Can you guys really hear huge differences In DACs?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Tone?, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. Tone?

    Tone? Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    So what’s your experience with DACs?

    I haven’t had the pleasure of comparing a multitude of DACs apart from my Blu-ray player and iPad iPhone laptop.

    But no experience with stand alone DACs.

    I can hear the difference in my Blu-ray , which I think is the best of my DACs and the iPhone. The iPhone has no real attack to the music. Not bad depth but lacks ooomph.

    I’m just wondering because I hear so many conflicting stories of people saying yes they make a huge difference to people saying after $300 you can’t hear a difference.
    I need to buy one for my TIDAL music I listen to and wonder if spending a ton of money is worth it.

    4011021 likes this.
  2. 4011021

    4011021 Forum Resident

    TheVU, timind and Tone? like this.
  3. Bart

    Bart Forum Resident

    Tidal lossless, or lossy? If lossy, at some point the lossiness cannot be overcome no matter how good the dac.
    But to answer your question, yes I've listened to quite a few dacs, and done some blind testing, and absolutely hear differences.
  4. Tone?

    Tone? Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco

    Lossless. Of course. Ha.

    Yeah I can hear the diff between my Blu-ray and iPad , iPhone.
  5. DyersEve726

    DyersEve726 Schmo Diggy

    Michigan, USA
    Without a doubt. I feel like I say this all the time, but my DAC gave me the biggest improvement of any component, outside of speakers probably. It took my system from enjoyable to downright addicting and mesmerizing.
  6. Blair G.

    Blair G. Senior Member

    Delta, BC, Canada
    I recently bought a stand alone DAC.
    It’s a definite improvement over my other sources (Arcam CD player, Denon and Cambridge universals).
    Improvements of varying degree in every facet you can think of (soundstage height & width, bass definition, lack of noise and digital glare etc.) adding up to a significant overall upgrade
    Tone? likes this.
  7. Doug Walton

    Doug Walton Forum Resident

    United States
    Define "huge".

    When I have upgraded DACs, the difference was clearly noticeable. The upgrade was worth the cost.
    KT88, Kyhl and Tone? like this.
  8. Tone?

    Tone? Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco

    Well I guess that settles it.

    Which one did you get?

  9. Tone?

    Tone? Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco

    Nah you got it. Clearly noticeable is what I was asking about.

    Which DAC do you have ?

  10. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 A force of nature

    yes, huge improvement. One of my favorite pieces of equipment, I'd never go back to an internal DAC.
    AlmanacZinger likes this.
  11. JMCIII

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

    As the man said, define what "huge" means...... Are there noticeable differences in DAC's, sure. Are they "huge"? Not to me.
  12. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Very small differences in my experience, so much so that I suspect it's placebo. The difference is nowhere close to that of speakers, phono preamps, etc.
  13. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 A force of nature

    Depends on the comparison points. To go from an internal on an AVR to a new $1,000 external DAC, huge is right on the money.
    Benzion, AlmanacZinger and rodentdog like this.
  14. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 A force of nature

    not a huge difference from an internal on an iPhone to a proper external as explained by the OP?
  15. Tone?

    Tone? Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco
    Huge difference to me is for example a noticeable level of attack let’s say. A difference is treble.
    Not something vague like I think I’m hearing more depth or a bigger soundstage.
  16. Ezd

    Ezd Forum Resident

    For myself, the only time I have heard what I would describe as "huge differences" in my system is when I switch speakers... I hear noticeable improvements constantly, including when using my Line Magnetic 502ca tube dac compared to the ones built into the cd player or Bluesound streamer... I can hear an additional improvement in sound quality by rolling vintage tubes in the dac.
    In this hobby everything is subjective and the only sure answer is to listen yourself.... There will be opinions that there is no difference between a $200 and a $15,000 dac so save your money, and at the other end some believe just because it is being sold for $15,000 it is undoubtedly worth every penny.
    Kyhl and Dennis0675 like this.
  17. Shoalcove

    Shoalcove Forum Resident

    I haven’t had many DACs in my system but the process has been interesting.
    My own DAC is a Simaudio 100D which sounds better than the Tube Dac-11 I also own.
    I could not discern a difference between my 100D and a Teac 501 that I borrowed from a friend. In fairness to the Teac, I used it only on its coax input fed from a Peachtree X-1 sp/dif convertor so I could A-B the two dacs. USB may have made the difference.
    I also tried a Bryston BDA-3 DAC that was very noticeably different and better sounding than my DAC. Sadly it is considerably more expensive as well.
    Based on my own limited experiences, I’d say that there are differences between some DACs but not all and that’s about as helpful as I can be lol! I know I won’t buy a DAC now unless I’ve heard it or can return it. I am saving for a Bryston.
    JakeM, Kyhl and bever70 like this.
  18. DyersEve726

    DyersEve726 Schmo Diggy

    Michigan, USA
    For me, absolutely, it was a huge, blew my mind kind of difference, and this was going from a respectable internal DAC on a Parasound integrated. @Tone? - I built an Audio Note Kit DAC 2.1. The real AN gear is out of my price range, unfortunately, but I'm very thrilled about it still.
    advanced101 likes this.
  19. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Stepping up from the Rega apollo cd internal dac to the integrated ess sabre dac in my X40 was a big difference. Best heard when you can make switches instantly, as aural memory sucks. After hearing that difference for myself (I was pretty sceptic to say the least before I made these comparisons) I took the plunge and got myself a belcanto dac3 and again the change was notable but I would say that the first change I made was bigger. The law of diminishing returns maybe....
  20. xcqn

    xcqn Audiophile

    Gothenburg, Sweden
    I had heard a bunch of different cd-players and DAC’s before. When i got to hear the Benchmark DAC1 HDR i was a believer :D

    Still have it, will never ever sell it. Why? It has no ”house sound”. If this is colored in any way i can’t hear it.

    It just converts digital -> music
  21. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    I have about a dozen DOO WOP 50's and 60's songs downloaded from iTunes. These are all AAC files. The other day I played them to my OPPOs usb DAC for output to my stereo system. The OPPOs usb DAC is set to up sample all input to 24/192. Not to my surprise, I heard more detail and fadeout extension; but, I also heard tape edits, which was a surprise. I guess that comes with more DAC power.
  22. Chazz

    Chazz Music Addict

    Southeastern, US
    I bought a stand alone DAC (PS Audio NuWave DSD) so I would have the ability to stream native DSD files from my Macbook Pro to my tube integrated via USB. This works and sounds wonderful. I then decided to use my cd player as a transport and connected it to the DAC via the digital coax output on the cd player. Major difference in sound! I left the rca interconnects hooked up so I could easily switch inputs to compare the built in dac of the cd player to my PS Audio stand alone dac. The stand alone dac renders music that sounds much fuller, the treble is much smoother and the bass much more defined. Instruments and vocals are better separated and sound more natural to me. I would never go back at this point!
  23. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    Yes, and I've got a very good way to evaluate them.

    I use a Grade Digital M905 which is a pro mastering grade dac/controller. It takes the USB output of a computer, but also has various digital and analog inputs and is extremely transparent. Every time I put something lesser through it I can hear all it's faults. I guess this is nothing new for me since my system in general has always been that way, but it's never been as easy to make comparisons as it is now.

    Back in the day, I made my own remote controlled switch boxes with trim pots for the two sets of inputs. That allowed me to match levels and make a/b comparisons. The box was extremely simple but just routing through it introduced some degradation. The M905 has no degradation to speak of and also allows me to trim the levels on each input to make easier comparisons.
    showtaper likes this.
  24. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    I'd still suspect any major diffrences would come down to the huge difference in gain levels between the two. However, I was referring more to units built into integrateds and disc players vs stand-alone units.
    Grateful Ed, George P and Dennis0675 like this.
  25. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Lewes, DE
    Here's the thing:
    A source component that outputs a line level signal (such as a DAC---or a CD player OR an FM tuner) is doing the same work as a stereo line level preamp.
    How much money does it take to produce life like full spectrum sound from a preamp?
    Usually starts about a grand before you get to class A and decent circuitry.
    DACs are the same deal in my experience.
    You have to pay to play.
    If all you want is clean, any cheap circuit will do.
    Couple of Burr-Brown diddly boppers and some junk in a box and voila!
    But if you want something that can "breathe" and "sounds like REAL instruments in a real room" you gotta pay for the circuitry and hope the designers know how to make magic.
    Some do.
    Not ALL by any means, but some DACs really come loaded with the special qualities of "life" and "reality" and "you are THERE" that a well heeled hobbyist will pay big bucks for.
    Take Benchmark for instance.
    This line of DACs has extreme clarity and high end treble "zing" as its hallmark sound.
    Not necessarily fat and full of three dimensional "bloom" on things like cellos---but very very CLEAN and full spectrum and "HiFi" sounding.
    They are a big hit judging by their sales numbers and reputation.
    Or a Berkeley DAC.
    This line is a favorite for the "you are there---they are right here in the room" crowd.
    VERY lively DAC.
    Or Bryston.
    Their DACs sound a lot like their amps.
    Big. Bold. Clear. Musical. Clean.
    NOT the most punchy or three dimensional DACs in the universe but very very competent sounding. Not fatiguing to listen to in other words.
    I own a dozen different DACs.
    I consider DAC technology to be one of the most promising parts of our little hobby.
    Upgrades are in order every decade or so as the technology has enough engineers working on DAC designs that you can't just hold on to a ten year old DAC at some point you would improve your whole system with a newer design.
    And here's the OTHER thing.
    If you plug ALL your digital sources through ONE great DAC then ALL your music will be the same EQ and same overall TONE.
    You won't have to live with the lowest common denominator spoiling your sound.
    EVERYTHING will benefit simultaneously when you upgrade that ONE device IF everything in your rack that is digital goes through it!
    DACs are COOL.
    Make sure yours has LOTS of inputs.
    You're gonna need them.
    rodentdog, Kyhl, bluemooze and 2 others like this.

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