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DAC under 1500USD with top performance volume control

AnalogSteph

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I really want to see measurements of SINAD in 5 or 10 dB increments, in volume control, from 0 down to the floor of some DAC.
What would that tell us that the existing IMD vs. level, linearity and dynamic range tests don't?

The only test that I would want to add is handling of intersample-overs (>0 dBFS input levels, e.g. via an fs/4, +90° sine, or high-level multitone or noise).
 
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JustJones

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You might be able to find a used Benchmark DAC 3L for $1500 , should fit the bill.
 

tensor9

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What would that tell us that the existing IMD vs. level, linearity and dynamic range tests don't?

The only test that I would want to add is handling of intersample-overs (>0 dBFS input levels, e.g. via an fs/4, +90° sine).
The test would empirically tell us about noise as well as distortion at different volume levels, which I think is most of what one would be worried about.

Also, for integrated DACs (with separate preamp stages like the Matrix Element X with its resistor array), it would test the preamp stage as well.

Overall a good test to do IMO, again considering no one listens at full volume (unless they have a separate preamp).
 

Barry_Sound

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I got rid of my Primare DAC30 and original Schiit Freya, for one because I didn't use tubes and the DAC was getting quite old and didn't wanna get stuck with it forever, and secondly and most importantly, I want to get one unit that does it all. straight to my powered speakers (Genelec G series) and I'm done with this game :D
You should have been able to connect your Primare DAC to your active speakers already, what am I missing here?
Also, I dont think anyone needs to upgrade a DAC because it´s "old". Anything with a USB 2.0 input is pretty much state of the art. Remember that first DAC chips were implemented in around 1980 so we have a pretty mature technology here.
 

radix

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For kicks, I measured my RME ADI-2 DAC FS at different volume gains. As my QA403 does not do USB/digital output, I ran it through a Motu Ultralite mk5 and routed the right channel to Main 2 and SPDIF 2. I fed Main 2 back to the QA403 (left) and the SPDIF to the RME, then the RME right channel to the QA403 (right). Everything is single-ended. The QA403 used a 48 kHz sample, and the Motu was using 96 kHz ADC.

Screen Shot 2023-01-12 at 4.08.43 PM.png


The RME is set to Auto Level, so it begins at +13 dBu, then clicks down to -5 dBu at lower volumes. I measured volume at every 6 dB, from +6 dBr to -42 dBr.

These measurements are likely limited by the Motu ADC which I measured at -82 dB THD+N. But they do show how much affect the RME's volume control has it's DAC output.

The +6dB volume setting reads as +2.63 dBV and actually has slightly better THD+N than the Motu DAC. At +0 dB volume (reads as -3.37 dBV), it down 0.04 dB THD+N (or 0.00003%). Here is a table that summarizes them all. The table is only for the right channel, which is the RME output. The first 18 dB stays pretty flat with respect to THD+N because the auto reference level. The volume knob seems pretty accurate too.

Once the Auto Reference has dropped down to the lowest level of -5 dBu, the RME's noise floor is < 110 dB and it barely changes with volume.

Volume (dBr)RMS (dBV)THD (dB)THD+N (%)THD+N (dB)
+62.63-85.360.00793-82.01
0-3.37-85.490.00797-81.97
-6-9.37-85.470.00844-81.47
-12-15.38-85.330.00949-80.46
-18-21.42-85.100.01260-77.99
-24-27.43-86.170.01990-74.02
-30-33.43-84.820.03699-68.64
-36-39.43-81.870.07316-62.71
-42-45.43-77.520.14302-56.89

motu_rme_+6dB.png


motu_rme_+0dB.png


motu_rme_-6dB.png


motu_rme_-12dB.png


motu_rme_-18dB.png


I'll skip to the last one at -42 dB

motu_rme_-42dB.png
 

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Ken Tajalli

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For kicks, I measured my RME ADI-2 DAC FS at different volume gains. As my QA403 does not do USB/digital output, I ran it through a Motu Ultralite mk5 and routed the right channel to Main 2 and SPDIF 2. I fed Main 2 back to the QA403 (left) and the SPDIF to the RME, then the RME right channel to the QA403 (right). Everything is single-ended. The QA403 used a 48 kHz sample, and the Motu was using 96 kHz ADC.

View attachment 256766

The RME is set to Auto Level, so it begins at +13 dBu, then clicks down to -5 dBu at lower volumes. I measured volume at every 6 dB, from +6 dBr to -42 dBr.

These measurements are likely limited by the Motu ADC which I measured at -82 dB THD+N. But they do show how much affect the RME's volume control has it's DAC output.

The +6dB volume setting reads as +2.63 dBV and actually has slightly better THD+N than the Motu DAC. At +0 dB volume (reads as -3.37 dBV), it down 0.04 dB THD+N (or 0.00003%). Here is a table that summarizes them all. The table is only for the right channel, which is the RME output. The first 18 dB stays pretty flat with respect to THD+N because the auto reference level. The volume knob seems pretty accurate too.

Once the Auto Reference has dropped down to the lowest level of -5 dBu, the RME's noise floor is < 110 dB and it barely changes with volume.

Volume (dBr)RMS (dBV)THD (dB)THD+N (%)THD+N (dB)
+62.63-85.360.00793-82.01
0-3.37-85.490.00797-81.97
-6-9.37-85.470.00844-81.47
-12-15.38-85.330.00949-80.46
-18-21.42-85.100.01260-77.99
-24-27.43-86.170.01990-74.02
-30-33.43-84.820.03699-68.64
-36-39.43-81.870.07316-62.71
-42-45.43-77.520.14302-56.89
Thank you for this.
I didn't expect the noise floor to change, as shown. The volume control is before the output stage, and almost all of the noise floor is from the output stage, which is next to nothing.
Your graphs also show something interesting! to my eyes, some of the distortion patterns, seem to get reduced (almost gone) at -42db.
 

AnalogSteph

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I didn't expect the noise floor to change, as shown.
Looks like it's barely 16-bit performance on the output side, which doesn't seem right.
to my eyes, some of the distortion patterns, seem to get reduced (almost gone) at -42db.
Yes, there seems to be little more than ground loop noise left at this point. The unbalanced connections are not exactly beneficial here.

I would probably break out REW or RMAA with ASIO I/O and just run a loopback between the RME and the MOTU at this point. Involving the QA403 by any means just introduces too many variables.
 
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The RME ADI-2 FS is about $1300 new. It has a decent remote too. I've seen some comments about it having a nice volume control, but I don't know of specific measurements. I would be surprised if it was sub-par.















The miniDSP Flex is ab out $800-900 with Dirac, so you get room correction too! I've not seen anyone complain about it's volume co





I'm loving my flex with volume control
 

Boltman92124

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Would you say that a SMSL C200 would do the job equally well? Because for some reason I have imagined it would be better for L70 to handle the volume.
Sorry to chime in later on. How do you like you're C200? Looks like a nice alternative to the Topping DX3Pro +. Do you use it as a preamp? One question, can the output be switched to fixed line-out? Thanks!
 

Bleib

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Sorry to chime in later on. How do you like you're C200? Looks like a nice alternative to the Topping DX3Pro +. Do you use it as a preamp? One question, can the output be switched to fixed line-out? Thanks!
No problem. Yes, I like it, balanced out, better more responsive remote and runs cooler than the Topping. It's always in pre-amp mode, no fixed DAC-mode in this one. I just use the highest volume most of the time. Sometimes I use it to lower the audio instead of through the amp.
For me C200 is the best bang for the buck product now.
 
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I use a Topping E70 directly into a power amp with the volume control on the DAC. I had an SMSL SU-9n before on which, for some inexplicable reason, I didn't like the built in volume control at all. I would have loved to use it but it straight up sucked. Can't fathom why. On the Topping I have absolutely no issues and I might add that it's gonna be pretty hard to find an objectively better DAC, even for three times the price (E70 is 399,-).

My usual attenuation on the DAC is between -6 and -15dB, going directly into an Audiophonics Purifi amp on low gain. Roon delivers 32 Bit to the DAC.
 

BR52

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I use a Topping E70 directly into a power amp with the volume control on the DAC. I had an SMSL SU-9n before on which, for some inexplicable reason, I didn't like the built in volume control at all. I would have loved to use it but it straight up sucked. Can't fathom why. On the Topping I have absolutely no issues and I might add that it's gonna be pretty hard to find an objectively better DAC, even for three times the price (E70 is 399,-).

My usual attenuation on the DAC is between -6 and -15dB, going directly into an Audiophonics Purifi amp on low gain. Roon delivers 32 Bit to the DAC.
I use the E70 with the purifi in the same setup with low gain as well. Works great.
One remark: this will not drive the purifi to full throttle, any how I have high efficiency speakers so it’s more than loud enough.
 
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One remark: this will not drive the purifi to full throttle, any how I have high efficiency speakers so it’s more than loud enough.
Yes, that's true, but I don't see anyone needing that kind of power at home. I use volume levelling in Roon and -3dB Headroom Management because of the Room EQ and STILL -0dB on the DAC is unbearably loud. And I'm someone who likes it loud.
 

BR52

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For that setup you need low output impedance and topping has it. Others „SMSl“ is saying nothing about
 

Sokel

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Just for the fun of it I did some mesurements in Khadas tone's digital attenuation (110 SINAD Amir's measurement,about 105 SINAD with my limited rig)

WARNING: Real world measurement,everything as it sit and plays for normal listening (apart from the fact I don't use the digital attenuation of it normally,I have it hooked to my pre)

0db to -50db,10db steps with DAC's attenuator:


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R 0db.jpg


0db - 104.7 SINAD


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -10db.jpg


-10db - 93.9 SINAD


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -20db.jpg


-20db - 83.1 SINAD


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -30db.jpg


-30db - 74.7 SINAD


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -40db.jpg


-40db - 68 SINAD


Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -50db.jpg


-50db - 58.1 SINAD

SINAD almost follows attenuation as you can see.
 
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BR52

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Just for the fun of it I did some mesurements in Khadas tone's digital attenuation (110 SINAD Amir's measurement,about 105 SINAD with my limited rig)

WARNING: Real world measurement,everything as it sit and plays for normal listening (apart from the fact I don't use the digital attenuation of it normally,I have it hooked to my pre)

0db to -50db,10db steps with DAC's attenuator:


View attachment 266834

0db - 104.7 SINAD


View attachment 266835

-10db - 93.9 SINAD


View attachment 266836

-20db - 83.1 SINAD


View attachment 266837

-30db - 74.7 SINAD


View attachment 266838

-40db - 68 SINAD


View attachment 266839

-50db - 58.1 SINAD

SINAD almost follows attenuation as you can see.
Great to see would be interested to see this measurements in the chain together with the pre. The volume in real world levels
 

Sokel

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Considering that my pre is too hot for my ADC I did the best I could (Note: REALLY real world measurement,more than 20 meters cable involved back and forth!)
Unbalanced connection (obviously)



Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -5.jpg


-5db - 91.6 SINAD (loudest I could feed it )



Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -20db.jpg


-20db - 83.7 SINAD

Chart 96kHz, 256k fft, In L  Out L+R -40db.jpg


-40db - 63.8 SINAD


(not bad for a 12 yo machine with a gazzilion of in and outs and some other features)
 

BR52

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Thanks really informing. If you see @amirm test of the matrix streamer ( forget the time axis) it would be great he gives us something like this in all tests for DACs with
„Pre“ function.
 

Sokel

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Thanks really informing. If you see @amirm test of the matrix streamer ( forget the time axis) it would be great he gives us something like this in all tests for DACs with
„Pre“ function.
Yep,cause that's would reflect real case usage,none listens to DAC with VC full blown into an amp,I tried it once just to see and with balanced DAC's 4V output to my amp with 5V input sensitivity and the levels of the DAC's VC was about -20db for deafening levels and -40db and lower for late night listening.
It's safe to assume something between for a good session,so -30db or so.

Edit:For reference only,that -5db of my pre corresponds to about 12-1 o' clock of the pot,can output about 10v (Ice Power's clamp voltage is lower than that,7V, but it's nice to have the power handy)
 
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