Next year was always a bit better, making this years model somehow a bit lacking.


I must have subconciously went backwards with that one (I have a 66' Triumph Bonnie) Cheesy
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Fireblade
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #15 - 04/26/13 at 02:56:44
 
I believe all our apparently contradictory conclusions and appraisals of either physical DACs' listening experiences or mental digestion of the different DAC literature discussions, are valid.

I also believe all conversion chips are pretty much very competent these days, but what we hear has more to do with a DAC's inherent power supply management, output stage design and execution, and the stemming synergies within a particular existing setup.

Depending on one's own sound perception patterns and preferences, personal expectations and a DAC's interaction with other components, a particular DAC could well be 'better' sounding than most others.

Also, technology is rapidly evolving in this field, and what recently was deemed as one of the best, soon becomes obsolete. In this merry-go-round, the best DAC is the one that offers best bang for the buck according to our own theoretical preconceptions, trust in others' opinions and how close the DAC's sound matches our subjective sound expectations.

In the end, it is sort of fun to have the illusion of 'choosing' the 'better' DAC for the moment, regardless of the absolute (and unidentifiable) sound value of our choices. It's all part of the game.
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #16 - 04/26/13 at 03:01:24
 
Donnie, I agree with you! I was just trying to help out Dom with some information.

I don't know whether what I have sounds good or not. And it doesn't concern me. The DAC comparison I referred to was because some head-fiers asked me to do it, was all  :). And I learned something interesting about how to listen. DACs, it turns out, are subtle.

Yet, really, DACs are the least of life's problems. Sometimes nice to be in the position to have them as a worry though  ;)

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Palomino
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #17 - 04/26/13 at 14:21:25
 
I think the secret is being able to switch gears  - if you enjoy the technical pursuit that is.

I enjoy the reading, tweaking, building, & buying and I am in the trap to a certain degree, but at night I am content to just listen and enjoy.

You still have me interested in the Beresford DAC, Aidee.  My first DAC was a Beresford 7510.  I thought it was pretty good till I heard the Bifrost.  I'd like to try the Bushmaster with a 12v battery.  Worth a try at such a low price.
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SteveC
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #18 - 04/26/13 at 18:24:24
 
Agree with everything everyone has said.  "they are subtle differences"  "life's short, enjoy the music" "beauty is in the ear of the listener" and  "love the one you're with".

I've only had 4 dacs ever.   MHDT Havana.  ZDAC.  BiFrost.  and some cheap toy usb powered dac.  

Havana vs. ZDAC at home (torii3+HDTs).   ZDAC was very clear and clean vs. Havana in a very obvious way.    people write that Havana is colored yet very musical.  I say ZDAC is very music and accurate.  I preferred this.   That's in my home system.

Brought Havana to work with the se84ckc +trapeziums.  was fine, but I wanted something better and heard about this Schiit Bifrost and the founders experience in the audio industry.  I later heard from a guy at Decfest about his experience with older Theta gear.  Those high opinions and that one of the theta guys is behind Schiit, and the bang for the buck made me go for the Bifrost.  again, clarity beat colored musicality.  (anyone want to buy a very musical Havana?).

So I have bang for the buck dac's right now.  I'm saving my tokens for a "real" dac in the future and currently believe my choice will be the future schiit dac. (because of the companies heritage and great value based on the Bifrost and Gungnir examples).

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will
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #19 - 04/26/13 at 20:55:04
 
I think it all depends on everything else, each part in the system effecting the whole of the sound. So if one or more parts negate the sound transmission in any way, then we can hear less of the other part's potential, and/or differences by comparison. This can easily make DAC's differences less apparent. Alternately, a transparent and revealing system might show notable distinctions between the same DACs.

From my explorations there is no question that wire and how it is configured has a lot of variation that can be notable in the sound. Even different oxygen free copper of the same wire specs can change the final voice. Then look at makers like Steve who tend to use a lot of silver wire...different again....and different electrolytic coatings on the same wire effect the sound. And this is only the wire.

Then there are the bigger choices. Caps are huge in my experience, at least for the deep refinement of organic yet musical and revealing music. You could take any of the DACs mentioned here and change the output caps, and you would have a different sounding DAC. My used Tranquility DAC came with V-caps as a special order. I kept hearing something inauthentic in the presentation and kept up with Eric and DbAudioLabs about it. Finally I said it sounded like possibly caps to me, so I looked inside finding out this unit had V-caps. He said he would have to hear it to see if he thought changing the caps might help so I sent it back. He did not like the sound either, put in the caps they had carefully voiced the DAC with, and put in their latest outputs.

No reservations whatsoever after the new stuff burnt in. The same DAC, but in terms of subtle refinement, it became a very different DAC...much more revealing, organic and engrossing. It made the DAC more or less disappear. But V-Caps are considered by many to be one of the best in the world. I think this points not to the quality of the V-Caps, but to how critical synergistic voicing is in making gear, and to how powerful each part can be in the signal chain.

I can hear subtle but meaningful differences in my system with Isocup placement under the Torii. Or with different feet under my Mac Mini server! IC or power cord rolling can be notable and powerful for ultimate refinement. The Tranquility is particularly responsive to different power cords and ICs indicating to me how revealing the Tranquility is. And all the cords I play with sound good, but there are power cord and IC configurations in the System that really excel. Even minor setting changes in my Music player, Pure Music, can be big. But my sytem/room is very revealing, and I am continually working on the last few percent. I find this a fascinating area that is worth a lot more to the overall sense of the musical experience than 2 percent!!! A LOT more.

So my take is that it all depends on everything else.

A basically well designed and well implemented DACs can all do well, but if the system/room allows it to be heard, even subtle differences can be heard. This is the area where it really counts, and the old adage that source is the most important part becomes bigtime true. If the sound is truncated or negatively colored at the beginning, the rest of the system is hobbled. But also, we can wipe out the gains of a better sounding DAC with cords!

That said, there do seem to be a lot of great sounding DACs at relatively reasonable costs, and the "subjective" part is only natural, our preferences all being individual...but the system/room the DAC is set up within is also HUGE in terms of what we might or might not hear.
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #20 - 04/26/13 at 20:57:50
 
Great summary SteveC. I'm awaiting Schiit's statement DAC with interest too, for the same reasons as you - Mike Moffat has real pedigree, and with Jason doing the output implementation...

Definitely terrific points in this thread. Btw Beowulf - I probably sounded like I disagreed with you some? I don't. I think the old snake oil comes out when it's the same old engineering, same old parts/cost and one needs a 'point of difference' to get one's 'new' unit selling Wink

But then you get ultra-careful, spend money only where it counts approaches like the people behind Anedio, or Jan Meier (Stagedac; Daccord).

And even better, out of the box thinking like John Kenny's (eliminate power supply noise with quiet batteries) and whatever it is Stanley Beresford's done with his new dac.

(Of course, we have an example of both these latter approaches with our very own Steve Deckert).

Palomino, can't remember whether I mentioned my Bushmaster broke down  :'( Just bad luck, but also possibly the drawback of manufacturing at low cost. With three other dacs in the house and a busy life, repair has not been a priority and testing has been delayed.

Still, FWIW (just my subjective view!) I rate it at least as good as Meier's approx. $650, very competent Wolfson implementation. I found Bushmaster resolving - unexpectedly good at separating and presenting different instrumental textures - and transparent. Maybe a touch bass-heavy (but high quality, textured, detailed bass), and great fun.

Edit: Will, nice points!
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« Last Edit: 04/26/13 at 21:02:08 by AiDee »  
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Palomino
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #21 - 04/26/13 at 21:11:59
 
Yes, you mentioned that it had to go back to Stan.  Thanks for your opinions on the unit.  Right now, I am in need of a phono pre, but that dac experiment may be next.

I could not agree with Will's point more and feel that it is a definte, tangible, value-add of Decware that Steve designs his products with that synergy in mind.
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AiDee
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #22 - 04/27/13 at 22:53:35
 
Just a heads-up re Bifrost - schiit just released an 'über' upgrade board if you already have the dac or upgrade at purchase option if you don't. Plus $70 either way.

Based on the output stage of the gungnir; might address my issues with bifrost.

Anyways, I intend to find out... Shocked
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Palomino
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #23 - 04/28/13 at 12:35:04
 
Thanks for the heads up!

$100 if they do it.  $70 if you do it.

Interesting mod schedule idea.  Wait till they tell you to send it in and they promise quick turnaround.
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« Last Edit: 04/28/13 at 12:44:38 by Palomino »  

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Dom
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Re: DAC's without/without XLR
Reply #24 - 04/28/13 at 16:07:41
 
Interestingly enough... The uber upgrade brings the THD, IMD, and S/N ratio specs equal to the specs of the Gungnir.

Bifrost.... http://schiit.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=...

Gungnir.... http://schiit.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=...

The Gungnir is going to be my Xmas gift....so depending on the price, features, and specs......I may consider buying their Statement DAC if it's available. Smiley

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