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DAC v new player

Discussion in 'Hi Fi Systems & Separates' started by Pecker, Sep 15, 2006.

  1. Pecker

    Pecker Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I've had me own experiences in this area, but I won't colour any discussion by offering my opinions straight off.

    If you have (for example) a cheap source for your CDS - maybe a £150 DVD player, or something similar, what are you best spending your money on? £300 on a new CD player, or £300 on a new DAC to add ? (or £1,000, or whatever)

    Are dedicated CD transports at c.£1,000 worthwhilse investments, are are you better off ploughing your money into the DAC side of things?
    Is there a pretty low maximum SQ you can get from a cheap DVD player source, or can DACs still make a big difference?

    Steve W
  2. SMERT

    SMERT Guest

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    This is a very delicate question. I have compared several integrated CDPs and transport+DAC combinations of different price range including Accustic Arts Drive I, CEC 51x, Denon S10, Micromega Classic Dialog, Micromega T-DAC, Meridian G08 and Unico CDP. My experiences are CDP usually sounds better below 2000 pounds and the seperate has better chance of good sound above 2000.

    However, the digital circuit of a cheap DVD player will significantly deteriorate the sound of a DAC. Therefore, if you are thinking of a combo, a dedicated trasnport or at least a decent CDP is a must.
  3. Pecker

    Pecker Well-Known Member

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  4. SMERT

    SMERT Guest

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    A cheap CDP will not sound better than this Cambridge DVD55. Exposure 2010S or Cyrus CD6 are much better choices even for your future amp and speaker upgrade.
  5. Cable Monkey

    Cable Monkey Active Member

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    IMO a DAC is a great leveller. Of course it needs to be well engineered in order to be that but it can be a great way of getting consistency and quality out of cheaper transports. However a DAC cannot make a silk purse from a sows ear. If a little time is taken to source a stable and well built transport I believe the benefits can be heard if you have a system that can resolve the differences. That last bit is all important.
  6. Pecker

    Pecker Well-Known Member

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    Okay, this is what my ears tell me.

    If you take any transport and put it through a great DAC it sounds better than the on-board DAC (unless it has a bloomin' great on-board DAC to start with).

    If you take any DAC and change the transport you might find a difference, but it's often minimal.

    Why is this? If you don't get info off a disc right at the start, then you can't get it back later.

    The answer is that most transports get a very high %age of the information off the disc to start with. Turntable makers LINN still said up to a few years ago that they thought that even their best turntables were only getting about 85% of the information off an LP.

    Even a poor transport will get far, far more than this off a CD.

    It's no surprise that transports do so well. The CD system was designed over a quarter of a century ago. Since than we've had massive improvements in engineering technology, and new disc formats (DVD, HD-DVD, etc) who's transports have had to be far more accurate in reading their discs.

    In other words, with improved transports you're paying hundreds, or even thousands of pounds on each upgrade to get maybe 1% more info off the disc.

    Meanwhile, a DAC costing just £200 will bring a dramatic improvement in processing power.

    In short - If you have (for the sake of argument) a £100 CD player and a £200 DAC and you have £1,000 to upgrade, spending £1,000 on a new transport for your current DAC will have a much smaller impact than spending £1,000 on a new DAC for your current transport.

    Steve W
  7. Devil On Your S

    Devil On Your S Member

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    Why?
  8. alexs2

    alexs2 Active Member

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    Usually down to a couple of factors...the high levels of jitter associated with cheap transports and clocks,plus the high levels of digital noise from poorly screened and filtered circuitry(usually on the video side of the player,which is usually not turned off when a CD is being played).

    Together,you have recipe for making even a very good DAC struggle to get the best out of the signal.....also to be taken into account is that some DACs are better than others at dealing with signals laden with high levels of jitter.
  9. Spangle2k5

    Spangle2k5 Member

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    This is a very controversial discussion I feel.

    The £10 DVD Drive in my PC is connected to an incredibly cheap and nasty IDE cable and managed to read data off of the disc flawlessly every time.

    This simple fact makes it hard to believe that anything other than an utterly cheap and nasty transport would fail to retrieve all information from a disc and transfer it to the DAC.

    I have not had the fortune of being able to take a DAC and try a number of transports with it, otherwise I would let my ears decide.

    I can see why a costlier DAC can bring great improvements, but cannot see how a costlier transport can better send 1s and 0s.

    Please do not take my personal opinions as inflamatory though, I gladly admit that this is not an area that I have investigated!
  10. Pecker

    Pecker Well-Known Member

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    In respect of my original title to this post, I'd offer the following.

    When a manufacturer makes a £100 CD player and a £300 CD player, I've never seen a case where all of the extra £200 is spent on the DAC - the money is (as far as I can tell) split between both ther transport and the DAC.

    Subsequently, buying a new DAC has got to be more cost effective than buying a new player.

    Steve W
  11. Cable Monkey

    Cable Monkey Active Member

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    Spangle2k5, there is no need for any controversy, it can only be down to peoples personal experience. And oddly enough, there are plenty out there who prefer a less efficient transport if they believe it sounds better to them. This is a highly subjective hobby and never has the phrase "there is no accounting for taste" been more relevant!
  12. Pecker

    Pecker Well-Known Member

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    I prefer the more accurate translation "There is no argument in matters of taste".

    This implies that "One man's meat is another man's poison".

    "There's no accounting for taste" implies a lack of taste in the person to whom the quote refers.

    I'm sure you meant the former.

    Steve W
  13. analogueaddict

    analogueaddict Member

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    Hi,

    I can only recount my experience with DAC's, but having tried transports ranging from £30 WH Smith and Aldi DVD players, through £2K top loading CD players, to dedicated digital transports and PC's with S/PDIF digital audio ouputs from M-Audio sound cards, I can honestly say that out of the whole picture, I would suggest the transport (unless it is fundamentally flawed) makes around 10 -15% difference in the overall performance of a transport / DAC combination.

    I would definitely spend the lions share on the DAC, and then spend the balance on the transport. I would be more likely to select the transport based on what I liked to handle above anything most other factors. I would also say you should not underestimate the effect of a really first class mains filter in a system with digital components. I've found this to make a greater improvement to the sound than the transport.

    Given a £1K budget, there are a couple of truly killer products I would be looking for, I'd start with a Signature upgraded Perpetual Technologies P-3A with outboard power supply, easily available new under £1K, it has a great reclocking system making it very tolerant of sources even with quite high jitter levels, and can be easily upgraded with the P-1A upsampler module which is amazing.

    The second unit I'd be looking for is the Musical Fidelity Tri Vista 21 DAC, quite difficult to obtain, usually these go for around £850 - £950 on E-Bay, but they are stunning units, have a very bold, energetic, powerful sound and really bounce along. Again a great digital input module makes these highly tolerant of even mediocre sources, and is a versatile unit which offers a huge bang for the buck, probably one of the best products ever manufactured by MF IMHO.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,

    Dave

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