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DAC + ADC as input selector for digital source and turntable: a conundrum?

glucenag

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Hey there folks.

So I'm looking to get a DAC for my system. It will go directly into a power amp, so no preamp involved. I have two digital sources and a turntable which has a line-level RCA output (built in phono stage) I am willing to use. The turntable is a Sony PS-HX500 if you have to ask.

For a while I thought I was limited to DACs such as the Matrix Audio Mini i (Pro) 3, which feature an unusual RCA input. I say "limited" because indeed this option is rarely present in DACs (it was on the discontinued Oppo Sonica for example). The price of the Matrix Audio Mini i Pro 3 (the non pro version is virtually impossible to get) is a bit steep for me, and I don't care for the streamer features (nor the wireless connectivity) so if it weren't for the RCA I would never go up to those prices.

There are cheaper DACs which however fit all my basic criteria except the RCA input, e.g. Gustard X16, Topping DX7 Pro. All these are lacking to fit my needs is the RCA in (and correspondingly the built in ADC).

Thus my question: what would you guys think (SQ wise) about buying a separate ADC (RCA to coaxial, for example) and using it to bridge between the turntable's line out and one of the digital inputs on the a DAC ? I've been looking around on the web and it seems that ADCs come in essentially two classes: on the one hand you have the little simple boxes selling for 10$ everywhere (here for example), and on the other hand you have stuff that seems much more professional / high grade, either rack-mounted stuff or things like the Parks Puffin (either way you pay much more money and you get features which I don't need / want: DSP in the rack mounted options and phono stage in the Puffin).

The quality of vinyl is what it is, so I'm thinking maybe the little 10$ converters are not gonna spoil the sound that much (I doubt that stuff like the Matrix Audio Mini i Pro 3 has a much better ADC anyway, I mean it is there just as a convenience I guess and is not the core product). On the other, it is scary to buy such cheap stuff and I would still make sure I am somewhat being respectful towards the turntable's output.

I guess I am waiting for people to enlighten me here. Do you guys think that routing the turntable's line out via a DAC by means of one of these little ADC boxes is an insult to any form of SQ and hence I should definitely go for something like the Puffin ? Maybe people have opinions on the quality of built-in ADCs in things like the Matrix Audio Mini i (Pro) 3 ? Would that at least be decent? SQ wise the obviously best option is to buy the Puffin (with the digital modification by the manufacturer), disable the turntable's built in phono stage (which is likely not the best in the world either) and plug the digital out of the Puffin in the cheapest DAC fitting my needs. But that is some money, because the Puffin is expensive (in a seemingly justified way though), and I guess what I'm struggling with is that I only turn to my turntable occasionally and I just want it to sound decent. I listen to it like once a week or two but it's not my main source, so I'm thinking that spending this money maybe does not make any sense for me.

Note that this is generally the approach I'll take, so if you think it is somehow ludicrous to digitalize a turntable's output before letting a DAC do the work, please refrain from commenting in the sense that such is not the discussion scope I would like to have here. I am also aware that there is little sense (SQ wise) in listening to vinyl for this and that reason, and in fact I basically agree but for me it is a matter of nostalgia. My father gave those discs when I was a teenager and I simply enjoy the little walk down memory lane when I physically pull out one of these from the collection and let it spin. Note that, while being aware that the SQ of vinyl is what it is, I still want to make the best of what my turntable outputs (or at least not totally trash it).

OK I don't know if anybody got my points. If so and if you got here, thanks for reading! And thanks for any input.
 

mdsimon2

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Hey there folks.

So I'm looking to get a DAC for my system. It will go directly into a power amp, so no preamp involved. I have two digital sources and a turntable which has a line-level RCA output (built in phono stage) I am willing to use. The turntable is a Sony PS-HX500 if you have to ask.

For a while I thought I was limited to DACs such as the Matrix Audio Mini i (Pro) 3, which feature an unusual RCA input. I say "limited" because indeed this option is rarely present in DACs (it was on the discontinued Oppo Sonica for example). The price of the Matrix Audio Mini i Pro 3 (the non pro version is virtually impossible to get) is a bit steep for me, and I don't care for the streamer features (nor the wireless connectivity) so if it weren't for the RCA I would never go up to those prices.

There are cheaper DACs which however fit all my basic criteria except the RCA input, e.g. Gustard X16, Topping DX7 Pro. All these are lacking to fit my needs is the RCA in (and correspondingly the built in ADC).

Thus my question: what would you guys think (SQ wise) about buying a separate ADC (RCA to coaxial, for example) and using it to bridge between the turntable's line out and one of the digital inputs on the a DAC ? I've been looking around on the web and it seems that ADCs come in essentially two classes: on the one hand you have the little simple boxes selling for 10$ everywhere (here for example), and on the other hand you have stuff that seems much more professional / high grade, either rack-mounted stuff or things like the Parks Puffin (either way you pay much more money and you get features which I don't need / want: DSP in the rack mounted options and phono stage in the Puffin).

The quality of vinyl is what it is, so I'm thinking maybe the little 10$ converters are not gonna spoil the sound that much (I doubt that stuff like the Matrix Audio Mini i Pro 3 has a much better ADC anyway, I mean it is there just as a convenience I guess and is not the core product). On the other, it is scary to buy such cheap stuff and I would still make sure I am somewhat being respectful towards the turntable's output.

I guess I am waiting for people to enlighten me here. Do you guys think that routing the turntable's line out via a DAC by means of one of these little ADC boxes is an insult to any form of SQ and hence I should definitely go for something like the Puffin ? Maybe people have opinions on the quality of built-in ADCs in things like the Matrix Audio Mini i (Pro) 3 ? Would that at least be decent? SQ wise the obviously best option is to buy the Puffin (with the digital modification by the manufacturer), disable the turntable's built in phono stage (which is likely not the best in the world either) and plug the digital out of the Puffin in the cheapest DAC fitting my needs. But that is some money, because the Puffin is expensive (in a seemingly justified way though), and I guess what I'm struggling with is that I only turn to my turntable occasionally and I just want it to sound decent. I listen to it like once a week or two but it's not my main source, so I'm thinking that spending this money maybe does not make any sense for me.

Note that this is generally the approach I'll take, so if you think it is somehow ludicrous to digitalize a turntable's output before letting a DAC do the work, please refrain from commenting in the sense that such is not the discussion scope I would like to have here. I am also aware that there is little sense (SQ wise) in listening to vinyl for this and that reason, and in fact I basically agree but for me it is a matter of nostalgia. My father gave those discs when I was a teenager and I simply enjoy the little walk down memory lane when I physically pull out one of these from the collection and let it spin. Note that, while being aware that the SQ of vinyl is what it is, I still want to make the best of what my turntable outputs (or at least not totally trash it).

OK I don't know if anybody got my points. If so and if you got here, thanks for reading! And thanks for any input.

I personally think those $10 ADCs are likely very bad and I think a slight step to something in $100 range is probably worth it.

I had a similar use case to you, I had a DSP that had 3 digital inputs but no analog input and I wanted to integrated a turntable + phono stage. I also had the added complication of wanting to locate my turntable table 25 feet away from the DSP.

My solution was to use a HifiBerry DAC+ ADC Pro HAT with a RPi 3B+.

https://www.hifiberry.com/docs/data-sheets/datasheet-dac-adc-pro/

For vinyl this works greater, I've measured it at some point and IIRC SINAD is in the 90s and the price is reasonable at just over $100 when you factor in a power supply and case for the RPi.

In my case I run a LMS server on the RPi and use the wave input plugin so I can stream losslessly from the RPi with the ADC HAT to another RPi with a digital output HAT. Assuming your turntable is located close to your DAC and you have a free USB input on your DAC you can just connect the RPi directly to the DAC and avoid all the LMS stuff.

There are other options such as pro audio interfaces that are a bit more expensive and take up more space but may be good options. Something like a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or a MOTU M4 would work well. The basic concept remains the same, analog from phono stage -> ADC -> USB out from ADC in RPi -> USB out from RPi to DAC.

Michael
 

JeffS7444

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what would you guys think (SQ wise) about buying a separate ADC (RCA to coaxial, for example) and using it to bridge between the turntable's line out and one of the digital inputs on the a DAC ? I've been looking around on the web and it seems that ADCs come in essentially two classes: on the one hand you have the little simple boxes selling for 10$ everywhere (here for example), and on the other hand you have stuff that seems much more professional / high grade, either rack-mounted stuff or things like the Parks Puffin (either way you pay much more money and you get features which I don't need / want: DSP in the rack mounted options and phono stage in the Puffin).
I think provided that the ADC doesn't add audible noise, an inexpensive ADC could be a fine idea, and if you connect via TOSLINK, you have the option to locate the turntable at a considerable distance from the other components.

Puffin Phono looks like a great product - for someone who is seriously into vinyl. And that path quickly leads to $500+ phono cartridges and the like.
 
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glucenag

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There are other options such as pro audio interfaces that are a bit more expensive and take up more space but may be good options. Something like a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or a MOTU M4 would work well. The basic concept remains the same, analog from phono stage -> ADC -> USB out from ADC in RPi -> USB out from RPi to DAC.

Michael

Hey well, thanks! One thing though: why the extra RPi step here above? Why can't I just pick a decent ADC (let's see about specifics here later) and just do analog from phono stage -> ADC -> USB out from ADC into DAC ? (I love the RPi's and know them well, so that's not where my question comes from)
 
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glucenag

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I think provided that the ADC doesn't add audible noise, an inexpensive ADC could be a fine idea, and if you connect via TOSLINK, you have the option to locate the turntable at a considerable distance from the other components.

Puffin Phono looks like a great product - for someone who is seriously into vinyl. And that path quickly leads to $500+ phono cartridges and the like.

Well TOSLINK or Coax, right? Typically the DACs I have in mind have USB, TOSLINK and Coaxial (optical) inputs. Roon would go into the USB, my TV would go into the TOSLINK and I was hoping to find an ADC that would output digital via Coaxial to the DAC's optical input.
 

mdsimon2

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Hey well, thanks! One thing though: why the extra RPi step here above? Why can't I just pick a decent ADC (let's see about specifics here later) and just do analog from phono stage -> ADC -> USB out from ADC into DAC ? (I love the RPi's and know them well, so that's not where my question comes from)

I could not find a decent performing ADC with a TOSLINK or SPDIF output at a reasonable price. If you know of one let me know. All of the cheap but good pro audio ADCs for example are USB output only. You can definitely get a good performing ADC with TOSLINK or SPDIF output but that will cost quite a bit more.

Michael
 

Madeintooting

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The turntable is a Sony PS-HX500 if you have to ask.

Surely this already has a good quality ADC and a USB output?


"Breathe new life into analogue masterpieces with DSD. Just hook-up the PS-HX500 turntable to your PC via USB, play a record, and capture every aspect of the vinyl with DSD 5.6MHz native conversion."
 
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glucenag

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Surely this already has a good quality ADC and a USB output?


"Breathe new life into analogue masterpieces with DSD. Just hook-up the PS-HX500 turntable to your PC via USB, play a record, and capture every aspect of the vinyl with DSD 5.6MHz native conversion."

Yes, but unusable the way I want (as per my understanding, please correct me if I am wrong). So the USB output of the PS-HX500 is meant exclusively for use with some specific software running on a PC which will help you rip vinyls. That's it, it's not a digital USB audio out. Not that I know at least.
 
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glucenag

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I could not find a decent performing ADC with a TOSLINK or SPDIF output at a reasonable price. If you know of one let me know. All of the cheap but good pro audio ADCs for example are USB output only. You can definitely get a good performing ADC with TOSLINK or SPDIF output but that will cost quite a bit more.

Michael

I see. Well if you're right that means I need a DAC with two USB inputs I guess. I'm still confused as to why I need an RPi in my setup anyway (assuming my turntable is close to the DAC). Whatever "cheap but good" ADC I get (thanks for the suggestions) will be USB out, and in your chain you say ADC USB out --> RPi and then RPi USB out --> DAC USB in but it seems like that's an unecessary extra step? Sorry maybe I'm just not thinking straight. Thanks a lot for commenting!
 

mdsimon2

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Yes, but unusable the way I want (as per my understanding, please correct me if I am wrong). So the USB output of the PS-HX500 is meant exclusively for use with some specific software running on a PC which will help you rip vinyls. That's it, it's not a digital USB audio out. Not that I know at least.

I agree that it is unlikely that you can just connect the USB output of the turntable to the USB input of the DAC but I imagine you can make this work.

It says no driver required on Mac so I wonder if it works on Linux, if so this is another really good RPi application. You can use a RPi running CamillaDSP to capture a signal from the turntable and route it to a USB DAC pretty easily. If you already have a RPi it would be simple enough to see if it is recognized.

Michael
 
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glucenag

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I agree that it is unlikely that you can just connect the USB output of the turntable to the USB input of the DAC but I imagine you can make this work.

It says no driver required on Mac so I wonder if it works on Linux, if so this is another really good RPi application. You can use a RPi running CamillaDSP to capture a signal from the turntable and route it to a USB DAC pretty easily. If you already have a RPi it would be simple enough to see if it is recognized.

Michael

Damn it, you're right. Didn't think of this - and I am ashamed of myself there, I have RPi's all around the house lol. This would not solve the fact that, even if it works, I would still be getting USB out of that camilla-RPi, so that I would need a DAC with two USB inputs (recall Roon is already using one of those).

Also, little problem here: I don't have a DAC at home. Do you see any DAC-free way of determining whether your "Sony-Camilla" trick would work?
 

mdsimon2

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I see. Well if you're right that means I need a DAC with two USB inputs I guess. I'm still confused as to why I need an RPi in my setup anyway (assuming my turntable is close to the DAC). Whatever "cheap but good" ADC I get (thanks for the suggestions) will be USB out, and in your chain you say ADC USB out --> RPi and then RPi USB out --> DAC USB in but it seems like that's an unecessary extra step? Sorry maybe I'm just not thinking straight. Thanks a lot for commenting!

USB audio is not one way like SPDIF or TOSLINK, it requires a device to act as a host (typically a computer). You cannot just run a USB cable from a USB audio interface like the MOTU M4 to the USB input of a DAC as you have no host. The RPi can act as a host for both the input device (ADC) and output device (DAC). If the USB input on your DAC is already occupied you can also get a RPi digital output hat or something like a Topping D10S to get a digital output from the RPi.

Michael
 

Madeintooting

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Yes, but unusable the way I want (as per my understanding, please correct me if I am wrong). So the USB output of the PS-HX500 is meant exclusively for use with some specific software running on a PC which will help you rip vinyls. That's it, it's not a digital USB audio out. Not that I know at least.

Looks like you're right, needs a pc in the middle, though I'm not sure whether anyone has tried it with a dac capable of decoding DSD 5.6.
 
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glucenag

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USB audio is not one way like SPDIF or TOSLINK, it requires a device to act as a host (typically a computer). You cannot just run a USB cable from a USB audio interface like the MOTU M4 to the USB input of a DAC as you have no host. The RPi can act as a host for both the input device (ADC) and output device (DAC). If the USB input on your DAC is already occupied you can also get a RPi digital output hat or something like a Topping D10S to get a digital output from the RPi.

Michael

Ah, of course, I forgot that about USB audio.

Hmm I'm starting to think that it makes more sense for me to first try the Camilla-hack with the turntable's USB out, since it requires no purchase to (potentially) work (because I have spare RPis). Seems more elegant to me too, in some way. If that fails, I'll definitely think about your ADC + host RPi solution. Cheers man.
 
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glucenag

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Looks like you're right, needs a pc in the middle, though I'm not sure whether anyone has tried it with a dac capable of decoding DSD 5.6.

Ah I see what you mean. Interesting. Damn it I still have no DAC around to try all of this !!!
 

mdsimon2

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Damn it, you're right. Didn't think of this - and I am ashamed of myself there, I have RPi's all around the house lol. This would not solve the fact that, even if it works, I would still be getting USB out of that camilla-RPi, so that I would need a DAC with two USB inputs (recall Roon is already using one of those).

Also, little problem here: I don't have a DAC at home. Do you see any DAC-free way of determining whether your "Sony-Camilla" trick would work?

You should be able to check it with something like REW or Audacity on the RPi. When I first started experimenting with this stuff I used REW to see if I could capture sound from my desired input device. If you can do that you are golden.

Michael
 
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glucenag

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(BTW this forum is incredible. So much help. Not like I want to call it a day - by all means, keep commenting if relevant - but cheers all of you for the inputs!!!)
 

MarcosCh

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In my case I run a LMS server on the RPi and use the wave input plugin so I can stream losslessly from the RPi with the ADC HAT to another RPi with a digital output HAT. Assuming your turntable is located close to your DAC and you have a free USB input on your DAC you can just connect the RPi directly to the DAC and avoid all the LMS stuff.


Michael

Hi! I am very interested on a solution like this! I understood that the only way to transmit via wifi was sonos or darkice internet radio. Can you provide more details or provide a link or something? I would be very grateful, have been looking for something like this for months!!
 
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