Internal or external DAC - should I even bother?

Onlythesound

Well-known Member
Hi everyone,

I often read about DACs and their merits. My main music box, a Denon DRA 800-h receiver amp, claims to have 2 internal DACs
- see this extract:

Dual DAC Differential Circuit
The DRA-800H utilises the eight-channel premium DAC to deliver amazing stereo imaging and detail. By assigning two DACs per channel including the subwoofer output, hear increased dynamic range and improved signal to noise (s/n).

Does anyone have a view on whether an external DAC might do a better job or should I just leave well alone? If yes, any suggestions?
Thanks and Happy Easter 🐇
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Wouldn't bother.

Better off putting money towards a dedicated stereo amp or new speakers.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
No one can give you a definitive answer. If it were me and I had a few quid to spare I would wait for something used at a good price in the knowledge I could sell on with little loss. Something popular like Arcam or Audiolab perhaps. No harm in trying.
 

Onlythesound

Well-known Member
Thanks for that. It’s been in the back of my mind since someone on the ASR forum spontaneously suggested the amp might benefit from an external DAC following a pants measurements review on that forum.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
As I said, surely worth a try if you can do it in a way that won't cost the earth. Not that my findings have any relevance to what you may discover but I've generally found I prefer the sound of the offboard DAC's I've tried when compared to those in the amps, receivers and streamers I own. On the flipside, I've not owned an offboard DAC that I felt outperformed my CD players internal DAC.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
If you want to scratch that itch, then go for it. It's not going to make your system sound different though. Better? Depends how well you pick up on small differences.

If you buy used you'll generally get your money back.

Mdac

Roksan k3 - odd one these as they were reduced from around 1k to 299, but most used models reflect the original RRP

Ifi

Topping E series or D series

Chord mojo
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Thanks for that. It’s been in the back of my mind since someone on the ASR forum spontaneously suggested the amp might benefit from an external DAC following a pants measurements review on that forum.

ASR measurements are not gospel by any means.

(Having said that, I’ve just read the ASR review and it is pretty poor. However a new dac won’t help because the analogue inputs aren’t up to it. If the ASR measurements are right).

I wouldn’t spend a quid on a new dac.

It’s the last place money should go; after room correction, speakers, amp (or preamp then power amp).

If you’d like to get a better sound that is measurable and obvious I’d suggest spending your cash on a MiniDSP with Dirac live.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
If you want to spend a bit of cash on improvements, then I’d sell the Denon and buy one of these fantastic things.



Much more capable than the Denon and comes with Dirac included.

Originally a £2500 amp and worth the cash at that price.

They pop up on eBay reasonably often and are, to my ears, the bargain amp of the last decade.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
I can't agree with the above post enough! Certainly one of the greatest bargains I've bought in 35+ years of hifi buying.

If interested you may wanna call the branches here. Listed as refurbished but you may find they are actually open box with full warranty, as my buddy did when he called about a 'refurbished' one recently. You should also be able to get it for less than the price shown too.

 
Last edited:

Khazul

Well-known Member
I think that has an AKM chip in it which while probably not the best implementation in a receiver (it does mention 8 channel, so I guess it is a summed 2x4 implementation) I think they still generally good sounding DACs even in some really cheap audio devices (Chomecast CCA comes to mind).

Most likely if you were to buy a standalone DAC right now you will probably end of with an ESS based DAC - it will likely sound a little different but that doesn't necessarily mean better. You may prefer it or you may not.

Depend how much you want to spend and depend if the amp itself and the speaker you have will let you hear any detail improvements or just a tiny tonality change due to likely different chipset.

On balance I wouldn't bother.
 

Onlythesound

Well-known Member
Pandora, close your d*** box! That Arcam’s specs and reputation precede it. If only I was in the market for a replacement right now.
The Denon isn’t a bad sound so I think I’ll resist the temptation to fiddle about at the moment. Bit of a Swiss Army knife I suppose but more like those imitations you get at a motorway services. Having said that, it does everything well enough.

Thanks everyone for your input as always. Saving my pennies for something major is the way to go I think.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I guess it depends... DAC is DAC... However in my situation. I find the Texas DAC is better then Node2i Burr Brown DAC. I would never imagine there could be difference. There is. Quieter background. Perhaps not massive sound difference but you can clearly hear it.

Still synergy is key. I wouldn’t bother if you’re happy with the sound you’ve got now. Apparently the Node has the same DAC chip like my amplifier, so perhaps no need to get the new one.

Been thinking of getting Zen streamer, since I more or less use the Node2i as transport. Still all this upgrading lunacy can be too much at times.

I believe you have QA speakers. Don’t consider getting the Concept 30?
 

Onlythesound

Well-known Member
Yes C30s would definitely be on my list along with a new amp around the £1000 mark. Also been considering true active monitors for a while now. My problem is to maintain the synergy I have now with the Denon as well as increase sound quality which means improving on how my phone (Apple music) talks to HomePod talks to Denon talks to Tv etc etc. In short a marriage of great sound and inter connectivity:lesson:
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
The benefit of a dac rather than relying on internal dac is you spend money on the DAC and when using sources with digital outputs you can cheap out. With list of sources of digital out it means getting best sound

Gaming consoles
Personal audio player
Dedicated audio streamer
Cd player
Dvd player
BD player
Bluetooth receiver
Minidisc
Computers
TV
Freesat/freetv boxes
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
The benefit of a dac rather than relying on internal dac is you spend money on the DAC and when using sources with digital outputs you can cheap out. With list of sources of digital out it means getting best sound

Gaming consoles
Personal audio player
Dedicated audio streamer
Cd player
Dvd player
BD player
Bluetooth receiver
Minidisc
Computers
TV
Freesat/freetv boxes

Many devices (amps with DAC, AVRs, receivers) have more commonly used digital inputs inputs than a DAC usually provides (which tends to be one of each), so he already gets that with the benefit of using existing input selection instead of another device + remote.

Also there is the question that even if he spent 1000UKP on a really great sounding DAC how much of that potential improvement would be revealed through the receiver? If there was likely to be a really clear improvement, I would be less hesitant

It would be easier to give a more specific answer in the context of other upgrade plans he may have - ie would buying a good separate DAC be a step alone a path toward separating the amp, streamer and DAC functions into higher end separate devices?
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Many devices (amps with DAC, AVRs, receivers) have more commonly used digital inputs inputs than a DAC usually provides (which tends to be one of each), so he already gets that with the benefit of using existing input selection instead of another device + remote.

Also there is the question that even if he spent 1000UKP on a really great sounding DAC how much of that potential improvement would be revealed through the receiver? If there was likely to be a really clear improvement, I would be less hesitant

It would be easier to give a more specific answer in the context of other upgrade plans he may have - ie would buying a good separate DAC be a step alone a path toward separating the amp, streamer and DAC functions into higher end separate devices?

My dac has two coaxial and two optical that's enough on the hifi side.

If I was to put consolidate all my sources, video and audio no affordable device would have enough inputs

For me since using squeezebox and Bluetooth receiver means I'm getting good sound quality. With squeezebox that's apparently fairly decent analogue out, but cheap other devices mean cost cutting in DAC so at least get good sound and lower noise.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
For me since using squeezebox and Bluetooth receiver means I'm getting good sound quality. With squeezebox that's apparently fairly decent analogue out, but cheap other devices mean cost cutting in DAC so at least get good sound and lower noise.

That sounds like you are already committed down the standalone DAC route for other reasons (I am likewise due to using Roon).
 

Onlythesound

Well-known Member
Many devices (amps with DAC, AVRs, receivers) have more commonly used digital inputs inputs than a DAC usually provides (which tends to be one of each), so he already gets that with the benefit of using existing input selection instead of another device + remote.

Also there is the question that even if he spent 1000UKP on a really great sounding DAC how much of that potential improvement would be revealed through the receiver? If there was likely to be a really clear improvement, I would be less hesitant

It would be easier to give a more specific answer in the context of other upgrade plans he may have - ie would buying a good separate DAC be a step alone a path toward separating the amp, streamer and DAC functions into higher end separate devices?
Good question. For eaxample, if I were to purchase a Musical Fidelity M3si, (always enjoyed the MF characteristics), à DAC might well improve things but I would definitely have to go the trial and error route at home. This would probably be matched with a streaming node (no pun) of some sort, something like some q acoustics Concept 30s.
Then again, the active route for £1000 would probably leave me with a great sound and money over for a streaming gizmo with Airplay2 etc. built in.
 

Jazzabana

Active Member
Hi everyone,

I often read about DACs and their merits. My main music box, a Denon DRA 800-h receiver amp, claims to have 2 internal DACs
- see this extract:

Dual DAC Differential Circuit
The DRA-800H utilises the eight-channel premium DAC to deliver amazing stereo imaging and detail. By assigning two DACs per channel including the subwoofer output, hear increased dynamic range and improved signal to noise (s/n).

Does anyone have a view on whether an external DAC might do a better job or should I just leave well alone? If yes, any suggestions?
Thanks and Happy Easter 🐇
Give Qobuz a try if you haven't yet and if that changes a lot, then the dac will make as much difference. In case of dedicated stereo amp is a different story.
 

Kapkirk

Well-known Member
Give Qobuz a try if you haven't yet and if that changes a lot, then the dac will make as much difference. In case of dedicated stereo amp is a different story.
Agreed, I find I cant listen to spotify now since going to Qobuz, Qobuz quality seems so much better and if you can't hear the difference between them, then either your hearing is shot or your equipment isn't good enough. Same goes for different DAC's.
 

LF911SC

Novice Member
Its like anything else, you can always improve your system with changes to any and every piece in the system. Only you can decide if an upgrade to an external DAC is money well spent. It will provide an improvement, but would the money be better spent on different speakers or a better source?
If someone tells you different DACs dont sound different, that they all sound the same, move on, that person doesnt have an ear to be trusted. Different DACS sound different, a simple trip to a high end dealer would easily prove that
 

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