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DAC for you all your digital music?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by jimmy_b, Jul 18, 2004.

  1. jimmy_b

    jimmy_b
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    I will be upgrading my home audio equipment soon but need some advice. My music collection currently consists mostly of CDs but I also have uncompressed WAVs on computer and MP3s. In the future I suspect that most of my music will be on hard disk ( probably purchased on-line and downloaded from the likes of i-Tunes). And then there is digital radio....

    My point is that I want to future proof for all these formats (and possible others) and still maintain high quality play back by pumping them through my hi-fi. So what do I need for this? Will a DAC with multiple inputs suffice (one for the CD transport, one from the digital radio (or does this go direct to the amp?) one from my PC? Or do I need some other bits of equipment too?

    Not really sure what the issues are or whether I am asking the correct questions but hopefully someone can help me out? :confused:
     
  2. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Jimmy, I can only highlight my experience using a DAC for the following digital formats :

    CD, DVD-V (both film and music from my hifi rig), Freeview Digital TV-Radio and Minidisc Recording/Playback.

    And its nothing short of stunning to these ears, the only area for future use to me I would consider as routing via my DAC is PC based (ie HD storage of Uncomped WAVs & MP3 as you mention) to the DAC, and maybe a TV HDD based recorder – The £150 Humax 40Gb device with optical output looks very nice ie for recording music programmes & radio stations onto HD and editing to MD/CDR later on). All you need is the following to get started in DAC use.

    A DAC with multiple inputs (ie RCA SPDIF & Toslink inputs generally – my current one has 7 digital inputs)
    A Digital cable for each piece of kit you wish to connect to DAC (these need to correspond from “source” device to DAC inputs, ie DAB Radio with a Toslink optical output needs to go via a Toslink Cable to a Toslink Input on the DAC, Make sure your DAC has the right connections in other words.
    1 set of ICs from DAC to amp.
    1 Plug point.
    1 Shelf on your rack for DAC.

    You will probably own already a CD or DVD-V player, this will act as your CD transport (I use a DVD-V player and have done for a few years with fantastic results to my ears) I have also been recently using a £90 Sony DVD-V player (DVP-355) and can tell no difference between that and my old DVD-V (£500) player. As I mentioned depending on your belief system for cables, the 1 set from DAC to Amp can be as fancy as you want, but you will only ever need one set of ICs, digital cables are generally cheaper than ICs so you save money doing this IMHO. You will need a 48Khz capable DAC as a minium, a few older versions are 44.1Khz, Freeview – DVD-V all send 48Khz.

    Next up will come the sound quality to consider and your belief in audiophile problems associated with DAC usage will go a long way to shaping how you think about using a DAC. Ie there are some DAC users who have to go to the farthest extreme with DACs and the “quality” of inputs/cables & transports used, to other audiophiles who believe the main point of sound quality is achieved by the DAC alone. This is a contentious issue but one thing is certain everyone is different so we all hear things “differently”. Ie you may well be very happy with a DAC running off a DVD-V player (I am for example) but the next audiophile may not. I think I am also well placed for whatever the future may throw up, ie I have more spare inputs on my DAC (ie for the Humax) and if my DVD-V transport dies, I simply buy another spinner without having to worry about the DAC quality of the next one (ie not rebuying integrated CDPs). DACs also give a good scenario for trying out universal players in that, you gte the best of say SACD/DVDA from the UP and send a digital cable to a DAC for CD duties.

    ATB
     
  3. jimmy_b

    jimmy_b
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    Thanks for the response CJROSS. I have some further questions:

    So a (suitable) DAC will be able to successfuly convert all the input types to analogue? That's good. You see, what I am not sure about and don't really understand is whether the digital data from the different input devices will all be sending data in the same format? For example, if I download a song from the internet, is the format the same as that of a CD? Surely the DAC needs to have certain processing logic built in that detects the incoming data as x bit data with a frequency of y or be able to detect mutiple types of compression (or something....)???? What if a new, ultra-fab compression technique becomes the standard and my DAC cannot process it? Do these questions even make sense - are they valid? :confused:

    Provided I can get a DAC that does what I need it to, my intention would be to audition it with my DVD565, some better universal players and/or some dedicated CD players. I am interested to see if there is a detectable difference in sound (logic tells me there shouldn't be but other posts suggets there might!). My ancient marantz CD63 has stopped working and I am currently using the 565 for transport and DAC but the sound is more tinny and not as detailed.

    Jimmy_b
     
  4. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Jimmy Im not too familiar with the types of files you are talking about here, ie downloadable material from the internet (Ie Apples Itunes) But I would assume that if you can burn these tracks to a CDR via Itunes, then a digital output will be sent from the discs, but usign your nconcerns above, I have burned MP3 files from Itunes to a CDR and played it back thru my DAC @ 44.1Khz. So MP3s work IME. Not sure of any others formats that may arise but lets look at what it does now :

    MP3 (If your player/transport can read those discs, I would assume that a SC playing MP3s will output either 44.1 Khz sample rate, or it may resample and send everyhting as 48Khz. Again most DACs will handle this.

    CD Sample rate @ 44.1Khz

    DVD-V Sample rate @ 48Khz, ie Dolby Digital Bitstream 5.1 & Linear PCM 16/24 Bit.

    Digital Freeview – DAB – Sky Digital Sample rate 48Khz, Linear PCM or Mpeg2.

    The most important thing is not the type of signal that is being sent but the sample rate, as you can see above as long as the sample rate is 44.1Khz – 48Khz then DACs will lock onto it. But maybe a check say with Apples helpdesk about their Itunes tracks which are downloadable will ease you mind, all you need to know will playback allow a digital output & sample rate of 44.1-48Khz from your soundcard & digital output on your PC.

    Well everyone is different dude heres my vibes on 2 vastly different DVD-V transports and vastly differing setups in my system last week. I could not tell the difference. (As could some other audiophiles Ive known a long time with DVD-Vs in their DAC setups)

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=11377
     

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