• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. 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!

Should I purchase a new DAC that decodes DSD?

HendersonD

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2023
Messages
11
Likes
0
My music collection consists of about 550 ripped CDs, 78 ripped SACDs, and a handful of ripped DVD-Audio discs. I currently use Roon in conjunction with a Meridian Explorer DAC I purchased back in 2014. I have an Outlaw audio RR2160 receiver driving a pair of HSU HC-1 MK2 speakers and an SVS PC-2000 Pro sub.

Given the age of the Meridian DAC it does not decoded DSD so the DSD files that were ripped from the SACDs are converted to PCM for playback. Two related questions:
  1. Would a newer DAC just sound better in general than my current nearly decade old Meridian. I have been looking at the NEO iDSD, Topping D90SE, and the DACMagic 200M
  2. Most of the newer DACs (and certainly the three I mentioned above) decoded DSD so my SACD rips would not be converted to PCM for playback. Will I experience a better or just different sound with DSD?
Currently I do not use any of the hi-res streaming/download services such as Tidal or Qobuz but that could change
 

DVDdoug

Major Contributor
Joined
May 27, 2021
Messages
2,832
Likes
3,702
I would expect them to sound identical in an honest, level-matched, blind listening test. The conversion is normally very good (and audibly perfect) and it's all coming-out analog anyway.

And PCM (WAV or FLAC) is more standard & universal.

I assume they are 24/96 or better. (I don't REALLY think high-resolution files will sound better than "CD quality" but it might give you more confidence or make you "feel better" about it.)
 
OP
H

HendersonD

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2023
Messages
11
Likes
0
I would expect them to sound identical in an honest, level-matched, blind listening test. The conversion is normally very good (and audibly perfect) and it's all coming-out analog anyway.

And PCM (WAV or FLAC) is more standard & universal.

I assume they are 24/96 or better. (I don't REALLY think high-resolution files will sound better than "CD quality" but it might give you more confidence or make you "feel better" about it.)
So putting aside the DSD vs PCM debate, would a newer DAC just sound better than a DAC that is nearly 10 years old? I am thinking that chipsets, etc. might have made some improvements in sound quality. I might be mistaken though
 

Rednaxela

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 30, 2022
Messages
1,992
Likes
2,598
Location
NL
You need measurements* to see if your Meridian is transparent. If it is, you’re not gonna notice any additional transparency in a more recent DAC.

*These might be available somewhere?
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,783
Likes
5,846

Tom C

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
1,490
Likes
1,364
Location
Wisconsin, USA
One thing to consider is that EQ can be applied to PCM, but not DSD. The other thing is that you have the option of software volume control with PCM, but not DSD. So, say you are listening to a PCM track with the software volume control at 60%, then select a DSD track, the software will suddenly be at 100% volume! Believe me, it’s quite startling if you forget yourself for a second and do something like this. IME, problems with loud clicks and pops when changing tracks between PCM and DSD happen more frequently .
If you wanted to add those features, for whatever reason, you’d have to take the analog out of your DSD capable DAC, run that through an ADC to get PCM, then to whatever EQ software you want to run, then another DAC.
 
OP
H

HendersonD

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2023
Messages
11
Likes
0


The old DAC is fine. Getting something new is more about luxury/bragging rights over actual performance.
Yes, the Meridian did have some very good reviews back when it was first released
 

kevin1969

Active Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Messages
199
Likes
104
Location
CO
So putting aside the DSD vs PCM debate, would a newer DAC just sound better than a DAC that is nearly 10 years old? I am thinking that chipsets, etc. might have made some improvements in sound quality. I might be mistaken though
I went from a DAC that had sinad of 70dB to one with 112dB and I could only really tell a difference at lower volumes. If somebody had snuck into my house and upgraded the DAC without me knowing I doubt I would have even noticed. I wouldn't spend any more than $500 unless you're looking for something with very specific features. The money can be better spent elsewhere.
 

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
3,783
Likes
5,846
I went from a DAC that had sinad of 70dB to one with 112dB and I could only really tell a difference at lower volumes. If somebody had snuck into my house and upgraded the DAC without me knowing I doubt I would have even noticed. I wouldn't spend any more than $500 unless you're looking for something with very specific features. The money can be better spent elsewhere.

22 dB SINAD 300B SET vs. straight wire with gain (120 dB SINAD source).


Humbling.

This along with my new appreciation of the Bose 901 Series VI has brought new joy to me as I stop chasing the latest and greatest.
 

Trell

Major Contributor
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
2,752
Likes
3,280
I went from a DAC that had sinad of 70dB to one with 112dB and I could only really tell a difference at lower volumes. If somebody had snuck into my house and upgraded the DAC without me knowing I doubt I would have even noticed. I wouldn't spend any more than $500 unless you're looking for something with very specific features. The money can be better spent elsewhere.
SINAD is THD+noise, and in some situations noise could be a problem. With just SINAD alone we don’t know if it’s dominated by THD or noise, but with very high SINAD noise is not likely to be an issue.
 

kevin1969

Active Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Messages
199
Likes
104
Location
CO
SINAD is THD+noise, and in some situations noise could be a problem. With just SINAD alone we don’t know if it’s dominated by THD or noise, but with very high SINAD noise is not likely to be an issue.
Oh yes, I just implicitly assumed that anybody here would utilize the amazing measurements/reviews available to make a proper decision
 

Koeitje

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2019
Messages
2,274
Likes
3,850
SINAD is THD+noise, and in some situations noise could be a problem. With just SINAD alone we don’t know if it’s dominated by THD or noise, but with very high SINAD noise is not likely to be an issue.
100% this, my processor has clear noise that can be heard if I would have it in a nearfield setup. Apart from that it sounds fine.
 

dave999z

Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2023
Messages
44
Likes
20
I have an Outlaw audio RR2160 receiver

I'm curious... Why not use the DAC built into the Outlaw RR2160? (I believe it's a Burr-Brown PCM1792a 24-bit/192kHz.)

If you do explore hi-res streaming, you could plug an iPhone/iPad directly into the PC USB input on the back of the RR2160 (via Lightning to USB camera adapter) and play hi-res audio from Apple Music utilizing the DAC on the RR2160.
 
OP
H

HendersonD

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2023
Messages
11
Likes
0
Good question. Does the DAC in the Outlaw receiver decode DSD?
Do you think I would notice an improvement in sound quality over my 9 year old Meridian?
 

dave999z

Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2023
Messages
44
Likes
20
Good question. Does the DAC in the Outlaw receiver decode DSD?
Do you think I would notice an improvement in sound quality over my 9 year old Meridian?
Just responding to say I am not qualified to answer, but hope someone chimes in who is. Based purely on the name of the DAC ("PCM...") I might guess that it doesn't decode DSD, but really have no idea.

Not qualified on the sound quality question either, but I think there's discussion on this site of this particular DAC that you could query.

I've found Outlaw is really responsive if you use their web support ticket function. You could ask them the DSD question and they'll probably get right back to you.
 

muslhead

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
1,559
Likes
1,715
Good question. Does the DAC in the Outlaw receiver decode DSD?
Do you think I would notice an improvement in sound quality over my 9 year old Meridian?
Google is your friend.
Per the BB spec sheet ...
  • DSD Format Interface Available
Which is not very helpful.

I have lots of dsd files. I had a need for a dac that could process dsd natively. After getting it and then comparing dsd native vs pcm conversion, I learned (for me) there was no difference. But, even with this info, i would still want the dac that could handle and not convert the files. But that is just me.
 

Trell

Major Contributor
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
2,752
Likes
3,280
Google is your friend.
Per the BB spec sheet ...
  • DSD Format Interface Available
Which is not very helpful.

I have lots of dsd files. I had a need for a dac that could process dsd natively. After getting it and then comparing dsd native vs pcm conversion, I learned (for me) there was no difference. But, even with this info, i would still want the dac that could handle and not convert the files. But that is just me.
With the DSD unconverted you’ll also loose functionality in the DAC, unless the DAC converts to PCM internally. For a DAC like the RME ADI-2 DAC you’ll lose DSP like tone controls, dynamic loudness, PEQ. With DSD Direct you’ll even loose volume control.

In the end, for me, DSD is better converted to PCM. I’ve over 140 multichannel SACD and it sounds just fine when converted to PCM when playing on my Denon AVR that has Audyssey XT32.
 
Last edited:
OP
H

HendersonD

Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2023
Messages
11
Likes
0
With the DSD unconverted you’ll also loose functionality in the DAC, unless the DAC converts to PCM internally. For a DAC like the RME ADI-2 DAC you’ll lose DSP like tone controls, dynamic loudness, PEQ. With DSD Direct you’ll even loose volume control.

In the end, for me, DSD is better converted to PCM. I’ve over 140 multichannel SACD and it sounds just fine when converted to PCM when playing on my Denon AVR that has Audyssey XT32.
I am feeding the output of the DAC into an Outlaw Audio receiver so I still have all of that functionality unless I am missing something
 
Last edited:

Trell

Major Contributor
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
2,752
Likes
3,280
I am feeding the output of the DAC into an Outlaw Audio receiver so I still have all of that functionality
Then the receiver has to convert DSD to PCM, so the only choice is where in your audio chain you do the conversion to PCM.
 

muslhead

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
1,559
Likes
1,715
With the DSD unconverted you’ll also loose functionality in the DAC, unless the DAC converts to PCM internally. For a DAC like the RME ADI-2 DAC you’ll lose DSP like tone controls, dynamic loudness, PEQ. With DSD Direct you’ll even loose volume control.

In the end, for me, DSD is better converted to PCM. I’ve over 140 multichannel SACD and it sounds just fine when converted to PCM when playing on my Denon AVR that has Audyssey XT32.
There is nothing wrong with unconverted dsd. That is a personal preference. I have a lot more mch files than you and they are spectacular playing natively or converted.
There is no right answer except without knowing the op's preference.
 
Top Bottom