Best way to upgrade low-end hi fi - add DACs or upgrade amp?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by dean_brfc, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. dean_brfc

    dean_brfc
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    I've been improving the sound quality of my stereo hi fi and I'm unsure how to spend the remaining ~£80 budget. The system is mainly used for DAB and playing flac/mp3 files through phone/laptop with TV getting some use for PS3/films/sport.

    So far I've simply replaced some old Eltax speakers with some Tannoy V1s and invested in some QED XT Evolution speaker cable to replace the bog standard stuff. These are paired with my Cambridge A1 and Cambridge DAB300.

    How would I be best spending the remaining to get the best improvement? I don't know whether to invest in a couple of DACs (one USB to connect my phone/laptop to play FLAC files and one for TV optical out - looking at FiiO D03K and FiiO E7/Behringer UCA202) and any change to get a proper interconnect cable for the DAB.

    The other option is to simply sell the Cambridge A1 for around £30 and just upgrade the amp to a ~£100 one, and leave everything else as is. Possibly a NAD C350?

    I don't know which would give me the best improvement though?
     
  2. LostIn

    LostIn
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    If it were me I would sell the DAB300 and put the money towards a second hand DAC which accepts USB and optical inputs (like the Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic). Then buy a Raspberry Pi for £28 and install Squeezeplug onto it. This can act as a squeezebox server and player which can play your FLAC/MP3s from a connected USB device as well as internet radio in much higher quality than DAB. All of this can be controlled with your phone.

    Just an idea...
     
  3. dean_brfc

    dean_brfc
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    Thanks. I did consider something similar but I'm mindful that it won't just be me using the system so convenience has to come into it. As a means of just putting the radio on I think it would take too much explaining. Plugging in a phone/laptop by USB and not the 3.5mm jack I could just about explain, but I know I'd get nowhere with that!

    I didn't realise internet radio was much higher quality than DAB though. Is there a hi fi separate that could replace my DAB300 and receive internet radio? I don't really want to lose the convenience of pushing a button to turn on the radio, but I would like that quality improvement.

    edit: Actually, after a bit of reading, perhaps I misunderstood how easy it might be. I'm going to look into it further.

    The internet radio side of things certainly seems easy (assuming I leave the pi on 24/7). Would music on my old Synology NAS (doesn't have DLNA) be available to stream in the same way as internet radio? Currently I use the laptop to play this content.

    Any alternatives to the Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic? There is one on eBay and I can't find anywhere else online that has them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  4. LostIn

    LostIn
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    I get where you're coming from. Keep things simple, keep the peace.

    DAB is capable of high bit rates but in the UK most stations broadcast at pretty miserable bitrates like 48 - 96 kbps. A few do broadcast at 160kbps but they are few and far between. My knowledge of this is outdated so things might have changed in the last couple of years. Internet radio has loads of stations broadcasting at 256kbps and even at 320kbps.

    There are many hi fi separates available which stream anything (internet radio, spotify, your own music from a NAS etc.) but unfortunately not for £80. If you can find a second hand Squeezebox Touch that would do very nicely and has an easy to operate touch screen although, again, not sure you would find one within budget. There might be cheaper options out there.

    FWIW I don't think adding another interconnect would make much of a difference.

    A decent second hand DAC like the Azur Dacmagic *might* improve the sound quality from the DAB300 via spdif and it would definitely improve the SQ from your laptop and the TV. It has 5 inputs (1 x USB, 2 x spdif, 2 x coax) so pretty high in terms of bang for your buck. (and later if you ever decide to try out the Squeezeplug you'll already have a usb DAC input to use ;) )
     

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