• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

DAC Advice

Truth_In_Adv

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2022
Messages
12
Likes
19
I need some help picking a DAC

Background
I have some old 2.1 stereo systems I want to update to stream Apple Music Lossless

For reference, some of my audio equipment includes - Krell KSA-50, Krell Pre-Amp, Adcom GFA-555 monoblocks, Classe Audio DR-4 pre-amp, Densen DM-10 Integrated Amp, SimAudio Moon I-5 Integrated Amp, Audio Physics Virgo Speakers, Apogee Stages, and B&W 803 Speakers

I do not have any interest in surround sound at this time. Just 2 speakers and maybe a sub woofer.

Applications
- Apple Music Lossless
- TV from a Roku, Fire Stick or Smart TV output to run in stereo
- Unless I am missing something, I do not see a need for Tidal, Spotify or any other streaming music service
- I will need more than one DAC as one is for listening and the other is for TV/Listening

From what I've observed, I can use an old iPad as my User Interface and Source to feed my DAC via the iPad USB port. Currently I am running everything on the iPad 1/8 audio jack via a 15ft cord to my pre-amp. While its not wireless, I can sit on my sofa with my iPad on my lap and select music and adjust the volume easily. It makes listening to music so much fun and enjoyable. And the CD quality lossless sounds pretty good as is.

Now I am ready to hopefully improve the sound quality.

Specifically, I am looking for improvements in
- Sound-stage
- Listening fatigue that is associated with digital music
- TV - improved quality of dialogue versus music and special effects

DAC Questions
Having looked Amirm's reviews and several posts, I have a general understanding of the Chinese market but have several questions.

  • If I choose a DAC in the EXCELLENT SNAD category am I going to be happy sonically with that DAC?
  • Am I best off buying a DAC with or without an integrated amplifier to use with my headphones (Senheiser, Hifiman, and Audeze)?
  • I see lots of good reviews for Topping, Gustard and SMSL and other brands too...but is one Chinese brand known for better quality components, build quality, reliability and support? Or maybe some brands to avoid?
  • Is there a specific chip like ES9038Q2m or ES9038PRO or maybe the Rhom BD34301EKV or AK499?
    • I don't think I need MQA as I will be using Apple Music
  • Note - I have balanced Amps and Pre-amps so that is a desirable feature
Said differently, I know I could buy the 'top of the line' DAC from a company, but do I really need to do that? Why not one of the brands more modestly priced DACs?

For example in the SMSL line there are plenty of options...but how do I know which one to buy since I can't listen to them in advance?

-SMSL DO100 ES9038Q2M
-SMSL D300 BD34301EKV
-SMSL D6 AK4493
-SMSL SU6 ES9038Q2M
-SMSL SU-9n ES9038PRO
-SMSL SU-9 ES9038PRO w/MQA
-SMSL M400 AK4499

Any advice on Brand, Chip, Amp, Features...would be great.
 

Beershaun

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
1,576
Likes
1,573
Welcome. In your case I'd recommend the Topping e30. I used it the same way as you are thinking. It has USB in for your iPad and coax or optical from your TV audio out. It's a very excellent and affordable DAC to try out for yourself and see what you think.
It is not balanced output but I'd suggest starting with it because it's so affordable.

Re your other question, anything in the excellent category and recommended by Amir should all sound great. Mainly the difference would be features, price, and aesthetics when looking at dacs in the excellent category.
 

ZolaIII

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
Messages
2,202
Likes
1,252
Try with Topping EX5, for some 350$.
Edit:"- TV - improved quality of dialogue versus music and special effects"
Use equal loudness controls, don't go mind blowing loudness level's and boost midrange a bit.
 

Beershaun

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
1,576
Likes
1,573
Thinking about apple music streaming. You would want to add a streaming endpoint that supports airplay2. Like a Wiim mini streamer.
 
OP
T

Truth_In_Adv

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2022
Messages
12
Likes
19
Thinking about apple music streaming. You would want to add a streaming endpoint that supports airplay2. Like a Wiim mini streamer.
Thanks for advice. I will need to read up on Wiim...for now I think Apple Lossless cant be done via wireless (yet)...needs to go from iPad lightning output straight to DAC :)
 

majingotan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 13, 2018
Messages
1,160
Likes
1,265
Location
Laguna, Philippines
Specifically, I am looking for improvements in
- Sound-stage
- Listening fatigue that is associated with digital music
- TV - improved quality of dialogue versus music and special effects

No DAC will EVER give you that unless that DAC has a DSP/Tube stage that alters the signal to artificially enhance those three (in that case it might be placebo too). I myself have 5 different DACs and all of them have different DAC chip manufacturers ranging from horrible SINAD of 70dB to 110dB and none of them made a difference in soundstage, listening etc. The one plausible but most likely 99% placebo that improves those soundstage, listening fatigue is my effect box tube. However, despite my tube effect box having less than 50 dB SINAD performance, I am 100% sure that I won't pass DBT volume matched between my tube and a regular solid state amp.

My advice is to look for reliability, customer support experience with warranty and exchanges than focus on the performance of the DAC that's above CD dynamic range
 
OP
T

Truth_In_Adv

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2022
Messages
12
Likes
19
Majingotan,

Thanks for the thoughts.

I wonder how good the improvement will be from using the internal ipad DAC and 1/8 headphone jack?

From what I am gathering, a basic Toppings 10s is going to produce the same sound quality, sound-stage and listening fatigue as any of the other more expensive units.

Do you recommend any brands?
 

voodooless

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 16, 2020
Messages
5,745
Likes
9,440
Location
Netherlands
Welcome. In your case I'd recommend the Topping e30. I used it the same way as you are thinking. It has USB in for your iPad and coax or optical from your TV audio out. It's a very excellent and affordable DAC to try out for yourself and see what you think.
For USB, should be fine. For coax or optical, I would definitely not recommend it. The current version uses a particularly bad SPDIF receiver implementation.
 

MarkS

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Messages
526
Likes
653
As noted by majingotan, DACs all sound the same.

Get some room correction and equalization capability if you want to improve the actual sound (as opposed to meaningless specs).

I recommend the Lyngdorf TDAI 1120, which has Airplay2 built in (and yes this gives CD quality Apple Lossless over built-in wifi, and you can control it from your ipad via the web interface).
 

sonitus mirus

Active Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2021
Messages
134
Likes
172
You should be able to use your old iPad as the source with Apple Music and connect it to any DAC/Amp combo or separate components with USB via an externally powered camera connection kit. So, look for gear that allows for a USB input that meets your criteria for what you want to do. Through USB, the iPad should provide bit perfect audio with Apple Music.
 

Attachments

  • OfficeMusic.jpeg
    OfficeMusic.jpeg
    157.3 KB · Views: 26

majingotan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 13, 2018
Messages
1,160
Likes
1,265
Location
Laguna, Philippines
Majingotan,

Thanks for the thoughts.

I wonder how good the improvement will be from using the internal ipad DAC and 1/8 headphone jack?

From what I am gathering, a basic Toppings 10s is going to produce the same sound quality, sound-stage and listening fatigue as any of the other more expensive units.

Do you recommend any brands?

I cannot comment on Topping or SMSL DACs as I don't have experience with their reliability and customer support. One thing I can tell you we have manufacturers here in ASR forum that are active that can assist you if your DAC has encountered issues. In terms of absolute reliability and customer support though, it's very hard to beat RME DACs in that regard, but their products cost a premium though.
 

Rednaxela

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
993
Likes
1,120
Location
NL
CD quality Apple Lossless
I think OP seeks a solution that supports Hi-Res Lossless as well.

As I understand it, the thread is basically about this guideline (source):

6EBA8ED8-CFFB-4170-867E-4D59E175C4CD.jpeg


Agree with the rest of your post BTW.
 

MarkS

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Messages
526
Likes
653
Well the OP wrote "CD quality lossless sounds pretty good as is".

IMO, chasing higher sampling and more bits is like chasing lower SINAD: very unlikely to be audible under most real-world listening conditons (over speakers), and FAR less important than room correction and tweaking EQ.
 

Rednaxela

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
993
Likes
1,120
Location
NL
Well the OP wrote "CD quality lossless sounds pretty good as is".
Noted.

Maybe OP @Truth_In_Adv can clarify on this point? Are you after Hi-Res Lossless support as well?

IMO, chasing higher sampling and more bits is like chasing lower SINAD: very unlikely to be audible under most real-world listening conditons (over speakers), and FAR less important than room correction and tweaking EQ.
Definitely agree.
 
OP
T

Truth_In_Adv

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2022
Messages
12
Likes
19
Noted.

Maybe OP @Truth_In_Adv can clarify on this point? Are you after Hi-Res Lossless support as well?


Definitely agree.

I appreciate all the thoughts.

To clarify, Lossless is probably adequate; however, since Hi-Res Lossless doesn't cost any extra from Apple, I will run the Hi-Res format via the iPad lightning out to the DAC USB input.

After more reading, I am realizing that I no longer need to use my pre-amps as I can plug the DAC directly into the amp and use the DAC to control the volume. Conceptually this should be an improvement since there is one less component in the chain, right?

Several people have recommended the Topping EX5 - $350...this appears to have all that I desire and more (like no need for MQA)...I do like the built in power supply.

Then there is the Topping DX3+ for $199....so I can save $150 if I am willing to give up the built in power supply for a wall wart and no balanced in/outputs. This option appears to provide the best bang for the buck as it lets me try out all my different use cases:

1) The DAC for my main stereo,
2) DAC for the bedroom TV via the Tosslink input
3) A headphone DAC/AMP

I plan on connecting the DAC with a Lightning to USB Midi cable (and skipping the camera adapter)...does this work? Is there a limit on the cable length? Any cable recommendations?
 
Top Bottom