• 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 many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

System/DAC upgrade, suggestions on candidates

sirfabio80

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Messages
7
Likes
6
Location
London, UK
Hello,

This is my first post. I am proudly made an Hi-Fi system for around £500:
  1. Network streamer: WiiM mini (around £90)
  2. DAC: S.M.S.L. 10 II with single AK4493 (around £100)
  3. Speakers: Q Acoustics M20HD active speakers (around £300)

Between 1 and 2, optical. Between 2 and 3, of course analog. Ah, and connecting the TV to the QA M20 through optical.

I bought an iFi iPower2 - Low Noise DC Power Supply for the DAC.

I am satisfied about the hires (Flac through Plex media server) and CD quality (Airplay 2) music I get from the system, and point 1 and 3 are not under discussion.
So, I would like to invest a bit in a better DAC. I would love it to be dual chip and at least a AK4493S (VELVET SOUND) or ESS SABRE or cirrus if fine as well...as soon is better than the one I have.

Sorry for the long intro, I am considering these options (in order of preference):
  1. Cambridge Audio MagicDac 200m (pity doesn't offer auto power on, but the rest seems to be extremely good from what I am reading around)
  2. S.M.S.L SU-1 AK4493S
  3. Topping E30 II DAC HiFi 2 x AK4493S (auto power on!)
  4. SMSL SK-10 MKIII
I can have the Cambridge Audio MagicDac for £287 new, the rest for cheaper on amazon... I like the idea of buying the MagicDac because so I can match it with the Cambridge Audio MXN10, but it is not a critical point because happy with the WiiM mini.

Any hints or suggestions on which DAC would sit better in the existing setup?
 

Doodski

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
22,057
Likes
22,317
Location
Canada
I bought an iFi iPower2 - Low Noise DC Power Supply for the DAC.
Firstly.... Welcome to ASR! :D
Not to burst your bubble although the upgrade to the power supply was a moot point. I can explain more about that if you like that idea of knowing more about that.
I would like to invest a bit in a better DAC. I would love it to be dual chip and at least a AK4493S (VELVET SOUND) or ESS SABRE or cirrus if fine as well...as soon is better than the one I have.
This is a very good topic to discuss because it will educate you about what you need and don't need and save you money and get you the best sound you can get. We can get into that DAC subject together and with other peeps here @ ASR also helping with that information that you need.
Any hints or suggestions on which DAC would sit better in the existing setup?
Let's discuss DAC technology and their operation a little before recommending anything.
 

staticV3

Master Contributor
Joined
Aug 29, 2019
Messages
8,654
Likes
13,987
Hi @sirfabio80! Welcome to ASR.

The M20 HD's analog inputs are digitized by an internal ADC. As such, the best possible sound quality will be achieved by using the digital input, bypassing this ADC entirely.

You could spend $10000 on an external DAC for the M20 HD, and the quality would still be worse than if you had used optical in, as it's bottlenecked by the internal ADC.

Therefore, I would recommend connecting both your TV and the WiiM Mini to the M20 HD via optical, using an optical switch like this:
 
Last edited:

VintageFlanker

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Reviewer
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
5,104
Likes
20,428
Location
Paris
Welcome ! :)

Long story short, you're going the wrong road. Let's start with this :
I bought an iFi iPower2 - Low Noise DC Power Supply for the DAC
Completely useless. Sell it as soon as you can. Return it if your order is recent enough.
, I would like to invest a bit in a better DAC. I would love it to be dual chip and at least a AK4493S (VELVET SOUND) or ESS SABRE or cirrus if fine as well...as soon is better than the one I have.
It won't be. Because it can't.
Any hints or suggestions on which DAC would sit better in the existing setup?
Again, none. My advice is to save your money for real improvements. DAC in your existing system is a waste of time, and this for a pretty good reason: your speakers.

According to QA, the M20 uses some FDA amplifier, next to a DSP. It does mean that any analog input is digitalized anyway. Whatever DAC will always be bottleneck by their internal ADC. These speakers are designed to be used through digital inputs. I would advise that you should stick to these.
 

Mikig

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2024
Messages
480
Likes
544
Location
Italia
Posso avere il Cambridge Audio MagicDac per 287
HI.
for that amount you can get many DACs that measure really well, even in the Top 20 of ASR reviews.
Products that you can carry over time without problems, because they are capable of reading any format and equipped with any input.
For example SMSL D6S. I'm not sure if you will notice, at this level of performance, differences between single or double DAC.
 
OP
S

sirfabio80

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Messages
7
Likes
6
Location
London, UK
That’s amazing guys. I owe you a lot and learned something new! I ordered that switcher now @staticV3
Would it be useful to use that iFi Power adapter in a WiiM mini (I have a second one in my office setup…and it is connected to a Nad D3020 V2 and passive speakers QA 3010i) @VintageFlanker ? Otherwise I will return it.

Thanks a lot for your help!
 

Leiker535

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2020
Messages
311
Likes
404
Location
Somewhere inside a Brazilian jungle
Would it be useful to use that iFi Power adapter in a WiiM mini
I've had the ifi Power X before as it came with my Zen DAC Signature V2, and I can personally attest that the changes it brought to the DAC's performance were placebo (the DAC could be powered directly though usb power, plugging the PSU in over that made no difference).

That said, there are only a handful of situations that an external linear PSU might help, and most of them include having a bad energy supply from your power grid. Be mindful that this isn't a magical intangible thing: you either have noticeable problem like hums and surges or you don't.

The only other use case I can think of is when using dedicated amplifiers that will provide more power when fed more power; but these cases include the need for voltages much higher than that of the ifi's (say, upgrading a 32V PSU for a 48V PSU). Edit: I've just remembered, the Zen DAC can be used with the external power supply for more driving power, so if you intend on getting an dac/amp combo that can either work by usb power alone or be beefed up by an external wallawart, keep the PSU in mind.

If not, my advise would be to sell it, as it still gets a reasonable price in hifi forums (try head-fi classifieds). But don't feel bad keeping it, it's not an useless gimmick, it still works as a clean PSU, the thing is that it's just a solution for a problem that often doesn't exist.

----

Regarding your DAC upgrade, as per what has already been said, don't worry about any improvement on the digital conversion end. You could gain a few lower numbers of distortion going up in price, but all that will be in vain considering the ADC inside the speakers, which most often than not won't even reach CD quality regarding distortion (-96dB). So, only change the DAC if you want a different feature set, a remote etc.
 
OP
S

sirfabio80

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Messages
7
Likes
6
Location
London, UK
Hi @sirfabio80! Welcome to ASR.

The M20 HD's analog inputs are digitized by an internal ADC. As such, the best possible sound quality will be achieved by using the digital input, bypassing this ADC entirely.

You could spend $10000 on an external DAC for the M20 HD, and the quality would still be worse than if you had used optical in, as it's bottlenecked by the internal ADC.

Therefore, I would recommend connecting both your TV and the WiiM Mini to the M20 HD via optical, using an optical switch like this:
Hi,

I noted that the switch have a limited band of 96khz, while I need an higher bad I guess: I have some albums with FLAC 192Khz and the M20 Digital optical is (24bit/192kHz compatibility). I cancelled the order for now.
 
OP
S

sirfabio80

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Messages
7
Likes
6
Location
London, UK
I've had the ifi Power X before as it came with my Zen DAC Signature V2, and I can personally attest that the changes it brought to the DAC's performance were placebo (the DAC could be powered directly though usb power, plugging the PSU in over that made no difference).

That said, there are only a handful of situations that an external linear PSU might help, and most of them include having a bad energy supply from your power grid. Be mindful that this isn't a magical intangible thing: you either have noticeable problem like hums and surges or you don't.

The only other use case I can think of is when using dedicated amplifiers that will provide more power when fed more power; but these cases include the need for voltages much higher than that of the ifi's (say, upgrading a 32V PSU for a 48V PSU). Edit: I've just remembered, the Zen DAC can be used with the external power supply for more driving power, so if you intend on getting an dac/amp combo that can either work by usb power alone or be beefed up by an external wallawart, keep the PSU in mind.

If not, my advise would be to sell it, as it still gets a reasonable price in hifi forums (try head-fi classifieds). But don't feel bad keeping it, it's not an useless gimmick, it still works as a clean PSU, the thing is that it's just a solution for a problem that often doesn't exist.

----

Regarding your DAC upgrade, as per what has already been said, don't worry about any improvement on the digital conversion end. You could gain a few lower numbers of distortion going up in price, but all that will be in vain considering the ADC inside the speakers, which most often than not won't even reach CD quality regarding distortion (-96dB). So, only change the DAC if you want a different feature set, a remote etc.
Thanks for the additional info. Got it. I don’t have any other DACs I can use it with, and I could return it with Amazon….so I went ahead with it.
 

DWPress

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 30, 2018
Messages
1,111
Likes
1,579
Location
MI
Welcome @sirfabio80, If you keep reading here at ASR you'll find some threads about sample rates and the brutal reality is that 16/41 contains all the information you can audibly hear no matter what gear you have. If your only concern is a few albums with >96Khz just resample them to 96 (or lower) and you'll never know the difference.

The limitation of SPDIF (optical or coax) is 24/96Khz, you can't even buy a switch with better specs.
 

staticV3

Master Contributor
Joined
Aug 29, 2019
Messages
8,654
Likes
13,987
The limitation of SPDIF (optical or coax) is 24/96Khz, you can't even buy a switch with better specs.
Optical and coax are physically capable of transmitting 192kHz, and there are switches that officially support it.
Still, actual stability at 192kHz is a bit hit or miss and depends on the quality of cables and transceivers.

the brutal reality is that 16/41 contains all the information you can audibly hear no matter what gear you have. If your only concern is a few albums with >96Khz just resample them to 96 (or lower) and you'll never know the difference.
Fully agreed there.
 

312elements

Active Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
240
Likes
242
Location
Chicago
OP
S

sirfabio80

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Messages
7
Likes
6
Location
London, UK
Optical and coax are physically capable of transmitting 192kHz, and there are switches that officially support it.
Still, actual stability at 192kHz is a bit hit or miss and depends on the quality of cables and transceivers.


Fully agreed there.
Well, I have a WiiM mini with only toslink…therefore I have to go through optical. For now I am using the WiiM provided optical cable straight inside the speakers…I’ll try to understand in the future which products to buy capable of transmitting 192kHz (cable and switcher). If you have any to suggest would be amazing…
Thanks for the knowledge sharing!
 

DWPress

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 30, 2018
Messages
1,111
Likes
1,579
Location
MI
Optical and coax are physically capable of transmitting 192kHz
I stand corrected, guess I've never seen specs like that even in pro audio which leads me to ask - why?
 

Koeitje

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2019
Messages
2,326
Likes
4,012
That’s amazing guys. I owe you a lot and learned something new! I ordered that switcher now @staticV3
Would it be useful to use that iFi Power adapter in a WiiM mini (I have a second one in my office setup…and it is connected to a Nad D3020 V2 and passive speakers QA 3010i) @VintageFlanker ? Otherwise I will return it.

Thanks a lot for your help!
No. A device that benefits from a cleaner power supply is badly designed. Why? Because the device is going to filter the power anyway. There is a review somewhere on this website and a clean power supply had no effect on the performance on properly designed device. There was some performance gain on a device that we know had some filtering issues, but those devices are really rare and I'd argue that you are better off just buying a better product instead of trying to improve a badly designed device. Plus the performance still wasn't on the level of better designed devices.
 

staticV3

Master Contributor
Joined
Aug 29, 2019
Messages
8,654
Likes
13,987
I stand corrected, guess I've never seen specs like that even in pro audio which leads me to ask - why?
I guess you've seen very few product specs so far.

Tons of audio hardware supports 192kHz via S/PDIF:
Screenshot_20240321-183104_Chrome.pngScreenshot_20240321-182525_Chrome.pngScreenshot_20240321-182410_Chrome.png6622224.jpg202211101406457687.jpgScreenshot_20240321-182016_Chrome.pngScreenshot_20240321-181425_Drive.pngScreenshot_20240321-180938_Chrome.pngScreenshot_20240321-180827_Drive.png
 
Top Bottom