Why double down on DACs?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Reamonnt, Aug 12, 2017 at 3:34 PM.

  1. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    Hi Folks,
    Quick question regarding DACs. Say I buy a Marantz CD6006 with its modern DAC inside why would people bother then using an external DAC that cost a couple of hundred quid with it.
    I suppose I cant understand if a company builds a good piece of kit in 2017 with a modern DAC why would you bother bypassing it. I can understand if I have an old Marantz say from 2005 and use it as a transport and use a modern external dac instead.
    I just dont get it given the DAC chips are not mega expensive why the modern inbuilt one is not sufficient.
     
  2. Clay B

    Clay B Well-Known Member

    Reamonnt

    Read your profile and it reads as from someone who knows their way around music and audio. Suggest you give a look at the Benchmark Media, Mytek, Schiit, Chord, and Weiss Dac websites. There's a lot to be learned at those sites from some real experts. External dacs can really make a difference in your CD player and,of course, they open the world of high resolution downloads. They do so by taking DAC design to a level of capability beyond the typical retail pricing points of even very high quality CD players. In the end though, your ears alone will tell you if its worth the extra cost.

    Have fun.
     
    Reamonnt likes this.
  3. k4rstar

    k4rstar Member

    Location:
    Canada
    It's pretty simple, it will perform better and sound better. There is a lot more that goes into a DAC beyond what specific chipset is used. The digital filter, I/V stage, analog output stage, power supply, employing the chip in a dual mono or differential configuration, etc.

    Not many CD players these days have much attention put into their D/A section. They are likely specsheet implementations of off-the-shelf chips using the stock digital filters sharing the power supply with the transport. The result will never be greater than mediocrity.
     
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  4. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    Thanks guys thats given me some food for thought. Thanks to Clay B for the suggestions on sites to visit and thanks to K4rstar for that explanation on how a DAC is made up which makes more sense to me now when I look beyond the chipset.
     
  5. daglesj

    daglesj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    They all have the same or similar DAC chips that cost $5-$20 each in bulk. They just pay folks with words after their names to say a few pages on why their version is better.

    You can get anything if you pay enough.

    Simple.
     
  6. mneveux

    mneveux Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Simi Valley, CA
    I cannot hear any difference when listening to my Onkyo C-7030 with the internal DAC or when connected with Toslink to my Schiit Bifrost DAC.
     
  7. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    Thats interesting that you hear no difference between Onkyo dac and Schitt dac. I dont have a dac that I can try out with my cd player unfortunately. Is that Onkyo is a new CD player though perhaps the dac is well made and integrated well into unit. My CD player is old Marantz CD5001ose. You really need to listen I suppose and decide if there is a sound difference.
     
  8. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    Yes they are really cheap so I suppose I was just thinking if the cd players made in 2017 are well designed you would think the dac would be perfectly good enough not to need to by pass it.
     
  9. mneveux

    mneveux Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Simi Valley, CA
    There is a 27 page thread on the Onkyo C-7030 touting its excellent performance which is why I purchased it. I use the DAC for playing my digital files and listen to CD's directly through the Onkyo.
     
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  10. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds New Member

    Location:
    New York
    If I spend $15,000 on a brand new motorcycle, why would I immediately spend an additional $1500 on an aftermarket exhaust and fuel injector chip before I even sat on it?
     
  11. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    If you bought a Ducati, you would not; if you bought a Honda, you would. :)
     
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  12. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds New Member

    Location:
    New York
    No. I had an aftermarket exhaust on my Monster back in the day. Then I turned 30, got fat, and have been on cruisers ever since.
     
  13. jkull

    jkull Member

    Location:
    NJ
    Without reading all of the responses, im sure its mentioned above, the chip is only a small part of the overall sound. My previous DAC was an oppo-105. It has a generally very well respected chip. How did it sound through its analog outs in 'pure' mode (bypassing all video components essentially)? Bad... So many other components to consider behind driving the DAC, like capacitors, resistors, wiring, clocking, power supply. In the oppo for example, the power supply is a lacking area, which may or may not be a culprit of its lack of midrange and warmth. The chip in my current dac is not of a far greater territory than the oppo's, but the dac overall is voiced entirely differently and is a far more pleasing unit.
     
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  14. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I would say that an outboard DAC can be helpful, but it isn't always. It all depends on how good your CD player is, and how picky you are.

    If you are completely happy with the sound of a CD player's build in DAC, then why spend more money? If not, then there is your reason to try out an even better DAC.
     
  15. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I have a gungnir multibit and an oppo 105. I run music through the gungnir.
     
  16. wwaldmanfan

    wwaldmanfan Forum Resident

    Take two amps, both with barely measurable distortion figures on paper, and similar output. Why would they sound different? DAC's are like any other audio component, other than speakers and, perhaps, phono cartridges. One wonder why any turntable, tonearm, preamp, power amp, etc. would have its own sound, until you look at the design, implementation, quality of the parts in it, and then put it all together. As we like to say, everything matters.
    Where it gets difficult is being able to demo DAC's, or any other components, in your own home, with your own system, in order to select one.
     
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  17. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    Yes its nearly impossible to demo anything in your own home so purchases are based on internet reviews, recommendations, quick listen in a shop or in the unlikely event a friend has one. Its a very uneven playing field for the consumer.
     
    Tim Müller likes this.
  18. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    I sure agree with that: an external DAC will not necessarily be better than one built into a CD player. For example, I doubt that any $500 external DAC will sound better to most audiophiles than, say, the DAC in a Bryston BCD-3 player. As usual in audio, the only way to tell if differences will matter to you is to listen.

    There is something to be gained by using a built-in DAC: potential cost savings, and also fewer interfaces and connecting cables. That was the direction audio was going in for a while. What happened? People began to have numerous digital sources, and it seemed sensible to separate the DAC from a device with moving mechanical parts and to give it more inputs. Players are more prone to failure than purely electronic items like a DAC.

    It seems to me there is a strong case to be made for merging the functions of DAC and preamp, and that is beginning to happen, with the Mytek Brooklyn being a good example.
     
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  19. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    True. It would be $3500.
     
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  20. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Houston TX
    Anyone can do whatever they want with their money. The CS4398 in a CD6006 player wth its 110 db s/n ratio is much better than the marginal DAC's which come on computer motherboards. The only thing it doesn't have is the halo which comes with ESS, AKM and Burr Brown chips. The popular Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 uses CS chips from this series.
     
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  21. Whoopycat

    Whoopycat Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Des Moines
    I had the exact same experience with my Bifrost and my cheapo Sony universal player. Ran both digital and analog outputs from the Sony and could hear virtually no difference when A-B'ing. Maybe a tiny bit more air around instruments with the Bifrost in the path, but it was teeny-tiny and that was the only diff. And my speakers are pretty revealing.

    Doing the same experiment with my Yamamoto YDA-01 was a totally different result. Much bigger, more open sound on the Yamamoto.

    Whether it's accurate or not, I'm of the opinion that when you are listening to a DAC, you're really just listening to its output stage. I'm sure there are exceptions of course for DACs with different topologies like the Directstream, but by and large it seems based on my listening like a quality cd player does the same thing as many external DACs (caveat: I speak as a disc spinner, not a streamer).
     
  22. I know I'm lo-fi when I audition a DAC at an audio store and I agree with the salesman when he asks if I heard that nice difference. Needless to say I didn't buy it! :shrug:
     
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  23. Reamonnt

    Reamonnt Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ireland
    I did some digging and found that the DAC chip on my old Marantz cd5001ose is a cirrus logic cs4392 - 24-bit up to 192 khz stereo. 114db dynamic range, output level (vrms) 1-7.
    Does anyone have the knowledge to comment on those specs or are they only one element of a dac and not that important?

    I could buy a secondhand Lite Audio DAC for roughly 100 bucks to by-pass the inbuilt DAC does anyone have any experience of the Lite Audio?

    Thanks to everyone who has responded to date.

    Please note that I also have a set up for streaming using an ODAC hooked up to my marantz amp and I do think my cds ripped to flac sound good using this particular set up. I only have Qobuz at 320mps and it also sounds pretty ok to me.
     
  24. daglesj

    daglesj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    It's like everything, one person will like one DAC and another will hate it. It's all down to personal preference and that great Hi-Fi voodoo power of "I paid so much for a good bit of kit but if I pay $X much more for an add-on to make it non-standard, then it must sound better' effect.

    It's very powerful.

    The DAC I have hooked to my PC cost £30 and sounds perfectly fine to me.
     
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  25. TimB

    TimB Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Galion, Ohio USA
    My feeling is how the designer implements the chip, and voices it. Same chip, 2 different companies, 2 different sounds. Same way with music, same master, 2 different companies, 2 different sounding music disc's (or files or however they release it).
     

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