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Adding DAC. Teaching an old dog new tricks.

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#1
New to streaming, DAC's etc. So we are essentially talking teaching an old dog new tricks. I'm 63.

I plan to purchase a Toping D50s or SMSL SU8 DAC in the coming days and am not quite sure where in the signal chain to place it. I am using an Emotiva MC700 preamp and dbx DriveRack PA2 to route signal to bi amped mains, and mono sub. My streaming source will either be my Mac laptop or IPhone; USB.

I only have RCA output on my preamp, the DBX is balanced in, I currently use an RCA to XLR cable to connect the two. The SU8 is balanced out, D50S is RCA out. What is the best way to connect the DAC in the signal chain and still maintain control from the preamp? Is one superior in terms of sound quality based on how it interconnects? Just cant get it straight in my head for some reason.

The Topping uses a single ESS chip and the SMSL two AK's, any opinions/comparisons between the two? Better suggestion!?

Thanks in advance!
 

Jimbob54

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#2
New to streaming, DAC's etc. So we are essentially talking teaching an old dog new tricks. I'm 63.

I plan to purchase a Toping D50s or SMSL SU8 DAC in the coming days and am not quite sure where in the signal chain to place it. I am using an Emotiva MC700 preamp and dbx DriveRack PA2 to route signal to bi amped mains, and mono sub. My streaming source will either be my Mac laptop or IPhone; USB.

I only have RCA output on my preamp, the DBX is balanced in, I currently use an RCA to XLR cable to connect the two. The SU8 is balanced out, D50S is RCA out. What is the best way to connect the DAC in the signal chain and still maintain control from the preamp? Is one superior in terms of sound quality based on how it interconnects? Just cant get it straight in my head for some reason.

The Topping uses a single ESS chip and the SMSL two AK's, any opinions/comparisons between the two? Better suggestion!?

Thanks in advance!
You place it at the point where you want digital converted to analog. Between your phone/pc and your preamp. Begs the question, what is doing the conversion at present?
 
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ol_mcdonald
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Thread Starter #3
Damned if I know! The iPhone or the preamp I suppose. I am using a Lightning to HDMI adapter and feeding that to my preamps HDMI input.
 

asd1

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#4
No expert here, but you already have a DAC with the emotiva. A multi-channel capable setup.

From both the Mac, and the lightning/hdml adapter can provide multi-channel audio (if you care about movie related multi channel outputs for subwoofer LFE) to the emotiva which does the DAC analog conversion. Even if you don't care about the multi-channel, the DAC inside the emotiva for just 2CH is probably okay.

I think you are best off leaving things as they are. What makes you want to change it?
 

Patrick1958

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#6
The Topping uses a single ESS chip and the SMSL two AK's, any opinions/comparisons between the two? Better suggestion!?

Thanks in advance!
Both the Topping and the SMSL use dual ES9038Q2M dac chips. In terms of sound quality both will/should sound the same, however the SMSL SU8 has the advantage of balanced out that should rule out any ground loops and has a higher output (4v versus 2 volts for the topping) to feed the preamp.
 

Wombat

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#7
The complexity in HiFi will kill it. We need a modern version of the stereogram. All-in-one, turn it on and it just works. o_O

2cdJxWyuiQaqcCWakhbMs7-1200-80.jpg
 
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#8
You do realize there are all-in-one stereo sets, right?

What I think the OP wants to do, is to feed the DAC directly to the power amp through the balanced inputs.

But @asd1 has a good point. If the Emotiva already has a DAC, what is it exactly you're missing at the moment? Is that the USB connection for your Macbook?
 

SJ777

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#9
But @asd1 has a good point. If the Emotiva already has a DAC, what is it exactly you're missing at the moment? Is that the USB connection for your Macbook?
If it's just a USB connection then perhaps the Topping D10s would be the best option. This would be put between Macbook and Emotiva, USB in to D10s and SPDIF out, connecting to Emotiva.
 

Wombat

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#10
You do realize there are all-in-one stereo sets, right?

What I think the OP wants to do, is to feed the DAC directly to the power amp through the balanced inputs.

But @asd1 has a good point. If the Emotiva already has a DAC, what is it exactly you're missing at the moment? Is that the USB connection for your Macbook?

No. Can you enwisen me? All-in-one, digital streaming/pre-amp/amps through to loudspeakers?
 
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ol_mcdonald
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Thread Starter #12
Thanks for all the input. To clarify a few of things, Ive been looking at all the Topping lineup and incorrectly said D50S. I was actually thinking about the E30 which does have a single AKM chip. I was curious how the dual ESS compared to the single AKM model.

I do not want to connect the DAC directly to my amp via balanced/XLR per Wombat...I'm using 3 amps so that wouldn't work. I use a dbx dsp to bi amp my mains and provide a channel for the sub. I don't utilize the multi channel capability of the pre-amp at all.

The Emotiva pre-amp does have a DAC (Cirrus Logic 42518) and sounds pretty good....like many other components with embedded DAC's. It is my belief (maybe wrong?) that a stand alone/separate DAC will perform and sound better, and specs here seem to bear that out, and more money apparently doesn't correspond to better performance. I see sub $500 DACs performing better than multi thousand $ units.

I want to be able to control the volume and switching with my pre amp. I can connect my laptop, iPad or iPhone to the USB input of the DAC for best data transfer, but how should I connect the DAC to the pre-amp, and that begs the (stupid) question if I do is the signal still going to pass through the Emotiva's DAC. Do I connect the DAC to the pre-amp with coax, optical or HDMI? I have a DIGITAL USB input but it is intended for an APTX adapter and Im not sure if that is its sole use, but I believe so.

We all seek constant improvement to the sound our systems reproduce. I can not for the life of me help but believe that their is potential improvement with a better DAC, I could be wrong, and it may be more trouble than its worth at the end of the day.
 

SJ777

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#13
The Emotiva pre-amp does have a DAC (Cirrus Logic 42518) and sounds pretty good....like many other components with embedded DAC's. It is my belief (maybe wrong?) that a stand alone/separate DAC will perform and sound better, and specs here seem to bear that out,
I'm not convinced that a separate DAC will improve SQ. It's a question of functionality. With specs you've got to ask yourself whether we're talking audible differences or not (usually it's not)

I can connect my laptop, iPad or iPhone to the USB input of the DAC for best data transfer, but how should I connect the DAC to the pre-amp, and that begs the (stupid) question if I do is the signal still going to pass through the Emotiva's DAC. Do I connect the DAC to the pre-amp with coax, optical or HDMI? I have a DIGITAL USB input but it is intended for an APTX adapter and Im not sure if that is its sole use, but I believe so.
My previous suggestion of the D10s would do what you ask. Essentially you'd be using 2 DACs in your set up:

Laptop/ipad/iphone - D10s - Emotiva - amps etc.

The D10s has a USB in and an optical out. You can run a coax or a toslink out of the D10s into the Emotiva. As I say though, this is a functionality improvement rather than an SQ improvement.
 

Apesbrain

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#14
It is my belief (maybe wrong?) that a stand alone/separate DAC will perform and sound better, and specs here seem to bear that out, and more money apparently doesn't correspond to better performance.
It might "sound better", but only you can be the judge of that. I think the odds are low that a $130 DAC like the E30 is going to perform much better than what you already have. It's likely you'll need the D70 or D90 to hear a worthwhile improvement. Buy from someone who allows returns just in case.

Whichever DAC you use, your Mac would connect via USB to the DAC and the analog output from the DAC be sent to an analog input on your pre-amp. You control volume on the pre-amp like any other source. RCA/XLR doesn't make any difference for short cable runs. I'd forget about sending music from the iPhone and just use it as a remote to control iTunes on your Mac.

P.S. Your pre-amp being designed for A/V, you wouldn't happen to have an Apple TV would you?
 
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#15
With a D10s you’d only use the DAC of the Emotiva, correct?

What you can also do, is just use a jack to RCA to connect your phone and MacBook. I don’t know which versions you have of the apple stuff but some tend to have pretty awesome DACs of themselves.
 

SJ777

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#17
I think the odds are low that a $130 DAC like the E30 is going to perform much better than what you already have. It's likely you'll need the D70 or D90 to hear a worthwhile improvement.
When you say "perform" are you talking features or sq? I see no evidence to suggest D70 or D90 will sound "better" than E30. I would expect them all to sound the same. If you are talking features then that's a different matter.
 

Wombat

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#19
:facepalm: Yes. Stuff like the Marantz Melody X for example.
Close. :) It needs more analog-ins, DVD and BR, and more power but a good package. Nice.
 
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ol_mcdonald
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Thread Starter #20
It might "sound better", but only you can be the judge of that. I think the odds are low that a $130 DAC like the E30 is going to perform much better than what you already have.
I’m back on this kick. I have to disagree with you on a $130 DAC sounding/performing batter than what I have https://statics.cirrus.com/pubs/proDatasheet/CS42518_F2.pdf
the specs say otherwise. Regardless I’m looking at a different unit now.

I’m now looking at a little different approach. I’m thinking about using the Topping D70 with balanced output into a 2 in 4 out XLR switch. That would allow me to eliminate the preamp (and it’s DAC) from the signal chain and going XLR from DAC into my dsp which is also XLR, then amps also XLR and use the DAC’s volume control. If/when I want to watch DVD or play a CD (rare occasion) I can switch the XLR switch to the alternate position.

A unit capable of the full MQA unfold would be a possibility, but the jury is still out regarding MQA. Comments, suggestions?
 
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