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Would an external DAC add sound quality to my system?

Napalm Tom

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Hello, newbie here and newbie (again) to hi fidelity. Separate from my 7.1 home theater system, I invested in an Emotiva BasX TA1 Integrated amplifier, SVS SB-1000 Pro Subwoofer, and a pair of KEF 301 speakers for my music listening. The only audio source connected to it and the only source I listen to is a Brennan B3 Hard Disk CD Ripper/Player which is connected to the Emotiva via optical. The set up as is, produces a pretty incredible sound. But like most of you probably do the same, this renewed interest in high fidelity, has me exploring other components for ideal sound.

The Emotiva's internal DAC is provided by "Analog Devices AD1955 24/192k DAC," according to the Emotiva website, but I really don't know what that means. I am DAC illiterate, but watching youtube audiophile bloggers rave about DACs, even specific to my Emotiva, I saw comments like, "adding an external DAC to this Emotiva BasX TA1 takes it to a whole new level!" My knee jerk reaction was, "well, I got to have that!" I watched DACs 101 tutorial videos and have a vague grasp of their function.

If I were to add an external DAC, I realize they range from just 20 dollars to thousands of dollars. And the DAC 101 tutorial videos I watched helped me understand the better DAC units provide better performance than say, a 20 dollar unit. That said, my comfort spending range would be between 500 to 700 dollars. However, I'm hesitant that it will truly make a difference or I'm buying into sensationalism from audiophile bloggers. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

 

tubess1988

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Check out the DAC reviews here, most all of the top rated ones have a return policy, and are in the price range you asked for.
 
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Napalm Tom

Napalm Tom

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Check out the DAC reviews here, most all of the top rated ones have a return policy, and are in the price range you asked for.
Before posting, I did do a forum search specific to my Emotiva amp paired with an external DAC and found no topic related.
 

sergeauckland

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Every DAC manufactured in the past 40 years is audibly transparent unless deliberately engineered not to be, like some boutique DACs with valve outputs. The DAC chips themselves have been transparent since the early 1980s. Consequently, you won't get any audible benefit from an external DAC over what's already in your amplifier.
An external DAC may give you better measurements in terms of lower distortion and noise, but this improvement is completely inaudible.

If you look at the specs for DACs since the 1980s, whether external or built-in to digital players, they have been audibly transparent going back to the earliest players.

S.
 

Mr. Widget

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Every DAC manufactured in the past 40 years is audibly transparent unless deliberately engineered not to be...
I am not sure I would agree with every DAC... but yes, virtually all of them are sonically similar to the point of appearing to sound identical. Features like streaming, built in preamp capabilities, and DSP features like Dirac are what differentiates them.

If you feel you need to improve your system, look at your speakers and the possibility of adding room correction. These are the areas where very real upgrades are possible.
 
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Napalm Tom

Napalm Tom

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Every DAC manufactured in the past 40 years is audibly transparent unless deliberately engineered not to be, like some boutique DACs with valve outputs. The DAC chips themselves have been transparent since the early 1980s. Consequently, you won't get any audible benefit from an external DAC over what's already in your amplifier.
An external DAC may give you better measurements in terms of lower distortion and noise, but this improvement is completely inaudible.

If you look at the specs for DACs since the 1980s, whether external or built-in to digital players, they have been audibly transparent going back to the earliest players.

S.
I've read just enough about DACs, your response actually made sense to me. Thanks for your input, I think I will earmark that money for something else.

There is a review of the older Emotiva DAC which uses the same chip. I would imagine the amp section is the limiting factor in an integrated more so than the Dac chip.
Thanks for the link, I will check it out.

If you feel you need to improve your system, look at your speakers and the possibility of adding room correction. These are the areas where very real upgrades are possible.
I'm pretty happy with the KEF T301 speakers, so not likely I would improve there, but now you gave me something new to explore - "room correction." First time I heard that term. I got some researching to do. Thanks for your input.
 

voodooless

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I'm pretty happy with the KEF T301 speakers, so not likely would I would improve there,
If you don’t think other speakers would improve things, a DAC will most certainly will not.

As is stands, those speakers are basically not usable below 200 Hz, which is far to high for a sub.


Want better sound, start there…
 

fieldcar

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Every DAC manufactured in the past 40 years is audibly transparent
To illustrate this further. @Napalm Tom , take the Klippel listening test. Good luck beating my -39dB. I get around -30dB(best) in a normal environment and get -39dB at best when I'm well isolated with some etymotic in-ear monitors. You can take this number and compare it to amir's SINAD or THD score. Let me know how you do.

 

Rednaxela

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If you have only one source, perhaps have a look at a Behringer DEQ2496.

It can be inserted digitally in between your source and your amplifier. Then get a measurement microphone, and learn to use REW. Create an EQ that combats the worst anomalies in your measured frequency response. Sit back and enjoy. No DAC in the entire world will be able to improve your sound quality like a measurement informed EQ application can.
 
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Napalm Tom

Napalm Tom

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If you don’t think other speakers would improve things, a DAC will most certainly will not. As is stands, those speakers are basically not usable below 200 Hz, which is far to high for a sub.
Interesting. The amp and speakers are brand new and still within the return policy window. Sounds like I need to retrace my steps on the basics and return them to do more research.
Nope. As others said: start (always) with speakers and RoomEQ
Thanks. Actually it sounds like I needed to start with discovering this forum before making my amp and speakers choice.
@Napalm Tom , take the Klippel listening test. Good luck beating my -39dB. I get around -30dB(best) in a normal environment and get -39dB at best when I'm well isolated with some etymotic in-ear monitors. You can take this number and compare it to amir's SINAD or THD score. Let me know how you do.
Thanks. Let you know how I do? It's going to take me a week to just understand the terminology you packed in your comment.
If you have only one source, perhaps have a look at a Behringer DEQ2496.
Correct. I never listen to anything but the Brennan B3, music wise. It has other audio sources capability but I never explored them, including internet radio. I don't see me expanding my audio sources, pretty content with the large CD collection stored on the B3 hard drive.
Thanks for product referral link, I will explore it further. I think I understand how it connects to my "audio chain(?)" I want to read more on how I interact with its equalizer. But as others mentioned, it sounds like I need to head back to the drawing board for the basics - speakers and amp.
 

GD Fan

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Welcome to ASR. Your open mindedness will be a true asset to you here. As someone who was just learning the rudiments when I found this place I can tell you there's a lot to get your arms around! Enjoy the journey.
 
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Napalm Tom

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Welcome to ASR. Your open mindedness will be a true asset to you here. As someone who was just learning the rudiments when I found this place I can tell you there's a lot to get your arms around! Enjoy the journey.
Thank you. Wish I had discovered this forum weeks ago. I am retired and the last time I dabbled in high fidelity was the late seventies. A familiar audio world to me filled with friendly separate components - amp/preamp/equalizer and a variety of physical audio sources - turntable, reel to reel, cassette recorder, and FM tuner. Though I do see some are still interested in all separate components today.

Today's audio visual world is alien to me filled with Digital devilry, Atmos alchemy, Bluetooth bewitchment, and Wifi wizardry. Though I do find it amusing, being long in the tooth, to watch how we went from unsightly broadcast TV rabbit ears to decades later of unsightly wifi router rabbit ears. ;)

I even considered going old school and building an audio system as if it was 1978, but the one thing I disliked about a Jurassic-like stereo system I had back then, is I never liked I couldn't consolidate all my physical audio sources. The B3 hard disk cd ripper/player is the perfect solution for me. I have access to thousands of CDs through friends and the library. No storage of countless albums, cassettes, and reel to reel tapes (I lost all my old collection in a major house fire). Once the insurance check arrived from the fire, the new TV got a powered sound bar with a powered subwoofer, and that's it for several years.

Before deciding to expand to a dedicated audio system for music, I had the B3 connected to my home theater system. It sounded good, but not great. So that's my m.o for rekindling my interest in audio components. One dedicated audio system for my music and One musical source. So I have been reading several threads here already all day so far and have a long ways to go.
 

Overseas

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Investing in a DAC that costs as much as your amp?! Better upgrade speakwers or amp.
I do not mean to be insensitive, but that is not much of an amp. 'Incredible sound' comparing to what?
Try something in the 1500 bucks range from Rotel or Yamaha.
I mean well.
 

Mr. Widget

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Thank you. Wish I had discovered this forum weeks ago. I am retired and the last time I dabbled in high fidelity was the late seventies.
Welcome back. In many ways high fidelity is much simpler today and has never sounded better. One option is to get a pair of powered speakers... even wireless powered speakers and run everything through them from your B3 hard drive. You can get as simple or complicated as you want.

Do a bit of additional research you'll be amazed. These days there is a lot of excellent gear and great advice at your finger tips. There is also a lot of nonsense. If you stumble into talk about how particular cables, DACs, or other tweaks make the system sound better you are either getting regurgitated BS or someone is trying to sell you something.
 
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Napalm Tom

Napalm Tom

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Investing in a DAC that costs as much as your amp?! Better upgrade speakwers or amp.
I do not mean to be insensitive, but that is not much of an amp. 'Incredible sound' comparing to what?
Try something in the 1500 bucks range from Rotel or Yamaha.
I mean well.
No need to tread lightly around me, I appreciate your straight forward input.
A 1500 dollar amp seems like overkill in my small living room. It's only a 12'X20' room. From what I've seen, 1500 dollar-plus amps are typically around 80 to 100 watts per channel and more. Seems like anything more than 25 to 35 watts per channel/8ohm would be overkill in such a small room. But maybe you're referring to a 1500 dollar amp for other reasons, not necessarily wattage output.
What amplifier do you have and what size room does it reside in?
Don't know if you've seen this monster thread, somewhat on the dac subject you're inquiring about https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...e-as-transparent-are-that-many-confused.9245/
I haven't come across that thread yet. I will check it out, thanks.
I'd definitely work on speakers first rather than worrying about the dac in your integrated amp.
I'm starting to get that now from comments here......speakers first. I don't why exactly, but I thought the amp would be first and then find speakers to compliment the amp.
 

Chrispy

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No need to tread lightly around me, I appreciate your straight forward input.
A 1500 dollar amp seems like overkill in my small living room. It's only a 12'X20' room. From what I've seen, 1500 dollar-plus amps are typically around 80 to 100 watts per channel and more. Seems like anything more than 25 to 35 watts per channel/8ohm would be overkill in such a small room. But maybe you're referring to a 1500 dollar amp for other reasons, not necessarily wattage output.
What amplifier do you have and what size room does it reside in?

I haven't come across that thread yet. I will check it out, thanks.

I'm starting to get that now from comments here......speakers first. I don't why exactly, but I thought the amp would be first and then find speakers to compliment the amp.
Speakers first, then it gives you a better idea of what amp is most appropriate (in terms of power and impedance handling capabilities). Curious, does that integrated amp offer any bass management for your sub?
 
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