PC motherboard DAC with Spotify/Tidal or Audiolab 6000N?

sdxbe

Member
Okay so here's my situation: I have a Yamaha A-S501 amplifier which I use mostly for vinyl listening.
Occasionaly I like to stream Spotify / Tidal and currently I've got my PC with onboard S1220 DAC (Asus ROG Crosshair VII) hooked up to the amp via optical.
Now I was looking at the Audiolab 6000N streamer which would look real nice with my amp, but the question is will it improve my sound? It would be nice not to have my PC turned on every time I want to stream music, but I can live with it.
From what I could gather myself it seems my onboard DAC is better supporting up to 32-Bit/192kHz (although Windows only lets me choose 24-Bit/192kHz for Optical) vs 24-Bit/192kHz on the 6000N.
Anyway, I don't know much about these things so I thought I'd ask here :)
 

Cebolla

Member
You're not using the PC's onboard DAC if you are outputting via optical, anyway - you are actually using the DAC that's in your Yamaha A-S501 amp!

Would it be your intention to connect the Audiolab 6000N streamer to the Yamaha via optical too or do you actually intend to use the streamer's DAC (as opposed to the Yamaha's)?
 

sdxbe

Member
I'm not sure. As I said I'm a bit of a noob when it comes to this.
So if I understood correctly I would be using my pc dac if I were to connect via analogue cable?
Then the question becomes which dac is better? The pc, the Yamaha amp or the Audiolab?
My intention is to connect the Audiolab via coaxial to the Yamaha.
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
Forget about the DAC in the PC
PCs are a hot soup of high frequency noise and any dac incorporated into them suffers because of this.
Digital outputs ( i.e. not using the DAC in a PC ) is the only way to go.

The yamaha a-s501 has a texas instruments PCM5101 DAC
The audiolab 6000N has a sabre ES9018 DAC

The audiolab has the best DAC by a country mile , that is the one to use.
 

the groundsman

Active Member
Is cost important to the OP?

That's £500 that could be spent wisely on fine wine etc. Maybe the DAC in the Yamaha is good enough and the OP could find something more economical to link the Yamaha with Spotify or Tidal and be better off in the bargain? Something more like the good old Chromecast Audio though of course that is discontinued. I use a raspberry pi but that is a bit of DIY.

I find it hard to distinguish any difference between various DACs, but my hearing is not the best....
 

sdxbe

Member
Cost is ALWAYS important! :D
Would that be a Raspberry PI with a HiFiBerry DAC or something like that?
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
The Audiolab is roon certified and MQA compatible , also plays every format you can think off natively , without any need for conversion and supports all streaming services.

You can rig up a Raspberry pi with a Sabre dac , and that alone is nearly 500 euro , but the equivalent software to match the audiolab capabilities is not open source and therefore not available.

People are very fond of throwing around advice about raspberry pis as a good alternative to off the shelf hi fi units , but really , they are an electronics project kit for people that like to tinker and learn about the hardware , and that have lots of spare time to put into it.
No matter how much time or cash you put into them , they always look and perform like exactly what they are, and that's a hobby kit.

These kits are a useful learning tool , and attempting to put together a competitor to the audiolab with one will teach you just how much of a bargain it actually is at just 500 or so.
 
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the groundsman

Active Member
Ouch.

My point was simply that the OP has options and has helped us by saying he has limited understanding of the technicalities involved. By thinking of this in terms of the quality of the individual functions they need might help in determining the best solution for them. The OP also said aesthetics is a consideration.

I do like my pi with a digital hat that feeds the DAC in my amp . Not for everyone I agree, but it is discrete and not on show. It is also cost effective.

I've no reason to doubt the cost of the Audiolab is a reflection on the cost of the components. Only the OP can say if that level of excellence is a requirement or not for them bearing in mind that they only stream Spotify or Tidal occasionally.

There's always room for a number of options. What's right for me, @andy1249 , or the OP will most likely be different
 

Cebolla

Member
The Audiolab is roon certified and MQA compatible , also plays every format you can think off natively , without any need for conversion and supports all streaming services.
Unfortunately, the Audiolab's main streaming mechanism, DTS Play-Fi, is fundamentally flawed by design, as the audio files being streamed have to be handled first by its controller app running on a phone/tablet/iPad and are therefore are not played directly by the Audiolab. Plus, DTS Play-Fi doesn't support gapless playback:

The only 'solution' that DTS have come up with (in 5+ years) for the Play-Fi indirect streaming design issue is to provide a workaround (direct streaming) UPnP/DLNA renderer to run in parallel with its flawed Play-Fi renderer. However, this particular UPnP/DLNA renderer (unlike most up to date ones) appears also to not support gapless playback!
 
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sdxbe

Member
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Much appreciated.
I think I'll just stick to my PC connected to my amp for the time being.
Meanwhile, out of curiosity I've installed a trial of Qobuz. It plays 24-bit 192KHz perfectly fine (I switched to an analogue connection, thus I'm now using my PC's onboard DAC and overriding the amp's DAC, am I correct)?

Maybe in the future I'll look into a Bluesound Node2 or something like that. It seems to check all the right boxes except it doesn't look like a hifi component which was a criterium for me at first but I guess it's not that important after all.
 

Cebolla

Member
I switched to an analogue connection, thus I'm now using my PC's onboard DAC and overriding the amp's DAC, am I correct)?
Yes, with an analogue connection you are now using the PC's onboard DAC (& strictly speaking you are simply not using the amp's DAC at all rather than overriding it :) - it's only available via the amp's digital inputs).

How are you finding the quality of the the audio with the PC doing the conversion to analogue compared to leaving it to the amp to do the conversion, BTW?
Bear in mind that electrically isolating the DAC from the PC (such as using the amp's DAC via optical connection) is supposed to give you the biggest step up in audio quality. So if you are not noticing much improvement by using the amp's DAC, you'll likely get even less noticeable improvement by swapping the amp's DAC for a 'better' external DAC.
 
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sdxbe

Member
I have to say I find it sounding more open and clear when using optical, but warmer, less analytical if you will, using analogue. But bass response seems to better using optical. I have to turn up the volume when playing analogue too, it's not as loud. I'm not quite sure which I prefer yet... I'll keep listening to some of my favorite albums using both connections for a while.
 

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