Help me decide on an inexpensive DAC

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by jmrife, May 8, 2019.

  1. Kal Rubinson

    Kal Rubinson Forum Resident

    It is almost trivial.
     
  2. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    Just a couple of clicks on setting zones and yer rocking’ huh!

    So excited about this new low cost DAC and what it means for the competition.
     
  3. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    See one advantage of lower priced DACs is one can grab three of them and do 5.1 surround at a reasonable cost - previously workable almost at this price point (only) with an Oppo.
     
  4. And yet the Modi Multibit sounds better to me than the Modi 3 with much much better imaging. Better ability to layer sounds in the mix. Better sense of depth. Better ability to place sounds within the soundstage in their proper places. Better ability to separate sounds from each other which makes it much easier to follow individual musical lines, like being able to follow an instrumental line within a symphony. A lot of what I like about the Schiit multibits is the way they do imaging. The imaging is in 3D with depth and width and even height. A DAC like that makes it possible, with the right amp (a good tube amp) to get an effect of sonic holography.

    So to my ears the Schiit multibits are awesome. Normally it would take a DAC that costs over $1000, and most likely much more, to get that style of imaging. The Modi Multibit for $250 can do it. In that respect the Modi Multibit is an absolute bargain. I can't think of a sub-$1000 DAC that I'd replace it with. No sub-$1000 DAC does the style of imaging that the $250 Modi multibit does. Anyone interested in imaging as something they consider important in audio should definitely consider the Modi Multibit, or the Gungnir Multibit or Yggdrasil if their budget allows. I consider the Modi Multibit to be the best bargain in audio for a DAC for true audiophiles who appreciate imaging and listening to good music.

    It's great demonstration that measurements cannot determine how well a DAC does imaging. I consider imaging, and the style of imaging, to be of very high importance when I'm evaluating a DAC. And for that, measurements mean nothing to me because measurements offer no guidance to how well the DAC will do imaging.

    I also recognize that not everyone listens for imaging. And that some people actually consider high-end DACs that do good imaging and separation to actually sound worse than DACs that sound like sonic mush. Which is why my first post in this thread was to recommend that the OP listen to the DACs he is considering for himself and make a decision based on his own listening and preferences.
     
  5. jay.dee

    jay.dee Forum Resident

    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    It does not handle well poorly (or bizarrely) mixed recordings; however if the people responsible for recording/mixing did their homework (even on an audience tape) the sound coming from my Schiit Multibit is great.

    If the mix is good but the mastering is poor, this DAC most often will make it sound better, warmer and more open IMO (and on my system).
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  6. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    That's exactely the same that I feel with my Topping D50 but with some aditions. First, I power it with a high quality 22400 mAh powerbank, an EC Technology that reading it's output with a USB tester gives dead stable 5.2 volts and 420 mAh to the D50, that's part of how I get the most out of it, if I power it with a USB mobile phone charger sound changes and not for good.
    Second, and I know this is kind of controversial, between the Topping D50 and my Pioneer A/V receiver there's a Yaqin SD-CD3"tube buffer" with two NOS big bottle Tung Sol 6SN7 GTB. It makes it sound fatter with a better and fuller bass, a wider soundstage and better depth. The Topping D50 is a great D/A converter that trounces much more expensive converters and the Yaqin SD-CD3 further enhances its virtues.
     
  7. jmrife

    jmrife Wife. Kids. Grandkids. Dog. Music. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Wheat Ridge, CO
    I am looking at the SMSL SU-8 -- well reviewed with XLR output. Unfortunately, the first unit I ordered from Amz was not functional/ difficult to "unlock" and then two of my computers did not "see" the device. So it went back. But I may reorder, if hope triumphs over experience. The CA DAC Magic plus is also on the radar. I have had good experience with Cambridge hardware and the XLR outs are there, too. Unfortunately, the design/electronics are a little dated. And it is $100 more.
     
  8. All DACs have some degree of imaging. The difference is in the precision, style, degree, and presentation of that imaging.

    The Schiit Multibits have a style of imaging that is able to place sounds withing the center body area of the soundstage. It's hard to explain till you've experienced it. I'll quote from a previous post of mine with an analogy that may help explain:

    One of the things I like most about the Gungnir Multibit (and the other Schiit multibits) is the imaging. The Schiit multibits have the ability to do precise imaging and place instruments and sounds within the soundstage. Most affordable DACs sound like they throw most of the imaging out to the very edges of the soundstage rather than placing imaging within the soundstage. Think of the soundstage as a balloon. Many DACs seem to spray most of the imaging out to the skin of the balloon. The Schiit multibits seem to more precisely put the imaging in precise locations within the air inside the balloon.

    I find the style of imaging that the Schiit multibits do to be really neat for headphone listening. To be able to hear sounds dancing in a filled in 3D space is fascinating. But it requires the right headphone gear and suitable recordings to show that off. The Schiit DACs have made headphone listening much more fun for me. Other DACs end up having empty or very foggy imaging in comparison.​

    Sabre based DACs are of the sort that throws the imaging out to the skin of the balloon. Some more than others. It's a trait I've heard in all Sabre based DACs I've listened to. I don't happen to like that style of imaging. Yes, that style of imaging can make the soundstage sound bigger, but at the cost of making the central body of the soundstage thin or empty. I like to listen to the center of the soundstage because that is where the musicians are.

    The style of precise imaging that fills in the center like that is generally the realm of expensive DACs. The types of non-Sabre DACs that are a couple thousand and up. The Schiit Multibit is able to do that style of imaging for $250. In that sense it is an absolute bargain.
     
  9. jay.dee

    jay.dee Forum Resident

    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    Here's an example of recording, which Schiit Multibit struggles with:

    Live in Geneva, by Philip Jeck

    When you play the track on a regular set-up, even through computer speakers, you can easily figure out the principal layers of sound, however when you put it through the DAC it converts into a muddy mess.

    As much as I love the sound of Schiit Multibit it'd be great to have an easy option of switching off its otherwise superb imaging, or at least making it more "conservative", to be able to play the music (without messing with the cables), which the DAC seemingly cannot crack.

    Maybe Gungnir Multibit handles better such atypical cases. @Ham Sandwich, would you be able to try this recording via your Gumby MB?
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  10. If you're using the Modi MB or Bifrost MB, try upsampling the music to 176.4 or 192. Those sample rates will get those DACs to bypass the "burrito" oversampling filter. At 176.4 and 192 the DACs will end up in a sort of NOS mode with no oversampling. The "burrito" oversampling filter is what does the style of imaging. Playing the DACs in NOS mode will let you find out if the "burrito" oversampling filter is what is is causing the recording to sound like a muddy mess.

    The FAQs on the Schiit site for the Modi MB and Bifrost MB kinda explain the NOS mode that bypasses the oversampling filter.
    The Modi MB and Bifrost MB do 4x oversampling. Which is why 176.4 and 192 end up in a NOS mode that doesn't use the oversampling filter.
    The Gungnir MB and Yggdrasil do 8x oversampling. So 176.4 and 192 use the "burrito" oversampling filter.
     
  11. jay.dee

    jay.dee Forum Resident

    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    Well, I am an old school listener playing from physical formats, so I'd rather just unplug the DAC for the session (by manual intervention) than spend time on ripping and processing the files to achieve the desirable result. Anyway, thanks for the hint in case I decide to go that route one day.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  12. John

    John Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeast
  13. Ronjan

    Ronjan Active Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    You won't regret getting the Schiit. They make great stuff; they're brilliant guys.
     
    jmrife likes this.
  14. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    After reading your post I've played Boston's Don't Look Back (1993 Mastersound CD) through my Topping D50 with Filter 3 engaged, the one that messes the less the audio band, and Don't Look Back and A Man I'll Never Be sound with their dead center vocals and also most of drums. Boston's Don't Look Back has a narror soundstage, it was recorded and mixed that well, it's by no means mono, it has plenty of stereo effects but most of its sound is between the speakers and it's played and sounds as that with the Topping D50. Maybe another component on your equipment is overwidening the soundstage and what your D/A converter is doing is actually narrowing it.
    For me the Topping D50 just sounds plain accurate,maybe too accurate for some tastes. With the Yaqin SD-CD3 between it and the amp I roll the tubes, from NOS tall bottle Tung Sol 6SN7 GTB to JAN Philips 6SN7 GTA or Toshiba 6SN7 GTB (which I've read on a couple of websites that use a Telefunken design) and it's like adding different sauces without compromising its sound. I know that "tube buffers" are like blasphemy here but I like/love how the combo of Topping D50 plus Yaqin SD-CD3 sounds.
     
  15. Sean2e

    Sean2e Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    The Jds el dac isn't exactly cheap but sounds great ( noticeably better than my Marantz nr1403 receiver and the highly rated onkyo7030 cd player).. Supposedly it has great specs. I got one used on eBay for $170
     
    jmrife likes this.
  16. The type and style of imaging I'm talking about is much more than just left, right, and center. It's all of the graduations of imaging positions between the left and right and all in 3D with depth.

    Trying to explain what this sort of imaging is won't make sense until you are able to hear and experience it for yourself on a system that is able to let it show off.

    One of the interesting aspects of the imaging that the Schiit Multibits can do is that with a good recording that preserves the acoustic spatial cues you can hear where individual instruments are on stage. If there are three violins playing may be able to hear that there are three distinct violins playing and not just a blob of foggy sounding violins.

    Here's a post where I attempt to explain some of what I listen for on headphones. A lot of what I attempt to describe is about achieving a certain style and presentation of imaging.
    POLL: Do You Think That Different CD Players Have Their Own Sonic Signature?
     
  17. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    I got your point exactely the first time despite English not being my mother languaje.
     
  18. jmrife

    jmrife Wife. Kids. Grandkids. Dog. Music. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Wheat Ridge, CO
    SMSL SU8 installed this morning with balanced outputs to my pre/pro. Sounds fine so far; will let it run for several hours before I make any kind of decision.
     
    SMc likes this.
  19. jmrife

    jmrife Wife. Kids. Grandkids. Dog. Music. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Wheat Ridge, CO
    The inexpensive Chi-Fi unit -- SMSL SU8 -- is meeting all my expectations. No digital glare like my earlier DAC had, better channel separation, improved SQ on well recorded files, etc.

    The first one I ordered was DOA (the unit must be "unlocked" using the enclosed remote, but procedure did not work), but the second one is working well, making me happy (thanks Amazon for your return policy).

    I am sure I could have spent 10X the money for a hi-end DAC, but at $250, I get a fine unit with price bragging rights.
     
  20. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado
    I also have an SMSL (the M6), and find my analog end (much more expensive, mind you) puts it to absolute shame, so I rarely use it. I wonder how much I would need to spend on a DAC to get close to the quality of my analog front end.
     
  21. jmrife

    jmrife Wife. Kids. Grandkids. Dog. Music. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Wheat Ridge, CO
    I am content with the quality I am hearing. The endless chase toward perfection is wearing on my psyche and my bank account. I am hoping to enjoy what I have for a long time, something I have rarely considered possible before.:winkgrin:
     
    UCrazyKid likes this.
  22. scruffy1

    scruffy1 Active Member

    Location:
    sydney
    personally i have really enjoyed the khadas tone board (utilises the ess sabre)

    despite the earlier comment on the paucity of centre stage projection of sabre based systems, i beg to differ - the khadas is gorgeous, detailed and exquisitely crisp matched with my other components, but in honesty my only close comparison has been with the stoner acoustic akm ak4493 based "budget" dac / amp which is much less rich, and the alo pan am as a pass through dac, utilising a wolfson dac, which is probably warmer, but less detailed to my audition

    i suspect the synergy of components and personal taste biases any individual's assessment, and it's important to decide what appeals to you, not what others like (although when lots of people have good things t say about any particular items, you can be sure it's worth consideration)


    wrt the khadas, for $99usd plus postage (and make your own enclosure :D) there's not a lot to complain about... i'm sure there's even better stuff out there, but nowhere approaching this bang for the buck



    if you are on a really tight budget, there's no competition currently
     

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