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Would a DAC improve my set up?

Discussion in 'Hi Fi Systems & Separates' started by leo79, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. leo79

    leo79 Member

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    Hi

    I've recently purchased a pair of AE compact speakers and have found myself listening to and enjoying music again.

    Would a DAC improve the sound on my set up?

    Squeezebox classic (FLAC) > Onkyo 905 receiver > AE compacts (due to be replaced with Leema Xero's).

    I realise a receiver is not going to compare to a dedicated integrated amp but I'm not going down that route.

    Budget up to £200, prefer to buy 2nd hand.

    Any suggestions appreciated.

    Thanks

    Leo
  2. Don Dadda

    Don Dadda Active Member

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    Hi

    Improve what exactly?

    A dac could improve it, but by how much depends or your expectations. Maybe substantial or very little, only your ears will tell you that. A dac may not even be needed to improve things.
    I believe the 905 was the flagship Onkyo Av at one point so i believe its not going to be shabby with music like its smaller siblings, 505/605, but definitely not on par with equivilent stereo amp or a class below. And i would also expect the onboard dac to be a good one. Its just the other av processing, and circuitry that hinders it.

    For a little over £200 you could get a new beresford caiman or dac magic, but if you can obtain one of those or dacs of that level, for much less second hand then great. Anything below those 2 examples then i just don't think it will be worth it.

    However, my opinion is that to make a real difference, other than the route you do not want to take, you will have to look at the likes of the rega dac or M-dac. No chance of finding the M-dac s/h let alone for £200 as its not long come out. The Rega been around for a couple of years but doubt very much you will see any for £200 or under and this goes for other dacs of the same level, but IMO, that is the level that will bring the biggest improvement - dac wise.

    In saying that, the signal still has to be processed by the av to some degree which will limit any improvement a dac could bring.

    Question. How have you connected the SB to the 905 - digitally or stereo?
    If digital, have you tried the stereo outputs?
    I have 2 SB3's and found the dac on those to be pretty decent. A lot better than i thought or gave credit for. I used to have one of them running though a beresford tc7510 dac, but found the SB onboard dac to do a better job - to my ears anyway. This is how i use one of them now and sold the dac.
    However, I am using both with stereo amps. One using its stereo outputs, and the other digitally because the amp has an very good onboard dac and combined brings excellent delivery.
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    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  3. leo79

    leo79 Member

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    Not sure how much of an improvement to expect to be honest. I'm over the moon with the sound at the moment but if it could be improved further than I'm willing to spend a bit more.

    I'd love to go for something along the lines of the rega, m-dac, m2tech. But they're out of my price range.

    I've tried both digital and stereo from sb, but not since getting the compacts. Currently got coax feeding onkyo, will try the rca leads again.

    Probably best to hold back on DAC for now and just enjoy what I've got.

    Appreciate the response

    Leo
  4. noisemaker

    noisemaker Member

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    Just what i was going to say. There are really nice Dacs on the 500+ price range..i have little experience with budget dacs.
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  5. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard Well-Known Member

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    To get better sound, you have to get a better DAC. But a better DAC than the Onkyo 905 is not going to be cheap, and it no guarantee of a really noticeable quality difference. Yes, there may be a difference, but will you be able to hear it?

    Given that we are probably talking about DACs in the £500 and higher range, one would have to ask, is it better to sink that money and a bit more into a new high end AV Amp, or into a stand alone DAC?

    Now, a stand alone DAC is more versatile because it probably has multiple input and up to 3 device can be attached. On the other hand, a new AV amp will probably have multiple optical/coaxial inputs, and serve the same function.

    So, you have two choices, be satisfied with what you have, or be prepared to spend substantial money.

    In the end, it is your choice.

    Steve/bluewizard
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    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  6. John7

    John7 Member

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    If you can find a Dacmagic for under £200 you have nothing to lose but try it - you can always sell it on if it doesn't give enough improvement.

    I have an Onkyo 906, a squeezebox and a Dacmagic and it does give an improvement to my ears. Tighter, deeper bass and improved clarity and imaging.

    It's worth it to me in the context of my system and budget
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  7. MI55ION

    MI55ION Active Member

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    Lets stop right there. Sounds like your speakers are small (inc the Leemas). Do you prefer to use the sub with music, if yes then it gets very complicated with an external DAC. Consider also any benefits a DAC might bring will be marginal at best if you plan on piping that signal via the AVR. My suggestion with a budget of £200 the biggest improvement you can bring is to take the AVR out of the equation and get a good used stereo amp e.g Cambridge Audio, Arcam etc. Although again sub integration will need to be considered.
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  8. leo79

    leo79 Member

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    Thanks for all the replies everyone.

    I'll save my money and enjoy what I've got.

    I'll probably keep my eye open on ebay though to see if a Rega pops up for £200 :laugh:

    MI55ION - I've tried listening to music with and without the sub. To be honest I prefer it without. If I was using the sub why is it complicated to use with DAC?

    Steve - Would a £500 DAC sound like a £500 improvement? I know it's a subjective question and in my set up I would probably sway to it not making a £500 difference.

    Thanks again for all the replies.

    I blame these forums for me wanting to constantly spend money :rolleyes:

    Cheers

    Leo
  9. CJROSS

    CJROSS Active Member

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    See the compact (or 2 of them - the fronts) and replace those with better fronts. Speakers speaker speaker .....
  10. recruit

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    Not wanting to throw a spanner in the works Leo but the preamp side of the 905 may let the SQ side down and expectations down a little on how big an improvement an external DAC will make as that will be the weak point IMO when it comes to 2 channel music.
  11. leo79

    leo79 Member

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    Leema Xero's are next on the list, when some come available at the right price.


    I did think about getting a dedicated integrated amp or even adding a power amp and using the pre outs on the Onkyo but I just can't get away with having any more electronics on show. I thought at least with a DAC it could be out of sight.

    Cheers

    Leo
  12. MI55ION

    MI55ION Active Member

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    If we picture the scenario of using a DAC you'll understand why its complicated. Long story short,the sub will need a second feed (usually high level) from amp and will be limited by its own settings. No speaker/sub calibration or room eq. Of course all of this is moot if you're not using a sub. Again I will emphasise to get good hifi sound you need to get that AVR out of the picture rather than fixate over DACs at this point.
  13. recruit

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    I have to agree with this as I really do not think that you will reap the rewards of an external DAC while still using your AVR as the pre & amp stage for your system.
  14. MI55ION

    MI55ION Active Member

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    I'm glad someone understands lol.:D

    I see now the OP can't add any further boxes to his system. So to comclude in answer to the original question: would a DAC improve my setup? Imo any improvement will be marginal at best especially at this price range. Speaker and amp upgrade will yield the greatest benefit. Leo, you might want to tweak your existing system e.g room treatment, amp settings, speaker position for now to get closer to your goal until such time you're ready for that 'upgrade' which really will be an upgrade.
  15. Don Dadda

    Don Dadda Active Member

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    I think a fair bunch of us understands and agree. Although, there are av' that are much better at music than the Onkyo's (not hard to do as they are not known for their musical prowness - Marantz SR7005/SR600x is pretty good and higher end yamaha's) and are more expensive, moving to a stereo amp for music is definitely the way to go for better sounding music. However, the Op stated he didn't want to go that route - so fair enough.
    I also agree about speakers, personally believe the AE compacts are not enough for the amp, bigger and better speakers would bring much reward, but seeing as he just bought them, may not want to or can shell out or trade up for another set already.
    In time, the op may decide to upgrade them (hopefully) and change thier mind about the amp, but until then, we have to work with whatever's at hand, which is the avr and AE1 compact. But as said by many and agree on, a new dac may only bring a marginal difference, if any if still using the avr, so money will be better used elsewhere to make the biggest improvement.

    Alternatively, if they can live without an avr, sell that and speakers. Add the proceeds of that to the £200 budget and look at getting a stereo amp and better speakers. I'm not sure how much the AE1 go for s/h, but the OP could get at least £200 for the avr. For £300, a very good new stereo amp could be had or even better one s/h.

    Worry about a dac another time if need be.

    If HDMI and HDaudio is still a must have and the Op has room, the op could even add a stereo amp (s/h) to the setup and used with pre-outs from the av or a splitter like the ones we've both suggested in another thread and upgrade the speakers when funds allow (Only possible if there is no objection from she who knows best - you may need to beg, plead and agree to things that you wouldn't normally entertain for that one though :D).

    Just my thoughts
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012

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