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Question about DAC (Read 896 times)
sophie999
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Question about DAC
02/23/18 at 20:43:34
 
Greetings,

I am about to get my first ever tube amp. Thinking about the MK4. Will be driving either Polk LSI 15 or Magnepans MMG. Will try both to see how they sound. I listen mostly to pop and some classical.

All of my music is stored on the cell phone and PC as FLAC or MP3 (256 or higher bit rate). That way I can listen to it anywhere (car, home, work...).

I assume (but may be wrong) that using built-in phone or old laptop DAC and directly plug it into the amp is not the best idea as far as music quality goes. So I may need a dedicated DAC. Listening from cell phone or PC via cable connection will be pretty much the only way I plan to listen for now.

I prefer not to spend too much on this and need no other bells and whistles in the DAC. Any suggestion for something simple that would work better than phone/PC? I already went over budget on the amp, but wanted the locally made amp, lifetime warranty, and liked the reviews/quality build.

On the other, unrelated, note, before I decided on this amp, I wanted to get SET with 805 or 845, but they are too expensive for me, even the Chinese brands (talking about the once with good reputation). Any known links to the discussions comparing the Decware with 845? I could not find much

Thanks so much for help.

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beowulf
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #1 - 02/24/18 at 07:11:29
 
Hi sophie999, welcome to the forums and congratulations on your Torii MK4 purchase!  I'm wondering if you talked with Steve Deckert before making this purchase?  The reason I'm asking as that the speakers you have listed are not too efficient and not normally paired with tube amplifiers, but if Steve thinks they will work for you then that's great.

As to your other question ... yes a dedicated DAC will sound better than the DAC on your cell phone or the DAC in a PC.  What is your budget?  To name a couple... Schiit Audio has some good offerings and entry level prices that start out about $99, but there is also the AudioQuest Dragonfly at $99 as well. Of course, the bigger your budget the better DAC you can buy.
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mark58
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #2 - 02/24/18 at 12:32:50
 
Sophie, I know nothing about the polks but I've owned the big Maggies before and they crave lots of watts...I can't imagine them being a good match with the Torii MK IV.  But in regards to running from your phone and computer, I own and highly recommend the Audioquest Red Dragonflly DAC.  I find it greatly improves streaming from Spotify and youtube.  I use an Audioquest Evergreen adapter cord to my CSP3 preamp or just earbuds straight into the DAC if I'm away from home or don't want to fire up all the tube gear.  I would also recommend getting an extension between the computer and the DAC...the little DAC sticking out of my laptop was begging to be snapped off Smiley.  I'll post some links.  Mark.

PS... I should add that my primary formats are Red Book CDs and Vinyl not computer files or streaming.  I think for mobility the Audioquest DAC would be great...It astounds me every time how good it sounds but I know there are many better and bigger ones that might be better suited to the Computer Audiophile.

http://www.audioquest.com/dragonfly-series/

I bought the Evergreen 3.5 male mini/ 2x RCA to hook up between the DAC and Preamp...

http://www.audioquest.com/bridges-falls/evergreen

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/audioquest-dragonfly-black-and-dragonfl...
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"The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with the concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, deceptions, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night and his affections dark as Hell. Let no such man be trusted." William Shakespeare
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Tommy Freefall
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #3 - 02/24/18 at 22:19:05
 
Sophie, the MK4 is great amp, but if you haven't already pulled the trigger, you really should give Steve a call to get his thoughts on how it might pair up with those two sets of speakers. It is my understanding the Mini Torii is best designed to work well with music played from an iDevice, but at 4wpc, it may not be powerful enough for your application.
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Torii Jr., ERRx, ZBIT, Zenhead, Grado 325e
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sophie999
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #4 - 02/25/18 at 23:48:48
 
Thanks for all the replies.

I have not ordered it yet, but after spending several months doing research, it seemed the best "bang-for-the-buck" type of deal (based solely on reviews).

Thanks for DAC suggestions. I prefer to stay at around $100, as I also plan to upgrade all the speaker wires and interconnects with entry lever solid core (audioquest type 4???). Should be a step up from monoprice wires.

I have not talked to Steve yet. Maggies are power hungry. I run them with Emotiva 200w/ch in 4Ohm, and probably will end up keeping it that way.

Polks are 88dB. I hoped 25w/ch would be enough for the bedroom set. I listen mostly to pop and classical and do not like anything loud. Prefer clear vocals at low volumes.

Read some posts on polk forums that seem to work well with Decware.
But will ask Steve before placing an order.

Thanks again.
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will
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #5 - 02/26/18 at 23:32:37
 
Being particularly dependent on a relatively impeccable source, I can't quite wrap my mind around this setup. The old adage: "If it is not there to begin with, it never will be" comes to mind. But it sounds like you are after perhaps a different listening experience than I? I really go for natural and complete presentation of the recorded material with the goal of feeling pretty "real," revealing and natural...even when background listening, usually listening pretty carefully and at some volume.

This is not to say a nice tube amp won't do nice things with a phone, MP3, and $100 DAC. Flac will very likely be best if your source can show it, but for the real magic, an exceptional front end is a super big deal in my experience.

I guess you may be aware of all this, but just in case, will give a little background and tell you a story of my recent front end changes.

A really well setup PC with a good stand alone DAC, with uncompressed error corrected data is best (next flac or alac), and can have great potential with enough consideration for a good audio computer, software, and setup with good vibration control, cables, power, etc.

I was using a pretty highly tuned Mac Mini that is considered one of the best year models for music, used and setup strictly for audio, and thought by many who have dug in, to be as good a computer platform as you can get for audio. The Mini runs a modified Gustard x20pro ("giant killer"), also treated optimally. Also, I am a pretty serious "tuner," tuning my system progressively to bring out the best of each part in synergy. So it is optimized to extract the best I can from the source in revelation and musical balance. The sound was really beautiful.

Then I got a Mac operating system modified for audio only by a long-term Mini-for-audio and DAC developer, DbAudioLabs. Over months and months of listening and adjusting the OS the programmer removed over 200,000 lines of code unnecessary for audio.

In the same computer as before the new OS, set up the same way other than some faster memory, this OS powerfully revealed the truth that it is not just 1's and 0's coming from a computer to DAC.

This is a very revealing system, but in it, this OS improved musical completeness from the point of every descriptor.....more revealing, resolving, dynamic and smooth...doing everything digital can do with more clarity, but also more sense of smooth resolution....and virtually no digital anomalies that I can hear, at least with the filter settings I am using.

The catcher I needed to work with, outside my experience with several earlier Minis, and that makes no sense if you believe the 1's and 0's myth.....signal density and integrity was so fully resolved and complete, density and dynamics were over the top based on how I had things tuned before the OS upgrade. It was enough so that I could not do AB comparisons with a similar Mini using the standard OS. The new OS was so powerful by comparison I had to change settings, particularly in my CSP3 to reduce dynamic density.

It was strong enough for the more expressive signal to partially mask the more fragile fine detail and space...The subtle information was all clearly there and very refined, but a bit dominated by a signal made too strong by an OS!!! I am particular, but this was a pretty amazing problem to me I had never experienced in this way.

A few weeks later, the increased dynamics and density were such big changes (within my fairly narrow sonic tolerances for balance) I am still toning things down a bit, but very close, and it is amazing. Now having great density and dynamics in balance with fine information, "analog" ease has become more clear in the balance than I have heard from digital, and without compromising fine detail and complexity in any way. Now this OS, in this computer, in this system/room, puts me in mind of a blend of the analog influences of tape blended with the best of digital....a big deal!

All that said though. If you get a good amp, and not a comparable front end... and it sounds good for your needs, why not? And you can always upgrade the front end if the mood strikes!

Not trying to dis your idea, just giving my own perspective on it just in case you are not that "up" on digital front ends.

Good luck with your research and listening pleasure!

Will
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PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender+more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; Decware-Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1-all modified; DIY Speaker Cables; feet-Madscientist, Archie's, isocups, DIY
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sophie999
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #6 - 02/27/18 at 00:13:04
 
Interesting and very illuminating. Never thought it was quite that complex.

I am going to slowly upgrade the entire system, but the budget does not allow for everything at once. I was thinking of buying a new amp first with new cables, and then other components.

As far as computer goes, I do have macbook and can use it as a source as well.

I was looking at other forums, and someone suggested that by digging deep into the setting, one can fully disable the sound board on the PC, and unaltered files can be fed to external DAC directly, bypassing on-board DAC. Will have to look into this some more.

Thanks again.

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will
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #7 - 02/27/18 at 01:28:56
 
Yes, it is pretty easy to use an external DAC. I would probably pursue USB these days. On many macbooks I think you can use one of the ports for toslink out also, but USB is pretty worked out now with many DACs, and can support high in-computer upsampling, even DSD if your processor is powerful enough. This of course might influence the DAC choices, how high res it will play and whether the company likes USB or disses it (old habit around).

This upsampling can happen with player software that to me is well worth it for the best sound. Take a look at Audirvana for Mac software. It has powerful settings if you get interested, also settings to minimize system processes (improving sound), internet streaming options, using your phone or ipad I think as a remote, and is relatively inexpensive. With Audirvana, computer and DAC connected, you can select your DAC in the preferences.

If you don't want to mess with better audio software, iTunes can sound pretty good, but not as good! I use iTunes as an interface integrated with Audirvana by Audirvana settings. Audirvana does the music part, and iTunes does the library and interface. Audirvana also has its own interface if it suits.

Having a mouse, keyboard and monitor, I have not explored internet access and playing from iPad or phone. Also I use only an external drive for files, which reminds me...anything you can do to minimize computer use other than audio while playing music will help the sound, reducing computer noise and processing that influences the music data. This includes the internal drive, better to go external. That said, you can use the internal drive, it just won't sound as good. Also, if you are using USB for the DAC, it is best to use another port for external drives to avoid extra noise on the USB buss that can be conveyed to the DAC via the wire connection. I use Firewire, not sure the options on newer computers. Oyen Digital makes a nice quiet drive for music files.

If looked at as instructions, this can seem like a lot, but if looked at as logical ways to improve sound by reducing computer activity, vibration, and noise, it makes more sense. There is more, but this is the basic story.

If you want to look around at current trends (lots of info, maybe good, maybe not) check out computeraudiophile.
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PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender+more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; Decware-Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1-all modified; DIY Speaker Cables; feet-Madscientist, Archie's, isocups, DIY
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sophie999
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #8 - 02/27/18 at 01:49:24
 
Thanks. Actually, does make sense. Very logical.

I do use external drive for music files. With time, will upgrade DAC as well.
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will
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Re: Question about DAC
Reply #9 - 02/27/18 at 18:18:59
 
You are welcome. Have fun!
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PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender+more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; Decware-Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1-all modified; DIY Speaker Cables; feet-Madscientist, Archie's, isocups, DIY
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