• 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). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Is a better DAC the "best bang for my buck"?

Joined
May 4, 2021
Messages
2
Likes
4
#1
I'm very new to the world of quality home audio. Currently driving two Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers with a PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amp. All music (Qobuz) is streamed through a Bluesound Node 2i. So far I'm happy with the sound, but have been told that the biggest "bang for my buck" at this point will be to obtain a higher quality DAC. Do others agree with this advice? Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
 

SIY

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
6,018
Likes
12,734
Location
Phoenix, AZ
#2
have been told that the biggest "bang for my buck" at this point will be to obtain a higher quality DAC. Do others agree with this advice? Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)?
No and no.

Room and speakers. That's where the actual differences are.
 

AdamG247

MQA Fight Club Mgr. 1st rule of MQA fight club….
Moderator
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 3, 2021
Messages
1,108
Likes
1,616
#3
I'm very new to the world of quality home audio. Currently driving two Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers with a PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amp. All music (Qobuz) is streamed through a Bluesound Node 2i. So far I'm happy with the sound, but have been told that the biggest "bang for my buck" at this point will be to obtain a higher quality DAC. Do others agree with this advice? Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
Welcome Aboard @coconuthead.
 

JustJones

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 31, 2020
Messages
569
Likes
626
#4

Bear123

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 27, 2019
Messages
690
Likes
1,057
#6
Assuming you are just using two speakers, my suggestion would be bass management, a good pair of properly placed subs, and eq on everything below Schroeder frequency.

However, I'm assuming you are striving for high fidelity/sound quality. There are other preferences but I still suspect the above would make a drastically noticeable sound quality improvement for the vast majority of listeners.

Your amp is rather low in power but if listening levels are low it may be adequate?
 

KeithPhantom

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 8, 2020
Messages
457
Likes
389
#7
Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
Not at all. If they measure decently there won’t be any difference between them in regular (non-lab) use cases. What is the difference between my Apple dongle and my Sanskrit 10 II? The latter measures a bit better (99 vs 114 dB SINAD respectively) but I can’t tell any difference between them.p, nor I care about this fact. Room acoustics and better speakers will take you farther in the search for great audio, there’s a lot to improve in those areas.
 

BDWoody

Chief Cat Herder
Moderator
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
4,178
Likes
10,576
Location
Mid-Atlantic, USA. (Maryland)
#8
Do others agree with this advice?
Not me.


Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
Likely not under any normal conditions in a normal room with normal music.

Speakers and room correction is where the low hanging fruit is for SQ improvement.
 

LTig

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
3,156
Likes
4,987
Location
Europe
#10
As been told, room and speakers. However if you intend on switching electronics I would go for a good high powered solid state amp and sell the low powered tube amp..
 

ahofer

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
1,343
Likes
2,371
Location
New York City
#11
I'm very new to the world of quality home audio. Currently driving two Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers with a PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amp. All music (Qobuz) is streamed through a Bluesound Node 2i. So far I'm happy with the sound, but have been told that the biggest "bang for my buck" at this point will be to obtain a higher quality DAC. Do others agree with this advice? Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
I do not agree with this advice at all. This is what blind testing is for - to see that you can’t really tell the difference between well designed DACs. Every salesman and vendor knows this deep in their heart, but their living depends on denying it. But not yours, I presume.
 

JSmith

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
Messages
778
Likes
1,157
Location
Algol Perseus
#12

raistlin65

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Messages
1,812
Likes
2,757
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
#13
Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
If you want a better DAC, the Topping E30 is easily arguable to be noise and distortion free by pretty much any standard. In other words, this is easily the highest fidelity you can perceive unless you upgrade your ears. lol

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-e30-dac-review.12119/

Now are you going to hear any difference? Maybe not. But spending $1,500 on a DAC doesn't make any sense.
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2019
Messages
97
Likes
76
#15
Bluesound Node is an OK performer but you could do better. How much difference you would hear is up for debate. You would likely feed a new DAC via the Node 2i's coax (SPDIF) digital out. I am not sure of the highest signal it that would output, maybe 24/192, or perahps just redbook. If you have no desire or future need for any format above redbook in PCM or DSD than that would not matter. I would buy or, better yet, borrow a $200 - $500 Topping, SMSL or Cambridge Audio DAC to see if you think it sounds better.
 
OP
C
Joined
May 4, 2021
Messages
2
Likes
4
Thread Starter #16
Thank you all for your thoughts - I'll nix the advice on the DAC purchase.

I've bought into the narrative that tube amps produce a warmer and more pleasing sound and so far I'm convinced, but with limited objective evidence. Navigating the available options in the "audiophile" world is confusing and making decisions while trying keep a budget in mind is really difficult. After I processed online reviews, the blogosphere, limited showroom listening, a salesperson, and youtube channels, I dropped a few thousand dollars (online purchase) and took a small step towards building my two channel sound system. Now, after a few days have passed with this new tube Amp (I already owned the speakers) a sense that things could be just a little bit better is starting to creep in.

To summarize the system description again, it is a dedicated two channel system with the only music source being the Bluesound Node 2i. I erred on my speaker model above - it is a Monitor audio Silver 6 pair connected to the Evo 300 integrated tube Amp. The room is about 24x20 ft with ~ 9 foot ceiling. This is a home and not a sound studio, so that's always going to be a limiting factor.

Finally, the hi resolution streaming music available through Qobus has been amazing. I'm hearing details that I never heard before in all forms of music, especially classical orchestral music, but also jazz and popular music.
 

hmscott

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 17, 2020
Messages
485
Likes
389
#17
I'm very new to the world of quality home audio. Currently driving two Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers with a PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amp. All music (Qobuz) is streamed through a Bluesound Node 2i. So far I'm happy with the sound, but have been told that the biggest "bang for my buck" at this point will be to obtain a higher quality DAC. Do others agree with this advice? Would the improvements be audible, for example, with a Chorus Qutest DAC ($1695)? I listen to all types of music, including classical, pop, jazz.
That seems like a pretty big jump in price from the $485 Bluesound Node 2i with an unspecified 24/192khz internal DAC, I cannot find a reference that explicitly states which DAC chip is used, it is a long jump to the $1695 Qutest DAC!

There are certainly better measuring DACs than others. And some may have inputs and outputs (XLR, AES, I2S,COAX,TOSLINK, etc) that others don't and have features - like MQA on the Node 2i - that others don't.

Check out @amirm's latest DAC review to see the current chart of measurements for all DACs tested, and of course, look up the specific reviews here on ASR for the DACs you are thinking of getting if you haven't already:

Review and Measurements of CHORD Qutest DAC
Review and Measurements of Bluesound NODE 2i Streamer

You could pair the Chord Qutest with the Chord 2GO Streamer to even up the stack matching performance?

Streamers - Chord Electronics Ltd

Or maybe not, that Chord 2GO is for the Hugo 2.

Perhaps the Chord Mojo + Poly Streamer?

Poly Portable Streamer & Music Player | Chord Electronics

The new Topping D70s - about $650, driven from the Node 2i I don't think you will a difference, as the Node 2i is still the source, but if you need to hear it for yourself an inexpensive Topping DAC is a much less expensive experiment. A D50s $249 or D30 Pro $399 would be even less expensive and measure very well too.

The PrimaLuna EVO 300 is a great choice for an integrated amp, and you might ask your sales support what they would suggest in your situation to improve your source and other components beyond the Node 2i.

You could probably get by with the Node 2i for now, and invest that $2k elsewhere.

Please let us know what you end up getting :)
Thank you all for your thoughts - I'll nix the advice on the DAC purchase.

I've bought into the narrative that tube amps produce a warmer and more pleasing sound and so far I'm convinced, but with limited objective evidence. Navigating the available options in the "audiophile" world is confusing and making decisions while trying keep a budget in mind is really difficult. After I processed online reviews, the blogosphere, limited showroom listening, a salesperson, and youtube channels, I dropped a few thousand dollars (online purchase) and took a small step towards building my two channel sound system. Now, after a few days have passed with this new tube Amp (I already owned the speakers) a sense that things could be just a little bit better is starting to creep in.

To summarize the system description again, it is a dedicated two channel system with the only music source being the Bluesound Node 2i. I erred on my speaker model above - it is a Monitor audio Silver 6 pair connected to the Evo 300 integrated tube Amp. The room is about 24x20 ft with ~ 9 foot ceiling. This is a home and not a sound studio, so that's always going to be a limiting factor.

Finally, the hi resolution streaming music available through Qobus has been amazing. I'm hearing details that I never heard before in all forms of music, especially classical orchestral music, but also jazz and popular music.
What did you drive the Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers with before the PrimaLuna Evo 300?

What is missing from the sound you had before the new amp? Are you getting enough volume, enough dynamic range, enough extension for lows and highs?

Which mode do you run the PrimaLuna Evo 300 in? Triode or Ultra-Linear mode? If you haven't tried those modes, check your manual for the expected power output in each mode and see if you prefer the sound out of the speakers between one over the other.

It is common to hear things "differently" when getting new equipment, and AMP/Speaker improvements can lead to dissatisfaction initially when we get hyper-sensitive trying to hear any differences after such an upgrade.

I'd give it a few weeks at least before branching out with more new equipment. You can use the time to enjoy the music.

And, whatever you do, please don't start thinking about "tube rolling" for a few months...

I'm thinking of getting a PrimaLuna myself, so I hope you'll excuse my enthusiast responses :)
 
Last edited:

Bear123

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 27, 2019
Messages
690
Likes
1,057
#19
1)Denon X3700
2) Pair of Rythmik L12 subs
3) Sell the tube amp

More power, higher fidelity(objectively better measured performance), bass management, dual subwoofer outs, good room eq for speakers, good sub eq, all of which will translate to drastically improved sound quality. The result will be a high fidelity in room frequency response across the entire audible spectrum with lower distortion.

Sadly, there just isn't much two channel dedicated gear that offers the above capability that is required for high fidelity. If it is available, it either performs worse than the AVR, or performs at best, similarly, but at much much higher cost. For example:
Anthem STR integrated amplifier

However, with a healthy budget, if one wanted to avoid all the unnecesary bells and whistles of a 7/9 channel AVR but maintain the same level of fidelity, the Anthem would be a HUGE step up in fidelity from the tube amp due to, well, higher fidelity, better performance, more power, bass management, and eq.

The added benefit of the Anthem, despite its rather high cost, is that there will be "audiophile" pride of ownership, since it is "high end" 2 channel from a company with a good audiophile reputation.
 

Wes

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Messages
3,103
Likes
2,768
#20
tube amps often do produce a warmer and more pleasing sound - Nelson Pass makes some really euphonic ones

but that is a type of distortion best added to your system after spending $10k or more on speakers - if at all
 
Top Bottom