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Arcam SA 30 - External DAC Any Better?

Witterings

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I have an Arcam SA30 which I believe has an onboard ESS Sabre ESS9038 DAC.

If I went with an external one am I likely to hear any "improvement" in sound or is that a pretty reasonable DAC and other's may sound "Different" but not necessarily "Better"?

If an external DAC could improve sound quality, what DAC's should I be considering and what differences may I hear .... just as a personal preference in sound, I generally prefer warmer than a brighter sound and love to clearly hear the bass ... not thumping but more warm clarity in case that helps.

I wonder if I may be chasing a Unicorn ... but then I guess that's half of what this hobby / interest is about :D
 

notsodeadlizard

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No, you will most likely only make things worse.
And the amplifier is very good, that's a fact.
 

notsodeadlizard

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What you want in your case is determined neither by the amplifier, nor by the external DSP, nor by the source at all.
What you want in your case is determined by loudspeakers.
 
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Witterings

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A DAC is not an EQ device. If you want warmer, tune it with Dirac Live. I see no reason to buy another box.

I'm going to run it again but the 2 times I've run Dirac (with different speakers), personally I've not gone a bundle on the changes it's made, the Bass has become punchier but lost some "breadth" which gives a warmer / fuller presentation I prefer but I'll try again.

I'm also not looking to "tune" the sound as such but whilst doing research was reading some comments on Chord Qutest and how some people believe it "coloured" the sound and possibly not in the best way so was looking to avoid a situation like that.

Cheers for your help though ... always appreciated :)
 

voodooless

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I'm going to run it again but the 2 times I've run Dirac (with different speakers), personally I've not gone a bundle on the changes it's made, the Bass has become punchier but lost some "breadth" which gives a warmer / fuller presentation I prefer but I'll try again.
You'll probably need to tweak the curves a bit. You may try these: https://youthmanreviews.com/harman-target-curves-for-dirac-live/ , but there are more of them out there.
I'm also not looking to "tune" the sound as such but whilst doing research was reading some comments on Chord Qutest and how some people believe it "coloured" the sound and possibly not in the best way so was looking to avoid a situation like that.
The Qutest was tested right here at ASR:


There is no indication that it colors sound.
 

JSmith

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Arcam SA30


JSmith
 
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Witterings

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You'll probably need to tweak the curves a bit. You may try these: https://youthmanreviews.com/harman-target-curves-for-dirac-live/ , but there are more of them out there.

The Qutest was tested right here at ASR:


There is no indication that it colors sound.

I did try most of the Harman's and also manually adjusting to a degree and will continue to in the future (possibly about to add a Sub to the setup so probably not much point until I have), I think I could do with someone much more familiar with Dirac to do it for me which I've aslo been considering when my setup's finalised which I'm very close to
now :)

I did see the test as if everyone was saying I could make a considerable improvement in sound I would have asked about the Qutest and the RMD ADI-2 as they were 2 I'd been looking at.
The commenst I saw were in a forum and a couple of people seemed to agree it gave a slightly "artificial" flavour to it .... they may just be Chord haters and their justification for buying alternative products .... my lack of knowledge of DAC's though probably better to mention what I didn't like and if they don't alter the sound in any way, or one differemt to another what would be the purpose of having one vs another?
 

voodooless

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I did try most of the Harman's and also manually adjusting to a degree and will continue to in the future (possibly about to add a Sub to the setup so probably not much point until I have), I think I could do with someone much more familiar with Dirac to do it for me which I've aslo been considering when my setup's finalised which I'm very close to
now :)
Post some screenshots, I'm sure people can comment on it. So what speakers are you using? Speakers and your room are the primary factors in determining your sound. Amps and DAC come way behind that.
 
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Witterings

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I thought I'd just clarify my initial query, I'm not saying my system sounds awful and I need to do something to massively improve it, it's more you hear of people spending literally thousands on DAC's and is there much upside in doing so .... but also whether a combined Amp with DAC, may offer a lower qaulity (dues to costs) than a dedicated external one and how much difference it'd make ... if any?

Post some screenshots, I'm sure people can comment on it. So what speakers are you using? Speakers and your room are the primary factors in determining your sound. Amps and DAC come way behind that.

The speakers are ProAc D20R's ... but I think your comment "Speakers and your room are the primary factors in determining your sound. Amps and DAC come way behind that" along with @notsodeadlizard comments ... may actually address my initial question and tends to say I'm not going to notice any real difference.

I can get some screenshots but again there's probably not much point if I'm still making changes / going to add the Sub within the next 10 days and may be better off waiting until then.

If I was overall trying to make changes to the sound, my my target would be improving it at lower volume. I know this can generally be an issue and some people use specific curves that boost the lows and highs for low volume use and would be really interested in experimenting with this.

I guess if you put yourself in the HiFi enthusiast bracket we're always looking at tweaks that may make a difference even if it is marginal :)
 

voodooless

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The speakers are ProAc D20R's ...
Looks like they may a bit on the hot side, tweeter-wise. That may explain what you hear. At least If I go by one of the other models frequency response, I can't find one for your exact model.
I can get some screenshots but again there's probably not much point if I'm still making changes / going to add the Sub within the next 10 days and may be better off waiting until then.
We'll still be here :)
If I was overall trying to make changes to the sound, my my target would be improving it at lower volume. I know this can generally be an issue and some people use specific curves that boost the lows and highs for low volume use and would be really interested in experimenting with this.
See https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-fletcher-munson-loudness-compensation.29543/
 

voodooless

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I thought I'd just clarify my initial query, I'm not saying my system sounds awful and I need to do something to massively improve it, it's more you hear of people spending literally thousands on DAC's and is there much upside in doing so
There is little to no upside. You can get a near state-of-art DAC for around $80:


Generally, you'd spend more on a DAC because you need certain features, like XLR or DSP. There are also sub $ 1K for that. Since you already have Dirac, the DSP bit would be redundant. The older ESS DAC in your amp is perfectly serviceable, and from the measurements that are available on the amp, it's quite good. Best to spend your time and money otherwise.
 

Overseas

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If you get a separate DAC and things improve audibly, sell the Sa30, keep the new DAC and get a power amp.
 
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