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Does my streamer need a DAC?

Thor9981

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I'm placing the final touches on my home audio/theater system and I'm wondering if I can squeeze some additional performance out of the system by incorporating a DAC (Topping E50).

I currently have a Cambridge Azur 851n that I really enjoy (using Qobuz). In reading some other reviews on Cambridge gear, it appears the internal DAC has some room for improvement. If I run the 851n to an external DAC to my Anthem AVM70 AVP, would there be a noticeable gain in sound quality? I'm assuming if I set it up this way I'd somehow need to defeat the DAC in both the 851n and the AVM70?

It's a relatively small room setup with KEF R11/R2C/R3s, Rythmik E15, and powered by 2 Buckeye Hypex amps (one for LCR and one for surround; eventually Atmos speakers will be added).

Appreciate any feedback.
 
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Katji

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If I run the 851n to an external DAC to my Anthem AVM70 AVP, would there be a noticeable gain in sound quality? I'm assuming if I set it up this way I'd somehow need to defeat the DAC in both the 851n and the AVM70?

[ "Building on the CXN’s impressive connectivity list, the Azur 851N is well furnished around the back. Analogue outputs are taken care of by a pair of RCAs and balanced XLRs, and there are digital optical and coaxial outputs too." ]

Digital outputs, the DAC is bypassed.
...Then the AVP is digital processing, so the analog audio input [from the external DAC] would be converted to digital and so the DAC is then required for the analog output.
 
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Thor9981

Thor9981

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Digital outputs, the DAC is bypassed.
...Then the AVP is digital processing, so the analog audio input [from the external DAC] would be converted to digital and so the DAC is then required for the analog output.

This may be a dumb question but to clarify, I'd run an optical cable from the 851n to the DAC and then use the RCA outputs on the Topping E50 to output to the AVP?
 

stumper3819

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You would need to have your speakers set to large in bass management/setup menu on AVR. Otherwise it would probably be processed again.
 

josefK666

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Your AVR is the last link in the chain - if you can feed it an analogue signal from the DAC AND bypass any internal processing (e.g. room correction - do you have a Pure Direct mode?) then it might make a difference. Otherwise your AVR's DAC will always be doing the final conversion. I'd have my doubts any difference would be easily audible......
 

Apesbrain

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If I run the 851n to an external DAC to my Anthem AVM70 AVP, would there be a noticeable gain in sound quality?
Doubtful. Your Cambridge and Anthem are expensive products presumably incorporating competent DAC sections.

Connect your 851n to the pre-amp using both digital and analog connections. On any given day, use the one you like best.
In reading some other reviews on Cambridge gear, it appears the internal DAC has some room for improvement.
Just curious; can you link to one of these reviews?
 
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Thor9981

Thor9981

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Just curious; can you link to one of these reviews?
Here are links for the CXA, CXN, and 851D. None of the reviews speak negatively about the Cambridge products but it appears their internal DACs don't quite measure up to the performance of the Topping DACs.

I'm not knocking Cambridge at all. I love the 851N and have been extremely satisfied with it. I'm just wondering if there's a way to squeeze some extra performance out of it.



 

Steve Dallas

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The DAC in your streamer is transparent. You will not gain anything audible by complicating your system. Just enjoy it.
 

LTig

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Thor9981

Thor9981

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The DAC in your streamer is transparent. You will not gain anything audible by complicating your system. Just enjoy it.

So if using the digital outputs on the 851N defeats its internal DAC as stated in an earlier post, is it best to use the RCA outputs or does it not matter since the Anthem's DAC will do the final conversion anyway?

I'll admit I'm very much a novice (if you couldn't already tell) so apologies if some of these questions are nonsensical.
20220723_112032.jpg
319263-anthem-avm-70-064_2.jpg
 
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Steve Dallas

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So if using the digital outputs on the 851N defeats its internal DAC as stated in an earlier post, is it best to use the RCA outputs or does it not matter since the Anthem's DAC will do the final conversion anyway?

I'll admit I'm very much a novice (if you couldn't already tell) so apologies if some of these questions are nonsensical. View attachment 220003View attachment 220005

Your streamer's DAC -> RCA output is roughly equivalent to those found in better AVRs. It is not bad, and gaining a few dB more SINAD is not audible once you are over ~90dB SINAD. The absolute threshold of human hearing is accepted be 115dB, but once you factor in at least 30dB room noise and other masking effects, somewhere between 80 and 90dB becomes the threshold of audibility in practice. Trading gear to get better SINAD is not a worthwhile endeavor unless you are upgrading from something terrible.

In your case, I would go digital out to the AVR to eliminate one DAC and avoid the ADC stage in the AVR's pipeline. Use the optical out to avoid creating a ground loop.

I don't know much about Anthem, but most other AVRs I have used convert every or nearly every analog input to digital for processing. Some have an all analog signal path using the CD input in Pure Direct mode when the front speakers are set to large (to bypass bass management). If your Anthem is always the last DAC in the chain, your goal is to make it the only DAC.
 
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Thor9981

Thor9981

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Your streamer's DAC -> RCA output is roughly equivalent to those found in better AVRs. It is not bad, and gaining a few dB more SINAD is not audible once you are over ~90dB SINAD. The absolute threshold of human hearing is accepted be 115dB, but once you factor in at least 30dB room noise and other masking effects, somewhere between 80 and 90dB becomes the threshold of audibility in practice. Trading gear to get better SINAD is not a worthwhile endeavor unless you are upgrading from something terrible.

In your case, I would go digital out to the AVR to eliminate one DAC and avoid the ADC stage in the AVR's pipeline. Use the optical out to avoid creating a ground loop.

I don't know much about Anthem, but most other AVRs I have used convert every or nearly every analog input to digital for processing. Some have an all analog signal path using the CD input in Pure Direct mode when the front speakers are set to large (to bypass bass management). If your Anthem is always the last DAC in the chain, your goal is to make it the only DAC.
Excellent. Thank you!
 
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