• New Patreon Tier and Early Access Content available. If you would like to support AVForums, we now have a new Patreon Tier which gives you access to selected news, reviews and articles before they are available to the public. Read more.

Recommendations for budget dac.

Bowlesy

Active Member
I would appreciate some suggestions for a cheap dac that I can use to connect a stereo amplifier to my TV. I've already tried a Fiio dac which is supposed to be good but in my setup it didn't provide enough volume. This has led me to the conclusion that I perhaps need a dac that incorporates a buffer stage that uses opamps etc. Is there any suggestions that might fit the bill?
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Smsl m3, 70 quid on Amazon. 2v output and sounds great
 

muljao

Well-known Member
I've had a look and noticed that it has a volume control. How does that work as I already have an amp.?
Volume control only effects the headphone output, the rca outputs are fixed
 

Snafu

Active Member
I have Topping D50. I was going to buy some way more expensive dac but decided to try this dac thing with cheaper one. This sounds insanely good, i mean really good. It has usb/opt/coax. It has wall psu and power bank that i use every now and then. Haven't had any issues with it.
Lacking remote is only downside, other than that, excellent piece for the price (~185€ incl. s&h).
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
In asking how to connect a TV to a Stereo Amp implies that you already have a Stereo Amp, what is that Stereo Amp (brand & model)?

Here is the smallest lowest cost DAC/Headphone Amp/Pre-Amp -
Fosi Audio DAC Converter 24-bit/192kHz Optical/Coaxial/USB Digital-to-Analog Adapter Decoder & Headphone Amplifier & Mini Stereo Pre-Amplifier Q5- £67 -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fosi-Audio-Converter-Headphone-Pre-Amplifier-Black/dp/B07G2NQYLX/

This below is a complete system that would easily connect your TV to a Stereo System. It is a full sized amp, so it will need some space -

Yamaha AS301 Integrated with DAC, Headphone Out, 60w/ch - £189 -

Yamaha A-S301

Here is a very compact 40w/ch Amp with DAC and Headphone out -

SMSL AG-18 Amp w/DAC, ~40w/ch - £123 -


https://www.amazon.co.uk/AD18-Bluetooth-Digital-Decoding-Amplifier/dp/B01M3ULDG9/

Shenzhen ShuangMuSanLin Electronic Co., Ltd.

The FIIO DAC is a very minimal £20, you can't expect much. I suspect if you buy a better DAC, the it will have stronger output amplifiers -

Cambridge DACMagic 100 (opt, coax, USB) - £169 -

Cambridge Audio DACMAGIC 100 (Black)

Cambridge Audio DACMAGIC 100 (Silver)

Steve/bluewizard
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
In asking how to connect a TV to a Stereo Amp implies that you already have a Stereo Amp, what is that Stereo Amp (brand & model)?


I have a gainclone DIY chip amp based on the gaincard. You may have heard of it? Its ran with a 20K potentiometer. No buffered preamp so I require a dac that can drive a decent level of volume. As I stated in my original question I have tried the budget fiio dac, it was only about £20 but the volume level was woefully low and the amp had to be turned up to more or less full volume. How important is the quality of the dac when it comes to home theatre as that is all I will need it for.?
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Based on the GainClone Schmatic I found, the Level Control is not really a Volume Control. It is what you find in many Power Amp, a Input Level Control to make sure the Input Levels stay in the working range of the Amp.

LM3886 Gain Clone Amplifier DIY | DASK (Sound Kontrol)

http://www.dms-audio.com/sites/default/files/lm3886.pdf

GainClone.jpg


The Control at the Front does not increase the gain, rather it adjusts the signal level and really has no amplification. To put it another way, that "volume" control can only turn the signal DOWN not Up.

You need some type of Pre-Amp.

In a quick search, I found these compact low-cost Tube Pre-Amps that would get the job done. Though I would like to find something that didn't have Tube.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/DollaTek-Vacuum-Preamp-Pre-Amplifier-Control/dp/B07KXRSZJF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobsound-Vacuum-Preamplifier-Digital-Control-Silver/dp/B0711RVJN8/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobsound-Vacuum-Preamplifier-Digital-Control-Black/dp/B071VSTDQY/

Don't know if it matters to you, but here is a version from the same company but with BlueTooth -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobsound-Bluetooth-Preamplifier-Digital-Control-Black/dp/B07C22NXXD/

I suspect the output of the FIIO DAC would be enough if you ran it through some type of Pre-Amp.

If you want to continue with the DIY theme, then this appears to be the same Tube Pre-Amp in KIT form -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vacuum-Pre-AMP-Preamplifier-Musical-Fidelity/dp/B075QHZNJ1/

Anyone else have any opinion of the likelihood of the problem being the Need for a Pre-Amp?

Steve/bluewizard
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
You need some type of Pre-Amp.
I currently use the gainclone with a CD player and it sounds lovely and doesn't require a preamp.

I suspect the output of the FIIO DAC would be enough if you ran it through some type of Pre-Amp.

That's probably true but I'm not gonna buy I preamp as I'm happy with the way it sounds. That's why I'm implying I need a dac that also has some gain, i.e a dac that uses some opamps on the output.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I currently use the gainclone with a CD player and it sounds lovely and doesn't require a preamp.

Likely, as is common, the CD Player has a higher output. BUT ... you still need a Pre-Amp.

That's probably true but I'm not gonna buy I preamp as I'm happy with the way it sounds.

Yeah... but... your not really happy with the way it sounds, at least not from the DAC.

That's why I'm implying I need a dac that also has some gain, i.e a dac that uses some opamps on the output.

You need a Pre-Amp. You just want the Pre-Amp to be inside the DAC, but what does it matter where it actually is as long as you get the signal level and control you need.

As I mentioned that knob on the GainClone is not a Volume Control, it is an Input Level Control. It is intended to be a "Set it and Forget it" control.

What were your thoughts on this device that gives you every thing you need and more -

Fosi Audio DAC Converter 24-bit/192kHz Optical/Coaxial/USB Digital-to-Analog Adapter Decoder & Headphone Amplifier & Mini Stereo Pre-Amplifier Q5- £67 -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fosi-Audio-Converter-Headphone-Pre-Amplifier-Black/dp/B07G2NQYLX/

24b/192k Optical/Coaxial/USB DAC with Headphone Amp and Pre-Amp.

steve/bluewizard
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
Yeah... but... your not really happy with the way it sounds, at least not from the DAC.

I won't be using the dac with the CD player. That already has a very good dac built in and a very good tube output stage. The purpose of the dac for me is to connect my stereo to my TV and that is all.

I personally do not want to add a further component to the chain. I just need a dac that has some gain or buffers in built. It needs to have an optical input to connect it to the TV.

I've had a look at your suggestion which looks like it would probably do the job. I could turn the volume up to maximum on the dac whilst having the gainclone take care of volume duties.
 
Last edited:

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Your cd should have an output of around 2V so you need to look for a dac with something similar. As stated in post #2 the smsl m3 has that so is a good solution.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Here is a link to the SMSL M3 DAC, and to a place where you will find many other products -

Shenzhen ShuangMuSanLin Electronic Co., Ltd.

Again, this below is a DAC, it just has a few additional features, one of which you actually need.

Fosi Audio DAC Converter 24-bit/192kHz Optical/Coaxial/USB Digital-to-Analog Adapter Decoder & Headphone Amplifier & Mini Stereo Pre-Amplifier Q5- £67 -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fosi-Audio-Converter-Headphone-Pre-Amplifier-Black/dp/B07G2NQYLX/

24b/192k Optical/Coaxial/USB DAC with Headphone Amp and Pre-Amp.

Still you will get it worked out in the end.

Steve/bluewizard
 
Last edited:

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Short of the above DAC/Headphone Amp/Pre-Amp, this is probably the cheapest good Pre-Amp you will find. It also has a DAC.

Emotiva PT-100 Pre-Amp w/DAC - £399 -

Emotiva Black BasX PT-100 Integrated Stereo Pre-Amplifier - Emotiva - AudioVisual Online -

The above Fosi Audio DAC Converter is essentially what you asked for, a DAC with Pre-Amp output drivers (op-amps). This one though just happens to have a volume control on those output drivers.

You specifically asked for a budget DAC, well if you impose a low budget, then you have to choose from the limited number of products that are available. Now Increase your budget substantially and you have many more options to choose from.

For example, in a DAC, this is probably what you are looking for - Multiple Input DAC, with Headphone Amp, and (I believe) Pre-Amp capabiity ...but... it is £300 -

Cambridge DACMagic Plus DAC - £299 -

Cambridge Audio DACMAGIC PLUS (Black)

"... the DacMagic Plus comes with a dedicated headphone amp and volume control."

"Combined with the volume control, you can now connect directly to active speakers or a power amp for a shorter signal path and superior sound quality."


If that fits your idea of "budget DAC" then there is your solution. But if by "budget DAC" you mean under £100 then the FISO is the only product that comes close to doing what you need done.

Within your implied and restricted budget, you have to choose from what is available.

Steve/bluewizard
 
Last edited:

dogfonos

Well-known Member
As I stated in my original question I have tried the budget fiio dac, it was only about £20 but the volume level was woefully low and the amp had to be turned up to more or less full volume.

Most, if not all, versions of the FiiO D3 DAC (if that's what you have?) output 1.6 Volts (according to specs). I use one to drive active speakers. I also own an Epiphany EDAC that outputs 2 Volts (according to specs) and it only sounds a little louder into the same active speakers. Sound quality wise, there's very little in it despite the Epiphany costing almost five times as much.

If the output from the FiiO is really "woefully low" then I question whether a DAC with 2 Volt output would be sufficient, although it could be that the FiiO is faulty?

Suggest you find a way to try before you buy or ensure you can return the next DAC if unsuitable.
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
So I thought I'd add a little more information. I have successfully had my stereo running at adequate volumes connected upto my TV until recently and not requiring an external dac or preamp. I had been using a Pioneer Krp500 TV and using its analogue outputs. I had no such problems using that with my amplifier and speakers. I have tried the fiio DO3K dac and it doesn't have anywhere near the volume output that the Pioneers analogue outputs achieve.
 
Last edited:

muljao

Well-known Member
The digital output from the tv often has a range of settings, have you looked at them?
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
I'll have a look through the tv settings when I get chance later. I haven't got the fiio dac anymore to see if it would be ok now though.
 
Last edited:

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Most, if not all, versions of the FiiO D3 DAC (if that's what you have?) output 1.6 Volts (according to specs).

The Texas Instruments info sheet for the LM3886 Gainclone amp chip suggests a maximum input level of 1 Volt (when the chip is wired according to Texas recommendations). Maybe either the FiiO DAC was faulty or the FiiO DAC's analogue output OP amps found the input impedance of your Gainclone amp too low and so couldn't output full power/voltage? (not my area of expertise).

Can you beg or borrow another cheap DAC to find out?

I often make use of the 'input sensitivity control' on the rear of my active speakers (0.775 Volt input for full output) - fed from the FiiO DAC - and it works just fine as the system's volume control.
 

Bowlesy

Active Member
Ok just an update. I went the secondhand route and bought a Audiolab Q Dac for just over £100. I haven't tested it yet as I've got a lot on at the minute. It does however have a preamp built in etc so I'm hoping/assuming that this dac should be sufficient for the job.
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Ok just an update. I went the secondhand route and bought a Audiolab Q Dac for just over £100. I haven't tested it yet as I've got a lot on at the minute. It does however have a preamp built in etc so I'm hoping/assuming that this dac should be sufficient for the job.
Looks like a bargain, enjoy
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
I went the secondhand route and bought a Audiolab Q Dac for just over £100. I haven't tested it yet as I've got a lot on at the minute. It does however have a preamp built in etc so I'm hoping/assuming that this dac should be sufficient for the job.

2.2 Volts max. output so should be up to the job.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Guardians of the Galaxy Xmas Special, Strange World, Bones and All, and Cabinet of Dr Caligari in 4K
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom