Rega Dac R or......something else?

webby54

Active Member
Hi,

I bought a Rega Brio R amp a few years ago and I've also wanted to add a Rega Dac R to it. I love the form factor and the styling and I've read that they work great together.

However, they're discontinued now so I have to buy used. I don't mind that (my budget isn't huge anyway) but it's becoming difficult to find one. Also, it's quite old now and technology has moved on, as it does.

So, what else should I consider that would compare favourably with a Rega Dac or better it even for £300 or less.

Thanks
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Hi. Having tried a few DAC's, I don't think there are massive differences to be had in sound between the budget and the expensive ends of the market. Definitely an area with a steep diminishing return curve.
Personally, if wifi streaming's not required, I'd get a Topping E30 and save some pennies.
 

webby54

Active Member
Yeah I've read good reviews of the Topping; that and the Schiit Modi.

I don't stream, as such, at least not from the internet, spotify etc, but I do stream from iTunes to an airport express into a Beresford Caiman Dac into the Brio.

I've been watching Darko on youtube and he set up a Modi with a Raspberry Pi with a dac HAT and said it was a great setup that compared with a Bluesound Node 2. But tbh, I was a bit confused b y the whole RPi bit.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
But tbh, I was a bit confused b y the whole RPi bit
And me!

Can't speak for the Schiit, but I use their Magni headphone amp and it's super.
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
Yeah I've read good reviews of the Topping; that and the Schiit Modi.

I don't stream, as such, at least not from the internet, spotify etc, but I do stream from iTunes to an airport express into a Beresford Caiman Dac into the Brio.

I've been watching Darko on youtube and he set up a Modi with a Raspberry Pi with a dac HAT and said it was a great setup that compared with a Bluesound Node 2. But tbh, I was a bit confused b y the whole RPi bit.
I don’t know if it’s going to help, but I have a Rega Brio, would have liked a DAC-R, but settled on a Schiit Modi 3. Prior to this, I had four other DACs (a long story).
I am also a Raspberry Pi4 user (streamer) and Darko’s videos gave me the inspiration to get started. Fairly straightforward although some tinkering required. A Pi is not “plug and play” but not too complicated to set up either.
If I can help with any info, then I will.
 

webby54

Active Member
Interesting.

So what would the RPi give me over my current setup?

I watched the Darko video but he didn’t really explain why you would use the RPi other than as a streamer for Roon, Spotify etc.

I’m not totally adverse to some tinkering.

As I say, I use iTunes using Airplay to an airport express then optical into my dac.

The impression I got from Darko was that his RPi/Roon/Modi setup was just as good as the Bluesound Node 2i.
 

webby54

Active Member
Go on, what were the other 4 dacs?
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
Go on, what were the other 4 dac
dragonfly black, then red, then over to an Allo BOSS v1.2 DAC HAT, then the Modi 3 and now a Schiit Modius. Somewhere along the way, a Fiio D03k crept in.
Not proud of this list (too many, but experimenting) and fortunately didn’t lose much when selling them on.
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
Interesting.…….

The impression I got from Darko was that his RPi/Roon/Modi setup was just as good as the Bluesound Node 2i.
that is exactly how I viewed the video, albeit (in my case) with the Allo Digione Signature attached.

It’s been a good while since I watched it though and I seem to recall he also installed the ‘basic’ Allo Digione (not Signature version) at some point and was impressed with that also.

Incidentally, I think there are at least two, possibly three, videos covering the RPi as a streamer.
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
Interesting.

So what would the RPi give me over my current setup?
As I have zero knowledge of Airplay, I’ve had to look up what it’s all about, so probably I’m missing something very obvious.

Anyway, here’s what I’m thinking based on my use of the RPi. These may or may not be advantages when viewed against your current set up.

Ability to stream using a small, dedicated box - easy to place in a hi-if cabinet or hide it away somewhere unobtrusive.
Different power options (I’ve never thought this too important).
Software of choice - no need to stick with a single option (ITunes). I’ve used Moode and Volumio. Happy with both. There are several others.
Control with tablet, phone, etc.
Potentially takes AirPlay/Airport Express out of the equation (is it limited to 16 bit/44.1Khz?) assuming ALAC files can be stored on a USB drive/portable HDD and plugged directly in to the Pi’s USB sockets.
Connect RPi to the Beresford using USB cable (not WiFi)— potential to add HAT to RPi to allow
co-ax or toslink connection.
No need to use a large PC/IMAC as ‘streamer’
Possible to use software PEQ (available in Moode, not sure re Volumio). assume not offered by ITunes.

Poss disadvantages
Probably many, but these come to mind;
Visibly, can often appear ‘DIY’ and not very elegant although there are several GC metal cases on the market which improves things somewhat.
Not ‘plug and play’. Requires some tinkering, albeit not expert knowledge of Linux.
 

karlsushi

Active Member
I have gone through a few DACs over the past few years, my first proper DAC being the original Rega DAC (non-R version).

As far as my ears are concerned, the sound quality of off-board DACs has improved quite a bit over that time and whilst I highly rate Rega's amps and turntables, I think they are a bit behind the curve on digital these days.

I don't usually like to recommend them, but there are some excellent chi-fi DACs incorporating the latest tech at a price point around a second-hand Rega e.g Topping or SMSL.

Schiit as mentioned would be another excellent choice around that price point.

Obviously the Chord DACs are excellent and if you are happy to buy second-hand probably the DAC bargain of the century right now would be a used Chord 2Qute if you can get one that's been looked after and at a good price (under £400 or so).

You'd have to spend an awful lot more than £400 on a new DAC to better a 2Qute in my opinion, which is what I've done and as has already been pointed out, the law of diminishing returns kicks in hard from there.

I owned a Qutest for a bit and found the improvement over the 2Qute to be marginal at best.
 

webby54

Active Member
I use AirPlay because it's the only way I know of in which I can route ONLY iTunes audio to my dac, and not other computer sounds.

However, I do have a slight problem in that it doesn't work properly anymore in the version of iTunes that I am stubbornly sticking with; iTunes 12.6. So, I need to use the system-wide audio output (or I could invest in Airfoil).
 

webby54

Active Member
dragonfly black, then red, then over to an Allo BOSS v1.2 DAC HAT, then the Modi 3 and now a Schiit Modius. Somewhere along the way, a Fiio D03k crept in.
Not proud of this list (too many, but experimenting) and fortunately didn’t lose much when selling them on.
I've read some of your other threads; very interesting journey you've been on, and very informative.

I currently have a Beresford Caiman dac that was gifted to me years ago by a very kind soul on another forum. I have nothing against it as such, but since buying the Rega Brio I've had this urge to get the matching dac, which has then lead me to consider other dacs; can I do better then the Caiman AND the Rega?

My issue at the moment which is probably more critical is that I can't airplay out of iTunes. I think the story is that iTunes brought in AirPlay 2 support in 12.8 which broke airplay 1. However, there are other issues in iTunes 12.8 which I am not keen on (artwork mostly) so I have held off updating (itunes 12.8 is the latest one my Mac can run).

As far as I know, the airport express can only handle 16/44, but I don't know what airplay 1 or 2 can handle (I'll look it up next). I do have some hi-res files but not many but if I can play them then great.

So, for now, I need to see if Airfoil (software that routes audio) can work with higher than 16/44, or consider a newer Mac :-/

I like the styling of the Schiit gear and I also like the idea of one day maybe adding a headphone amp. If I did, can I go dac through headphone amp to Brio for speakers?

I also like the Topping E30 style, not quite as much as the Schiit.

Lastly would be the RPi option; a bit too fiddly and untidy for me I think.
 

webby54

Active Member
Edit: Found this...
AirPlay (1 and 2) is capable of ALAC (lossless) streaming up to 44.1 kHz (48 kHz for video contents).
Hi-res lossless (over 48 kHz) isn't supported via AirPlay as a protocol, regardless of Apple Music.

So, it would appear that if I want to play hi-res music from my mac, I will have to use a wired option. The trouble with that is (correct me if I'm wrong) if I connect say, an optical cable to the mac, ALL audio will be routed that way. Same for USB, yes?
 
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Going Grey Now

Active Member
Edit: Found this...
AirPlay (1 and 2) is capable of ALAC (lossless) streaming up to 44.1 kHz (48 kHz for video contents).
Hi-res lossless (over 48 kHz) isn't supported via AirPlay as a protocol, regardless of Apple Music.

So, it would appear that if I want to play hi-res music from my mac, I will have to use a wired option. The trouble with that is (correct me if I'm wrong) if I connect say, an optical cable to the mac, ALL audio will be routed that way. Same for USB, yes?
I’m probably being a bit slow today, but on the strength of your comment that the Pi would be bottom of the list as a streamer (I can understand why even though I’m happy with mine), can I just confirm whether or not you have decided to continue with the IMac as the unit which streams your ALAC files?
If yes, then can I ask what connections it has? I have zero knowledge of Macs in any shape or size. Obviously USB is there but does it have optical/Toslink too ?
Again, with no knowledge of Apple hardware, I am merely best guessing that if you output sound via USB (or Toslink if there is a connection), then I would expect it to simply route everything (music or not) to the DAC. This is how I would expect things to work on my PC, but I’ve never actually tried using it as a music source with digital out.
 
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Going Grey Now

Active Member
I like the styling of the Schiit gear and I also like the idea of one day maybe adding a headphone amp. If I did, can I go dac through headphone amp to Brio for speakers?

I also like the Topping E30 style, not quite as much as the Schiit.

Lastly would be the RPi option; a bit too fiddly and untidy for me I think.
Does the Rega Brio not have a built in headphone amp or is it not good enough for what you need?

My Brio (albeit the later version) has a headphone output and I’m quite happy with the SQ. That said, I am not an avid headphone listener.

I‘ve had a look at four of the Schiit headphone amps and they all are showing as having line in and out.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I like the styling of the Schiit gear and I also like the idea of one day maybe adding a headphone amp. If I did, can I go dac through headphone amp to Brio for speakers?
Some headphone amps will come with just one pair of RCA inputs so that limits your use for headphones if going down that connection route. The connection I have to use with my Elicit is from the dedicated outputs to the headphone amp, the Elicit being devoid of a headphone circuit. Your connection with a Brio would be from 'Record Out'.

I could, if needed, run a DAC into my headphone amp which has the ability to be used as a pre-amp for a line in connection to any amp. Depends on which type of connection you go for but as a rule a good headphone amp will easily outperform the headphone section of an integrated stereo amp.
 

webby54

Active Member
I’m probably being a bit slow today, but on the strength of your comment that the Pi would be bottom of the list as a streamer (I can understand why even though I’m happy with mine), can I just confirm whether or not you have decided to continue with the IMac as the unit which streams your ALAC files?
If yes, then can I ask what connections it has? I have zero knowledge of Macs in any shape or size. Obviously USB is there but does it have optical/Toslink too ?
Again, with no knowledge of Apple hardware, I am merely best guessing that if you output sound via USB (or Toslink if there is a connection), then I would expect it to simply route everything (music or not) to the DAC. This is how I would expect things to work on my PC, but I’ve never actually tried using it as a music source with digital out.
Yes, continue with iMac using (mostly) ALAC files.

This iMac (2011) has USB, Firewire, Ethernet, and 3.5mm Optical (Toslink)/Headphone out.

Yes, certainly if you choose toslink, because when you plug it in it becomes the default built-in sound output in that it switches off the mac's speakers. I may be wrong, but that's what I recall.

USB is different cos you can select the device but it still sends ALL sound to it, unless you run software that has device specific settings. iTunes doesn't.
 

webby54

Active Member
Does the Rega Brio not have a built in headphone amp or is it not good enough for what you need?

My Brio (albeit the later version) has a headphone output and I’m quite happy with the SQ. That said, I am not an avid headphone listener.

I‘ve had a look at four of the Schiit headphone amps and they all are showing as having line in and out.
My Brio doesn't have a headphone socket. My Beresford dac does although I don't use it cos of its location in the room, that's another situation that I need to address; once I do I may use headphones more. Oh and I'd like better headphones :)

Ok, so if a headphone amp has RCA in and outs then it can pass-through (does that make it a pre-amp?).
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Ok, so if a headphone amp has RCA in and outs then it can pass-through (does that make it a pre-amp?).
Yes in the case of my headphone amp, a Lehmann Linear.

I would still use the DAC to the Brio and connect the headphone amp via the 'Record Out'. There is no loss of quality by going through the Brio to the headphone amp. It will also give you more freedom as you can listen to all connected bits of kit. It's the extra power that makes the difference with a standalone headphone amp that makes the difference when listening as they are made to do just one thing.

How much you want to spend on a headphone amp very much depends on the quality of the headphones themselves.
 

karlsushi

Active Member
Ok, so if a headphone amp has RCA in and outs then it can pass-through (does that make it a pre-amp?)
Not always. Some headphone amps have a proper preamp function i.e. a variable output via the volume control. But some just act as a headphone amp with, as you describe, a 'pass-through', which will be a fixed line level output which bypasses the headphone amp volume control.

The latter is just for convenience to link to an amp so you don't have to keep switching your source over from headphone amp to speaker amp.

As suggested by @gibbsy, the 'record out' or 'tape out' from an amp into your head amp is an equally effective way of hooking up your source/s to both a headphone and speaker amp to avoid swapping cables.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
As suggested by @gibbsy, the 'record out' or 'tape out' from an amp into your head amp is an equally effective way of hooking up your source/s to both a headphone and speaker amp to avoid swapping cables
Yup. Exactly how I connect my amp to my headphone amp.
 

THX1138UK

Well-known Member
Hi,

I bought a Rega Brio R amp a few years ago and I've also wanted to add a Rega Dac R to it. I love the form factor and the styling and I've read that they work great together.

However, they're discontinued now so I have to buy used. I don't mind that (my budget isn't huge anyway) but it's becoming difficult to find one. Also, it's quite old now and technology has moved on, as it does.

So, what else should I consider that would compare favourably with a Rega Dac or better it even for £300 or less.

Thanks

I didn't know it had been discontinued. I love my Rega DAC - have it paired with a Rega Elicit-R amplifier.

There are some ex-demo Rega DACs units available for around £300 if you search online or you could always try the AVForums classified section if you don't mind a 2nd hand unit.

Regards,
James.
 

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