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Why do I need a separate dac?

formula 977

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What digital component other than a cd transport needs a separate dac? If I need a streamer, EQ, ADC, HP amp, preamp or any other feature included with most dacs to make them useful I don't really need the dac part of it.

Primary components such as computers, cd players, AVRs, etc. have dacs and if recently manufactured should be transparent in terms of measurement and audibility.

The question is, what good are they if any?
 

REK2575

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It sounds like you don't need a separate DAC then...

I have an external DAC for my Bluesound Node and my Onkyo CD player because the internal DAC of the Node is apparently pretty lousy (per Amir's reviews) and I don't trust the internal DAC on a $200 CD player...
 

Cote Dazur

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What digital component other than a cd transport needs a separate dac
None, you do not need an external dac, ever. It as been a while now that a dac is dac is a dac.
If you want to improve the quality of the sound you are listening to their is a lot of ways, but a separate dac is not one of them. :)
 

NiagaraPete

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I use my DAC as a preamp to select digital sources.
 

Ralph_Cramden

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I use my DAC as a preamp to select digital sources.
Yep, especially nice that mine auto-selects the inputs depending on inbound signal on the USB, Coax or Optical inputs.

The central volume control means I never have to dink around with the sliders in any app, which very likely aren't as well designed so as to prevent losing bits at lower volumes. One nice, big volume control for all sources.

The balanced outputs can drive my balanced pro monitors directly, without ground loops or adapters.

The headphone outputs are capable of driving pretty much any headphone or IEM without distortion or noise.

Built-in PEQ to correct any or all outputs.

And the displays...

E8114B5C-0CA4-4072-BA40-BF9C74ED94EE.jpeg
 
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Berwhale

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Primary components such as computers, cd players, AVRs, etc. have dacs and if recently manufactured should be transparent in terms of measurement and audibility.

Whilst the DAC chips themselves are transparent, they are not always implemented in such a way that this transparency is preserved. Recent manufacture does not connote correct implementation.
 

AudiOhm

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No separate DAC in my system.

Sometimes want exceeds need...

Ohms
 
D

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What digital component other than a cd transport needs a separate dac? If I need a streamer, EQ, ADC, HP amp, preamp or any other feature included with most dacs to make them useful I don't really need the dac part of it.

There was a time, about 10 or 12 years ago when playing music from a PC (and assumedly other computers) was a pretty crappy experience. You would get little beeps and buzzes by moving the mouse or ticks when typing and lots of hiss. But the Motherboard manufacturers heard us and improved their sound chips markedly and in the last 6 or so years I don't believe I've ever heard noise from the mini-TRS jacks on the back of a computer.

Matter of fact, my current "flagship" system, built a couple of years ago for a friend, consists of a mini-HTPC that I build from components, hooked directly to a projector and a stack of 3 Crown XLS1002 amps ... no DACs. The amps feed a set of Fluance Signature home theatre speakers and a home-brew Sub built into the wall under the screen. So that's about 1200 watts of clean power and it sounds amazing!

So, unless you are sorting out some kind of problem, there's really no need for a discrete DAC anymore.

Here's the HTPC...
1.png
 
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DMill

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I use one in a system because my source is my iPhone to a vintage tube integrated that doesn’t have one. Figured it’s better than the iPhone dac. But haven’t done any testing. It’s a schiit modi 3, so for $100 makes me feel better.
 
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formula 977

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Yep, especially nice that mine auto-selects the inputs depending on inbound signal on the USB, Coax or Optical inputs.

The central volume control means I never have to dink around with the sliders in any app, which very likely aren't as well designed so as to prevent losing bits at lower volumes. One nice, big volume control for all sources.

The balanced outputs can drive my balanced pro monitors directly, without ground loops or adapters.

The headphone outputs are capable of driving pretty much any headphone or IEM without distortion or noise.

Built-in PEQ to correct any or all outputs.

And the displays...

View attachment 206308
More of an audio Swiss Army knife than just a DAC! Nice choice and nice problem solving.
A product like this makes things interesting.
 
OP
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formula 977

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Whilst the DAC chips themselves are transparent, they are not always implemented in such a way that this transparency is preserved. Recent manufacture does not connote correct implementation.
Is this a listening impression? If so, can you speculate that the digital implementation is always correct and the difference is attributed to the analog gain stages in the dac. Chip vs discrete, adequate supply voltages for the needed dynamic range, etc. for example.
Obviously the question pertains to the reasons for a separate DAC vs one integrated with a component if the analog section is compromised for reasons of economy.
 

Berwhale

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Is this a listening impression? If so, can you speculate that the digital implementation is always correct and the difference is attributed to the analog gain stages in the dac. Chip vs discrete, adequate supply voltages for the needed dynamic range, etc. for example.
Obviously the question pertains to the reasons for a separate DAC vs one integrated with a component if the analog section is compromised for reasons of economy.

No, it's not a listening impression. Amirm has tested a large number of DACs and many of them share the same DAC chip but have quite different levels of measured performance. This thread regarding the 'ESS Hump' goes into some detail about what is meant by implementation: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-hump-revisited-khadas-tone-board-v1-3.30136/
 

SKBubba

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I have a Topping D10 dac for playback on a tiny PC set up as a roon endpoint.

Ironically, I only use it to convert USB to s/pdif to feed my Denon AVR-3600H which has pretty decent dacs built-in.
 

captainbeefheart

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I have a Topping D10 dac for playback on a tiny PC set up as a roon endpoint.

Ironically, I only use it to convert USB to s/pdif to feed my Denon AVR-3600H which has pretty decent dacs built-in.

The D10 is a great USB bridge.

I sometimes use it as a bridge but I also use it as a standalone DAC, it has better specs vs the soundcard in my PC which is about 4 years old. I suppose if I had a newer PC I wouldn't need it but I'm cheap and take free computers from people running windows lol. After a few years of running Windows OS most PC's start to slowdown, I firmly believe the OS just happens to have so much junk code in it, and as it updates it continues to be get worse. They end up just buying a a new computer and then I wipe the OS, install Linux and it runs great.
 
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formula 977

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No, it's not a listening impression. Amirm has tested a large number of DACs and many of them share the same DAC chip but have quite different levels of measured performance. This thread regarding the 'ESS Hump' goes into some detail about what is meant by implementation: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-hump-revisited-khadas-tone-board-v1-3.30136/
Is this a popular and well regarded dac around here? KSTR did some nice work investigating what is going on with this dac in the thread. The problem is -65db IMD to -85db on the “fixed” dac is hardly an improvement to what is available as the sota these days. Why use an obviously defective implemention of a dac to prove your point? Not that you have a choice, as far as I can see from the reviews in the forum you get the choice of ESS or AKM and lump it r leave it.
Has anyone heard a difference between the correct implementation of the ESS dac and one with the ESS hump? Again, separate vs integrated and audibility.

Thanks for the link, more investigating to do.
 
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