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DAC Upgrade Insecurities and Questions

Sylafari

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#1
So I'm probably going to receive the RME ADI-2 DAC tomorrow. I am excited and very apprehensive at the same time.

The main reason being I didn't really hear sound improvements that I would classify as substantial in each of my previous DAC upgrades.

Unfortunately, I do not suffer from gear acquisition bias where I attempt to console myself into thinking the new more expensive product is better somehow (in fact I have felt more disappointment in 'upgrading' my audio components with a few exceptions).

I started with a HRT Music Streamer II and than moved on to a Yulong DA8. To be perfectly honest, I was sort of disappointed with the perceived differences in sound quality as I believed that if you maybe did a double blind test, I would have trouble figuring out which is which.

Than I bought the Schiit Bifrost Multibit and I thought I could hear more differences but I sold the Yulong DA8 too quickly to really tell. I think the main reason I bought it was just cause I thought the "Multibit" aspect of the DAC was appealing to me (the power of marketing :( ).

Now I'm about to take in the RME ADI-2 DAC. I'm excited that it seems to measure well based on the ADI-2 Pro and is a device that seems to have a lot of quality engineering inside it. I'm apprehensive as to whether or not I will be able to hear these differences that I am looking for.

Was just wondering about what your experiences are with DAC 'upgrades' and what they meant to you. I just hope I'm not disappointed again tomorrow! :)
 

amirm

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#2
Well, I don't have good news for you :). Audible differences between DACs is liable to be extremely small. What is noticed as large differences if often the results of much higher output level. Once compensated, telling them apart will be challenging if not impossible.

Now let me make you feel better :) by saying it is a peace of mind to get a very high performance DAC and never worry that it is the limitation in resolution of the system. I bought such a DAC nearly 20 years ago and it is still serving me well today. So think of the ADI-2 as the last DAC you will purchase and don't look back. By resolving nearly 20 bits, it is a transparent channel in every regard.
 

LarsS

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#3
Agree with Amir on very subtle differences between solid state DAC's. My latest (not last) DAC Musical Paradise MP-D2 provided quite a big difference compared to my previous DAC's, this mainly attributed to its tube analog stage. Would be nice to have a tubed analog stage DAC measured by Amir at some point.

 

amirm

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#4
Would be nice to have a tubed analog stage DAC measured by Amir at some point.
Would love to do that if we can find one for loan or reasonably priced to purchase.
 

stunta

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#5
For my living room, I went from Google Chromecast Audio which measures exceptionally well to the Oppo Sonica DAC and secretly hoping there would be no audible difference. For reasons I can't explain, the Oppo was clearly better. It was far more resolving than the CCA. I then tried the Topping D30 and it is as good as the Oppo so the Oppo went back. The Oppo is around $800 and topping is $120 with less features.

If I can get a Roon-ready streamer at this quality for less than $500 I would consider it.

I agree with Amir. I prefer to have properly engineered products that are well supported and there is potential for new features with firmware upgrades. I'll pay good money for these but until I find one I like, I'd rather go with cheaper products that measure well, like the Topping. Incremental upgrades and swapping components is fun but gets tiring (and expensive) after a while.
 

Rthomas

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#6
Hi Amir,

I bought the topping d30 on your recommendation and it seems to do the job well. I'm considering a high quality DAC to buy and forget in my system. I have 2 options. The RME ADI 2 DAC mentioned above or the Soekris 1521. I know that RME is well regarded but do you know anything about the danish Soekris range of R2R DACs? Is there any reason to consider high end R2R DACs ?? Thank you
 

amirm

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#7
Hi Rthomas. Until I test a unit it is hard for me to tell much about Soekris DACs. I took a look at their low end offering:



I must say I am puzzled why the output RCA jacks don't use a coax wire to avoid noise pick up and crosstalk.

The rest looks fine.

Which of their models would you be interested in purchasing?
 

Rthomas

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#8
Hi Amir,

The 1421 or the 1521. I assume that there is no advantage to going balanced for a home headphone rig application so I'm most probably considering the 1421 and wondering how it compares to the RME ADI 2 DAC.

What are you thoughts on multibit/ R2R resurgence? If you have already written something down could you please post a link. Thanks !
 

Sylafari

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#9
Fedex has let me down again... (second time in two weeks) :(
I must convince myself patience is a virtue.
 

amirm

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#10
What are you thoughts on multibit/ R2R resurgence?
I have not done any testing of them but in principle, I consider them a suboptimal solution trying to favor the audiophiles based on name recognition.

We had a recent thread on this where our resident DAC designer, DonH56 post excellent info. Let me see if I can find it.
 

amirm

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#12
The 1421 or the 1521.
Ah, I hoped you would say their entry level once since that is almost cheap enough for me to buy and evaluate :).
 

Sylafari

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#13
Ah, I hoped you would say their entry level once since that is almost cheap enough for me to buy and evaluate :).
There is also a Holo Spring R2R DAC that is all the buzz in certain audiophile forums apparently. Unfortunately, it is very expensive ($1499) and has a more expensive but built with better components version ($2499). Also unsettling is they also sell a fuse for $155 that is made of beeswax (with the usual claims of increased audio performance)?
 

March Audio

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#14
As mentioned in another thread I will be borrowing a Soekris dac (should be on the weekend) to measure. Its just a DAC not one of the headphone amps, but its the same DAC tecjnology in both.
 

March Audio

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#15
Hi Amir,

The 1421 or the 1521. I assume that there is no advantage to going balanced for a home headphone rig application so I'm most probably considering the 1421 and wondering how it compares to the RME ADI 2 DAC.

What are you thoughts on multibit/ R2R resurgence? If you have already written something down could you please post a link. Thanks !
The ADI will measure better, the Soekris R2R will have higher harmonic distortion, its the nature of the beast. However in my listening it wasnt an issue and I liked the Soekris very much. Havent heard this RME but have used other of their products. They are very good. Very easy to make the decision to buy the RME, but if the Soekris is cheaper I dont think you would be disappointed.
 

Blumlein 88

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#16
There is also a Holo Spring R2R DAC that is all the buzz in certain audiophile forums apparently. Unfortunately, it is very expensive ($1499) and has a more expensive but built with better components version ($2499). Also unsettling is they also sell a fuse for $155 that is made of beeswax (with the usual claims of increased audio performance)?
Seems like an audio product fuse might use earwax instead of beeswax. Maybe dolphin earwax for smooth extended liquid-like highs. o_O
 

Sylafari

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#17
It's here!

It is a lot smaller and a lot lighter than I thought it would be (weighs only 2.2 lbs less than half of the Bifrost). It is made of folded steel instead of aluminum (not used to products this expensive being made of just folded steel but I suppose it gets the job done).

So far all I really notice is how intelligent the device is. Plug in RCA and it goes Line Out, take out the cables plug in a headphone or IEM and it goes to headphone mode and than if you pull out the headphone later it automatically switches to Line Out again. Also has a very nice feature where when you plug in the headphones it slowly ramps up the volume for the first few seconds just in case the volume was set too high before.

Has a ton of features (filters, EQ, Crossfeed, Loudness, etc.) and to be honest it is a bit overwhelming at first but so far through reading the instruction manual, its fairly straightforward once you do it a few times. The IEM socket is also whisper silent, lets me plug in Campfire Andromeda IEMs with no hiss, which has never happened before. It can also record audio (PCM and even DSD!) via the USB from SPDIF.

Oh yeah, as for what sounds different, I don't know but all I know is it doesn't sound worse. :)
 

RayDunzl

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#18
It has a nice keyboard on the front...
 

Purité Audio

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#19
It is a superb bit of kit, so versatile, soon it will be joined by its cheaper sibling, which has a remote!
Keith
 

Sylafari

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#20
It is a superb bit of kit, so versatile, soon it will be joined by its cheaper sibling, which has a remote!
Keith
This is the cheaper sibling! It is the RME ADI-2 DAC not the Pro, I still haven't unwrapped the remote yet (have not much use for it yet since its for my desktop though it could come in handy if I use it with my TV).

It has a nice keyboard on the front...
It is indeed! It is the Massdrop K-type. Has a real aluminum frame not just the mass market top aluminum frame bottom plastic panel.
Here's a better look at both the devices in question.

 

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